As I write this, a sleeping baby boy is nestled next to me, I can still hardly believe this is happening. To us. Again. We get a newborn of our very own! A tiny, days-old baby who does nothing but eat, sleep, and poop; who needs us more than anything else in the world; who is ours, flesh of our flesh and bone of our bones; who looks like an adorable chipmunk right now but will one day look like his daddy and me. I just want to wrap all these beautiful moments up and lock them away so that I can pull them out and savor them again over and over.
And so I blog about them.
I’m excited to share Gil’s birth story with you all, but of course it will be a pretty simplified version of the story. My brothers-in-law are some of my most avid readers and I want to spare them the birthing details! If you would like to read a more extensive account, I’m going to type one up today. Feel free to let me know through my Contact Page if you’d like to receive a copy.
OK, here we go…
Well, Friday, January 25th, began as any other. Lena was eating breakfast and I was making oatmeal when suddenly my phone rang. It was my OB calling to let me know that she wanted me to come in for another blood test. Remember how last week I was complaining about itching on my hands and feet? All week we’d been waiting for the results of one remaining, all-important blood test to come back from the military hospital in Germany. Finally I requested that we get my blood tested in Sicily as quickly as possible, and so my OB had asked for insurance approval on my behalf. As of Friday morning the claim had been approved, and so… could I come ASAP to get my blood drawn?
By 9:30am I was watching the lab technicians take my blood away. If it came back with elevated bile acid levels, it would mean I did have cholestasis of pregnancy. That would probably mean induction. As I hadn’t felt itchy for days now, I put it out of my mind and went on with my day.
At 4pm Lena and I were out on a walk on a crisp winter afternoon. My OB called again then and I answered cheerfully, not really thinking about what she might have to say.
“Hi, Becca. Well, your lab results came back and you do have elevated bile acids. The highest normal value is 7 and your level is 10. Based on the elevated level and the fact that you are already over 39 weeks, my recommendation would be induction. Preferably tonight.”
For a minute it felt like everything went into slow motion. Induction? Like… go into the hospital and get Pitocin? Have a baby? Tonight? This long-awaited event… now?
I called Elliott and we talked for a long time, going back and forth, reviewing a medical journal article about cholestasis, discussing whether we should wait until the morning or have the baby that night. Finally I said I wanted to go ahead with induction, even though it might mean a long, hard delivery for me. The right thing to do was to get our baby out of harm’s way.
I walked home with Lena, feeling emotional. I would never walk this way with just one baby again. She was about to be a big sister! I was about to be a mother of two. I was going to meet my son that night!
I called my friend Becca to come get Lena, finished packing my hospital bag, and then packed a bag for Lena, too. When Becca came, I laughed and was cheerful, but she knew there was so much more under the surface. I couldn’t shake the dark cloud that hung over me. Becca hugged me and told me she understood; “just pray and commit it to God, and then go forward.”
I drove the whole way to base with my hand on my stomach. For a long time the baby didn’t move and I panicked, thinking it might be too late. But then he shifted reassuringly, and shifted again. I would hold him in my arms tonight, God willing!
Elliott met me on base and we walked into the hospital together just before 7pm. I had been there that morning — that morning of the blood draw, of greeting acquaintances and friends around the hospital, of rolling my eyes about “when will this baby ever come?” — and it all seemed so far away now.
A few minutes later the nurses for the night shift came in to introduce themselves. One of them we already knew and we were hoping she would be working whenever I delivered. She seemed so calm and conscientious and obviously loved her job. (She’s probably going to read this so… hi, Melissa! We were so glad you were there.)
The OB on call came in and introduced herself. I had only met her once and was at first disappointed that my regular OB wasn’t on call. However, I ended up loving Dr. Adriano and am so glad she delivered Gil. Together we went over my birth plan. I explained that I had a natural childbirth with my daughter and have taken Bradley childbirth classes, and so my desire with this birth — even with induction — was to adhere as much as I could to a natural, drug-free delivery. I wanted to move around during labor. I didn’t want to be offered an epidural. I preferred as much privacy as possible throughout the process. A little bit shyly, I also said that Elliott would like to catch the baby and cut the cord, two things that seemed rather natural-birthy in a classic hospital setting. But Dr. Adriano was unphased and said she’d do whatever she could to accommodate us.
And then induction began. At about 7:15pm, Melissa started Pitocin, a drug that would begin contractions. Elliott pulled The Italian Job out of his bag; he’d stopped by the library on his way to the hospital! Good husband. We settled back to watch the movie and wait for things to happen.
After about an hour of Pitocin, I was having regular contractions but could barely feel them. That was enough to satisfy Dr. Adriano that labor was progressing as it should, though, so she broke my water. Since I had delivered Lena less than 6 hours after my water was broken, I hoped that meant I didn’t have long to wait for serious labor and then delivery.
By the end of the movie around 10pm, the contractions were definitely painful. With Lena they got much more painful and frequent, though, so I thought I still had awhile to wait. I could still get up and walk around and had moved to sitting on an exercise ball. Eventually I moved the ball to the side of the bed, sat on it, and leaned my torso forward on some pillows.
I think by then it was about 10:30, and the contractions began to get much stronger. I muscled through them for about 30 minutes and then learned I was 9cm and could probably start pushing whenever I felt like it. Around me I could hear Melissa and Dr. Adriano getting ready for delivery. Elliott stood by my side, rubbing my back, encouraging me after each contraction. He was just what I needed through all of this: calm and reassuring, quiet and supportive, and quick to help me smile.
Dr. Adriano asked if I wanted to get into bed at this point, but since I was comfortable (??), I asked to stay where I was. They decided they would just roll the ball away when the baby was ready to be born.
About 25 minutes later, right before Gil was born, Elliott donned gloves and was ready to reach down to hold Gil’s head as he slid into the world. At my request only the doctor, nurse, and Elliott were in the room, and they were all waiting quietly, respecting my desire for no cheering/counting and just letting me take my time. I was in a great deal of pain; I had totally forgotten that it hurt this much! However, the pain wasn’t getting any better, and I finally told myself, “There’s no one and nothing that can help you with the pain except to have this baby. Just push through the pain.” So I did, and it was awful for a few seconds, but then… then I heard a piercing cry, the melt-your-heart cry of a brand new baby, a baby who, in the space of a second, goes from inside you to out in the world, gulping in air, filling his perfect little lungs, and crying for his mama.
They helped me into bed and put Gil in my arms. He was a total mess, not at all cleaned off after delivery. Holding my little son in my arms, naked and brand new and hollering, was an entirely new experience for me, because the hospital staff had cleaned Lena and wrapped her up before I held her. The first time I met Gil was raw and messy, humbling and beautiful.
At first I couldn’t get over how much Gil looked like Lena. That round, red little face and all that dark hair! But Elliott could already see Gil’s Uncle David, his grandfather Mark, and definitely Uncle Eric and Uncle Jonathan too. One thing Elliott thought right away, though, was that the name at the top of our list just didn’t fit. We gazed into our little boy’s face, running down our list of names, trying to decide what to call him. In the end it took us over 12 hours to decide on a name, about as long as it took to agree upon Lena’s! Are all parents so anxious that the face fits the name?
I’ll share the background on Gil’s name on Thursday, as well as a bunch of photos from those first 24 hours with our son!