Life is Good: and totally unpredictableThree months ago, we became a family of five. Every birth story is amazing in the truest sense of the word. I mean, really. How a human being is created, formed, and grows...inside of another human being...wow! And then, the whole journey the mother and child make together to get the child out into the world--awe-inspiring! I can't ever talk about babies being made or born without saying, "Wow, God is so creative!"
But seemingly, our third little dude wanted to make sure his birth story was especially interesting. He clearly wanted to make a splash. You see, throughout this pregnancy, I had concerns. Concerns like every other mother does. But the one thing I never worried about was my water breaking. With our first two sons, I had gone through every bit of labor you can with my amniotic fluid in tact (sorry for the TMI!) and they had to break it in order for our children to be born. So I felt like I had a "lock" on that area. Well, this little man decided to show me who was boss. As much as I had imagined in my head over and over the perfect scenario for his birth, he was going to write his own birth plan.
I'm not sure if it was still Thursday night (before midnight) or officially Friday (after 12 AM) when I turned a bit in bed and felt a, well, gush. (I guess I should just make a big, blanketed, "Sorry for the TMI" statement that will hold up throughout this post.) Since I had my aforementioned security about my water not breaking, I wondered if I was having bladder control issues. And then I thought, "Ewwwww." I got up and went to the bathroom. It seemed I wasn't having either. I went back to bed and started to go to sleep. But something kept one eye open. I started to wonder if maybe I was leaking amniotic fluid. A friend of mine had this happen with her first child and had to have an emergency c-section. I knew this was serious business. I needed to make sure this wasn't happening to me. So I picked up my friend, the iPhone, and did what all doctors tell you not to do...I consulted my old pal, the Interwebs.
I googled something like, "How to tell if you are leaking amniotic fluid" and began to read something found on babycenter.com. It was a question submitted by a mother with a long thread of answers from other mothers. No, none of them were OB/GYNs. I read through the answers and determined that I most likely wasn't leaking. Oh, that just sounds so gross. Admittedly, I have never thought that the miracle of pregnancy and birth was "beautiful". So, anyway...then I read a post by someone whom I will never know, but whom I will always be indebted to. Some wise woman wrote that no matter what, this was serious and if anyone had any doubts about whether they were leaking or their amniotic sac had broken, that they should call their doctor.
I try so hard not to be "that patient". The patient who overreacts and calls their doctor about every little thing. I don't want to bother my OB and I also want her to respect me so that when I do have something wrong, she will take me seriously. So I really didn't want to call in to the clinic. But it was serious business. It was our child. I decided I would phone in and explain what was going on and let the doctor on call tell me that it was no big deal and I should go back to sleep.
But he didn't. He told me that, because I had been on bed rest (long story for another time), I should go in to the hospital just to be sure. He was there with some other mamas and could see me quickly. I asked him if I could drive myself and he paused. "Well, I guess so, but don't you want your husband to come just in case?" Yes, I told him. Except that my husband was in San Francisco. Grant had been gone that week for a conference and my mom was in town to take care of the big kids. I didn't want to disrupt the kids' sleep or make them anxious by having my mom take me to the hospital. The doc on call said that as long as I was not showing signs of amniotic leakage, he "guessed" I could drive myself since it was less than a 10-minute car ride.
I went to the door of the guest suite and told my mom not to worry, but that I was just going to go and get this checked out to be sure everything was okay. I went to get my little bag that I use for my keys and my wallet and started to pull up the covers on the bed when...well, let's just say it was very apparent that my water had, in fact, broken.
I had been on bed rest because an ultrasound showed my amniotic fluid level was on the "low end of normal" so the fact that my amniotic sac had just broken caused a sudden rush of anxiety and worry to burst through my heart and my head. I tried to stay calm and asked my mom if she would please clean up the floor after I left. (Yes, even in a state of emergency, I need to know things are clean!) My mom and I decided (That word makes it seem like there was time and deliberation. There was none.) that, just in case, I should not drive myself to the hospital. But I didn't want her to take me. I needed to know that the big kids were safe and snuggly, tucked into their beds. I needed to know that my mom, the person Grant and I trust with our children more than anyone in this world, was at home with them. That she would get the big kid ready for school and off to the bus that Friday morning, that she would watch after the little kid and make him totally at ease while I was gone.
So I called a taxi. And they said they would get me. In 5-25 minutes. I explained my emergency situation. And they said they would get me. In 5-25 minutes. So I asked them to hurry. Then I called another cab company. And another. And two more. Each one said it would be 5-25 minutes. 5 minutes, okay. Twenty-five minutes was way too long. I didn't know how much amniotic fluid I had left and it was currently dripping all over our 100-year old maple hardwoods. I didn't want to awaken our beloved neighbors, Sandy and Brad, but while I was trying to appear calm so as not to worry my mom, I was becoming frantic in my head. I called Sandy and she said she would send Brad over to drive me.
So I waited. And waited. It felt like I waited a half hour. Most likely, it was three to five minutes. And then a cab arrived. I looked down the block to see if Brad was walking over or in his car. He wasn't. I couldn't wait. I asked my mom to apologize to Brad and any cab drivers that showed up. I hobbled as quickly as I could to the taxi and we were on our way to the hospital.
I will skip the parts where the cab driver drove under the speed limit, where I asked (probably shouted) for him to zip through red lights (It was after midnight and no one else was on the road. This was an emergency.), how he dropped me off at the wrong entrance and a security guard had to push me in a wheelchair to the right area. I will skip the phone call I made to Grant apologizing that he would miss the birth of our third, and last, child. Oh, yes. This would be the last kid. And he was making it memorable. I will skip how recalling all of this sounds like the makings of a bad sitcom, minus the humor. I will skip all of that.
Once at the hospital, the nurses and quickly, my clinic's doc on call, assured me that my baby was safe. Yes, my amniotic fluid was mostly gone now, but I was in the best birthing center in the city and I had an ultrasound monitoring my baby's every moment. And the baby looked fine. Better than fine. He looked perfect.
So now that I could "relax" (said with a bit of a wink), I could just focus on feeling rotten that Grant was going to miss the birth of our third child. Less than a week before this moment, we had discussed something like this happening. Grant didn't want to go on this trip. He didn't want to risk missing the birth. And he absolutely refused to leave me and our kids unless my mom could be with us. (Of course, she was eager to help.) I urged Grant to take the trip. He was speaking at it and one of a group of "roundtable" speakers, too. And he had won the conference's big award. And why not go to San Francisco and eat some seafood, soak in some warmer weather, and have a break from a pregnant wife on bed rest and two noisy kids under the age of six? So, he went. And now, he was in a hotel room in California with no earlier flights available and I was in a hospital with the birthing process started. I felt so guilty.
So now I lay in a hospital bed, hooked up to an ultrasound, waiting. But not quietly waiting. Not silently waiting. You see, like no pioneer woman who birthed her babies in a field on her own, in the cab on the way to the hospital, I had quickly tapped out a text or an email (I really don't know, I was in such a state of I don't know what) to some of my nearest and dearest. I can't tell you how many exactly, but I had sent out something that was part state of affairs and part plea for prayers to some of the women in my life who had shown me support throughout my pregnancy.
Having your third child (and especially, having the third boy), is a funny thing. And not funny ha ha. Most people just weren't really interested. Most of my friends were done having babies and the shine of pregnancy had worn off for them. Others probably would have been more excited for me if I was having a girl (sigh) because it would have been "different". And others, well, just didn't "show up". They just seemed to be too wrapped up in their own lives. Too "busy". But still, there were some really special, rather, extraordinary women who showed me love and support and excitement and all sorts of other wonderful expressions throughout my pregnancy and they were the ones that I reached out to in between shouting at the cab driver to drive faster and buzz through red lights because no one was looking. I think there were 12-15 of them. Maybe 20? (And certainly, I forgot to add a few to the list at first. It was after midnight and my mind was a bit muddled with the situation at hand.)
So why was my waiting in the hospital not quiet or silent? Because of the ringing of the phone, the dinging of texts, the bell of new emails. These women (and my cousin, Seth!) rallied. One called me at five AM! Each one sent words of love and encouragement and excitement. One sent a bible verse. Which just happened to be one of my absolute faves, Philippians 4:6-7 (thanks, Pip!).
I wasn't surprised by the responses. I have some truly awesome friends. These women are funny and sweet and thoughtful and smart and successful and pretty. They are great wives and mothers and cooks. They are organized and disorganized. They don't take themselves too seriously. They appreciate a good laugh. They are understanding. They are complicated. They are all of that and more. And I'm so very grateful for events of the past several years that have driven me to focus on the truly good and loyal friends I have because, indeed, I have many. So I wasn't surprised to get the cyber hugs and the promise of prayers and the "you can do it!"s. But what did surprise me, surprised me to no end. If not every one, almost every one (who lives in the Twin Cities area) when discovering that Grant was in California, offered to come to the hospital and be there with me for the birth. Seriously? I was floored. One friend even cleared her schedule and had one foot out the door. I had to argue with her to get her to go to work. A couple of my friends even showed up at the hospital just in case I really did need someone. Everyone wanted to be there for me or go take care of the big kids so that my mom could be at the hospital with me. I reassured them all that I was not fearful of birthing this baby without Grant. I had done it twice before, after all. I didn't need him there. I just wanted him there. But I was in awe of this kind of love and support.
So I spent that Friday talking to my body and my baby. "Wait for Grant (daddy) to get here!" My OB told me that I had 24 hours from the time I got to the hospital to have the baby. If I went over, infection could begin. So 24 hours or a c-section was the plan. And I did not want a c-section!
Grant arrived in the 20th hour. And I went from a dilation of 1 to complete and we welcomed our baby into the world in less than two hours after that.
The baby was a month early. The room was ready for an emergency. Because that's what you might expect when a baby is that early. And with a half of a push. Yep, that's right. (That's what 20 hours of laboring down will do for you, people.) So with a half of a push, our third son was born. Without an emergency. His breathing was great. His color was great. We said hello, we told him how much we loved him and needed him, and we snuggled.
And the rest of the story is as extraordinary to us as it can be. And as ordinary to anyone else as it can be. A human enters the world and it is most magnificent and yet, an every day, every second of the day sort of occurrence.
This is not just a story about a baby coming early. It's not just a story about prayers of gratitude that he was healthy and we didn't have to spend any time in the NICU. It's not just a story about a confused cab driver, an anxious mother, and a dad whose plane didn't leave on time because a two-year old on the flight wouldn't wear his seat belt. This is not just a story about a family of four becoming complete with the addition of baby brother. But, rather, this is a story about friendship. About friends who feel like family.
When I reflect back on our little one's birth story, I will forever feel the strong emotion of love. For obvious reasons, but also because of the love of my friends (and a few distant cousins that I am fortunate to think of as friends, too.). I will forever remember the dings and bells and rings of texts and calls and emails. They were the sweet soundtrack of my labor. They were a constant hug, wrapped around me, giving me strength and hope and comfort.
I always say that we don't have family here in Minnesota. But the truth is, we do. Our third child's birth proved that. Not all of my support system that day was in the Twin Cities, but a lot of them were. And they showed me love and support beyond friendship. And since then, they have delivered food and made phone calls and sent emails & texts. They've mailed cards with beautiful words, dropped cute things off on our porch and yummy things, too. They've waited until their germy kids are in school and then dropped in for a quick "hello, there" to our newest one so as to protect him from illness. They've listened to my birth story (probably more than once) as if they are really interested. And they've listened to me complain about my out of control swelling (definitely more than once) as if they are really interested!
So it's been (roughly) ninety days since we became a party of five. We have a fairly small immediate family. And not all of them have celebrated our new baby's birth like we would hope. Some, we haven't heard from at all. Because, like they say, you can't choose your family. (Or rather, you can't tell your family how to act.) But, I have discovered, you can choose your tribe. And twelve Fridays ago, my tribe showed up. And they've been showering us with love ever since. So pointing out that some of our relatives have been silent about our newest addition makes the love and support of my "tribe" even more pronounced. It makes them even more dear to me. And appreciated. And reveled in. And emphasized. And I want them to know that. I also want my kids to understand that family is a feeling. They may not have a bunch of cousins or blood relatives that live down the street, but they have a big group of family-like friends who love them just the same.
So, to my tribe, my dear ones who have loved and supported me over the past three months and the 40 weeks before that and even before all of that, I say, "thank you" and "I love you". Five, simple words that don't seem like enough, but for this overly wordy girl, it's all I can muster because of the overwhelming emotion behind it. Thank you for being my friends through all of my flaws. My endless overthinking, blurting of the mouth, need to throw gigantic parties, dramatic gestures, and speed talking. Thank you for being my friends through my bad hair days (months), OCD, overly enthusiastic enthusiasm, mile-long texts, lack of a poker face, and endless sharing & suggestions. Thank you for your presence. Whether it be in person or in heart. But mostly, thank you for making one of the most memorable moments in our lives more memorable with your love.
It seems only appropriate to include a photo of the wee one on this, his three-month birthday. Taken when he was a couple of weeks old, of course, by one of my dear friends, one of the ones who rallied on that day he was born, one of my tribe.