Our little Sally Grace will be four weeks old tomorrow. I had no idea that life after pregnancy would feel so chaotic and overwhelming. Between recovering physically, dealing with hormone freak-outs, attempting to breastfeed, caring for a rambunctious three-year-old, and trying to keep the house at least minimally picked up, I feel like I've hardly had a moment to catch my breath, let alone blog! (All I have to say is THANK GOODNESS for the family members who have come to stay with us and help this past month--much more on all of that in another post.) In my last post, I promised more details about my labor and delivery and more photos of Sally "in a few days"...uh, make that a few weeks! (Better late than never, right?)
I know some friends and family are interested in the gory details of how Sally's birth went down, and although I will try to leave out the gory stuff, I am going to include lots of details here. I want my experiences, thoughts, and feelings from that special day to be recorded for posterity--especially for Sally.
At my 38-week appointment on Monday morning July 21st, the doctor decided that Baby Girl needed to be delivered pronto because she had been diagnosed with IUGR (intrauterine growth restriction) and her heart rate was dipping during the non-stress test that day. He told me to go home, get my hospital bag, arrange childcare for Noah, and come right back. He wanted the baby on the monitors, and he wanted the nurses to get me started on Cervadil. I was only barely dilated and effaced, and Cervadil was supposed to get things going a bit before they started me on Pitocin to fully induce labor.
It was super exciting to call Ryan and family and tell them that the baby would be arriving in the next 24 hours. I had gotten an ultrasound that morning to check the baby's growth, and I kept looking at the photos of her squished little face and squealing inside that I would be holding that sweet girl within the next day or so.
When I got home, Noah and the babysitter were sitting at the kitchen table creating a dot-art picture for "Baby Sister." When Noah saw me, he lit up and said, "Baby Sister is coming today???!!!" (I had called the babysitter to see if she could stay with Noah until my mother-in-law arrived from Pocatello, and she had told Noah the news.) He ran over and threw his arms around me in excitement, and I showed him the ultrasound pictures from that morning. He loved them so much that he almost refused to give them back to me--so I cut one from the roll and put it in a ziploc baggie for him to keep and look at throughout the day.
I hastily finished packing my bag while I waited for Ryan to get home from work. When he walked in, he was flustered and grinning, and he said "Wife!!" while wrapping me in a big hug. It felt surreal and exciting--heading off to the hospital together to have our baby. Before we left, we gave Noah a big family squeeze. I said, "We've had a great three years with just the three of us, haven't we, Noah?" "Yeah," he responded lazily, as if he weren't really listening. "Are you ready to share Mommy and Daddy with your Baby Sister?" I asked. "Yeah," he responded again without having any idea what he was actually saying and committing to. :) I felt nostalgic and a little teary as we left Noah, knowing that it would never be just the three of us again. Oh how life was about to change!
Once we arrived at the hospital, it took several hours for them to get the paperwork done and the doctor's clearance to start Cervadil. It was frustrating to just be sitting there for hours with no progress whatsoever being made, but I was grateful to be on the monitors and listening to Baby's heartbeat loud and clear. They finally got me going with the Cervadil around 4:30 p.m., and they told me it had to set for 12 hours before they could start Pitocin. So Ryan and I settled in for date night at the hospital. He ran and got us Cafe Rio (I wouldn't be able to eat once I was in active labor) and we watched a made-for-tv movie about the life of JK Rowling. (Random, I know!) It was actually really fun to be together, even if it was in a hospital room.
We also had a visitor come to interrupt our date night: Noah arrived with his Grandma around 7 p.m. to make sure that Mommy and Daddy were alright. He was super hyper and only wanted to push the buttons up and down on my hospital bed, but it was still so good to see him. I am a sentimental sap, and I was missing him and wanted him to be as much a part of the experience of welcoming Baby Sister as possible. I was glad he was able to come be with us for a few minutes.
Ryan and I went to bed early. Even with the help of a strong sleep pill the doctor prescribed for me, I had a hard time resting because I was too excited and nervous. I could feel subtle contractions that weren't super regular--and just knowing that the Baby was on her way kept me awake. The nurse said I could disconnect the monitors while I slept, but I was too anxious about Baby's well-being to do that. So the sound of her little heartbeat filled our room all night, even as I wrote her a letter at 3:30 a.m. I loved listening to that sound and feeling her kick and hiccup inside of me.
The nurse checked me around 5:00 a.m., and I had progressed a little with the Cervadil, but not much. She told me to get up and take a shower, walk around, eat something--whatever I needed to do for a break before they started Pitocin in an hour.
This is where things got crazy. The minute that I stood up, contractions started fast and furious. I mean, I was absolutely doubled over in the shower, crying and writhing in pain. There would be no eating and no walking around. With Ryan's help, I stumbled out of the shower and onto the bed, and I thought, "Is this what early labor feels like? I feel like I'm dying, and they haven't even started Pitocin yet!" Ryan let the nurse know that I was ready for Pitocin whenever, but when she saw how much pain I was in, she decided to check me. Sure enough, I had dilated to a 5 in less than an hour, and there would be no need for Pitocin. My body skipped the whole "early labor" thing. I never had far apart contractions where I was able to walk around and breathe deep and get counter pressure from Ryan and all of that. My body had decided it was ready to get that Baby out, and it went into overdrive to make it happen.
I had heard that first-time moms are usually in labor for a long time, and I didn't want to have an epidural for 12 hours, so I tried to wait it out a while before I called the nurse anesthetist, who happened to be our good friend from Buffalo, Ben King. (Crazy, right?) But within an hour, I honestly felt like I was going to die, so the nurse called him. When he entered the room, I said, "Ben! Save me!" I couldn't believe how much pain I was in. When Ryan tried to comfort me during contractions, saying things like, "Rachel, you're okay!" I shot back angrily, "I AM NOT OKAY!!!" Kind of hilarious in retrospect. I am a somewhat reserved person, and I didn't think I would be willing to make a scene during labor in front of anyone but Ryan--but with that level of pain, I was moaning and acting like a crazy woman when the contractions hit, no matter who was in the room. I was in way too much agony to even care who saw me in that state. Ben and the labor nurses certainly saw me at my worst! (For the record, Ryan claims that I wasn't that bad. Smart man.)
As soon as the epidural was inserted, the nurse decided to check me again. She said, "With the level of pain you were in, I guess it's possible that you are almost fully dilated, though for a first-time mom, I highly doubt it." But to everyone's surprise, when she checked, I was a ten and ready to push. This made me feel a little better about my dramatic scene pre-epidural. My body had gotten to a 10 in a ridiculously short amount of time, and I'm pretty sure I was in transition about the time that Ben arrived to give me an epidural--no wonder I was flipping out!
Then it was time to push, which was awkward and hard with an epidural--I kind of hated the feeling of my legs being numb (though I was certainly grateful not to be in agony anymore). After over an hour of hard pushing, I was super light-headed and felt sick, so they turned the epidural off. I was still numb but could feel the pressure of the contractions better and had more control, plus I no longer wanted to throw up. I was making progress but still had a ways to go, so the doctor was summoned, and he was the first person to discover that our little Sally Girl was posterior. As he felt around, he realized that she was face up instead of face down, which he said explained the excruciating labor pains I'd felt in my back, as well as the lengthy amount of time it was taking to push. He said I should still be able to deliver vaginally since she was measuring small, but the baby's face would likely be very bruised.
After 2.5 hours of pushing, Sally was almost here, but she was also starting to be in distress. Everyone in the room could hear her heart rate dropping when I had a contraction, and I will admit that I was slightly terrified. I prayed during each contraction that she would be okay and that I could push effectively to get her out. The doctor told me that he was going to have to get her on the next contraction, even if that meant an episiotomy and using the vacuum. Of course, I was okay with that--anything to get our girl here safe and sound. He did end up giving me an episiotomy but did not use the vacuum.
When she emerged, she didn't really cry, so the nurses rushed her to the other side of the room and suctioned her mouth and worked on getting her more responsive. I lay in bed and watched helplessly as they worked on my tiny baby. I shed a few tears and kept asking everyone if she was okay. The doctor was calm and the nurses were calm, so I figured she wasn't in any real danger, but I just wanted to hear her cry and to have her in my arms. After about 15 minutes, the nurses brought her over to me, and I got to snuggle that perfect little bundle to my chest, skin-to-skin. Heaven.
She was worth every moment of the struggle it took to get her here. I felt overwhelming happiness and relief holding her for the first time.
The doctor was certainly right that she would be bruised! Holy moly--she was our little purple creature for a few days. Still pretty stinkin' cute, though, if I do say so myself!
A highlight of my year--maybe my whole life--was watching Noah meet his Baby Sister later that night. We had talked about the baby for months, and he had been super interested in everything to do with my pregnancy. Honestly, I am wondering if the kid is going to be an OBGYN or something because he was so fascinated by it all. He loved watching the videos from the Baby Center app of the baby's development, and he constantly asked me things like, "Is the baby in the birth canal yet, Mom? Did your water break yet?" That kid! Needless to say, he was beside himself with excitement when the moment came for him to finally meet "our baby." When he looked at her for the first time, he started doing this squeak that I'm pretty sure is his version of baby talk--he just kept pointing and squeaking. Then he climbed up on the bed next to me and "held" her, and as he gazed down at her, he said, "Oh mom, she's so beautiful!!" Melt my heart. He didn't even notice or mention the ginormous purple bruise on her face. So sweet.
I love my children. I am so lucky to be their mom. Taking our little peanut home from the hospital, I felt overwhelmed but so grateful and happy. What a miracle little Sally is, just like her brother Noah. The road to parenthood has not been straightforward or easy for us--but it has been so, so, SO worth it.
Welcome to the world, precious Sally Grace! You are so loved!