Exactly one year ago today, I woke up, barely 35 weeks pregnant, and just felt “different.” I’d been on bed rest for 6 weeks, but my doctor had released me to do a little more light activity. I had plans to do lunch and a movie with my friend, T. But when I woke up that day, I could tell something was different. The Bean felt lower, and I was having more tightness than usual, and I felt less movement. So, I called T and said I’d still do lunch, but I wasn’t up for a movie. So, we met for lunch, and ate at one of mine and B’s favorite little cafes near our house, where we sat outside. I sat there and told T that I just knew my baby was going to be born soon . . . I’d never been pregnant, nor given birth, but I knew.
After lunch, I drove home, drank a huge sprite and laid down for my periodic “kick counts” the doctor had me doing. After I laid down, B called. I told him how I was feeling and said, “this baby is coming SOON. You should stay at work late and get anything done that you need done before you go out on paternity leave.” We hung up the phone, and I went back to waiting for the kicks so I could count them, when suddenly, I heard and felt something POP inside my body. I had NO idea what it was. I jumped up, wondering if it was my water breaking. Sure enough, water came trickling out, but not like the gush I would have expected, just slow trickling that would not stop. I called my OB’s office to tell the nurse about it, and realized suddenly that my stomach was hurting - badly. The nurse said, “well, honey, we are having a baby today!” She also said she was worried that my stomach was already hurting so badly, so she didn’t want me to wait until my husband could get home from downtown, but that I should get someone closer to take me to the hospital and have him meet me there. So, I called T, who should have only been a mile or so away . . . only she wasn’t answering! I frantically texted her, and kept calling and calling . . . turns out her phone was frozen - she knew I was calling, but couldn’t answer, but started heading back my way. So, B drove straight to the hospital from work and T took me to meet him. B beat us there, but they went ahead and gave him a room :o) T has a super cute mini-cooper with leather seats, so I thoughtfully brought along one of the puppy pee-pads the nurse that taught our birthing class suggested we buy . . . that way, I didn’t leak on her seat!
Once we got to the hospital, I felt SOOOO relieved to just see B. I was scared! The nurses were initially not nice -- it was like they didn’t believe me that my water broke, but once they tested me, they changed. I kept asking, “just tell me if I’m staying so I can tell my mom to get on a plane!” Finally, the nurse said, “you are staying.” And Gigi bought the next flight out.
I had planned to go without an epidural. I knew I’d be a more effective pusher if I could make it without it, and to be honest, part of me just wanted to see if I could do it. I think I did a great job of breathing through my contractions for the next 3 or 4 hours (B seconds this!). I do remember that B kept his work clothes on -- a shirt and tie, forever, and it was making me nervous. I finally told him I needed him to change and be in comfy clothes, like he was staying for awhile. He did a fabulous job of monitoring my contractions, holding my hand, and encouraging me. But then I had one contraction that hurt SO BAD and LASTED FOREVER. During it, I asked B if it was almost over. He checked the monitor and said, “holy shit, that’s the mother of all contractions. I don’t know if its almost over.” At that point, I said, “get the anesthesiologist.”
So, the anesthesiologist came, and he was super nice. The epidural hardly hurt, though I was having some pretty intense contractions during it. The nurse had checked me right before the epidural and I was 4 centimeters dilated. She checked me again right after (literally less than an hour passed) and I was EIGHT centimeters a (or so she thought). They called my OB (actually just the OB on call for my OB) and he came to the hospital. But, he disagreed and thought I was only like 6 cm. He was annoyed with the nurse, and went home. Less than 15 minutes later, I felt like I HAD to push. It was intense. The nurse felt and said, “the babies head is right there . . .I told you you were 10 cms.” So, she said I COULD NOT push until the doctor was back in the building. Fortunately, he made it back quickly, and it was time to push.
BUT, the epidural hadn’t worn off a bit and I couldn’t feel the lower half of my body at all, so pushing was hard. I FELT like I was pushing, but my OB kept telling me I wasn’t being productive. I hated him in those moments! He called the anesthesiologist back and asked him to turn down the epidural, but it didn’t work. Then, for whatever reason, the fabulous anesthesiologist took my left hand, while B held my right hand, and the two of them, along with the OB and L&D nurse coached me through the rest of the delivery.
I always say that my OB gave me the stink eye through the entire thing -- he didn’t like my pushes. I really was trying my absolute hardest (and I still wonder, on that silly mama-guilt level, if I SHOULD have pushed harder, if it would have made any difference for Sam her first month of life, or this first year). B told me afterward that he knew I was mad at the OB b/c I wouldn’t look at him, I would only look to the side at one of the other three in the room. And B counted and encouraged me through every push.
Sam’s oxygen level went down a few times, so I had to wear an oxygen mask during the delivery. At the time, we just went through the motions, it was all very surreal. I think at that point, even the fact that there would be a baby at the end of all that seemed unreal, but looking back, the oxygen mask seems scary. Finally, with the help of the vacuum (again, the mama-guilt and wondering) Sammie B made her official entrance into the world.
Because she was coming early, a NICU team was in my room waiting on her, and the OB immediately passed her off to them, without even letting me hold or see her. That was hard. I sat, feeling helpless, and sobbed as the NICU team worked on her in the side of my room. The anesthesiologist, still holding my hand, asked me, “why are you crying?” And I said, “because she isn’t.” I felt like something was wrong. But then he said, “Sweetheart, stop crying and just listen.” And, when I did, I heard my baby’s first cries.
I have no idea how long they worked on Sammie B (probably less than 30 minutes?). The doctor was finishing up with me, and I didn’t even care, all I was paying attention to was the activity in the side of my room . . . watching my baby, trying to get a peek at what she looked like.
And finally, the NICU team asked if we wanted to hold our daughter. Of course we did! We even had time for her first picture.
Then they took Sammie B off to the NICU, and said they’d come get B when she was completely stable. Those were the hardest hours of our lives. I remember that it comforted me that we'd held her. I knew if she wasn't in good shape, they wouldn't have let us hold her, they would have whisked her away immediately. The nurses told us we should get some rest . . . as if!! All we wanted was to hold our baby!!! Finally, around 3 am, the nurses came to get B and he got to go formally introduce himself to his daughter. He took pictures and brought them back for me to see, since I couldn't get up yet.
He learned that she'd been in respiratory distress, but stabilized quickly, and that because she was a little early, she didn't have the "suck, swallow, breathe" reflex down. Everyone said over and over (including the neonatologist the next day) "your baby is going to be just fine." During her NICU stay, when we'd ask when she'd get to go home, they would tell us, "when she's ready." It was so frustrating because I wanted them to be able to tell me WHEN. One of my favorite NICU nurses told me, "this little girl was put onto this earth to teach you patience."
Soon after his visit, I had to switch rooms to go to the post-partem rooms, and on the way there, I got to stop in to visit with my Bean. Already madly in love with her, I just sat and held onto her little hand for as long as I could before being wheeled off to my room. I didn't hold her until later that morning.
The whole time I was pregnant, I'd worried that I wouldn't be nurturing enough. That "mommy" wouldn't fit me well. But, the moment I saw that Bean, and when I first held her, instantly, I felt like "mommy" and knew that role would be the most important one of my life.
Last night, I wrote that it felt defeating that we aren’t in the place we thought we’d be at a one-year (even though, over the last six months that “place” I thought we’d be has kept changing), but today, driving home, I sat and I thought about what that NICU nurse said . . . just as I did then, today, I want someone to be able to tell me WHEN things will be easier. But, its not for me to decide. I'm just along for the ride with Sammie B. Patience. So, we might not be in the place we thought we'd be but we are in OUR place. Sammie B’s Place. The only place that matters. And we are together . . . and so, it’s a pretty magical place to be. There are no two people on the world I’d rather be with.