Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Best Chapter

In honor of Valentine's Day, I thought I would share the next chapter in my (now finished?) love story with Bill. This is the one I've been looking forward to telling you ever since I started that very sporadic series of blog entries. 

Excerpts from Allyson's Journal
Daddy wrote this in my birthday card:
Happy 36th birthday! I do think dreams come true.... Most nights as I lay in bed (in our house), next to you (my beautiful, caring and loving wife), with my hand on your belly feeling our daughter, I think my dreams have come true....

About 8 months along.
Funny, I had no idea Allyson was going to be huge. 

Ethan and His Cousin Savannah
I've been so frustrated with all this false labor. How will I know when to go to the hospital? What if I wait too long? You're not due for three more weeks, but the doctor says it could be any day.

I've decided to take that with a grain of salt. Yes, you could be born tomorrow (or tonight), but you could also be born in two or three weeks. I'm going to try to relax and live my normal life. You'll come when you come and I'll have to trust God to let me know when we should go to the hospital.

Well, I guess I wasn't listening closely enough. I doubt that God told us to go to the hospital today, but we went....

At six in the morning, I had several hard contractions about three minutes apart. I told Daddy I thought it was time...

Daddy woke Ethan up, and he was amazingly cooperative. He got his clothes and shoes right on and went downstairs. Too excited to eat breakfast, he helped Daddy pack his school lunch, then helped him gather last-minute items for the hospital.

When I came down, Ethan said, "So this is what it's like to get ready for a baby!" I thought that was so cute! When we dropped him off at before-school care, he gave me a big hug before Daddy took him in.

We weren't far into our drive when I realized the contractions were slowing down. By the time we reached the hospital, they were 10 minutes apart. Given my odd labor pattern with my first baby [more on that in another entry], I decided it wouldn't hurt to get checked....

The labor and delivery nurse hooked me up to a monitor for an hour, watching my contractions and your heartbeat. Naturally, the contractions slacked off severely. I had only four in an hour, and felt so silly....

I cried a little during the monitoring. Daddy was very supportive. He stroked my hand and sat quietly by my side. He made me laugh a couple of times.

When the nurse sent me home, she seemed rather patronizing in her instructions. "Don't come back until the contractions are consistently five minutes apart," she said. "I know you said your contractions were not regular with your first baby, but...."

I reiterated that the contractions had never been close to five minutes apart with Ethan, and that I'd been 8 centimeters dilated (out of 10) when I reached the hospital. I explained that with such a long drive, I was concerned about possibly delivering the baby in the car.

She replied that the most important thing was that the contractions would be very painful. When I informed her that mine weren't very painful with Ethan, she raised an eyebrow. I could tell she thought I was stupid, or that I was lying. I felt so defensive, so foolish. I cried in the parking lot, though I couldn't explain why.

Monday 5/29/06
Well, I wish I could say there were no more pre-birth labor dramas, but that was not the case. Last Sunday I thought my water had broken.... Of course, the leaking had stopped by the time I got to the hospital. Either I'd been peeing myself repeatedly, or there had been a small hole that sealed itself....

Sunday 6/4/06 
Another week has passed, and still no baby.... I felt down yesterday, but today I feel better. At church we sang a new song called "Hallelujah" [the one from the Shrek soundtrack]. It really moved me as I realized how many reasons I have to sing hallelujah. Why have I been frustrated and upset? I have a baby coming in the next week. I have a husband who loves and supports me. I have a strong, active baby inside me, for almost certainly the last time. I have a God who cares for me and my baby, who knows what's best for us. I let the tears fall and just let go of the worry. And although nothing has changed, and I'm still confused about the contractions, it doesn't seem to matter today. I feel content.

Tuesday 6/6/06
I wish my contentment could have lasted longer than two days. Yesterday I had contractions all day at work, and it was easy to see they were getting more frequent. By bedtime, they were about five minutes apart. I agonized over whether to go to the hospital but finally decided to go to bed and see what would happen. I was up almost all night. I managed to doze, but the contractions woke me over and over.

This morning the contractions were 2-3 minutes apart, so we headed to the hospital. But the moment we got in the car, they slowed down, about 6-9 minutes apart. So instead of going to triage, we went to the doctor's office. My doctor's associate examined me, and she strongly recommended induced labor--tomorrow!

Being presented with this choice was overwhelming, especially after getting so little sleep. I sobbed all the way to my mom's house, where I spent the day relaxing....

Wednesday 6/7/06 4:30 A.M.
Today is your birthday! My water broke at 4:00, and we are at the hospital. The pains are about three minutes apart, and pretty sharp. I am nervous and excited. Ethan is with us, and Grandpa is on the way to pick him up.... I'm so excited to meet you, sweet Allyson!

Wednesday 6/7/06 8:15 P.M.
You are a beautiful baby. I can't believe how smoothly the whole labor went. I know God was with me throughout....

After two hours, I was at 6 centimeters, making good progress....

Around 8:00, the doctor came and broke my water. I was 7 centimeters dilated. The pain was still quite manageable. I was able to laugh and talk through the contractions. I wished that snippy labor nurse who'd made me feel so stupid on that first trip could see me now, but I never saw her.
Hard Labor??

But when I hit 8 centimeters, the pain ratcheted up abruptly, like a knife stabbing me in my lower back. Previously, I'd been praying through the contractions, asking for peace and strength, asking God to open my cervix. Now, I could only moan and breathe, "Jesus, Jesus."

The nurse, Candace, said she'd check me again in an hour, and if I hadn't progressed she'd give me a little Pitocin to make the contractions stronger. Make them stronger?? After an hour? I suddenly decided I wanted an epidural after all. She said it wasn't too late.

An anesthesiologist came in a minute or two later, almost as if he'd been waiting in the hall. Was I glad to see him! He asked a few questions, but I could barely answer him. I literally had trouble telling him my name, and also gave him my pre-pregnancy weight by mistake. He finally told me to roll onto my right side, and started to swab my back for the injection.

After I'd lurched over like a beached whale, I cried, "She's coming now. Now!"

I'd been checked only five minutes before, but Candace checked again. Verifying that I was at 10 centimeters, she dismissed the anesthesiologist and paged the doctor. "Oh no!" I thought. There was no turning back. This was going to be an all natural birth.

Candace lifted my legs into the stirrups for some practice pushes. She told me to hold my breath and push, but I kept breathing really fast. "I'm scared!" I told Daddy.

Candace told me to look in her eyes. "Remember not to breathe. Don't make a sound. Just push." Finally I got the hang of it. The pain was almost gone, leaving a tremendous pressure in its wake.

After one contraction, she said, "No more pushing!" Pressing my knees together, she told me to blow. I repeated, "She's coming NOW!"

My doctor, Karan, must have run across from her office. When I saw her, I wanted to push again, but Candace told me to keep blowing while she got ready. I replied, "She's coming! I can't stop it."

At last they put my feet in the stirrups and let me push. After just one contraction, your head and elbow were out. I could hear your gurgling cry, but I couldn't see you. And then the rest of you slipped gently into the world. Luckily, Candace urged me to open my eyes, just in time to see you emerge.

I looked at Daddy and started to laugh. I couldn't believe I had done it! You were here! I thought I would cry, but I just laughed. Your daddy cried, though. He said he'd been crying a lot because I was so brave. But I hadn't felt brave.

As she caught you, Karan had said, "Wow! This is a big baby." The pediatric nurse weighed you right away and announced that you were 9 pounds and 0 ounces. I couldn't believe how easily you'd come. Nine pounds!

Thursday 6/8/06
Your first day passed in a blur. You were in a quiet, alert state for much of the day, but by evening you were exhausted. You slept and slept, through quite a few visitors--many of whom held you and remarked how pretty you were. Grandpa and Grandma visited, bringing along your big brother, Aunt Emily, Hillary, Savannah, and Sammy.

Proud, Proud Daddy

Ethan was too nervous to hold you at first, but then he changed his mind. He was so proud!

The next visitors were Uncle Rick, Aunt Diane, and Mindy....
Grandma and Cousin Mindy
Through all of this, you slept. But after a nurse came to weigh you at 11:30 that night, you were wide awake. Daddy was wonderful with you! He held you, talked softly to you, rocked you, and walked the floor. He told you he understood how tired and overwhelmed you must be--such a journey you had made! I was very moved by his compassion and the joy with which he cared for you.

When you awoke again and hour or so later, I looked down at you as you nursed. In that moment, I fell in love with you. It had been such an exciting, hectic day that I really hadn't had time to bond with you. But now it was only you and I in the world; Daddy was asleep in the uncomfortable futon chair. After you ate, I held you against my body, skin to skin, with your blanket covering us. You slept blissfully, lulled by my heartbeat. I whispered that I missed carrying you inside me, but I was so glad to hold you in my arms at last.

Monday 6/12/06
You've been home several days now, and you're settling into a routine. It's been very difficult because you sleep all day and then stay up all night. Again, I've been amazed at the grace Daddy shows despite his lack of sleep. He talks tenderly to you and gazes lovingly at you even in the middle of the night.
One of Those Exhausting Nights
It's been harder on me. I'm tired from the delivery and from making milk. My hormones are changing, and that makes me weepy when I don't get enough sleep. Daddy is tender with me also. He rubs my back while I cry, and he snuggles me close when I'm too anxious to sleep. I'm falling in love with him all over again....

Nana and Grandpa arrived on the 8th, the day after your birth. They were a lot of help, doing all the cooking and helping to comfort you when you thought you wanted to eat all the time. Nana watched over me to make sure I was eating and drinking lots of water.
Nana and Her Angel
Of course, they fell in love with you instantly. Nana called you an angel. She and Auntie Lisa--who saw you on the hospital website--think you look just like your father. But my family thinks you look just like me when I was a baby. I can see Ethan in you, too. Your cheeks are chubby like his were.
The Hospital Picture
You are such a miracle. I love to see your wide eyes when you are awake. I love to see you totally relaxed in sleep, with so many expressions playing across your face. I can see Daddy, Ethan, and even myself in you....

Ethan loves you, too. He's so helpful and cooperative, which shows he's growing up. He cheerfully washes his hands so he can hold you.... I'm very, very proud of the way he's welcomed you into the family.

After reading through all these journal entries and reliving the happy memories, I'm surprised that I don't feel a bit sad. Those were good times, and I'm glad we had them. I'm sure God has many more happy memories in store for me. Perhaps the best is yet to come! 

Happy Valentine's Day to you and yours. 

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