Surreal

Delivering Chet in the same hospital that I delivered Ginny was pretty surreal. A year and a half later we were back at the same place doing the same thing but thankfully under different circumstances. There were a few moments that brought back such vivid memories of Ginny’s birth. That made this experience surreal at times. It was like deja vu, but it felt like a dream instead of a nightmare. 

Two of these surreal moments were when I was being escorted in wheelchairs. The first was after I delivered Chet; I was wheeled by my nurse to my postpartum recovery room on the 3rd floor. As I rolled down the hall with Chet bundled in my arms, the memory of rolling down the same hall empty-handed flooded my mind. I remembered being explained that I was going to the 6th floor instead of the 3rd floor so I don’t hear babies crying. I remember being congratulated by well-meaning, uninformed staff as I left the labor and delivery unit. My nurse whispered to me, “I’m getting you out of here. I’m getting you out of here.” I remembered not being pregnant anymore. I remember being so so disappointed. All these memories came back to me crystal clear when I heard staff congratulate me and I replied with a smile and a “thank you”. Wow! I have a baby now. I have a reason to be congratulated this time. I made it! I was proud of myself for one moment. Then I got really sad. I was sad because I missed Ginny, and I should have been holding her down this hall a year and a half ago. I was sad for my old self. I felt sorry for her because she was blindsided, broken hearted, and didn’t even fully know what she was missing. And I also felt sad for every other woman who has to roll down that hall empty-handed. I thought of all that devastation in the same place most people only know joy. That hall can seem so very lonely, but it can also be so joyful. Surreal. 

The second time I was in a wheelchair was when I was being discharged. I remember how painful leaving the hospital was without Ginny. I knew her body was getting an MRI, and we were leaving. I couldn’t believe I was going without her. Waiting for me at home were the daunting tasks of facing the nursery, physically recovering, and figuring out how to fill my days without Ginny. Those moments of rolling down the halls, in the elevator, and through the lobby were torture. I just wanted to get to the car as soon as possible. I remember my escort was stopped by a couple of people asking for directions. I was so frustrated at them. The information desk was 10 feet away! I wanted to yell, “Can’t you see that I  have been through something traumatic and finally got discharged?!! And you are keeping me from getting home right now!! Ahhh!!” Of course I sat quietly clutching my vase of flowers instead of a baby. 

This time was a whole different story. I did have a baby in my arms! As I headed down the hall, I remembered last time. I remembered how painful that was, and I was so happy I have come full circle. Chet had survived, and I was actually taking him home! I never fully believed we would bring him home until that moment. I felt triumphant…until we reached the elevator and I remembered COVID. Oh yeah we are in a pandemic, and I have a tiny, vulnerable newborn in my arms. As we exited the elevator, people in masks rushed by this way and that way. I don’t ever remember seeing the lobby that busy. People would stop or linger staring at me and Chet. “Awww how sweet and cute! Congratulations!” they would say. I just wanted them to step away. Could they be infected?! As I waited for Daniel to pull the car up, I contemplated whether it would be better to cover Chet’s face with a blanket. That didn’t seem like a good idea, but he was so exposed without a mask. I hunched over him and lifted the blanket so he would maybe be more protected at least in one direction. My escort was a feisty older man. He said, “Don’t worry. I got you. There is no way I’m wheeling y’all out of the same door people are coming in.” He proceeded to roll us around the corner and out an emergency exit to avoid the crowds. I couldn’t thank him enough! His thoughtfulness made me feel so much better. 

As traumatic as some of the memories of my hospital stay with Ginny were, I’m glad I delivered Chet at the same place. It felt redemptive. I felt strong. I also felt so so grateful to remember those moments. I’m glad to remember them to not only honor Ginny, but also to recognize what a miracle Chet’s life is. This could’ve gone differently, but instead we were blessed with a beautiful, living baby boy. I was also reminded we could make it through anything and God will be with us… even in a pandemic. 

Season of Joy

Standing on the beach in San Diego right after finding out that the baby in my belly was a boy, God promised me joy. I felt so strongly in the moment that God was telling me that my season of sorrow would not last forever and that he does have joy in store for me. After the year of such intense grief and a heart full of worry for my unborn child, it was hard to believe that I would experience joy. But as soon as Chet’s first cries hit my ears, that promised joy rushed into my heart and onto my life. I can honestly say I have never been happier! Even with everything going on in 2020, I have never been happier. 

I miss Ginny more than ever. I still often cry longing for her, but those tears are so full of love that they don’t steal my joy. 

I am so incredibly proud of myself for making it through the last couple years. I’m proud of myself for surviving, for being brave enough to change my life in positive ways, for enduring pregnancy after loss, and for hoping. I’m proud of myself for listening and following the Holy Spirit even when the path wasn’t the clearest or most logical. The fruit of following the Spirit for me this year is JOY. 

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control; against such things there is no law.” – Galatians 5:22-23

Joy isn’t something you can always force (although I’ve tried RE:Joy). It is something God gives you. It runs deeper than your circumstances, but having a beautiful baby boy in your arms does help. I’m so incredibly grateful for this season. It wouldn’t be this sweet without the hardships of the last season. 

“Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy!” –  Psalm 126:5

I’ve been in the valley. I’ve done the hard work in processing loss. I’ve questioned “why” and wrestled in lament. I only saw darkness in my future. But God walked with me through the valley. God listened to my lament. God’s kind and patient presence lifted me out of my season of sorrow and into a season of joy that I couldn’t have imagined. It is beyond all my expectations. 

If you are in a valley now, do not give up hope. God is beside you, and there is a season of joy ahead for you too. 

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” – Psalm 16:11

Chet’s Birth Story

It’s been a little over a year since I shared my last birth story. At that time, I didn’t know when or if I’d be sharing another one. Ginny’s birth was an epic and healing experience. I immediately looked forward to the opportunity to deliver another baby – ideally living. Not a single time in pregnancy with Chet did I dread giving birth. I couldn’t wait, and by the end of the pregnancy I felt desperate to deliver him. I felt he was safer outside the womb than inside. After a month of prodromal labor, I couldn’t believe I actually made it all the way to my induction date at 39 weeks. 

Delivering during COVID was another thing to think about, but honestly it wasn’t my biggest worry. After being immersed in the baby loss community, I knew what all could go wrong without a pandemic. I still wasn’t convinced we would bring home a living baby. I was just grateful Daniel could be there with me.  

We arrived at the hospital around 8:20am and stood in a short line at the door to be screened for COVID before entering. They asked if we had symptoms or traveled, took our temperature, and gave us masks. We would be required to wear masks any time we were outside of the room and any time someone came in the room. 

We headed up to the 4th floor, got checked in, and were walked to my room. I had always visualized delivering in the same room we delivered Ginny, but of course it was a different room. It felt smaller, but it had a nice view. As we got settled in the room, we set out a picture frame with the pictures of Ginny’s ultrasound and a sunflower. I knew I would need be able to see my girl and have something to point to when explaining our loss to hospital staff.   

Daniel went to get a visitor’s pass. They already had his picture on file – the picture on his pass was from the day Ginny was born. When I looked at Daniel, I could see the picture of a man who just lost his daughter next to the face of a man who was about to welcome his living son. There were so many reminders of what we’ve been through. But thankfully this time was different; we saw our baby’s heartbeat on the monitor.

I was already 3-4 cm dilated so they were able to start pitocin right away. My nurse was kind and very knowledgable. It was clear she studied my chart and knew my situation. She explained that since I’ve had a lot of extra fluid the doctors may want to break my water in the operating room. One of the risks of extra fluid is cord prolapse after water breaks. If there is cord prolapse, Chet could be without oxygen and an emergency C-section would be necessary. She also said that since I have a big baby, the doctors will probably let me push for 3-4 hours before suggesting a C-section. She was trying to prepare us for the different possibilities. I was praying for a vaginal delivery, but I told the nurse my only expectation was a living baby. 

By the early afternoon, my contractions started getting more intense, and Chet’s heart rate started dropping after each one. I got really anxious. The nurse came in and suggested that I lay on my left side. That seemed to help Chet’s heart rate, but it was frustrating since I knew I needed to move around to encourage him to descend. I worried how Chet would be able to tolerate pushing if he wasn’t even able to tolerate contractions. I was overwhelmed – I worried that Chet was having a hard time, and I was missing Ginny so so much. 

Around 4 pm the contractions started getting painful so I requested an epidural. The epidural went smoothly and worked on both sides unlike last time. Thankfully Chet’s heart rate stopped dropping, and he seemed to be able to tolerate other positions. I felt so much better physically and mentally. 

After the epidural the doctors checked my cervix, and I was 5-6 cm dilated and 80% effaced. Chet was still not fully engaged so they decided to wait a bit longer to break my water. They didn’t end up needing to do so because at 6:20 pm my water broke on its own! I started freaking out because I was afraid of cord prolapse. We quickly called the nurse in. She said that they would be able to tell pretty quickly if that happened by looking at the baby’s heart rate; Chet’s heart rate looks great. I was so relieved. She called the doctors and started prepping the tables for delivery. 

The nightshift nurse came in and introduced herself. She was very kind and enthusiastic. She said she is a really close friend of the nurse who helped deliver Ginny. We talked a bit about Ginny. She said her babies were over 10 lbs each and she loved delivering big babies. She asked how I was doing. I still had no pain because of the epidural, but I could feel pressure. She said she thought it would be soon and called the doctors.

At 8:20 pm the night team of doctors introduced themselves. They checked me and I was fully dilated. They told the nurse to have me start pushing and to call them back in when it was time. I had labored in a mask, and now I was about to push and deliver in a mask. I didn’t even think about it – I was so focused on Chet and doing what I needed to do to get him here safely. The nurse coached me to take deep breaths and push as hard as I could during contractions. Daniel held my leg and encouraged me. It was clear the nurse was in her element; she got so excited as she could see Chet’s head full of hair. She had Daniel come look as I was pushing. She asked if I wanted to look with a mirror; I quickly answered no. Before long he was about ready to come. The nurse called the doctors, and they came in. I kept pushing as hard as I could when I felt the urge. I pushed for 45 minutes.

At 9:18 pm Chet was born! They immediately placed him on my chest. As I felt his arms and legs with my hands, I was overcome with happiness. I held my breath and waited for a cry. I heard gurgles and then a cry. I started sobbing! He’s alive! I looked over at Daniel and he was crying as well. He is finally here! I couldn’t see him very well since he was up at my chest and I was wearing a mask, but I felt him. I felt his little hand was holding tight onto my necklace, the necklace that reminds me of Ginny. It was such a special moment. I kissed his head through my mask. I heard a nurse call out the APGAR score of 8/9. I knew that was really good! I was so so thankful! 

The next couple hours were spent holding him on my chest. He was so beautiful! I couldn’t believe he was actually here! He breastfed right away. My heart was so full! He weighed 8lbs 10.8oz and was 21.5in long. Daniel held him, and we took a picture as a family. I was overwhelmed with love and joy! 

Both my labor and delivery stories are pretty similar in that they followed strikingly similar timeframes. Both experiences were beautiful and such an honor. But this time instead of a heartbreakingly silent, precious, and far too short moment with our daughter’s body, we were given a loud, bright-eyed, squirming baby boy. Instead of hearts flooded with love and sorrow, we had hearts flooded with love, joy, and excitement. What a contrast! What a blessing! God was with us during both experiences. Both experiences were powerful and life-changing. I’m grateful and extremely proud of both birth stories and both my beloved babies.