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


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My Husband Put a Ring on It, and then a Firefighter Cut if Off

Today’s post is actually something I wrote for my friend Michelle over at Miss Banana Pants a few months ago. But over the past few weeks, there have been some incidents that have left me needing a reminder about the lesson which prompted me to write the post in the first place. So, I figured it’d be a good time to re-read this and share it with you again. 

ring

So, this happened a few months ago:

broken ring

That is my wedding ring. And that is what it looked like after a fire fighter had to cut it off of my finger. There was no gnarly accident or trauma that required this happen. There was simply my own stupidity. Or stubbornness. We’ll go with stubbornness.

It all started about 7 months into my third pregnancy. My body started getting, how shall I say, extra puffy. It was summertime and I was retaining water like crazy. I was swelling up so badly that I had to remove my engagement and wedding rings. Not uncommon; I had to do it a few weeks before delivering my second, so I wasn’t surprised. And I assumed, just as with the first time, I’d have those puppies back on a week or so after having the baby. No biggie.

Fast forward to 8 months after having said baby, and those suckers still were not fitting on my finger. Every week or so I’d pull the rings out from my underwear drawer (because that is a good place to keep valuables) and try the get them back on. But nope. I was so perplexed. I weighed less than I did when I was able to get them back on after baby #2. What the heck?! Were my fingers just permanently obese after this third kid? Back in the drawer the rings went.

And then one day a few weeks later, I was feeling a little lighter around the fingers. Don’t ask me why, but I could just sense that my rings were going to fit that day. So I got them out, took a deep breath, and tried to get them on. And wouldn’t you know, my wedding band went on. It took just a little coaxing, but not much. “Phew! Finally,” I thought to myself. So then I went to get my engagement ring on. I should have stopped when I felt the initial resistance, but I was so determined to wear it again that I just kept pushing and twisting until it finally went on.

I realized almost immediately that I had just made a grave mistake. In no more than 30 seconds, my finger began to swell up all around my rings. Awww nuts! So down to the kitchen I went. Straight for the olive oil. I dumped nearly the whole bottle on my hand. And started twisting.

Nope. That wasn’t working. So I moved on to dish soap. I’d run my hand under frigid water for a few minutes, pour soap on it, and then twist. After about 45 minutes of this, and some extreme pain, I finally managed to free my engagement ring. Then it was on to my wedding band.

Nope again. After all of the trauma from getting my engagement ring off, my finger was so completely swollen that it looked like it might actually explode. And I started losing a little bit of feeling. So naturally, I started to panic.

After giving my finger a break and soaking it in an ice bath for like 30 minutes (that does not feel good, btw), I was back at it. And over the next few hours (yes, hours!), I tried everything I could think of or that I found on the internet to get that ring off my finger. Nothing was working.

I finally texted my husband at work to tell him what was going on and told him I thought I’d have to get my ring cut off. When he got home, he looked at my finger and agreed.

While searching the internet earlier in the day about how to remove rings from swollen fingers, I learned that most firehouses have the tools to cut them off. So I called our local firehouse to see, and sure enough, the guy I spoke with made it seem like they did that kind of stuff every day. “C’mon down,” he said. “We’ll take care of you.”

And so I went. It was around 8:30 at night, and instead of finding a quiet firehouse like I assumed I would, this night of all nights was a training night, so there were like 50 firefighters hanging around.

I was greeted by a friendly younger guy who said he’d have me outta there in 2 minutes. He already had the ring cutter tool ready and waiting. So he sat me down and went to work. And I’ll tell ya, the sound of metal on metal, the sound of my wedding band getting cut apart, made me cringe.

But you know what? I didn’t cry like I thought I would. In fact, looking back, I hadn’t cried once during the whole experience. And I’m a crier. Like big time. I cry at everything. The birth of my children, touching music, movies, commercials. EVERYTHING.

I shrugged it off and figured the waterworks would begin in the car on the way home when I was alone and didn’t have all of the firefighters staring at me. But no. I didn’t cry then, either. And I didn’t cry when I got home and showed my husband my ring, or anytime that night. Not even the next day. Or the next. My tears never came.

And then I realized why. Although my ring was a symbol of love between my husband and I—till death do us part and all of that—it was only a symbol. A thing. Never before had the words on this wall hanging that we’ve had since the very first place we ever lived together rang more true:

wall hanging

Our love itself…that, in fact, was not broken. All I had to do was look around to see it and the vows we took on our wedding day alive and well. In the home we made together. The children we made together. The life we made together. These are all shining examples of our love. And they are not broken. Far from it.

I may have lost a ring that day, but over the past 10 years, I have gained so much more. “Things” that truly are irreplaceable!

To see my original post — The Best Things in Life Aren’t Things — over on Miss Banana Pants, please click here

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15 Things I Really Dig About My Husband

My husband and I have known each other since middle school. (Yeah, we’re one of those couples.) When we first started “dating” (or “going with each other,” if I’m going to use accurate terminology from back in the day), we hardly knew each other. I knew he was cute and smart and played soccer. And shy. But not much else. Over the past 20 years, we’ve certainly learned a lot about each other.

And there are certainly a lot of reasons I love my husband. Like the givens — he’s kind, thoughtful, considerate, intelligent, romantic; not to mention he works hard to take care of our family, he’s an amazing father, and he just really gets me. He ain’t bad to look at either. But there are also a lot of things he does that solidify the fact that we both chose correctly in the game of life. And so I dedicate this post to sharing some of the things I really dig about my husband. Things that aren’t the givens. And really, this list is just scratching the surface.

David

In no particular order:

  1. He insists on bringing in all of the groceries from the car himself. And always in just one trip.
  2. He does all the driving.
  3. He’ll choose to drive the car with no ac and the cats for our 8+ hour road trip during our move so the kids and I can ride in comfort. Every single time.
  4. Every night he asks if I need anything before he goes up to bed as I stay up doing work (or blogging).
  5. He automatically assumed responsibility for the trash. And anything requiring muscle around the house.
  6. Even though he’s allergic to bees, he insists on being the one to go out and spray the hornets’ nest outside our back door.
  7. He takes the kids out to the park or on long drives when he knows I need some time alone.
  8. He knows I prefer fountain sodas to bottles or cans and always brings one home to me just when I need it.
  9. He always lets me have the last bite.
  10. He offered to give me his brand new phone and go back to his old phone when our 5 yo inadvertently dropped mine on the concrete and busted it all up.
  11. He can always, always make me laugh.
  12. He has never thought twice about having to switch sides of the bed every time we move so that I can sleep furthest from the door.
  13. Speaking of beds, he’s accepted the fact that I need to sleep with pretty much all of the pillows. And blankets.
  14. He always walks on the outside of the street closest to the oncoming traffic.
  15. When we’re out and about without adequate stroller coverage, he will carry the big kids when they get tired — both of them — all around however long we’re out and about.

Love you, babe! TTM&S. Forever.


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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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Some Things I Learned During Our Move from CT to VA

So, we moved. And I’m sure you’re tired of hearing me whine about it. So I won’t anymore. But I do want to share some things I learned in case they prove useful to anyone planning a move soon.

moving lessons

  1. Do whatever you have to do to get whatever amount of money you need to hire people to do the whole move for you. Your back and sanity will thank you.
  2. Related: To be safe, double whatever estimate the moving company gives you.
  3. Stock up on those big-ass, heavy-duty black contractor bags. Because no matter how much you do before M-Day (that’d be Moving Day), it’s never enough. You will no doubt be “packing” all sorts of crap in those big contractor bags by the end of the day. And if you’re diligent, they won’t get mistaken for trash bags.
  4. Call in all of your favors with relatives and friends to get your kids out of the house during the actual move. (And if you have amazing parents like mine, perhaps they’ll drive up to CT from VA for the sole purpose of driving your two oldest kids back down to VA and keeping them at their house for a few days!)
  5. If you’re going to lock yourself out of house 30 minutes before the movers are due to arrive, make sure you have your baby with you and that your husband is only halfway to the dump when you call him to come let you back in the house.
  6. Try to plan a nice last meal at the house you’re leaving. We kept ours classy by pairing Chinese food with champagne out of plastic cups.
  7. Keep an air mattress, pillows, and blankets handy in case you unexpectedly have to stay an extra night in the house you’re leaving.
  8. When choosing which car to drive the 8+ hours it will take to get to your new house, ensure your husband picks the car with no a/c. And the cats.
  9. If you don’t like country music, you might want to go ahead and give it a try. No matter where you’re driving, there always seems to be a country station to listen to.
  10. You may want to avoid New Jersey until the cicadas make their way back underground. The entire cicada population seems to have descended on the Garden State.
  11. There is a city in Pennsylvania called Shartlesville. C’mon, that might be the best piece of useless information you learn all day.
  12. Apparently I look old enough to be called ma’am. By everyone.
  13. It gets really dark when you live someplace with no outside street or other background lights. Like you’d probably want to buy stock in nightlights.
  14. Leave yourself 5-100 days for Comcast to get your order correct. And your service actually up and running.
  15. Move to a state like VA where even after eating crap food on your road trip and crap food the whole first week in your new house you still end up 2 lbs down. Must be the altitude difference or something. I don’t really care. I’m going with it.
  16. Prepare for the inevitability of losing your keys among the bags and boxes that will overtake your new house, and go ahead and have at least 12 spares made.
  17. Ensure you live near a Super Walmart or the like since you will spend most of your waking hours there the first few days.
  18. Speaking of waking hours, there will be many. Between trying to get everything done and your kids going bonkers (see #19 below), you’ll long for the days of sleeping in and lazy afternoon naps.
  19. Your kids will, more than likely, go batshit crazy the first week or so from all of the changes. (Actual duration: yet to be determined.) Keep some popsicles and lollipops on hand for them, and some beer or wine (or something even harder if that’s what it takes) for you.
  20. Perhaps most important, make sure your kids have their clothes on before going out to meet the neighbors.


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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.