At some point this blog became 95% about my journey through infertility. I didn't intend for that to happen but it was the subject that motivated me the most to write. Now that Archer has arrived, it seems likely that much of my blog will now be reflecting on my new adventures through parenthood. Certainly the first four weeks of Archer's life have been all consuming of my time and emotional capital. I haven't had any time to write a blog entry because my life is currently being lived in 30-180 minute increments. Living on a 24-hour clock, never getting more than two hours of sleep at a time, makes the days run together. I can't quite tell if I feel like I've been a mother forever, or if I feel like it's flown by. And, truthfully, I still have moments where I look at Archer and think, "I wonder when his parents are coming to pick him up."
So, how did we get here? What's our birth story? (That's what most people want to know.) Archer was due on January 17th. At my appointment on the 16th, the OB (not my usual doctor, who was on a week's vacation) announced that he thought I should get scheduled to be induced the following Saturday. That caused me all sorts of stress that subsequent week as I prayed to go in to labor naturally. I watched each day pass on the calendar with increasing dread. I know plenty of women who have been induced, but I wanted to avoid it if I could. On Thursday I called my OB (back from vacation) and expressed my concerns and anxiety about the Saturday appointment. My OB explained that I was still in the window of having a normal, term pregnancy and that if I wasn't ready to be induced on Saturday, then I shouldn't be induced. (I need to reiterate how much I adore my OB - he is exactly the type of doctor that I wish everyone could have. If we were to have a second child I would need to have him as my OB again because I don't think anyone else could measure up.) He suggested I keep the Saturday appointment at Labor and Delivery (L&D) as more of a "check-up" just to see where I was at.
Saturday morning Zac and I packed the car as if we were going to the hospital to have a baby, just in case. On the way in to L&D I told Zac that I needed to pee. Now. I barely made it into a nearby bathroom and almost peed all over myself. The urge to pee wasn't new - I was 41 weeks pregnant, after all. I just figured it was only inevitable that at some point I'd wet my pants. While I was a bit mortified and exasperated, I didn't think much of it. At the appointment the doctor examined me and announced that I hadn't dilated any more than the last two appointments. (Still sitting at 1cm.) He suggested that we go home and wait until Monday or Tuesday to come back in to see where I was at, but needed to check a couple more things before he let us leave. He pulled out the ultrasound machine and looked around my belly to check on amniotic fluid. His brow furrowed as he searched and searched. He looked up at us and said, "You really have no amniotic fluid left. You haven't experienced or noticed any leaking?" Zac looked at me and said, "Are you sure that wasn't your water breaking in the bathroom?" Turns out, it was. I don't know what I expected my water breaking to be like, but I was expecting something more than the sudden urge to pee. (And it certainly wasn't like anything I've ever seen on "General Hospital" where the breaking of the waters usually is accompanied by a natural disaster, vehicular collision or at a remote cabin in the woods with no medical personnel.) The doctor, who had a moment earlier said that we might be going home, shrugged and said, "Well, looks like, 'Welcome to Labor and Delivery'."
Our appointment was at 9:00am on Saturday. Archer arrived at 5:23am the following morning. I can't complain about the 20 hours that it took for him to arrive. I was able to be up and walking around for most of Saturday. My biggest goal was to stay out of that darn hospital bed as long as possible. Even when the evening rolled around and I had to be tethered to some monitors at all times, the 10-foot cords allowed me the ability to stand near my bed, pace a little, do a few squats and sway. Zac and I used these early evening hours to finally decide on a name for our baby. (Nothing like the pressure of the last minute to force you to make a decision.) They continued to gently increase my Pitocin each hour or so and the contractions settled into a nice, steady increase in frequency and intensity. Finally as we got closer to midnight, Zac fell asleep on the fold out chair in the room. I dozed a little, but finally around 12:30am I decided it was time for an epidural. I had made it to six centimeters and the pain, while not unbearable, was tough to get through. I had heard that the intensity level of contractions doesn't increase much after about the five centimeter mark, but that the increased frequency is what made the perception of pain feel overwhelming. I decided I didn't need to be a hero. I was tired. I hadn't slept well the night before our appointment - the anxiety of the potential inducement had kept me tossing and turning. Now it was approaching 1:00am and I knew we still had a ways to go. I wanted some rest, to put myself in the best position possible to do the hard work that was coming.
When the epidural team came in, Zac was a bit startled. Granted, that was mostly because he had been asleep and suddenly an additional three to five people were coming in and out of the room. He helped me breathe through the contractions so I could be as still as possible for the insertion of the epidural. The procedure was successful and, as my lower half numbed, Zac and I went back to "sleep" as we waited until I hit the magic 10 centimeters. The epidural guys did a great job. I was numb, but could still feel when I was having a contraction and still had some control over my muscles. Basically the pain was gone, but I had enough sensation to have an idea of what was going on.
A little after 4:00am the nurse visited to check on my progress. She announced, "Oh my, you're ready to go." That surprised me. I assumed that the epidural would slow my progress down, but I had continued to dilate about a centimeter an hour while I had slept. I was equally pleased to know that the end of this part of the process was almost done but I couldn't help but be a little nervous at how the pushing was going to go. I had heard horror stories of women pushing forever, only to end up exhausted and needing a C-section. I also knew there were still plenty of opportunities for complications. Hemorrhaging, the cord around the baby's neck, etc. But I was ready. I spent almost my entire pregnancy working out to keep my body strong. I had experienced a charmed pregnancy and first part of the labor process. I was cautiously optimistic that perhaps my good fortune would continue.
My conversation with the examining nurse had roused Zac from his slumber (bless his heart, that man can sleep like the dead anywhere at anytime) and I could tell that he was nervous when he realized that it was time to have a baby. The nurse called for the doctor and while we waited she showed Zac how he was going to help me push by holding my legs. The nurse explained how she wanted me to breathe and push. It sounded simple enough. Big inhale, push, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, quick exhale, quick inhale, push, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, quick inhale, quick exhale, push, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, big exhale. Wait for another contraction. The nurse cautioned Zac and I that the pushing part sometimes takes quite awhile. She said that it wasn't uncommon to need to push for an hour or so. Somehow in the back of my head I thought, "An hour, eh? Doubt it."
We practiced pushing twice. That is, the nurse and Zac each grabbed a leg and I pushed with all my might. After the second push the nurse said, surprised and a little alarmed, "Um, okay. Stop pushing. The baby is right there and we need the doctor to get in here." Quickly the doctor and a host of supporting personnel flooded the room. The doctor got set up and everyone took their ready positions. The nurse and Zac grabbed my legs and the doctor gave me the okay to resume pushing. One push cycle. A few breaths. Another push cycle. A few breaths. "One more should do it," the doctor assured me.
Push, 2, 3, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. . . .
I looked at Zac and he looked at me. Our son was here. We said nothing. I think we were too stunned to speak.
They placed our baby on my belly and wiped him down as he cried. There was no worrisome pause, waiting for the baby to cry. He came out, loudly announcing his arrival. He looked amazing. Pink. Healthy. Strong.
After a few minutes of staring at him, they took Archer over to the warming crib next to me and started all of the assessments and procedures that needed to happen. Zac went with the baby, taking photos and helping the nurse as needed. I lay there, overwhelmed. I had expected to feel a flood of maternal love upon seeing our baby. I expected to feel something primal, something instinctual that would link me to this new little life that was equal parts me and my husband. But I didn't. I felt . . . scared. I was scared that we wouldn't know what to do. I was scared that we had made the wrong decision by pursing fertility treatments. Maybe we weren't supposed to be parents. Maybe we wouldn't enjoy being parents and end up resenting our son. I was overwhelmed with the knowledge that my life as I had known it was over. I instantly felt ashamed that I felt that way. What was wrong with me? Why didn't I hear the call of maternal love and connection to my son immediately? Wasn't I supposed to be ecstatic and crying tears of joy?
When they brought Archer back I couldn't take my eyes off him. He was staring up at me, with giant, dark eyes. He seemed incredibly calm for someone who had just been squeezed through a birth canal. If I hadn't immediately feel a maternal tug inside of me upon his birth, I certainly felt sympathy for the little guy at that moment. All three of us, Zac, Archer and me, we were all dazed and confused. We were all new at this. New dad. New mom. New person. New family. None of us knew how this family thing was going to work.
"But I promise you this, little guy," I thought to myself, "your dad and I will try our best. So I guess we've got that."