Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Birth Story of Baby Vera

Dear reader, I am delighted to share with you the birth story of our daughter, Vera Catherine!  She was born on February 12th, 2015 at 2:40 AM! 

Our little one's due date was the Feast of Saint Valentine; so, as the date approached, we prayed hard for no snow, ice-free roads, a safe delivery, and a healthy baby.

Earlier in the month, I had prayed that our child might be born on February 11th, the feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes.  And, somehow, I felt Our Lady tell me on February 9th that if I honored her Son in a special way on February 10th, she would make February 11th (her feast day!) very special for us.

So, on February 10th, in preparation for Our Lady's feast day, Liam and I went to daily mass, I went to confession, and later that night I went by myself to Eucharistic Adoration.  As I sat there quietly in the pew and rubbed my belly, I continued to sense that Our Lady was telling me that things would happen on her feast day.

On the morning of February 11th, my parents took Liam to his library story time class.  In the afternoon, a plumber came to the house for repairs.  And then, just as everybody left, my sister-in-law Cindy texted me to remind me that we were approaching 3 PM, the hour of Divine Mercy.  She, too, was praying for my little to be born on Mary's feast day.

No sooner did I receive her delightful reminder text and the clock struck three, I felt a strange sensation in my belly.  It was fleeting and gone within a few moments, so I thought I must have imagined it.

But, a few minutes later, I felt something weird again.  And then it was gone.  As time passed, I began to notice that when I had the feeling, I certainly believed it was something.  When I didn't have the feeling, it was completely absent.  And the feelings felt like mild menstrual cramps.

I wasn't sure what I was experiencing, so I chose to text Michael at work instead of disturb him with a phone call.  He responded immediately, telling me to keep him updated, and I promised that I would.  I texted my parents and promised to keep them updated as well.

As the hour passed, it dawned on me.  Contractions DO feel like menstrual cramps in the beginning!  I quickly downloaded an app to keep track of these sensations, and I was surprised to see that they were coming every 5 to 8 minutes and lasting almost exactly 30 seconds each.

I was so grateful for my son Liam's sweet understanding when I told him, "Mommy isn't feeling well and her belly hurts."

He seemed to instantly understand, his face looking sad as he asked, "Mommy hurts?"  And then, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, he took himself out to the living room, turned on the TV, and started a DVD we had gotten from the library.

Around 4:30 PM, I felt pretty confident that this was the early stage of labor.  I had spent the last hour and half just laying on the bed feeling them every 5 minutes, and I couldn't believe our 2.5-year-old was allowing me to rest!  That's when I began to call Michael, only to see a text from him that said he was leaving work that moment.  We spoke as soon as he got to the car, and then I called my parents and told them to come over.

Incredibly, I had a crock pot meal ready to go, all warm and bubbly and ready to serve five people.   It surely must have been the Holy Spirit which had inspired me to assemble it that morning!  So, when Michael, Mom, and Dad walked in the door between 5 and 6 PM, only the table needed to be set.  I ate little and took a partial shower, but the contractions were getting stronger.  I dressed and prepared for the hospital.  Michael called his mother and told her to start heading here from New Jersey.

When I called the hospital to speak to a midwife, I later came to learn that my composed and calm voice is what caused her to tell me that "this might be false labor," and that I should take a 20-minute warm bath, lay on my left side, and drink a sugary drink to see if the contractions subside.  If not, I was to call her in an hour.

I did these things, but my body kept up the pace.  In the last 6 hours, I was averaging 11 or 12 contractions an hour, most of them 5 minutes apart, and nearly all of them still lasting 30 seconds.  Although the contraction length was short, the consistency of everything made my second call to the midwife be received with a recommendation to "come in and we'll check you out."

As I prepared to dress again, I noticed I had a "bloody show," the equivalent of a light period.  The time was 9:40 PM.  We departed for the hospital at 10 PM, my contractions so strong now that I preferred to stand and squat with my legs open, rocking myself back and forth.  I had to stop several times on the sidewalk and in the parking lot to experience a contraction.  The frigid air felt great to me, and I walked slowly.

As we checked in at the Women's Place front desk of Heart of Lancaster Hospital, I found myself hunched over and hanging on to the counter, trying to hold in groans.  And although they gave me a wristlet to wear that implied I was only going to be evaluated, the receptionist called for a wheelchair and the nurses that met me in the hallway immediately decided that this would be a full admission!  Into Room 401 we went, just 2 doors down from where I delivered Liam 2.5 years ago in Room 403.  Ah, a happy place of memories!

My eyes were spending more time closed now than they did open, a sure sign that my body was taking over and social interactions would become minimal.  They checked for dilation and effacement (the widening and thinning of my membranes), and were amazed to tell me that I was 9 centimeters dilated already!  The midwife (Terry McCormick) laughed and said, "You second-baby mothers!  You sound so calm on the phone, but here you are, 9 centimeters dilated!"  It was 10:42 PM.

After reviewing our birth plan and discussing a few things, I was told to let them know when I had the urge to push.  In the meantime, I would endure contractions with Michael rubbing my back and my mother squeezing my hand.  I groaned from the depths of my being and found that hanging myself over the back of the bed and squatting gave me the most relief.

As it neared Midnight, the staff suggested they break my water, assuring me that if they did, the baby would be here very quickly!  I hesitated, wanting to keep things progressing as naturally as possible.  Part of me realized that, if I had said yes, I might have this baby born on Our Lady of Lourdes Feast Day, but I chose to wait.  What was most important was God's perfect timing.

To finish off that last centimeter of dilation that I needed, at 12:15 AM Terry suggested I lay on my left side for 20 minutes and remain there, even when the contractions got intense.  They checked my cervix again, said I had a small anterior lip which would go away if I laid on my right side, and they said my bag of waters was bulging!

So, I then laid on my right side at 12:58 AM for 20 minutes, with a small break to use the restroom in between.  At 1:45 AM, they checked my cervix again and reported that I was "complete" or fully open with a bulging bag of waters!  The staff remarked that I was the quietest mama to be "complete" and yet only moaning and groaning and not screaming.

I continued to experience intense contractions but I still had no desire to push.  This was a good observation on my part because--with Liam's birth--I had misinterpreted their statement of, "Let us know when you want to push," as an optional thing which I readily accepted, not realizing that it would cause me to voluntarily push for 2 hours when I never had the "urge" to do so.

At 2:10 AM, I felt pretty sure that my body was going to start pushing soon, and no consent would be needed on my part.   Michael and Mom pressed the button for the midwife to return, and at 2:20 AM, they asked again if they could break my water, and Michael suggested we do it.  I said yes, and the process was done quickly, easily, and painlessly with a device that looked like a crochet hook.  Unlike my labor with Liam (where my water broke spontaneously at 2 in the morning and he was born 11 hours later), this would be quick.  Just as the midwife and nurses said, this baby was going to be here very soon.

My decision to wait to push until I had that urge was key.  I had waited so patiently that when the "urge" hit (at 2:24 AM, only 4 minutes after they broke my water), my body also took over the pushing in an intense and completely involuntary way.  I was bearing down and pushing with a ferocity that made my groans feel like a lioness' roar coming out from the depths of my very being!  This was a totally different experience than my labor with Liam.  This time it was like I was riding a wild bull.  I tried various birthing positions, unsure of what my body preferred.

My body pushed for only 16 minutes (which I'm guessing was a total of 4 intense times or so) before they recommended that I lay on my back, just as I felt the baby's head between my legs, its circumference stinging and tearing the opening of my skin.  On the next push, out baby came!  It was 2:40 AM.

Terry caught the child but let Michael examine our babe, to which he then announced, "It's Vera!" just as she made her way onto my chest.  I tell you, I knew it--from the moment we conceived her to the moment I saw her and before he even announced it--that THIS was our daughter!  The little girl I had hoped for my whole life (and had "named" back in 1985) was finally here!

Vera started playing with my Miraculous Medal and Brown Scapular right away!
Mom cried and kissed me, and Vera snuggled onto my skin, her eyes wide and bright, her countenance flushed with equal wonder and awe at seeing me as I had for seeing her.  She laid happily on my chest, and I was in Heaven!

At 2:46 AM, the midwife helped remove my placenta.  At 2:50 AM, obstetrician Dr. Blackmon began to stitch my third degree lacerations closed. When she was done, I called my dad to give him the great news!

At 3:05 AM, Vera began nursing on my right side.  At 3:32, she continued on my left side.  Together we enjoyed the entire Golden Hour we requested, and we even got an extra 30 minutes to boot! 

We praise God that Vera's Apgar scores were 9 and 9 again (5 minutes later), and her preliminary evaluations (done on a warming bed after our Golden Hour-and-a-Half) were great.  The gift of good health is not something any of us should take for granted, and we praise God for this privilege!

They then weighed her and said she was 7 pounds 8 ounces.  Then they took footprints and hand prints.  Her head circumference was 11.75 inches and her length was 20 inches.  Her temperature was a perfect 98.6, they said.

At 9:00 AM, she was given her first sponge bath by Daddy and a nurse.  At 9:12 AM, she made her first dirty diaper, with both poop and pee!  It's funny what you celebrate as a parent!

Later that day, our sweet son Liam came to the hospital with Michael's mother to meet Vera for the first time!  Our son has been right all along that I had a "girl baby" in my belly.  For this special moment, Liam wore blue hospital scrubs that said "Big Brother" on them.  I had found them on consignment for only $2!

His reaction to her was delightful.  "Baby!' he said, observing how my belly was now significantly smaller.  Then he pointed out all of her features, saying, "Tiny hands, tiny nose, tiny feet, tiny eyes!"  His affection for her has been awesome!

I was delighted to observe that the dizziness which plagued me immediately after Liam's birth (and which lasted 1.5 years) was completely absent in this pregnancy, perhaps because I was never put on Magnesium Sulfate because--praise God!!--I did not experience pre-eclampsia this time!

Later on, a nurse would confirm for me that Magnesium Sulfate is a "horrible" drug that is easy to accidentally overdose on and that the effects on the body can linger for months.

We are praising God for all the miracles He bestowed upon us!  I felt like myself during the entire labor, delivery, and even immediately afterward.  Although this birth felt more intense in its strength because of its quickness, it was a much better birth -- and my recovery this time has been quick and easy, totally unlike what I experienced in giving birth to Liam.  I thank You, Jesus!

Our little girl is a gift we are unwrapping more and more each day.  So far, we have been delighted to see her extremely easy-going nature, her swiftness in learning to breastfeed, and how the emotions of wonder and awe sweep over her beautiful countenance when she beholds us!  Even her sweet little jaw drops open at times like this.  I think she's just as enamored with us as we are of her!  Truly, my happiness feels so abundant that I don't think I can ever be quite as sad or angry as I have been in the past!

Thank You, God, for this gift of new life, and thank you, Mary (and all the angels and saints!) for your loving intercession!

Our special celebration dinner on the last day

My parents brought us a heart-shaped pizza, which we devoured!  A good caption for this photo would be, "Look!  I delivered a pizza!"  Haha.

We got a pink sign this time!

Michael called Father O'Blaney to tell him the great news, and he came to give Vera and I a blessing!

The tradition continues!  Even our daughter went home in Boston Red Sox gear!

Godmother Juliana and her husband Greg raced to the hospital to meet Baby Vera, as soon as their work days were over!  (Note the photo bomb by my attractive compression sock and bare toes!)
So where are the photos of the proud grandparents, you ask?  Don't worry; they will be forthcoming!  We took tons but they are sadly not on my phone presently, so hang tight!  Both sets of grandparents are thrilled with their new little granddaughter named Vera.  And did you know that Vera means "faith" in Russian and "truth" in Latin?   The name was most popular in 1950, but we are happy to bring it back into fashion 65 years later!  Haha!

Thank you for sharing in our joy!  More soon!