Sammy's Birth Story

Our first induction date was set for October 11, 1 ½ weeks past my due date. At one of my last appointments we asked if there was a busy baby time of year in New Orleans and the doctor confirmed that it was the end August, September, beginning of October…about 9 months after cold weather usually hits the area, which coincides with the holidays so it's kind of a double jeopardy I guess. * smile* This "busy baby season" contributed to the late induction date, if someone scheduled for October 7th went into natural labor earlier we would be the first ones bumped to that day.
We got a phone call from the doctors office Friday the 1st. I didn’t recognize the number at first since, you know, being 40 weeks pregnant I didn’t my doctors office phone number yet programmed into my phone (it wasn’t until 38 weeks that I realized if I went into labor I wouldn’t know what to do first, call the dr or go to the ER or ???, I say this alone makes me a dream patient). I listened to the message and immediately called Wendy (my doula) and when she didn’t answer I called my mom to see what difference 5 days would make in the wait for my body or Sammy to decide to be ready for birth. The consensus from both was that since my body was making such little progress the boost of induction would probably be helpful and 5 days probably wouldn’t make much of a difference. My family history is pitocin is necessary and babies like to hang out past their due date. And every doctor I talked to told me that babies with anencephaly generally go past their due date and would hang out forever so I was already resigned to induction…
My first reaction to moving up the date was excitement. Dave wasn’t quite ready. So I asked the doctor for the weekend to decide, 7th or 11th. I kept thinking of reasons why I liked the 7th but wanted to respect Dave’s feelings and his part of the process. I learned that *my* original due date was the 7th but I showed up a couple days early. I googled the 7th of October and the 11th of October to see if anything special on one of these days would make it clear which day we should choose. Other than the 11th being National Coming Out day (while semantically fitting in one way, probably not quite what the founders of this day had in mind), nothing really grabbed my attention. Obviously we decided on the 7th and got the family all geared up to come into town. Oh - and turns out it was probably a God thing that we chose the 7th...
My mom and stepdad had already been summoned to New Orleans and had flights planned for the evening of the 3rd. Dave’s mom (Sharonne) and sister (Laura) made their plans to drive down on Tuesday. I honestly don’t remember much about Monday-Wednesday. I know we (read: my mom) cleaned and waxed the floors at some point…we got pedicures on the 5th, which was my 29th birthday, and I wasn’t really in the mood to go out so we had Whole Foods Deli for supper and Pinkberry for dessert.
Wednesday during the day I really don’t think we did anything. We did go out for supper and I finished packing my hospital bag before we headed to church. Every Wednesday night our church has a prayer and worship service, this was one of the reasons an induction on the 7th appealed to me. The doctor’s initial scenario started with going into the hospital the night before at around 9pm. Perfect for spending some time in prayer right before walking into the hospital, one of the moments I had most fearfully anticipated.
We got all checked in and met our first nurse, Ann. She was fantastic. Everybody I met was fantastic, all that worrying and stressing I did in June/July, well, I wanna say it was a waste of time but really I think it was the Lord teaching me trust. I still feel it was justified anxiety but I will never forget the underlying calm, knowing somewhere really deep down that it was all gonna to work out. And it did.
Wednesday night was short. My mom came with Dave and I so she’d be able to find the room the next morning and Wendy met us there. Ya’ll have no idea how nervous I was about IV’s and all that hospital business. And being induced I was given full hospital business treatment (stupid automatic blood pressure cuff).  Twice throughout the night Ann inserted some sort of cervix softening pill thingy to get it ready for the big stretch. She also gave a little sleep helper pill so we were able to get some rest. I’m not too sure sleep woulda been possible without it.  Dave and I fell asleep not long after Mom and Wendy left for the night.

And Thursday. We were woken up right after 7am by our new nurse, Tisha, and Dr. v. He blew in with an, “ok and now we’re going to break your water” and set to work. It was one of the hardest moments in the entire pregnancy. I haven’t fully processed why…honestly I didn’t give up hope that he would be healed until he was placed on my belly. I couldn’t tell the doctor no, I don’t know why. But as soon as we were alone again I cried. Not long after that Wendy, my mom, Duane, Sharonne, and Laura showed up and around 10:30am Sara, the Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep photographer showed up.

I have no idea what time contractions started. We didn’t do birthing classes we just talked with Wendy about laboring techniques, I read a lot of birth stories, and my co-teacher gave me the book Hypnobirthing. I read about half the book, it talked a lot about breathing so I would practice deep yoga breaths each night as I fell asleep. Dave called it my “creepy breathing”. Music has always been a powerful tool for me as well so I made Sammy a playlist and made sure my “Feel the Love” playlist from May was ready too.

I don’t remember the music much, I do remember being in my own little labor world. I did lots of creepy breathing and had lots of hate for the blood pressure cuff that kept tightening on my arm just as a contraction would start (coincidental).  Having Wendy (doula) around was perfect at this point. I know in the heat of the moment had Dave or my mom suggested I move around and try a different labor position the answer would have been NO. But since Wendy is one of the sweetest people I know and not at all related to me, it was had to say no. Oh yeah, and she’s kind of an expert at the whole labor/birth thing.

So we moved around the room a bit. I think the first variation we tried was laying on my side, it was HORRIBLE. Hours later I would hold my son and contemplate laying on my side but decide against it, remembering the pain I felt with those 4 contractions I had while laying on my side. There was a birthing ball, loved that, still required a couple people to get through contractions though. One time Wendy made me stand…after I decorated Dave, the birthing ball, and the floor with all the water and juice I drank that morning I didn’t have to try standing up any more. Gross. There was a birthing chair but that hurt too. It was a long day.

I know at some point I started visualizing items disappearing as a contraction progress. I remember 3 different things vividly and I’m sure there were more…first was a cookie. As I took my deep breath in one big bite of the cookie disappeared and as I let that breath out slowly some more of the cookie disappeared. I have no idea where this came from having not eaten since 7pm the night before. I also pictured the breathes out as blowing out some candles on a birthday cake, but I didn’t like that visualization because it always took more breathes to get through the contraction than it took to blow out all the candles. Even during labor my mind is unsatisfied with itself? Really?

I spent the day laboring the start I was 0cm and 50% effaced, -3 station, by 1pm I was 4cm and fully effaced. Woohoo! Seemed to be trucking right along. At 4pm I was 6cm and we had high hopes of delivering sometime early evening...I know I was hoping for 8pm at the latest since I was going about 1cm an hour and after the fact I found out everyone else was thinking the same thing.

By 5:30 I was ready to give up...contractions were very painful and all the
positions and tricks seemed to have stopped working. Wendy and I had talked about possible drug options if they became necessary so I broached the subject, knowing she was partial, in Sammy’s case, to IV narcotics as opposed to an epidural. I mentioned being just about done with all this *smile* and she suggested we have the nurse check me since the doctor was taking quite a while to get back and check me after his office hours.

At 6:30pm-ish Tisha checked me and I had basically stalled...still 6, maybe 7 cm and -1 station. I wanted to cry, especially because I had to be back in the bed for the check and contractions while sitting/laying in the bed were horrendous at this point. They were 1 1/2 - 2 mins long 2-3 minutes apart...and increasing intensity. I was whiney.

At this point my doula said she actually thought an epidural would be a good idea (God was guiding her for what was to come). I didn't care, I just wanted something to take the pain away. Here is where I mention that I had the squeakiest hospital door ever in life. Best I can figure at this point everyone who’d been hanging out all day decided it was time to line up outside the door and take turns coming in. Slowly, one at a time. Every time the door opened I waited for the “It’s Tisha” announcing her arrival and the arrival of relief (read: drugs). I don’t know if I said anything out loud but I was loosing patience with that door and the absence of the nurse. At one point a doctor came in, but was in the wrong room, I probably would have taken whatever was in his pocket at this point.

So it was decided I would have a shot of narcotics to take the edge off while I waited for the 2 bags of fluid I would need to run into my body before the epidural could be placed. I wanted to try natural, I did. I was a little scared of how I might respond to drugs...turns out we are besties :-) me and drugs get a long reeeeaalll good.

Sometime after the initial Nubain shot I had the 3rd vivid visualization for getting through the contractions. Have you ever seen contractions on a monitor? They look like mountains. Single mountains if you’re lucky, if you’re not they’ll have 2 or 3 humps like some of mine did. Anyway, this time I visualized a rainbow…I was climbing the outside layer of a rainbow and going down the other side on the inside because it was too boring to just climb up and down the outside…and then I wondered what color comes first on the outside of a rainbow. Oh boy…

Clearly with the shot of narcotics I was able to relax...I had been shivering uncontrollably for an hour or so, cold but also just couldn't relax. I could talk between contractions again and a bunch of girlfriends from church arrived about the time I got the shot. They came in and visited me, I asked what they'd eaten all day, I was hungry and could only keep water down. The dude with the epidural came in so my friends stepped out, I got the epidural, and my friends came back in to pray over me. During that prayer one of my friends was kinda rubbing my belly and said Sammy was kickin' like crazy during the entire prayer.

The doctor finally came in and did his own check. Less than an hour after the epidural I was +1 station, fully dilated, and ready to start pushing. I was shocked and asked for 20 minutes to power nap before we started. Hubs and I took a little rest and spent some final minutes talking to Sammy. Dave would always ask Sammy questions and tell him to kick if he agreed...Sammy rarely answered. This time when Dave asked if Sammy was excited to meet us he responded with a thump :-) We were ready to meet our baby boy.

Apparently someone went on a Starbucks run and returned right about the time we were ready to get started. So there I lay, literally with my legs up in stirrups, the doctor and Anne were getting everything ready and my mom handed Dave his iced-whatever across my chest as she sips her iced-whatever. I definitely commented on this. I mean, they both had a long hard day of dealing with me but seriously. It’s now been 24 hours since anything but water stayed in my system and they are floating iced coffee above my head. I’m not bitter (maybe a little).

I pushed for only 20 minutes. I mean it felt like forever but compared to others I know 20 minutes isn't bad. The people waiting outside the door heard laughter a couple times during the process. One time someone asked the doctor if he could see any hair, he thought they asked about "hearing" so he was answering some crazy answer about how it would take a couple days and some kind of ear canal trauma from birth blah blah blah, finally someone figured out there was a miscommunication and everyone laughed. He couldn’t see any hair at that point.  Another time my mom stopped counting!! She was the counter and while I was in mid push she quit! Of course I focused on how she quit counting, not finishing the count myself. LOL - that got everyone laughing too. As soon as I took my next breath I was fussin' at her for not counting.

Turns out she was probably distracted by all the work the doctor was doing to get Sammy out. We didn’t know until he was all the way out what a big boy he was. Wendy thinks his shoulders got stuck and coupled with his head not being able to stretch everything else out appropriately it caused him to get stuck. I could feel Sammy squirming between contractions. I thank God we were able to get him out without having to go to a c-section. I had no idea what was going of course. I was just pushing and not feeling a thing.

Finally Sammy was born, the doctor looked at me and said “I’m so sorry” as Anne placed Sammy on my tummy. I assumed that to mean he was born still (later my mom mentioned he was probably apologizing for the damage that was done). I had my own moment of assessment, realized he was still, and then I started going on and on about how big he was! He had little baby boobies and ROLLS. Rubber band wrists and thighs. I couldn't believe it. And I LOVE it. He had red hair! Another shocker. We knew it was possible; my mom and Grandma have red hair, I had red hair as a child and Dave's mom and Grandma have red hair but I am still just in awe.

Sammy was born at 9:47pm, weighed 8 1/2 lbs and was 20 inches long. Thank God we choose to go ahead with October 7th, I can't imagine how much more he would have weighed by the 11th and how much more damage he could have done. We are happy to have avoided a c-section. And even though no one will really tell me what was going on during all the pushing I get the impression that without an epidural I might be stuck away in a psych ward somewhere. I am super grateful for my own openness to changing the plan during labor (mmm, humble? not so much) and Wendy's flexibility and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit (yes, I am giving the Lord credit for the epidural). 

His size was a shock for a couple reasons. One being that all through the pregnancy doctors told me that babies like Sammy are "generally" smaller. I don’t know that I have actually read a story about an anencephalic baby that was over 8 lbs. I also had my mom telling me all week that there was no way he was a big baby. I was too small, there wasn’t enough room in there for a big baby. Ha. Love my mom, but she was also convinced Sammy was a girl until ultrasound confirmed otherwise.

I don’t know how long we fawned over Sammy before I asked why no one else had come in to see him...yeah…my mom gently reminded me with a giggle that I was not fit for guests yet as the doctor was still stitching me up. Right. I just wanted to share my sweet baby with everyone.

Everybody came in and it’s kind of a whirlwind after that. Sammy was passed around and everyone got a chance to hold him. I couldn’t wait to get him bathed and dressed! Someone (Anne I assume) brought in a little pink plastic tub and my mom and Dave gave Sammy a bath on the bed. My mom held up one little outfit – no way was it going to fit. Thank goodness I bought a layette, it was premie sized but we were able to squeeze him into it.

Sometime before the bath Sara (NILMDTS photographer) had to leave unexpectedly. Dave had planned a little bit better than I had asked a friend from church if she would be the back-up photog in the event we needed one. Sure enough, at 11pm someone called Brenna, got her out of bed and she trekked back up to the hospital (she had visited earlier) to take pictures. (1 million thanks to both of these ladies!)

My next time marker is at 1am (the 8th) when Anne came in to tell us that because of his size and age, Sammy could donate his heart valves! We had hoped initially for that opportunity but were told by 2 out of 3 doctors that donation was not a possibility. So we quit pursuing it but it found us. Our first question was when would they need Sammy and they told us 6am. It gave us a few more hours with him so we decided to do it.

We spent the night with him cuddling and memorizing his little body. I tried to chap his cheeks lavishing them with kisses. There are pictures of me poking them too, I couldn't stop. I am so in love with how chunky and squishy he was!

Giving him his last kiss was incredibly hard. I appreciate the hospital staff so much for all of their understanding. It was the only time Anne saw tears (or heard sobs) from us, and she apologized for having to take him.  A few minutes later she rushed in with a tissue in her hand. She hadn’t realized that he had hair and somehow didn’t see where we had already cut a bunch off (don't worry, it wasn't a hack job, Wendy did a wonderfully tasteful newborn haircut). Anne was apologizing for not noticing earlier, but as she adjusted his hat after leaving the room she saw his hair and brought us a snippet wrapped up in tissue. After all my fussing in June/July it turns out our hospital was fantastic.

I thank God for the peace and joy that filled the hospital room from the moment I entered until we had to hand Sammy over. People seemed shocked at the joy in the room as we all loved on Sammy. It was an answer to my prayers and the prayers of hundreds of others that held us up.

I love that I could fully experience labor and birth for what it was and didn’t spend all day worrying. I love that in spite of Sammy being stillborn everyone could spend time getting to know his big little self and be taken in by the wonder that was our little baby, a pretty perfect combination of Lucido/Scrabeck (if I do say so myself).

I remember sitting in our big brown chair one evening in February and wondering how a woman could allow herself to become pregnant more than once (my all day sickness/nausea was no joke).

 I remember the adventure of never knowing what food was going to decide to come back up until well into June. 

I remember needing 5 pillows to “sleep comfortably”  – ha ha - the last three weeks. 

I remember the 21 weeks of knowing my baby had a slim chance at living and trying to fill each one of those moments to the fullest.

I remember *kinda but not really* the pain of contractions. 

I am still shocked when I can breath and touch my feet at the same time. *smile*

And I would do it all over again – every single moment - if it meant feeling Sammy’s movements and getting to spend those 8 hours with him.

Two weeks later I am in wonder at how my body is healing and showing that it was made to do this. Yet two weeks later my shattered heart has moments of doubt that I can survive this.

I am convinced it’s gonna take a lotta love to get through bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things.