This is long overdue, but here is Emma's birth story...
Friday, March 18, 2016, I went into work, as usual. My last doctor's appointment showed no significant progress but I was slightly starting to slip into possible labor. Still, because of our unique situation, I really wanted my doctor there to be the one to deliver Emma. With that in mind, I was scheduled to be induced that evening.
Before heading to the hospital my parents came by and picked up Ava and Jetta (our dog). The next time we would see them, Ava's little sister would be with us.
I checked in at hospital at about 8:00 p.m. After changing into an oh-so-glamorous hospital gown, the nurses started my I.V. and asked me a great number of personal questions -- as expected. Dan snapped a few photos and made an attempt to get comfy on the nearby couch. At 10:00 p.m. we got the party started and I took my first dose of Misoprostol (Cytotec) (cut in half) to begin the process. I didn't know it at the time, but at some point I was also given Pitocin. So long as I was comfortable, my job was to rest.
Naturally, I couldn't sleep, so Dan and I watched Full House on Nick at Nite. Then, just as my contractions began to amplify, Dan fell asleep. HA! Of course. I focused on Full House as my contractions quickly transitioned from uncomfortable to extremely painful. Suddenly, it was like I was on a rollercoaster of terrible pain. Once Fresh Prince was on my contractions were excruciating and I focused on the sounds of the show as I took deep breaths and resisted the strong urge to tense up. I griped the side of the bed as I inhaled and exhaled with great force. Despite my attempt to be as quiet as possible, my moaning and groaning became so aggressive that I disrupted Dan's sleep and even prompted my nurse to check on me.
My nurse checked my status and I was only about 2-3 centimeters along. Not far enough along to get an epidural. She also said that my contractions were about three minutes apart -- peak to peak. So, in reality, I was only getting about 30 seconds (if that!) of relief at a time. I was in so much pain, I didn't want anyone to touch me. So the most anyone could do was encourage me verbally.
"Do you want something to help with the pain?" my nurse asked as she tried to comfort me. At this point my only option was I.V. meds, until I was far enough along for an epidural, so I opted to give it a try. I never had these meds with Ava, so this was about to be a new experience for me. I was in labor with Ava for almost 14 hours and my contractions never got this bad -- not even close. Naturally, I blame the Pitocin.
When the nurse came back and got ready to give me some pain meds, she told me what I could expect. She said that the meds would give me a strong urge to close my eyes and possibly sleep. If that happens, I should just go with it and close my eyes. I was also told it would happen fast. We waited for the peak of my next contraction and she administered my pain medication. Then, just like she said, I instantly felt the meds go into effect.
"Whoa..." I moaned as I suddenly felt drunk-tired. "You weren't kidding when you said it would happen fast."
My eyelids became heavy and I certainly felt a strong urge to sleep. For a brief moment, I felt some form of relief. That is, until my next contraction came. It was like a freight train charging through my body. Once my contractions started to amplify I was wide awake and gripping the bed in pain, just as I was before. It was awful! I wanted to sleep so badly because my body felt weak and my thoughts were hazy from the meds. Even my speech became awkward and sluggish. I was terribly uncomfortable, to say the least. One moment I was nearly asleep and the next I was groaning in excruciating pain.
I had to put up with this for well over an hour (getting about 30 seconds, or less, of relief between contractions), all while they closely monitored Emma and how she was reacting to my contractions (there were obvious concerns). I wanted my baby girl to come as quickly as possible, so I continued to resist the urge to tense up with each contraction. In other words, I tried to keep my whole body tension-free so the contractions could do their job. My adrenaline and hormones were raging so intensely that my whole body began to shake violently, which made keeping my body limp all the more challenging. My teeth chattered like I was freezing and I was struggling to stay mentally focused, but I was determined to stay strong and sharp. Then, finally, I heard the magic words... "Are you ready for an epidural?" At last, relief was on the way.
When the anesthesiologist arrived Dan had to step out. I sat on the edge of my bed as they raised me up. Dang... I just wanted to sleep. I held on to my nurse as my whole body continued to shake violently. I arched my back and fought to be as still as possibly as the anesthesiologist placed a needle directly into my spine. The cool, familiar sensation ran down my spine and I exhaled.
"Do you feel relief?" the anesthesiologist asked.
"A little," I quietly replied with my eyes closed.
My left side was quickly starting to feel a little numb, so when they laid me down they elevated my left side so that my right side would get some relief as well. Sadly, relief never found it's way to my right side. Each and every contraction felt like someone was taking a sword and stabbing me in the stomach on my right side -- going all the way through my back. The nurses tried multiple times to get the epidural to work throughout my body, but it never did.
At this point I was half numb, shaking violently (virtually non-stop), my teeth wouldn't stop chattering, and my stomach/back felt like I was getting stabbed repeatedly. On top of all this, I still had the urge to sleep -- thanks to my I.V. meds. Obviously, sleep was not going to happen.
After many failed attempts to get proper pain relief, my nurse decided to ask the anesthesiologist to redo my epidural. UGH. I fought hard to stay still as she worked on my epidural. Even something so simple as scooting a tad to one side of my bed felt painfully difficult. Then, at last, it happened. RELIEF! The pain eased and I could finally (FINALLY!) relax... or so I thought.
Just as I was beginning to think I could actually catch a few z's, I noticed that my room was suddenly flooded with busy medical staff. I believe my thought at this point was something along the lines of, "Ohhhh crap."
Sure enough, after I was examined, I was told it was time to start pushing.
Oh, you have GOT to be kidding me!!
I'm tired, I'm numb, I'm shaking... and now that I'm finally (somewhat) pain-free you expect me to push out a baby?! Good grief.
Big inhale. Long exhale. Okay, I'm ready. I've got this.
Dan was on my right and my nurse was on my left. My doctor was at the foot of my bed and a room full of female medical staff were ready to care for me and my baby girl. Then, I started pushing.
It was incredible to have a whole room literally cheer and encourage me by name. I struggled to find the right way to push (since I was numb from the waist down), but I fought long and hard and I eventually figured it out -- just like I did with Ava. I was ready to see my baby girl.
I pushed for about 15 minutes and towards the end my doctor said our baby girl was being "difficult" and she would need forceps to help her out. Ugh!
"If it's okay with you, I think we should take her straight to nursery instead of putting her on your skin," my doctor suggested with a serious tone. She was calm, but obviously concerned all at once. In other words, she wanted the medical staff to take an extra detailed look at Emma before I got to hold her. It would all be in my room, so I was obviously fine with it. Emma and I were both struggling, and I just wanted to get her out so she'd be safe.
"Whatever is best for her, just do it," I instantly replied.
A nurse gave me oxygen, for Emma's sake, and as I took deep breaths I focused on rebuilding my strength for my next attempt at pushing.
Suddenly, Dan went pale.
"I feel dizzy," he quietly spoke. I looked up at him and he was white, on the verge of passing out. Immediately, he was instructed to take a seat. Thankfully he was still very much present and able to witness his daughter's birth. In his place, another nurse came and held my right leg as I pushed... pushed... puuuuuuushed.
The next two contractions I felt my doctor use the forceps and I thought to myself two things... (1) "Thank God I'm numb." and (2) "Well, there goes my quick recovery." Despite everything being numb, I could feel dramatic pressure and force as they tried to urgently assist Emma and get her into a safe situation. Yep, once again I would need stitches.
Then, as the room echoed a boisterous sound of encouragement, Emma made her glorious appearance at 4:46 am! Her cry brought a tremendous wave of relief over my entire body. Everything I had just experienced, all the pain and all the discomfort, it all melted away.
Dan stood up and went to be with his daughter while my doctor covered my lower body with blue sanitary paper. Then, my heart sank. I looked over at Dan as he happen to turn and look at me.
"Stay with Emma!" I begged him loudly as I fought back tears. "Look at her! Just look at her! Don't look at me."
I knew what was coming. The time had come for our son to physically depart.
My doctor and I had discussed this moment multiple times and I thought I was "ready" but I wasn't. I just wasn't. I had seen our son at an ultrasound on November 6, 2015, and I saw him again during an ultrasound months later. I knew he would not look the same. Still, my doctor and I discussed several possible outcomes. Should he be "preserved" we would have the option to hold him and if things were not, well, then she would just take care of his remains.
I had nothing covering me up after Ava was born, so I knew this blue paper was there to protect my view. So, while Emma was being taken care of medically, and cleaned up, my doctor took care of my son.
With sad eyes, my doctor looked up at me. "The placenta is taken care of," she spoke softly. Her indirect message told me what I feared most -- that there was nothing properly preserved for us to see. I was not going to get to hold my son.
"Thank you," I quietly choked on my words as we made gentle eye contact. She looked back down and continued to take care of my body. While her choice of words were limited, I appreciated her message and her gentle tone.
"It's okay," my nurse quietly chimed in as she hovered over me on my left side. I looked up at her. "It's okay to cry."
So that's exactly what I did. I cried. I mean, I cried! It was an ugly cry, I'm sure. I cried out of joy and relief that my daughter was finally here. I cried because my son was no longer physically with me. I cried because I was about to hold one baby instead of two. I cried because I wanted to sleep so badly.
After what felt like an eternity, Emma was finally brought over to me and I got to hold her for the first time. I was exhausted -- physically and mentally. Still, nothing compares to holding your baby in your arms for the very first time. I was in awe of how perfect she was in that moment. Nothing else mattered. Right then I was just focused on how quickly I was falling head over heals, madly in love with my second daughter.
By 6:00 a.m. I had been awake for 24 hours. I had almost six hours of painful active labor and virtually no time to rest. Still, once all the medication faded away, I got my second wind. I cleaned myself up and got comfy in my recovery room as we prepared for visitors.
There is more to this story and how life continues after losing a baby, but I will save that for another day. For now, this is a joyful story about how our precious Emma joined our family. It's amazing how much your heart swells when another child enters your life and there are no words to describe how remarkable it was to see how Ava instantly fell in love with her baby sister. These are the moments that make even the most unbearable labor pain totally and absolutely worth it.
God is good.