When I began typing this I just stared at the screen for hours not knowing where to start. A lot of this experience has had no adequate words that could be put to the moments…but I will try.
January 17, 2015. I walked into the labor and delivery room a bit nervous from all of the anticipation surrounding this long awaited day. Baby Small was going to be welcomed into this world on THIS day. The baby was going to be brought into this warmly lit room with beeping machines. This was going to be the room that brought the ending to our time together.
Laura and Jon were shortly behind us as my nurse, Christina, checked us in for our induction. Her warm presence eased my anxieties and I could begin to laugh and joke around as I changed into the scratchy hospital gown and slowly began our induction process.
As I pulled the rough material over my skin my heart ached for my sleeping kids that were tucked into their little beds back at home. As many of you who have followed my blog know, this placenta lake raised concerns, which held with it, risks that possibly put baby Small and myself into possible scary scenarios. For the past 20 weeks I had felt in my heart that something might go wrong. Here I was preparing to fight for my life and this baby’s as my 2 ½ year old and 4 year old unknowingly were peacefully oblivious in their beds.
The night before induction I had tucked our 4 year old, Emma, into bed and explained to her that we were going to the hospital the next day to give Laura and Jon their baby. As I told her she would be with grandma Jill that weekend she grabbed my hand and said, “Mom, look at me. Don’t be worried. There are angels all around you protecting you.” I awkwardly laughed and kissed her on the head and closed the door noting that strange lingo from a 4 year old and wondering where she heard about angels. It was never a conversation that we had held with her before.
As my nerves began to fade I focused on the end goal. Finishing this race. Finishing strong.
-The Magical Part
Laura and Jon were in the room with us the entire time and that helped. We all played board games and laughed. I felt like I had this amazing team beside me and didn’t feel alone in this for a second.
My contractions were every 9-12 minutes when I entered into L & D but not strong enough to activate labor. We started pitocin around 10 am and Peter and I walked laps around to encourage the contractions. I did squats in the hallways and could FEEL the contractions but they didn’t HURT. Contractions began to get closer together at every 3-5 minutes. They soon administered my epidural around 2 pm and broke my water. I could feel contractions increase in intensity but with the epidural nothing was unbearable and I was still able to laugh and play games.
Around 5 pm I changed positions and suddenly FELT the contractions switch. I think I muttered the sentence, “This isn’t fun anymore.”
I felt my competitiveness kick into gear and I knew game time was near. I felt my body remember what to do. I felt so empowered and strong. I knew we were getting close to pushing. I embraced each contraction and breathed through them. My Peter was right by my side holding my hand through each one. He is the most amazing coach and would talk me through each contraction.
His voice is so strong. I channel into it and know he expects me to be strong. I know I can rise to that expectation and follow his guidance. He is my rock. I don’t need words for him to know what I need. Our souls are connected in an almost telepathic way and he does everything right in times like this. I couldn’t have done this without him. He takes a step forward and I merely follow. Without his lead I would have been lost.
Around this time, Laura’s dear friend Tammy arrived. She was taking pictures of the birth for us and I barely knew she was there. If I caught her eye, I was given an encouraging smile and I was so grateful to have her there to capture these moments for us.
The nurse, who checked me in, Christina, turned out to be a blessing I directly thank God for. She was my voice and I trusted her. I felt so taken care of and advocated for with her near by. I knew her shift was ending around 7 pm and my goal became to give birth before her shift ended.
Laura and Jon were by my side the entire time. I could feel Jon and Laura hold their breath every time I had a contraction and felt like they were both laboring along with me.
Around 6:30 I was checked and was fully effaced and 10 cm dilated and ready to push. I knew I was ready to push before they checked because I felt an overwhelming pressure and my body kicked into gear of remembering what to do. I cannot put into words other than “empowered”. I love that my body was made to birth. It is beautiful and I feel so fulfilled with purpose.
This was the first time I ever requested a mirror and was able to watch each push lead towards progress. I thought it was beautiful. I think a few cuss words slipped out along with loud groans but I didn’t scream. I was able to breathe intentionally and use that energy to push baby Small with each contraction. I heard Peter who continued to tell me how long and hard to push each time.
The original birth plan was going to be for the OB to hold the baby below and cut the cord and place baby onto Laura for skin on skin right away. When I looked to my left I saw Laura in the corner and KNEW her place wasn’t in that corner. I asked her if she wanted to go catch her baby and she excitedly jumped in.
I saw Baby Small crown and breathed one last time and there SHE was…..in her mommy’s hands. They didn’t know the gender and asked Jon to announce it and his voice quivered as he said, “It’s a…It’s a… It’s A GIRL!”
I melted into Peter’s arms and as he told me how good I did and how proud he was…I glanced over at the Smalls. I will never experience anything like that again.
Laura held her baby and was speechless. As tears dripped down her face she said, “It’s Grace. It’s Grace!” The look she gave me as we connected eyes was something beyond what any human can ever say to another…with no words spoken. I FELT how grateful she was. I FELT overwhelming happiness. I FELT her heart.
Jon was able to cut the cord and as he stared at his baby girl…he broke. He hugged me and thanked me and held Laura and the glances they exchanged….there are no words. I can never adequately describe how much love was in that room.
There wasn’t a dry eye. Doctors, nurses, Tammy, all of us…we all cried as we took Grace in. As we embraced these moments.
She is one of the most beautiful human beings this world will ever see.
Grace Finley Carin Small was born at 6:51 pm weighing 7 lbs 7 oz.
Yes! Her middle name is mine! I had no idea until they announced her name in that very moment she was born.
I broke. For some reason, I thought they were kidding at first and my reaction was “Are you sure? She has to live with that the rest of her life!” Laura said, “It’s always been your middle name.”
Another life moment that will never be forgotten and tucked into my heart forever.
Laura did skin on skin right away. Laura had been working months to have her breast milk come in and the long awaited anticipation of Grace breastfeeding was quickly fulfilled right after she was born. I saw Laura telling Jon that she latched and the world suddenly made sense. All was as it should be.
Laura and Jon have been holding their breath for months and at that moment that Grace latched on, I saw them both finally breathe. The confidence in Laura radiated off of her. The pride in Jon’s eyes overflowed as he kept doing double takes of his angelic little girl.
I was so proud of my body and myself. I felt on such a high that I reassured Peter that I was okay and asked him to go get me some food. There was sushi right across the street and I hadn’t eaten since breakfast. Tammy headed home and my nurse Christina hugged me and went home as her shift was coming to an end. The room got quite and I breathed in the peacefulness.
That’s when everything changed.
-The Scary Part
I had my phone in my hand as the nurse was checking my bleeding and I felt a few gushes of blood. Suddenly, the room went black and began spin. I called Jon over and said, “I’m not okay…I’m going to drop this” and handed him my phone. That’s the last thing I remember. I didn’t pass out but it all happened so fast.
Doctors and nurses were called in and codes were being yelled out. I began to loose blood uncontrollably and too quickly. My body stopped listening to me. I began to shake all over and became so so cold.
I wasn’t scared. I had prepared for this. I knew it was a possibility of happening from the placenta lake that had always been a concern and in my mind thought, “Okay, next stage…I got this.”
Jon called Peter to come back and explained quickly that something wasn’t okay and I needed him there… fast. I can’t imagine how Peter felt getting that call. Luckily, he was in the hallway and was by my side in minutes.
They placed an air mask on my face and I soon heard Peter’s voice reassuring me he was by my side. All I could think about was how Emma has said, “Don’t be scared, you have angels all around you.”
The nurses and doctors were doing all they could to stop the bleeding. I was so unaware of all the things they were asking me but I trusted them. They did a lot to me down below which ended up being the hardest to recover from. Labor was easy on me. This, this was hard. I had hands inside of me trying to make sure the placenta was cleared. They inserted a Bakri balloon into my stomach, which is filled with saline and puts pressure onto my uterine cavity to stop the bleeding. If this didn’t work the next option was emergency surgery.
This is exactly what happened to Laura on the operating table when she had a C-section delivering Noah, which led to her loosing her uterus in a hysterectomy. They hadn’t attempted the Bakri balloon for her then but it ended up saving me from having to experience her entire story. The balloon saved my life and my uterus. I empathized so much for the things Laura had experienced. There was the feeling of loss of control, awareness that your life is in others hands and frustration in not being strong enough to fix this yourself.
I glanced over at Laura and Jon. They were stark white. I know they were so worried for me but they were also reliving their last experience that was so traumatizing.
Again, I was not scared. I didn’t even know what was going on to be honest. I think this part of our story was scarier for everyone watching it then for me. Poor Laura and Jon. Poor Peter.
The staff saw Laura and Jon so worried and swopped them and Grace off to their own room. I was out of it but they had the bleeding under control and I remember asking if I could hold Grace. They handed her to me and I was able to see her face. I was shaking so much I quickly handed her back after kissing her cheeks. Laura and Jon kissed me and they were ushered off by the staff and asked to give the medical team room to work.
I lost 2 litters of blood, which is about 40% of my blood. They had my blood on hand and ready for a transfusion but luckily the balloon stopped the bleeding just in time. The balloon needed to stay inflated inside of me for 12-24 hours and I was unable to move, eat or drink anything during that time.
The only other room they had open was in the NICU, so that was where Grace was. I couldn’t move to see her. She couldn’t leave the NICU because of protocol and that was hard. I had peace that she was safe with her mommy and daddy where she belonged. I didn’t remember holding her though so in all the chaos it felt disconnected that I had just delivered a baby.
That night was the worse and hardest night.
I was woken up every hour for my pain meds to be given. I threw up from all of the blood loss. I was starving and thirsty but wasn’t allowed to eat or drink anything.
I was so cold and couldn’t stop shaking so they brought in a heating blanket to calm my body down. Every time I would nod off to sleep a monitor would go off beeping, a baby would cry down the hall or someone would check my vitals. I would be woken up the minute I began to drift off and it felt like a form of torture.
I just wanted to eat something, drink water and take a shower. I wanted to see Grace to allow it to make sense to my body on what I was doing this for and then fall into a deep sleep but was told I couldn’t do any of that.
By the time to the nurse shift switched, my angel nurse Christina walked in with a smile on her face and I just broke into her arms.
Our story has had so many people praying over us all. The prayers were felt after this horrific night.
Christina took over and made everything right again. She requested they check my body and slowly remove the Bakri balloon at 12 hours if my body was responding, which it was. The doctors agreed and the balloon was removed and I was closely monitored to make sure bleeding didn’t begin again.
At that point I was able to eat! I was so weak at this point Peter had to feed me. I drank so much water and felt slowly like myself again.
Christina came in and helped give me a sponge bath. I brushed my teeth and began to feel like new again.
-The Full Circle Moment
At this point, all I wanted was to see Grace. Nothing was going to make sense of what my body was experiencing until I saw her. Another closure to my heart was for my daughter to see her and hand her to Laura and Jon. I knew that closure was essential for her psychologically. We were told by the hospital that this wasn’t going to be able to happen because of the placement of our rooms. That was before Christina came on to her shift.
She called around and got it approved to wheelchair me down into Laura and Jon’s room in the back of the NICU. She also pulled strings to allow us to sneak Emma and Liam and Peter through the back door at the NICU to meet Grace.
I went first and when I saw Laura holding Grace… It all made sense to my body. It always made sense to my brain but my body needed to see the full circle. Jon welcomed me with a big hug and “thank you.” Laura handed me Grace and this is a part of the story that words do not do justice again.
Those are moments my heart will hold onto forever.
When I pulled her away from momma she winced and began to cry for her mommy. (This was a sweet connection for my brain to see.)
Her eyes were wide open and she looked at me like she might remember my voice. She sneezed and got the hiccups and my heart jumped at the memory of that happening INSIDE of me just the day before.
My kids were born with long black hair, grey eyes and tan skin. This little girl had Noah’s nose. She had short blonde hair, dark eyes and pure white skin. She was breathtaking and my body forgot that I had carried her. I felt as if I was a visiting friend in the hospital and holding my dear friends baby. Which in all reality, I was.
She began to nuzzle to look for milk and clearly wanted her mommy back. Jon spoke and this day old baby actually turned its weak little head towards her daddy’s voice!
She knew them. She craved them. They were her safety.
She was so strong! She was smart. She was worth every ounce of all I had just experienced.
The love I felt for her (and still do) is that of a level that doesn’t exists to most. I had thought it would feel as a nephew or niece but it’s more than that and more distant then that at the same time. I feel pride. I feel protective. I feel peace of where she is. I feel closure. I know she is so adored and my heart feels….satisfied.
I began to hear the chirping of my kid’s voices running down the hall. In came my babies. I hadn’t seen them since I had last tucked them into their beds Friday night.
Emma matter-of-factly said, “Oh there’s the baby. Did you give it to Laura and Jon?”
Laim had no idea what was going on. He simply touched the baby’s head and was more interested in the wheelchair.
Emma had the moment Laura and I had eagerly anticipated. She held Grace. She handed Grace to Laura and said, “Here you go. Here is your baby.”
The world held still.
Laura and I shared a look, a moment and that was all we had needed. Peter held Grace quickly and she looked up at him in a way that felt like a “Thank you,”.
We packed our little family up and left their family…. that we had all worked so hard to create.
-The God moments
As we got settled into my new room that I would be monitored in for the next 24 hours, outside of our window was the most beautiful rainbow. It took my breath away.
I felt as if God was saying, “Well done. You did it. I am proud of you.”
Laura’s mom and sister came to visit me. The love and gratitude I felt from them is too much to try to describe as well. I will never in my life have been more honored to do something like this for another person/family.
I was soon released home the next day. My body is healing faster than I had anticipated. I am living on a high from all that we experienced. I often feel great and then suddenly have down fall of energy and need to sleep and feel depleted. Uterus contractions are more painful then I had remembered.
I anxiously await my milk to come in and hope to not get sick from that. My love, Peter, is able to stay home and care for me and our friends have overwhelmed us with support in meals and encouragement.
I have been waking up from nightmares of when the delivery went astray. I wake up in a sweat and panicked. I know that will pass and my finally heart understands the trauma Laura had described when she had recounted experiencing the same things with her delivery with Noah. I share a bond with Laura that no one will ever be able to come near. She is more then a friend to me. She is a person God had picked out for me to share this story with.
When I returned home yesterday, I tucked Emma into bed. She said how glad she was that I was home from the hospital. She said, ‘Mommy, aren’t the angels beautiful?” I said, “Yes, thank you for sending them with me.” She said, “Oh you’re welcome. They sure do have big wings…”
This, my friends….. Is….
(Pictures from the delivery will be included in the next blog soon….)