(My first picture with baby Elle. Not necessarily glamourous. But beautiful.)
Emerging from the cocoon of recovery, infancy, just being with Elle and getting a few hints already as to what it means to be a mother of three.
Jamie and my mom left last night. Six weeks of help, support, fun, and—as I said when Steve’s parents visited in the fall—a sense that we are being seen here in Bahrain, that our life is being witnessed. Eases the fear of isolation immediately.
Telling the stories of how our children come to us—no matter how that happens—is giving a voice to some of the most raw and primal material in our souls. While babies are brought home every day, all over the world, the expansion of a heart is no small miracle. I am witness to that. So, I thought I would tell you how Elle came to us.
As you may know from my posts, tweets, and status updates, I had quite a bit of on-again-off-again labor. On Monday, February 20, things began heating up a bit so Steve and I went to the hospital that morning to see if, indeed, it was game time.
Though I had a c-section with the twins, my OB here in Bahrain thought I would be a good candidate for a VBAC and encouraged me to do a trial of labor with this delivery to see if perhaps we could avoid the recovery of the c-section. This was exactly what I wanted.
When we arrived, I was dilated 2-3 centimeters, so the doctor checked us in. What commenced at this point was a very long, sloooooooooow labor that inched along all day Monday, all night Monday, and all day Tuesday. Painstaking. One tiny little bit at a time.
Monday night, I was still at 3 centimeters, and the contractions were increasing in intensity, including that lovely “back labor” I have heard so many good things about.
When you are trying a VBAC, one of the major risks is uterine rupture because your uterus has been previously scarred. Because of this concern, doctors do not use any kind of labor enhancing drugs (i.e. pitocin). Labor has to progress naturally without any assistance. So, I knew I couldn’t get an epidural too early as it might stall my labor and the doctor wouldn’t be able to use any drugs to stimulate it again.
Another issue in this whole equation . . . toward the end of my pregnancy, my OB began taking measurements of the baby through ultrasound. As babies do, especially babies in my family, she kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger. My doctor would measure and re-measure and would shake her head in disbelief. “No, this cannot be right,” and she would measure again.
As Steve is fond of saying, my family stock is comprised of “rawhide and rebar” and we build ‘em big, so I wasn’t surprised whatsoever. But this was cause for concern for my doctor as she wasn’t sure I’d be able to deliver a baby that was measuring in the 9-10 pound range. Still, we were both willing to give it a try.
As Monday night, Februrary 20 turned into Tuesday morning—and that special friend “back labor” had kept me up all night—my doctor arrived and gave me the good news I had progressed to 4.5-5 centimeters. Thank you, sweet Jesus.
But then things slowed again. Miserably. Slow, slow, slow. Steve and I walked the halls, etching a path in those floors from lap after lap. Trying to get things going. After hours of walking and breathing, my doctor gave me the disappointing news that I hadn’t progressed. It looked like we were headed downstairs for surgery.
I asked for one more hour, and she agreed. But she told me I couldn’t walk any more. I needed to preserve energy. So I laid down on my side—which was truly uncomfortable—and wouldn’t you know, those contractions started intensifying again. My doctor came back one hour later and announced I was 6-7 and it was time to go to the labor room and get my epidural. Again, thank you sweet Jesus.
Every step of the way, I was trying to hold space for both a c-section and the VBAC. I was trying to remember that no matter what we plan in these types of situations, there are elements beyond our control, and I was trying to keep in mind that a healthy baby was my #1 priority (not my birth agenda).
My desire was to accomplish the VBAC, but once we got to the labor room, everything slowed again, and I never progressed past 7 centimeters. My doctor broke my water to see if that would help. But it didn’t. She gave me time to see if that would help. But it didn’t. She even considered putting an itsy bitsy bit of pitocin in my IV just to give me that little bit of umph that I needed. But, in the end, it was too big of a risk.
The other major factor was that the baby’s head never came down and engaged, so there was risk of cord prolapse, which is hugely dangerous.
In the end, sometime in the afternoon on Tuesday, February 21, after about 30 hours of labor and a solid effort, my doctor took my hand and told me it was time to go downstairs for surgery.
I was disappointed; I won’t lie. I had prepared myself for the c-section earlier, but it looked like the VBAC was going to happen there for a moment. Letting go of what could be and embracing what is . . . joy and grief and relief and concern . . . all teetering on one moment. Of course, I cried.
Also in the tears was the news that I would have to get general anesthetic for the c-section (hospital policy after getting an epidural) and Steve would not be able to be with me for the delivery. Just not how you picture things happening—neither parent really present for the birth.
The next thing I remember is waking up in a haze, in pain, and my doctor holding my hand—her long black hair against her emerald green scrubs. “We made the right decision,” she said to me. “The baby was even bigger than we thought and you would have had trouble delivering her shoulders.”
“How big?” I asked.
“4.77 kilos,” she laughed. “That’s 10 pounds, 8 ounces.”
The next thing I remember is Steve coming in and showing me pictures of the baby on his phone. As soon as they brought her out of delivery, he went with her to be cleaned up and weighed and measured. I didn’t wake up until she was about 3 hours old, and by that time, she was already upstairs, so I still hadn’t held her yet.
Steve slid pictures across his phone and I started sobbing. Like, loud, uncontrolled, gutted sobs. She was so big and pink and beautiful. And he just let me lay there and sob while he flicked through the pictures again and again.
What followed was six days in the hospital, and it took every last hour of that time for me to feel like I could even think about going home.
The day after she was born, Steve wheeled her isolette to the foot of my bed so I could see her little fat face and he said, “We need to decide on her name.” I looked at her for a full hour while we went back through our list. Finally, we chose Elle (pronounced “L”). Stay tuned for a post about her name.
In her, we have been given something so much more significant than I could have ever imagined. She is a longing fulfilled, a prayer answered, a life.
When I miscarried earlier last year, I wrote that something was silenced deep inside me, like a mute button had been pushed. The loss and the grief and the shock taking away any kind of words.
I find myself silenced again. Like Someone has turned down my ability to explain it all and has turned up my ability to just experience it.
I have snapshots of Indian, Sri Lankan, Filipina, and Bahraini women floating in and around us all, caring for us, comforting us, giving us a strong start with baby Elle. Through language barriers and cultural differences we brought a child into the world. The most beautiful little girl . . . who, incidentally, looked so big and so white in that hospital nursery.
Thank you to all of you who prayed, hoped, believed. Grateful does not even begin to cover it.