Monday, September 10, 2012

Little Liam's Birth Story

Dear Readers,

I am so happy to share with you some wonderful news!

Michael and I welcomed our son on Sunday, September 2nd at 1:25 PM.  We named him Liam Lee! Liam is a shortened, Irish form of William. And Lee is a special middle name in Michael's family, plus it is part of my mother's name, which is Mary Lee.

He is 8 pounds 3 ounces, 21 inches long, healthy, and handsome...with a full head of hair and even sideburns!  Here's one of the first pictures I snapped of our cutie pie:

And now, please allow me to tell you the story of his miraculous birth!

On the morning of Friday, August 31st, I went into my obstetrician's office to hear the results of my blood and urine tests, which were checking me for preeclampsia.  Preeclampsia is a mysterious condition that first-time mommies sometimes get.  It manifests itself as high blood pressure, typically later on in the pregnancy, most often around 36 weeks.  And, in speaking to various nurses about this, I learned that the condition seems to hit those who are typically nervous girls.  And I suppose I definitely qualified as such, given that my greatest fear in life (other than death itself) was childbirth.  In addition, having a life-long aversion to heartbeats and blood pressure readings didn't help my situation.  My blood pressure would typically be high at my prenatal checkups all because I was nervous of the result.  It was a Catch 22.

Usually, when they'd take it again at the end of my visit, my blood pressure would be normal because I was now going home.  But at 38 weeks and also at 39, it just wasn't coming down.

When the body has continuous high blood pressure, I believe it causes all blood vessels and capillaries to expand, which can then cause the kidneys to leak proteins into the urine.  It can also cause the liver to begin malfunctioning, the eyes to see flashes of light, the head to throb, and the mother becomes at risk for a seizure which can be an immediate death sentence for mother and baby.  So very, very scary.

Fortunately, my blood tests came back good, meaning that my liver was functioning normally.  But my urine test results revealed that my kidneys were indeed leaking proteins.  Having two of the three major symptoms, the doctor officially diagnosed me as having "mild preeclampsia."

Dr. Stone
My tears began to flow and my mother held my hand, there in that tiny examination room.  I was hoping that the doctor would simply put me on bed rest or admit me to the hospital for watching only.  But Dr. Stone kindly explained that the only cure to preeclampsia was to get that baby out.  Induction was, unquestionably, the thing to do.  And it needed to happen THAT DAY. 

Dr. Stone kindly reassured me, saying that all would be well and sharing that she had the same experience with her first child.  Devastated and fearing that the intervention of induction would lead down the slippery slope to an eventual C-section, I called Michael at work and asked him to please come immediately home.  Before we were even off the phone, it sounded like he had flown from his desk to the car and was promptly on his way.

Mom stayed with me here at the house until Michael arrived.  She started calling family members, asking for prayers, and I started gathering up my last-minute things for the hospital bag.  I had plenty of time to cry some more, cuddle our dog, pray fervently, and pamper myself with a slow, relaxing shower.  The induction was scheduled for 2 PM. 

I began to hear God's voice pour reassurance and confidence into me.  It was time for me to embrace the graces of motherhood and face this front-on with confidence and positivity, although I myself was weak and scared.  The Holy Spirit told me that I must walk into that hospital with the power and grace that is Wisdom.  And Wisdom was telling me to trust in God's providence and control over this situation, since He has never left the driver's seat of my life anyway.  It was time for me to be somebody's Mother, and a mother helps her child to face the future without fear, trusting always in God.  It was time for me to live that motherhood now.

When he walked in the door, Michael was purposely cheery.  "Game time, huh!" he declared.  And it was.  Although I cried when I hugged him, I reassured him that I was strong -- and he said he knew that I was.  We were going to do this...and together.  And the grand finale would be our precious child!

We took one last picture of me being pregnant.

Mom left, and I showered, and then both Michael and I laid and rested on the bed.  I laid there, with the wooden crucifix from the wall in my hands, both of us praying the Rosary while listening to it on my iPhone app.  We were soon to experience the greatest day of our lives, God reminded me.  There was no room for fear.

At 2 PM, we walked into the hospital with forced smiles on our faces.  Those smiles were meant to convey to us--as much as to the on-looker--that this would be OK, that it was meant to be, that we were in the safety of God's hands, and that we couldn't WAIT to meet our child.

After signing some initial paperwork, we were lead down the hallway to Labor & Delivery Room #403.  In this fateful room, everything would happen: all the tests, all the memorable conversations between us, all the prayers, all the contractions, and then finally...the birth!  Beginning in this room, our life would forever change.

I liked the room number.  In it I saw the Trinity in that last digit and also the fact that we would become a family of three, given that there were three total digits.  The leading number of four is linked to creation (as I blogged about previously), and certainly we had experienced the privilege of co-creation with God -- with us about to soon see the fruits of that labor!  In that zero I saw my big, round, pregnant belly; I saw the symbolism for the circle of life; and I saw the fact that life truly goes on forever, just like a circle does.  Yes, the baby we co-created with God is already an eternal being that will exist forever!

We did not know how long our stay in Room 403 would be, but it ended up being for five days and four nights -- all over Labor Day Weekend, which was, of course, appropriately named for us.  :)

The center window below was for our hospital room.  My eyes often fixed themselves on those beautiful, young trees in the yard.  I drew inspiration from them somehow.

Esther Mast, CNM
One of the first gifts that God gives a woman who's soon to give birth is the gift of the Time Warp.  Hours will pass by like minutes.  Days will flash by like hours.  The Time Warp is a tremendous grace because it takes a long experience and makes it pass by quickly.  I entered the Time Warp when I walked into Room #403.  Time held still.  I was not to be rushed.  And yet, what I was about to experience would happen so very quickly, or so it seemed.

So a 5-day, 4-night hospital stay with a 48-hour labor (which would normally terrify me) would instead feel like nothing.  The Time Warp allowed me to feel energized despite the fact that I never slept.

In that time, dozens and dozens of different people cared for me.  I should have started counting because I'd bet that I'd have gotten past 100.  No nurse repeated her shift with me, although all of them were kind.  My favorite nurse was a quiet and gentle Mennonite woman named Jacinda who asked me to just call her Cindy.  

In the time that we were there, I was under the care of two wonderful midwives and two wonderful obstetricians, all of whom spoke frequently of our birth plan and their desire to adhere to it as much as possible.  This brought me immense relief.  Their names were Jane Beshore, Esther Mast, Dr. Thomas Fromuth, and Dr. Jill Satorie, the last of whom had a bubbly and joyful personality.  I remember that Dr. Satorie had fussed over my gold flip-flops at my prenatal appointment two weeks prior and had confidently declared, "I'm on for Labor Day Weekend...and I have a way of making everyone go into labor when I'm on I look forward to seeing you then!"  She was right, and when we saw each other in Room 403, we laughed.

Dr. Fromuth
I checked out the jacuzzi, then changed into a gorgeous, Carolina Herrera hospital gown (with a flattering open-back) and plopped myself on the bed.  Michael began emptying out our hospital bags, filling the drawers and closets with our things for easy access.  He joyfully set out the religious pictures, crucifix, and Rosary which would bring me strength as this journey continued.  We surveyed the welcome paperwork and browsed the hospital menu.  Michael tested out the remote control and TV.

Then Jane walked in.  This petite young woman with a gentle smile would be the midwife who would encourage me through labor and would ultimately deliver my baby.  Of course, only God knew this at the time.  Her shift was soon to end, but God saw to it that she was back in perfect timing for our baby's birth.  She asked me lots of questions to review my medical history, and I learned again that I gained a total of 45 pounds in this pregnancy.  Wow.

Then Dr. Satorie entered, full of smiles.  And together both women explained that they would begin my induction by placing a little piece of cloth near my cervix.  On it would be the chemical called Cervidil.  Within 12 hours, it should ripen my cervix, they explained.  This means it would soften things and thus hopefully cause my body to begin contractions.

Since we had a while to wait, Michael and I sought permission to go for a short walk outside.  It was a beautiful evening, and I hoped that the exercise might encourage my labor.  So we walked around the entire outside of the hospital, following the little track that wove its way in between young trees and bushes.  And we hoped.  Please, God, let this journey end be safe and end beautifully!

The twelve hours came and went.  Although I was 20% effaced, I had felt no contractions and my cervix was still closed.  Our baby was still up high in my belly at the -3 station, and my cervix position was only mid-line.  I felt devastated and began to worry that if my labor didn't begin, I was destined for a C-section.  I closed my eyes and reminded myself that medical interventions are necessary and a blessing for when things are not going normally.  If I needed a C-section, then so be it.  God was overseeing it all.

This is what I wore on my wrist.  The rosary bracelet is made of stones from Medjugorje.  Around my neck I wore a Brown Scapular and a Miraculous Medal.

Thankfully, the wonderful staff wanted to give my body another shot at it.  So they would try a different brand.  At 5 AM on the morning of Saturday, September 1st, they placed a tiny Cyototec pill near my cervix.  The Cyototec could be administered four times, they explained.  While this first dose dissolved over the next four hours, I might feel like someone suddenly punched me in the vagina, they warned.  Most women reported this feeling as a sudden and surprising shock.  And usually it would lead to a woman experiencing contractions. 

I was ready.  I was ready to try anything to start labor in the hopes that we could give our baby a vaginal birth without any other drugs other than these initial cervix-ripening drugs.  So, when the staff left, I pulled out the paperwork I had gathered up ahead of time about natural labor-inducing techniques.  I rubbed the webbing on my hands between my index finger and thumb.  Michael rubbed my pinkie toes and the space just above my inner ankles.  And, for only a few minutes, I even rubbed my nipples.

Boatloads of friends and family were praying hard for us, and I could feel it.  And while I never felt that punch in the groin, the monitor on my belly said that I was experiencing contractions every 2 to 5 minutes.  Incredibly, I couldn't feel these at all, and this surprised the nurses.  They were able to feel that I was having contractions simply by placing their hands on my belly, but I was oblivious.  As they tried to teach me to recognize them, I seriously began to wonder if I'd be some amazing woman who'd give birth without an ounce of pain.  I imagined the newspaper articles and the TV interviews that would happen.  But that hope was a bit too far-fetched.

As the hours passed, I began to feel contractions, and never before had I welcomed pain so gratefully!  But, at this time, the contractions felt no different than the cramps I've experienced on the first day of my period.  The only difference was that they came and left completely with regularity.  And when they left, they were fully gone.

That's the beautiful thing about childbirth, you see.  God has designed it impressively, and He's built natural periods of rest into the ENTIRE experience, right up until the end.  You are guaranteed to find complete comfort and peace between contractions.  All the feelings of childbirth do go away between contractions.  At moments like that, it is as if nothing is going on and you're sitting on the couch at home, watching TV in your pajamas.

Midwife Esther Mast excitedly told me that although they could give me more Cyototec, there was no need.  The drug had already worn off and my body was taking over.  Praise God!  I was inspired.  I was now 2 centimeters dilated and 50% effaced.  Our baby had dropped down a bit further and was now at the -2 station.  Oh, Praise God!  Perhaps I'd get a vaginal delivery after all.  And this success was all thanks to our family and friends' fervent prayers!  I thanked them all by composing texts and emails on my iPhone.  And I joyfully encouraged Michael to go the 5 PM Saturday mass while I spent time with my mother and father, which he did.

Later I would learn that on this evening, at 8:15 PM, I began what is called Stage 1 Active Labor.  The machines that were hooked up to my belly to measure my contractions were reporting that they were intensifying.

When night fell on this second evening, I got scared.  In the early morning hours, I awoke Michael, telling him that I needed his company and reassurance.  But my desperate need for him confused my groggy husband.  So then I prayed not one but TWO Rosaries.  Something at that time instinctively told me to cling desperately to my Jesus.  I blessed myself and my belly with holy water from Lourdes.  Unbeknown to me, soon I would begin to fully feel this active labor that I was in.  I turned on the electric candle beneath the standing crucifix on my table and kept vigil for another hour or so.

Jesus comforted me by giving me a visual to deal with my contractions.  Since they came upon my body as regular waves, I envisioned myself standing at the shore line.  As I looked ahead, I could see large white foamy crests coming toward me.  But I reminded myself to have no fear of their intensity.  Their intensity would only decease and, eventually, those big, powerful waves would be no more than tiny ripples at my feet on the shoreline.  And then they would disappear entirely as the water went back out to the sea.  This visual brought me peace, and so that is how I welcomed and dealt with every contraction.  Also what helped me to deal with these contractions was my prior experience of dealing with menstrual cramps with patience and rest (as my mother always suggested), rather than simply to pop a Midol pill to make it all go away.  I was not afraid of my body.  I was going to let it do its thing.

At 2:19 on the morning of Sunday, September 2nd, when I experienced another contraction, I felt a POP.  Was that baby giving a strong kick or was it something else?  Immediately after, I felt something begin to gradually ooze out of me.  I woke Michael again, telling him that I was either involuntarily peeing myself or that my water was breaking.  He reminded me to press the button on my bed for the nurse, and no sooner did I do that, water began to GUSH out of me in GALLONS.  No, this wasn't pee!  No girl could pee this much.

Cindy the nurse ran in to mop up.  But, as she rushed around with towels and pads, the gallons just kept pouring.  I couldn't stop it at all; all I could do was laugh at the sheer quantity of it all, hope that nobody slipped, and apologize to her.  What a funny feeling this was!  And praise God for it.  A vaginal delivery was one step closer for us!  Even though it was the middle of the night, I texted a few friends to tell them of the good news and to thank them for their prayers.

Soon the sun rose on September 2nd.  And it was Sunday, Our Lord's day.  Out my window I had a beautiful view of a mountain with a little road on it that was only two turns away from our little house.  Young trees kept watch outside my window, and I was grateful.  I was now 4 or 5 centimeters dilated and 80% effaced.  Baby had dropped a bit lower and was at the -1 station.  Contractions were still 2-5 minutes apart but lasted 20-40 seconds now.  Dr. Satorie performed an ultrasound to confirm that our baby was definitely in position for birth.

Knowing that hard labor would be soon, at 8:10 AM the midwife Esther then explained that it was time to begin my blood pressure medication to prevent seizures, which would be a continuous drip of magnesium sulfate.  It would make me feel a bit woozy, but I agreed; and soon the clock on the wall became blurry and unreadable...and the skin all over my body turned very hot.

Contractions were strengthening, and I dealt with them by quiet groaning, slow writhing, and closed eyes.  My mother entered the room then, just for a second (or so she thought), but I asked her to stay and hold my hand -- and soon she would be there for the entire birth experience.  Her presence during delivery was an unplanned but now very necessary event, one that she and I would look back on fondly.

But first, Father O'Blaney would enter.  And my eyes would open and joyfully accept him.  His face looked worried, but he reached for my belly and gave us a blessing.  The day before at the Saturday evening mass, Michael had asked him to please come and visit me.

After Father left, Michael's mother came into the room.  I was now holding the hands of both of my mothers as I experienced these writhe-worthy contractions.  Mrs. Goddard put cold compresses on my forehead and Michael fanned me with a magazine.  My mother's ice-cold, nervous hands brought me tremendous relief.

It was time for the 11 o'clock mass, and we all encouraged Mr. and Mrs. Goddard to go and enjoy.  Our parish was just 5 minutes down the road.  Hesitating, Mom Goddard wondered if she should skip mass altogether, given the circumstances.  Mom explained that she had already gone early that morning.  I was too focused inward to really give an opinion.

During the 11 o'clock mass, Father Loftus asked the whole parish to pray for me.  At about 11:30 AM (half-way through the mass) my most intense contractions began, and indeed I would need the prayers of our church family.  Mr. and Mrs. Goddard then left mass a little early, instinctively sensing that things were moving quickly at the hospital.  And they were. 

When they returned, Mom Goddard was not allowed back into Room 403, as the midwife felt that things were too intense now.  The new sort of contractions I experienced felt like throwing up in reverse and with my uterus instead of my stomach.  This powerful type of contraction was pushing our baby down into the birth canal, and surely this must be the phase called Transition, I thought, although I had no desire to throw up.  The first of this type of contraction scared me initially because they were so powerful and involuntary.  For the first one, my head lunged toward my mother and I instinctively yelled, "Mommy!" as if I were a frightened, little child.  And for that moment, I was.  But in the moment that followed, God gave me complete comfort and rest again.  When the next strong, involuntary contraction began, I was prepared for it.

Jane Beshore, CNM
My midwife Jane checked my cervix and was pleased to report that I was 100% effaced and 10 centimeters dilated.  She recorded in my health records that at 11:10 AM I had completed Stage 1 of labor, which had lasted 14 hours and 56 minutes.  Therefore, I could begin pushing at any time, she explained.  This was incredible!  And this would be the start of Stage 2!  I was so excited.

Although my eyes were slits due to my focus inward, somehow they saw that into the room rolled a special wooden cart for birth, the one they had showed us on the tour of the hospital weeks before.  Jane began to suit up, putting on new gloves and a special apron.  These were good signs, I thought.  We were almost there!

They sat me up a bit on the bed and encouraged me to bring my knees toward my chest.   At the next contraction, I could push.  Michael and a nurse would hold my legs up and I would wrap my hands beneath my kneecaps to give me leverage.

Pushing was, incredibly, rather pleasant.  And it brought relief, drowning out the feeling of each contraction that I paired it with.  Pushing was completely voluntary, meaning that I could control the frequency and strength of those pushes.  And pushing was done with my butt muscle.  Indeed, there was no other muscle down there equipped to work so powerfully.  (I had always wondered this.)

When I pushed, Jane would count the seconds and announce them aloud.  My goal was to push each time for 10 solid seconds, but I could also stop (maybe after 5 seconds, for example) and begin again if I wanted to.  The main goal was to push for as much and as hard as possible while a contraction was happening.

With my mother near my head, Michael positioned himself eagerly down below, next to the midwife.  He saw everything.  And he was a fantastic coach.  Both he and Jane would tell me, "Push, push, push!  Do it with all your strength!  That's great!  You're doing a great job, Lisa!"

And while each contraction would continue, they would enthusiastically yell, "Get back on it!  Keep pushing!"  Each time I worked hard, they complimented me.  It wasn't long before Michael announced, "I can see the top of the head!  You're doing a great job, sweetie!"  I was amazed by myself!  Oh, how I thrive on positive encouragement and broad smiles!

I truly felt like I only pushed a handful of times and our baby was born.  It felt like 10 quick minutes that were totally in my control.  But according to the documents I saw later, this Stage 2 of labor lasted 2 hours and 14 minutes for me.  I was still in the Time Warp, you see, and it protected me from feeling rushed and from feeling exhausted.  I had plenty of energy to keep going.  Praise God.

With a few more pushes, I could feel the large bulge of the head between my legs.  My work was almost done and Baby was almost here!  Jane felt my vaginal opening and concluded that, with a child this large, making a small cut in my skin would be necessary.  I agreed to it, and while I did feel some pain from the needle for the local anesthetic, I was so excited that I did not mind.  

With one more contraction and corresponding push, our child was born at 1:25 PM!  Our baby flew out of me with ease (the position being right and the presentation being vertex), and I had instant relief.  The nurses immediately placed my baby on my chest, my eyes seeing only the top of baby's head and my lips joyfully saying, "My baby!  My precious baby!  You're here!"  

Michael announced that it was a boy, and Mom and I began to cry joyfully.  Michael announced the name of our child as Liam Lee, and then he had the memorable experiencing of cutting the cord.  A nurse hung a sign on the door, announcing the birth to the world outside our beloved Room 403.  :)

Mom instantly handed me the telephone, saying that I could call my father at home and give him the good news!  Dad had recently left the hospital to go home and make phone calls, in the hopes that someone else would cover his work shift, which was to begin at 4 PM.  When he answered, I said peacefully and with great joy and exhaustion, "Dad, I had a little boy!"  He was overjoyed and said he'd get in the car that instant to return to the hospital!

Because he was slightly blue in color, Liam was transferred to a warming bed in the room (just a few feet from my side), and Michael and Mom promptly followed him.  I was in pure bliss, eager to see Liam's handsome face when he returned to me, since I had only seen the top of his head.  Michael kept a good watch on Liam and held his hands, welcoming him into the world!

After waiting about 10 minutes since the birth, Jane reminded me that with the next contraction I ought to push out the placenta.  This I did with immense ease, for the whole thing felt like jelly (and probably looked like the strawberry kind).  The time was now 1:34 PM.

Dr. Satorie
With the placenta out, Dr. Satorie entered, all smiles, pleased with the results and eager to sew me up.  I had experienced a lot of blood loss and withstood seven major tears, she explained, at least one of which was third-degree (a perineal laceration).  Hundreds of stitches later, she was done and it was time to hold my baby again.  Praise God!

Liam's face showed that he was handsome, alert, and eager for breastfeeding.  I indulged him.  He ravenously began to suck at my breasts.  But soon it was time for his second Apgar test, and off he went to the baby station beside my bed again.  Apparently, they perform the test twice five minutes apart, and he got scores of 8 and 9.

So, my dear friends, your fervent prayers helped me to deliver vaginally without an epidural or pitocin despite the fact that I was diagnosed with preeclampsia and needed to be induced.  It was a true miracle.  Thank you!  And I thank all the amazing staff of OBGYN of Lancaster and the Heart of Lancaster Hospital.

What an incredible day September 2nd was.  I'll never forget it.  For Michael and me, it was the happiest day of our lives.

Proud Grandparents!
And another set of very proud Grandparents!

The scariest moment, though, happened sometime within the hour after birth.  Perhaps because of my blood and fluid loss, the magnesium sulfate drip (that I was on because of my high blood pressure) or the pitocin (which I found out later that they gave me only after delivery because it helps the uterus to contract and close off blood vessels) became too much for my body to handle.  And yet, I ignored these weird feelings at first because I wanted to be a good patient and also because I was thrilled to have a new baby! 

But I was ROASTING.  And I couldn't get anyone to understanding the urgency with which I requested that the thermostat be promptly turned down.  People were telling me that I'd cool off soon, that I ought to just relax and rest...but I felt a weird certainty that if I fell asleep I would DIE.  And I'm not exaggerating.  It was a horrible feeling.  My brain was fighting to stay conscious in order to keep me alive, and I felt distinctively that all my body functions were shutting down.

Impulsively and instinctively, I threw off my bed sheets and tore off my hospital gown (despite our fathers being in the room), pleading loudly with my eyes closed, "Please take me off the magnesium...I feel like my body is shutting down and I am going to die!"  [One of the side effects of magnesium sulfate is feeling hot.]

Then suddenly it was... 
All family - OUT. 
Get the doctor - FAST.
Stop the mag - NOW.

I was seconds away from ripping the IV out of my arm.   Laying on my side with my eyes closed, I was so relieved to hear the doctor rush in and agree to stopping it.  Again people told me to just relax.  "Not without a heart monitor," I pleaded, my eyes still closed and my body weak.

"We are monitoring your heart and blood pressure right now," a nurse assured me.  And then, in the background, I heard numbers.  Low numbers.  Numbers that sounded too low to be pulse rates or blood pressure readings.  But they were.

As the magnesium flow stopped (and perhaps the pitocin, too?), I could feel myself getting better already.  I was coming back to life, albeit slowly.   "I'm feeling better," I said, out of breath. "That was it.  I needed to be off that awful magnesium.  It was too much...too much."

It took another 12 hours for me to feel totally normal again.  But I was getting better with each passing minute.  And it was all because of the protective prayers that family and friends had wrapped me in ahead of time.  The important thing was that we had a precious baby to love!  Our little Liam!  Praise Jesus!

Later, Dr. Satorie would tell me that perhaps my pre-elampsia was so mild that being on the magnesium sulfate wasn't warranted, for usually that sort of reaction wouldn't happen with a patient who truly needed it.  She also explained that my blood loss had been quite significant (400 mL), so perhaps that is why it happened.

That evening, they put a catheter in me.  The nurses were afraid that my lower parts would swell from all the tearing and make peeing impossible.  Fortunately, the pain of getting a catheter put in wasn't as bad as I feared it would be.  [But, in the weeks that followed, I'd feel my bladder...and eventually convince myself that I ought to be tested...and eventually I'd be diagnosed with a urinary tract infection and have to go on an antibiotic.  Ugh.]

That night, our first night together as a family of three, was magical.  I couldn't sleep due to sheer happiness.  All I could do was stare at my handsome Liam, laying beside me in his clear plastic bassinet.  And he was looking back at me!  So I snapped pictures of him while Michael slept.  And then I smiled when I noticed the great similarity between father and son.  :)

On the day that we left the hospital, the staff gave us a fancy celebration meal for free.  Yes indeed, there was so much to celebrate!  God helped us to achieve our goal:  healthy baby and healthy mommy!

This would be our first hot date since our son was born.  :)

How did they know that cheesecake is one of my all-time top-favorite desserts?!

After our celebration meal, it was time to pack up our belongings and take our sweet baby home!  For a going-home outfit, Michael dressed Liam in Boston Red Sox gear.  (Yes, I had given him permission to do so...and Liam looked crazy-adorable in it!)

Just look how TINY and cute he looks in his car seat!

I felt so proud of Liam, Michael, and myself as we opened the door of Room 403 and stepped out for the first time together as a family.  Walking down the hospital hallway had the same feeling as being on the biggest float in a parade, and the nurses at their stations stopped their work to peek at Liam and to wish us well.

Look at his precious eyes, peeking out from underneath that cap!  By the time we got home, the hat had slid down and completely covered his little eyes!  So cute!
We came home to an amazingly clean and newly redecorated house, thanks to Michael's wonderful parents who spent the weekend here, moving in new furniture (an extra queen bed for our guest room), hanging new things on the wall of the nursery, cleaning the floors, putting up new window treatments, and even filling our refrigerator!  All this was a delightful surprise!

And my mother had decorated the side of our house, announcing to the neighborhood that there was a new kid on the block!  She also bought lots of different candies for us to give out, announcing the "baby boy" news!

What a beautiful start to parenthood this has been!  And it is only just the BEGINNING!  We thank our family and friends for their love and support, and we profusely thank Our Lord for creating Liam and giving him to us!