I did it again.
I had a baby.
It didn’t go as I planned it, surprise. (Pfft, what does?) I wasn’t due for another two or three weeks, depending on how we measured. First, they wanted to deliver him by c-section. I had one the last time, to get Ben out. A c-section protected his life; I have no regrets. Plus, I didn’t have to go through labor. Yes, that was nice. But our local hospital wanted to automatically repeat that surgery this time. I didn’t; the recovery time is so much harder. Then there were other concerns. First, I had placenta previa. There was simply no natural escape if the exit was blocked, so surgery would be the only way out. But prayer can move previas. And it did. Still, there were blood vessels around the opening. Ultrasound couldn’t tell if they were coming from the placenta (his blood), or mine (like a varicose vein, but on the inside.) If they broke during labor, and were his rather than mine, he could lose a lot of blood dangerously fast. So even though the midwife and doctor were willing to let me try for a natural birth, several factors were stacked against it. We finally opted for an induced labor on the operating room table with doctors standing by if an emergency c-section became necessary. Birth was scheduled for August 17th.
Yesterday was August 7th. I rolled over around 4:30 a.m. and felt a gush of fluid. Trying to process through the fog of nightbrain, I realized I’d better make sure it wasn’t blood. That would mean an intense run to the ER… and a mess on my nice white sheets. (Of course, you’d think I would be wiser than to have white sheets on my bed in the last weeks of pregnancy. But I’m not.) It was clear fluid, and it didn’t stop. That narrowed the possible sources. I lay down, waiting for contractions to start before waking up a husband or a doctor. Nothing happened except that I couldn’t sleep any more.
I finally called my midwife around 7. She said the baby would be born that day. Whoa. I packed a bag quickly, woke my husband, called grandma, and went to the doctor’s office to get checked out. I haven’t been home since. Yup. Water broke. If contractions didn’t start soon on their own, she wanted to get them going at the hospital. She sent me straight there.
It felt odd to be in a delivery room while I wasn’t in labor. They started an IV around 9 a.m. so the synthetic hormones would kickstart my own. My husband appeared, heavy with a head cold. Great timing. At least he remembered to bring a box of good tissues. (It has always surprised me that hospitals – where you often need lots of tissues – invest in such terrible ones.) We found out that our friends, expecting their fifth child as well, were in the room next door. An unofficial race was on. Would their fifth girl be born before our fifth boy?
I’ve never really experienced back labor before. Apparently, the baby had flipped around a bit since the day before, and it looked like he might try to pop out sunny side up. As the contractions grew more intense, I felt him, hard pressure against the small of my back. Ugh. I tried to stand and lean forward to get him to turn around. My midwife was prepping the area in preparation for me to start pushing when we heard the first cry from next door. Shoot. They beat me. This felt like an uphill battle; as if my body was fighting against the whole process. And I didn’t feel quite ready to push. Still, the nurse and the midwife asked me to try. Maybe they could get him to twist just a bit more if I did…
I pushed for about 40 minutes. It seemed so long; I couldn’t get in a good position. They wanted me lying down more; I felt like I wanted to be more upright. It felt like his head was stuck in there; I couldn’t move it. But finally, at the end, he was moving. I must have scared all the neighbors with my grunting; but I didn’t really care what they thought at that point. Not much else matters when you’re trying to push a baby out. (I did wonder momentarily – if those blood vessels were my vericose veins, and I popped them, would they just go away? Who wants those, after all?)
Finally. Finally! He made his blessed appearance.
Finlay, which means “fair haired warrior”, came out into the big world. He didn’t have much hair; he certainly didn’t look very warrior-like. All 7 pounds and 20 inches of him looked small and vulnerable. And his head was lumpy where it got hung up along the way. But he was out. New life. The hard miracle. I was relieved.
Meeting each other on this side of the skin
He had his first visitors soon; his four brothers, Grandma and Grampy. The two year old looked in wonder. “My baby” he said. “I am a big boy; he is my baby.” That’s right, kid. Own it. It was nice to see them all together. I lay in tired achiness, carried along by satisfied exhaustion and the surge of hormones after my morning marathon.
It wasn’t till much later, alone with the baby at last, that emotions really hit. In the twilight stillness of the chaotic day, I unwrapped him from his swaddles. Last I’d seen all of him, we were both covered in sweat and vernix. Now, clean, dry, calm, he gazed at me. His little toes stretched long when I touched them.
I started to weep. My last baby hadn’t felt it when I tickled his feet. They didn’t respond to my touch. And it was OK then; God made him different, and has different plans and purpose for him. I know that. I haven’t felt the agony of his differences in a long time. But now, touching the sensitive toes of his little brother, it overwhelmed me. This little newborn, not ten hours old, lighter than a jug of milk, had stronger feet than his big brother. My two year old doesn’t know it. My newborn certainly doesn’t know it.
And I don’t know where either of their feet will take them. Will they take the high road? Will their feet carry them to mischief? Will they run from temptations, or along the straight and narrow? I don’t know. No matter my best intentions, I can’t plan their lives.
Sometimes it’s better that way.
Sometimes the most beautiful feet can’t even feel the ground beneath them; sometimes the tiniest ones leave the biggest footprints.
Sometimes your water breaks before you’re ready for labor.
Sometimes life happens when you don’t plan it.
The hard miracle.
Welcome to the world, Finlay.