The Girl the Birth: or Teaching Bravery

on 18 January 2012

"We can do Hard Things."

I say this to the Boy several times a week, and sometimes several times a day within the week.  It's one of the few downsides to having a very cautious child.  The upside being that he's never been a climber, he never runs away from us in public spaces, and I've never had to pull random nastiness out of his mouth.  But the downside is significant.  After all, how do you teach bravery?  How do you teach a child the importance of TRYING...even if you fail, even if you get hurt in the process, how do you teach them to try?

And since I don't know, I find myself reminding him that we can, in fact, do hard things.  We can do scary things.  We can try and fail and it's ok.  Mama and Daddy do it all the time and so can our Boy.


That said, there are few things in this world I am more afraid of than surgery.  I don't like needles, I don't like being cut open, I don't like my own blood on the outside of my person, and I really hate the whole recovery process.  It's mainly due to these reasons that I pushed so hard for a VBAC.

At 20 weeks, I switched from my OB/GYN to the midwives.  I had heard wonderful things about the midwives, and at that point I was having a painfully boring pregnancy.  There was no need for me to see a physician, I wasn't SICK.  I was just pregnant.  So I started meeting with the midwives and I just fell in love with them.  They were so compassionate, so kind, so maternal and understanding.  They could give me reasonable, medical explanations for why I was feeling what I was feeling, and they would still give me a hug if I had cried all over them during the appointment.  I honestly felt that my best chances for a VBAC lay with the midwives, and I was happily ensconced in my belief that the pregnancy would remain uneventful.

Then I was diagnosed, back in early November, with gestational diabetes, and I knew then that the odds were not in favor of a VBAC.  They put me on a medication called glyburide in an attempt to keep my blood sugar nice and even so as to attempt to control the size of the Girl.  The theory being that if they could keep her relative size in the more normal range (babies from mothers with gestational diabetes tend to be BIG, 9-10 pounds rather than the 7-8 pounds of non-gestationally diabetic mothers), then my chances for a VBAC would improve.  In addition, they reviewed my history with the Boy and decided that if I went in to labor on my own and before January 1st, I stood a good chance of a successful delivery.  But if I went past the first, and never went in to labor, then it was a pretty good sign that my body wouldn't tolerate a natural delivery very well.  At this point, the midwives referred me back to my OB/GYN and while I understood completely why they had to do it, I was so sad to leave them.

And at a consultation with one of the maternal and fetal medicine specialists, they scheduled a c-section.  Just in case.


Chris and I worked hard through all of December to try to bring on labor.  I walked and walked and walked and we means to bring on labor.  But nothing and I mean NOTHING was happening.  What can I say?  Apparently, I have a really cozy uterus.  The Girl's non-stress tests showed that she was happy and healthy, but not the least bit interested in the outside world, and so I started to practice what I preach.

I would get in the shower every day and remind myself that, We can, in fact, do Hard Things.  I can let this particular thing go, I can accept that babies come how they need to come.  I can learn the things that I need to learn from this process.  And, perhaps most importantly, I can be brave too.


So the 2nd comes, and we head to the hospital for pre-op and I'm nervous and sweating and they take (what felt like) 400 vials of blood, and another non-stress-test, and another blood sugar test and more forms and questions and rather than sitting there thinking, "Why me?"  or "Why can't she just come like a normal child?"  I reminded myself that I can be brave.  If I'm going to ask my children to be brave and to do hard things and things that scare them, then I should step up and do the same.  And so I did.

I didn't sleep much the night before.  I was worrying about all the complications.  Worrying about my Girl and would everything be ok.  Worrying about my Boy at his Nana's house, that he would wake up and be scared and I wouldn't be there for him.  I worry very well, it's one of my mad skillz. 

At 5am, I gave up trying to sleep and got up.  I checked email and read news and blogs and then showered.  I dressed and dried my hair and put on a little make up.  It's a woman's armor, right?  Anytime I feel scared or nervous, I tend to apply make up, as if that will somehow disguise my anxiety.  I packed up the last few things I thought I might want in the hospital.  Did anyone doubt that they were books?  Tale of Two Cities, Happiest Baby on the Block and the Complete Guide to Breastfeeding.  As though I would have buckets of time to just read.

Chris and I packed up the yellow beetle and headed to the hospital.  It was fitting somehow, the beetle had driven us for the delivery of our Boy and now it was shepherding us for the delivery of our Girl. 


We checked in.  Chris is amazing in a hospital.  It's like a switch flips in his brain and he ceases to be anxious or nervous about anything and becomes completely calm and professional.  So while I was pale and trying not to freak out, he was completely in control and cracking jokes.  He introduced the entire anesthesia team to me, they told me funny stories of some of the physicians to try to distract me while the nurse applied my IV, and we waited.

Chris wasn't allowed back in the OR while the anesthesia team worked, I had to go alone.  And honestly, I was terrified.  They were all lovely doctors and residents, they were kind and compassionate and gentle...but...they were still strangers.  Their voices were unfamiliar and it's like they're speaking a different language back there.  It's just chatter.  So I took many deep breaths.  I reminded myself of things that my lovely friends had told me to remember only the night before.  And I'm quite proud to say that I made it through without collapsing into weepy tears (which I really wanted to do).

I was finally situated and they brought Chris back.  I had told him before that he should prepare himself to talk to me the whole time.  He has a very soothing voice and I tend to be rather auditory by nature, but instead, my husband went in to work mode.  He was checking lines and making sure everything was secured properly and everyone was in their proper places and the attending physician had to keep reminding him that he wasn't there to WORK, he needed to focus on his WIFE.  I thanked her more than once.

And then I heard another familiar voice.  It was my midwife!  She was on call that morning and saw that I was down for a c-section, so she masked up and came in and sat right next to Chris and I and talked to me the whole time.  I can't tell you what that meant to me, to have someone there who understood all my fear and anxiety of this particular place (Chris does NOT understand, he thinks ORs are magic places where science and artistry meet to help people live longer, healthier lives). 

There was a lot of careful cutting and different people asking me different questions about how I was feeling (cold, mostly, and nervous and light headed and very, very NUMB).  And then, there was this extraordinary scream.  And I mean SCREAM.  And I started to cry, of course I did.  It's easier as they get older, I still cry when my babies cry.  Maybe it's that long connection to their bodies that makes me feel connected to what they feel, I don't know.  But there she was...all white and pink and screaming her head off in protest of her eviction.

Chris stayed with me...he would only glance over at her while they put my pieces back together again.  I kept insisting that he go and check her out, but he adamantly refused.  I'm not sure I know what was going on there, but he stayed with me.  The nurse finally brought her over and we both shed some happy tears.

It took 20 months to start her.  39 weeks to grow her.  And 45 minutes to bring her into the world.  We had waited for so long...and here she was.  She was so very tiny.  I had been expecting (and fearing) a ginormous baby, and in the end she was only 8 pounds and 20 inches long.  She has HUGE feet, but these teeny-tiny hands.  I had spent the better part of the last 8 weeks of the pregnancy in a high state of anxiety over her and her health...I just needed to know that she was ok, that my body was absorbing the stress of elevated blood sugars and protecting her from it all.  And finally, finally, here she was. 


The doctor put me back together.  (He corrected a couple of issues that may have led to the delay in conception.)  And they wheeled us back to the recovery room, and there was my sister.  I had so wanted her with me...she's been through this four times, and for some reason I became convinced that if she was there then nothing bad could happen.  She's heroic that way.  Anyway, we all took turns holding our Girl and mooning over her pink and white skin and head full of hair. 

The pediatric nurse came to check her blood sugars and they were low.  Disappointingly low.  So they helped me to breastfeed her in the hopes that what little there was, would help bring her sugar back up. did not.  Her blood sugar continued to nose dive and so they brought out the formula and a teaspoon (they don't give any sort of artificial nipple at UNC) and we slowly, slowly spoon fed her and then tested her again and again and my poor Girl...her little heels STILL have scabs on them from being pricked open so many times.  But by the evening, her blood sugar had stabilized at an acceptable level and we were alternately breastfeeding and sleeping.

The nurses were positively amazing.  They took such good care of me, poor Christopher was bored.  But he did his part too, he changed every single diaper, and he made all the phone calls.  Were you expecting a call?  Did you not get one?  Blame him.  I made him a list of people and he forgot it at home.

We managed to talk the nurses into letting us out early (after only 3 days instead of 4), and since we were at the beginning of a big wave of births, they were happy to comply.  And so we headed home and I sent Chris out immediately to bring our Boy home.  It was time to put our family together and to stay together.

And yes, having 2 children to care for is hard, particularly when you're in pain and weaker than normal.  It's not easy to be home and have to cook and clean up after yourself.  It's not fun to parent in a percoset induced haze.  But after all...we can do Hard Things.


Cel and JP said...

I am weepingly proud of you. So very proud of you. And so grateful to Heavenly Father for all the tender mercies. He sends angels when mortal ones who wish to be there cannot.

Congratulations. love you.

Brett said...

Congratulations to the nth degree to you, my wonderful friend. For being brave, for doing hard things all the time, for being an incredible example to your family and friends, and for just being so awesome. Love your little one and her squishy face! :-)