Sunday, August 2, 2015

Answered Prayers: Barrett's Birth Story

That is, like, a real title right there. 

I shouldn't start off a serious post by being cheeky right off the bat about the title. But that really is a legit-sounding title. 

Anyway, it's a fitting title. Barrett's birth story isn't just peppered with answered prayers, it is saturated in them. It was so evident that God's grace and guiding hand were leading us every step of the way. 

We have been blessed beyond what we could ever imagine. I thank Jesus for this beautiful, new life a couple dozen times a day. At every feeding, I thank Him for Barrett. When we put him down to sleep, I thank Him. Through tearful prayers during sleepless nights, I thank Him. 

When I've read other birth stories, they are almost always tales of long, grueling labors or complications, and not that ours doesn't have a smattering of both, but as labor and delivery stories go, ours was pretty easy. Now, anyone who's ever experienced childbirth will attest to the fact that "easy" is not a word associated with the endeavor, and it wasn't easy, it was just relatively short (one of those answered prayers). 

Thank you to Jordan Rodericks and Melanie Cox for the photographs! Thanks for capturing our early hours as a family of three!

Without further ado, here's how it all went down. 

Early in the pregnancy we got an abnormal test result that lead to us having ultrasounds every four weeks throughout the remainder of the pregnancy. Because of the low test result, at somewhere around 28 weeks, my OB told me that she wouldn't let me go "very far past my due date." In fact, she mentioned inducing only a couple of days past the due date. I really didn't want to be induced, so I asked for more time, and she said she'd give me a week. 

Now, I know that it was ultimately my decision, and I could have said, "no" to being induced at all. But I also knew that she had my best interests (and Barrett's best interests) in mind when she said that, and that she would only place parameters like that for baby's and my safety. 

I knew all along that I would probably go past my due date since this was my first pregnancy, and I had no reason to think that he'd be early. Even as the 41-week mark loomed closer and closer, I was still confident that labor would start and I wouldn't have to be induced. I knew induction was waiting for me if/when I reached 41 weeks, but I never really thought that I'd have to face it. It felt like an empty threat since I was so sure that labor would start before 41 weeks. 

I felt that way until 40 weeks and 5 days. Then I started to worry some. We sailed right past Barrett's due date on June 29. Induction was scheduled for Monday, July 6th and 6:00 am. I kept working that week, and I kept praying that labor would start any time before Monday. I was walking every day, eating spicy foods, drinking that tea that's supposed to help with labor -- we were doing it all, trying to start labor. And we were praying praying praying. 

On Sunday, July 5th, I was texting with Colleen, our doula. I was getting worried and discouraged as the inducing hour loomed closer. She recommended taking castor oil, and she told me a recipe for making it palatable/effective. I had tried to avoid castor oil since I know that it works by causing "intestinal distress" (i.e. diarrhea) in hopes of sparking contractions in the uterus. I didn't really want any intestinal distress. 

After church, Richard ran out and got some castor oil for me, and I took 1.5 oz at about 2:30. Then I took a nap and woke up around 5:30, and I noticed that the contractions that I'd been feeling every now and then were actually feeling pretty close together. I opened up my handy app and started tracking them. They were 3-5 minutes apart! I stayed upstairs and continued tracking for about 30 minutes to make sure it was the real deal before alerting Richard and Emmy. 

I went downstairs and kept tracking them while watching the Women's World Cup final (GO USA!). I texted Colleen, and she called us since the contractions were getting even closer then. I had two contractions while on the phone with her, and she said it sounded like real labor. She said to take a shower and eat something and keep timing the contractions for another 45 minutes or so before heading to the hospital. 

Meanwhile, Richard called the on-call doctor at the hospital and told her that my contractions were about 1-3 minutes apart by then, and she asked why we were still at home. So, I didn't take a shower, but I did manage to make some toast on the way out the door. We gathered everything up and headed to St. Mary's where Colleen met us. We got there about 7:45 pm on Sunday evening. 

That was Major Answered Prayer Number 1. I so desperately didn't want to be induced, we had prayed for labor to start any time before Monday morning, and God was so good to us!

We got checked in, and since I was scheduled to be in a room for induction in less than 12 hours, I actually got a room with a tub which I had requested. Score! Speaking of score, I got settled in and managed to find the soccer game on tv. In between contractions (when I was still in good enough spirits/had enough extra energy to speak), I commented that it looked like we'd won (you know, lots of stars and stripes forever)! The nurses, Colleen, and Richard all looked at me like, "What are you even talking about?" And I reminded them that we were watching the game. 

My nurse, Rebekah, checked me at 8:30, and I was 3 cm which was a little discouraging since I'd been 3 cm on Friday (which was when I had my membranes swept -- another attempt at avoiding induction). She told us that she'd check me again at 10:30, and if I was only 4 cm or less, then we'd be welcome to head back home and labor at home for a while since I wanted low intervention. 

Between 8:30 and 10:30, I had some serious contractions. At one point, I felt my water break and yelled that fact out to Richard and Colleen. Somehow I felt that they didn't believe me, and I was like, "No, seriously, I felt a pop!" Turns out, they did believe me. I don't know why I thought that they didn't. At that point, I was still able to talk between the contractions because I joked with Richard that I would need to replace his basketball shorts that I was wearing. (Thanks, Richard!)

The contractions definitely got worse, and there were a few times that I thought about asking for some kind of pain relief. Colleen mentioned using the shower/tub and said that she would ask about getting it set up when they checked me at 10:30. 

Colleen was such a huge help. She talked me through each contraction and reminded me about my breathing. She chanted, "I can do this" to me as a mantra, and even though I wasn't terribly successful at repeating it and using it as a mantra through contractions, it was hugely helpful to be reminded that I COULD do it. She suggested various positions for laboring, and I tried them all.  

And, of course, Richard was amazing. He held my hand. He talked me through contractions. He never left my side. He encouraged me through the worst pain of my life. He was such a champ through all of it, and I wish I'd been able to have my eyes open during more of it just to see him. 

When 10:30 came around, all I could think was, "Dear Lord, if I'm not past 4 centimeters, I don't know what I'm going to do. I cannot do this." The contractions were so strong, and I felt that I could barely collapse and catch my breath in between them. I got to where I'd feel one coming on, and I'd just whimper, "No no no no..." 

Colleen had told me that I'd reach a point where I would feel like I couldn't do it, like I just couldn't keep going. She said when I reach that point, I'd either be transitioning or very close to it. Well, I reached that point, and it felt like failure that I'd reached it after such a short time of laboring. I got to the point where I said, "I don't want to do this anymore. No more contractions." 

Rebekah checked me at 10:30, and lo and behold, I was completely dilated! After only two hours! God is so good! That was just what I needed to hear to be able to press through. 

After one particularly grueling contraction, Colleen asked me if I had pushed. She said it sounded like I pushed. I said, "I don't know. Everything hurts." During the next one, she listened closely and I paid attention to whether I felt like I was pushing. Turns out, I was. She encouraged me that that was a good thing and said to push anytime my body felt like it needed to. She called in the nurses who alerted the doctor that this baby was coming!

Richard said it was six pushes later, and I don't really know but it wasn't long, and our baby boy made his entrance! He was born at 11:07 pm. 

It all happened so fast. I know at one point I heard a nurse say, "No! No time for an IV!" So I didn't get an IV at all (which is nice because I don't really love needles), and they actually ended up having me sign some of the preliminary paperwork after everything was all said and done. 

That was Major Answered Prayer Number 2. I had never even thought to pray for an easy or quick delivery. It didn't occur to me, and even when a friend prayed that for me, I guess I thought it was too much to ask. I did pray for a safe and smooth delivery, but praying for a quick delivery seemed like asking too much. Oh me of little faith. Why would I ever doubt Him or think that asking something was "too much?"

But He gave me a gloriously quick labor and delivery! He answered a prayed I thought was too selfish to even pray. He answered the prayers of my friends and family, and He showed us His lavish goodness and unending love. 

I had originally said that I wanted to give natural birth a shot and try to go with no medication. I also said that if I decided that I wanted an epidural, I wouldn't consider that a failure. I wasn't totally married to the idea of having a natural birth, but I am glad that I ended up making it through with no meds. If it had lasted any longer, I think I would have had to have some kind of pain management. 

That being said, it was so surreal to be aware of and feel every bit of labor and delivery. I felt him crowning; I felt when he was delivered; and I certainly felt the contractions. It's so strange to think of that whole experience and really cherish that pain -- and it's not the pain that I remember fondly, but being able to feel all of it happening. 

That was Major Answered Prayer Number 3. I know my body was designed to be able to give birth, yet I also know that I could never have endured that pain by my own strength. I had wanted my birth mantra to be Psalm 29:11, "The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses them with peace." But I wasn't really able to speak much during contractions. I did think about this verse and prayed for strength (and for each contraction to end). 

And then came the NICU stay. During my third trimester, one of the many ultrasounds that we had revealed what appeared to be an abnormality in one of the vessels around his heart. My understanding was that the pulmonary vein looked to be enlarged. We saw a pediatric cardiologist, and she felt that she could neither confirm nor deny the diagnosis based on what she saw. We knew that NICU would be present at Barrett's birth in order to check him out and see if there were any cardiac issues. 

During the very quick delivery, the few times that I had my eyes open, I saw lots of nurses and people hurrying around the room. Richard told me that Barrett was crowning before they even got my bed broken down and the instruments arranged. It seemed like my doctor barely had time to get scrubbed in before "catching" him. Some of the people that I saw scurrying about were the seemingly large team of NICU nurses. 

After Barrett was born, my nurses quickly clipped his cord and put him on my chest. It seemed like only seconds later that he was taken across the room to get checked out by NICU nurses. Then there was a nurse practitioner at my bedside telling me that his coloring was not right, and that they needed to take him to NICU. I asked for "magic hour" which is something that Bon Secours hospitals do where the new parents get an hour of alone time with the new baby to bond and nurse and coo over how cute he is. But the nurse told me that it was a matter of his health and safety and that they needed to take him right away. 

So, I lay there on the table after just delivering my baby and having him swept away, and I cried. Richard held my hand, and I asked him if we could pray. He prayed for baby Bear, and Colleen and Rebekah prayed, too. It was a beautiful moment of support, but it was still so hard to not have my baby in my arms. 

He ended up having to stay in the NICU overnight since the on call pediatric cardiologist wouldn't be in to check him until the morning. We got to go back there and see him and stay with him for a while. So, I got to hold and nurse my baby about two hours after he was born. Richard and I took shifts over the course of the night, and in the morning he had an echocardiogram done. The cardiologist said he was completely healthy and that we didn't even need to worry about his heart as he gets older. 

As I'm sure you can surmise, that was Major Answered Prayer Number 4. God is so good!