The Days Before Elijah

Ever since Lydia was born, I have enjoyed hearing others’ birth stories. Some are encouraging, inspiring, or at times, intimidating, but all have been useful in preparing me for another birth. So this is Elijah’s birth story. Here’s my disclaimer: this is going to be long (for the most part) unedited. If you don’t enjoy hearing lots of medical sorts of details, this post may not be for you.

Since my last update was way back in October, I’ll have to back up a little before I actually tell Elijah’s birth story.

I had been having contractions off and on starting at about 30 weeks. So, for several weeks I was constantly on my toes thinking, “Is Baby going to come today?” However, I had had contractions off and on for a couple weeks with Paul and we didn’t want to put everything on hold just because I was having a few contractions that might be nothing. So I took it easy when I could, but we kept enjoying fall and preparing for Baby. We went apple picking, took the kids to a cider mill, bought pumpkins, and watched some world series games at Dan’s parents’ home.

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We got our car seat, packed the hospital bag, and set up the bassinet. One by one we were checking items off our “to-do before Baby” lists. I even had a verse picked out that I thought I would be using a lot to get through labor:

Psalms 28:7
The LORD is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exalts, and with my song I give thanks to him.

The one last project we wanted to finish before Baby came was repairing our shed. The shed in our back yard was a mess: dirty and rotting. Early in November, Dan started repairing it, knowing that once Baby and/or Thanksgiving hit, we’d be busy and it would get too cold to work on it anymore. We really wanted it done so we could clear out some space in the garage to park the car this winter.

Just before I hit 35 weeks, I woke up one night with pain in my belly. It was, I think, pain from stretching, and I had experience the same sensation about a week before Paul was born. I knew our time was running out, even though I hadn’t hit 35 weeks yet. I got up and headed downstairs where I could try to relax on our exercise ball until the pain would go away. As I leaned on the ball, I started to worry about Baby.

When was the last time I felt him kick?

I couldn’t remember feeling any movement all day.

What if he didn’t have enough amniotic fluid?

What if the umbilical cord was knotted or compressed?

Before long I was a basket case of worry and could hardly think clearly enough to pray. But I did pray and as I did, I felt led to read my labor verse, and the rest of the chapter. (If you want you can go read Psalms 28. It’s not too long). What stood out to me as I read it that night was that God had heard the cry of the Psalmist:

“He has heard the voice of my pleas for mercy….The LORD…is the saving refuge of his anointed…Be their shepherd and carry them forever.”

I felt assured in my heart that God had heard my prayers and that Baby was going to be safe. I gratefully turned off the lights and went back to bed. As I lay down to go back to sleep, I felt Baby kick and I fell asleep with a song in my heart.

The next week Dan attacked that shed with all his energy. But, on Monday morning (the day I reached 35 weeks, and the day Paul was born) I could feel pressure from the stitches in the cervix pulling.

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Tuesday I had an appointment and my doctor told me the cervix had shortened right up to the stitches and that I should come in if I had any more strong contractions. In that case, he would remove the stitches to prevent their tearing as the cervix tried to dilate.

The rest of the week was a race to finish the shed. Meanwhile, I didn’t have any strong contractions, but I had very steady weak contractions. I was in a dilemma about whether to go in, knowing that they would probably remove the stitches and Baby would probably be born. I was trying to wait for Dan to finish the shed, and trying to give Baby just a few more days. We started to pray that it would be clear when we needed to go in, that something would be an obvious sign that it was time to get the stitches out, or that my water would break like it had with all my other babies. The stitches were pulling more and more and the contractions kept coming.

Friday night, we took the kids out to eat (a reward for Lydia when she learned another Bible verse) and Dan and I chatted about what to do. He had finished the roof on the shed, but still had a lot more work to do. I was worried about the stitches. Dan kept assuring me that he wanted me to go in when I felt like I needed to, but I just didn’t know if I needed to or if I was being anxious for nothing. We prayerfully decided to try to wait until Monday morning (36 weeks), then call my doctor and ask if we should just get the stitches out. Dan even planned on taking the day off work so he could be there for whatever happened.

Saturday was a hard day for me. I was trying to stay off my feet, but I was also watching the kids while Dan and his Dad attacked that shed some more. The day was long. The hours dragged by, but Dan made really good progress and we both felt satisfied that night. Dan had finally knocked the bulk of the work off the shed and I only had to make it 36 more hours before calling the doctor.

Dan was exhausted from working out in the cold all day, and I was eager to get to bed just so it would be the next day, so we prayed again for Baby and for a clear sign if we needed to go in earlier than Monday, and then we went to sleep.

At 3:15 I woke up on my feet, running to the bathroom. I was still only half awake when I got there and it took me a minute to evaluate whether I had just wet the bed or if my water broke. This is the third time my water broke while I was sleeping, so it didn’t take me long to realize that was what had happened. I felt overjoyed that God had answered our prayers again by giving us an obvious sign to go to the hospital before Monday morning, and also that Dan had just barely made all that progress on the shed.

Because it was the middle of the night and I knew Dan would be exhausted, I waddled downstairs to make him some coffee for the long night ahead. At 3:30 I woke him up, “Dan…my water broke.” He got up pretty quick, despite how tired he was, and started making calls to find a babysitter. The first two people on our list didn’t work out, but the third had just called me that afternoon to remind us that she could watch our kids whenever I went into labor. It was so neat how God worked that out so we felt it was ok to call her even in the middle of the night. After we called, she told us that she had woken up at 3:30 and was just wide awake thinking, “I wonder why I’m so awake!” Just a few minutes later she got our call.

By 4:00 we were in the car, on the way to the hospital. Soon we were in triage, where the hospital doctor on call and the resident sat down to remove the stitches that had been bothering me all week, but that had done a good job keeping Baby in for a new record: 35 weeks and 6 days.

To be continued…

Paul’s Birth Story

Ever since Lydia was born, I have enjoyed hearing others’ birth stories. Some are encouraging, inspiring, or at times, intimidating, but all have been useful in preparing me for another birth. So this is Paul’s birth story. Here’s my disclaimer: this is going to be long (for the most part) unedited. If you don’t enjoy hearing lots of medical sorts of details, this post may not be for you.

To understand the full impact of this story, it may be helpful to read (or reread) this post from a year and a half ago. I recently went back and read it and was so surprised at how similar the beginning is to Paul’s story. God is so kind.

Monday Morning

Monday (March 16) started off in a pretty routine way. We woke up, ate breakfast, and Dan went out to the garage to exercise. While he was out, I snapped this picture, my 35 week photo. I never thought I could make it to 35 weeks and we were thrilled to get this far. In fact, when Abby was born my doctor told me I would probably never go past 32 weeks. Our current doctor told us a 35 weeker is usually a “take home baby” and we were thankful for even a chance to bring Baby home without spending time in the NICU.

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We were running low on leftovers so we had a pretty small lunch. I had just a peanut butter, banana sandwich, figuring I would grab a more substantial snack after my nap and dinner-time would come soon enough. After lunch, one of the girls from our church came over for a couple of hours to clean our floors and play with the kids outside, since I have been unable to do those things for a while now. They stayed out extra late and didn’t come in and get settled down for naps until after 2:00.

I was chatting with Dan (who happened to be home that day) while he washed dishes. “Aren’t you going to go take a nap?”, he asked me. I told him I was headed that way, just wanted to print off a couple of things from the computer. I had spent the morning tidying up our kitchen from the months I’ve spent “taking it easy”, and I had just finished and wanted to move our printer upstairs so the counter would be clear. I printed my documents and was just looking through them when I felt a big gush.

Just a second later I felt another gush, and then a third. My water had broke, and it took a moment to realize what was happening. I hesitantly tried to get Dan’s attention while he worked away at a particularly dirty pot. As soon as he knew what was going on he sprang into action, gathering items for the hospital, calling our babysitters, getting the girls up from their short nap. I was all but helpless because I was leaking so much fluid and I didn’t want to move around and risk speeding up the coming labor.

After half an hour, what seemed like a very long half hour, we were in the car on our way to the babysitters, and then the hospital. Contractions had started but they weren’t coming in any predictable pattern yet, they just hurt.

3:45 PM

By 3:45 the contractions were coming more regularly and we were in the waiting room of the family birth center. I was excited, restless, and nervous, so we just stood in the waiting room holding hands and waiting to be called in. A nurse came and got us settled in our triage room, where we spent the next two hours.

I was amazed at how peaceful everything was. In the past our room has been full of medical staff poking and prodding me in a million ways. This time there was just one midwife entering my data on the computer and hooking me up to be monitored for the next 20 minutes (which turned out to be two hours). This was the first time I got to see a graph of a baby’s heartbeat and my contractions during labor. It was almost fun, watching the coming contraction and then seeing how far apart they were (3 minutes) and how long they were lasting (1 1/2 to 2 minutes). I thought to ask Dan to take a picture but by the time he got the camera ready I was right in the middle of a contraction. We took the picture anyway.

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We gave the midwife a copy of my birth plan, which was as simple as I could keep it while still being meaningful:

-Please direct any possible questions to Dan.
-Unless it becomes medically necessary I would like not to have an IV.
-I would like to have as natural of a delivery as possible.
-If at all possible, I would like to hold the baby immediately after delivery.

The midwife informed us that at 4:00 our doctor had started a c-section and we would have to wait at least half an hour before he could come do anything.

Now, back at 16 weeks, I had a surgery to put stitches in the cervix, adding support that would hopefully enable things to stretch and Baby to stay put longer. My fear during our time in triage was that I would dilate too quickly and the stitches would tear. So we waited and prayed and watched my contractions on the graph. Dan named the unitless graph, the “Graph of Awesomness” and let me know when my “awesomeness” was “off the charts”.

By 5:00 I was starting to feel the stitches pulling and we kept waiting to hear some word from our doctor. A very sweet resident came in and chatted with us for a while. She did an ultrasound to check that Baby was head-down, and she told us that she could remove the stitches if our doctor took too long.

5:30 PM

Our doctor rushed in around 5:30 and sat down with the resident immediately to start taking out the stitches. The procedure took longer and hurt more than I was anticipating. Dan held one arm while a nurse held the other and both kept streams of encouragement coming as I scrunched up my face and braced myself through each painful poke. Finally the stitches came out and I was able to get up and walk to our labor and delivery room. Much to my dismay, I was only dilated to 1 1/2.

As we walked to the room where Baby would hopefully be born, I drilled our nurse with questions about 35 weekers. Would I get to hold the Baby? Would I be able to have a “normal” delivery? She told me that Baby had to be a certain weight (4 pounds, 9 ounces?) to stay in our room. The resident had predicted Baby was probably 6 – 6 1/2 pounds, so that was encouraging. I could have a normal delivery in a normal labor and delivery room, but there would have to be a special team present to evaluate Baby and decide if s/he needed to be taken to the NICU.

6:30

When we got to our room a new nurse took over and chatted with us for a long time. I was leaning against the bed waiting for her to finish so I could try to get into some sort of more comfortable position. She kept offering me all sorts of natural pain relief methods: bean bags, birthing balls, the shower, heating pads…I was overwhelmed and just wanted her to leave. I knew it would help to move around but I could hardly bring myself to do that, so I asked for the birthing ball, figuring I’d been using it over the past couple of weeks and maybe I would have some idea what to do with it.

During the entire labor I had Philippians 4:13 playing in my head to a tune I learned when I was a kid:

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. I can do. All things through. Christ who strengthens me. Christ who strengthens me.

Because this was going to be a VBAC, I had to be hooked up to the monitor continuously and I had to have a hep lock so I could be hooked up to an IV quickly if that became necessary. I asked for some water, determined to stay hydrated and avoid that IV. I was feeling the contractions almost entirely in my back and legs, so the nurse showed me how I could sit on the ball and lean forward on the bed to help with the back labor. Dan was a champ and started massaging my lower back. When the contractions became more intense he would press hard on my back, which helped significantly with the pain. Then in between contractions it was back to massaging. As soon as a contraction would end I would whisper, “Water” and Dan would grab my ice water and hold it for me to take a sip, then I would relax for about thirty seconds before another contraction came.

7:30 PM

There was a shift change and our new nurse came in and brought a heading pad for my back. Dan and I were in our groove now, but wondering how long labor would last. We were spoiled with Lydia and the entire labor was 8 hours. I was starving, but couldn’t bear to eat anything, and Dan was hungry too. Those pb sandwiches were not holding us over very well. Occasionally we would discuss the likelihood that Baby would be born early enough for Dan to run out and get us some Qdoba.

When Lydia was born I didn’t make a sound until very close to her actual delivery. So when I started moaning through the contractions we thought for sure we must be close. We kept waiting for the signs of transition. Dan was sure I would throw up, and I kept waiting for that moment when I would feel the urge to push. Time seemed to be moving so slowly. I know, it’s kind of pathetic when others have labors that last days, but like I said, we’ve been spoiled.

8:00 PM

I’m guessing on the times here, because I was to absorbed in labor to pay much attention to the clock. I would occasionally check it to guess at the likelihood of Qdoba though. I was so hungry. Dan kept asking if I was going to throw up and if I felt pressure. Both the nurse and Dan could tell by my behavior that the contractions were getting really intense, but I still didn’t feel any urge to push.

The pain reached a new level and I started standing up for the contractions, leaning forward on the bed. Afterward I would collapse back onto the ball and dread the next one. The pain was so intense I bit my tongue to resist yelling out, “God, help me”, and I was silently praying all along. Although I was fully aware of the things happening all around, I couldn’t respond to them. When Dan asked me questions I didn’t respond. When he tried doing something different, like rubbing my back higher up, it was all I could do to grab his arms and move them back down. I kept looking back at the contraction chart to see how much time I had before another one came. I guess at this point, I was in transition.

The nurse and Dan made the call that it was time to check me, something I had been avoiding because I was terrified I would only be dilated to 4. But I did what they told me, hoping for some encouraging news. I climbed on the bed and a resident came in. I was dilate to 8, fully effaced, and Baby was at station zero. He said there was a little bit of the cervix over Baby’s head.

The nurse suggested that if I roll on my side and try another position, it might be enough to pull the cervix away from Baby and speed things up a little. I was all to happy to oblige. I think it was two contractions later when the nurse panicked a little because she saw Baby’s head.

She hit an “emergency staff” button and a team of doctors, residents, nurses, and pediatricians came storming into the room “like a SWAT team” (said Dan). I didn’t know if I was supposed to be pushing or not, so I didn’t try to push, but I didn’t fight it either. But it became pretty apparent to us all that Baby was coming whether or not I was “supposed” to be pushing.

Our doctor told us his part of the story later. Normally if he has a patient dilated to 1 1/2 at 5:00 in the evening, he doesn’t stick around. He knew my history with Lydia’s speedy labor so he grabbed some dinner at the hospital and was just sitting down to read a book when he got the page. He came walking to my room, not aware of how quickly things had been progressing. As he walked into my room, he saw Baby’s head.

I asked Dan later how long I was pushing. “Three minutes” was his guess. The nurse said I pushed through two contractions. I remember pushing the head out and hearing the nurse suggest I curl up to feel the head. Not a chance. I was just going to get that baby out. I pushed once more and was surprised that Baby wasn’t coming. The head was out, after all. It turns out Baby came down so fast and hard that he didn’t have time to straighten out. Dan says his knees were still curled up to his chest when he was born.

Then it was all over. Just like that. Baby was placed on my stomach and Dan cut the cord. Somebody said, “You have a little boy.” We were shocked. Both of us had convinced ourselves Baby was a girl. The pediatricians took Baby to the warmer and started their evaluations with lots of exclamations about how bruised his face and feet were from the delivery.

The doctor and resident began stitching up some second degree tears, a process that took half an hour and was miserable for me. I had an episiotomy with Lydia and this time I tore in the same spot, where the skin was still weak. Sadly, as soon as Baby was ready to be held, I couldn’t hold him. I was in too much pain as they stitched me. So they kept him on the warmer and waited for my stitches to be complete.

I remember looking over at the bed, thrilled to have a little boy this time, and thinking, “He’s a Paul.” We had discussed a few baby names but hadn’t picked one out yet. When they handed him back to me, Dan said, “I kind of like the name Paul.” And his name was chosen.

Then I got to hold him. This was a moment I’ve wanted since Lydia was born. I’ve prayed for it more times than I could count. I almost cried just thinking about the possibility as we got further along in the pregnancy. And God made it happen. It was so happy.

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Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

We could have made it to Qdoba but it just felt wrong to have Dan leave me or Paul that soon after birth. So we just waited. I had brought some energy bites, made and frozen long ago, and they were lifesavers in those hours following birth. Much better than the hospital’s jello or popsicles.

11:15 PM

When our two hours in recovery were over, the nurse helped me to a wheel chair. I got the much loved heated blanket and the even more loved swaddled Baby and they wheeled me to the Mother-Baby Unit. As we rolled along, and I marveled at the birth story we got to have this time, the hospital played a little lullaby announcing Paul’s birth.

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He was perfect. Twice the size of Abigail at her birth. Much older than Abby or Lydia. Able to eat and breath on his own. And he had hair.

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Changes: 27 Week Pregnancy Update

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Anyone like me enjoys seeing the numbers, so here are the latest countdowns.

6 days until I reach the 28 week milestone.
10 days until I reach the gestation when Abby was born.
26 days until I reach the gestation when Lydia was born.
34 days until I reach my 32 week goal.

Every day counts.

Friday I had another prenatal appointment, and it was the one we have been expecting and sort of dreading.

First of all, the resident who started my appointment measured my belly at 32 centimeters, which would put me at 32 weeks. As much as I would love to be at 32 weeks, I was only 26 and 4, so she decided to let our doctor remeasure me and she went on with the ultrasound.

While I lay on my back for the ultrasound I started to feel sick, really sick and really fast. I tried to just wait it out, but the resident was having trouble finding what she needed and I eventually had to ask to sit up for fear that I might faint if I waited any longer. (This is a normal part of pregnancy and occurs in about 20% of pregnant women. This is also why pregnant women are told to sleep on their sides, not their backs)

A few minutes later our doctor came in and remeasured the belly, but still measured me at 31 cm. It must have been the way Baby was positioned so he decided to double check with the ultrasound machine and measure Baby’s belly. This time he propped me up on a pillow on my side, which helped a little. He worked quickly and took a rough measurement of Baby’s belly measuring at a whopping 28 weeks. So it looks like Baby is bigger than Lydia and Abigail were (they were both very average). Some more ultrasound images showed that my body is indeed preparing for labor. We observed the same changes with Abigail and she was born five days later. This time, we’ve taken extra precautions, so we just have to wait and see if Baby 3 follows in Abby’s footsteps or gives us a little more time.

Since the appointment, I have been trying to stay off my feet as much as possible. No one really knows if this will make any difference, but it’s all we can do at this point. Dan has taken over washing dishes, putting away laundry, giving baths, cleaning, getting the girls up in the morning and ready for bed at night, and cooking on weekends. He’s considering asking to work from home more so he can help when it’s time to carry Abby upstairs or cook dinner. In fact, we’ve optimized our routine to such an extent that I’m only walking up the stairs once or twice a day.

Every night I go to bed half expecting to wake up at midnight in labor. Every little ache and pain puts us on the alert, paying careful attention to decide, could this be it? Baby could come today. Baby could come in a month. All we can do is wait and pray.

A lot of people have been asking the question: Is it safe yet? My honest answer to that question is this: 37 weeks is considered full term. Even a term baby is born with risks, but anything earlier than 37 weeks is indeed preterm and that’s just not great. Of course, we aren’t expecting to get that far, so maybe these numbers are more helpful: about 90% of babies born at 27 weeks survive the first year. Twenty eight weeks is a significant milestone when babies do remarkably better, spend less time in the NICU, and have a decreased risk for preemie-related problems. About every two weeks mark another similar milestone.

We’d love to make it another week. We’d love to make it past Abigail’s gestation or Lydia’s. And I would be thrilled to make it to 32 weeks. Right now we are just doing the best we can with the knowledge we have, hoping, praying, and trusting that God’s plan and timing are best.

Abigail’s Birth Story

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Ever since Lydia was born two years ago, I have enjoyed hearing others’ birth stories. Some are encouraging, inspiring, or at times, intimidating, but all have been useful in preparing me for another birth. So now, I’m going to take my own turn to share Abby’s birth story. So here is my disclaimer: this is going to be long (for the most part) unedited. If you don’t enjoy hearing lots of medical sorts of details, this post may not be for you.

The weekend of September 6-8, God began to prepare us for Abby’s birth. I originally had scheduled my next prenatal appointment for September 11th, which turned out to be Abby’s birthday. However, the week before she was born I suspected that I had developed an infection and we scheduled a quick appointment for Friday, September 6. The infection turned out to be nothing serious, and nothing that would affect Baby. During the appointment, our midwife decided to go ahead with the normal prenatal care instead of waiting until the next Wednesday. Because Lydia was born early, the doctors had been periodically doing ultrasounds to measure the length of the cervix. A shortening cervix is an indication that labor could start soon. All of our previous measurements had been around 4.5 cm, but this time it was only 2.5 cm. While still within the range of normal, Dan and I were concerned at such a large change in just a few weeks. Our midwife wasn’t concerned, so we scheduled the next visit to take place in two weeks, and headed home.

On our drive home, Dan and I discussed the unusual change in length. I decided to research it a little bit, but couldn’t find anything conclusive. I sent out messages to friends and family asking for prayer. Dan and I started to wonder if perhaps Baby would surprise us by coming early…again. On Saturday, Dan and I decided to take our belated anniversary date in fear that it might be our last chance before Baby was born (and we were right!). Sunday I had a long talk with a friend at church who happens to be a midwife. After hearing the details of my situation, she also was concerned and recommended I try to stay off my feet as much as possible.

Also during the weekend, a couple different families offered to watch Lydia, should I go in to early labor. Everything was falling into place so that if Baby came, we were ready (as ready as we could be).

The next few days I stayed off my feet as much as I could. Dan took over all of my chores and I made a little calendar countdown to 36 weeks, my goal for Baby 2. We decided that each Saturday we made it without having Baby, we would reward ourselves with a treat. Still, we kept talking about how we were mentally preparing for Baby to come.

Dan and I were hoping for another natural delivery with this baby, and I was reading up on all that goes on during labor, ways to handle the contractions, and how Dad can be a good coach. Dan doesn’t do well with medical things so I was taking notes to make him a little cheat sheet with the things I felt he should know and the different ways he could be helping me. Tuesday night, I stayed up late reading over some of this material, taking lots of notes. In fact, I stayed up far later than I should have, and it was close to midnight before I was ready for bed.

Tuesday had been a strange day for me. I wasn’t sure if it was just the strangeness of staying off my feet for a few days in a row, or something else. I had started taking two naps a day, and during my afternoon nap I felt Baby moving like crazy and in positions I hadn’t felt her in before. In the evening we decided to run to the grocery store as the rest of our week was looking pretty busy. I went along for the ride, but stayed in the car while Dan and Lydia went in. Dan came out with some “extras” that hadn’t been on my list: a beautiful bouquet of flowers for me, some tasty snack food, and a frozen dessert treat, which we were calling the treat for the coming Saturday, assuming Baby wasn’t born yet. Then we had gone home, tucked in Lydia, and stayed up late reading. I couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t quite “right”, so after I got ready for bed, I stayed up for about 10 minutes reading about the signs of labor, trying to find some correlation to the strangeness I had been feeling all day. I couldn’t find anything definitive, so when Dan came in, we prayed together and then I went to sleep.

12:00 AM, September 11
Ten minutes later, I felt a huge gush of liquid and realized with dread that my water had broken. For a moment I wondered if I could have just wet the bed, but I got up and ran to the bathroom. By the time I was fully awake I knew Baby was coming and I burst into tears. Scared and shaking and wishing this wasn’t happening I yelled for Dan. He came toward the bathroom asking what was wrong and I told him: “My water just broke!”

I was losing amniotic fluid like crazy, so I just stayed in the bathroom, giving Dan instructions on what to pack for me and asking him, “What are we going to do with Lydia?” I was trying to keep it together, but I kept thinking about months in the NICU, this time with a toddler… “I can’t do this”. Dan called my midwife friend, who happened to be awake. She agreed to come over with her baby and stay with Lydia so we wouldn’t have to wake Lydia up and take her somewhere.

During the phone call, Dan asked which hospital we should go to. There was a hospital just minutes from our house in Plymouth or the one in Ypsilanti where Lydia was born and we were preregistered, but that one was 30 minutes away (I had just preregistered on Monday). No one was really sure but our friends advised us to go to the hospital we knew the best, so soon we were in the car on our way to Ypsi. Later we found out that the hospital near our house in Plymouth has no NICU and doesn’t know what to do with babies. Had Abby been born there, she probably wouldn’t not have survived. In the best case scenario, they would have put me in an ambulance and sent me to the Ypsi hospital anyway.

During the drive Dan prayed for me and Baby, and for Lydia as well. I took half the drive to tell Dan all the things I wanted him to know about labor, because we were pretty sure Baby was going to be born by morning. I told him some things like, “Answer as many questions for me as you can, especially if I’m in the middle of a contraction”, “If they ask about pain medicine, let me answer first and then if they keep bugging me, just keep telling them what I want. That way they won’t get mad at you”, and “Most importantly, just don’t leave me. Stay as close to me as you can. I like you more than them!” (During Lydia’s birth the doctors pushed Dan out of the way and he could only reach out sometimes and hold my foot. I was not a fan of that situation.)

Once I had filled Dan in, I told him that I was freaking out.  I knew that wasn’t going to help anything. So we decided to sing a song. We sang “Before the Throne of God Above” and then spent the rest of the drive praying some more. Suddenly we were at the hospital, but we couldn’t remember where to go! We made a couple of wrong turns and then Dan got me to the right drop off place. I told him to park the car and run in. I wanted to be dropped off, but I didn’t want to go in alone.

When he dropped me off, the security guard asked if she could help me. I stood there awkwardly for a moment trying to figure out what to say, “Uh…my water broke…and I’m only 28 weeks along…and I don’t remember where to go.” She grabbed a wheelchair and looked toward the parking lot. “Is he fast?”, she asked me. “Yes,” I assured her, “I told him to run”. Dan had caught up to us by the time we were at the elevator and he was soon holding my hand again. Apparently I like him to hold my hand non-stop during labor and delivery.

1:00 AM
At triage I had to fill out and sign a few forms. I was flustered, trying to get in as fast as possible. Dan, annoyed at the delay, asked if we could hurry things along. “She’s only 28 weeks!” The nurses assured us they were going as fast as they could. Over the next couple of hours Dan and I just wanted them to give me the shot of bethatmethatsone, which is a steroid that helps early baby’s lungs…if it has enough time to get into their system. We suspected, from Lydia’s birth, that they would not be able to stop labor, and that our time was extremely limited.

By this time contractions had started and I was battling the physical pain along with the emotional trauma of imagining the next few months of living in tbe NICU. After all of our hoping, praying, extra prenatal care, and precautions, Baby was still coming early in a scenario that was eerily similar to Lydia’s birth. I was devastated, but trying not to dwell on the next months as I knew I needed to be emotionally strong and mentally focused to make it through the next hours.

Soon I was in a triage room and the doctor had wheeled in an ultrasound machine. “She’s breech”. Another blow. On Friday she had been head down. I looked and Dan and told him, “She must have been flipping during my nap. That’s why it felt so strange.” That stinker. The doctor went on to poke and prod me in lots of unpleasant and painful ways. Dan was my hero, when she kept asking, “How are you doing?” I kept squeezing his hand and he answered for me, “She’s hurting a lot.” Finally the doctor got what she needed and made a rough estimate that I was dilated to 1 cm. Then I was wheeled into a labor and delivery room.

1:30 AM
By this point my contractions were about 3 minutes apart and were lasting about 45 seconds. I was able to focus on the clock or the cross on the wall and take deep breaths, and it wasn’t too bad. Occasionally a doctor or nurse would comment on how “stoic” I was, that they couldn’t tell how much pain I was in. We met two more nurses who started hooking me up to antibiotics and fluids through an IV. The antibiotics were to protect Baby in case labor had been triggered by an infection. Then they told me I would have to be on magnesium and they would be giving me the bethatmethatsone shot soon.

I have been dreading the bethatmethatsone shot since I got it with Lydia. When Dan saw the nurse preparing the shot, he told me he understood why. Apparently it is a very thick liquid which makes it hurt a lot as it enters the muscle. I was so nervous for the shot, I kept flinching and couldn’t relax. In the end it wasn’t quite as terrible as I had dreaded. It hurts, and it takes a while to inject it all, but I just lay on my side moaning into my pillow and soon enough it was over and I was just a little sore.

Then it was time for the magnesium. Magnesium, some suppose, may help stop labor. More than that, it protects Baby’s brain and decreases their risk of getting Cerebral Palsy. Magnesium.  Everyone who mentioned it apologized and told me how terrible it is. It only took a few moments before I felt the effects. You suddenly get very hot. You feel like you’re in a fog and everything is slow and groggy. You start sweating like crazy and your body feels heavy. And while the nurses and your husband put cold wash cloths on your head you try to think clearly and ask how long the magnesium will last. Twelve to twenty-four hours. And on top of that, you’re still sore from the shot. You’re still having contractions which are getting more intense. And you’re still trying not to think about everything that’s in store for the next months with a preemie in the NICU. You’re devastated that this is happening again. And then the doctor comes in to tell you that you have to have a c-section.

Because Baby’s head would be so big in comparison to her tiny preemie body, there was a danger that the head would get stuck on the way out, and all of that trauma would go to her fragile neck.  The doctor went on to explain the difference between a classical and transverse caesarean section. A classical c-section uses a vertical incision to get to Baby and is reserved for deliveries with complications or that need to be done very quickly. Many women are able to have natural vaginal deliveries after a c-section, but not after a classical c-section. Once you have a classical c-section, there’s no going back.  No more natural deliveries.  There’s too much risk of the incision reopening during delivery.  The doctor explained that, because Baby was breach and so early, a natural delivery was not possible. And based on Baby’s specific position, it looked like we would need to do a classical c-section.

Dan asked if there was any other option, besides the classical c-section, but the doctor wasn’t optimistic. As I lay there with my contractions and my magnesium, and my disappointment that Baby was coming early, the doctor began to explain all of the risks of a c-section. I know she had to do that for legal reasons, but it was a bit ridiculous given the circumstances. When she finished talking I managed, through my haze, to inform her that Lydia’s labor was extremely fast. “If you’re going to do a c-section, I’m guessing you want to do it before it’s time for me to push baby out, right?” She agreed. Dan and I warned her that they better check me often, because with Lydia no one knew I was really in labor until it was time to push.

2:30 AM
The doctors gave me instructions to call them immediately if I felt pressure of if the contractions began to get more intense. Multiple times they urged me to tell them what I was feeling because I was so “stoic” that they couldn’t tell how much pain I was in. They asked if I wanted a NICU representative to come in and tell me what’s involved in having a 28 week old baby and I said “definitely not”. That was the last thing I needed to be thinking about right then. They had checked me and confirmed that I was only dilated to 1 cm, then left me to labor away.

Once they left, I lost it. I couldn’t stop crying. I kept thinking and telling Dan, “Some women just have to go through labor! I have to go through labor pinned to a bed with painful exams, shots, and magnesium, the devastation of failing to get to term, the dread of the coming months, the disappointment of having a to have a c-section even though Baby was head down a few days ago, and now the probability that I could never have a natural delivery again”.  I think the nurses picked up on my wanting to be left alone, so they didn’t bother us much at that point. Over and over again throughout the labor, Dan had been helping me so much. This was another one of those moments. He began to sing to me “Jesus, all for Jesus” (one of our wedding songs and a family favorite) as he put wet wash cloths on my head. He assured me that things were going to be ok, that God was in control even over this, and that I was doing a good job. I still couldn’t stop crying, but was grateful for my wonderful husband.

I don’t know how long we were left alone. When the nurses came in and saw that I was crying they asked why, wondering if it was from the pain of the contractions. “Everything”, was all I could say.  I was overwhelmed by it all.

3:00 AM
It wasn’t long before my contractions did start to feel more intense. I reluctantly called in the doctors and they decided to check me. Now I was dilated to 2 cm and they took some time to decide what to do. At this point, my doctor had showed up and was calling the shots. She said, while we could wait until I was dilated as far as 4 cm, it was getting risky because we didn’t want Baby to “fall out” and get stuck. We also didn’t want the c-section to be rushed.  On the other hand, laboring longer gave time for the steroid and magnesium to work. It also gave time for labor to stop on its own (which we weren’t expecting). Our doctor decided to go ahead with the c-section and left to get things lined up.

3:30 AM
Things got busy as nurses began to prep me for the c-section, explain what would happen, and gave Dan clothes for the operating room. They told us we would have to be separated briefly but that Dan would be with me during the procedure. I asked Dan, “Aren’t we going to pray?” and he asked everybody if we could have a moment. They all politely stopped what they were doing and we took a moment to pray for Baby, me, and a safe delivery.

4:30 AM
I was wheeled into an operating room and separated briefly from Dan. As soon as I saw some metal instruments I got scared and thought I would be the random person for whom a spinal block wouldn’t work. They gave me a numbing shot (which did hurt) and then the spinal and I lay down on the operating table. Soon enough my legs felt warm, then tingly, then I couldn’t lift them. An anesthesiologist near my head kept asking what I was feeling to make sure the spinal was working. She told me I should be able to feel pressure, but not pain. Finally I confirmed that the spinal worked, even though I was bothered by how clearly I could feel what they were doing, just not the sharp pain associated with it.

Dan came in to join me and I realized that there was a glass cabinet to my side that allowed me to see what the doctors were doing behind the curtain they had put up to block my view. I told Dan not to look and then made sure not to look myself! The procedure was miserable. It’s one thing to breath and relax your way through contractions. It feels natural. Your body is doing what it was made to do. The pain of the c-section was completely different. No, I couldn’t feel sharp pain, but it felt like they were ripping out my insides. I groaned and moaned and cried my way through and the anesthesiologist by my head kept telling me I was doing great.

At 4:53 AM, our Baby was delivered. Dan got to see her before she was rushed to the NICU. He told me, “She’s purple, and I think she has hair.” As the doctors put my insides back in (or that’s what it felt like) a NICU doctor came to report that Baby was doing well. She weighed 2 pounds, 15 ounces and she was 15 ¾ inches long. She was crying and was able to breath without a ventilator, just a CPAP.

At some point as the doctors were finishing up, my doctor told me some good news. I had labored long enough to make some extra room for the surgery and they were able to do the transverse incision after all. No classical c-section! I breathed a silent prayer of thanks to God, because I had been praying over the past hour that He would make it possible to do the transverse incision.

Dan was ushered out of the operating room and a nurse asked me if I wanted to see my placenta. I said, “No thanks”, but she said, “I’m going to show you anyway”. As it turned out, Baby’s umbilical cord had been connected to the membrane, that is, the sack of “water” that broke. The nurse showed me the umbilical cord with all the blood vessels and then a big hole right next to it where my water broke. “You’re lucky,” she said, “Someone’s watching out for you!”. I learned later how serious it could have been if those blood vessels had disconnected when my water broke. Under those circumstances I would have been immediately put under and there would have been an emergency c-section. However, without that connection between me and Baby, both our lives would have been in serious danger and even the emergency c-section might not have been fast enough to save Baby or possibly me. (That’s my best understanding of the situation, at least) It was one of those moments, in the middle of a lot of bad, when God reminded me that He was taking care of everything after all.

Recovery was miserable. I received multiple different pain medications, including two doses of morphine and I was still squirming. Dan was loyally staying by my side, waiting to see Baby with me after recovery. However, he hadn’t slept in about 36 hours and was really struggling to stay awake. I was struggling not to be mad at him for being sleepy! Our “two hours” in recovery somehow turned in to four, but finally we got to go see Baby.

We spent a few minutes in the NICU looking at our new Baby, and by 10 AM we were back in the Mother/Baby unit (finally) alone. We were able to pray together and confirm Baby’s name: Abigail Faith. Then we made the phone calls to our parents telling them that Baby had come early.

And now little Abby is working her way through the NICU. We have a long road ahead of us, but are grateful for God’s hand in everything that has happened so far. He prepared us mentally and emotionally for Baby’s coming. He provided someone to watch Lydia and advice that sent us to the right hospital. He gave us peace during the car ride and a unity that lasted through the whole labor. He gave us a special moment together just before the c-section to worship and refocus on trusting Him. He allowed us to pray together before the surgery, and display to the nurses and doctors where we were placing our trust.  He protected me and Abby when her water broke from severing the umbilical cord and putting us both in danger. He allowed me to labor just the right amount of time for the doctors to perform a transverse incision, opening the possibility for natural labors in the future. He gave us a baby who is feisty and strong, big for her age and amazing at breathing even though there probably wasn’t time for the steroid shot to really reach her. And He revealed the reason I have been having early babies (but I’ll post about that later).

God is good, and taking care of us. We are so grateful that, even during a labor completely different from anything we ever wanted, He was in control. While it was all happening, I was devastated, but looking back I only see His goodness and protection.