Aug 21, 2011


It is hard to put into words how I feel today.  Holding our little Katelyn brings me such peace and happiness, along with overwhelming gratitude and sweet relief.  Kate's middle name, Joy, reflects the deepest emotions of my heart.  It is interesting to reflect on my 2010 quest to find joy in my daily life.  Now I hold her in my arms.

That said, I have never felt such trepidation as I approached labor and delivery.  I was nervous, plain and simple.  After eight months of complications, I have worried about difficulties for me and for the baby at birth.  Recurring dreams about specific critical issues haunted me.  I worried about going into labor when I was in lousy physical shape. I also wondered if it was wise to induce.  Knowing how well my body usually does with labor, I didn't want to mess with nature.  But I was also quite practical and knew that Saturday was an excellent day.  Scheduling something as momentous as a birth sure has its perks, and we had great care lined up for the kids.  My mom was coming Sunday. Induction made sense.

After much prayer, I was finally reconciled to the induction and actually felt good about proceeding.  Of course I was quite disappointed when we found out at 5:30 Saturday morning that the birth center was completely full and we had to wait.  The last-minute change in plans was hard on everyone in the family.  We weren't sure if we should eat breakfast or go to soccer practice.  We were just waiting for that silly phone to ring!  I finally called the hospital at 8:15 a.m. for an update.  More bad news came: there were still no beds, and the nurse wasn't sure when that status would change.  I had a little meltdown with Garry and then moved on with plans for the day.  Five minutes later, as we all sat down to a breakfast of oatmeal, the phone rang.  It was the hospital.  The induction was on!  We laughed at the sudden emotional turnaround and scrambled into action.

At 8:45, having picked up a babysitter for the kids (bless her heart, she had been waiting by the phone since 5:30, too!), Garry and I walked into the hospital with huge smiles on our faces.  It was pretty strange, and yet super exciting, to know that in a few hours our little girl would be in our arms.  It was also pretty fantastic to walk through the hospital doors on my own two feet, rather than slumped in a wheelchair and hooked to an IV. Despite my many discomforts, I knew I had come a long way.

Our hurry-up-and-wait morning continued, since the nurse assigned to me had been called into work just minutes before.  Loretta was worth the wait, however; she was fantastic!  I was most thrilled when she was willing to start an IV in my arm, rather than in the top of my hand.  She started the Pitocin drip at 10:15.  I was dilated 3.5 cm.  We predicted I would deliver sometime in the early afternoon, since my last induced labor was three hours long.  I was skeptical about a quick pace, since I'm normally more dilated when labor starts, but I was wise enough to ask for an epidural as soon as I had my first contraction five minutes later.  I didn't need it yet, but I knew I would, and probably sooner rather than later.

The anesthesiologist took his sweet time.  He was a very busy man that day (the birth center was a happenin' place!) and patients in later stages of labor took priority over me. My epidural was in place at 11:15.  My contractions were coming regularly but weren't especially uncomfortable.  Although the epidural medicine made me itchy, my legs weren't numb right away.  I figured we had lots of time.  Dr. Bianco broke my water at 11:30.  He left the room, leaving instructions to call when I was ready to deliver.  I was at 5 cm.  

That's when things got totally crazy.

There seemed to be a lot of blood in the amniotic fluid.  Loretta, the nurse, was obviously alarmed, though she tried to downplay her concern.  Garry's face was more telling.  This was not my normal pattern.  I tried not to panic, and really, I didn't have time to focus on anything but the sudden wave of intense pain that crushed me.  I was in transition.  Five minutes later, as the nurse tried to insert a catheter and I nearly jumped out of the bed, howling in pain, I was complete.  The baby was coming, and the epidural didn't work.

I have never been out of control at this stage of labor.  I have never lost my cool or panicked or cried.  I have never thought I was going to die.  I have been blessed with the miracle of functional epidurals, and for this I am grateful!  However, quite honestly, in the weeks leading up to Kate's birth, I had considered a natural delivery with this baby.  I knew my labors were fast.  I thought I could probably do it, and I knew that if I went into labor at home, chances were reasonably good that I would arrive at the hospital when it was too late for pain relief.  But this time I expected relief.  I had the epidural.  It was supposed to work.  I couldn't understand what was going on!

And then we discovered Kate's head was turned to the side.  She wasn't coming down when I pushed.  At the time I was propped on my left side, since I had been a little light-headed after getting the epidural.  Loretta and Garry helped me roll to the other side, which immediately changed Kate's head position.  Then there was no stopping her.  I'm laughing as I think of it now, but as those few moments passed, my sense of time and space was engulfed in a deep, black hole.  I remember lots of screaming (mine).  And Loretta yelling for "someone, anyone" to get Dr. Bianco into the delivery room.  And Loretta telling me not to push because the doctor needed to put on a gown and gloves. And Garry's calm and reassuring voice telling me calm and reassuring things when I was pretty sure I could not do what was being required of me.

Katelyn rocketed into the world at 11:50 a.m.  In case you're not counting, that's 95 minutes after the first drip of Pitocin.  I had just eight contractions after my water broke. That's definitely a record for me.  I think it might have been a record for Dr. Bianco and Loretta, too.  When I finally opened my eyes and saw my daughter and looked at Garry, I realized I wasn't the only one in shock.  It took at least an hour for my brain to catch up with what had just happened.  I was simply reeling.  There was a baby on my chest, a tiny purple baby gurgling her first cries.  A girl.  Kate.  She was here.  What?!?!

In the aftermath, I learned that the umbilical cord had been wrapped around Kate's neck when she was born.  For weeks I had worried about that scenario, wondering if that was why she hadn't dropped and why I wasn't progressing toward labor in my usual early way. That detail, combined with the bloody amniotic fluid, the turned head, and the ridiculously fast labor, made me profoundly grateful that I had been induced in the hospital. What if my water had broken at home?  I shudder to think of the possibilities.  I was also grateful for my stoic doctor, who was amazingly calm under pressure.  I was amazingly UNcalm, so I really appreciated his cool demeanor.  When it was all over, he was grinning like a kid on Christmas morning.  I think he actually enjoyed himself.  And I am sure he is relieved that our journey together ended in a happy way.

Now, 36 hours later, I have settled into the reality that Kate is here, that pregnancy is over, and a whole new world is ahead of us.  Yes, I am still nauseated.  No, my feet aren't normal-sized.  But I expect that in a few days all things will work out as they should.  The sweetest baby ever, my smallest by more than a pound, is napping on my chest.  I keep kissing her head and stroking her cheek.  I could stare at her all day long.  I am deeply in love with this little girl.

There is a poem about the sacredness of child bearing that speaks to my soul.  In the early days of this pregnancy, when I spent nearly all of my time in my bed or hunched over a toilet, I memorized its lyrical words.  Its powerful message pulled me back to the importance of what I was doing on the hardest of days.  I can't help but think of it again today.

Seventh Child
by Sharon Price Anderson

Sarah would laugh
to think that I feel old
yet understand better than I
the longing which gives you life
and overcomes the logic
that it has been too long
and six is sufficient
for seed as dust and stars.
Is it your desire
to come to earth
that makes me willing
to give you birth
and further fulfill God's promise?
What blessing will you bring?
What mission will be yours
in this Saturday of time,
you who are Sarah's increase
as well as mine?
Could I have kept completely
my mortal purpose and
consecration's covenant
without you?
Sarah knew much of
altars aging,
offspring waiting,
missions and promises.
Now as we grow and wait,
she would teach us also faith.

My sacrifice was--and is--for this little girl and everyone she will know and love and touch throughout her life.  I can't wait to see how our journey together unfolds.
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