The past week has been wonderful, intense, scary, emotional, and life-changing. I’d string even more adjectives along at the end of that sentence except I think you get the point.
Wonderful. Ben and I have a son! The moment he was delivered, a nurse said “He has a head full of red hair.” Tears started to roll down my cheeks. As silly as it may sound, I really looked forward to a baby with red hair like his daddy. In the chaos of Wednesday and Thursday, that red hair was one joyful ray of sunshine. Up until the moment he entered the world, lingering questions still flitted through my mind. Are we really ready for this? Is starting a family this soon in our marriage a good thing? Will our relationship be better? And though some people describe that first moment as “falling in love,” I’d say it was more like looking at a living, wrinkly, red-headed answer to those nagging questions. The doubts dissolved, and looking from my husband to my son, I was filled with wonder and the soul-affirming answers “yes, yes, yes!”
Intense. On Tuesday, August 31st, Ben and I went to our weekly prenatal visit. When Wendy (our midwife) measured my fundal height (belly growth), I measured at least four weeks behind what it should have been. An ultrasound confirmed two problems. First, the fluid in the womb was low. Second, the baby looked to only weigh 5 lbs 5 oz (too small for a baby at his gestational age). Both of these factors indicated that the placenta – the baby’s lifeline – could be giving out. The doctor strongly advocated a medical induction the next day. In my mind I went from having at least a week and a half more of pregnancy to packing for the hospital immediately. Because my midwife and OB knew about our strong desire to experience a natural birth, I knew that their recommendation to induce was serious and necessary. Our baby’s health and vitality was at stake.
Scary. The morning of September 1st, Ben and I woke up at 6 a.m., made breakfast, and then drove to the hospital for the 7:30 a.m. induction appointment. Our good friend and doula, Becky, met us at the hospital. I knew her support and advocacy would be even more important for an induced labor as they tend to be longer and more intense than labors that begin spontaneously. After settling into our room, I took my first round of induction medication and spoke with Wendy for the first time. She explained how the pill I took would work, what I could expect, and was very blunt – simply by taking this medicine, I was twice as likely to end up having a c-section. Ben, Wendy, and I were all walking a fine balance between working for the "normal" delivery I wanted (with as little medical intervention as possible) and the safety of the baby. We had been warned that this would be a very long day, so we settled in but were optimistic that by 8 p.m. labor would be progressing. But by midnight I still was not progressing and the baby was showing signs of distress. The baby's heart rate kept dipping, an indication that he was not responding well to the back-to-back contractions I was experiencing. After Wendy assessed the situation, we decided to let all the induction medication cycle out of my system, allow the baby a chance to recover from the stress, get a few hours of rest, and then begin a pitocin induction. I was scared and losing the mental game. I admitted to Ben that I couldn’t do “this” for another twelve hours. I was fearful of the unknown outcome (Would the baby come out of distress? Had we already harmed him? Would the pitocin work?), making sleep far away. But within 30 minutes Wendy and the nurse were rushing back into our room, throwing an oxygen mask over my face, and changing our course of action. Even with all the medication out of my system, the baby's heart was decelarting, and it was at this point that Wendy instructed the L&D staff to prep me for a c-section. She explained that she couldn’t gamble with the baby’s safety because he was clearly showing that he could not even handle the mild labor I’d been experiencing. For someone whose last major medical emergency was at one year of age (broken arm that required surgery and a blood transfusion), I was terrified. All of a sudden I was facing an iv drip, a catheter, a spinal block, and surgery. The staff were swift and efficient prepping me for surgery and at 2:06 a.m. our OB lifted Samuel Reed Byxbe into the world.
Emotional. The care, concern, and professionalism from the medical team was flawless, and during one of the scarier times in my life, this provided immeasurable comfort. Becoming a mother as Ben became a father exposed emotions in me that are beyond words. As predicted, Reed was small – only weighing 5 lbs 8 oz. As I took in our tiny son, I experienced an immediate sense of protectiveness and love. Along with the emotional experience of actually delivering a baby that had grown inside my body for nine months, I also had to process the loss of my “plan.” We desired a natural delivery – no induction, no pain medication, no c-section. Obviously what we experienced was quite different. The day of and the day after Reed's birth family and friends poured into our hospital room to celebrate our growing family. Though I slept through much of that Thursday and Friday, I remember telling Ben, through tears, how loved and supported I felt by all the visits, food, flowers, cards, and well-wishes. And the support has continued even now as we're home, making the transition to parenthood smoother and easier. Some days are harder than others but I keep two things close to my heart. First, the Bible says that children are a blessing from the Lord -- and I choose to believe this even at 2:30 a.m. when I haven't had any sleep. Second, while sleep is short these days, God always provides what I need to get through the day. And it also helps that I have a wonderfully amazing husband who has stepped gracefully into the role of daddy while remaining my best friend and greatest supporter.
Life changing. Pretty self-explanatory, right?