Chris and I celebrated our 7 year wedding anniversary and four weeks later received a belated gift – we were pregnant. I told Chris by leaving clues around the house however, he was not thrilled by the news. (We had just come to the decision that we were going to wait another year before trying again…whoops.)
I did not tell our family until after the 8 week ultrasound and honestly, their reactions weren’t what I was expecting; my father-in-law said to Chris, “Come here and let me slap you.” My brother said, “Don’t you know about condoms?” My grandma said, “I’m never babysitting for you on your anniversary again.” All joking aside, it was incredibly disheartening.
Because we weren’t trying to get pregnant, I was anxious about what I did and did not do, not knowing I was pregnant. I wasn’t taking folic acid or a prenatal. I had been in a hot tub. I drank alcohol. My OB reassured me that everything would be okay and that I didn’t “mess up” the baby.
Chris and I celebrated my 30th birthday in Chicago while my in-laws watched Millie and Wells. This was the first time I had been away from Wells over night. We FaceTimed and bought the kids souvenirs. To my surprise, I didn’t feel nauseous at all and we did tons of walking, went on a skyscraper tour, sat in the sun, went to two concerts, and ate lots of different foods – zero illness or fatigue. It was a great trip.
A week after Chicago, the sickness set in. The OB recommended a vitamin and sleeping pill concoction to ease the nausea however, I didn’t feel comfortable taking it. Sleeping came easy and actually helped the nausea; I would be asleep in bed by 9pm. Wheat Thins, grapes, and unsweetened tea were my nutrition. Brushing my teeth and clearing my throat were the worst; I’d throw up every time.
I swore this baby was a girl; I was super sick when I was pregnant with Millie but not Wells. Chris and I decided that we were not going to find out the gender of this baby. Having a girl and boy already, we would be prepared either way. Many people were supportive of our wanting to be surprised. Our OB said that less than 5% of his pregnant patients wait to find out the gender. We were excited to give ourselves such a big surprise.
Like clockwork, at 14 weeks, I was no longer sick. I began taking one baby aspirin every night to best deter the preeclampsia I experienced with Millie. My newest ailment was a clicking in my lower back, which my OB called sciatic nerve pain. (I found out later that this was actually my SI joint.) It clicked the worst at night, going up and down the stairs, or if I was doing housework. I started going to a chiropractor that specialized in pregnancy adjustments and this seemed to help for about a week at a time.
We didn’t tell Millie and Wells about the pregnancy until they started to notice. Wells would smack my stomach and say, “Big, big belly.” Millie noticed when I picked her up from school one day and I was wearing a form fitting dress. She said, “Is there a baby in there?” Millie and Wells were both excited when we told them they would have a new sibling in March. Millie wanted the baby to be a girl and Wells of course, wanted the baby to be a boy. On the way to ballet one Saturday morning, Millie said from the backseat, “Mommy, let’s talk baby names. I like the name Cora.” Wells liked the name William (Baby Shark’s fish friend) and Catboy. We gravitated to calling the babe, New Baby.
At our 20 week ultrasound, we found out that the baby’s legs were measuring in the 7th percentile. We were concerned so the OB scheduled another ultrasound at 26 weeks to make sure the baby was developing appropriately. (At 26 weeks the baby’s femoral length was in the 14th percentile and the OB was not concerned.) I was struggling to connect with this pregnancy because I couldn’t call the baby by name. We decided to do a 3D ultrasound so that I could see the baby’s face. Millie and Wells came to this appointment with us. This baby was so cute and looked so much like his/her siblings.
Third trimester was rough. My hips ached, especially in the mornings, I had so much pelvic pressure, and I was peeing every hour. At 33 weeks, my ankles and feet got really swollen. I was instructed to go to labor and delivery to get preeclampsia blood panels drawn. Thankfully, everything came back normal and I was able to go home. The doctor on call had four children herself and gave me some advice on how to make it through the duration of my pregnancy. She recommended that I sleep on a wedge pillow instead of on my left side. Fortunately, my grandma had a wedge pillow that I could borrow and within two nights of using it to sleep, keeping my hips straight and not collapsed on each other, my hip and pelvic pain reduced significantly. This doctor also recommended pelvic floor therapy because she was confident I’d have a uterine prolapse in my future…terrifying. When I told this to my OB, he disagreed with her and said there was no validity to her statement. Only time will tell.
We celebrated Wells’ third birthday with a great party. Family and friends came and most everyone commented on how “big” I was. “You didn’t look this huge the last time I saw you!” and “You’re as big as an elephant.” and “Sit down. You’re making people feel bad.” and “You’re ready, aren’t you?” and “If you get any bigger, you’ll pop!” It’s bizarre how pregnancy gives people the freedom to speak upon another’s body. All I wanted to do was throw an awesome birthday party for Wells – no attention on my body or the new baby.
After Wells’ party, my schedule was free to welcome the new baby. Because we chose not to know the baby’s gender, I went through both Millie and Wells’ premie, newborn, and 0-3 month clothes and washed and organized them. Chris and I packed (and triple checked) our hospital bags, we set up childcare for Millie and Wells, I stocked the fridge, Chris set up the pack-and-play, all in preparation for the babe.
Two weeks after my first labor and delivery visit, my OB instructed me to go back in because of high blood pressure (140/95). My feet, ankles, and fingers were swollen. The back of my legs felt numb. I had gained 10lbs in a week. I developed a constant headache. Gestational hypertension had set in and my OB planned an induction for the day I hit 37 weeks. I was nervous, anxious, and excited all at once. While I was hooked up to the monitors, a nurse asked, “Are you feeling those contractions?” I thought I was just hungry. The monitor also showed two deviations in the baby’s heart rate. An ultrasound tech measured my amniotic fluid – all normal. I was told to report back to labor and delivery if my BP was higher than 160/110. I was to check my BP three times a day and elevate my feet as much as I could. I was released for the night with an invitation to come back the next week.
My last day at work was bitter sweet; I would definitely miss my students. My colleagues gave me good luck wishes but it wasn’t until I was asked, “Are you nervous? Giving birth is scary.” that it kicked in that I was leaving to have a baby. I started to tear up because with that one question, I felt seen. I was nervous. Yes, this was my third pregnancy but every delivery is different. The night of my induction, I procrastinated going to the hospital because of my nerves. At 12:30AM, Chris and I went to labor and delivery to start the induction.
Because of the time of my induction, the main hospital doors were no longer open and we had to enter through the emergency room doors. We were scanned and all our bags were searched. (Two hospital bags, my purse, my camera bag.) When we got up to the labor and delivery floor, we could tell they were working with a skeleton crew because it took at least ten minutes for anyone to check us in. When someone did come to enter my information, it was a elderly woman who struggled to type. I was hot, nervous, and getting increasingly anxious so I sat down in a wheel chair for the rest of the intake.
Almost an hour after we arrived, a nurse finally came into the delivery room. She was old and seemed completely clueless to the situation so naturally, my blood pressure started to elevate. She asked, “Why are you in today?” Are you kidding? The BP monitor started to beep. Pointing to the flashing screen I said, “That’s why.” I was hooked up to monitors, my IV was inserted, my temperature was taken, and I was Covid tested. The nurse asked me if I knew how my OB wanted to start the induction. How was I supposed to know? I asked Chris to pull up my blog post about Wells’ delivery. We found that I started with a cervix ripening medication called, Cervidil. The nurse requested this of the resident doctor who then explained to us that they do not use Cervidil anymore. He said we could start on Miso, which I remembered taking with Mills delivery. He inserted the Miso, told me to get a mole examined by a dermatologist, and the contractions started.
Just as I started to dose off, the head nurse came into the room to tell me that my Covid test came back positive. You’ve got to be kidding me. That morning, I felt really tired, dizzy, and anxious but I chalked it up to the hypertension. I remember texting a coworker that I was experiencing my “monthly illness” from the snot-nosed kids that we teach, and she responded, “I hope it’s not Covid, it’s going around again.” That prompted me to take an at-home Covid test, which came back negative and set me at ease. That afternoon, I had an appointment with my OB and I mentioned to him that I was not feeling well. When he checked to see if I was dilated, I almost passed out. I took a nap when I got home and on the way to the hospital, I told Chris that I was feeling much better – praise God because birthing a child is hard enough when you’re healthy. I asked the nurse to give me another Covid test – there’s a chance it could’ve been a false positive, right? She tested me a second time and it also came back positive. My mind was racing; did Millie and Wells get this? Will my in-laws get Covid from watching the kids? Will I have to isolate from the baby? I started to cry. My baby was inside my Covid-positive body and I was going to have to deliver being riddled by the virus.
The nurse reassured me that the treatment I would receive wouldn’t be any different from any other patient because I was Covid positive however, there were protocols and rules the hospital required:
– Anyone entering the room would be in full PPE. Chris and I were encouraged to mask.
– In addition to Chris, I could only have one additional visitor for the duration of my stay; no birth photographer for this delivery, Mill and Wells couldn’t come to the hospital to visit, and I had to chose between my mom and grandma in the delivery room.
– Chris could not leave the room to get ice, water, coffee, etc.
The head nurse told us that 90 percent of women who give birth while Covid positive, do not pass the virus to their newborn; this was reassuring. The baby would be Covid tested during the routine newborn check. She was optimistic that having Covid while pregnant would have given the baby antibodies that would be helpful once they were born. I prayed the baby would not be born with Covid or contract it from me once they were here.
At five am, my cervix was rechecked. The Miso softened my cervix but I hadn’t dilated much more. If time wasn’t an issue, I would’ve had another round of Miso however, my OB was getting on a plane for Chicago that evening and I desperately wanted my OB to be there. He knows my history, calms my anxiety, and he’s great at making sure I don’t tear. The resident doctor was adamant that a balloon foley was our quickest option for further dilation. I was nervous about this method because I had never had it done before. With the balloon foley, I would also have a urine catheter and I knew that would only add to my discomfort. The doctor said he was fine with me getting the epidural before the insertion of both catheters so I wouldn’t have to feel either. I asked, “How long does an epidural last?” It can be effective for 18-24 hours. I needed to have the baby before 6pm if I wanted my OB to deliver so that gave me 12 hours. We had a plan.
A lady entered the room and introduced herself as the CRNA, Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist. She sat down and asked, “Are you in pain?” To which I replied, “Not yet.” She asked, “Why are we doing this epidural?” This question irritated me. Am I not paying thousands of dollars for this medicine? I went on to explain the rationale. Did she not discuss this with the doctor? She began to talk to me about first time mothers who are afraid of pain – I stopped her and said, “This is my third rodeo. I have given birth without an epidural but this time I am choosing not to. If you’d like to discuss this pain management plan with my doctor…” She changed her tune. “No no no.” She agreed to give me the epidural but told me it was going to be painful because she didn’t have the pains of the contractions to hide it in. I sat up on the side of the bed and prayed to God I wouldn’t be paralyzed.
The CRNA advised me to sit crisscrossed, if it was comfortable, while the epidural was administered. I told her I was an elementary school music teacher and sitting crisscrossed was second nature. Chris stood in front of me to my left and the nurse stood to my right. The numbing needle stung. Then came the pressure. It felt like the needle was tunneling it’s way into my body. We made small talk about her children’s piano lessons and the downtown construction. My right leg jolted out and I almost kicked the nurse. It was taking so long, why was it taking so long? Finally, it was over. A cold trickle ran down my back and within ten minutes, I was completely numb from the waist down.
The nurse inserted the urine catheter and the resident doctor inserted the balloon foley, both of which I couldn’t feel because of the epidural. At 12pm, the nurse tugged on the foley but it did not come out. An hour later, she pulled again, and the ballon popped right out; it was the size of a clementine and it dilated me to 5cms. At 2pm, the doctor broke my water with what looked like a crochet needle. When I couldn’t feel my water break, I began to feel anxious. I wanted the epidural to be less numbing. I felt so helpless; Chris and the nurse had to move my body on the peanut ball because I couldn’t lift my legs. I felt so heavy. The CRNA came in and instructed me that the medicine was working exactly how it should and even though I couldn’t feel my lower half, it was responsive.
My Maw rubbed my legs and Chris scratched my head. It was enough to calm me through the last centimeters of dilation. I told my nurse that I was feeling a lot of pressure in my rear so she checked my cervix and informed me that I was 10cms dilated. I felt glad. I felt ready. Before she called in the doctor, she asked me to do a practice push and as I pushed through my next contraction she said, “Okay, okay. Stop. Stop pushing.” The nurse got on her phone, “Room 105 is ready to push.”
The nurses were like a NASCAR pit crew; raising the bed, turning on the bright lights, gowning the doctor, all in preparation for the birth. I made small talk with my OB about the baby coming before his flight for Chicago. He said, “With your next contraction I want you to push.” I crunched my upper body towards my knees, bared down, and I heard him say, “slow, slow” but I couldn’t stop what was happening. My body was pushing the baby out. In one push, I felt the baby’s body leave mine. The doctor placed the baby on my chest and I heard my Maw ask, “What is it?” The nurse answered, “It’s a boy.” He was crying and soaking wet. “Happy Birthday, baby boy.”
Chris cut the umbilical cord for our third child. I was relieved to hear that I did not tear and my placenta came out in one piece. The nurse told me, “That was the most efficient labor I have ever seen.” My legs were starting to tingle as the epidural started to wear off; I welcomed that feeling over the anxiety I experienced with the numbness. I changed my gown and watched as the nurse examined the baby. The baby’s oxygen rate was low at first but after a minute of an oxygen mask nearby, it went to normal range. Chris was standing over him, talking to him, taking pictures, and telling me how beautiful he was. The nurse stamped the baby’s feet into the baby book. I noticed quickly that he had a gap between his first two toes like his father. The baby weighed 6lbs 9oz. He was brought back to me for skin-to-skin.
This sweet, alert, baby boy latched quickly. He held on tightly to his daddy’s finger. He passed his newborn checks and scored a 9 on the Apgar scale. He tested negative for Covid; thank you, Jesus. He cried while he was given his first bath but once we was all clean, he calmed and we were able to take pictures of him on the hospital bed in the same position as Millie and Wells when they were born. Everything was going perfectly until he lost 12% of his body weight.
After many visits with the lactation consultant, I agreed to supplement his feeding with donor breast milk while my supply was still coming in. I would feed him from the breast and then pump. While I pumped, he was fed the bottle of donor milk. After 24 hours of feeding this way, he gained a little weight back.
I desperately wanted to go home. I missed Millie and Wells like crazy. I also knew my milk supply would increase in the peace of my own space. The doctors were okay with us taking him home as long as we took formula with us as a means of supplementation. We agreed, signed the appropriate papers and headed home to introduce Millie and Wells to their new baby brother, Crosby James.