Charlie is almost four weeks old, and I am finally beginning to feel like myself again. Things are settling into a new normal for our family, and first and foremost, I wanted to sit down and write out my thoughts and memories on the day of Charlie's birth before I begin to forget them.
June 5, 2011 was a hot, sunny Sunday, and we went to church in the morning as we always do. I was feeling crabby and uncomfortable, anticipating all the "Wow, still no baby yet?" comments before I even waddled through the doors of church. I had a tough time paying attention to any part of the sermon - had the chairs in the worship center always been this uncomfortable? I was having lots of contractions, but didn't think much of it - I'd been having Braxton Hicks in recent weeks, and I was sure this just was more of the same. At communion near the end of the service, I told Greg that I was ready to go... I didn't want to have to sit back down again! I went to get the kids from their Sunday school rooms and ran into several friends as we made our way to the door. I think they could all tell I was pretty much over being pregnant at that point, and they promised me that they would be praying for a quick birth - and the sooner the better!
I was 38 1/2 weeks! The baby was moving and grooving all day long in my belly, and as the day progressed I began to realize that the marathon was almost over... this baby would be in my arms very soon. It's such a surreal thought - no matter how many babies you have, I don't think it ever gets old. The nursery was ready, the crib was up, the pink and blue clothes were cleaned and folded, and the precious, tiny diapers were stacked on the changing table. Physically I was starting to feel uncomfortable, but emotionally I felt peaceful and excited and joy-filled.
In the afternoon I decided to go vacuum out the minivan so it would be nice and clean when we brought the new baby home. "Do you really think you should be doing that in your condition?" Greg asked. "Why don't I go and do it?" I insisted on doing it myself. Who knew? Maybe all that cleaning would push me into labor. Little did I know!
I scrubbed that car to within an inch of its life! I remember thinking that all the people working at the carwash must have thought I was a total nut. It was so hot and there I was, as big as a house, vacuuming like a maniac. I stopped over at my parents' house after the carwash and we talked about how uncomfortable I was getting. My mom said, "Well, maybe tonight's the night."
"Nope. No way. Not tonight," I told her. Little did I know!
I picked up Sir Pizza on the way home and we chowed down, and then as the kids went into the playroom Greg and I settled onto the couch to watch 60 Minutes, our Sunday evening ritual. As soon as I laid down, I felt the most bizarre, sharp pain like something had popped inside of me, followed by a long, hard contraction. I sat straight up and had to breathe through it.
"Do you think your water just broke?" Greg asked. I had never experienced my water breaking before, so I had no idea.
"No, I'm sure it's just another Braxton Hicks," I said. Within a few minutes, though, it became obvious that this was definitely not just another Braxton Hicks, as I started feeling painful, regular contractions. I called the doctor on call at Magee and told him I thought my water had broken, but I wasn't positive. It wasn't a big gush of water, but more of a constant trickle.
"Your water broke," he said. "Get your things and come to the hospital."
I asked him if I could take a shower, and he told me not to because they do a test to confirm that your water has broken when you get to the hospital, and showering can mess up the test.
"I'd rather you just came now," he said. Still, I decided to take my time. I guess I just wanted to make sure this was really it. I called my mom and she announced that she had her bag already packed (I didn't even have my bag packed yet!!) and she was on her way over. I told her to just wait a bit... I had a few loads of laundry I wanted to fold and then I needed to pack. I think she muttered something along the lines of, "Laundry?? Laura, give me a break. I'm coming over." Greg was running around the house, getting last minute things ready. I remember smiling as I listened to him running up and down the stairs. He was so excited. I was glad one of us was, because I was beginning to feel pain, and anxiety was creeping in close behind.
It must have been about 8:30 or so when my mom came over and we told the kids what was going on.
Chloe came into my room and saw me zipping up my suitcase. "What's that for?" she asked. I wanted to be really calm, so she wasn't worried. "Well, it looks like Mommy is going to have the baby tonight!" I said, trying to sound excited. "Nana and Pop are on their way over right now, and Daddy and I are going to the hospital so the doctor can tell us if tonight is the night our baby is going to be born!" We sat down at the bottom of the stairs as my mom came in the front door, and my sweet little first born's face crumpled as she started to cry. I tried to reassure her but the truth was, I didn't have the energy to get upset myself. My contractions were coming every three or four minutes, and they were strong enough that I couldn't talk much once they started.
I remember a pretty quiet drive to the hospital; Greg was concentrating on getting us there as quickly as possible, and I was concentrating on getting through the contractions. We were ushered into triage once we arrived, and that's when the contractions became unbearable. Wow! I was just not prepared for that much pain. I kept begging for an epidural, and they kept explaining that I couldn't get one until they had a room for me. For a brief moment I almost panicked, thinking that the baby might be ready before the room! Luckily, a room opened up about 30 or 40 minutes later, which was about the time that the baby's heart rate started to dip with each contraction. I remember them briskly walking my bed down the hall while the doctor explained to me that if the baby's heart continued to dip like that, I would be having a c-section, and soon.
Things started to move pretty fast. When they first checked me in triage I had been 3 cm dilated, and about 45 minutes later, after they moved me into a room, they checked and I was 6 cm dilated. Praise the Lord, I got my epidural. The anesthesiologist did something wrong and they warned me I might get a horrible spinal headache after the baby's birth, but I didn't care at that point. I literally told her that I loved her as she left my room! I was so, so grateful to be out of that awful pain. I think my friends who deliver without epidurals are completely nuts! My mom and sister arrived, and I remember feeling so happy. Happy to see them, happy to be comfortable, and excited to think that soon, after nine long months, I would finally meet my sweet baby. The doctor and nurse came in and once again expressed concern over the baby's dipping heart rate. The nurse turned me on one side, then another, and put an oxygen mask on my face, but nothing seemed to work. Each time I had a contraction, the baby's heart rate would go pretty low, often below 100. She told me that she wanted me to try to take a nap, so my mom and sister decided to get a snack and left the room. They had been gone about three minutes when the doctor came back into my room pretty quickly, reviewed the heart rate chart again, and told me flatly that this was looking like a c-section delivery. He knew that was not what I wanted, so he said, "I'll tell you what. I'll check you, and we'll let your progress determine what we're going to do. If you have not progressed much, we're going to section you, okay?"
Greg and I looked at each other and knew that we had little choice at this point. He checked me, and to my surprise and absolute delight, he said, "Well, I've got news for you. You're complete!" I laughed out loud... Greg and I practically high-fived, we were so excited! Within about two minutes, they had set up and I was pushing. Man they move fast! My nurse was absolutely wonderful, and Greg, as always, was the best coach I could have asked for. He is so encouraging and so calm. No matter how crazy I got that night, he never wavered. He was my rock that night, as he always is. I am so grateful for him.
One of my very favorite memories was when the doctor said, "You're doing a great job! Keep pushing!"
"I am??" I said. When you have an epidural, pushing is such a weird sensation. You can't really feel what you're doing. "Yes, look!" the doctor said. He pointed up above my bed, and there was a huge mirror that they had pulled out from the ceiling when they set up. And there was the baby's head! It was crazy, but just so exciting too. I pushed eight times, and the baby was out. Greg told me to announce what the baby was. I looked up in the mirror and cried with joy as I watched him slide out.
"It's a boy!" I yelled. This fearfully, wonderfully made nine-month mystery erupted from my body in seconds and was placed into my arms. It has been, three times over, the single-most miraculous event I have ever been privileged to be a part of. God is so good.
I love this picture. Greg snapped it as soon as I saw Charlie for the first time. My face says it all!
Our beautiful boy weighed 6 pounds, 14 ounces and was 19 1/2 inches long.
Dr. Potus, Charlie, and I, about ten minutes after delivery.
From the moment I met him, I loved him.
We are so grateful that God has entrusted him to us.
In the end, all my prayers were heard and answered by our most faithful God. Charlie's birth was such an incredible experience. Welcome to the world precious boy.
"But Jesus was matter-of-fact: "Yes—and if you embrace this kingdom life and don't doubt God, you'll not only do minor feats like I did to the fig tree, but also triumph over huge obstacles. This mountain, for instance, you'll tell, 'Go jump in the lake,' and it will jump. Absolutely everything, ranging from small to large, as you make it a part of your believing prayer, gets included as you lay hold of God."
Matthew 21:21-22 (The Message)