I'm sitting in my nursery, rocking my sweet daughter in my arms--just like I've always dreamed. I can't stop staring at her fiery red hair, her little lips that I love to kiss, and her tiny fingers clutching mine. She's our little miracle, our red-headed warrior who fought so bravely to be here with me. It's only been 10 days, and I can't imagine life without her.
I'm reminiscing on this last thrilling, terrifying, and tiring week. This birth story will probably be too long, but I don't care. I want to remember every detail of the best and worst day of our lives. (Pre-apologies for any and all oversharing.)
Wednesday had been an extremely exhausting day for me, which makes it sounds like I did more than eat pineapple and edit a few things... But false. I had done nothing. I emailed my team at work to tell them I would be taking a half day and proceeded to take a glorious four-hour nap on my couch.
When Grahm got home, we decided to get something to eat. Fried jalapeños sounded like the perfect way to get to our overdue daughter out of me, so off to Willies we went. We ate cheeseburgers, watched the Thunder slaughter the Heat (much to Grahm's enjoyment), and talked about our days. I complained a few times during dinner that my back was hurting, just like I had for the last nine months. Neither of us thought anything about it. I'm a whiner like that.
Later that night, I had Grahm hang the very last thing in the nursery. Sawyer must have known her little room was ready for her, because approximately two seconds later I had a mind numbing pain in my lower back. Like a thousand knives were stabbing me right in the kisser. I clutched my hindparts like it was the last jelly-filled donut in all the land. I shouted, "Oh my Gosh!" and then it was over. Short but not so sweet. I looked up to see my very wide-eyed husband. "Uh, uh... Are you okay?" "Yeah, I think so. That was weird. Now I have to pee." When I popped a squat on the pot, I soon realized that I had lost my mucous plug (I already apologized for the over sharing). This didn't mean labor was imminent, but it was on the horizon. I ran to Grahm and told him the good (albeit grody) news. He grimaced and then smiled before kissing me so sweetly. We didn't really say anything, but we both knew our time together as a family of two was coming to a close. Baby Girl was on her way. We just didn't realize how soon that would really be...
Before I had time to fully understand the impact of what was going on, I had another terrible back pain. This time it was worse. More concentrated. I didn't even have time to cry the millions of tears I wanted to shed before the next one started. I began yelling at Grahm. "This is early labor?? This can't be (bad word, bad word) early labor!" Our midwife told us the early labor stage would be ignorable. She recommended going on a date or taking a nice nap, anything to pretend like labor wasn't really happening. I would need my energy later, so it was best not to focus on what was happening. But this? This was about as ignorable as the zit I had on my chin for high school prom.
"Babe, we can do this," Grahm said calmly as he held me (more accurately: as I gripped his arm with surprising force for someone my size). "Just breathe with me. In and out. In and out. Focus on Sawyer. Our baby girl is coming!" I know he said many many other sweet things, but this is essentially the last thing I really remember. All I could focus on was getting through the pain.
"I can't do this. I absolutely can NOT do this if this is the beginning," I kept screaming between contractions, which were now coming a minute apart. Grahm, the poor man, then called our midwife and told her we were on our way to the birthing center. We had no idea how far along I was, but based on my contractions we were worried Sawyer was going to be delivered right there in our bedroom with only her daddy to catch her. Frantically, Grahm grabbed our bags. "Is there anything else we need? Did I forget anything?" he asked before escorting me to the car. "I don't (bad word) care if we have everything. Just get me to the (bad word) hospital!" I yelled. (Quite a delight, was I not?)
I don't remember the car ride. Grahm told me later I kept whispering Sawyer's name in between moaning, yelling, and clutching my back... A sign to him that I really was out of it. I don't really remember even arriving to the birthing center with my two kind midwives there to greet us. I just remember they checked my dilation and told me I was only 3 cm.
It was then I cried. It was ugly, crazy lady, think-I'm-gonna-die, projectile tears. 3 cm? Three? There was no way that's right.
Somehow they got me into the tub. The warm water felt nice, but it was like throwing Neosporin on a gaping wound. I continued to have contractions. Though it helped to have the support of Grahm and the midwives, I knew there was no way I was going to make it to ten centimeters. This was only the beginning, and I felt like I was going to die. The back labor was too intense.
Another car trip to the hospital across the street. The hospital has a lot of construction going on so finding an entrance was like discovering Atlantis and a ten-day backpacking trip all in one. I remember being wheeled up by my midwife while Grahm parked the car. I had a contraction right outside the sliding glass doors. I stood up, hugged my midwife while she put pressure on my back, and moaned. When I could sit again, I realized two small children had witnessed the entire spectacle. Poor things are probably scarred for life because of the large lady who sounded like a dying ostrich. Finally, I was in a bed. I had on a hospital gown that I'm sure someone had died in yesterday, but I was optimistic. Relief was on its way. Baby Girl would be here soon.
Except that it wasn't. She wasn't. Over an hour later (from birthing center to hospital bed), I was still only 3 cm. The doctor wanted me to be 4 cm before he administered the epidural. Bastard. The squeaky wheel may get the oil, but the large and extremely loud pregnant woman apparently does not get the epidural. Grahm and my two midwives helped me through more contractions. We tried different positions to speed up the progression of labor, but I was feeling no relief for my back. I felt like a big ball of fire and failure.
Relief then came, and it was glorious. While we waited for me to fully dilate, the nurse broke my water with a long, skinny poker that looked like a chopstick. It was then she saw that Sawyer had pooped in the womb (meconium). She alerted us to this, but told us it was nothing to be overly concerned with. "Just something to be aware of," she explained.
A few hours and several text messages later (sorry to everyone who received a text from me at 3 am), the doctor came in and told me I was fully dilated. It was time to push. I was cracking jokes and feeling great. My socks were neon-colored and mismatched (of course) as I placed them in the stirrups. My hair was in a high pony tail, and I had zero makeup to my name... I looked like a 15-year-old cheerleader. But I was ready.
"Alright, Jena. Push toward your butt. Ready? Go!" First of all, it's a very hard thing to push toward something you can no longer feel. It's also a little unnerving to have a swarm of doctors and nurses all staring at your tinkle taco, waiting for you to make something happen. That's a lot of pressure. To make matters worse, Sawyer was sunnyside up (the reason for my intense back labor) and she kept getting "stuck" when I pushed. After 30 minutes of unproductive pushing, they turned my epidural off so I could feel the contractions again and push when I was supposed to. (The words "epidural" and "off" should really never be uttered to a woman in labor. FYI.)
Another hour went by, and I still hadn't budged her. But I was starting to feel the contractions again. My temperature was 102, and Sawyer's heart rate suddenly skyrocketed to 190. I was crying out in pain again. Before we knew it, the small room was a cluster. Doctors and nurses seemed to be in every nook and cranny staring at my every nook and cranny. The main doctor, I still don't know her name, told us that we really needed to take me back for a c-section. Sawyer's heart rate and meconium and my temperature/inability to push her out were beyond worrisome. No part of me wanted a c-section. No part of me wanted to agree.
They wheeled me away to prep me for surgery. I remember calling out for Grahm and crying in pain. They weren't going to let him back until I was prepped for surgery. He told me later that he had stayed in the room and cried. Everything was happening so fast. It seemed like it was all spinning out of our control.
It seemed like ages later when they finally called him back. We were now ready to get Sawyer out. He sat beside me, holding my hand and whispering encouraging things. They wouldn't allow him to stand to see past the horrid blue curtain that separated us from our daughter. Neither of us really knew what was going on, but we were excited. We were only moments away from holding our sweet baby girl ...or so we thought.
It was incredibly frustrating not knowing what was going on. "What's happening? What's happening?" I kept asking like an annoying parrot. Finally I heard a voice say, "Girl. 9:10." At first, we thought that was the weight (holy chunk!). But then we realized that was the time of birth. At the same time I realized that, I realized that she wasn't crying. She was completely silent, and it was deafening.
It was a moment I'll never forget. A moment I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. My baby wasn't crying, and I couldn't see what was happening. All Grahm and I could do was hold each other's hands and cry. I kept asking the doctors around me, "What's wrong? Where is my baby? Why can't I hear her?" Their only response was, "She's in good hands." It did nothing to ease ever-wandering mind, which kept jumping from one horrible situation to the next. Grahm tried to comfort me, to pray for our sweet daughter that we had yet to see, but he was just as terrified. It's an inexplicable feeling, really. The moment you have been planning for, hoping for, excited for for so long suddenly turning into the most horrifying minute of your life.
They wheeled her by us before rushing her to the NICU. The nurse paused briefly so we could see her for the first time. She was white as a sheet, and her big eyes were looking around. I didn't get to hold her. Or touch her. Or tell her that I love her and I'm her mommy. I just laid there, clutching Grahm, and bawling. Still we had no idea what was going so terribly wrong. All I wanted was to hold her. All I wanted was for her to be okay.
An excruciating six hours later, we finally got to go up to the NICU to see her. This is what she looked like.
It killed me to see her like this. To have these nurses making decisions for my baby. They heard her every cry. They got to console her. They changed all her diapers. They swaddled her. They fed her. I was an emotional wreck. I felt like I was missing everything while I was stuck in my own room on the floor below. I couldn't be up there as much as I wanted because the nurses and doctors wanted me to take it easy to focus on my own recovery.
The next day we finally got to hold her. It was magical despite the breathing tubes, the IVs, the wires. We even tried breastfeeding though my milk had yet to arrive. I had to have a blood transfusion because I hemorrhaged during the c-section, so I didn't get to see her for the rest of the day. That was the hardest day yet.
After five days, we finally got to go home. She's taken so well to breastfeeding despite our separation and having been fed lots of formula her first few days of life. We fall more in love with her every day, and we are so crazy thankful for our little miracle. God is truly the author and giver of life. Though our birth went nothing according to our plan, it was comforting to know nothing happened outside of His knowledge and wisdom.
Thanks to everyone's love and amazing support! Sawyer Marie is a very strong, very loved little lady.