I can't quit saying it, to myself and out loud: I have a rainbow baby. I am blessed with a rainbow baby. My arms are holding the blessing of a rainbow baby. A living, breathing child outside the womb. (I may annoy you with how much I mention Aubrey being my rainbow baby. It's where I'm living and constantly consumes my thoughts. I apologize for my overuse of the label.)
"Our rainbow baby is here. She's actually here," I whisper.
The tears overtake me. Tears of joy. gratitude. grief. happiness. disbelief. love. The emotions are overwhelming, but I let them come.
I don't want to forget her big debut. Something in me says I never will, but I want the memory preserved.
As crystal clear as the day it happened.
Wednesday. February 5. 2014.
Leading up to the fifth I walked around in early labor. Contractions off and on for at least a week and a half. A few "this is it" contractions followed by lulls or no change in intensity. With every day my body would practice more, with more intensity. And each passing day found me drawing deeper and deeper into myself.
I began to internalize my feelings of wanting to punch anyone who tried to tell me I was going to make it...to my due date. I was also becoming very antsy as the room I had left to give was gone and being stretched to the nth degree. Not to mention I was constantly battling fear of "what ifs" which seemed ten times larger in the face of the Fact: Aubrey would be our rainbow baby.
"Lord, please bring Aubrey here safe and sound. And would you please have her come soon? I feel like my body can't handle too much more of this," I constantly prayed.
I was so anxious for "the real deal" each contraction automatically sent me into hoping this would be the time. I wanted her here so desperately I would even randomly toy with ideas of inducing labor. Only for a split second, but they still seemed slightly appealing. Anything to hold my sweet Aubrey in my arms.
Thankfully, I waited.
I woke around 4 am on the fifth with contractions similar to those I would experience between my "normal" Braxton-Hicks: like mild cramps. They seemed to be coming pretty regularly as I took my usual 500th middle of the night bathroom run and then lay in bed wide eyed with excitement. Somewhere in there I convinced myself to go back to sleep. I knew I would need it whether or not it was the real deal.
By 6 the intensity was picking up and they were coming so close together any hope of further sleep was out of the picture. They were coming every 2 to 3 minutes, though I wasn't aware of it at the time. Part of me was too afraid to voice it being the real deal: I had experienced two runs with 6+ hours of Braxton-Hicks when I was pregnant with Zoë. The second ended up becoming her birth story, but it was everything I was trying to avoid this go round.
"What if this was just a different version of my Braxton-Hicks situation with Zoë?" I thought.
Yet, I didn't want to be caught giving birth at home (some people don't mind but that has no appeal to me, especially considering I live in an apartment complex) so I told Ben I was going to shower and wanted him to track contractions with my phone.
"Don't get too excited," I said. "It's probably not anything...but I just want to be sure."
That was when we realized how close they were. And they weren't letting up. Nothing was stopping them and walking only made them stronger.
It was then I began getting snappy as my mom, who thankfully had arrived in town two days earlier so we could spend time prebaby's arrival, and Ben were both getting excited. Can't say I would change my snappiness either: what woman in labor wants to be asked if she's in labor? Or have jokes cracked at as she leans against a wall because it's the most comfortable way to go with the contraction? Or have a question asked that just seems plain stupid?
I found myself wanting to be left alone, yet my 23 month old was following me around, we were still trying to pack our bags, and I wanted to make sure I ate before we left as I knew full well I wouldn't be able to eat anything after arriving at the hospital (for which I am very glad looking back). The feeling of drawing deeper into myself became really strong. It took everything in me not to snap at my child who was being highly needy; I'm sure her neediness was correlated to my labor. I didn't even try to control my snappiness when it came to my hubby or my mom. (Man does he love me! And my mom...well that goes without saying. She put up with raising me :])
About an hour later, Ben had all our bags and my pillows (the back seat could have made a comfy bed for someone who wasn't in labor) in the car, we had both put in a decent meal, we kissed our first born good-bye, and told my mom not to call us unless it was an emergency and to tell no one we had gone to the hospital. "Oh! That's going to be so hard!" were her words as I waddled out the door hating the Houston traffic I knew we were getting ready to drive into.
Ben did an excellent job of getting us through the traffic in less than an hours time. Without making me yell at him because of discomfort too. I'm pretty sure the only raising of a voice during that ride was when my chapstick was lossed for what seemed like forever, but was probably more like a mere accumulation of maybe...oh, 5 seconds. I had to have my chapstick! (Pretty sure I used that chapstick at least 349209184 times during labor, too.)
Unfortunately, his driving did nothing for the stress all the traffic caused me. Which seemed to pull a number on my body and I could barely feel my contractions. I kept telling Ben I was not going to be happy if I had been in some period-like discomfort all morning (I wish I could have plugged my heating pad in in my car...well, not really as it didn't sound comfortable, but I was wishing I was standing rather than sitting during several contractions) only to get to the hospital and hear that it hadn't done anything from my appointment the week before. (I was almost a 4 and 50% at my 38 week check.) Actually, I'd likely say some really not nice words. If practicing was going to change intensity to real labor at home, only to be scared off by the ridiculous amount of traffic Houston produces in the morning and evening rushes, I would rather keep this baby in. (Ummm...says what 39 week, uncomfortably pregnant woman ever?! Me apparently...)
Thankfully, Ben put up with all my nonsense talk. All the fear gushing out of me that maybe I'd read the messages my body was sending wrong. All the "WHERE ON THIS BLANKETY BLANK EARTH DID MY CHAPSTICK GO?!" (Yeah...I apparently get a little crazy when I'm in labor and lose my chapstick and can't find it when I need it. Oi vey.) All the "I really think I'm just going to cry if they send me home...I'm soo uncomfortable I don't think I can keep her in much longer."
We finally arrived at the hospital a mere 45 minutes later. (This is amazing considering we were in rush hour traffic and as far as I know Ben didn't speed ridiculous amounts to get there.) As he was pulling in he asked if I wanted to be dropped off. To which I snappily replied I wasn't sick and would walk with him from the garage to the assessment floor. So we parked. We walked. And thankfully I was taken back to a room in less than 2 minutes.
Of course, the assessment nurse starts asking you questions and since your husband doesn't know all the answers you have moments where you raise your hand while you work with a contraction. You almost want to tell them to go find the answers in their computer or just put patient wouldn't answer. And then the dreaded checking. They have to to admit you. And no one in a hospital knows how or is willing to check you without putting you flat on your back. (The most uncomfortable position for a laboring woman. Honestly, for a full-term pregnant woman.)
But I almost jumped for joy as I heard, "5cm and 90%". Hallelujah! I had my ticket in. This baby was working her way out!! (I should also mention, the staff at the hospital I birthed at was AMAZING!! There is only one person we interacted with I'd be ok with never seeing again. Otherwise, we were blessed above and beyond by our caretakers through the entirety of our two days.) We also realized, shortly after the nurse calling my doc to tell him I was being admitted, the reason I thought my contractions were puttering off was because some of them were so mild on the pain scale and in comparison to others, I could barely feel them. (Oh was I hopeful this meant the pain wouldn't get crazy intense!)
We talked and laughed between contractions. Ben held my hand and stayed quiet during contractions. Everything was going seemingly easy.
After about an hour we were moved to my labor and birth room. I knew we were in good hands when my nurse was asking me a couple questions, so I mentioned my birth plan, and I found she had already read over it since it had been scanned into the system. After talking with her a bit, I found out she has four kids and had had three of hers unmedicated. God was good and blessing me out the wazoo for this go round!
Contractions continued in the same manner they had been at home with the exception of them being closer to 3-4 minutes apart. Since arriving at the hospital they had seemed to pick back up. Yet my OB and nurse both commented on how I would bounce back as though nothing was going on after contractions. I also thought maybe I would be one of the lucky people who aren't too phased by labor...just maybe. At least, I hoped maybe labor would stay this easy. As long as I focused on breathing, the discomfort was really quite manageable. We even played a couple hands of gin rummy while I sat on the birthing ball.
However, after a few hours of "easy" labor, my contractions began to be really uncomfortable. I also became so nauseous I would dry heave with almost every contraction (thus the reason I was grateful I hadn't had any food since 7 that morning). Standing and slightly leaning on someone or something was the only position I found any ease to breath while my contractions did their work. It wasn't much longer after the intensity of my contractions changed that a resident walked into the room with my nurse and I asked to be checked. I was sure my body had made progress after laboring in this manner for a good four hours and feeling a change in intensity.
I wasn't prepared to hear I had barely dilated from the 5 I was at time of admittance. (Plus, that was horrid news after the worst pain being checked could produce. That resident...she was not considerate of the fact she was dealing with sensitive parts that were already sore from all the work going on down there. Sheesh!) Though it was a relief to know I was completely effaced. And to know Aubrey had at least moved from a +1 to a 0 station. (Even a small amount of progess sounded good to this laboring woman.) The resident, who apparently could have cared less about my birth plan, immediately suggested breaking my water to speed labor up. I looked at Ben who calmly told me I needed to do what I felt was best. After not much thought, I looked at the resident, nicely declined her breaking my water and said we would take a walk around the halls. She obliged and said she'd be back to check me in two hours.
Between contractions was a breeze. During them I wasn't so much a fan of knowing other people would see me leaning against the wall and Ben rubbing my back, but I could have cared less. Sitting on a birthing ball hadn't been helping, I really could have cared less about sitting by that point anyway, and I was in no mood to let the resident mess with my birthing plan, since there was no reason to at that point in time. I was still determined I could make it to the end.
While we were walking, my nurse came to find us because my monitors needed to be adjusted. (Yay for wireless monitoring; boo that they are required at the hospital.) By the time we made it back to the room, I was starting to feel really sleepy. I just wanted to rest as much as I could. I kept telling Ben and my nurse I just wish I could sleep. I really just wanted to get a little bit of sleep. I also had the urge to go to the bathroom, though I knew this was my normal "need to go" and not a "time to push baby out" urge. And after giving my bottom half less pressure to deal with (I knew I wasn't mistaken and about to push my baby out on the toilet!), I really wanted to find a way to sleep.
Though the bed wasn't all that appealing to me, I decided to try sitting propped up with my feet propped on pillows to get some rest between contractions. (As fancy as those hospital beds are, the foot didn't raise up to elevate my feet at all.) No other positions sounded appealing to test out, I wasn't comfortable even in the "most comfortable" (oxymoron, yes?) position of a leaning stand, so I could have cared less what it felt like to sit propped up with pillows, and though I had the option of a huge tub filled with water, I had no desire to be submerged at all. I figured at least I could
It wasn't long before I became horribly uncomfortable. Breathing was really taking a lot for me to focus on and my desire for sleep became stronger with each contraction.
Somewhere in there, my nurse came into the room to check on us. I told her I was really starting to feel a lot of pressure, though I wasn't having an urge to push. It was shortly after that exchange labor became intense. So intense that I began telling Ben I wasn't sure how I was going to make it. It was then my nurse set herself up in her chair and I had both her and Ben reminding me to focus on breathing (the hospital I gave birth at has a 1:1 ratio for patients to nurses. YES!). Ben kept telling me how proud of me he was and how great I was doing.
As each contraction ended I would
Somewhere in there I began to start feeling slightly pushy. I told my nurse who told me to let her know if I kept feeling that way. If I did we would need to call the resident back to the room. After a few more contractions feeling like there was ridiculous pressure, I was ready to be checked. Despite the fact it had only been about an hour since I was last checked and most of it had been spent with me telling Ben I wasn't going to make it while he and my nurse encouraged me to stick with it, I was ready to be checked. It was also encouraging when my nurse, at one point, told Ben I looked like someone who was in the middle of transition: I was hopeful I had dilated at least a few centimeters; she said I looked like I was an 8 or 9.
The resident came in, made me lie on my back (man I wanted to cuss her out!), and checked me. It was at that point I had no filter and yelled at her (well, it felt like I yelled at her, but Ben says no one outside of our room would have heard me) "YOU'RE ROUGH!" (I still die laughing every time I think about this. Me in my "normal" state would have probably kept my mouth shut. Me in labor - I say whatever I'm thinking. Yikes! And honestly, she was...well, let's just say I'd never want her as my OB.) And it was after that my heart sunk: I was feeling an urge to push, and I was only a 6.
I was sure, after hearing that, I wasn't going to make it. I was so upset I tearlessly cried (I wanted to all-out cry but as I was already so focused on my labor I don't think tears would have come had I tried to force them out) to Ben about how I wasn't sure I was going to make it. I also decided sitting wasn't doing any good, I needed and wanted to get off my back, so I rolled over onto my side. As I was pouting, the resident started rattling off all the options I had for relief. I'm not really sure what she said, aside from mentioning breaking my water again. So I moaned about how I wasn't going to make it while I pulled the leg I wasn't laying on up to my chest and was mentally wishing the resident disappear. I did hear my nurse encourage me to lay on my side.
"Just focus on breathing through this contraction. [I'd then say something to the affect of how I wasn't going to make it and there was so much pressure] That's your baby moving down. It won't be too much longer. Just focus on your breathing," my nurse would say.
Ben later told me she shut the resident up, who had begun promptly listing different pain management options as I rolled on my side, when the resident mentioned an epidural. Apparently when that was mentioned, my nurse looked her squarely in the face and told her I didn't want an epidural. I had had one with my first and wasn't looking to have one this time. (Thank you, Jesus, for an amazing nurse!!) He also told me he was really thankful the nurse was there to buffer and be a voice for us because had she not said anything, he was ready to not-so-nicely tell the resident she must not have read our birth plan, hand her a paper copy, and tell her to go read it. (And as much as I loved my nurse, I kind of wish I would have had a chance to see that scene play out...though maybe I wouldn't really remember it...)
After turning on my side, I felt something running down my leg. "Did my water break? I think my water broke? Is that my water?" Yeah...I was definitely in the throws of transition.
The resident, who was still standing there after her pain management discourse, moved to sit on the bed and told me to lie on my back.
"I don't want to lie on my back!" I emphatically told her.
She obliged to her laboring patient's wishes (FINALLY! THANK YOU, JESUS!), saw that I was bleeding, and with urgency told me she had to check me because she had to find out why I was bleeding.
"Great," I thought. "I'm going to have made it this far only to have something happen. Jesus, please let it not be so."
What felt like forever later I heard the resident say to the nurse, "It's because she's changing rapidly. She's a 7."
And then it started: an urge to push like no freakin' other. So much so I told the resident, not long after checking me, that I really wanted to push. I knew I was only a 7, but by golly, I wanted to push!
The resident started talking to me about all the problems that could cause, in a very condescending tone as Ben later told me she talked to me like I was 5 (which really ticked him off), and that I was not to push. Between me yelling at her (well...it felt like I was yelling, but Ben said I never really got all that loud. Ha!) that I wanted to push, I heard my nurse asking if she should page my OB while she was also encouraging me to breathe because those "contractions are moving your baby down; you're almost ready to see her."
"I want to push! Oh my gosh, I'm gonna push!"
The resident kept telling me not to push, while I watched her get all her scrub gear on (seeing her get ready seriously felt like an out of body experience: I barely had my eyes open so my vision was a little hazy.), the nurse kept encouraging me while also asking if she should page my OB, and Ben held my hand while encouraging me. Eventually it turned into:
"I'm not pushing but this baby is coming! I'm not trying to push!"
The resident was still telling me not to push for some of that, my nurse paged all the scrub techs, baby docs and nurses, and my OB, and Ben continued being an awesome supportive hubby. (Though I'd be lying if I told you I can remember a word he was saying.)
From there, I don't really know what happened. It felt like an eternity: the period of yelling I wanted to push and all the verbal interaction between the resident and nurse in my room. Somewhere in there my yells about wanting to push became mingled with lots of hustle and bustle in the room. It also was filled with trying to figure out if my OB was on his way.
(I was later informed that I went from a 6 to 10 in THREE minutes. THREE!?! I seriously wish there was actual pictures or video footage to prove it. It felt like I wanted to push for at least a solid hour...at least!)
While everyone was getting ready for me to start pushing, the resident was also trying to get me in the position she was most comfortable with: my blasted back. And why does she think an unmedicated, laboring woman is going to just allow herself to be rolled onto her back? I again told her "I DON'T WANT TO BE ON MY BACK!", which happened to coincide with my OB running into my room. PRAISE THE LORD!
He immediately sat on my bed on the side I was facing, had me continue to hold my thigh, had Ben hold my ankle, and finally I was hearing the sweetest words to my laboring ears, "OK. Push when you're ready."
And the angels sang the hallelujah chorus for me while I finally was able to give in to the biggest urge to push anything out my bottom side I've ever felt in my life.
And it. felt. good. relieving.
I honestly don't remember any pain during pushing, aside from some slight burning - the wonderful, talked-about ring of fire - during crowning, which for me the burn really wasn't all that bad...I would not equate it to feeling like my crotch was on fire (<- told you I'd overshare). Pushing really felt wonderful, as in the biggest relief of my life, and knowing that my sweet baby was coming, as scary as the "what ifs" were, made it all that much more sweet. At some point, the resident finally got to do what she'd been pressuring me to do for hours: they broke my water. (I wonder if Aubrey would have been born with the bag of water still in tact had they not broken it.)
"It's clear!" many of the staff announced.
That information gave me such relief to know there were no signs of any problems as far as my amniotic fluid was telling. Only a short time after they broke my water was when I felt the ring of fire. Not long after I verbalized that "it burned" was I told they could see her head. Something in me wanted to know she really was almost here: I reached down to feel for myself. I was immediately shocked: my baby had hair! And she was almost here! The small act of reaching to feel her head gave me all the motivation I needed to finish pushing her out.
With two more giving-it-all-I-have pushes, Aubrey Kate was born into my hands at 15:06. All 7 pounds 6 ounces and 19 3/4 inches of her. I immediately and greedily pulled her up onto my welcoming chest.
And I cried.
Oh how I cried.
She was perfect.
Absolutely, 100% perfect.
I could have cared less we were both covered in my blood. I kissed her. I looked at her tiny, wrinkled hands with femininely long, piano fingers. I cradled her tiny body as close to mine as possible while realizing her tightly curled body was almost completely held within my hands alone. I rubbed her back to stimulate her crying, continue to clear her lungs. Everyone around me, except for me, seemed worried about her not crying.
She was content in her mother's arms.
Just minutes after birth (My hair was clean that morning...promise! Labor made me sweat like I'd run a marathon.)
First pic of Aubrey with Mommy and Daddy
She remained calm as she lay across me, skin to skin. She scooted herself so she could nestle into my neck. She finally let out a tiny, but healthy, cry announcing her dislike for leaving the warmth and comfort she had known for nine months before this moment. Enough to satisfy all the nurses and doctors in the room who kept telling me to rub her back to stimulate her; though I'm not sure why they were so worried, as I found out her Apgar scores were an 8 & 9 which are taken at 1 minute and 5 minutes. (The highest an Apgar can be is 10.)
We lay there, no longer one entity. But I knew she needed me. For everything.
And I was made aware of just how much I needed her. How God knew I needed her. (Quite the same as He knew I needed Zoë in my life, yet so different in that the reasons I need each of my two tiny blessings - though by no means is the blessing itself tiny - in my life is so vastly different. But each as sanctifying as the other.) It doesn't make the loss, the gap caused by a child born into my Savior's arms, any smaller or less difficult, but it finds a way to heal the beautiful scar left by such a trial.
After they started Pitocin (Aubrey wasn't interested in nursing at first - they waited at least a good 20 minutes, too, before they started it - and I was bleeding pretty heavily), stitched me up, weighed her, and gave us all our victory bands (aka this baby belongs to these people) and her security tag (Not kidding. Every baby is given one so they can't leave the floor. And hers kept setting the alarm off which sends nurses into the room to make sure you're not tampering with it all the while everyone else on your floor hears some guy telling you to step away from the door because they don't want someone to steal the baby.), she was handed back to me.
Took this pic of her foot, but that's the security tag.
I found Ben's eyes.
"Our rainbow baby is here. She's actually here," I whispered.
"I know," he lovingly replied, then bent to kiss me on my forehead.
Then I let more tears come.
The best we could get of the 4 of us
And though I felt the sting of the loss, a sting that may dull over time but never be forgotten, I felt my heart stretch to open itself, making room to love my precious Aubrey Kate.
My sweet, new bundle ready to go home