We have three children, and my husband and I were very fortunate to get pregnant almost right away with all of them. With my first born, I was using a midwife and had planned to do a water birth, but our son had other plans. I had about seven more weeks to go when, in the middle of the night, I got up to go to the bathroom, and when I came back, it felt like I had peed myself. I mean, I guess it was possible right? But when I got back up a bit later, I was bleeding. I knew something was going on, so I woke up my husband and we headed to the hospital. When they checked me, I was 5 centimeters and 80% effaced. All I could think was "No, today is not the day! It’s too early!" It was a very anxious labor, but the nurses and the OB were fabulous. They guided me when the time came to push, and then, our baby boy was born. He came out, and he looked just like a normal baby. Not premature at all. He was 5 pounds and 6 ounces. I held him skin-to-skin for a little while. But at about 10 minutes of life, he started grunting, which I know now is a sign of respiratory distress. He was put under an oxygen hood because they didn’t have a NICU there. For eight hours he laid under that hood but did not improve, so they decided he had to be transferred to another hospital. The transport team came, but when they took the hood off our son, he just quit. He had met his reserve, and he stopped breathing. At that point, they had to intubate him. All this time I’m in my room, waiting for the pediatrician to come and give me more bad news. When they finally brought him by in the little isolette, he was all strapped down, tubes coming out of his face. His eyes were wide open, and he was looking behind himself; he was looking for me.
My midwife discharged me the next day, and we drove back and forth a couple of times a day to sit by his bedside. For the first four days, I wasn’t allowed to hold him. It was very difficult to go through that. You know, nobody reads the chapter on pre-term labor and delivery. You don’t know what it’s going to be like. The hardest part is leaving the hospital without your baby. It tempers your postpartum period because you don’t get to be at home and nest with your baby, recovering from childbirth and letting your body rest. I was exhausted: emotionally and physically exhausted. He stayed there for exactly two weeks. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not that long, but for a parent, every day feels like a year. The night before we brought him home we got to room-in. That way, you’re in the hospital and assuming the care, but under the direction of nurses. At the NICU, they do a really good job teaching you to look at your baby and not at the monitors. But still, you wake up all the time. If a regular mom wakes up five times a night, a NICU mom probably wakes up twenty just to make sure their baby is breathing. That’s in addition to the feedings and all that. Back then, I certainly wasn’t aware of postpartum depression or baby blues. I also didn’t know how to discern the emotional journey that I had been on; the NICU and also what’s like to be postpartum. I think I was so focused on making sure he was healthy during his first year of life that I never thought about myself. At the same time, I grew up in church, and when he was still in the NICU, I prayed a lot. If ever in my life I saw the face of God, it was in that time period. It felt like He put this wall in front of me and said, "Stop! This is where I want you in life." So, when my son was four months old, I started doing prerequisites to become a NICU nurse.
When my son was one year old, we decided we wanted to go ahead and try for our second one. At my 20-week internal ultrasound, they found that my cervix was funneling – which means it’s opening from the inside and is the probable cause of my preterm labor. We started weekly injections of progesterone, but despite them, I went into labor at 26 weeks. They were able to stop it, and I was put on bedrest. I had an eighteen months old toddler, but luckily, I had a very good friend who came every day to take care of my son, make lunch, and sit and chat with me. We finally made it to that coveted 36 weeks, and by that point, I was done being pregnant. So, my midwife stripped my membranes, and it worked. I had our baby girl at 37 weeks and six days. It was a super-fast labor, and I was group B strep positive, so after she was born, they tested her, and she had an elevated white blood cell count. Again, they took my baby away to give her antibiotics. Today we do it in-room, but not back then. That is where I think the emotions hit me. I was also thinking, "How am I going to split my time and my love between two kids?" I was just overwhelmed. You put a lot of pressure on yourself to meet everybody’s needs. She eventually was discharged, and I got to roll out of the hospital with my baby and go home with her. But it did not take long for the baby blues to smack me in the face. I don’t think I ever had postpartum depression, but I was on that cusp between both states. It was hard to be consumed by this weeping feeling. I mean, how could I be feeling this? I had carried my baby to term, she came home with me… I had everything that I wanted, yet I was still worrying. I finally called my midwife, and she was wonderful. She said, "During your pregnancy you were so positive and focused on doing everything right, never allowing yourself to go into that negative round. Now your baby is here and she’s fine. You can release all of that." That’s when I started to be able to process all the things that had happened. And just when I started to get over that tearfulness, colics kicked in. She screamed all day long. I would say it was an overwhelming first year. Looking back on it, I think it was the start of our relationship and how difficult it has been since. She was – bless her heart – a very difficult child. She was causing me so much angst, and you cannot help but wonder if her issues today with anxiety were caused by those odds months where I didn’t like my child. I don’t know. Maybe someday, I’ll forgive myself, but I think our difficult journey has impacted her character. I know in my mind that we have a family history of anxiety, but in my mother’s heart, I can’t help but wonder… children learn what they live. Did we impose some of this on her?
I wanted another one but my husband was like, "I think two is good." So, I wrapped my head around it and I also had gotten accepted into nursing school – three years after starting the prerequisites, mind you. There’s a one year waiting period before getting into the program and my husband, being the comedian that he is, asked: "So what are you going to do during that one year?" I was like "What do you mean, I have two kids to take care of!" and he goes, "Well why don’t we have another baby." I thought, yeah, like if it’s just that easy. But of course, I said yes. And I’m so glad we did because Emma really is the cap to our family. I always felt like I was missing an Emma. I had to get the progesterone injections every week with her too but it worked this time. I went full term. Her delivery was wonderful. We didn’t know what we were having and when the kids came to visit, our son was so, so disappointed. He didn’t even want to get into the room! We had taken them to Target and let them pick out a little stuffed animal to give to the baby, and he had picked a dinosaur. In his mind, girls couldn’t like dinosaurs. When he finally agreed to meet her, she was crying in her bassinette. I said to him, "You know, when she was in my belly you were the only one who could calm her. Show her what you brought." So, he did, waving the little dinosaur on the side of the crib and talking to her. I’ll be darn if she didn’t stop crying. They have a great relationship now and, of course, Ruffle the dinosaur is her favorite toy. I started nursing school when she was four months old. I would put her next to me when I needed to study and I had a home day care that took care of her on days I went to school. Everything just kind of fell into place. I also learn how to conserve myself a little bit better. We want women to be everything to everyone. It’s impossible. Something is going to fail. With her, I didn’t try to be all that. I could just stay on the couch and snuggle with her all-day long. She was my redemption.