Gordito’s Birth Story

It’s been so long since I’ve written one of these, I don’t even know where to start. If you followed my posts during pregnancy, you may recall my struggle with SPD. Around 36 weeks, I used my walker to get to the laundry room, and I tripped over a shoe. My right foot went forward about 3 feet and I landed hard on it, with my legs apart. SNAP! That’s literally all it took to tear my SP joint (symphysis pubis). I screamed so loudly that Milkman and all 3 kids came running in. Milkman had to help drag me to the couch where I sat wailing with an ice pack. I was so angry at my body, that had been so much stronger this time, and so well supported by the HG harness (of course, I wasn’t wearing it when I tripped ::face palm::), that it just seemed cruel to make it so far and then have such a catastrophic injury at the end.

I went to the perinatologist a few days later who confirmed the tear, and later that day a wheelchair was delivered to my front door step. I was both relieved to have a means to get around, and then discouraged to know I was ending another pregnancy in a wheelchair.

The last few weeks of my pregnancy were spent sitting in the nursing chair in the corner of my livingroom, relying on my children to keep themselves fed with easy meals, and folding laundry and baby clothes while I cried missing our foster baby who had left unexpectedly the previous month. The pain I was in was unbelievable. Even readjusting myself in the recliner was scream-worthy. The last 2 weeks of my pregnancy, my mom and sisters took turns showing up most days of the week. My oldest sister swept and mopped my floors, my middle sister tended to kids, and my mother kept us all fed. This was the most help I had ever received during a pregnancy, and it was humbling, difficult, and one of the biggest blessings I’ve ever encountered. (They kept this up for a good 2 weeks after Milkman went back to work after I had the baby. I owe them a very great debt!) My beloved neighbor and dear friend would pop in on the days my family wasn’t here, and she would give me back rubs, and take my kids to water plants and feed chickens to give me little breaks. As someone who is used to being on the go, being a helper, being a host, and taking care of other people, it was totally foreign to be cared for like this, but it was good for me.

One of the big concerns I had after the tear was my ability to deliver this baby vaginally. The pain that I was in had me longing for a C-Section, but! There was an issue that would make a C-Section very undesirable for me. After 7 failed epidurals from my previous labors, and a consult with the head of anesthesia at my hospital, we determined that due to my scoliosis and arthritis, epidurals were never able to be properly placed and take effect. This being the case, it was suggested I try for an epidural at the very beginning of labor (something I’ve never considered), and then if it didn’t take, we would progress to a spinal. If that didn’t work, we would know that if I was in need of a C-section, I would have to go under general anesthesia. The thought of not being the first one to see my baby felt unbearable. Without the ability to move on my own or go anywhere without assistance, I had a lot of time to sit, stew, worry, and cry. And boy, did I cry a LOT!

While some people can fully cook a baby in 37 weeks, I am a slow cooker, and I knew I wouldn’t deliver this baby boy early, let alone “on time”. I normally have weeks upon weeks of prodromal labor, but this time, all prodromal labor stopped at 38 weeks and my uterus was calm and totally disinterested in ejecting a baby. My midwives and my perinatologist knew me well enough to not bother offering an early induction, and we didn’t even try for membrane stripping this time since it had never worked before. We knew the name of the game was “wait”, and so we did.

My sister brought oils, both to diffuse and to slather on me. My neighbor and sister tried pressure points, and Milkman tried making me meals loaded with balsamic and oregano, but nothing could cause my body to kick into gear. This was not surprising given my history, but it was discouraging. From feeling around, one midwife said the baby was really big, and another said the baby was right on track. One ultrasound showed a beast, the other a totally normal sized baby. I felt confident that I could deliver a baby at any size— if only my pelvis weren’t split! But it was split, and I was getting nervous. This was also the first pregnancy where I became terrified of labor. After my last (and very traumatic) birth, I became consumed with terror at the thought of delivering another baby. There were so many moments of Milkman holding me while I gripped his hands to death whispering over and over “I don’t want to do this, I don’t want to do this, I can’t do this, I don’t want to do this…” and him whispering back “you can do this, your body was made to do this, you will do this…” over and over.

I felt like I practically lived at the hospital the last 3 weeks of my pregnancy. Between midwife, perinatologist, and iron infusion appointments to help get my iron up to a safe level for delivery, even the parking garage attendants got to know me. By week 40, the valet was saying “today?” Every time he parked my car and I would say “nope. Not yet.”

At that 40 week appointment, the perinatologist set my induction for 41 weeks, and said hopefully I would go before then. It was at that point that I felt the clock ticking. I was absolutely not interested in an induction, so I figured I would try everything I could at home. We kept up with oils, and I began pumping and nursing around the clock. Sex wasn’t an option because my pelvis was split, but we tried massaging pressure points, and more oregano oil than you can shake a stick at. I went from crying about not wanting to be in labor, to crying and needing to be in labor— but still not wanting to be! That last week of my pregnancy was brutal, and not one I would like to re-live ever again. The pain, the emotional turmoil, the hormones! Just a big mess.

The day before my scheduled induction, I put makeup on, had Milkman push me over to the barn, put heels on me, and shoved my cane under me to prop me up for pictures of my week past date belly pictures. Looking back, I’m so glad we did that! I’m really bad at taking belly pictures when I’m pregnant, so it’s something I’m grateful for!

Sunday morning dawned. The day of my induction was here. Not a contraction or sign of impending labor to be seen. We went to church, and when I came home, we all piled on our bed, while I nursed Peachy, and cuddled my family of 5 for the last time. After lots of tears on my part and the kids’, we loaded them up and took them to my mom’s house. We headed to the hospital, and I told Milkman over and over “I don’t have to stay after they check me, if I don’t want to, right?” And he would say “we can leave any time you want.”

We got to the hospital and got checked into a wheelchair accessible room. I made it clear I wanted to be checked and told if I was favorable for an induction, and if I wasn’t that I would be going home. I was hoping to do a foley and cervadil only to find out that my hospital doesn’t even have cervadil, and I was a 2.5 which meant they wouldn’t do the foley. They said we would go right to Pitocin and because of this, I would not be able to be in the shower (my favorite place to labor) because with pitocin you need constant monitoring. I began crying. How would I make it through a marathon Rachel labor with no shower? I explained how an epidural was not likely to work, and that I wanted to go home and wait for natural labor to start. One nurse was annoyed and said I should just stay, and another nurse went to talk to someone in anesthesia.

I told Milkman to pack my things and though he was supportive, I think he also wanted to just get it over with and begin the induction. At this point I asked a nurse “if I leave now, and come back when I’m in labor, will I be charged twice for being admitted?” She told me I would be charged twice, and being the cheapskate I am, I said “well, I guess I’m staying then”. Soon after then, the nurse came in with a young, female anesthesiologist. She told me that she was looking at my pelvic MRI and x-rays, and she understood why my previous epidurals hadn’t worked, but that after studying them, she was 90% sure she could place a working epidural. Though I had sworn I wouldn’t go through the hassle of getting one that wouldn’t work anyway, I felt really confident in her confidence.

One hour later, I had a working epidural and pitocin running through my veins. 8th time’s the charm apparently!

Because of my disability we had to take several things into consideration and care. One was that I couldn’t open my legs more than about a foot to 18 inches at the knee. Another was that I needed to be moved frequently, but the epidural posed a special threat because I couldn’t feel pain in the same way to trigger me to not move into unsafe positions. I also would not be able to deliver on my back, as it would require my legs to open to far. Because my labors are often very long (34, 23, and 56 hours respectively), being unable to be mobile was a particular concern for extending the length of my induction.

Every 90 minutes, Milkman had an alarm that would go off. He would stabilize my legs with 2 pillows between, tie a sheet around my knees and pillow to keep them closed, and I would move from my right side to my center. 90 Minutes later, we would do the same thing and move from the center to my left side.

9 hours after my induction began, the midwife who delivered Mamitas walked in the room and was officially on duty. We had gotten the schedule a few days before and this was one of the few reasons I decided to stay. Linda is an exceptional midwife. She is the calm to my crazy, she is down to earth, and she can deliver a baby in any position. She is one of those people who radiates warmth, without being syrupy. Real salt of the earth. The team said they were going to check me, and since I had so many contractions they were sure I was close. I told them “pretty sure I’m not.” Guess what? No change. They said maybe a tight 3, but true to my normal, that cervix wasn’t budging. I had a good cry, snuck some food, sipped some of Milkman’s coffee, and told him I wanted to go home. Obviously, it was too late to go home, but this was for the birds. Not used to contracting and not feeling it was totally foreign, so I tried to watch TV, but that made me even more annoyed. I got moved onto my side, Milkman slipped in the bed behind me, and I put in my headphones, turned on my labor mix, pulled my sleep mask over my face, and fell asleep crying silently.

Around 5pm, the Midwife came in and I was about a 5, and the baby was still way up high in my ribs. I told her I was discouraged and she said “I know exactly how this is going to happen. You’re gonna have some crazy contractions and he’s gonna drop, you’re gonna feel pressure and he’s going to engage and be born right after that. This part is taking a while, but once he drops, it’s going to go fast.” I gave a pursed lipped smile and rolled my eyes a little. Nothing ever goes fast for me! We talked about labor positions, and though we had planned on hands and knees, she said “We could tie your legs shut, and if a baby wants to come out, it’ll come out. When the time comes, we’ll get you on your side, nice and comfortable and he’ll make his way out.”

Within an hour, my epidural ran out. I could feel the contractions ramping up, and it felt good to breathe through them. With previous labors, I was so exhausted by the time I hit transition that I would go wild. This time, I moaned low and slow, I breathed deeply, and held onto Milkman like he was a life raft and I was in the middle of a stormy ocean. The pain was satisfying, and because I was well rested, I felt strong enough to handle them. The first song on my labor mix played over and over. A love song…

In April, our foster son left us unexpectedly after just about a year. We were destroyed, and Milkman and I went away on a baby moon. We spent 3 days eating and sleeping (LOTS of sleeping. I took multiple naps a day!) One of the days, Milkman convinced me out of bed long enough to go to the movies and took me to see the movie “A Quiet Place.” If you aren’t familiar with it, the movie is mostly silent. It’s a suspenseful, well acted, beautifully shot thriller, and after watching it, it fast became one of my favorite movies of all time. There was once scene that had me bawling in the theater, and in this scene, John Krasinski And Emily Blunt slow dance with headphones in to the song Harvest Moon by Neil Young. The last 2 months of my pregnancy I would listen to that song, and cry, and hold onto Milkman, feeling a multitude of emotions. Missing our foster baby, being excited to meet our new baby, fearing labor, loving Milkman so much it hurt, ready for the next chapter, but so terribly sad the last chapter had ended. This song became the theme for my unborn baby, and as it played during labor, I would picture being able to stand, and not being so crippled, and swaying with my husband to that dreamy song.

Around 8, my contractions were right on top of each other, I felt a huge turn, and yelped, and boom, he moved down. As it turns out, Midwife Linda knows what she’s talking about. Who’d a thunk? I told Milkman between contractions “Tell… Linda… he’s engaged… coming soon”.

She came in a while later, checked me, and said “well, honey, you’re complete. You start pushing when you want to.” The nurse and Milkman moved me on to my right side, and I felt the urge to push. Linda half laid on the bed, and told me to rest my left knee on her head. My legs were only open that much! I was pushing with all my might, and at one point the baby’s heart rate decelerated, so they threw an oxygen mask on my face. Between pushes, he was going back up. His heart rate went down again, and finally she said “you just gotta push with all your might, and don’t stop” I delivered his head, and I knew he was bigger than my other babies. One contraction later and he was out. It felt longer, but I pushed for less than 10 minutes.

They put him in my arms while he screamed and I opened my eyes wide and said “uh… he’s big, right??” And she replied “oh, he’s BIG!” I nicknamed him Gordito right then and there.

A while later I delivered the placenta. I remember holding the baby and watching Linda look at it curiously. She said it was a huge placenta, she also said it was very mushy, and deteriorating. Praise God I’m such a cheapskate and didn’t want to pay two admitting fees, this baby NEEDED to come out when he did. I have this clear memory of her pushing her finger into it and her finger went clear through the placenta. She called in 2 people to look at it, and she didn’t seem convinced it had all come out. However the doctor inspected it and said it was all there and not to worry.

Milkman and I marveled at our baby. He was so chubby! I checked his lip and tongue almost immediately and saw he was lip and tongue tied, and told Milkman to call the ENT first thing to make an appointment to get it lasered. I was not interested in months of ductal thrush and mastitis like I had with Mamitas, and 24 clogged ducts in 3 months after Peachy! Milkman took a million pictures, I nursed my baby for the first time, which is always super magical, and ate some gluten free graham crackers with peanut butter and drank a pitcher of apple juice (this is what I eat after every single delivery!)

They measured Gordito and he came in at a whopping TEN POUNDS! He was 22 inches long, and a beast. My other babies had been in the 7-8lb range, so giving birth to such a large baby was a shock.

Once everything was removed and I was cleaned up, we were taken to the postpartum wing, and this is where my evening went from a sweet dream to a total nightmare. I began nursing the baby and I felt a very, very large clot pass. The nurses had been “massaging” my uterus post delivery and kept saying it wasn’t feeling right. I hit the call button, my nurse came in and I told her I needed assistance getting to the bathroom as I had passed a large clot. She pulled open my postpartum mesh hospital underwear and her face alarmed me. She said we wouldn’t be going to the bathroom, and that she needed to get the doctor. The charge nurse came in, and within seconds the tiny little room was filled. My midwife was there too. They pulled back the sheet and there was blood everywhere. I was passing massive clots, and I had multiple people pushing on my abdomen while I nursed and switched back to labor breathing. The charge nurse explained the doctor was in a C-section, and they were going to wake the on-call doctor to come in. She was a young, very tall OB, with magnificently long fingers and narrow hands. It was actually one of the first things I noticed about her, which was interesting considering that very soon, I would be introduced to them in a horrifying way. She explained that my uterus wasn’t contracting properly and that I was hemorrhaging. She was going to attempt to sweep my uterus with her hands and pull anything out she could find. She had the nurse crank up some pitocin, and they gave me a shot of morphine. She said “ready?”

I had just delivered a 10lb baby. I could not have understood before that moment how anything could have felt worse than transition and pushing out a 10lb baby, but lo and behold, there is something worse, and it was this. I had a nurse on each side to stabilize my legs and keep them from opening too far and worsening my SP injury, and those long slender fingers, and that thin slender hand went all the way up inside me and she began to scrape and claw at the inside of my raw uterus. It was late, and being in a small postpartum room, I was determined to be quiet so I wouldn’t disturb the sleep of my fellow postpartum mothers and their sweet newborns in the wing, so I contorted and twisted and did Lamaze breathing and moaned as quietly as I could. She pulled out masses of clots and tissue and while I regained my composure she said “there’s more. I’m so sorry, I know this hurts, but I have to try again. You can scream.”

I fought back tears and said “I can’t scream, I don’t want to wake anyone up!” And everyone said “no one would expect anyone to be quiet through this. Just scream.” I handed my newborn to Milkman, and noticed the look of white terror on his face. “Ready?” The OB said. And I yelled out guttural yells and screams while she pulled out yet more tissue and clots. At this point, there was blood dripping off my bed and onto the floor. It was everywhere. I was soaked in it, all the way up my back and down my legs. My husband fought back tears, one of his hands in mine as I squeezed it as hard as I could and the other cradling our newborn baby.

“I can’t get it all out. She has to go in for a D and C.” My heart sank. The one thing I wanted to avoid in this entire birth was going under general anesthesia, and it was going to happen. I nursed the baby while they waited for the other doc to get out of the C-Section. I remember looking at the floor as I handed the baby off to Milkman and kissed them both, and being shocked at the amount of blood in the room. If it hadn’t been for those iron infusions leading up to the birth, I may not have survived.

The team that took over in Pre-Op was a nightmare. While I was somewhat comfortable with the OB in charge, as he had delivered my oldest, the nurses and the anesthesiologist were like vinegar to the teeth. I was tired, it was the middle of the night, I had delivered a baby, and experienced some of the worst pain in my life. The nurses were mouthy and the anesthesiologist was cocky. I had the OB who was going to do the surgery do an internal ultrasound before I went under to confirm that the procedure was necessary. I remember looking at the screen on the machine and it looked like my uterus was full of cotton. He confirmed we had to do it, and we had to do it now. I cried and the nurse said “you don’t want to do this? You could lose your uterus, or you can lose your life! Is that what you want? You literally could die right now.”

I said “I know I need it, but I’m sad because my brand new baby is down the hall and I’m going into surgery!” She said I needed to calm down. I wanted to drop kick her, but I held my tears back. The last thing I remember is the doctor telling me “how far can we open your legs?” I showed him, he measured, and he had every person in the room look and said “don’t open her legs past this point. We don’t need her in a wheelchair for life.” Then the anesthesiologist strapped my arms down, and they said “see you in 45 minutes”, and I was out.

I woke up crying, which is typical for me coming out of general. I asked what time it was, and they told me it was 3 hours later. Apparently they still couldn’t stop the bleeding, so they tried putting a foley inside my uterus and inflating it to put pressure to assist in stopping the hemorrhage. Unfortunately, they couldn’t keep the foley in because my cervix also wasn’t going back down. To this day, I’m not totally sure what went down in that operating room, but all I remember is the doctor telling me “it didn’t go according to plan, but we saved your uterus.” I asked the nurse to take me to my baby, and she refused. I told her I needed to breastfeed my baby and she said “you need to rest!” I said I could nurse and then rest, but I needed to see my baby. She threatened me again with losing my uterus or my life, so I asked to talk to my husband. Later he told me that she told him “you need to be on my side, don’t tell her she needs to come back.”

I told him they weren’t letting me come back to the room and that he needed to call my sister, it was now 5am, and tell her to come to the hospital and nurse the baby. He spoke to the nurse and said “I know it isn’t visiting hours, but I’m going to have my sister in law come nurse the baby since they aren’t releasing Rachel.” The nurse looked shocked at the thought of someone else coming in to nurse the baby and then made a call or two, and magically I was released back to my room!

Milkman looked totally wiped by the time I came back. He was holding out sweet little fatlng and got choked up when he saw me. He kissed me over and over and said he was terrified that he was going to lose me forever that night. I latched my sweet newborn on, and nursed him, Milkman crawled into the bed next to me, and we slept, very much alive, and very blessed to be together.

———

I never know where to stop these birth stories. There was a lot more that happened before, during, and after, but this was so long as it was. I was encouraged by my besties not to worry about the length of the story, because at the end of the day, I’m writing this story for Gordito and for me. I want to remember these things, and I want him to know how he entered this world.

It’s strange to me that his labor was my shortest at just 18 hours, and that while he was my biggest, he was my easiest delivery. The aftermath was terrible, his size likely played a part in my hemorrhage, but I am so glad that things ended as favorable as they could have!

This was also the first time postpartum that I felt the docs realized the severity of my disability. The day after delivery, they had a pelvic floor therapist in my room assessing me, and put in a referral for me to receive pelvic floor therapy when I got home. It took 9 months of weekly appointments to get me out of the chair, off the walker, and only needing my cane for flare ups or long walks. I’m so grateful for the care I received postpartum. I also had a bunch of iron infusions after delivering, and was well cared for in that respect.

A year out and Milkman still gets choked up thinking about the hemorrhage. In some ways, I feel like that wasn’t even me, but I am grateful to be alive!

My baby is one today. He is the love of my mama life, he’s my little (BIG) best friend. At a year, he loves to babble, laugh, be tickled, and make funny noises. He’s a very anti-social baby and only has eyes for mama and papa— but especially mama. We never get to be alone or go on a date because he can’t handle being apart from me, but I’ll tell you, it’s worth him tagging along, because even when I’m most burnt out, I look at his chubby face, ridiculous toothy grin, and he snuggles into the crook of my neck, signs to nurse, and I’m smitten all over again.

Happy 1st Birthday, my sweet baby boy.

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The Short Life of Ezra Eugene

End of June, I was feeling sick. I couldn’t seem to keep food down for very long and not many foods sounded that good. So, 5 days before my period was supposed to start, in the afternoon,’I took a pregnancy test. I left the test on the ledge of the bathtub while it processed and went to go check on the kiddos. I came back to a positive. I was shocked! And so excited!

Because of how I had broken the news to Milkman the last two times, I decided to make it a happy reveal this time. So when Milkman came home from work I didn’t say anything and acted normal. The next morning I couldn’t hold it in any longer so I had Captain repeat after me: “mama is gonna have another baby!” I got it on film. Milkman was so excited and surprised. He hugged me and kissed me and shared in my excitement. We were both convinced that I was carrying another baby boy.

I got healthy right away, working out often and cutting out sugar, determined to have a healthier pregnancy than the last two times. Even through the awful all-day nausea that accompanied my pregnancy, I ate as healthy as I could. On days where I wasn’t throwing up or doubled over in pain in the evenings, I would force myself over to the gym.

We had our appointments with the OBGYN and then with my midwife. Saw our little one bouncing around on the ultrasound machine a couple times. Heard the baby’s little rushing heartbeat. All was normal and well. (Well as one could be with lots of nausea, food aversions and extreme
Fatigue while chasing two toddlers. ;))

We decided not to share the news of our pregnancy at all, and then once I hit my second trimester, we chose to tell our immediate families. When I got pregnant with Captain just 3 months after our wedding, some people were shocked but mostly polite. When I got pregnant with Mamitas 7 months after Captain was born, people were less than discreet about their opinions on having children so close together. So when we found out we were expecting another blessing, I felt like I wanted to protect this baby from judgement, and just enjoy the secret with my husband for as long as possible.

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A few weeks ago, right after moving. the kids and I went on a work trip with milkman to a nice hotel and while there I began contracting… It got up to 5 times an hour. I put the kids to bed and got in the bathtub and was chugging water. I called the OB office the next day and was told not to come in since I wasn’t bleeding. I said that I was concerned because 5 times an hour seemed a bit much this early in the pregnancy. The nurse suggested that I was dehydrated. I informed her I was taking in my usual 100+ ozs a day and she said if it got worse to call again.

Within two days all my nausea disappeared, and though I was excited for a little more normalcy, I felt something was wrong. I began sleeping extreme amounts. I was going to bed at 8:30pm, napping with the kids during the day and falling asleep on my feet. I couldn’t get enough sleep. I began counting down the days to my next appointment, so I could hear that heartbeat. People were beginning to notice my belly growing and my friends were slowly finding out and giving me their love and congratulations. I pulled out all my maternity clothing to start washing it as I knew I would soon be unable to hide my condition in regular clothing.

Finally the day of my appointment was nigh. I dropped the kids off with my mom and on the drive I prayed, “Lord, something hasn’t felt right… I pray this baby has a heartbeat and if this baby doesn’t, give me strength.”

I got to my appointment and the midwife talked and talked and all I could think about was her turning on that Doppler. And then she did… And there was nothing. No rushing of the placenta, no train like heartbeat from the baby, no static from the baby moving. Just… White noise. Empty.

She said she was going to bring in the ultrasound machine. I already knew. I texted Milkman and told him there was no heartbeat.

When she got the ultrasound machine hooked up and started to scan me, I saw a completely, perfectly still baby on the screen. I didn’t even need to see the absence of a heartbeat to know the baby was no longer alive. I knew by the stillness. We’ve never gotten any good ultrasound pictures of our babies, because they move too much in the womb. All three have. A few tears slid down my cheeks. She began taking measurements and broke the silence. “I assume you understand what’s going on right now?” I nodded through my tears. “Are you okay, sweetie?” She asked.

I couldn’t talk right away. I just silently let my tears flow for my little lifeless baby. She sat me up and I cleaned the cold sono gel off of my full belly. “God is good… All the time. He is good, and I’ll trust Him. He is good, but oh my sweet baby!” I sobbed a bit more. “He is good even when I don’t understand Him. But I know he’s good and He’ll continue to be good.”

The midwife was very kind. She kissed each of my cheeks and held me. I called Milkman after she left the room to make arrangements for me at the main hospital to confirm our loss, and he wept. And I wept. I called my mama, who was with my babies and she cried. And later when I told my papa, he cried and held me and I felt like a little girl. Lost and yet safe in my papa’s arms.

The rest of the day is a blur. I just remember everyone being very kind to me. Receptionists, ultrasound techs, nurses, all so sweet.

We waited for the doctor for well over an hour after the ultrasound. When he saw us he was pleasant (not normally a doctor I care for, due to his brash personality). Really he was the kindest he’s ever been to me. He said that the ultrasound confirmed what the midwife had discovered that morning and that I had a few options. He didn’t want me to miscarry the baby at home due to the baby’s size. So he have me a couple options:

1. Have a laminaria inserted and then a D&E 24 hours later
2. Be induced with cytotec and deliver the baby vaginally at the hospital.

He strongly suggested I go with option 1. He said it was easiest and safest and the best option. I asked for details on the D&E and I don’t think I heard much after suction and “extracting the tissue piece by piece”. I told him I would need time to consider both and I would get back to him by Thursday.

Over the next few days I asked Milkman what he felt most comfortable with. He asked me what I wanted but I needed him to answer before he heard what I wanted. He felt that the D&E would be safer and easier and quicker. He didn’t want to see me in pain and possibly have to deal with 24 hours of labor.

I shared my heart with him. I wanted my baby to have the chance to be born whole. I felt like I owed my child that privilege. I told him I would never, ever judge a mom if she chose to do it differently. I can understand both sides really, but I just felt like I needed my baby to be born whole and with dignity. I could see that this made Milkman a little uneasy but he respected my decision.

I began to feel very uneasy with my little one being tossed aside as medical waste after delivery, and began praying for peace, since we couldn’t afford the cremation. Within 24 hours my friends from Mamitas’ online birth group had raised all the funds needed for the cremation. I didn’t then, and I still don’t have words to describe the level of gratitude I have for each person who donated. Some strangers, some online friends, family, church members… I was dumbfounded. My little one would be born with dignity and would be taken from the hospital with dignity.

The waiting was strange. The feeling of still being pregnant, but your baby being lifeless is a very odd sensation of being both full and very empty simultaneously. The worst were the phantom kicks. I’d swear that little body was moving and be excited for a split second, only to remember that the baby was not moving, because the baby was not alive.

I sang many hymns. Read many Psalms. I kissed Mamitas cheeks extra and soaked in every smile from Captain. I ate so much chocolate. I read novels to escape my current situation. I cried often. I took long, hot showers. I felt so encouraged by scripture and by the floods of encouragement pouring in, but I felt a sadness that I can’t describe. I honestly don’t know how I would have survived this without my faith in Jesus Christ. I never felt despair, and it was because of leaning on The Lord.

It felt like a long time, but it wasn’t really…

We were booked for labor and delivery at 7pm on a Thursday night. My mama took the kids and I asked milkman to stop at Michael’s on the way to pick up yarn. We picked out a lovely, soft green yarn for a blanket. I had no clue what state our little one would be born at, if I would even be able to see the baby, or the baby’s gender, but I thought if nothing else, having something to crochet might be therapeutic.

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We arrived at the hospital. Took the elevator to the 3rd floor and walked to labor and delivery, where we had delivered both Captain and Mamitas. I went to the nurses station and began crying when I was being checked in. Our very compassionate nurse took us back to a room far away from all the over rooms and was so sweet to us. I undressed and put on a hospital gown while milkman cried on the other side of the accordion door in our room. Our hospital plays a lullaby over the loud speaker every time a baby is born… And just as I sat down on the bed, it played. I lost it. Milkman lost it. We held each other on the hospital bed and cried and cried, knowing our baby would soon be born, but we would never hear a cry or a heartbeat. We sang hymns and praise songs, read scripture and prayed.

The doc came in shortly after and explained the process again, while I crocheted the little green blanket. she offered me every drug under the sun and though I am a natural birth junkie, I was ready to take anything and everything they could throw at me. We did one last ultrasound and saw our still baby. So very still… A while– and many tears– later, the doc came in and inserted the cytotec. That was it. The beginning of the end. More tears.

They offered me sleeping pills, which as an insomniac I gladly accepted, only to find another drug to add to my list of medications that don’t affect Rachel! But The Lord is good and granted a little sleep. At 3am more cytotec was inserted.

By 4, Milkman was still sleeping away in the fold out chair next to me. I began contracting. I kept telling myself I was going to ask for medication and as each contraction and cramp intensified, I would say to myself, “next one, I’ll hit the call button for morphine… Next one… I got this one…” I breathed. I read Psalms. I sang hymns quietly. One song in particular was a reoccurring theme the whole week since we had found out about the baby’s death and had sung in the hospital several times, was “10,000 Reasons.” I sang it quietly in the dark and then I felt a detaching. My membranes ruptured. And blood began pouring out of me. I cried. Oh, I cried so hard I shook. I woke Milkman who called our sweet nurse. She helped clean me up and asked if I wanted meds and I said “not yet” through the tears. It was the most awful feeling I have ever felt to feel my baby detaching from my body. I have had nightmares about it since. I bled more and contracted more. I felt a burning and knew the baby was on their way, and I pushed. It was still and dark in our room. Just me and Milkman, I saw this tiny little body come out of me at 6:05am, and Milkman and I began crying. He called for the nurse, who came in and panicked and asked for a doctor immediately, only to hear another nurse inform her that both docs were in surgery. I told her I was okay and delivered the placenta in two pieces. She began saying “oh your sweet baby, oh my God so tiny! Oh sweet baby, oh my goodness!” She tenderly wrapped him in a towel and handed him to me.

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I marveled at him. Oh, you just couldn’t believe it unless you saw it. He had the most perfect little feet. His toes looked like tiny little bubbles. I counted each one. His hands! Beautiful fingers, starting to form nail beds. He had the beginnings of nostrils and the tiniest mouth. My favorite part were his earlobes. Paper thin and just beginning to form. The sweetest little things you’ve ever seen. He was bigger than the docs had measured him at. He was fearfully and wonderfully made. I can’t even type this out without crying and smiling simultaneously. Milkman and I cried and pointed out each tiny feature.

Milkman and I had picked out names for the baby. If a girl, we would name her Mary Jo after MM’s grandma and if a boy, Ezra Eugene. Ezra was a name we had both really liked and I wanted Eugene after MM’s grandpa whom I adore and am beyond intrigued by. Milkman held his little body and kept saying, “oh, my little Ezra!” His name fit him so well.

After other medical issues, I finally did accept that morphine and I wrapped Ezra in the blanket I had made him. We met our day nurse, who was an angel, she was so tender with us. And I drifted in and out of sleep for an hour while holding Ezra.

Our nurse came in and took pictures of our sweet, forever sleeping baby. She touched him tenderly, took his footprints in ink and in clay… She was so respectful of his little body. He was so precious.

We filled out paperwork for his body to be released to the funeral home for cremation, and Milkman went to the pharmacy to fill my scrip for Methergine and Norco. I was alone with my little Ezra. I sang to him and talked to him. His mouth had opened a bit, and in a moment of emotion I expressed some of my breast milk onto my fingertip and gently placed a drop in his mouth. I wept.

Milkman came back, we said our goodbyes and placed Ezra’s tiny little wrapped body in a white basket the Nurse brought in to carry his body to the mortuary at the hospital, where Ezra would be kept until the mortuary came to retrieve his body.

When it was time for us to leave, the charge nurse came in and wrapped Ezra up and closed the lid to the basket and took his little body away. I felt so empty. Not spiritually, but physically. So deep was the void that he had left, I felt like my core was gone completely.

We went to lunch, surprisingly hungry. I ate and we left for home. My mama brought Mamitas and Captain home and I napped with Captain for hours. People brought food and flowers. I couldn’t make it out of bed for some time. The bleeding, the cramping, the awful emotional pain and headache from crying…

We went the next day to the mortuary and signed papers for Ezra’s cremation. Signing my name wasn’t hard, but writing “mother” next to all the lines reading “relation to the deceased,” proved to be extremely difficult. One word. Mother. A powerful word that invokes thoughts of comfort, love, and protection, and nothing I could have done could have kept him from his death. I felt helpless writing that word. We were told he would be cremated the following Wednesday evening.

I kept busy the next few days. Chasing the babies, washing dishes, cleaning floors, doing laundry. Nights were the hardest for both Milkman and I. The quiet reminded us of Ezra’s absence.

On Wednesday we went to our favorite beach with Mamitas and Captain. We got three, green balloons– one for each of our children. Captain jumped up and down with glee when we parked at the beach, “mama!!! Beach! Water, mama!” And then we tied his balloon to his belt loop and he was in heaven. Mamitas got into Milkman’s back in the Ergo and we tied her balloon to the Ergo strap. We walked along the beach and read a Psalm. Milkman prayed. We talked to the babies about Ezra, and explained what happened. Then we let go of the third balloon and sent it up to the sky. Judah thought it was an “uh-oh” but watched it go up and I watched til the balloon became a dot in the sky and then ’til it disappeared. And I cried. Mamitas ate sand, as 13 month olds are want to do. Captain cried to go in the water and we explained it was too cold. He cried. Life has to go on when you have toddlers. They wait for no one.

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We went to dinner at the same restaurant where Milkman and I and my family ate after we were engaged 4 years ago. We laughed and talked. We marveled at our kiddos– all 3 of them and thanked The Lord for each of our children.

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The days since Ezra’s passing and birth have been a blur. Recovering from any birth is messy and painful. This was no exception.

I’ve grown closer to The Lord and appreciated my children more. I’ve learned to accept love that people give, whether it’s in the form of donations, meals, notes, flowers, gifts, prayers, scripture, and words of encouragement. That has been a difficult thing for me as I dislike taking anything from anyone, but The Lord is working on me. I’ve had days where I’ve barely cried at all, and days where I’ve done nothing but cry. My milk came in much stronger than it has been for many months, and I like to think it was a gift from Ezra for Mamitas, who still very happily nurses, and nurses even more happily since the extra milk has come in. Her closeness has been comforting, as she is normally not a cuddly baby unless she’s nursing, and that’s all she’s wanted to do with the extra supply in. God is good.

Ezra was so little when he died. It seemed senseless for such a young life to be taken so quickly. I don’t know why The Lord took him from us, but I do know it hasn’t been for naught. I’ve had people tell me that through sharing Ezra’s story it’s drawn their marriages together. People tell me it helped them heal from previous emotional scars from their miscarriages. Some have shared that it’s made them cling closer to God. So in a way, Ezra’s short, little life has been full of purpose. His tiny little hands have touched many a heart. But none have felt that so much as I have.

I pray The Lord blesses Milkman and I with many more children. I pray He does soon as Ezra’s absence is so strongly felt. But I know that whatever His plans are for our family, God is good. All of the time.

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Mamitas Comes Earthside

Why a birth story? Because that is what women do. As a little girl, nothing fascinated me more than listening to my Tias in the kitchen at family gatherings talking about their births. “…And the head was THIS BIG!”… “My water gushed out like niagra falls while I yelled at my husband, GET ME A BEACH TOWEL!”… “I thought I was dying… then she came out and all the pain was forgotten.” I LOVE birth stories. I read every one I come across, no matter how dull or exciting. I am obsessed with the Birth Without Fear Blog and read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth and was so empowered and PUMPED for birth after living through the births of sisters who have birthed before me. Birth stories not your thing? Then move along. Birth junkie? Read on. I say things like placenta, and membrane rupture and toilet. it’s the real deal. So here goes it!

I will not bore you with tales of how badly pregnancy drained me and how much I despise being pregnant. The short story is I was sick the entire pregnancy, I had such horrendous back pain that I was sent to physical therapy (helped not at all), and I had horrendous SPD. There is pretty much nothing I enjoy about pregnancy except not having to suck in my stomach and feeling the first kicks. I say FIRST kicks because my kids are so active in the womb, I do not enjoy the Irish jigs they dance day and night in my uterus for months.

I decided not to tell anyone my Estimated Due Date (EDD) because, your “Guess date” as I like to call it, is really no indicator of when you will have a baby. I told no one. Noah, my midwife and God knew. I always feel bad when a woman is approaching her EDD and everyone starts bugging her about when the baby will come and how she’s gonna have a big baby, and isn’t she overdue… I didn’t want to think about my EDD because I knew if I went over and people were asking me “Has that baby come yet?” I may go mental on them. Your EDD has a 2 week plus or minus swing on it, but in our impatient society, we like to think of an EDD as an expiration date, which it most certainly is not.

So, for all those nosey folks, my EDD was July 31st. And guess what? She didn’t come that day. Nor the day after, or the day after that day. With Captain I tried every natural induction scheme on the interwebs and he came when I gave up, so I didn’t bother this time around. I cried, and I wished her out, but I knew she would come when she was ready. At 40 weeks and 5 days the MEDwife I saw (not my normal, preferred Midwife) told me I would be scheduled for my induction at 41 weeks on the dot. I said that I trusted my body, and as much as I secretly wanted her out NOW, I was not about to have an unnecessary induction that could open itself to a bunch of other complications! She told me I would have a big baby and probably a c section, and I told her I would be fine, but agreed to a Non-stress test (NST) on the stroke of 41 weeks rather than an induction. I told her I would only consider an induction if something was truly wrong with my little Wombling or I was past 42 weeks. She gave me a look of disapproval and said she was transferring my care to the OB because she was no longer going to be responsible for my care after 41 weeks.

The afternoon before my NST brought on another wave of prodromal labor (or so I thought.) I had been in prodromal labor since 34 weeks. Contracting regularly with no baby at the end of it. At dinner I was breathing through the contractions and they were getting increasingly painful. I nursed Captain for what would be his last time not sharing me, and I contracted all through bath time and night time prayers and through my ritual couch cuddles and ice cream with Milk Man. I knew that this could be false labor again and so I decided I should get sleep since I had a 34 hour long labor with Captain and I wish I had slept before. So I slept and every few contractions would get so painful I would have to really wake up and breathe through it. By 2am I was in the throes of it. Breathing, and trying not to wake Milk Man and Captain who were sleeping away next to me. at 2:30 I had one of those where I couldn’t be quiet anymore. And I told Milk Man I needed his help to breathe through it. Of course, little Captain woke soon and wanted in on the fun. Milk Man suggested we call my mom an hour later and she came over to stay with Captain.

I labored on the couch and on the floor, incredibly excited for what lay ahead. See, as much as I hate pregnancy, I am obsessed with labor. I could watch birth videos instead of Hollywood movies every night with my popcorn and be in heaven. I looked forward to that sweet pain that labor brings all pregnancy long and it was really here.

I wanted to labor at home til I was crowning but MM and my mama were convinced I would go much quicker this time and urged me (somewhat against my judgment) that we should go to the hospital since its about 40 mins away. This is the first poor choice I made this time around. Anyway, armed with my ipod and pillow, I sang my way through contractions all the way to the hospital. Waterdeep is one of my favorite worship bands and their songs have brought me much comfort in the past, so I turned it way up and cried, and praised the Lord, and sang and breathed and gripped the heck out of MM’s free hand. He later said he knew I was in pain because it was the first time he’d heard me sing off-key! haha!

We got to the hospital and I didn’t want to go in, so convinced that my labor would stall the second I got to L&D. So we sat in the car and I labored there for about an hour. We went in and got checked in and when the Doc came into check me (my least favorite OB was on call!) I was only a 3. However, given my past experience, and seeing how I was reacting with contractions they advised me to stay. I wanted to leave so badly. But everyone thought this would be such a short labor and with morning rush hour upon us, everyone convinced me to stay.

I handed over my birth plan and turned up my ipod. As much as the staff may have preferred me to acquiesce to their desire to continuously monitor me while I was in bed and stuck to an IV and in a hospital gown, they respected my wishes. I was monitored 10 mins out of every hour while I sat on a birthing ball. I wore my labor uniform—Black tank and black skirt! and blasted techno and metal through every contraction, When I wasn’t on the ball being monitored, I was in the shower. MM and I had assembled a birth notebook with birth affirmations, scripture, songs, labor coping methods and dos and don’ts (Do NOT breathe on my when I am in labor, it drives me crazy… don’t reason with me… don’t fall asleep… DO talk to me… DO have a mint on hand if you are going to be close to me…. etc).

This labor, like my last was hard. And though everyone told me it was going to be a short labor, I knew it would be long. I was right.

For my 50 minutes off the monitors each hour, I labored in the shower. MM read to me and prayed for me, and for the 10-20 minutes I was being monitored, I would blast my music and labor on the birthing ball. The nurses jury rigged my monitors so I could be upright and have more freedom of movement.

When the on call midwife came in, I was stoked. Though she was not a midwife I knew previously, she used to do home births and was LOW KEY. The last person I need in my delivery room is someone who is as crazy as me. I need calm and docile. She was super cool and supportive. I was glad to have her on my side. She said she liked and agreed with my birth plan. She did, however want me to get a saline lock. I had a positive GBS and a negative and she said they might hold us back if I didn’t do the antibiotics. I wanted to hold off a little longer before I made my decision, and she didn’t pressure me.

I labored on. And On. AND ON. Hours went by. It was painful, but I was making my way through. I decided to do the saline lock after the nurse asked for the 5th time. And this is where my story goes downhill a little. First try for the IV: Failed. Second: Blew my vein. Third: Couldn’t get it in. Fourth: Called in another nurse and got that puppy in. Because they couldn’t get it on my left hand, it had to go in my dominant hand which I really didn’t want, but I didn’t have a choice. My wrists hurt so badly that I could no longer bear weight on them. Some where around this time, I told MM I needed back in the shower IMMEDIETLY to relieve some pain. I got in and let the hot water blast. And then it hit.

“No. No, no no, no, NO! OH, NO! NOT AGAIN! NO!”

MM Freaked out “What’s wrong babe?”

“NOOO! BACK. LABOR. NO! I can’t do this again! I can do regular labor, I can’t handle back labor!”

MM began praying. Each and every contraction after that was horrendous. Back labor is really difficult for me to handle. I go insane. At one point after an hour or so of back labor, MM asked what the loud banging in the shower was. It was me hitting my head on the shower bar as hard as I could trying to knock myself out. An hour or so later, I was laboring on the toilet (Yes, I know, so classy, but it is one of the most comfortable chairs to labor in!) and I began whacking my head on the bar on the back of the toilet and the nurse and MM had to tell me to stop. I wanted to get knocked out so I wouldn’t remember the pain.

Because they had jacked up my saline lock (Really not my nurses’ fault… I have lousy veins and they felt awful about it) I couldn’t bear weight on my wrists and being on all fours is one of the best ways to labor during back labor. We tried the TENs machine. Not helpful. Ice. Heat. The only thing that seemed to help was MM shaking my hips VIOLENTLY during a contraction. Almost like shaking the baby down. Sounds weird. Thanks to Ina May for that tip. Sounds strange, but you’ll do anything to get some relief from back labor.

And then the moments came. I began begging for drugs. I was so upset with Noah for following my instructions to not argue with me but change the subject. “Babe, I’m serious, get me the epidural now. Babe, NOW.”

“Hey honey, remember our honeymoon? …”

“MM, you aren’t listening, get the nurse NOW!”

“Um, baby, look at how cute our little Captain is in this picture”.

After a couple hours of that, he gave in and got the anesthetist. I was afraid everyone was going to hate me and judge me. I am sure they all did, but I was losing it mentally from her little skull pounding on my tailbone! It was an hour before they could come in. The guy was nice. And then I realized he was a student and had the anesthesiologist shadowing him. No biggie.

The escorted Noah out and brought in Clyde (the stabilizers for epidurals in our hospital are nicknamed Bonnie and Clyde!) and asked half a million questions. I tried so hard to be still. I tried so hard to relax.

Clean, sting, needle, catheter, OUCH. Something hit my spine in a weird way. He wiggled it around. I heard him and the anesthesiologist conferring. She seemed annoyed. The nurse was trying to breathe with me as I had to remain completely still.

“Its not working. We have to start over.” Okay, breathe, breathe.

New stuff gets laid out. Be still, be still! Clean, sting, needle, catheter, OUCHHHH!! My Body convulsed and I was told to be still (Rightly so, lets not cause any spinal cord damage, shall we?) That little bugger was being moved and swirled for a long time. The anesthesiologist took over and was wiggling it around. “We can’t get it in the correct spot. There’s a barrier, something is keeping me from being able to get it in. We have to try again.”

I began bawling. Did I really want this? YES. YES, I DID!

New stuff, round 3. Clean, sting., needle, catheter and ouch again. It took a LOT of fenegaling. They had to insert it in an abnormal place. Finally.

MM says that all took about an hour. So, MM comes back in the room and in about 15 minutes I am finally getting some relief. About 80% of the pain disappears, but it was enough to let me get some rest. I’d been up for a very long time. In about 40 minutes I begin breathing really heavily again, MM asked what was wrong and I told him the pain was coming back. Within 10 minutes I was feeling about 10% relief. I used the pump to administer more drugs and it did nothing. The nurse came in and asked if I wanted to speak to the anesthesiologist. So they send them both in and they shoot the medicine right into the catheter. I get about 70% pain relief. Within 20 minutes the pain was back in full force. Clearly, my body didn’t want the drugs. They offered to re do the epi for a 4th time, and I just asked them to turn it off since it wasn’t helping. The good news is that it was enough pain relief to make me sane again. The bad news is the contractions felt like a jackhammer hitting my tailbone. I took videos of myself telling my future self to never have a baby again and to remember the only reason to ever go to a hospital again is for the delicious ice chips. They are pretty funny to watch now.

So labor continued and the sun set and I was tired but I kept my music loud and my prayers short and frequent. My sweet Milkman snuck me bits of food and sips of Gatorade.

The MW checked me and said my membranes had ruptured and I was a 7. I informed her they hadn’t ruptured and we went back and forth on that one and I said whatever, maybe they did! About 20 minutes later I had a hard contraction and there was a gush. Water everywhere. NOW my membranes had ruptured. Oh, the pretty parts of labor! I went to an 8 after that. She said I was close to a 9 and as she checked me apparently I had another rupture and a whole bunch more water. Boom. 10 centimeters.

I told her I didn’t want to push until I felt the urge. I have known far too many women who hear “You’re 10! Start pushing!” and 3 hours of exhaustion and a c section later, they wish they had waited til their body was ready, not til a magic number was announced. So I labored down and I breathed through urges and then I called for her and informed her I was ready. That seems simple right? Wrong. Its hard to not push when you want to push. Blowing those contractions out took a great deal of concentration!

So, anyways, ready. She was awesome about not counting or telling me when to push or how hard. I told her I didn’t want to tear and she said she’d make sure I didn’t. So, I pushed when I felt like it, all the while listening to some incredibly motivating Metal on my ipod! (Though when the baby crowned I began singing Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire quite loudly which I think surprised the nurse!)

20 minutes and no tears later, Mamitas came earthside at 8 something in the evening after 24 hours of labor, screaming her little face off. I wept immediately and MM looked crazed with joy (was it joy that his daughter was here or that labor was over?). I exclaimed “She’s so tiny!” and the MW said, “No she’s not! She is a big girl!” (I guess she seemed tiny compared to my toddler! She was a whole pound and inch bigger than Captain, at 8lbs 7ozs and 21 inches long). We waited for the cord to stop pulsing and she screamed and screamed and I cried and cried with happiness. Once the cord was done pulsing, Noah cut it and she was her own little person now. She was super fluidy in her lungs so they tried to aspirate more from her and checked her out a little extra which they don’t normally do, but she was fine. I finally yelled over to MM, “give her back to me now! I want to nurse!” He brought her over and she latched on and we were connected again.

The nurse brought me a giant club sandwich and apple juice and MM prepared my favorite post birth snack: Graham Crackers and peanut butter! I signed a release to have my placenta bagged and thrown in our cooler for encapsulation (more to come in a future post on that one!) and we just stared and marveled at our little one as the room cleared out of everyone but us three. Mamitas was loud and red and squinty eyed and fat. Just perfect.

We ended up in the hospital longer than I had hoped (Making MM more agreeable to the idea of a home birth in the future), but the highlights of our stay were making it really clear to the staff that we didn’t want to be bothered at night so we could sleep, an awesome heart to heart with the lactation consultant about cosleeping and tandem nursing. Staring at our little chublet and soaking in the quiet moments. And the best? Seeing our babies meet for the first time. Sweetest thing in the world.

Was it the birth I had planned? No, not completely, but mostly as planned. I am happier with how it went than my first, probably helps that it was a whole ten hours shorter than my first labor!

Tune in next time for tandem nursing joys and placenta munching. WHAT?! Yeah, that.

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