Letters to Landon: Your Birth Story

My little Landon,

For nine months I anticipated what meeting you for the first time would be like. I worried about how, when, and where it would happen. I prayed for an easy, smooth delivery, and I begged God to bring you into this world healthy and happy. I remember that night in October, when I first told your Daddy that we were going to have a baby. The look of shock on his face, the tears of joy and disbelief that followed, and the sweet excitement we shared in the months leading up to your arrival are such treasures to me.

I had a fairly “easy” pregnancy, comparatively speaking; I never dealt with any morning sickness, I felt good (for the most part), and I worked up until 36 weeks. My biggest struggle was severe swelling that began at about 20 weeks, which later revealed high blood pressure (which was ultimately the reason for my doctor’s decision to induce me at 37 weeks).

I found out on Friday, May 20th that you were going to be a May baby instead of a June baby. I had a doctor’s appointment that day and my blood pressure was high, my headaches were consistent, and my swelling was worse than ever. My doctor, who I adore, scheduled my induction for 3:30pm Wednesday, May 25th and I was excited, nervous, scared, but so ready to meet you. I sang in the choir, as usual, on Sunday and then your Daddy and I went out to eat at our favorite Mexican restaurant with some friends to celebrate your upcoming arrival. We spent the rest of that afternoon at the golf course enjoying beautiful weather (per your Daddy’s request of course) and we went to bed early.

On Monday, May 23rd, I met [my cousin] Heather for lunch at one of my favorite little local restaurants. We sat there and talked for almost three hours about raising babies and the labor process and Jesus’ faithfulness. She answered countless questions, poured encouragement over me, and listened to my heart on raising you to be a man that loves the Lord. It was such a sweet time. Afterwards, I went home and folded a load of laundry, unloaded the dishwasher, and nestled into my favorite chair in your nursery to write thank you notes from the last baby shower.

I had been sitting there writing notes for a few hours when your Daddy called me to let me know he had left school for the day. He asked, “Why are you out of breath?” which… until then, I didn’t even realize that I was out of breath. I wasn’t running laps around the house or anything… I was just sitting there writing notes. Weird. He had to run some errands, and I continued to work on my thank you notes until he came home with Chick-fil-a for supper around 7:00pm. We ate in the living room and I told your Daddy that I didn’t feel good. I remember saying, “I just feel… off.” My head hurt, I felt lightheaded, and I was still kind of out of breath. I called Momma to tell her how I was feeling and she suggested going to the drugstore to use their blood pressure cuff, just to be safe. We went to the store, checked my blood pressure three times (just to make sure the machine was at least somewhat reliably consistent) and sure enough, it was high. I called my doctor’s triage nurse and explained everything. She asked me a thousand questions and then told me to go on into Labor and Delivery, just to get checked out.

I did not want to go into Labor and Delivery to get checked out. I was going to be induced on Wednesday afternoon anyway, I didn’t want to waste time going all the way to the hospital just for them to send me home, and I was so tired that all I wanted to do was go home and go to sleep. Nevertheless, we went by the house and fed the dogs, let them out, and grabbed my hospital bag (which of course was already packed and ready to go). Your Daddy really wanted to take full advantage of the situation… after all… this was as close to being “in labor” as I was going to get, so what did he do? He turned on the flashers and drove about 90 miles per hour all the way to the hospital. I kept saying, “Grayson, slow down, I’m not having the baby!” I knew we’d laugh about it one day, if we lived to tell about it (which, thank goodness, we did)!

When we got to the hospital, it was about 8:30pm and they hooked me up to a blood pressure cuff that checked me every 10 minutes. After about 2 hours of consistently high blood pressure, they came in and told me that they would be keeping me and starting the induction that night. I was so surprised that they were going to keep me, and so overwhelmed with emotions that I busted out in tears. I was supposed to have two more days to get my life together, after all (like that would have helped!). I had no idea what kind of night was ahead of me.

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If my induction had been Wednesday, as scheduled, I knew that it would be done by way of a procedure called a Foley Bulb. Basically, it’s a balloon that’s inserted into the cervix, and stretches until you’re about 4-5 centimeters dilated. Women who aren’t dilated at all at the time of induction (like I was) are the perfect candidates for this method. Because I wasn’t dilated at all, it was decided that the Foley Bulb method would be used that night and they gave me an IV of pain medicine called Stadol, which was intended to “take the edge off” (both the procedure of the Foley Bulb being inserted and the process of it working is very painful).

A friend of mine had warned me about Stadol. She had been given it during her own labor and she told me to avoid it at all costs because it made her crazy. Right before they gave it to me, I asked what the name of the medicine is, and when they told me I got wide-eyed and said, “Oh no! I don’t want that!” Well… long story short, they talked me into it, saying they would just give me a half dose. It wasn’t five minutes until the whole room was spinning. The clock seemed to be floating around the room and the hospital bed seemed to be rocking and I felt crazier than I did when I had my wisdom teeth surgery. It was bad.

That night was a long, hard one. I thought the sun was never going to come up. I was in so much pain. The Stadol made me so loopy that I couldn’t communicate the fact that I could feel the pain in my lower abdomen that I shouldn’t be feeling. In other words, the pain medicine wasn’t working, it was just making me crazy (just like my friend said). I cried all night long, and it was a sleepless night for me, your Daddy, and Momma. Rhonda and Gary [my aunt and uncle] were there too, for moral support, and it meant so much to me to have them there.

Finally, around 4:30am, they gave me another dose of Stadol. At that point, I was hyperventilating because of the pain, and was willing to try anything to get some relief. This time, the medicine worked, and I was able to get a few hours of rest. It wasn’t a deep sleep, but I was in and out and didn’t feel the excruciating pain that I had experienced all night. At 6am, the anesthesiologist came in and gave me the epidural, which I had been nervous about for weeks. So many women had told me that it was just terrible and the needle was humongous and it was going to hurt so bad. He was a kind man, and he knew Dale [my cousin, who’s also an anesthesiologist], so we talked about that pretty much the whole time he was in my room. He raised the bed about five feet off the ground while I sat with my legs hanging off one side of the bed and almost hugging my nurse, who stood in front of me. Your Daddy was there too, and he was helping calm my spirit in a way that only he could. I never saw the needle and although I did feel some pressure, it hurt less than getting my finger pricked. It was perfect. Before I knew it, he was on his way out the door and I couldn’t feel a thing.

An epidural is a continuous flow of medicine that is stronger at the beginning and then kind of tapers off (to allow you to feel your legs a little more, which is necessary to push). From what they explained to me, the strong dose at the beginning usually lasts for about three hours for most women. Well, for me… it lasted six hours and it was glorious… while it lasted. As the epidural began to wear off, I began to realize that although I still couldn’t feel my legs, I could feel pain in a certain area that I didn’t want to… the very place that you’d be making your grand entrance. Not good.

The nurse came into my room at 10am and removed the Foley Bulb and I was 5cm dilated. She explained that it was kind of a “false five,” because my contractions had to catch up to my body, although my water had broken. She said she would come back at noon and check me, but not to be surprised if I was still only 5cm dilated. Well, at noon I was 6.5cm dilated, so I was progressing more quickly than they anticipated. So quickly, in fact, that by 1:45pm I was already 10cm dilated!

All morning, my family and friends had been coming and going from my room to see me, pray with me, and encourage me. As the afternoon continued and my pain level rose, your Daddy, Momma, and Heather were the ones who helped me get through the contractions. They were intense and came in waves that brought tears to my eyes. Heather was such a good nurse, holding my hand and watching the monitor so she could help me brace myself when another contraction was starting. The three of them helped me breathe through the pain, reminded me that it was all worth it, and encouraged me that it was going to be over soon.

I sat (pretty much) straight up in bed from 1:45pm until 3:30pm, when the nurse finally came in so that I could start pushing. Although I only pushed for one hour, it was the hardest hour of my entire life. I knew that labor was going to be hard, but nothing anyone has ever told me could have ever prepared me for that hour. It was the hardest battle I’ve ever fought and I honestly doubted that I would be able to make it through, but your Daddy was there, right beside me, holding my hand and telling me that I was doing a good job, promising me that our prize was close and the end of the pain was near.

The doctor that helped bring you into this world was Dr. Avery, a kind lady (but not my doctor). In fact, I had only met her once before, in the hallway at the doctor’s office. The nurse helping her was mean as a snake, and it’s a good thing, because without her “tough love,” you might not have made an appearance after only one hour of pushing. At one point during that hour, I said screamed, “I can’t do this,” to which she said, “Oh shut up! I can see his eyebrows and you ain’t got a choice, little missy!” I’m pretty sure it was only about five more minutes before you were in my arms.

I will never, ever forget that moment. Holding you in my arms for the first time was nothing like I expected. I don’t know what I thought it would be like, but it was better than anything I could have ever imagined. You were light as a feather, soft, and seemed so fragile. You were the most precious thing I had ever laid my eyes on and I felt a wave of love rush over me that, like the pain, I could have never been prepared for. It was perfect.

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They took you from me, over to the table, and instead of crying like you should have, all you could do was make little grunting noises. You couldn’t cough up what was in your lungs, so just like that, they whisked you away to the NICU and all of a sudden, everything seemed like a bad dream. They were taking my brand new baby away from me, and I was lying there in pain, still being worked on (I had second degree tears, needed lots of stitches, and Dr. Avery had a hard time delivering the placenta because it did not detach from my uterus like it was supposed to), and I couldn’t do a thing about any of it. I felt so helpless and couldn’t stop crying. Fortunately, your stay in the NICU was short-lived (only about 25 minutes) because once you calmed down, you were able to get the fluid out of your lungs and cry just fine. Atta boy!

Your Beck Beck was the first one to come and meet you (accompanied by Heather, who I could never thank enough for taking these priceless pictures). She was in love instantly, as were your Mimi and Papa Bear – they all just melted the second they laid eyes on you. The rest of that night, the night of your birthday, was such a blur. There were so many people in and out, coming to meet you and love on us, and although I was so glad everyone was there, I don’t even remember what I even said to anyone. Family, friends, church family… they were all there, wrapping their arms around us and loving us so well. It was such a gift. I think I was in complete shock that this tiny little human actually belonged to me. I remember being too scared to even move you from one arm to another, because you seemed so little and fragile. You clung to me in a way I’ve always longed to be clung to, and I knew that you and I were going to get along just fine. You were better than anything I could have ever dreamed of, and I was (and I am still) so in awe of you.

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We weren’t moved into the “recovery” room until late that night, and I was so exhausted and scared to be left with you there in the bassinet beside me, between your Daddy and me (who was on the couch beside my hospital bed), even though the nurses were in and out all night, helping us, answering questions, and encouraging me as I began learning to feed you. When the sun came up, I couldn’t believe that I was waking up for the first time as a Momma. It was the most terrifying, wonderful, overwhelming, exciting, nerve-wrecking, joy-filled feeling.

That entire next day, Wednesday, there were visitors in and out of our room all day. It was so much fun, introducing you to all of our family and friends and everyone was so kind. Everyone brought us so many wonderful treats, gift baskets, and all kinds of snacks. We were just blown away by everyone’s thoughtfulness and generosity. Your Daddy was beaming and I, although I was still in so much pain, was overjoyed and so proud of our brand new little family of three.

The lactation consultants are angels who wear light pink scrubs. They came by from time to time to help me with breastfeeding, and I could call for them at any hour of the day or night when I had questions or problems. Breastfeeding is something that has been so important to me from day one. I was so afraid that I wouldn’t physically be able to do it, because I’ve heard so many horror stories of women who say that their milk never came in or their babies wouldn’t latch. I completely understand why people give up on breastfeeding. IT IS SO HARD at first. The lactation consultants advised me to start pumping on Wednesday, which turned out to be the biggest gift from God. The first time I pumped, they told me not to expect to actually get any colostrum. They said most women only saw a little bit around the pump’s flanges and it was only meant to stimulate. Well, I got 7ml and felt like the Breast Feeding Champion of the World.

The next day, Thursday, we were supposed to go home. You went to get circumcised that morning and then had to have some blood work done, and that revealed that you were jaundice. They came in and broke the news to us that you couldn’t go home and you had to lay on a biliblanket and lay under a bililight (tools that help get rid of the jaundice). Although I was upset about that, I knew it was a blessing in disguise because if we had been sent home and realized that you were jaundice, we could not have returned to the new baby floor; we would have had to take you to the sick baby floor. So, it was really a good thing that they caught it before we were sent home. However, I was heartbroken when they told me that one of the ways to rid your sweet little body of the jaundice was to feed you and make sure you had lots of dirty diapers (to flush out your system) because just the day before, I thought I was doing so well breastfeeding, and come to find out, the measly 7ml I was producing wasn’t even half of what you needed. I cried and cried and felt like such a failure. That, combined with having to watch you lay there shaking, in just a diaper, under that lamp and not being able to hold you or comfort you was just too much. It seemed like a bad dream.

Your Daddy had been so strong for me. He had stood by me as I brought you into this world, he had encouraged me and breathed words of affirmation over me, and he had fought for me when I needed him the most. As hard as this news was for me, it was hard for him too, and I think it was even harder for him to watch me break down like I did. I will never forget watching your big, strong Daddy walk out onto the courtyard outside of my hospital room, sit down, and bury his handsome face in his hands while big tears rolled down his cheeks. He was so admirable and strong, even in the midst of such unknown territory and overwhelming pressure.

Thankfully, they allowed me to stay at the hospital as a “guest” (meaning I was discharged, but you were still a patient), which I’m not sure they would have done if I hadn’t been breastfeeding you. That night, I could only hold you for 30 minutes every 3 hours to feed you, because you had to be under the bililight as much as possible.

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My heart ached having to give you the formula, but thankfully, you only had to have it twice because my milk supply more than TRIPLED by the next day. I truly believe that was because the lactation consultants had me start pumping early, and it was part of Jesus’ plan all along.

When your Daddy and I left the hospital with you on Friday, we had no idea what kind of adventure we were about to embark on. We were scared to death but so excited to finally be bringing our baby home to our little house, so filled with love. We had worked so hard to get your nursery ready, prayed over the little room you would call your own, and wondered what it would be like to care for and get to know a newborn who would call us “Momma and Daddy.”

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…. the next chapter, to be continued.

Love,

Momma

 

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