Today Samuel is two months old, and I still haven't shared his birth story.
Typically I have no problem blabbing on and on, especially about labor and babies and all that good stuff. I love reading other people's labor and birth stories....it's just such an incredible thing!
(also, here is your disclaimer that this post is in fact the story of Sam's birth, and words like "cervix" and "dilation" are used. It is by no means graphic-nor are any of the pictures-but if references to labor and birth give you the heebee-jeebees, you'll want to skip this one)
This time around I've had a harder time putting things into words. Which is not to say that this will be short by any means....hello-it's me!
But it seems it's either all just the facts, or a whole lot of in depth emotion. I can't seem to find the happy medium. Especially since there was so much more involved at the end of this pregnancy than my others, it really tends to be a novel that encompasses months of time and not just the day of his birth.
For those of you who have asked, this is my best attempt at a happy medium.
With lots of pictures. Loooooots of pictures.
Also, let's get the out of the way the fact that I pound enough food after giving birth that Aaron wanted a picture to document just how fast I can inhale turkey sandwiches (always turkey sandwiches!) once baby is out.
Now that that's out of the way...
The days before our scheduled induction were hard. We were very excited to meet our son, but terrified of what that might mean. We felt the need to prepare for a baby, but always had in mind the possibility that those preparations might end up unnecessary. It took everything in me to keep a happy face on as we hoped and prayed for the best.....
The night before the inductioin we dropped our children off with my parents. I had a hard time leaving them. Dallin, in a serious but joyful manner told me "Goodbye Mom! Don't let baby Samuel die at the hospital!". And that is where I ran headfirst into the limit of my emotional threshold and it quickly became time for us to go.
The drive home was odd. It was quiet, bits of conversation sprinkled in, me choking back tears when certain songs came on the radio. Songs that had brought me to tears for weeks, that I wondered if I would ever be able to listen to again without tears. We must have made stops on the way home, as we didn't get home for a while, but I do not remember what they were.
Once we were home I busied myself making sure the house was clean, and that my bag was packed. I had the thought to put a few things in a separate bag (to leave in the car), just in case Samuel would be able to wear clothing in the NICU. In that bag along with a little shirt, one outfit, and one blanket, was a NICU survival kit that a friend of mine had put together for me-things that she wished she had had when her baby spent his first weeks in the NICU a year ago.
My friends truly had thought of everything. There was a schedule of 7 of them in on my street that had each volunteered to be responsible for one day of the week to provide whatever we needed-meals, laundry, help with children-for the first few weeks after Sam's arrival so that I could focus solely on being at the hospital as much as possible, and Aaron could have as little burden as possible aside from school and work and taking care of me and the kids. There was a list of people waiting to bring in dinners when we did get home from the hospital, whenever that would be.
Someone had even provided dinner that night before we went in to the hospital, and someone else the night before that. It was, and still is, incredibly humbling to have so many wonderful friends and neighbors willing to lighten our burden.
After a late visit from a some friends, and one last polishing of the toes,
Wednesday started at a very early 4:30, as the original plan was to be at the hospital by 6. It took forever to get going. I think part of that was just the fact that actually walking out the door meant no turning back. Darn nerves. After making sure everything was ready to go, gathering all the camera gear, and finally heading out, it was already 5:30, which wouldn't put us at the hospital until nearly 7. Whoops. There was an amazing storm brewing all morning and we got an incredible lightening show the entire drive to the hospital. We arrived just before 7, which meant just before shift change. They were ready and waiting for us, room 9 reserved for our arrival.
Room 9 is the room with the window-the window directly to NICU, which allows a pass through to eliminate the extra trauma that the stress of being placed in a bed and being wheeled down the hallway might cause an already fragile little body. One more reminder of the uncertainty that the day held.
I got changed, the IV was started and we got settled in to wait for the shift change before starting pitocin.
My initial exam that morning showed no change from a few weeks prior-I was still 2cms, about 50% and baby was sitting at -3. Yes, my babies sit in my throat. That whole baby dropping thing? Never has happened for me until well into labor. Pitocin was started at 8am. We told our nurse that despite what everyone was theorizing (I would just need a little jump start any my body would take over with baby practically falling out on his own), she could just plan on cranking the pit all the way to the max because that is what it seems to take for my body to clue in. We planned to break my water around noon once my perinatologist was back from the conference she was leading that morning. We definitely wanted her there when things kicked into high gear....just in case.
We spent the morning just hanging out.
Aaron toured the NICU, we reviewed consent forms, our requests for certain procedures, how far we wanted them to go to keep our baby alive if necessary, and what the plan was when he arrived.
The look on Aaron's face when he returned from NICU was hard to see. He had missed walking through with the Dr a couple of weeks prior, so this was his first chance to really see what goes on in there. It is a hard thing to see.
I took a little nap, we placed our bets on arrival time and size, and Aaron studied and took pictures to occupy those moments he couldn't handle one more moment of microbiology.
My sweet friend Carma came to see us.
She is an amazing photographer, and someone who I felt comfortable having there no matter what our outcome might be. Aaron and I had talked a lot about how we wanted to handle having photos taken, and that we both wanted someone there right when Sam was born in case that was the only opportunity we had to get photos with him, or the only chance to have photos without having him full of tubes and wires. Carma was generous enough to offer to be there before we even had a chance to ask her. She was also kind enough to spend her entire day waiting around at the hospital so she could be there without any delay when Sam did arrive. I will be forever grateful that she was there, the pictures she gave us are priceless.
The morning passed and Dr B arrived at the hospital, coming to see us with the plan of breaking my water. It was 12:30, and after 4 1/2 hours of pitocin-now almost at the highest level at which it is allowed to be administered-I had progressed a whopping "almost" one more centimeter. Yes folks, I was now "almost 3 cms, maybe 60%, and still really really high". Nice. Considering that my three other inductions were 3 1/2, 5 1/2 and 6 1/2 hours total, this wasn't exactly encouraging.
Every 15 minutes or so my nurse would pop in to ask "Are you feeling anything more yet? how are your contractions? Don't you feel those?!" Well, a little, fine, and not really.
We waited another two hours hoping for enough progress to allow breaking my water. When 2:30 rolled around (now 6 1/2 hours in), nothing much had changed, but we decided to give things a go. While Sam was tolerating labor extremely well, we didn't know how long we could count on that, especially with pit cranked all the way up. With my nurse pushing down on my belly to try and keep Sam as low as possible (to help avoid a prolapsed cord), my dr tried-and tried and tried-to break my water. Apparently I had membranes of steel going on. It took nearly five minutes to actually puncture the membranes, and when that finally happened, my word, it was like the Hoover Dam let go! The amount of fluid was amazing. We had been monitoring fluid closely as excess fluid is often a side-effect of some of the things we were dealing with, and though it had been on the high end of normal it had never been much of a concern. Apparently there had been quite an increase in the past week, as evidenced by the fact that amniotic fluid gushed up past my Dr's elbows and covered the bed.
(there's a visual you always wanted, no?)
With my average time of water breaking to baby is here being about an hour to an hour and a half, everything started gearing up, prepping the delivery cart and getting ready for the big moment. We were ready for something to start happening soon.
Pitocin was turned down after the big water break so as not to stress Sam (or my body) out now that the cushioning of the amniotic fluid was pretty much gone. Without that cushion blocking baby's head from putting direct pressure on the cervix, things often kick into high gear. But then again, this is me we are talking about and how often do I fall into "the norm"?
Back to more waiting and more cranking up the pit.
Around 6pm I finally convinced Aaron and Carma to go get something to eat. I had just been checked again, 3cms, 60%. Yep, that means 5 1/2 hours after the last check, there had been no change. 10 hours into labor with baby number 8 and I had progressed a whopping one centimeter. My body did not want to let go of this baby.
I tried to zone myself out and detatch from everything around me in effort to convince my body-along with my mind and my heart-that it was time for this baby to arrive.
Either it worked, or my timing was coincidental, because it was around then that I finally started really feeling contractions. Those "this is real" contractions that assure you your body is attempting to do something. By 6:30 I was debating calling Aaron back, and within 15 more minutes as I found myself starting to make an effort to work through contractions, I knew I needed him back. I sent him a disjointed text letting him know that my lower back was in need of his fist, and started wondering just how fast things were going to hit as I could tell we were finally heading toward the home stretch.
I had Aaron turn on the video camera and place it on a shelf behind me. He wasn't sure if I'd want it on, but I tried to explain to him-during a contraction and choking back tears-that if Sam cried I wanted that recorded. I was reminded that his silence was a possibility. One that I would face very soon.
By 7:00 it was difficult to get through each contraction and the pressure on my back was unreal. Aaron was pushing against my tailbone in our usual routine (I have back labor even without posterior babies now-lucky me), and it still wasn't enough counter pressure to relieve the intensity. I found myself leaning back into his hands as he pushed into my back, at one point leaning hard enough that he couldn't stand up straight anymore! Still didn't help much.
I was really struggling at that point and was more vocal than I have ever been during labor. I'm sure everyone in that room was tired of me saying "I just can't believe how much my back hurts!". Things just kept amping up and I started wondering how much longer my body could handle this. At 7:20 my Dr arrived. She wanted to make sure we did indeed have enough room to deliver, which resulted in the most invasive exam I think I've ever had. (that ranks right up there with having my Dr manually turn my 4th baby to allow him to be delivered since his head was stuck. good times!)
I was declared a whopping 6 centimeters dilated.
Cute optimistic girl said "that's great! Not long ago you were just at 3, you're almost there!"
I then had to self-censor as the next contraction came crashing down and my body involuntarily began to push. All I could think was "great, now I can't even control my body, it will push, my cervix will swell and then I really won't be able to deliver!" Exhaustion was wreaking havoc on me mentally, and I realized just how emotionally drained I was. The good news was that my Dr felt like there truly was enough room for his head to deliver.
It became obvious that my body was ready to be done and a nurse knocked on the window to NICU to let them know that it was close. Though I was feeling horribly defeated and frustrated, I remember laughing when I heard someone run through the NICU toward the window yelling "OH SH*T!" right before the window flew open and arms reached through with a "we're ready!!" Everyone in the room was laughing and the NICU nurse asked "they didn't hear that, did they?" It was a much needed break in tension, and there was relief on the other side of that window when my Dr explained that I wasn't pushing yet, but it would be soon and it would go fast.
And fast it went.
He finally did make it, and as he lay there-frighteningly white-at the foot of the bed, I ached to hear him cry. We heard one small squeaky grunt and nothing more. I remember thinking "please cry!" Upon playing the video that was being filmed at that time, you can hear me plead out loud for that cry. It hurts to hear that....hearing it is like an out of body experience that throws me right back to that minute, and the absolute terror I felt as I saw my dr pick up his little body with the admonishment to "support that head really well! Be careful!"
as she handed him to the nurse standing next to me and she passed my baby out of my room directly to the NICU.
The mood in the room at that point was very somber, and I tried to remind myself that this is what we had prepared for, he was where he needed to be, with those who were waiting to do everything possible for him. This picture:
There was still quite a bit going on in the delivery room; we were trying to get a cord blood draw before the placenta detached so we could get as much blood as possible to ship off to NIH for the genetic testing we were a part of. We were going to be limited on how much we could draw directly from Sam and didn't know how much they would be taking or need to take over in NICU. Between that and making sure I was still in one piece (despite what it felt like, thank goodness!), I just kind of shut my eyes, laid back and tried to let all that go as I attempted to process things and not dwell on the fact that it felt like my heart had been torn from me and passed off into the other room along with Samuel.
A little more than five minutes later-time that flew but somehow also felt like an eternity-Aaron grabbed my shoulder and said "Catey! They are bringing him back! He's coming back!" I was sure I had misheard him, but upon opening my eyes while laying there on the bed, I saw him being carried back to us.
Two months later that day still seems surreal. The fact that he is alive. That he is able to eat. That he is is not only surviving, but thriving, at a chunky 11 pounds now!. Most days I still find it very hard to believe that there are things wrong inside his cute little head. I am amazed that he never needed that list of likely interventions, save a small encounter with some oxygen, phototherapy for jaundice and some extra monitoring over two days.
It is odd to go back and watch those minutes that we had the camera on. Thankfully I wasn't nearly as vocal as I thought I was (phew! lol), though I was definitely more so than my last labor. It is eerily quiet after Sam is passed through to the other room, after which the camera is turned off fairly quickly. Weird to relive those moments....It is definitely a much happier experience to relive the moments after through the pictures we have.