November 30th, 2017. My sweet, beautiful babies are now two-year olds, and as they are down for their nap, here I am with only my coffee and reflections on the past couple years. I have shared this story to those close to me, but today, I want to share it with you.
It actually starts out a week or so earlier, at 37 beautiful weeks of what I could only describe as a perfect pregnancy. I found myself sitting in the doctor’s office on a Monday afternoon. The prognosis was Cholestasis [google it if you want details], and the best solution was to induce labor later that week. A nurse popped in the door, ‘Friday at 6am!’. Wow. Really? I can’t say I wasn’t a little excited despite my initial heart-on-the-floor reaction to the situation. After all, measuring beyond 40 weeks with our two little ones did present some unique challenges in my day-to-day activities and needs. Needless to say, I was also eager as ever to meet them. On the other side of the spectrum however, my heart was breaking at the thought of our children no longer having the option to enter this world on their terms. My eyes glazed over with tears as I nodded my head to the nurse. No matter what happened, one thing was for sure: we had a fantastic doctor who had plans to honor our wishes to have as natural a birth as possible. I was forever thankful for that, and always will be.
Over the next 4 days, Brandon and I tried everything we knew [and a few things we most certainly did not know, thanks to the advice of wonderful friends] to induce as naturally as possible. I wanted to avoid as many drug-related interventions as possible. When Thanksgiving day rolled around, we backed off a bit and enjoyed ourselves as well as family. Despite the anxiety, I slept well that night.
6am rolled around way too fast, and after snapping one of my last ‘belly’ shots, packing up the car with the rest of our things, there we were at the hospital. Things went so fast from there! I was taken to my room, and given a gown. I barely had it over my head when the first nurse came in and began hooking me up to IVs and monitors. Hand hep-locks suck. The anesthesiologist came in, and looked at me grimly when I refused her services. I shed my first tear of the day. I had worked so hard to avoid all this junk, just to be hoodwinked by a less common, yet unavoidable condition. I knew I needed to stop dwelling on that though. It wasn’t going to change anything at this point. I focused my optimism on the fact that we’d be meeting our children soon, and that they’d have a better chance of being healthy this way. One of the last things they did was an ultrasound to confirm the babies were still head down. They were indeed, and it looked like they were giving each other Eskimo kisses. It looked like a battle for who would be born first at this point.
The Pitocin was a slow build. As it gradually picked up, I experienced my first contractions. Call me crazy, but I was so excited! I had been working for this, and after the 12 weeks of Bradley classes Brandon and I had been to, I knew he would be the best coach, ever. Hours turned into our first day, and it was time for my first progress check. 1cm. Shit. My heart sank. After all that? But these things can take time, the nurses reassured me. I took a deep breath and managed to relax enough to get a little sleep that night.
I greeted Saturday morning hungry, yet hopeful. Things started out pretty similar to the previous. My doctor was so active in doing everything he could to make this work for me. At one point, I went off the Pit for an hour or so just to see if going back would jump start something once I went back on. Nothing. The contractions were getting stronger, though. Brandon was the best coach, and we labored just like we learned in our classes.
He was there for anything I needed, and made sure I was as comfortable as possible. Despite the pain, another day passed relatively in a blur. Eventually it was time for my doctor to stop by for my next check. 1cm. But how? I was having contractions! I could feel them! Things were happening, damn it, but why wasn’t my body responding? In an effort to give me a break and change things up a bit, the doctor ordered that I could go off the Pitocin for the rest of the evening, which would allow me to eat my first meal since Friday at 5am and have a nice sleep without drug-induced contractions or monitoring equipment.
Sunday morning came quickly, and I was back at it. Hope was starting to slip away as I lost more and more mobility as well as patience. The bags and bags of fluids left my legs swollen and virtually un-bendable, and I was running out of positions that offered any sort of comfort. Our doctor called in a plan to the nurses. I was to remain on the Pitocin for a few more hours to determine whether or not any progress was made, and if not, they were going to break my water. It was explained to me that this was basically a last ditch effort to give me the natural birth I wanted so deeply. If this didn’t work, they would have to give me a c-section. I couldn’t even say it out loud. The 9 months leading up to this flashed before me, and I realized that while I had always known a c-section could happen, I truly hadn’t made my peace with it. No time like the present, huh? I took a deep breath. ‘Let’s do this.’
In the midst of all the changes, Brandon called my angel of a chiropractor, and she visited to work her magic on my body and see if an alignment issue was the cause of our troubles. She even massaged my swollen feet and legs. [if you’re looking for a chiropractor whether pregnant or not, I will give you her information!] I spent the day breathing through contractions, and had only reached 2cm. At this rate, it was pretty clear we’d have to move on to the next option. Thankfully, 2cm was enough clearance for the nurses to break my water. I’ve got to say the sensation of gushing water at random intervals for quite some time is one of the strangest things I’ve ever experienced. Where was it all coming from?!? It was a welcome distraction due to everything else going on. More time passed. My contractions stayed consistent, but by the time midnight rolled around, no progress had been made.
From there, things went reallllly fast. My doctor was on his way to the hospital, and I was getting switched over from my current IVs and monitors. They handed Brandon his scrubs, and gave me my catheter. This was happening tonight! Before I knew it, I was being wheeled to the OR. Man, that table is narrow and terrifying. I’ve heard friends talk about it, but when you see it in person it’s a real reality check. Naturally, the awkward anesthesiologist I turned away in the beginning was the one on duty. I had to laugh. She explained what she was doing, and went to work. Wow, epidurals work quickly. Anyway, there I was. I called for Brandon, who I hadn’t seen since they wheeled me to this new room. Of course he was right by my side. This was happening.
‘If you don’t want to watch the procedure, don’t look up.’ A nurse instructed.
My doctor confirmed that I was thoroughly numb after informing me he had just poked me with a sharp object. I appreciated the humor. The operation was starting! I didn’t watch at first, but I definitely stole glimpses here and there. I guess after everything I’d been through, I was over a lot of previous reservations. Then, the shakes kicked in. My entire upper body was a mess of uncontrollable shaking. It was definitely another intense experience, but before I had too long to dwell on it, word from the other end of the table was we were close to welcoming ‘Baby A’ into the world.
A few minutes later, my heart was filled with a joy that overtakes my eyes with tears just searching with the words to describe it. There was our little Penelope, held up above the curtain. I was overcome with every positive emotion I’ve ever known. Happiness. Relief. Gratitude. Pride. My little girl. They had Brandon follow them over to the table with her to get her cleaned up, and after a few minutes, he was holding our daughter by my side as we welcomed Jude into the world. Another flood of emotions.
He was confused and crying and, like his sister, the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. Nothing else mattered. Brandon had them next to me, and I got to say hello for the first time. They both looked over, and it completely consumed my heart. I finally was able to hold and nurse them while I got sewn up. Their impossibly dark eyes were both so bright and wide open. This was it. Our beautiful, perfect family – finally united in the flesh. The years of work, struggle, and tears… all for this moment.
Penelope Lane, 7.5lbs
and Jude Rigby, 5.12lbs were finally here, in perfect health, and our hearts were complete.
This was it. Everything we had worked so hard for, and yet the real story was just beginning. It didn’t matter anymore what we had to do to turn the last corner. What mattered was that everyone was healthy, happy, and in this moment. I will always mourn the loss of my labor and delivery ideals, but I can take comfort that I gave it my all, and was surrounded by love and support the entire way.
So while we celebrate another year of the joy and love that has never stopped growing, I sure hope I never forget a single moment that is now behind us.