One year later, here you go! I've recounted most of what I remember for the benefit of our family and for Meg, one day, so there are a lot of details that may or may not be interesting, gory, graphic, etc., but I tried to do my best at recording things as they actually happened. I'm proud to share them with you, now, and remember the day I became a mother and we became a family of three. I feel blessed, overwhelmed with emotion, and still, one year later, in awe of God's miracle worked in Meggie and in the hearts of K and me as her parents:
Even now, with my baby girl’s one-year-birthday tomorrow, my favorite time of day is leading up to bedtime. Her bath, the way she flings herself backwards into the water, giggling and eyes half-closed, her honey-brown hair dancing around her head like swarms of seaweed, snuggling close to me in her towel, singing lullabies as I change her diaper and swaddle her in pajamas - the whole routine resounds in my heart that I am a mother, that I am Meggie’s mother. I bask in her stillness as she lays quietly on her changing table, the only time of day she’s quiet, and her eyes are wise, trusting, holding my tender gaze. I see the time we’ve shared together in that moment - her time in the womb when I didn’t know it was her, the year we’ve spent learning about motherhood and babyhood, the grown woman she’ll be in what seems like an ever-shortening time. Last night, I was overwhelmed with emotion during this process as I remembered this night last year.
I went into labor this night last year, Wednesday, August 26th, 2009 around 8:30 p.m. My internship with SDVS officially ended on August 14 which left exactly one week until my due date, August 21st. Despite advice and precautions not to expect a first baby early, I had settled in my mind that the baby would come before the due date, as my pregnancy was characterized by hectic drives back and forth to Tulsa and Stillwater for class, working 14 hour shifts through school and counseling, and hours on the first floor of Willard hall, teaching undergraduates about the World of Work. The baby was big, measuring on track for a due date of August 12th - and I felt certain that the baby’s size and extent of my stress level would work together for an early delivery. But, I found myself waiting. Final preparations were complete, both our bags were packed, people were beginning to ask if I was expecting twins or even triplets because of my enormous size (I outweighed K by like the second month of pregnancy! hmph.), but the baby stayed on, rolling and churning way down in my pelvis.
On Wednesday night, then, I had my first real contraction. The contractions weren’t close together or powerful. I remember bouncing frenetically on an exercise ball - nervous, excited, unsure if after all this waiting, it was really time. Throughout Wednesday night, the contractions came. Though they weren’t painful, they were regular enough to keep me from sleeping. I tried to watch a movie - halfway through, at like 3:00 a.m. - I decided to take a shower in the hopes of calming my nerves and resting. I slept maybe two or three hours. When Kyle woke up for work the next morning, I tried persuading him to head on into the office. “I’ve been having contractions throughout the night, but they’re no big deal...just go on, I’ll call you if I need you.” But, he decided to stay. His nerves were a little anxious, too. At 6:00 a.m. on Thursday, we started walking the neighborhood, which is one mile around and extremely “hilly.” While we made our way around, the sky startled misting and drizzling, bringing the cooler weather shift that marks our descent into Fall in Oklahoma. We saw two of our neighbors, who excitedly spoke to the baby through my stomach, urging him or her to come soon! My contractions, at that point, were steady without being intense. Kyle and I went out for breakfast at Panera, relishing our last moments together as a family of two while attempting to fully comprehend the momentous event taking place. I ordered a cinnamon crisp bagel with hazelnut cream cheese and a chia latte. Kyle ordered two or three meals off the breakfast menu in order to keep up his strength for labor. :) This breakfast would be the last meal I would eat before giving birth the next day.
When we got home from our late breakfast and walking the parking lot several times, I noticed in our bathroom mirror that my stomach seemed to be swelling. There were dimples floating across the surface of my abdomen resembling large moon craters. My skin also had a faint orange glow. Prior to this discovery, our birth plan included staying home as long as possible before going to the hospital. But, the strangeness of my stomach prompted me to call the doctor’s office where the nurse asked me to proceed to triage. At that point, Kyle and I grabbed Douglass, dropped him off at the neighbors and began the drive to Mercy. Several times on the way to the hospital, Kyle slammed on the brakes of my Camry, forgetting that we weren’t in his standard volkswagon - which he sometimes does when either tired or stressed. I asked him to let me drive, but he refused. Feeling the tension??? :) We finally made it across town and into the labor and delivery parking lot.
Once on the triage floor, hooked up to monitors, my contractions slowed to about one every 8 minutes. I was 1 cm dilated and 80% effaced, and the “stomach thing” was diagnosed as severe edema, common in some women during labor. Our doctor and the nurses there recommended that as I was already overdue and in labor, we might try to augment, or speed up the labor, by breaking my water and adding pitocin. Prior to my labor experience, I wanted as little intervention as possible - looking back on the way things progressed, I would have decided to go back home and wait for things to progress more naturally. But, we were already at the hospital, my parents were already on their way from South Carolina, and Kyle and I were ready to welcome our baby...so, our nurse escorted us up one floor to labor and delivery. I remember feeling anxious and frightened that we weren’t “really” ready, that we were about to experience a life-changing event that nothing I could do, say, or will could reverse. I was at an impasse...and there was only one way out...pushing out the baby and growing our family. I remember disbelief and incredulity that we were finally going to “know” and name the baby on the outside - we were going to be parents.
At about 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dr. Cox came by to break my water. The nurses added the pitocin, IV, and fetal monitors. After this point, I don’t have much memory of labor, except for brief snatches of time and the feeling of Kyle’s amazing and unending support. I remember the contractions becoming increasingly intense, of developing a fever that made me shake and nauseous, of throwing-up. I remember watching the sunset out of our hospital window; it was like being in an apricot snow-globe where the snow was rain - the sunset was brilliant through the late August showers. I remember wanting with all of my being to be “out there” and not “in here” suffering through contractions on pitocin...even if those contractions did mean that my baby was coming. I remember closing my eyes during most of the contractions with Kyle watching the monitor, warning me when the peak was coming and encouraging me when it ebbed. Kyle left to go get dinner and I don’t remember how long he was gone, but it seemed like hours in which the contractions threatened to rip me open. I lay on the bed, squeezing my eyes shut, feeling a searing pain down my right leg such that I couldn’t move. I remember hoping that the baby would be born on an even-numbered day, but thinking that meant I would have to endure labor for over another twelve hours (which I did, but didn’t know it then). Most of all, I remember focusing on the baby’s heartbeat which thundered across the room, steady, strong, life-giving. The heartbeat was stable in the 140s. After she was born, I dreamed that I could still hear her heartbeat swelling and drumming, even though the room was then silent, her heartbeat was engraved on my mind, soul. It’s mixed up in that memory of labor, vague now because of the pain, hunger, and sickness.
At 7:00 p.m., the nurses’ shift change, our nurse checked my progress. In all the hours since being admitted and all the contractions endured, I had made no progress. I was still dilated to 1 cm and 80% effaced. The night came. I remember our night nurse as angelic - she was quiet, soothing, calm. I remember her telling me that she had two daughters at home and was pregnant with her third. I remember thinking that there was NO WAY I could ever do this two more times, but I didn’t share that with her. She brought us a birthing ball and fresh ice chips. I remember crying for something to drink, but they only gave ice chips. Kyle let them melt in the cup for me and then held the styrofoam up to my lips for a drink. I remember her upping the pitocin, turning my eyes away from the monitor because I couldn’t bear to think that they would get harder, faster. The contractions were already coming every minute lasting for 30-45 seconds. On the birthing ball, the broken amniotic fluid dripped continuously out of my body, saturating the diaper-like sheets of padding that cover birthing beds.
At around 10:00 p.m., our night nurse checked me again. Still, no change...not with all the work, position changes, deep breathing. I was 1.5 cm dilated and 90% effaced. Suddenly, I calculated the hours since my water was broken. I knew I was on the clock for a C-section; the longer I went without progress, the more likely I would be to receive an operation. I thought back to my night of wakefulness on Wednesday and thought ahead to the rest of the night in my current state of agony - almost 12 hours of pitocin without any dilation. Kyle and I were exhausted and I felt I needed to make a decision protective of everyone involved, especially our unborn baby. I decided to get an epidural.
Shortly after midnight, the epidural was placed. Within an hour, I began dilating. On reflection, I think I needed the epidural to relax and let my body begin the work of moving the baby down. In my first labor, receiving the epidural was the best possible decision in an impossible place. Kyle fell into a restless sleep in the chair next to my bed, and I closed my eyes finally - waking only to be turned every half-an-hour and to receive oxygen when the baby’s movements waned.
At 7:30 a.m., Friday, August 28th, the new daytime nurse declared me 10 cm dilated. She also stated, however, that our doctor was currently performing another c-section and that we would have to wait until he arrived to deliver the baby - she said we would do what’s called “labor down,” or letting the baby continue to travel with the contractions without pushing. Dr. Cox arrived about an hour later. He examined me and noticed that there was now meconium in the amniotic fluid. When he discovered the meconium, the room erupted in a burst of activity. A NICU cart was wheeled in with breathing equipment, the baby warmer was stationed, and various specialists and nurses waited in the room for the birth. Dr. Cox, in a calming voice said, “Shannon, there’s meconium in the fluid. We’ve got to get the baby out...now.” He and a surgical technician made a cut and I began pushing at 8:48 a.m. The pushing seemed surreal to me - even after all the time in labor I remember feeling strangely disconnected from the experience of actual delivery. Kyle was there, but I can’t recall if I held his hand or what I did...really. I do remember hearing Dr. Cox exclaim, “the head’s out! The baby’s facing the wall, so I’m gonna have to turn it (the source of the searing pain down my right leg)...from this expression it looks like a boy!”
With one great push, at 8:58 am, I felt the release of the baby from my body. Both Kyle and Dr. Cox with questions in their voices said, “it’s a girl?” And, then, triumphantly, “It’s a GIRL!” In the flurry of lights and movement, he placed her new, squirmy body on my stomach. With unexplainable strength and beauty, she whipped her head up and peered at me, her eyes little squints in her labor-puffed face. “I have a daughter! This child of my heart is a girl” fluttered through my mind. Then, they whisked her away to clear then meconium from her lungs and check her weight and other vital signs. I heard her cry and thought, “Oh, that’s how I feel! So hungry, so new.” I also thought: won’t someone bring me some food?!? After 24 hours without eating or drinking, the craving for a Sonic cranberry limeade was intense even at 9:00 in the morning!
“9.13,” the cry rang out, “she’s 9 pounds 13 ounces! And 22 inches long! What a big baby!” And, then, they placed her in my arms, all clean and swaddled, again, her violet eyes peeping at me from under a pink cap. I remember Kyle looking over my shoulder sighing, “she’s beautiful...I think we have a Margaret Lillian” And, she was - all rosy cheeks and dark hair and long fingers curled over her blanket. One tiny foot was blackened from ink and I thought, “this footprint is also stamped on my heart, forever.” She was the most beautiful creation this new mother had ever beheld, and I remember trying to comprehend how she was inside of me one moment and the next, her own person, her own life. With her life, she changed mine. She filled these missing pieces I never knew were there before I knew her existence. I may have "grown" her in my body, but she "grew" me from the moment she whipped that head up off my stomach - into a woman, a mother. She is my precious pearl, my August memory, my lady love, my Meggie girl. She makes me holy, she makes me whole.