I love that I’m writing this as my as-of-today, 6 year old Big Boy is sitting next to me.
It all started with a little queasiness.
My oldest was a mere 4 months old and I had just been feeling nauseous for a few days. Obviously I hadn’t even begun having a regular cycle at that point so there was no missed period to be a red flag.
I actually remember pushing my baby through the grocery store and talking to my best friend (who had just announced her pregnancy to me the month before) and joking that I maybe should pick up a pregnancy test. Who knows what possessed me to actually throw one in the cart but when I threw up in the parking lot after loading up my groceries- I was thinking perhaps it wasn’t that far fetched of an idea.
Got home, took it, while my baby (did I mention FOUR MONTH OLD) sat in her bouncy chair. There was the faintest of faint second lines. Like, we’re talking you have to hold the test up in a certain light and tilt it just so… So, I packed up Addy and we went to the doctors for a blood test. The nurses laughed at me and when the test came back negative they reassured me the chances were so slim that I could even get pregnant exclusivesly breastfeeding.
As we sat down to dinner that night I was feeling a little relieved and a little sad that I couldn’t do some creative pregnancy announcement. But, after the first bite of taco lodged in my throat and I dashed to the bathroom and began puking- I wondered. Hubby came tearing in after me and jokingly said, “Are you pregnant?” I said, “I don’t know…” So he went and bought a few tests and we both agreed there was a faint line, and by the morning test the line was a little darker.
The next 15 weeks and 2 days were awful.
I threw up 10+ times a day, no medicine worked, hospitalized 3 times and multiple trips to the E.R. for fluids.
When it finally began to fade I felt like someone who had been given a second chance at life.
His due date was December 27th. My first baby was 4 days early, and so I was certain he would be born on Christmas and for some reason in my pregnant brain that was a fate worse than death. So, I talked my OB into stripping my membranes at 38 weeks. (Well, actually, I tried to get him to do it at 37, but he said no.)
On December 14th labor began in the afternoon. Just slight contractions that I should have ignored but these were pre-doula days. We headed to the hospital around 5pm passing house after house adorned with Christmas lights.
By the time we got to the hospital the contractions weren’t really that strong and were spacing apart. I was checked and I was 3 cm (a change from that days office visit, but still not a resounding “we’re in labor!” number) and so we did the hall walk. My hubby decided it was his personal mission to get the magic happening so we were literally speed walking the halls, and if I’d have a contraction he’d say, “Just keep going!” Ha! What a sight we probably were. He had the makings of a doula husband even then…
Went in to be examined again we had already decided if nothing had happened we were going to go out to sushi (California rolls for me) so to be honest I was sort of hoping for 2 cm. But, the time had come- 6 cm!
So, they took me to the room and if you’ve read Addysons Birth Story (that was barely a year prior) I had ended up loving my anesthesiologist more than life itself, so immediate epidural was the plan.
The best friend I mentioned earlier had just had her baby 5 weeks before me and had used some kooky, bogus, brainwashing method called Hypnobirthing. She tried to lure me into her web, but I held firm. I remember calling her as we settled into the room and told her I was 6cm and not really feeling anything much and she tried her hardest to convince me I could do it. (And she’s a good convincer.) Shortly thereafter I sent her a picture of me holding my happy button the epidural man had just placed in my greedy hands.
My whole family (like all 20 of them) started to arrive, at this point it was about Midnight. We watched the ever classic Christmas Vacation and the doctor on call asked me what movie it was. (I still remember thinking, “I don’t know if you’re qualified to be at my birth if you don’t know this movie.”)
Not long after this I began to feel pressure and they checked and I was ready to start pushing! My 10 year old neice was front and center. Like standing next to the doctor peering into my vagina. My dad and brothers were on the other side of the curtain but I’m fairly sure at some point they braved the terror and peeked. Pushing was so much easier with this one! Only 15 minutes later and he was slipping into my husbands waiting hands, and my very first thought was that he was too small. (He wasn’t.) But, I remember looking at the doctor and saying, “is he ok?!” I cried. Bawled. Partly because the pregnancy from hell was over, but also because I think somewhere in my soul I knew what this tiny boy and I would go through together.
He nursed well that first time.
The next day we began having problems with latch. I knew it didn’t feel right and the nurse suspected it was a tounge tie issue. We were released and enjoyed one day at home before going to our 3 day check up at the pediatricians. The doctor took one look at the baby I thought looked slightly tan and said he needed to check billiruben levels. “Whatever” we thought. But, when the doctor called us back on our way home and said to turn around and go straight to the hospital we were a little concerned. Knowing nothing about jaundice all the numbers meant nothing. But, he was saying something about 19 and needing to keep it under 20. I had no idea what to expect and when they took my baby who loved being held and covered his eyes and put him in a cold airy incubator I fell apart. It was torture to listen to him scream and want to be held. And then for him to no longer scream, but lay there getting more and more lethargic. I was pumping and waking him every hour through the night, and the number just kept going up. They kept giving us these thresholds “As long as its under 20″, “We’re still ok, 22 is manageable”, “We just want to keep it under 25 to avoid brain damage”, “25.2″ “Here’s the blood transfusion consent form”
It just kept coming. After 4 days in the hospital they had no hold on the numbers. Hubby was at home with Addyson, and I was completely alone. Alone and terrified.
Finally on the fifth day it had dropped to 20 and by that evening it was at 16. They said the downward progression was great and we could probably go home in the morning. We checked out and I was home on the 23rd of December.
I called my pediatrician on the 26th because he had began being sleepy and unresponsive again, and sure enough. Back up to 21.
We discovered at this point that he and I had incompatible blood types. And the breast milk that should be flushing out the bilirubin was in fact fighting against his system. Out of desperation and counsel I did what many a lactation consultant would disagree with. We put him on formula for 48 hours while under lights and me pumping. And finally, FINALLY that gave his body enough to get a hold on things. His levels stayed at 15 for awhile with in home lights but eventually he worked it all out.
I breastfed for 13 months.
He was a hard, hard baby. Those first weeks of life taught him to wake every hour and that the only solace he would find was in mommy’s arms, eating. There were so many nights of crying and praying, months upon months, upon years of walking around like a zombie. I felt hopeless and lost, but that period of life (that we affectionately (or not) refer to as the Dark Days) made me a stronger person.
My sweet William,
You are my heart. You and I have been through a lot. All those nights of sitting in the rocker, holding you as you ate, praying you would drift off- those somehow have become more precious than gold to me. God has given you a sweet soul. The way you seek Him and your gentleness are such a gift. Not everyone has that. I pray that you have daddy’s strength, insight and integrity. You were also named after Papa. I hope you have his generosity and his grit. May you be surrounded with good friends who build you up and never bring home a girl that cares more about what she looks like than what’s in her heart. You are such a joy to me and a balm to my heart on hard days. I love you, bubba!