Just before we found out we were expecting, Ryan and I had purchased our first Christmas tree together. We spent several hours assembling, decorating, and arguing over the terribly ugly brown snowflakes he'd convinced me needed to be on the tree. After we'd finally decorated it and spent a few minutes marveling our yule tide craftsmanship, Ryan commented on how much more "fun this would be with kids around". Two days later, I found out I was pregnant.
I experienced so many emotions in such a brief period of time, but at the forefront was total fear. At the time, I was 23 and obviously unprepared. I'd spent most of my life thus far, confident in my future as a mother. As a product of a large family, there had never been any question as to if I'd have children. However, the when came much sooner than I'd expected.
Winter was long, possibly the longest we'd ever experienced, but by springtime things were really looking up. We were having a girl and getting really excited for her arrival! My pregnancy had been fairly easy thus far, so I wasn't overly anxious about what was ahead. Somewhere around the 35 week mark, things took a bit of a turn and I quickly realized how OVER pregnancy I was. PUPPS rash stuck.
Maybe you're scratching your head right now, wondering what the heck PUPPS rash is. If so, consider yourself lucky - this rash is seriously awful.
Our due date was August 13th, 2010. Friday the 13th. On August 20th, there was talk of induction. If she wasn't out by the 24th, she'd be evicted. :)
Like clockwork, contractions started. Friday night, one week post date, I was in pain. We called the doctor and eagerly awaited our instructions. We drove to the hospital and kind of giggled at the thought of how quickly things had started. Was this what all the fuss was about? I could handle this!
Two young medical students greeted us at the labor and delivery triage unit. One looked like Reese Witherspoon and the other like Russell Crowe and judging by their swagger, we quickly knew this wouldn't be our night. With phrases like "good active labor" and "not enough staff" flying around the room, we were sent home.
Three days later, after coming in and being sent home three times - with continuous contractions every 3 minutes, we were finally admitted.
|Just before things really got going|
Half an hour later, I was hooked up to my IV and waiting patiently in my room for further instruction. The room was comfortable, flat screen and all, and didn't seem at all threatening. We even had a nice view! I remember noticing that the railing along side of the bed was cracked. I troubleshooted this defect for a moment and then moved on. Later I would realize it had likely cracked at the hand of a contracting woman.Moments later, my water was broken and things really started to take off. Contractions got much stronger and I was soon longing for that 'pain' I'd spoke of days ago.
We'd arranged to have a pretty relaxed birthing experience, one that allowed both Ryan and my Mom to be present from start to finish. I was surrounded by people who I loved and felt empowered with them at my side.
My fluid was meconium stained and after several hours with slow progression, I developed a fever. I received my epidural after a couple of hours of labor, hoping to take the edge off the pain. Shortly after, I noticed some severe discomfort in my lower back. Hopeful that the epidural would soon work, I tried not to focus on it, but soon found out it had little to do with the epidural and everything to do with our little girls position. She was sunny side up and thus putting a great amount of pressure on my back. Back labor is an animal all it's own. While the classic contraction is undoubtedly uncomfortable, posterior presentation causes a multitude of labor complications, many of which we were hit with head on.
We tried various methods of adjusting the baby's position, the most memorable being the "slung over a bean bag, on all fours, and pray she turns" method. Nothing worked.
About 12 hours in, things took a nightmarish turn. I have a crippling phobia of vomiting and would do just about anything to avoid it. I imagine it was caused simply by the sheer amount of pain I was experiencing that I began vomiting with every contraction - every two minutes for several hours.
At this point, I was 9.5cm dilated and just waiting for that very little bit of progression before being able to push. Caused by the frequent bearing down associated with vomiting, my cervix began to swell and that last half a centimeter wasn't budging. Around this time, my mind and body had reached maximum exhaustion. I broke down. After 21 hours of difficult labor, accompanied by a host of complications, I was done. I was overcome by defeat and couldn't conceive of going on any further. I remember looking my Mom in the eyes and begging her to do something, anything to make this process move along. At this point, the doctors were discussing intervention. The possibility of a Caesarean was enticing at this point. I would have done anything for the pain to cease.
Upon the doctors final check she announced that I was fully dilated and "ready to push!". The words I'd longed for hit me like a Mack truck. After 21 hours of labor, now I had to push!?
As if my body knew I had no other choice, I got yet another wind and carried on. Pushing wasn't easy, but it at least dulled the pain of the contraction. After several hours of continuous pushing, our doctor suggested the use of the vacuum to help deliver. The room filled up with doctors and NICU staff and I knew it was game time.
Five hours later, with Ryan and my Mom at my side, and with the assistance of the trusty vacuum, Grace Violet was born. They whisked her away quickly, not allowing Ryan to cut the cord or me to hold her, as they needed to check her out right away.
Things were really hazy after that and I was in store for another hour or so of post delivery 'stuff' (trying to keep from getting too graphic). When I finally held my daughter, she was perfect. She was absolutely adorable and looked no worse for the wear considering her difficult delivery.
Weighing in at 8lbs. 15 oz. and 22.5 inches long, we held our perfect little girl and marveled at the journey we'd just completed - and the one we were just beginning.
Ryan's post delivery words spoke volumes. "It looks like the end of Braveheart in here!"
(referring to the utter disarray and bodily state of things just after delivery)
I won't pretend it was easy mostly because I'm a really terrible liar. The pain was intense and the process was grueling. But now, as I reflect upon the experience as the mother of a one year old, I see how truly amazing it really was. This journey - one that was unexpected but certainly not unwelcome, has changed out lives in ways we didn't know possible. Grace has given our lives purpose and taught us how to love in ways neither Ryan nor myself had ever experienced.
Looking back at our lives prior to having Grace is really difficult now. Things were easier and there was a lot less pressure. We were selfish and free and responsible for ourselves only. Now, life without Grace seems lacking. Having experienced the amount of love and joy that can only be brought by a child is priceless, and we wouldn't change it for anything.