I promise this part of the story actually ends with a baby being born.
The induction got under way. Much to my surprise, contractions started right away. Strong ones. About two minutes apart. They hurt.
I am all about natural childbirth. I feel empowered through labor and delivery. I have also had every kind of labor and delivery (except a c-section) imaginable. I know how to do it. But remember I said that this day I realized nothing was under my control any longer? What happened next proved it.
In short, I lost it. It was a combination of factors. Severe sleep deprivation for the past week. I was actually physically ill. My right side was already aching. I was extremely dehydrated (placing the I.V. earlier in the day was quite the experience in pain). I had not eaten in nearly 12 hours. And now the anxiety and fear for my baby's health after he was born gripped me like a vice. As I started crying, I knew this labor was beyond my control. I wanted to be able to cope with helping my baby after he was born and I knew that it was physically beyond my grasp at that point. We really thought we were just at the very beginning of a process that could take over 12 hours. I tearfully turned to Dave and told him I needed an epidural. I needed to rest for a bit and prepare for what was to come. He agreed. After making sure that it wouldn't be particularly riskier or harder on my 34 week baby, the epidural was placed. It was close to 7pm.
I rested. I actually slept!
At 9:30 pm my nurse wanted to check my progress since she had noticed some decelerations in the baby's heart rate that might indicate his head was really starting to come down. I was 3 centimeters and his head was in fact much lower. Hooray!
At 10:15 Dr. Smith came in to check on me. He was still very confident the labor would proceed well and as he left the room he said he was pretty sure he would be delivering the baby before his shift ended in the morning.
At 10:30 I felt my water break and I knew the baby was about deliver. We quickly called the nurse who was quite shocked. Suddenly, people were running in the room from everywhere. I was panting away in the bed, trying as hard as possible to keep the baby in so everyone could get ready. Dave's begging me not to push yet, the NICU crew wasn't set up yet. As they rushed around I finally was allowed to push and my little boy came out screaming his tiny lungs out and peed on the doctor. First apgar was 10!
The most perfect sound I've ever heard, my little boy crying and crying. He was pink and breathing on his own. The doctor and the NICU nurse were astonished. The more she worked on him, the more she marveled. I was able to hold him for a bit and the he was off to the NICU (any baby under 35 weeks must go to the NICU). Dave went with him for a bit.
The greatest grace and miracle we could have received was given to us that night. Our little boy was never officially admitted to the NICU and within about 5 hours was released to the well-baby nursery and was rooming in with me.
Two days later, on the Feast of the Holy Family, just under 48 hours old, our son came home with me.
Since coming home, he has shown his preemie colors. Nursing a baby that exhausts himself after about 5 minutes at the breast has proved challenging. He sleeps deeply, a lot. I have to keep pretty bundled up so he stays warm enought. He has been slower to put on weight. And in myriad other little ways, I am having to learn his unique needs and language.
But what a joy! He is so very handsome and sweet. We are spending this time until his due date safe from germs and almost always curled up in the sling. Much like Elizabeth has written about, I find myself wanting to reclaim this missing time for John. And I find myself somewhat in a haze, having to adjust to this little man expected in 2009, but born in 2008. It was quite an unexpected way to welcome the new year. Unexpected, but full of grace and miracles.