Sunday, May 8, 2016

Dear God, Amen: The Birth Story of Ella Marie

     To start, I will tell you I don’t think I ever reached the “10th level of hell miserably pregnant” stage of my pregnancy. Yes. I was hot. Yes. I was tired. But... Ella never really dropped. I never felt her in my pelvis. There wasn’t ever any pressure. She was just “up there.” I don’t know why this seems like a pertinent part of the story, but...here we are.

     As many of you know, Tim and I destroyed our house with projects in the months before my due date. Like...no-flooring in the kitchen...oven in the living room...DESTROYED. I often told my baby I “wasn’t ready.”

My “not readiness” was actually 1 part “still cleaning” and 2 parts “terrifyingly-horrifically-afraid.” Which I can see now makes very little sense.

I have often heard women say they cry on their due dates. The weekend before, I was like, “Why do women cry. I’m fine.”

And then my actual due date hit. Bah-haha!

All this to say... never one to disobey her mom...

Ella was late.

I won’t bore you with details (IS IT TOO LATE!?!?!) ;)

On my due date, (Monday, September 21st), my doctor informed me that absolutely nothing had changed (not dilated or effaced). I may as well have been 30 or so weeks pregnant instead of staring 40-ish weeks in the face. We talked about induction...I cried the entire day and was scheduled to go back on Wednesday. Cry. Cry. Cry.

You know the drill. I was officially past my due date, and for various reasons, doctors wanted to induce..

Um...is there another term we could use for “hysterical mess?” God bless the people in my life who didn’t screen my calls between my due date and my next appointment.

I was scheduled to come back Wednesday afternoon (September 23rd).

That morning, I cried and prayed (and prayed and prayed). I put on some of the only clothes that still felt like they sort of fit (black shorts, a purple tank top, a soft gray cardigan and flip flops...ALWAYS flip flops...heehee).  This is the last "belly photo" I took before she was born. 



I (somehow) pulled myself together and went about my day. I was on the hunt for “tiny pumpkins” to decorate our front porch for fall before Ella arrived. I looked at several different places. I told my mom I thought I was projecting ALL MY ANXIETY on finding those tiny pumpkins. For some reason, they just felt desperately important. I dropped off a load of “junk” at salvation army and bought three Christmas ornaments for Ella at Hobby Lobby. I felt like I needed confirmation that she would get here in time to see them. At that point, I was honestly preparing for a 2016 baby (haha).

I scarfed down drive-through chik-fil-a and watched Parks and Recreation on Netflix as I stared at the clock. I practiced DEEP BREATHING. Tim was running late, so we were going to meet at the office. On the way, I blasted part of my labor and delivery playlist (Bethel Music, Lauren Daigle & Jeremy Riddle) and continued breathing. The appointment went very fast. The nurse looked at my chart and said, “They might send you over to induce tonight.”

I thought she was joking.

We spoke briefly with the doctor and he told us we needed to go check into the hospital.

THIS IS NOT THE PLAN GUYS. THIS WAS NOT THE PLAN. I did not have my bags with me. There were tons of items still unpacked (make-up, chargers, hair dryer, etc.). I did not say good-bye to the dogs...I had an entire list of things “to do” before we left the hospital in my fancy Erin Condren planner.

I thought I would be hysterical, but I was excited. So excited. People. This is proof that God exists.

We checked in at the front desk...took a selfie...of course...and headed to our room.



The first nurse I met was a God-send. She became my instant bestie. I will remember her forever. No joke. You L&D nurses...don’t ever underestimate the importance of your job. Holy Smokes.

When we checked in, our good friend (who happens to be an anesthesiologist) stopped by to see us. I didn’t want to tell anyone we had been admitted until everything was settled (paperwork finished, blood drawn, etc.). I wanted to be able to make my phone calls without being interrupted. I remember cracking up because we were just chatting casually while NO ONE in our families knew what was happening.

Tim went to get my bags, feed the dogs and gather a few necessary things. (Like snacks and a steak dinner for me from Outback, to-go). Funny side note: My DOCTOR and Nurse Best Friend actually sat with me while I looked online and decided what I wanted to order as my “last meal” before delivery. It was very sweet and not what I was expecting at all. Outback Steakhouse for the win. (For the record, I was allowed to eat a little after that because my induction took soooooo long, but we didn't know that at the time).

I was antsy for him to get back because OMGOODNESS WHAT IF SOMETHING HAPPENED!?!?! I watched news about The Pope’s visit to the U.S. While I waited. Riveting.

Little did I know, this is where it gets incredibly boring for the next 30 hours. Ha.

Wed. night (Sept. 23rd) and Thursday (Sept. 24th), they pumped me full of drugzzzz and like...nothing happened...except I was bedridden and super uncomfortable. The first prescription they used was...in a word...unpleasant. If you end up being induced, call me first. We’ll chat. ;) Thursday afternoon, they let me off the wires and machines for an hour so we could walk around and I could shower.

Best hour of my life. I’m not kidding. It felt so good to get up and stretch my legs. The shower was magnificent, and Tim didn’t leave my side. He even sat outside the bathroom door and kept me company while I showered. It was really sweet.

They started a new drug around 3pm because nothing....nothing....NOTHING was happening. Nurse best friend had returned for a new shift (WE WERE THERE FOR SO LONG), I was getting really discouraged, so she fashioned a tiny hat with a bow and hung it on the bassinet at the foot of my bed. I needed a sign that Ella was actually maybe probably someday coming.  

Tim left to potty the dogs,and I was so bored and bed-ridden that I did my make up. Like. Full-on make up. Ha.

Prom, anyone?


Another side note: Do yourselves a favor and find a trusted friend or family member to potty your dogs while you have your baby. Not that anyone would have minded doing it- we just didn’t bother to ask, initially. Kind of like...how inconvenient can it be, right? The answer is...very inconvenient. And we live 7 minutes from the hospital.

     Fast forward to around 9:30 that night. I remember my doctor saying he thought we should talk about “throwing in the towel.” I was SO RELIEVED. They had upped my pitocin to 14 and Ella was still locked in tight. TIGHT! The highest they will go is 20 (I have no idea what this measurement means...and didn’t care to ask...haha). By this time, I was having contractions, but they were mild (?) and uncomfortable. I was breathing through them a bit but they weren’t doing anything productive.

     We had been at the hospital for 30 hours. Yeesh. If you guys want her out, that’s fine...but you’re going to have to go in and get her. I had made my peace with that. I started sending out frantic texts and making phone calls. Tim was still gone, and I was allll, "You need to get back here."  Thinking back, it feels like he was gone a lot...haha.  We laughed about it afterwards- it seemed like EVERY TIME the doctor came in, Tim wasn't even in the room.  

     Once we were alone, Tim walked by the bed, and I reached out my hand. “Look at me.” I pleaded. “This really is the best thing? Everything is going to be ok?” He nodded casually. “Yes. Yes. Sure. It’s fine.” He prayed with me, and he decided to try to get some sleep (there was actually a c-section ahead of me...by this time, it was around midnight). I had zero expectations about sleeping. I was too wound up and was constantly being checked and monitored by the nurses. (This was around midnight).  

     I was really hoping to have skin-to-skin time with Ella, and I was worried that surgery would hinder that. They told me their lactation consultant was still there (she would be the one to help hold Ella to my chest), but was on a time crunch.


I sent a text to friends and family, asking them to pray. I watched the clock. Nervous that we would run out of time.

     When the anesthesiologist arrived, he was gruff and to the point. As he wheeled all his fancy machines around the bed, hooking up my IV’s, he commented on the amount of “stuff” in the room. I watched the ceiling tiles as Tim emphatically agreed, “I tried to tell her...it was too much.” (For the record, I had a bag of clothes for me/Ella, a canvas tote that held her nursing pillow and a small tote bag of snacks and that was IT). I remember thinking to myself, “Ok. Are we REALLY having this conversation NOW?”

     I was dreading the moment we would get separated (I went into the OR first while Tim stayed behind and put on his scrubs). I knew any kind of affection at all would evoke tears, so I simply called out from my bed, “Tim Young. I will see you on the other side.” as they wheeled my bed out the door.

     I stepped out of my bed and sat on the operating table. I just remember thinking, “I really, really, really don’t want to do this.” Ugh. It was such a feeling of dread.

     There were several nurses in the room, but you could hear a pin drop. In the moment, I thought they were sharpening all the tools. Ha. I later heard someone say they just count everything to make sure they don’t sew you up with their scissors still inside. This makes perfect sense. Sharpening tools? Hello? This is childbirth...not a mafia interrogation.

Needless to say, I felt very small and afraid.

     And then (OH MY WORD), I started to panic. It felt like I was being held upside down. I could feel the “numbness” creeping up towards my lungs (none of this was true, by the way). Then I started worrying that if I panicked, they would knock me out and I would miss Ella’s birth.

I STARTED PANICKING ABOUT THE PANICKING!!!!

YOU GUYS! I still carry a little bit of shame about the miniature panicking. I don’t even know why. After 7 months, the fog has lifted I’m trusting that eventually, it’ll clear completely.

Let me just tell you...my team was the perfect mix of tough and tender.

The anesthesiologist said, “Your heart is racing. You need to get it together RIGHT HERE.” And he poked my forehead.

Looking back, the funny thing is, I found his refusal to coddle me SO OFFENSIVE that it actually distracted me/ calmed me down.

Hello...I’m freaking out over here. WHY AREN’T YOU BEING SUPER NICE TO ME!!!!

Also, it must be noted that...like an idiot...I kept informing them OVER AND OVER AGAIN that OMGOODNESS I CAN STILL FEEL THAT!!!!!!

You guys. No one wants to feel themselves being cut open.

Please.

     Interestingly enough, the doctor I ended up with was actually number 4 on my mental list of preferred doctors on call. I just didn’t know him that well, and he seemed a bit standoffish. I now realize that I had just misread gentle as “aloof.” God bless that kind, genius of a man.

     We chatted about my sister’s kids (he actually delivered my nephew) and the next thing I knew, My Tim had arrived and all was right with the world.

I made him tell me EVERYTHING HE KNOWS ABOUT GUITARS OH MY WORD JUST KEEP TALKING.

In the background, I heard Dr. F say, “Well, hello there.” (At this point, he could see Ella).

“Are you guys ready to be parents?”

And then we heard her cry. (At 2:21am EARLY Friday morning, Sept. 25th).

And we both bawled our faces off. She was finally here.

Tim took photos and videos while they weighed and measured my tiny, beautiful child. As I waited, I whispered, “Thank you, Lord. Thank you, Lord.”

     People have a lot of hang-ups about c-sections. I get it. Kind of. I do. But here’s the thing. It was the most amazing experience of my life because I don’t have a choice. I can sulk about unmet expectations or I can enjoy it for what it was- the birth of my tiny, beautiful child. It was something my sweet Ella Baby and I survived together. Don’t we all want to be able to look back and say, “Oh...by the time I got to the hospital, my contractions were getting a little more painful, but guess what...I was already 9 centimeters! I didn’t even have time for an epidural. Three pushes later, my baby was out! And I went home in my pre-pregnancy jeans!”

I think THAT experience is pretty rare. (And if that’s your experience, we’re very happy for you, but seriously. Keep that story to yourself). ;)

It’s true that I was (technically) not the first one to hold my baby. Tim did not get to cut the cord.

     But you know who WERE the first ones to hold her? People who are passionate about healthy mothers and babies. People who have spent long days and late nights studying techniques...pouring over research...perfecting their craft. They’ve sacrificed holidays with their families and outings with their friends...they’ve dedicated their entire lives to the act of birthing babies...and that’s a really beautiful thing. The first person to REALLY look at and photograph her was the same man who has cried for her and prayed for her before he even knew she existed...I couldn’t ask for a better experience ushering her into this world...they held her for 2 minutes. I will hold her forever.

Perspective.

After having said that, we had enough staff present to do skin-to-skin in the O.R. While they stitched me up which was a HUGE praise.

Armed only with my wavering courage, and their sharp, metal tools, We had waged war with Mother Nature, and we had won. When the nurse held Ella to my chest, I felt like the conquering queen presented with a fallen country’s treasure.



I talked to Ella as she squirmed and wriggled on my bare chest.

The anesthesiologist wiped my tears for me.

     I was worried that I would feel like my body had failed me. I realize now that my body was just asking for grace. I am not very good at giving that to my body so...this lesson was hard but also necessary and good. As someone who has needed heaps upon heaps of grace in my lifetime, who was I to say no?

     This was the end of the road for us. I had asked my body to carry a child for 40 weeks. I begged it to keep her warm and healthy and safe, and it had done exactly that. It had helped Ella grow organs and eyes and arms and legs. She had my lips and Tim’s nose (which I actually prayed she would get).

In the coming days, I would ask it to heal and produce milk for my tiny, beautiful child.

I had no complaints.

They moved me from the table back to my hospital bed, placed Burrito-wrapped Ella by my side and wheeled us back to the room with Tim following closely behind.

     I don’t remember a lot about the 2 hours I spent in recovery, but I do remember feeling warm and safe and so loved. I know there was a lot of temperature taking, incision checking, and the like. Tim was in his element. I cannot say enough nice things about That Tim. If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought he and the nurse had come up with an entire recovery plan... “You go left...I’ll go right.”

     As the numbing meds wore off, I shivered uncontrollably as they held Sweet Ella to my breast. She nursed for a long time. Tim rubbed my sore muscles. (I had strained my neck looking up at Ella on my chest after surgery). Tim sat next to the bed and kept vigil while I tried to sleep with her on my bare chest. I think whatever I lost from not having a “natural birth experience,” I gained back in Recovery. A lot of good memories.


Excuse the weird shadow over my left eye...5am selfie lighting!

     By then it was nearly 5am. We barely slept the rest of the day. The food was surprisingly good (might I recommend their burgers, deli sandwiches and oatmeal). We snacked on coffee and ice cream from the nearby “snack room” while all our people came to see us (Ok. They came to see Ella, right?). 

     




     Before bedtime on Saturday, I fed Ella and Tim fed me vanilla pudding while we watched HGTV. Oh my word, I want to remember that sweet scene forever.

     Here me now, you intelligent, beautiful, teenage girls on the internet...this is why you don’t have sex and make babies with someone who is not your husband. There is blood. There are guts. (GUTS!?!?!) And you will want to experience it with someone who is in it with you for the long haul. Alex P. from your 12th Grade English Lit. Class is going to go home and crash on his parents’ couch while playing XBOX as you’re nursing your hungry, incredible child. He’s not going to feed you pudding at 1am because that is not the way of The 12th Grade Boy. That is, however, the way of the 30-something-married-for-8-years-responsible-home-owning-husband. You almost can’t even understand it until you go through it, but I digress.





     Saturday night was rough (We didn’t go home until Sunday). Babies do this thing called cluster feeding where they just want to eat all the time. It’s really kind of maddening but also super sweet. Babies also don’t realize they’ve been born...you know...in the middle of the night. Which makes complete sense. Like, “I’m a baby...how am I supposed to know it’s NIGHT TIME!?!” So...they have to learn about their own little sleep cycles...night and day and what not. It’s a lot for a little, tiny, baby.

     So...I was awake. A lot. I intentionally let That Tim sleep because, having just endured a c-section, I knew I would NEED HIM IN THE MORNING AND PRETTY MUCH ALL DAY AFTER THAT FOR AS LONG AS WE BOTH SHALL LIVE!!! I devoured season after season of Parks and Recreation and ate deli sandwiches and sodas from our room’s tiny fridge. I paced the floor and read every single poster hanging on the walls of our room...at least twice. In all seriousness, when I think about that night, as hard as it was, it still makes me happy. Just me and my teeny, floppy baby.


     Early the next morning, I heard a loud voice in the hallway coming from the intercom. It was Sunday. Someone was praying. I cracked open the door to hear the sound from the speakers, and I rocked Ella as she fussed through the entire prayer. I tried to pray along but couldn’t organize my thoughts in time. The only three words I could make out were “Dear God” and eventually, “Amen.”

And so I prayed. Dear God, Amen. Those were the only three words my exhausted soul could muster.

And they were enough.

















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