"There are some who can live without wild things and some who cannot." (Aldo Leopold) Apparently, I cannot.


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Saurus’s Birth Story: 9 Months of Anxiety

Well looky here! A new post from me. It’s been nearly 2 months since I wrote my last post. And you know what? The time off felt good. But so does getting back in the writer’s seat. This new write-when-inspiration-strikes thing I have going on is working out very well. So thanks again for your continued support as I find my way in the blogging world. 

But anyway, back to my post . . . Today is my oldest son’s 4th birthday, and as I was wrapping his presents last night, I realized that I never shared his birth story with you. So here it is — the story of my first full-term baby! And boy, did we just make it.

After our daughter’s very early arrival (if you missed it, you can jump to her birth story here), I was, not surprisingly, extremely nervous about trying to get pregnant again. Because we could never identify why exactly I went into preterm labor with my daughter, we weren’t sure what to expect with a second pregnancy.

And so I did what I do best when faced with the unknown — I worried. I wanted so desperately to give our daughter a sibling, but I worried that I’d deliver early again. And what if it was too early this time? Surely I wouldn’t be able to handle that.

So after many talks with my hubby, we decided to give it a go. There was no one in the world who could assure us that we’d have a perfectly normal pregnancy — in fact, no one gets these assurances — and since I had a healthy pregnancy with our daughter until the preterm labor, we were comfortable with our decision. But comfortable did not translate to free from worry.

It took about 3 months (and again, a little bit of medical intervention) before we found out I was pregnant again. My husband was in the shower when I took the pregnancy test (don’t worry, we were in different bathrooms), and I was so excited when I saw the result that I ran to the bathroom he was in and just stuck the pregnancy test through the shower curtain for him to see. We were both super excited.

But it didn’t take long for that excitement to turn to worry for me. On top of the anxiety I felt not knowing if I’d make it to full term, we were moving out of state, which meant I’d have to switch doctors. Thankfully I found an amazing practice close to our new home with very understanding doctors. Not only did they approach my anxiety with real concern (“Hey,” my one doc said, “you went through a scary first delivery, it’s only natural to be worried. But we’re here for you, so don’t feel bad about calling whenever for whatever reason. That’s what we’re here for!”), but they also made it their mission to create a plan of care that was acceptable and comfortable for me AND would get the baby to term. (Although again, they couldn’t make any assurances.)

Essentially, because I was considered high-risk this time around, the doctors would be following my pregnancy very carefully. Starting at 14 weeks (and going to 30 weeks), I’d have ultrasounds every other week to check on the baby and to check to make sure nothing was going awry in my body (like a shortening cervix or early dilation) to cause me to go into preterm labor. Then at 20 weeks (and going to 36 weeks), I’d start weekly progesterone injections. All with the goal of keeping the baby in for as long as possible.

Great! The fact that I was going to be followed so closely definitely made me feel better — if anything started to go wrong, we’d catch it early and hopefully be able to do something about it. But of course, there was always that nagging fear in the back of my mind that something would go wrong.

And so, I was pretty much a bundle of wreck my entire pregnancy. I suffered from major insomnia for practically all 9 months — I would literally go a few days at a time without sleeping before my body would give into the exhaustion and allow me a night’s rest. Then the cycle would start all over again. I became very acquainted with our couch and the weekly Nick at Night lineup.

Then, beginning pretty early on, there were all of the Braxton-Hicks contractions. Oh boy. These were rough because when I went into labor with my daughter, I didn’t have very painful contractions (until active labor, of course) — all I really knew were the contractions I’d had that signaled to me that I should probably get to the doctor, which felt just like BH contractions. So of course, with every BH contraction this time around, I worried I was going into preterm labor again. And all of my anxiety led to more contractions, which led to more anxiety, which led to me being hooked up to the monitor at the doctor’s office more times than I care to count. Thankfully, every time turned out to be simply BH contractions.

If I could have lived at my doctor’s office, that may have made things a little more tolerable, but probably not. Thankfully I had an almost-2-year-old to keep me busy and an understanding husband who didn’t once make me feel like my worry was unwarranted. (And I know he was worried, too, but he stayed strong for me, which I am truly grateful for.)

And this time around, we decided to find out the baby’s sex. I say we, but really, it was all me. I absolutely needed to know this time. For two reasons.

  1. As crazy as it sounds being so anxious about this pregnancy and seemingly paying attention to every little thing going on with my body this time around, I felt very disconnected to the baby I was carrying. When I was pregnant with my daughter, I didn’t have another little person requiring all of my attention, so I was able to devote all of it to my growing belly — I’d spend my free time resting and daydreaming about his or her little face and what our new life together as a family of three would be like. With this second pregnancy, I didn’t have these luxuries. There were days in which I’d even forget briefly I was pregnant until my husband would come home and ask how I was feeling. So in my mind, knowing the baby’s sex would help me feel more connected.
  2. For reasons doctors are not entirely sure about (although they think it may have something to do with hormones), girl preemies tend to fare slightly better than boy preemies. So if we were having a boy, I wanted to be prepared in case he came early, too. Although looking back, I’m not sure what I could have really prepared for — maybe just emotional preparation? — but that was my thinking.

And wouldn’t you know? A boy this time around! So very exciting — we’d have one of each — but so very terrifying for me at the same time.

And so I went, week after week, not sleeping much and constantly worrying that each new day would be the day that I’d go into labor. It wasn’t my ideal pregnancy to say the least. And I tried so very hard not to worry, really I did, but I couldn’t help myself.

Full term was the ultimate goal for this pregnancy, but in all honesty, I just wanted to make it past 29 weeks (which is when I delivered our daughter). I kept telling myself that all of my anxiety would lift after I hit this milestone. But it didn’t. At that point my anxiety turned from not wanting to deliver early to now wondering when exactly I would go into labor. I was the most pregnant I’d ever been, and each new day brought with it the unknown. Would I go into labor today? Tomorrow? The next day? I know it probably sounds extremely bizarre, but it was all new to me. And? You guessed it. Scary.

I continued my healthy “uneventful” pregnancy until 36 weeks when I started having some blood pressure issues and had to be hospitalized for a few days of monitoring. Thankfully, my mom was able to come up from Maryland to our house in Connecticut to help with my daughter until I was discharged. Turned out that I had labile hypertension — simply meaning my blood pressure started getting wildly erratic — and not preeclampsia, so once my pressures stabilized, I was able to go home. The next afternoon, after many many thanks to my mom, we got her on the train back home to Maryland and went back to waiting for the baby.

We did not have to wait long. The very next morning, after my husband left for work and I dropped off my daughter at daycare for a few hours, my water began leaking. It started while I was going to the bathroom, so I wasn’t really sure what was going on at first, but I was aware enough that something was odd to call my doctor’s office. They suggested I come in for them to check things out. And so I went. In for another exam. Sure I’d be sent home after a quick check.

But this time was different. A few minutes after I got up on the exam table — as the nurse was unwrapping the stick to test for amniotic fluid — my water broke. Fully. In a huge gush. All over. “Well, I don’t think we need to do this test,” laughed the nurse. “Looks like you’re going to have a baby today!”

Today was the day. Oh my gosh, today was the day! I called my husband from the doctor’s office and asked him to meet me back at home to take me to the hospital. Which was kind of silly because he worked at the hospital I was delivering at, but still. There was no way I was going to drive myself home to get my stuff and then drive myself to the hospital. I wasn’t having any contractions, but you never know when those are going to start, amiright?!

After loading me up with giant maxi pads and a stack of exam table covers (because the nurse warned my water would just keep gushing out), I got in my car to make my way home. But first I called my mom to let her know that she and my dad should start making their way up. For my mom, not even 24 hours after she left the day before.

It wasn’t until I started backing out of my parking spot that I realized it had begun to snow. It wasn’t much, just a light dusting, and so I didn’t think anything of it. Until I got home, threw my bag in the car and was all ready to go, and my husband called to say that he was stuck in his car on a hill just outside of our neighborhood. Of course he was! And so I drove to where he was, got out of the car, and tried to start helping him get his car up the hill. You would have thought my husband had never seen a woman in labor trying to push a car uphill in the snow! Before I could take a step he said, “Absolutely not! We’ll just leave the car here, woman!” and he ushered me back into my car, and we made our way to the hospital.

I wasn’t in active labor when we arrived at the hospital, but because I was GBS positive, I needed to be on antibiotics for a while first anyway, so we were there for several hours before it was time to start pushing. (Which was actually perfect because it gave both my parents and my mother-in-law time to get to the hospital in time for the big event.)

And man did I push! With my daughter, she was so small, I only pushed for a few minutes before she popped out, so my body wasn’t really prepared for pushing a bigger baby this time around. It took about 2.5 hours, but finally, finally my baby boy was born.

On January 28, 2010, we welcomed our second child (known as “Saurus” here on the blog; a name he chose, btw) — at 37 weeks, 1 day, he was officially full term! We had made it! And he was completely healthy. And big. Already 8 lbs. (The doc said he probably would have been 9.5 lbs had we gone to 40 weeks!) I cried tears of joy. And exhaustion. And relief. After the past 9 months of anxiety, he was finally here and healthy! Hallelujah!

Zac born

We made it to full term! Now a family of four!

But the best part? We got to take him home with us just 2 days later. No NICU needed this time around.

I cannot believe this all happened 4 years ago already. It’s been a wild ride with this kiddo (and of course I’ve written about it a lot on this blog), but one I wouldn’t trade for the world!

Happy 4th birthday to my original and very first “little man”! We love you so much.

Zac 4

Oh this face! Even during rough times, this face gets me! Happy birthday, “little” man!

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Eli’s Birth Story: Uncharted Territory

Today is my youngest’s first birthday! In some respects it seems like he’s been with us forever and a day — like it’s hard to remember what life was like before he was around — and in others it seems like just yesterday when he was born. Time flying by and standing still all at the same time. 

To celebrate my baby turning 1, I thought I’d take this opportunity to share his birth story with you. This story comes a little out of order — I shared my oldest’s unexpected birth story about a month ago, but I still need to write my middle’s story (it’ll come soon, I promise) — but I’ve been reminiscing like crazy the past few days, so this is really all I could think about writing at the moment . . .  

My husband and I have always liked the idea of having a big family. After our daughter’s extremely early arrival, and a tumultuous first year with our older son (it was a combination of him being an extremely fussy and clingy baby and us having to adjust to having two kids with absolutely no family around), however, we weren’t sure if we actually wanted to try for a third. We liked the idea of having another child, but living so far away from family, and with my husband so busy with his residency (he had just taken on the chief resident position), we were worried, frankly, about our sanity and if we could really take on the reality of having another kid.

After some serious consideration, we decided to go for it. Because we had needed a little bit of medical intervention with the first two (yes, I know, I still need to write that post), I began setting up appointments with the fertility specialists. And, because we had gotten pregnant with our first two in a different state, our new doctor wanted to run all of the tests we had already had all over again. Which we understood, but were annoyed by.

When we went for our consultation with the doctor after all of our tests were completed, we were met with some confusion. She told us that none of our test results suggested we’d have a difficult time getting pregnant or need any sort of medical intervention. There were numbers for one test for both my husband and I that were slightly off, but nothing the doctor felt required intervention at that point. She suggested a few over-the-counter-type things for both of us to try for a few months, and then if we still weren’t having any luck, we could come back and move on to our tried and true intervention. I was skeptical, but promised to give it a few months.

And? Wouldn’t you know? Badda bing, badda boom . . . pregnant on the first try! With no medical help at all. I actually found out I was pregnant on a trip to visit my parents while my husband was away at a conference. The first test I took was a cheap dollar store test. It had a very feint line, like I had to rub my eyes a few times to make sure it was actually there, so of course I thought it was wrong. I texted a picture of the test to my husband to see if he could see the line, but I also told him not to get excited yet because I was running out to buy 17 other tests — all different brands and types —  just to be sure. They were all positive. We couldn’t believe it.

And so began our journey with pregnancy #3. Like my first two pregnancies, I had hardly any morning sickness. (I say “hardly” because I did throw up once, but that was one time more than with either of the first two.) However, like my second pregnancy, I was considered high-risk because of having already delivered preterm, and so I prepared myself for near-weekly doctor’s appointments, bi-weekly sonograms, and progesterone injections for the better part of the pregnancy.

The one big difference with this pregnancy was my due date. We were going to have a summer baby. Our first two were winter babies, and I really wasn’t looking forward to being hugely pregnant during the summer. We were given a July 1 due date, but given the fact that our daughter was born 11 weeks early and our oldest son was born 3 weeks early, I was mentally prepared for a mid-June delivery. I was banking on it, really. Despite the fact that I was constantly joking about how this one would be the stinker that stayed in 2 weeks past my due date. Ha, ha, ha. (Oh do I regret that joke!)

Things were pretty uneventful for the first half of the pregnancy. My husband and I decided early on that we didn’t want to know the baby’s sex ahead of time — we didn’t find out with our daughter but we did with our older son, and we decided we liked the not-knowing-until-birth experience better — and we were sticking to our guns despite the fact that we could have found out during any of my bi-weekly ultrasounds.

At around 22 weeks, though, the ultrasound tech thought she spotted something wrong with one of the baby’s kidneys, so I was referred to a specialist for a follow-up ultrasound. My ultrasound tech warned me that the potential problem was associated more frequently with one sex, so if it turned out to be what was suspected, the specialist may have to tell us the sex in order to discuss treatment options.

Luckily, it turned out that nothing was wrong, and we didn’t have to find out the baby’s sex. That is, until my regular ultrasound tech accidentally spilled the beans to me at a subsequent appointment because she thought I had found out from the specialist. CURSES!!!!! Actually, to be honest, I wasn’t that upset about it because a little part of me had wanted to find out anyway. I was however hesitant to tell my husband what happened. When I got to my car I called him and told him what happened. He was pissed at the tech but said he still didn’t want to know the baby’s sex. WHAT??!! How the hell was I going to keep that from him? I promised him that I’d try but he’d have to promise me not to get upset if I accidentally slipped up. Deal, he said.

And, I’m happy to report, that I am the best secret keeper on the planet. Because my husband didn’t want to know, I didn’t tell anyone for fear of it getting back to him. (Ok, I told one person, but only because I did accidentally slip up with a friend.) Do you know how hard this was?! If I wanted to buy anything that wasn’t neutral, I did so secretly and then hid it all from my husband. When we talked about names, I had to get equally excited about both boys’ and girls’ names, even though I knew which list we’d really be choosing from. It was hard, but I managed to keep the baby’s sex under wraps the entire pregnancy. (Go me!)

I had a few more little medical blips throughout the second half of my pregnancy — a minor slip down some stairs, a short hospital stay after tripping over a toy and falling at home resulted in the start of some contractions, and some blood pressure-related issues toward the end of the pregnancy — but all in all, it was pretty uneventful. And by “uneventful,” I don’t mean these events weren’t scary, because they were, but I mean that none of these incidents put me into preterm labor, which was a huge concern for me with both of my pregnancies after delivering my daughter at 29 weeks.

In fact, 37 weeks (the point at which I delivered my oldest son) came and went. And I began to get grumpy. I was the absolute most pregnant I had ever been, and I was D.O.N.E. So naturally I started complaining. I wanted the baby out and started trying every old wives’ tale under the sun to make it happen: nonstop walking, sitting in certain positions, eating spicy foods. And yes, eventually I got so desperate I even tried sex. All I got from all of this? The runs from the spicy food, and of course a happy husband from the long-awaited action. But still no baby.

My family and friends laughed at me. “C’mon, you’re not even past your due date yet.” “Every woman should experience going all 40 weeks.” You know what I said to that? F THAT!! That’s what I said. Approaching my due date, I was nearly 3 weeks more pregnant than I had ever been. And I was just ready to be done. My mom had even been staying with us for a week at that point anticipating an early arrival as well. I was in uncharted territory here.

And then? July 1, my due date, came and went.

Yowsa! Me on my due date 7/1/12. Most pregnant EVER.

Yowsa! Me on my due date 7/1/12. Most pregnant EVER.

This one really was the stinker that was going to come late! Why did I have to make that joke so often throughout my pregnancy? It was like some self-fulfilling prophesy. Some cruel, twisted, extremely uncomfortable self-fulfilling prophecy.

Luckily for me, though, the little stinker didn’t wait too much longer to make his appearance. Two days later, I woke up with some painful contractions in the middle of the night, but I was able to go back to sleep, so I didn’t think too much of it. The next morning I was having more regular, painful contractions, but I sent my husband off to work anyway. He knew better and called before he was even 3 miles away from the the house to check in, and decided he should come back home.  But, not before he stopped to get breakfast for my parents, who were both at our house at this point, and the kids. (Because we’re considerate like that.)

By the time my husband got back home, my contractions were maybe 5 minutes apart, so we called my doctor, dropped the kids off at a dear friend’s house, and headed with my parents to the hospital. In the 10 minutes it took to get to the hospital, my contractions started coming one on top of the other.

When we got up to the triage room, the nurse checked me and told me hesitantly that I was already 6-7 cm dilated. I knew immediately that meant I might not get my epidural. Because if I learned anything from my previous two pregnancies, it was that I dilate very, very quickly. Amazingly, though, the nurses checked me in, put in my IV, and did all of the requisite blood work and such in record time. I had only been at the hospital maybe 30 or 45 minutes when the anesthesiologist got to my room. I was so ready. Unfortunately, she couldn’t get the catheter into my spine correctly. And after 20 minutes and several failed attempts I was given the choice of having a spinal block or going natural. I opted for the spinal. At this point, I was fully dilated.

Not even 2 minutes later, and I was feeling relief. But then suddenly, the room was a flurry with commotion. Alarms were going off and the nurses were moving me onto my side, putting an oxygen mask on me, and injecting my IV line with something. I was scared because I had no idea what was happening and begged for them to tell me what was going on. Apparently my blood pressure had dropped drastically, and the baby’s heart rate was dropping. I started crying as my doctor broke my water (which was full of meconium, of course) and told me I’d need to start pushing right away.

Then, just as quickly, my doctor told me we could relax. Whatever they had given me was working — my blood pressure was coming up, and the baby’s heart rate had evened out and was responding well to my contractions. We didn’t have much time to settle down though, and within a minute I was pushing again. This time, though, there was no panic. Just pure determination to get the baby out. And after about 15 minutes (if you’re counting, it was only about 2 hours after we got to the hospital), and some turning to get him more upward facing, out he came. And he was perfect.

The best part was seeing my husband’s and parents’ faces as the doctor announced he was a boy. I was so glad I was able to keep the secret, but so relieved I didn’t need to keep it any longer. Our second little man was finally here!

And the second best part? Our room had an amazing view of the Long Island sound, so that night and the next (4th of July) we were able to watch the various fireworks displays all up and down the Connecticut shoreline. We turned down the lights in our room and pretended everyone was celebrating this new life with us!

ben birth

(Note: If you’re curious about how we decided on Eli’s name, I wrote all about that in a previous post: How My Placenta Helped Us Name Baby #3. Fair warning: It probably is as gross as it sounds.)

One year later, and our little man has grown so much! (Although he still doesn’t have much hair, lol.) He’s walking and constantly babbling and trying to do everything his sister and brother do. He is the sweetest, most easy-going baby, and he couldn’t have fit more perfectly into our family.

Happy birthday, little man! We love you so very much!

Hooray! It's my birthday!

Hooray! It’s my birthday!


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Belle’s Birth Story: An Unexpected Beginning

I have wanted to be a mommy for as long as I can remember. It’s packed away somewhere (or else I would have taken a picture to include here), but I have a fill-in-the-blank worksheet from when I was in second grade to attest to this. On the top of the worksheet was written, “When I grow up, I want to be…” and in the blank space, I wrote “a mommy.” And I think I said I wanted to have like 12 kids or something. (Ba ha ha ha ha ha. Did you just spit out your coffee?)

My husband and I have known each other since middle school (hmmm, maybe I should write a post about that, too?), so he was well aware of my interest in having kids. And luckily for me, he wanted to be a daddy as much as I wanted to be a mommy. So 4 years after we got married, we decided to start trying.

I come from a very fertile family, plus if you’ve ever seen me in real life, you know I have the hips to birth some babies. So I was surprised  when I still wasn’t pregnant after 3 months of trying. After 6 months I got worried. And after 9 months I was downright scared. My dreams of becoming a mommy seemed to be circling the drain before my very eyes.

I’ll save our fertility story for another time (yes, another post idea!) but in a nutshell, after nearly 3 more months of testing, and testing, and more testing–with nothing seemingly abnormal with either myself or my husband–and then finally a teeny bit of medical intervention, I got pregnant.

I will never forget the morning I found out. It was about a week before I was due to get my period, and figured I’d start the every-other-day testing until my period showed up. Because I had been doing these tests every month for about the past year, and because every single time they came back negative, I was expecting more of the same. So I took the test and set it aside while I hopped in the shower to get ready for work.

I had actually nearly forgotten about it until I was heading out the door. So when I grabbed it and saw the plus sign on it, I nearly keeled over right on the spot. I couldn’t stop staring at the test. It was probably a good 10 or 15 minutes before I regained a semblance of composure and was able to call my husband. Before he could even finish saying “hey” after answering the phone, I whispered, “I think I’m pregnant,” hands shaking as I tried to keep the phone from dropping to the floor.

“What do you mean you think you’re pregnant,” he asked? “Did you get a positive test?” I could tell he was nervous, too. “Yes, but I’m not sure I trust it.” And I didn’t. “Well, call your doctor and call me back.” So I did. I went right in and had a blood test. And then on the way to work I bought three more tests. All different kinds. And I took them all. And they all came back positive. But I still wasn’t convinced until my doctor called to say it was confirmed. “Hallelujah!” To say my husband and I were excited would be an understatement.

Aside from a few small things, my pregnancy was rather uneventful. I never had morning sickness, and I seemed to be following along the 8,001 pregnancy books I was reading to a T.

And then around 28 weeks, I had some weird stuff going on down below. I went to my OB to get checked out, and she assured me everything seemed fine. I wasn’t dilated or effaced. The only thing she said was that I was carrying very low.

Fast forward to a week later. My parents were in town for the weekend to celebrate my birthday. We decided to do a little shopping and then go out to dinner. But when we got to the mall, I wasn’t feeling that great. My back was suddenly killing me and I didn’t feel like walking around. So I sat on a bench and sent everyone on their merry way. Once shopping was done, we went out to dinner. Even though I couldn’t fit too much in my stomach those days, I ate a ton. And then I felt even worse because my back was still hurting and I was over-full.

When we got home, I still wasn’t feeling great but figured all I needed to do was go to bed to rest my back and get some sleep. And let the baby feast on the meal I had just inhaled. But of course, I couldn’t sleep. I kept having this nagging stomach tightening. It finally got to the point where it was 2 am and I still couldn’t fall asleep. Finally, I called into the answering service for my doctor’s office and they said I should head into the hospital to get checked out. Thinking it’d be a quick trip in and then back home, I let my husband sleep and instead woke up mom to have her take me.

When we got to the hospital, they hooked me up to all the monitors and then did an exam. “Do your contractions hurt?” asked the resident. Contractions? What contractions? “Well, Mrs. Lawrence, you are 2-3 centimeters dilated, so we are going to admit you to try and stop your labor.” My labor? I started panicking. “How can I be in labor? I have 11 more weeks to go!” I said.

My mom called my husband, and he and my dad were at the hospital in record time. I was moved to another room and told I’d be confined to the bed for at least the next 36 hours while they put me on magnesium to try and stop my labor. Oh god, oh god, oh god.

Those next 36 hours were hellacious. The magnesium made me sick, I was catheterized (ok, that was kinda cool not having to get up to go to the bathroom), and I was so uncomfortable. I was already pretty huge with baby belly, even being 11 weeks away from my due date, and being confined to a bed with only one or two positions to move to brought me to tears. Not to mention all of the various testing I underwent–blood tests, urine tests, ultrasounds, an amniocentesis–to try to figure out why I was in labor so early and how mature the baby’s lungs were.

Plus, I was scared. Scared for the little baby that I was growing. Although apparently not doing such a great job at that since the baby was trying to make a great escape. But my fears were put at ease some when we met with the neonatologists. Yes, our baby was going to  have some struggles, but if he or she decided to join us at 29 weeks, we were far enough along that the doctors were very reassuring about our outcomes. Nevertheless, they prepped us on things to expect: incubators, feeding tubes, heart monitors, breathing monitors…it was all very overwhelming. Thankfully, my husband and parents and mother-in-law were constantly at my side helping me through it all.

At the end of my 36 hours on magnesium, the doctors determined I could come off. My contractions had stopped and I hadn’t dilated any further. Things were looking on the up and up. They were even talking about letting me go home, which was great, because it was my birthday. And then my water broke.

At this point, after taking everything into account, the doctors determined we should move ahead with delivery instead of trying to hold it off any more. With all of my exams, and now with my water broken, the chance of an infection was great, so we wanted to get the baby out as soon as possible. So, I was started on pitocin, and the waiting game began. It was about 8 o’clock at night, so the doctors guesstimated we’d be ready to go the next morning.

Belle had other plans. 15 minutes into my pitocin, my contractions were so bad that they had to cut it down some. 15 minutes after that, I asked for my epidural. And then 15 minutes after that, I felt really funny. I had my mom get the nurse, and when I described what I was feeling, she looked skeptical but checked me out. Sure enough, I was completely dilated. Within 45 minutes I went from 3 cm to 10 cm. They couldn’t believe it.

And then it was like someone switched on the fast forward button. The nurses were so worried I was going to deliver right then and there that they started wheeling me out of the room before I was disconnected from my IV and monitors. I was told I’d have to deliver in the ER in case there were any complications. So my husband was rushed into his scrubs, and after I was successfully disconnected from everything we headed for the ER. And we were met by a swarm of nurses and doctors–OBs, neonatologists, pediatricians.

Things got real very fast. Not an hour ago I was sitting in my bed wondering when this baby would come out, and now I was being told to push. It’s sort of a blur to me, actually. I remember pushing, and I remember one of the pediatricians coming up to me to tell me that I wouldn’t get to see my baby right away–they needed to take him or her immediately to do an exam and determine what needed to happen. My husband wouldn’t get to cut the umbilical cord, and I wouldn’t get that moment every mom dreams of of having their newborn placed on their chest. We were sad, but we understood.

Then after 15 minutes of pushing, the baby was out. “It’s a girl!” my doctor said as she passed her over to the pediatrician. I didn’t even see her face before she was rushed into the next room. But I did hear her crying–she had a strong cry, a fierce cry–and from that moment, I just knew in my heart things were going to be alright. I sent my husband to the next room to be with our baby. Our daughter. And then I just cried. Tears of joy. And tears of relief.

A few minutes later, my husband was back at my side along with one of the pediatricians. She looked me right in the eyes and said, “Mrs. Lawrence. Your baby is doing beautifully. She’s been breathing on her own this whole time and looks amazingly healthy.” Then she put the tiniest baby I had ever seen in my arms. “We need to get her to the NICU, but I wanted you to see her and hold her before we go.”

I couldn’t believe this tiny little baby was mine. All 3 1/2 pounds, 17 inches of her. Mine. And the fact that she was doing better than anyone could have ever imagined. My husband and I were just in awe. Here she was. Our Belle. We couldn’t have been happier.

We got to hold her for a few minutes before they finally had to take her to the NICU. I didn’t want to let her go, but I knew I had to. After Belle was gone, my husband bent down and whispered, “Happy birthday, hun. I am so very proud of you.” Oh my gosh. It was still my birthday. Our birthday! I got to share a birthday with our daughter. And there were more tears.

I wanted so desperately to go to the NICU as soon as I was moved out of the recovery room, but it was past midnight at that point, and the weight of the past 3 days finally hit me. I hadn’t eaten anything or slept much, and I literally passed out. Three times. So we all agreed that I should stay in bed through the night to get some much needed rest and build up my energy. My husband stayed in the NICU while I slept.

The minute I woke up I begged to go see my daughter. The nurses put me in a wheelchair and my husband wheeled me down to the NICU. I wasn’t prepared for it. Our daughter, who only the night before was wrapped up in just a blanket and resting sweetly in my arms, was now in an incubator with tubes coming out from everywhere. She had an IV in her belly button, a feeding tube in her mouth, and monitors attached all over. Seeing her like that was so overwhelming. My heart ached for her.

The good news, they said, was that she was still breathing on her own and never had to go on oxygen. She seemed to be doing amazing given how early she was, and the doctors and nurses were nothing but reassuring about her prognosis.

Belle spent 5 weeks in the NICU. During that time, my husband and I became experts as NICU parents. We knew what the terms apnea and bradycardia meant, our hands were so dry from all of the washing and sanitizer we had to use, and we became pros at changing Belle’s diaper and getting her dressed while making sure all of her tubes and monitor leads stayed in place. We graduated from only being able to touch her through the holes in her incubator to knowing how to disconnect her from everything, pick her up, and hold and feed her all on our own.

And during those 5 weeks, Belle was learning a lot, too. She quickly moved from her incubator to a regular bed, she was taken off her feeding tube, and she gained about 2 pounds. Everyone kept saying just how amazed that were at her progress. We did have a few setbacks, like her small brain bleed and some apnea issues, but all in all, Belle just continued to thrive.

birth pics

The day finally came when the doctors told us they thought she was ready to come home. We were ecstatic, but surprised and nervous. She was still so tiny (only about 5 1/2 pounds). And she was still 6 weeks away from her due date! (This is fairly unusual, as preemies typically stay in the hospital until at least their due date.) We rushed around like crazy to get the house clean and ready for her arrival (after all, her room was still a guest bedroom when she was born).

And then the day arrived when we were able to take Belle home . . . we were now responsible for this little life. Saying goodbye to everyone at the hospital was tough, but we were ready. Ready to be in our own home. A new family now.

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The transition from the hospital to home wasn’t seemless, but we took it one day at a time. Belle took everything in stride, and I swear, she never looked back. She continued to thrive and grow–catching up in size by 6 months, and catching up developmentally by 15 months.

Looking at her now, 5 years later, you’d never know about her completely unexpected beginning. And even though we tell her all the time about her birth and early arrival, I don’t think she’ll ever know just how truly miraculous she is and just how blessed we are to call her ours.


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Lost in Translation: What I Say vs. What They Hear

lost in translation

I need a translator. Even though my kids and I speak the same language, apparently we don’t speak the same language.

What I say: “Let’s go, please, we’re running late.”
What they hear: “We have all the time in the world. Yes, you can watch 6 more shows. And please, definitely take an hour to pick out your clothes. While you’re at it, don’t forget to dump your milk on the table, ask for three more breakfasts, and tell me you have to poop as I’m opening the front door to leave. Oh, and why don’t you go ahead and throw an epic tantrum in there.”

What I say: “It’s time to clean up.”
What they hear: “It’s time to play and make an even bigger mess around here. Don’t worry, I’ll clean it all up later when you suddenly develop a sick tummy and a leg that feels like it’s going to fall off. Oh, and why don’t you go ahead and throw an epic tantrum in there.”

What I say: “Please be quiet for 2 minutes while I’m on the phone.”
What they hear: “Please scream at each other in voices that should only be used if you’re being chased by a bear, and use this time to ask me 101 questions about why we have fingernails. Oh, and why don’t you go ahead and throw an epic tantrum in there.”

What I say: “What would you like for lunch?”
What they hear: “Please tell me everything in the entire world that you do not like to eat, and make sure that you include everything that we actually have in the house and that you liked yesterday on that list. Oh, and why don’t you go ahead and throw an epic tantrum in there.”

What I say: “We’re going to the store to pick up a few things for dinner.”
What they hear: “We’re going to the store so you can run around like crazy people and beg me to buy you everything you see because even though we just had lunch I know how incredibly starving you are so a donut sounds like a great idea. Oh, and why don’t you go ahead and throw an epic tantrum in there.”

What I say: “Oh you look so cute, please hold still so I can get a picture.”
What they hear: “Immediately stop that cute thing you’re doing and make the most horrendous faces you can think of while wiggling and jumping around and looking everywhere but at the camera. Oh, and why don’t you go ahead and throw an epic tantrum in there.”

What I say: “The baby is sleeping, it’s quiet time.”
What they hear: “It’s time to get out all of the toys that make noise. And be sure to drop everything imaginable on the hardwood floors and slam all of the doors in the house. And yes, now is the perfect time to pretend you’re in a rock band. Oh, and why don’t you go ahead and throw an epic tantrum in there.”

What I say: “I’ll be right back, I need to go to the bathroom.”
What they hear: “Grab your food and all of your toys and come with me. I love having company in the bathroom. The more the merrier. Please also take this opportunity to ask me how it is you came out down there and unroll the entire roll of toilet paper. Oh, and why don’t you go ahead and throw an epic tantrum in there.”

What I say: “Quickly, please go get me a burp cloth from the closet.”
What they hear: “Please walk around the house at a snail’s pace looking in every possible closet but the one where we keep the burp cloths and then get distracted by a shiny object and never bring me anything because I like it when spit up seeps into the carpet and dries on my clothes. It makes for a nice aroma. Oh, and why don’t you go ahead and throw an epic tantrum in there.”

What I say: “Please play nicely.”
What they hear: “Yes, you two are mortal enemies and should treat each other as such. Everything in the house actually belongs to just you and no one else, so I completely understand why you’re screaming bloody murder and acting like that toy you haven’t played with in 4 months is your most prized possession. Oh, and why don’t you go ahead and throw an epic tantrum in there.”

What I say: “Let’s try to keep those new clothes clean.”
What they hear: “New clothes make the best play clothes. Yes, you should absolutely go paint me a picture and then go outside to search for worms in the mud. And if you can manage to get some ketchup and chocolate on them, that’d be just swell. Oh, and why don’t you go ahead and throw an epic tantrum in there.”

What I say: “Goodnight, sleep tight.”
What they hear: “It’s party time! After you throw all of your stuffed animals off your bed to make room for all of your jumping, please make sure you get out of bed no less than 5 times each to come and tell me that you are hot. Or cold. Or hungry. Or thirsty. Or have to go to the bathroom. Or that you hear a witch outside. Oh, and why don’t you go ahead and throw an epic tantrum in there.”