(First a disclaimer: this is a long post! And I'm pretty upfront with my language about birth, you've been warned. You'll have to scroll all the way to the bottom for a link to more photos at flickr).
Sunday, January 9, 2011
A few minutes after 2:00 AM I awoke with my first real contraction. My first reaction was a huge smile. Maybe this was finally it! I went to the bathroom and had a bit of diarrhea, another good sign! I knew that if labor was imminent, I should get some rest....so I tried to go back to bed. Another contraction followed in about 10 minutes....and after just that second one, I knew that this was it, and then the excitement prevented me from falling back asleep. Well, that and increasingly strong contractions! The contractions started coming about every five minutes, but I wanted to let Joe sleep as long as possible, so I didn't wake him just yet. The contractions were pretty manageable to breathe through while laying in bed.
About 3:15 I decided to wake Joe, the contractions were just so consistent and getting stronger. I roused him and said “I think we're going to meet our son today,” and he replied “huh?” and I had to repeat it 3 times before it sunk in! I had diarrhea a few more times but otherwise labored in bed....Joe and I both feeling eager and ready.
A little before 4:00 I started packing up a few things for the hospital and then called the nurse because my contractions were 2 and 3 minutes apart. Based on what I told her and it being my third baby, she told us to head right to the hospital. I called Joe's mom and asked them to come right away to stay with the girls...Joe took a shower and shaved, we finished gathering our things....with me stopping every few minutes to breathe through a contraction. I called my mom to let her know we would be leaving soon for the hospital and to be ready to meet us there. Joe's parents got to our house about 4:20....Joe packed the car and got it warmed up (it was a cold morning!)...and we left at 4:30. Riding in a car during labor is no fun—but we only had a short drive to St. Mary's and he dropped me off at Emergency to go park the van.
They took us to the labor and delivery floor and put us in a triage area. I was dreading triage, the place they put you to determine that you are, indeed, in labor....and sometimes make you stay in one place for 30 minutes or more with all the monitors on. I don't like to labor in one place. I want to be standing or on my hands and knees and moving in between. This triage experience was much better than with Piper's birth. The nurse really listened to me and allowed me to do whatever was most comfortable for me, and then expedited the whole process when she could tell that I was clearly in active labor. I was only dilated to a 2/3 when we first got there, but by the end of 30 minutes my contractions were getting more intense and I had dilated to a full 4.
So we got settled into a delivery room around 6:00...and my contractions continued to intensify. I went from mostly being able to breathe through them to really having to focus (and verbalize, and swear, and squeal) to get through them. The monitors were showing that my contractions never really let up, I wasn't getting full breaks between them....they would dip just a bit, but then go right back up. And that's just how it felt to me---like I wasn't getting a chance to recover.
I decided to get an epidural. I could write a whole lot about that decision for me, from the internal battle, to not feeling “tough enough”, to all the woman who I respect and admire who have had natural child births and this nagging guilt I feel for having anesthetized labors, but I'll save all that for another time.
What's important to say here is that when the anesthesiologist showed up at my room about 7:00, I wanted to kiss him on the lips. I was tired, hurting, and wanted relief. I wanted to be able to focus on the delivery and enjoy my baby's arrival....and I was not in a place of calm and presence to do it without the drugs. The relief from the epidural was nearly immediate. I felt so good.
When I got the epidural I was dilated to 6 or 7....and the nurse who was with us at that point told us AFTER I got the epidural that she didn't think there was going to be time. Things had started moving so fast, she thought I would completely dilate and just have to push. Then once I had the epidural, things slowed down just a bit. Which actually ended up being okay, because I had tested positive for Group B Strep (a common infection that women carry....asymptomatic in adults, but if transmitted to a newborn it can cause serious illnesses) and I was supposed to get two doses of antibiotics while in labor but before delivery. I had received one right away when I got to the hospital, but the next dose couldn't be given until 9:30. So with the epidural, even if I did fully dilate to a 10, they wanted me to sit tight and wait until 9:30 to get that last dose.
How strange to be going fast and furious towards delivery, in all kinds of pain....to suddenly be comfortable, laying in a bed, talking and laughing, and just waiting a few hours to be able to push! By this time my mom and Stacia had arrived and it was nice to have the company.
So I got that last dose of antibiotics a bit after 9:00 but then I was still only dilated to 8/9. Dr. Steen thought that my progress slowed because the baby was facing sideways (transverse) and the contractions were, in part, trying to get him positioned correctly. We had a few moments of worry, thinking about Rowan's birth and her eventual delivery all in the posterior position. Didn't want to do that again.
Dr. Steen broke my water when I was dilated to 10, then she had me turn on my side to try and get the baby to move into the right position. He did almost immediately! So about 10:15 everything was ready for me to push...except that my mom and Stacia had just left to go get some food in the cafeteria and we had to call them to return right away!...and then I could push. Dr. Steen got everything ready for the birth, a few more nurses came in and Joe got gloved up because he was planning to help deliver the baby.
So with my mom holding one leg, a nurse holding the other, Stacia taking pictures, and Joe at the foot of the bed with Dr. Steen, I started to push. I pushed through the first few contractions and they could see the head....making progress with each one. They reported that there was a little bit of hair! Just a few more contractions and I could feel the deep pressure of a head crowning. This was going so fast! These moments of pushing a baby into the world are simply amazing. I was so fully present and alert and aware and truly enjoying every part of what was happening.
The next push and his head was out. Then, with the doctor's hands guiding his, Joe was able to pull the baby out the rest of the way while I pushed. Joe said that it was amazing how much pressure he had to exert, that you would never think it was okay to pull on a baby's head/neck with that much force! But once his head and shoulder's were out, it was just moments later that Joe put him on my chest, all reddish purple and his back covered in vernix. I only pushed for a total of 8 minutes, and didn't tear at all, didn't even need one stitch! Amazing!
When Joe put the baby on my chest, and even with this being my third time around meeting a new child, the emotion was still overwhelming, still hard to describe in words. My child! My son!
I recognized him. Piper looked so different from Rowan at birth that it was a strange experience to meet her, who was she? But Gideon looked like ours, mostly because he reminded me so much of Piper! Like a bigger, boy version of Piper. We knew we were having a boy---but of course I still checked between his legs to be sure. And we had kept it a secret from everyone else, so we still had to “announce” it. Hello, Gideon, I said out loud. Our son!
There were an extra amount of tears at Gideon's arrival. I've seen Joe cry a lot this year. Seen him cry harder than I have ever seen before. And he's probably seen me cry in the last year, too, more than in our previous 14 years of knowing each other. But I have never seen him cry so hard in happiness. Not sure I've ever seen someone cry so hard for joy. And I'm sure I shed some tears at Rowan and Piper's births, but the floodgates really opened during this one.
Many of you know about the journey we've been on since January of last year. It has been a hard, painful year, full of some of the darkest moments I hope to ever endure. This year has also held times of grace and hope and deep joy. This pregnancy was not planned, and I spent much of the first part of it really struggling with not wanting to be pregnant, feeling like it was horrible timing and that the stress of pregnancy and a new baby were just going to be too much for us to handle. By my third trimester God had done a work in my heart and I felt ready and excited to have this baby. And Joe and I were in a good place, having done so much of the hard work of healing and reconciliation. I started to see that this child could mark a new beginning for all of us, coming during the first week of a new year, almost exactly a year after everything, and mark a time of fresh starts and second chances. Maybe not a timing I would have chosen, but one I am seeing as a part of God's mysterious, perfect plan, of which I can only see or understand a small part.
So at the moment of Gideon's birth, I was overcome with gratefulness. For how much I wanted this child, for how little ambivalence I felt about him, for how easy it was to love him. For his health and the easy delivery. And overcome with awe and gratefulness for how far we've been in a year, that Joe wanted this child, too, and loved him like he did.
We got to hold and examine Gideon for awhile, then they wanted to weigh and measure him and do a few of their hospital things. I agreed that they could take him, as long as it only took a few minutes! They weighed him and the scale showed 9 lbs 6 oz---exactly as big as Joe was at birth! Then they measured him (and Stacia told us later that the nurse actually re-measured him 3 times because she thought it must be wrong) and he was 23” long. A big, long baby! While they were doing the measurements I called Joe's mom, who was with Rowan and Piper, and reported the good news. Then I talked to Rowan. Rowan actually knew that we were having a boy and what we were going to name him---and she kept it a secret for months! We were so proud of her for not telling anyone. So I told her that her brother was here, that she could now tell anyone, and Joe held the phone by Gideon so she could hear him cry.
About an hour after his birth Rowan and Piper came up to see him. What a sweet time that was! So much joy to see those girls meet their new brother. Rowan has been through this before...but is a few years older and more mature now, tender and with it. Piper was a bit hesitant, she didn't want to get too close or hold him...but wanted to touch his head and talk sweetly to him. She has been calling him “my baby” or “my baby Gideon” for weeks already.
Looking at the pictures that Stacia took of those very first moments after birth and first holding Gideon....it's amazing how much blood, mucous, fluid, poop, vernix, and bodily stuff there is involved. It all looks kind of gross. And Gideon himself---his color is kind of off, he's all scrunched up and screaming, definitely not making his prettiest face. But at the moment that I first laid hands on him, the mess wasn't even a thought. Not even one bit yucky or alarming. I never even considered the gross stuff I might get on my hands or chest. I only had one overwhelming desire: to touch, to hold, to kiss, to know, to love this child. Pure love. All I saw was goodness, beauty. He was perfect to me.
And I can't help but think that's how God feels about us. We can be pretty gross creatures---full of yuckiness we'd rather not admit to ourselves or anyone else. Full of sin and selfishness. We're pretty messed up, red-faced and whiny. Why would God want anything to do with us? But that's just it: He made us. We are His. He wants to hold me with the same longing that I want to hold Gideon, no matter how ugly or dependent or gross I might be. And even more than that—He thinks I'm beautiful. That's the miracle of grace.
We've learned a lot about grace and forgiveness this year. Resisted it at times, both giving it and receiving it. Struggled through what it really looks like fleshed out in a human relationship. We've got a long ways to go, but this week I look into Gideon's eyes and know that grace looks something like this: a brand new baby, loved more than he knows: despite his neediness, his poopy diapers, his ridiculous schedule at night, his loud cries. This child is loved beyond reason, just for existing. It's how God feels about me. It's how He feels about Joe. It's how He feels about Rowan and Piper. It's how He feels about Gideon already.
Gideon is a gift of grace to us and a picture of grace for us.
As Pastor Dave always says, my prayer is that Gideon will grow up in the knowledge that while he is far more messed up than he may know, he is also infinitely more loved than he could possibly imagine.
To see a lot more pictures from Gideon's birth and the hospital, click HERE You can click "slideshow" to see them all at once. A special thanks to my sister-in-law, Stacia, for taking all of the photos during labor, delivery, and afterward. It was a blessing to have her in the room with us AND have her take so many beautiful photos!