I’m choosing to post Jase’s birth story this week for two reasons:
- My 9 month old has now lived outside my body roughly as long as he was inside it.
- And a certain element of his birth could have made me a “1 in 4” had the on-call doctor not responded the way he did.
October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. One in four American women are affected. ONE IN FOUR. Twenty-five percent. How many women do you know? And how many equally-affected men love them?
Honestly, I didn’t even realize I could have been a 1 in 4. It took the tragedy of someone else to reveal my good fortune. The first memorial piece I ever stamped for Elevate was for a momma following her three miscarriages and her daughter’s stillbirth just a week or two shy of her due date. The umbilical cord was the culprit.
This story made a mess of me. Here I was with my infant son in my arms. The son who came forth when the doctor said, “We need to get that baby out right now.” In the end, he informed me our umbilical cord had been “lightly wrapped” around my baby’s neck.
I don’t know how light it has to be to avoid the twist of fate, but this grieving mother’s story made it click with me – could I have gone home with empty arms that day?
After 40 weeks and 2 days of nurturing him within me?
After all my slow, painful steps and trying to get just a wink of sleep pillowed up on the couch so many nights?
After attempting over and over to help his big brother catch him moving around inside me?
I don’t know.
But I’m grateful. So grateful. Imagining what could have been rips me to shreds inside, and it didn’t even happen.
If you know someone who has lost a child to miscarriage or stillbirth, to disease or an accident, be tender toward them. In fact, carry this sage advice with you always: Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.
Now, for me more than you, I need to document the story of Jase’s birth for my own records. It may get graphic. I don’t want any of your “that’s gross” comments! So proceed with caution. Don’t read this unless you’re interested in birth stories or biology or bodily fluids. It’s not my typical “life lessons” writing. It’s not beautifully-emotional like what I wrote after having Charlie. It’s just an honest account of what I remember, because it’s important to me to remember it.
This pregnancy had been perfect until the last month, when I developed some aches and pains that couldn’t be ignored. I wound up sleeping on the couch at an odd angle with all sorts of pillows for a few weeks, praying every night that I wouldn’t wake up needing to use the bathroom because of the pain of getting up and down. A few trips to the chiropractor proved unhelpful, maybe even worsening my pain and disability (and yes, I left crying once or twice). I had trouble moving, period. It was discouraging and I felt pathetic.
My nurse practitioner had been saying for weeks that my cervix was dilated quite a bit – 5 cm, still 5, then “six to seven” – so we were expecting an early arrival. But the weeks came and went with no contractions, Christmas came and went, my due date of 12/28 came and went, and we were still a family of three.
My boss was so sure I was going to deliver early that she brought in extra help long before I left, and we sat there together every day, pretending it wasn’t awkward to have two of us there. But, who wants to waste a single hour of maternity leave when they could be with the baby?
On the morning of December 30, I awoke from my sunken couch position feeling rather odd. I struggled to get up, as I had been, and hobbled in the shower to get ready for work. The funny feeling continued, but it wasn’t anything I could put my finger on. I continued to dry my hair and put on makeup. When Lyle woke up, I told him how I felt the best I could. I asked, “Do you think we should call the doctor? Or… should we just go to the hospital and have things checked out?” He was no help. I don’t know how he could be, but I really wished he was! It was a hair earlier than the doctor’s office opened, so I called the “on call” line for my OB’s office and left a message with the answering service. I hate that feeling. Just waiting by the phone… trying to pretend everything is normal. Thankfully, only minutes passed before the phone rang. “You’re already 7 cm dilated? Yes, come now.”
Not knowing what to expect, I grabbed my half-packed bag, finished packing it, and made some calls. First, my parents – could they come take Charlie to the babysitter? Next, my boss – “I’m just going to go get checked out…” In both cases, I didn’t know what to tell them. But it wasn’t long before I was wishing I had said, “I AM IN LABOR!!!!” It became clear I was having contractions, and I became anxious. I sat in the truck waiting and waiting and waiting for my parents’ arrival. If I had said I’M IN LABOR, would they have come sooner??? It’s hard to keep your cool when you know how far you already are. I texted my friend Abby to pray that we would make it, and she offered to put her two boys in the car at 8 o’clock in the morning and drive 20 minutes to stay with Charlie until my parents came. I will never forget that.
Lyle drove me to the hospital in rush hour traffic that seemed to make way for us. We valeted the car and I waddled to the elevator – 4th Floor Maternity, out of my way, I know where I’m going. Answering the questions for triage and signing papers through contractions, I tried to be perky, but OH my face wavered.
Finally admitted, I put on a gown and laid in the bed. How many attempts did the nurse make at threading the IV? I lost count (and had bruises long after I left the hospital).
They tested me – had my water broken? Nope. Lyle turned on some worship music and read some life giving Scriptures of health and healing. I repeated them loudly, and sang along with the music. A distraction with meaning! I filled in spaces where I didn’t know the words, or where the online music service placed advertisements: “and here we are at the hospital and I’m not thinking about contrAAACTIOOOOONS UHHHH.” That part was a little less meaningful. :)
The doctor I had spoken with on the phone, whom I had never met, examined me. He said I could have the baby in 10 minutes if I let him break that water, or they could wait while I got an epidural.
Well that was an easy decision. Please can I have that epidural? I knew I wanted one after the relief it gave me as I labored to deliver Charlie.
When the doctor stepped away, my water broke on its own. I FREAKED OUT. Did this mean natural child birth??? Did I miss my chance for the epidural??? The nurse said the anesthetist was on her way. She got me ready and all they were waiting for was for the lab to call back and say whatever they needed to hear. We waited. We waited more. The lab people called back and were like, “what are you talking about?” I don’t even know what it was, but they got what they wanted, so then I got what I wanted, and it was amazing. I relaxed. I still knew when I was having contractions (which is different than it had been with Charlie), but they weren’t uncomfortable. It was almost like I was sensing them, not feeling them.
The doctor came back. He was concerned by the readings he was getting from the baby’s monitors. Jase’s heart rate was occasionally spiking. He decided that it was best to hurry this along, obtained an oxygen mask for me to give that baby an extra advantage, and resituated some things between my legs – to this day, I have no idea of anything he said after the gasp of the oxygen mask came over my face. I tried my best not to worry. The doctor was confident and had easily gained my trust. So had the Great Physician. But I still had to remind myself these things.
I started pushing.
I guess prior experience doesn’t matter, because (this is so gross and so hilarious at the same time), the doctor shouted at me, “YOU’RE PUSHING WRONG. You have to POOP the baby out!” Oh my word. What? Yep, that’s what he said to me. I guess it worked! And it’s one of my favorite stories to tell people about the birth. What I don’t usually tell them is about the EXPLOSION that gushed out before the baby (no, it wasn’t poop). I didn’t see it, but I heard it and felt it and saw Lyle’s astonished face when it happened. Whatever liquid came out, there was a lot of it. I mean, like floodgates that just exploded. The medical staff said the excessive fluid had probably caused the severe back pain. It took a few more pushes this time than last, but from the time I decided I was actually in labor until the moment Jase was in my arms, only about 3 hours had passed.
The doctor stitched me up and cleaned out the placenta. Usually placenta is “born” after the baby, but mine wanted to stay inside and came out in pieces. It was really weird to have someone digging it all out of me, but I will say, it was nice that when I went home I didn’t have much bleeding to deal with – most of the lochia was removed with the pieces of placenta. (Yes, I know this is gross. I warned you). I do have a picture. I will not share it. (You’re welcome).
What was the heart rate issue? The umbilical cord, which transfers life from mother to child, was ironically wrapped around baby’s neck, threatening it. The doctor tried to soften the situation with the word “lightly.” It was “lightly wrapped.” I’m grateful it was “lightly wrapped,” and I’m grateful my doctor didn’t hesitate.
Our baby boy was perfect. He was wrinkly and pink with deep blue eyes. Just a smidgen bigger than his brother had been.
A piece of the puzzle that disappointed me was missing Charlie. When Charlie was born, everyone came to the hospital. When Jase was born, my parents were the only visitors we had. Because it was flu season there were restrictions that permitted only the baby’s parents and grandparents to visit. My sister was not invited. Lyle’s family was not yet in town. And Charlie was not allowed. I missed him SO MUCH. And the worst was that I didn’t know this until we checked into the hospital. I told him goodbye for the morning, but not two days’ worth of goodbye!!! So, I spent some time alone with Jase while Lyle went home to be with Charlie. It was quiet and a little lonesome. But when Lyle came back, he brought Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and White Cheddar Cheese-Its. So I guess that helps.
Other things were different than with Charlie, too:
- Charlie was induced at 41 weeks. Jase came on his own at 40 weeks and 2 days.
- Charlie took forever to get me dilated at the hospital. Jase had me dilated weeks ahead.
- With Charlie, I tried to avoid the epidural. With Jase, I anticipated it.
- Charlie’s labor took about 8 hours (and so I starved all day), Jase’s 3 (and so I didn’t).
- My nurses with Charlie were in our room helping us all the time. My nurses with Jase kind of neglected us.
- My OBGYN of several years delivered Charlie. A God-sent stranger delivered Jase.
- After Charlie was born, I laughed. After Jase was born, I was peaceful.
- Charlie struggled to breastfeed from the get-go, but Jase was a natural.
- A visitor took sweet family photos of Charlie’s first moments. We had to take our own photos with Jase, so there isn’t a photo that captures “that moment” for him. :(
- I came home from delivering Charlie with hemorrhoids and a tear that pained me for weeks. I came home from delivering Jase and felt great – just a little extra rest and care. This was a welcome change and an answered prayer.
We spent New Year’s Eve at the hospital. I made Lyle take this picture of our first holiday.
We returned home on New Year’s Day, dropped off our things, received Lyle’s dad and grandmother to our home from Ohio, and took everyone over to my parents’ house for dinner.
Here is the magical moment when Charlie and Jase met. He pulled back the cover on the car seat…
I’m so grateful someone captured this scene. My heart is bursting right now.
And so, we were four.
Romans 15:13 / May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.