March 24, 2011

Emmy's Birth Story

Baby Emmy is here! She's been here for almost two weeks already, so that's no big announcement. I have so many things to say about how much of an impact she has already made on my world, and she is growing and changing so much every day that it seems like there is no way to capture it all in time.

I do want to tell the story of her birth here. It's not just because I need to rehash out all the details for myself. In fact, sometimes it is still difficult for me to talk about it with close friends without completely choking up and weeping. This story brings glory to God because it is the story of a miracle.

Emmy (short for Emmanuelle) started making her long journey into the world on Thursday night, March 10th. I woke up with full-on contractions, nothing like the tightening but painless Braxton-Hicks ones I had a few months earlier. Excited, I started walking through them and woke Anthony up around 1 a.m. to tell him that I was laboring. He moved out to the couch and we jibber-jabbered nervously off and on while he tried to sleep. Contractions continued and moved closer together, as close as 6 minutes apart. I called my ob's office the next morning to cancel our appointment for that day because "I was going to be in the hospital".

Skip to Sunday morning, March 13th. Wait, what? Did I miss a few days of action? Yes... and no. I labored through the whole weekend without dilating to more than 3 cm. All in all, I labored 56 hours at hospital triage, home, at the park, and through car rides. Both of our families were here by that time, so they counted the minutes as I sat on an exercise ball and breathed through each wave of pain. It made for some good laughs and I am still so thankful that they were all here to help and support us.

Anyway, Sunday morning, I hit contractions about 4 minutes apart. I had paced the house all night moaning like a cow (seriously! it was crazy!), and tried to sleep in between contractions, only to be shaken awake by my arms and legs spasming. Around 7 a.m., Anthony and I climbed into the (long-packed) truck and headed again for the hospital. I squeezed the grab handle in the truck and pressed my hands against the cloth ceiling with every coming contraction. Poor Anthony.

At the hospital, I was admitted and assigned the sweetest nurse. Although my intentions were to have an unmedicated birth, I requested an epidural. 56 hours took it out of me, and I didn't have the energy to labor for who knows how much longer it might have taken to fully dilate. I gladly took the epidural and Pitocin and was able to sleep for short stretches at a time. I must admit that I was very, very pretentious about the idea of an all-natural childbirth. I still think that it is probably the best way to go, but I just knew that I wouldn't need any help at all, thank you very much. Also, getting wheeled out of the hospital was not going to happen. Weak sauce. I was going to walk out with my baby in my handmade sling.

Ha. Haha.

The Pitocin helped me progress quickly, and around 5:00 p.m., the doctor had me start pushing. That part was actually really easy. Anthony held my hand and we breathed through it. I could feel Emmy descending and was elated that I would meet her soon. At 5:22 p.m., Emmy was born. My heart was racing as I saw her for the first time. In that moment, I was shocked to see her, the sweetheart that had grown inside of me for the past 40 weeks. This was the baby that I had prayed for, walked with, sung to, nourished and felt.

Then came the realization that all was not well. Emmy had been born with the cord wrapped tightly around her neck. She was completely limp and colorless. She was not breathing after suctioning, and we heard the nurse tell the delivery doctor that she had no heart rate. Time stopped for me and Anthony. We held hands and prayed silently and our eyes filled up with tears. Having known the pain of loss before, my heart screamed with the thought of losing her. With a team of nurses and the doctor working quickly and quietly with oxygen and chest compressions on our baby, I reached my hand toward the God of heaven and earth and asked for mercy.

Just as He breathed life into Adam and Eve, God breathed life into our Emmanuelle. After what had to be have been at least a full minute or two, she gave a cry and my heart burst. The doctor allowed me to touch her before they quickly took her to be put on steady oxygen, monitors and IVs. The next few hours were tense. She stabilized relatively quickly and was able to breathe on her own but remained hooked up to monitors for almost six hours. Anthony stayed close to her in the nursery, and wheeled me over to see her for a few minutes. It was disorienting and disconcerting to be separated from her, but I had a strong peace and sense of relief. Late that night, she was moved to our room, where I held and nursed her throughout the night.

We stayed in the hospital until Tuesday because of all the tests and lab results that she required. She passed them all and we left on a beautifully sunny afternoon. I was teary-eyed on the quiet ride home.

Sometimes at night when I am changing countless diapers or nursing, I thank God. When I am in pain from my (last-minute and necessary) episiotomy, I thank God. I thank Him for creating her, for sustaining her in my womb, and for showing mercy when we had only hope to hold to.

"Return to your rest, O my soul, for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you. For You have rescued my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling. I shall walk before the LORD in the land of the living." Psalm 116:7-9

March 3, 2011

The Home Stretch (Marks)

Our due date rolls around in just 5 days. Although I could go for another week or two after that, I do feel her coming on! Anthony is just as excited as I am, possibly more, and our bags are packed and waiting by the door.

I don't post status updates about my pregnancy on Facebook every five minutes (although it seems like things are happening every five minutes!), and neither have I been faithful to blog about the little milestones and miracles along this journey. If I were to be honest with myself, it's because I am afraid of being relegated to the mommy corner, the one where you only talk about cloth diapers, nursing schedules and what your baby has been doing lately. I want to talk about these things but am afraid of losing some type of sense of my own identity, one I think and hope to be more complex than just changing diapers.

This is my own poor perspective of motherhood (and my purpose when writing). I confessed my fears of being "mommy Melissa" to Anthony, and he kindly suggested that I should embrace the inclusion of my personal motherhood experiences in this blog. The conversation ended simply with him asking, "Well, that's what you are going to be, right? It's now part of who you are and you write about everything else". How simple and true! Just because I crave some sense of privacy and autonomy with my daily practices doesn't mean I have to live silently.

That said, here's a blog inside a blog: my list of random pregnancy observations.

1. Most of the cliches are true. Most of the pregnancy books' statements are true. It's still an incredible shock when they happen to you. I'm talking about you, stretch marks.

2. It is a rare moment when I forget I'm pregnant. I wake up thinking about her, and my body, from week 7, wouldn't let me do anything else but pay attention.

3. First trimester = 24/7 morning sickness and exaustion; second trimester = slight weight gain, energy for exercising and a real live baby bump; third trimester = man-sized appetite, a big ol' belly and crying for joy over the tiniest socks.

4. I am both more and less judgmental of parents now. More because I actually have an opinion about parenting things (immunizations, etc.), and less because I know how poorly I receive personal criticism and sometimes there's no need to discuss opinions if they're just that.

5. Pregnancy is a privilege. I am so thankful for my health and although there were very difficult days on my body, I have never been in need of food, health care or shelter. Often as I thought to (and did) complain about a sore back, bleeding gums or my love/hate relationship with tomatoes, I was reminded that many, many women would do anything to experience these things if they meant that they could bear a child. Small price for an undeserved blessing.

.... Hopefully my next post will have a picture of our whole out-of-the-womb family! Unless I get really antsy and decide to tackle some Middle East peace issues on here before then.