Sunday, January 13, 2013

Our Birth Story

It's taken several days to find the time to write this. We're quickly learning that parenting is the hardest job we've ever undertaken. And the most frightening. But also the most rewarding. Forgive me if I type in short sentences. I'm typing this (at least in part) on my Kindle Fire and my thumbs aren't quite as adept as the rest of my fingers.

One week ago today we checked into the hospital for a scheduled induction. We were one day past our due date and Baby Boy had been weighing in pretty heavy so far, and our OB/GYN didn't want us going much past 40 weeks. We didn't go into the induction with a whole lot of foreknowledge or preconceived expectations, but we were understandably concerned.

The first thing they did that night was to put in an IV. Soon after, they started the Foley catheter. I won't go into a lot of details for the uninformed, but needless to say, this was an unpleasant procedure. But apparently it worked, because the contractions -- little ones, mind you, but still contractions -- started in Mary's back soon afterwards.

I held her hand pretty constantly throughout the long night, and she needed it. This wasn't even active labor, but it was already greater pain than she'd ever endured.

Monday morning just after 5:00, they started the pitocin (the drug that's supposed to medically induce labor). It worked. Fast. Within minutes, Mary was having progressively more intense and more frequent back contractions. Within a few short hours, she'd progressed from 3cm dilation (when the Foley catheter was removed) to 8cm. The back pain was excruciating.

Mary went into everything with an open mind regarding pain control. She would love to give birth naturally with no pain medicine, but was okay with taking it if the pain became unbearable. At 8cm, it was unbearable. She asked for and received IV pain medicine at the same time they were preparing her epidural.

An hour or so later, Mary received the epidural. By this point, the back contractions were so intense she could hardly stay still for them to inject her. But, trouper that she is, she endured it and the powerful drugs started working their magic in her body. Sort of.

It took a while for the epidural to take. In truth, it didn't work perfectly. There were still areas that weren't completely numb, but for the most part she was weathering the contractions much better.

An hour or so later, they checked  her cervix again and found that she was 9cm dilated, but that the baby was still hanging out at the -2 station. For the uninitiated, that means the young'un was not moving down far enough to be able to exit the premises, so to speak.

The midwife came in to discuss our options at that point, in advance of a similar conversation with the doctor. Mary could try to start pushing and see if the baby would move down any further. Or we could start preparing for a cesarean section immediately. The midwife didn't really think that pushing would do much good, and that a C-section might become necessary anyway after further effort on Mary's part. There was also a chance that she might start pushing and that the baby -- due to his estimated large size -- might not be able to fit, and that an emergency C-section would be the only option at that point (which is WAY scarier!).

Shortly after that, the doctor came in and convincingly reiterated what the midwife had just told us. After mere moments of consideration, we decided it would be best for Mary and the baby to proceed with the C-section.

I'm not going to lie to you. Tears were shed. This was not the way we saw this going down. This was, in fact, our worst-case scenario. And now it was happening. Like it or not. Ready or not.

They told us that it would take about thirty minutes to get everything ready for the procedure. We suddenly realized that we were actually "on the clock" for naming this kiddo. Everybody told us indecisive parents-to-be that we would know what his name was as soon as we saw him. No offense intended if you, dear Reader, were one of those well-meaning advice givers, but we didn't buy that for one second. How can you look at a baby that you've never seen before and instantly know what his name is. Ridiculous! (Or is it?) We needed a Plan B.

We had been going back and forth between two name combinations for the past three months or so. There was Tobias Grey, and there was Josiah Daniel.

Being an eighth Greek myself, I liked that the name Tobias was Greek in origin. Grey is an ancestral name on Mary's dad's family. This name was my favorite for awhile, though I liked the other name almost as well.

We'd picked the name Josiah the first time we got pregnant seven years ago, before we found out that the pregnancy was ectopic and the baby would not survive. Daniel is a family name on my mom's side. Having male children with the initials "J. D." is a multi-generational tradition on Mary's dad's side of the family (although the actual names used to make those initials have varied from time to time, and has never been Josiah Daniel to our knowledge). Since we both liked both names, we'd been unable to choose right up until this critical moment. There had to be a tie-breaker. Somehow.

While we waited to be called into the operating room, we pondered over the meanings of each name. Tobias means "God is good." Can't argue with the sentiment -- He is. Otherwise, we'd never be here in the first place. Not in this hospital room. Not expecting a child. Not even on this earth. It's a good meaning for a good name. Josiah means "the God who heals." That meaning sunk in a little deeper.

The first time we got pregnant, the fertilized egg was stuck in the left Fallopian tube. The pregnancy was unsuccessful. The second time we got pregnant, the fertilized egg was stuck in the left Fallopian tube. That pregnancy was also unsuccessful. About two years ago, Mary underwent a procedure to have her tubes tested. We fully expected to find out that her left tube was either damaged or faulty to begin with, thus the two ectopic pregnancies. The test showed that both tubes were fully functioning and that there was no reason why we couldn't become pregnant. The third time we got pregnant, the fertilized egg was finally in the correct place. And it had traveled to its destination through the left tube. What seemed impossible for so long was happening. We were pregnant. All thanks to "the God who heals." Heading into the operating room, the name Josiah Daniel was clearly in the lead.

They took Mary back first to prep her. Since the epidural hadn't taken completely, they were going to have to give her a spinal block to fully numb her up for the C-section. Meanwhile, I waited in our room. Impatiently. Nervously. (I peed five times in ten minutes. TMI, I know.)

Finally, the nurse brought me back to the operating room, where I had to quickly don a blue gown, hair net, and mask. Everything happened in fast-forward and slow-motion at the same time.

I didn't want to look at what was happening on the other side of the shield. I sat down right beside Mary's head and held her hand. She was crying and not breathing too well. We'd soon find out that the spinal block worked too good, and had numbed her from the neck down instead of from the abdomen down. She was having a hard time breathing and swallowing (the latter of which is a long-standing phobia of hers). I instantly figured out what was going on and asked the nurses to use some kind of suction to suck out the saliva since Mary felt like she couldn't swallow. They complied.

What followed probably took only several minutes, but it seemed to fly by even quicker. Long story short: They opened her up. They took out the baby. Dr. Kori Whitley, the OB/GYN performing the procedure, caught the first glimpse of the baby and called out in amazement: "This is a BIG baby!" Mary and I looked at each other warily. At the last OB/GYN appointment, they'd measured his weight at 9 lbs. 11 oz., but we didn't really think he was that big. Neither did the doctor we saw that day. But he was big. Real big.

Dr. Whitley cried out again: "Here he comes!" And she added: "He's got red hair!" Mary started crying. Joyfully. That was when I turned to look. And there he was. Gray and goopy and all ours. This was all so surreal. In the next few seconds, as they cleaned him, checked him, and did whatever else they do to newborn babies, I watched his gray skin turn purple, then bluish, then reddish, then pink. Pink was the goal. Mission accomplished.

Mary and I looked at each other. We have a redheaded son. I'm redheaded. Josiah is close in spelling and meaning to my name (Jason means "healer"). It all made sense.

"His name is Josiah, isn't it?" I asked her. "Yeah, I think so," she said. We smiled. We kissed. We knew we were right.

Moments later, I was invited to come over and meet my son. Mary was still feeling like she was choking. "Hold her hand!" I said (not unkindly) to our nurse, as I made my way to see Josiah. She did. I touched my son for the first time. He eagerly encircled his little hand around my finger. (Symbolic much?) I stared in wonder at this amazing creation: my son. Tears were shed. I picked him up for the first time, and brought him over to Mary. She couldn't see him clearly, but she kissed him nonetheless.

He was a big baby. Dr. Whitley, still working furiously to sew Mary up, called out in our direction (I had returned to Mary's side): "Any guess on his weight, Dad? How about you, Mom?" I had no clue. "10 pounds?" I guessed. "9 pounds, 12 ounces?" Mary guessed. The doctor smirked. She was wearing a mask and I couldn't actually see her face. But I could feel the smirk.

They weighed him, then asked me to call out the weight to Mom (my Mary is a "Mom"...holy cow!). "How much is 4938 grams?" I asked stupidly. "Wait for it to convert," they instructed me. It converted. Oh, my word! "10 pounds, 14 ounces!" I called out. Mary's jaw dropped (as much as is possible when numbed up from the neck down).

The next two hours are also a blur. We spent them in a post-op room. Josiah was getting his first bath on one side of the room, while our nurse was checking Mary on the other side of the room. I was floating back and forth between the two. An hour and a half went by, and Mary had still not held her son. I spoke to the nurse who was bathing him, and told her this. She told me they were about to take Josiah back to the transitions nursery (he was "grunting," which means there may still be fluid in his lungs...that's common with C-section babies, apparently). I asked if Mary could hold him just for a minute until it was time for him to go back. The nurse was compassionate and complied.

The second they put Josiah in Mary's arms, she started crying. "Hey, Boo. You're so beautiful!" she said (or something to that effect).

It was awhile longer till they brought Josiah back to our new room (a tiny room on 1 West) and we got to love on him in earnest. It's almost a week later, and we haven't stopped loving on him. Even when he's fussy for no reason for hours on end. Even when he makes a good night's sleep impossible for the better part of the first week of his life. We haven't stopped loving on him, and we never will.

That's our story. Long, I know, but what a happy ending! This is not the last you'll hear about our precious boy. I'll probably write something else tomorrow. Maybe I'll post pictures. Maybe lots of them. Stay tuned...


  1. Wow!!! Big boy doesn't begin to describe him!!! You guys are sooo blessed and there is nothing in the world that u will ever love more, except another lol!!! Enjoy your new's to Josiah's ;-)

  2. There is going to come a time when you need to be able to pee while holding a crying baby. Both of you should begin training to proficiently handle this. Now, the advice. You do not need to stay awake and watch him sleep. Sleep while he is sleeping or you are going to be worn out & trust me on this -- babies know when you are tired! They feel your tension & they will react with fussiness or crying or both! So, take several deep breaths, & RELAX!!!!! You do NOT have to do everything perfectly or by the book, you WILL make mistakes. You are parents, not robots, so allow yourself to enjoy him. Feed him, change his diaper & when he goes to sleep you do the same. He will sleep a bunch, but when he's awake you can read to him, sing to him, hold him and love on him. Love to all three of you! Auntie Paula