I’ve been trying to figure out how I wanted to start this story for a few days now. It is such an important story. In fact, it is the most significant thing that has happened to me in my life to date. I’ll try and limit the amount of times I use some silly cliché to describe having a child, but truly, nothing could ever possibly prepare you for the feelings that you will experience when your baby is being born.
The events leading up to Harvey’s birth and immediately after are actually the most perfect metaphors I can think of to relay the first, and probably most imperative, lessons I will learn about parenting in my entire life.
- Things are not always going to go according to plan… and that is ok. It just is. It has to be.
- You have to ask for help. You will need it. Receiving it doesn’t make you a bad parent. It makes you a better one.
- The most crucial part of being a parent is knowing that you are a team. Your partner is going to be the best advocate/resource/support you could ask for, and is the ONLY other person in the world who understands the love you have for YOUR baby. You all made the baby together, you will raise it together, and you will grow as people, together, when you set out on the journey known as parenthood.
Now, most of you know from Nick’s most recent post that I had planned on a natural birth at the Women’s Birth and Wellness Center in Chapel Hill, NC. I wanted to eat and drink while I labored, use the birthing tub as I pleased, have scented oils, music playing, candles burning, etc. etc. etc… I am not going to go too much into this, because, my intention is to try and make this happen someday. I love my original birth plan, and fully believe in the power of natural birth and my ability as a woman to bring a child into this world without any medical interventions. However, my birth plan was thrown out of the window around 11:30 AM on 3/28/16.
Preeclampsia. It’s a scary word. It’s even scarier when it is happening to you. For those of you who watched Downton Abbey, yes… Lady Sybil died during childbirth because of the condition Eclampsia. When Preeclampsia is not treated, or becomes too severe, it can lead to Eclampsia (seizures), which is currently the cause behind approximately 12% of maternal deaths around the world. This is the crash course in medicine that Nick and I received between 11:30 and 11:45 AM on March 28th.
Looking back on the whole thing, we were obviously in shock. We knew that at the time, too. We knew how serious things were when, within 15 minutes of arriving, my midwife, two nurses, two resident doctors, and one attending physician came into our triage room to explain that we were going to be admitted, I was going to be induced, and that I would be transferring care immediately from the Birth Center to UNC. What I did not know, is that the doctors, nurses, and midwife were hovering so closely over me for the next hour because they were afraid that I might have a seizure at any moment. That’s how high my blood pressure was. The moment that I started to cry and freak out was when the doctors explained the possibility of me going under general anesthesia and having an emergency caesarian. This was the “worst case” scenario. My goal, from that point on, was to try and remain as calm as possible, for me and for my baby. I had to have a moment with myself and with Nick where I looked around the room, took a deep breath, and say, “this is what’s happening, end of story.” Hence, my first lesson in parenting.
Once I was able to accept this new reality, my fears really set in. At the end of the day, I realized that I was not so much upset about my birth plan going out the window as I was about my baby. After all, it was “too soon.” He was a month early. I was only 36 weeks 1 day pregnant, and I was fearful for all of the possible complications that could cause him. Although the doctors assured me several times that they were MUCH more concerned with my health than with nugget’s, when you’re a mom, you don’t hear that. You don’t care. All that matters is that your baby is healthy and safe. What I had trouble swallowing is this: the way for my baby to be safe and healthy was for me to calm the f*** down. I was having trouble doing it. I needed help. I needed my mommy. I need prayer warriors. I needed all of the love and positive energy I could possibly get. Hence, my second lesson in parenting. So, Nick got on the phone, called our moms, texted our friends, and filled people in on the situation. After all of this, a magnesium drip in my arm, a few tears, a shot of steroids for Nug’s lungs, and a few doses of Labetalol to control my blood pressure, we were ready for the next step: Pitocin.
This is where my third lesson in parenting comes in. Being induced is no joke. The Foley Catheter that the doctor inserted into my cervix to begin dilation was really, really painful. I screamed. Nick let me squeeze his hand the entire time. Then, for the next 12 hours, I was on Pitocin without an epidural, which they turned up every 30 minutes to bring on contractions. Once my contractions really kicked in, I needed that partner support. Nick was incredible. He never left my side. Neither did my mom. I never once felt “alone” or like I was “in it by myself.” Nick and I made every decision together, and he was 100% supportive of my feelings, desires, questions, concerns, etc. When, at 3am, I was only about 4-5cm dilated, the discussion of an epidural took place. This discussion took place because I was basically having one big long continuous contraction. That s*** hurt. I felt no relief. I wasn’t getting “breaks” in between them. That’s what Pitocin does. I was hesitant. I’ve read that epidurals can slow the process down, and the doctors confirmed this. However, they also confirmed that the epidural would help to keep my blood pressure down. The more you can manage your pain, hopefully, the lower your BP is. I couldn’t manage my pain on my own at all. I was strapped to a bed. Literally. I had a catheter in to drain my bladder, and so that the doctors could keep an eye on my kidney functions while I was on the magnesium. I had an IV in my hand that was giving me magnesium, fluids, and Pitocin, I had a monitor on my finger, a blood pressure cuff on my arm, and two large straps across my belly that were monitoring the baby’s heart rate and my contractions. I couldn’t move. So, when the contractions came, and came, and came… all I could do was lay there. I breathed through them as best I could, but the Pitocin made it unbearable. Finally, my mom stepped in and suggested that I get the epidural. In a way, it is what I needed. It was almost as if I needed somebody’s permission to do it. I had wanted a natural birth so badly, and I was still clinging to that hope. Nick was able to help me reason through it. He helped me understand that nothing about what was happening to me was “natural” and that I couldn’t possibly expect to cope with my circumstances in the ways I had practiced (moving, eating, breathing, bathing, etc.) and that along with everything else, we had to make a new plan as we went. So… I got the epidural.
In the end, I wasn’t sad about it. I had the perfect combination of pain meds in mine. I had built up some fear in my head about the epidural completely numbing me out, but it didn’t. I could feel my toes. I could bend my knees. I could roll from side to side. What it ultimately allowed me to do was sleep for a bit, which I ended up needing, because less than 8 hours later, the doctors came in and told me I was fully dilated and that I could start pushing. What an awesome feeling!! It was finally time to meet my baby. I had the best team I could possibly have with me. So, with the help of my mom, Nick’s mom, and Nick, I began to bear down.
Pushing was amazing. I loved every second of it. In fact, I asked for music to be played. I wanted to hear some powerful women singing, so naturally, I asked for things like Florence and the Machine and Beyoncé, haha! Because my epidural was the perfect amount of incredible and amazing, I was able to try lots of different positions while pushing. The moms held my knees, I held my knees, I got on my hands and knees, and I even got on my side at one point. Approximately 90 minutes later, I could see my baby’s head in the mirror. I didn’t know if nug was a boy or a girl yet, but I could see so much hair! The next few minutes to an hour are undoubtedly the best moments of my life. The only other thing that comes close is the day that I married Nick. And, although this is probably the most important part to describe, words just won’t do it justice. Seriously… they just won’t. Elation. That’s all I can remember. The feelings and emotions and hormones that flooded my body and mind in the minutes after Nick said, “It’s Harvey!!” are impossible to describe. He came out pink and grunting, and when they laid him on my chest, all I could do is cry. I cried because he was alive and beautiful. I cried because it was over. I cried because I knew this would be the defining moment in my life to date. I cried because my life, from that moment on, was going to be forever changed, and I would have gone through that scary 24 hours leading up to his birth one million more times if it meant that I got to have my sweet Harvey in the end.
He is perfect. That’s all I can say. In the days following his birth, my preeclampsia got a little worse before it got better, and I am still on blood pressure medication. I had lost 30 lbs. in water weight by the time we got home on April 2nd (yes, 30 pounds in 5 days) and my ankles and feet and face have returned. Harvey is two weeks old and eating like a champ. He was born at 5lbs14oz, got down to 5lbs6oz, and as of yesterday he is now 6lbs4.5oz. He is the light of our lives. The story of the day he was born is one I will never forget for as long as I live. I love him with my entire being, and cannot wait to see what this new adventure will bring.