Be aware: this blog entry tells a birth story. As such, there may very well be details that are … less than palatable. You’ve been warned.
We were fortunate enough to have both of my parents here in the days leading up to my delivery. On Friday evening (Dec 18), we had actually just finished having our own Christmas dinner and opening gifts. As had been happening for months, I felt some “leakage” down below and went to the bathroom – such is preggo life. However, the issue did not cease as it usually had in the past, and I knew something was different. I called the labor and delivery department at LRMC (Landstuhl Regional Medical Center) to ask for advice because, when it’s your first delivery, you have NO idea what is really happening. The L&D nurse told me to come on in and they would check things out, so that is what we did. Being the over-planners that we are, our hospital bags were already in Lou’s car, so we filled my parents in on the situation and headed up to the hospital. I called our friend Tricia on the way so she could be ready to bring my parents to the hospital in the event this was the real deal.
The L&D staff were ready for us and put me right into a triage room where sassy nurse Vanessa had me change into a hospital gown so she could take my vitals and a sample of fluid for the doctor to examine. (That, by the way, was the last time I wore proper clothes for the next three days.) We didn’t have to wait long, and soon Dr. Pierre came into the room and said, “Well, I guess since your water broke, it’s time for you to have a baby!” (I think this gown may have been the ugliest thing I have ever worn in my entire life. And to think I spent three entire days in it.)
I think I wrung my hands like a spastic cartoon and uttered something that sounded like, “Okay!” A delivery room was already prepared for me so we moved in and got as comfortable as we could. The L&D beds at LRMC are, shall we say, not so comfortable. There are bars in the worst places under the mattress, which is incredibly thin itself. And when your frontside (and your backside) is great with child, this just isn’t great. However, considering the fact that rolling over in bed had been a challenge for a few months by this time, you just deal with it. There was a large armchair that folded out into a bed, so that’s where Lou landed.
(From this point on, many different things happened but my actually memory of the timeline is quite hazy, so please bear with me.)
Dr. Pierre had checked my cervix and there was zero dilation, as had been the case at my previous two OB appointments. My water did not actually break, but rather ruptured, so they needed to help the process along to reduce the risk of infection. This “help” came in the form of a foley balloon, a nasty device that forces the cervix open in an effort to help it open more on its own. I say “nasty” because the insertion of said device HURT! Fortunately the procedure was relatively quick, and my contractions began almost immediately after.
*I feel it important to note that my contractions STARTED at 2-3 minutes apart and remained thus for the majority of my labor. The only change was when they were only one minute apart.*
With the foley balloon, you simply have to wait for it to come out on its own, as this means the cervix has effectively begun dilating on its own and labor is progressing. If this has not happened after 12 hours, medical staff will look at other options, but mine came out at 7 hours, sometime on Saturday morning. My dilation was close to a 4 at that point, so they would begin checking every four hours from then. (Birthing balls really do help. For a while, at least.)
Dr. Pierre was no longer on duty by this time, so Captain Segovia came and introduced herself to us. She is a midwife at LRMC, and was on a 24-hour shift that day. At some point during the day we also saw Captain Nicaisse, another LRMC midwife who had seen me for a number of my OB appointments, and I had grown to like her immensely. It turns out that both women are also Christ-followers, and there is no doubt in my mind that their presence in this story was completely divine. These two women saw us all the way through Evie’s birth.
Moving forward … I believe the next dilation check still had me at a 4, but the one after finally had me at a 6. In the meantime, I labored in the bed, on a birthing ball, in the shower, and walking around the L&D hallways. The contractions continued to be 2-3 minutes apart, but they grew more intense with each passing hour. My parents spent time in the room with us, as did Tricia and our friend Kris, who came in specifically to pray over us. (Always surround yourself with prayer warriors.)
Lou also spent a brief period of time in the ER, as he had tripped on the stairs at home the night before and fractured his big toe … Because this story wouldn’t be truly fun without an unexpected injury. (He’s always there.)
As Saturday wore on, I discovered a new appreciation for jello cups and chicken broth. Christmas dinner had been the last food I’d eaten and, delicious though it was, no meal will successfully tide you over for 33+ hours. Lou slept a bit and I had dozed off and on, but there wasn’t much actual “rest” taking place.(For those of you who wonder where I get the cheesy smile from, behold, my father. I wouldn’t have it any other way.)
We moved into Saturday afternoon and the contractions had gone from intense pressure to actual pain. I endured many of them by leaning on Lou’s shoulders as he sat on the chair, and I found myself moaning/groaning more and more. I can’t seem to find the right words to effectively describe what a painful contraction feels like, because I had never felt anything like it before. As I leaned on Lou, he kept encouraging me to “try to relax if you can.” For a while, whenever he said this I would force myself to relax the muscles in my pelvic region and it actually did help. However, I wasn’t able to do this for very long, and pain became so great that I was crying. (This guy. He is priceless to me.)
I remember thinking, “I can’t do this … but I don’t have a choice …” A number of times, I told Lou I didn’t know how much longer I could on without any pain relief. From the beginning, my birth plan in regard to drugs consisted of the following statement: “I want to see how far I can go without them.” That was it. My regular pain tolerance is very low (I’m a wimp) but I know the female body finds all sorts of crazy strength in labor, so I simply wanted to see what I was made of. I wasn’t quite ready to give in and have an epidural, so we tried two rounds of fentanyl first. The first dose helped me to actually sleep for 30-45 minutes before I felt contractions again. The second dose did absolutely nothing, and the pain was back in full force … and my dilation was still only at a 6. (Tricia, can you please be present for any future births in our family?)
Sometime Saturday evening, the nurses had me kneeling on the bed and leaning over the back of it as another labor position. After two mood-altering contractions with zero relief, I turned to Captain Segovia and asked, “Is an epidural out of the question at this point?” She replied, “Not at all.” To which I responded, “I want one.” She asked if I was sure, I said yes, and she immediately called for the anesthesiologist. Within 15 minutes, the most massive needles were making their way into my back and administering such sweet relief … (BTW, I only know the needles were massive because Lou told me- he said it’s a good thing I didn’t actually see how big they were.)
Counting backwards from delivery, I must have gotten the epidural around 9:00 on Saturday night. Ladies, say what you will about the wonder of an all-natural birth, and I’m sure you’re right – I would even like to try again for it in the future. However, after 24 hours of labor coming to a standstill, I will sing the praises of the epidural. I will do so because not only did it actually allow me to sleep (yes, SLEEP) for about two hours, but it also numbed my body from the waist down, rescuing me from the pain of contractions. This ultimately allowed my body to relax and push dilation to a 9.5 by the time I woke up around 11:30 p.m.
*Side note: One of the weirdest moments of labor came after I woke up from the epidural. As I mentioned, my body was completely numb fro the waist down – I literally could not feel ANYTHING. And yet, as I looked down at my feet, I saw that my right big toe was moving, as if it were possessed. Numb or not, somehow the message was getting from my brain to my toe. Bizarre.*
Although my dilation was at 9.5, Evie still wasn’t quite far enough down in the birth canal, so Captain Segovia had me sit up very high in the bed to let gravity help the situation. I think I sat that way for another 1-2 hours … And then it was time to push. (My mom is truly a rock in my life.)
I laid down almost flat on the bed, and a piece of the bed was removed so the midwives could sit right in front of me. Lou was instructed to hold my left leg and act as a support while I pushed, and my mom took turns with the nurses holding my right leg. Captain Segovia told me that I needed to take a deep breath and hold it as I pushed 3-4 times per contraction. She also told me to pull my knees closer to myself while pushing. This resulted in my body being basically folded in half, with my knees just about touching my ears. (Not really, but it sure felt like that, and I’ll bet it’s not that far from the truth.)
For a while, the only way I knew I was pushing was when Captain Segovia told me I was doing it right. The epidural had only just started to wear off so I still couldn’t feel very much. Again, somehow my brain was sending the right messages and the rest of my body was successfully receiving them, otherwise I’d probably still be pushing.
I pushed for 2 hours and 45 minutes, but I have no recollection of any sort of time – I only know it was that long because my mom told me so after the fact. I was only aware of exhaustion, fading numbness, the pressure of being folded in half, and the difficulty of holding my breath while pushing. Segovia and Nicaisse took turns coaching me and making the way out easier for Evie. Each time I pushed, they would count to 10, after which I could take a new breath, although there were times when I simply couldn’t make it to 10 without breathing.
At some point they realized that Evie was face up, making it all the more difficult for her to successfully pass through the birth canal. Captain Nicaisse opted to try to manually turn her over. This meant that her hand was all the way inside the birth canal, turning Evie over and holding her facedown until she had moved far enough that she wouldn’t be able to flip back over.
We also learned that, because I’d been laboring for so long, Evie’s body had begun to release some meconium (a.k.a. newborn tar poop) and there was a chance she may have inhaled/ingested some. LRMC very wisely had the L&D unit right next door to the NICU, so some NICU nurses were on standby to take care of Evie in the event that she had ingested any meconium.
Back to the pushing. Captain Nicaisse had told my mom that, if my dad wanted to be in the room also, he could stand behind my head and witness the birth without having to see … well, everything. Moments later, both of my parents were in the room with us as I continued to push. Lou still held my left leg, Tricia was taking photos with Lou’s camera, my parents were holding my hand and my shoulder and encouraging me, and a spunky little nurse named Cora was practically levitating as she literally cheered me on. Twice, the midwives told me I could reach down and feel the top of Evie’s head, which they could see was covered with dark hair! I imagined it to be the size of, say, a pomegranate. Boy howdy, was I wrong. (I could not have asked for a more amazing support system, and I only hope to be for Evie what my parents have been for me.)
Finally, at 4:15 a.m. on Sunday, December 20, Evelynn Joy made her appearance in this world.
Someone said, “Here she comes!” With supernatural strength and energy and breath (for my body was completely out of all three), she came out all at once – none of this push-once-for-the-head-then-again-for-one-shoulder-and-then-again-for-the-other-shoulder nonsense for us. As Captain Segovia lifted her out and up, I was shocked to see how much bigger her head was than I had thought. Evie had indeed ingested some meconium, so Captain Nicaisse quickly clamped the umbilical cord and they took her to a special table across the room where the NICU nurses started working on cleaning out her nose, throat and lungs. Lou was able to cut away more of the umbilical cord, and he and my dad both got some quick videos of Evie’s first whimpering cries.
To go back and watch these now, it breaks my heart to hear how pitiful these little sounds were, muffled by the oxygen mask. At the time, however, all I knew was that my body wasn’t quite done and that I hadn’t yet held my newborn daughter. Unfortunately, it was also time for my parents to leave, as my dad’s flight back to the US was that morning. He and my mom had to race to Frankfurt, and he barely made the flight … But I know he would do it again in a heartbeat to be able to witness the birth of his first grandchild. Having my parents be present for what is surely the most amazing experience of my life is a blessing I will never take for granted.
Meanwhile, the NICU nurses did what they could for the moment and then one of them brought Evie to me. I held her for maybe two minutes before they whisked her off to the actual NICU for further treatment. Those two minutes were so fleeting, especially considering how tired and delirious I was, and I barely remember them … I’m so thankful Tricia caught that moment with the camera. Lou went to the NICU so he could see what they were doing for Evie, and Tricia stayed in the room with me.
Captain Segovia finished clearing out the rest of my placenta so they could assess any tearing that might have occurred during delivery. (She asked if I wanted to see the placenta. My response? NOPE. Heck no, techno.) Both midwives consulted with the doctor who was in L&D that night regarding the tearing, and it turned out I did need stitches. Captain Nicaisse was more experienced with this, so she took care of it. I have to say that this was more painful than the actual delivery, which was more pressure than pain. It didn’t help that I was excessively emotional from delivery + parents leaving + baby in NICU.
When Nicaisse finished with the stitches, Segovia and the nurses began clearing away the mess that comes with childbirth, and Tricia and I cried together over all that had happened. She stayed with me until Lou returned from the NICU around 6 a.m. and then she went home. A NICU nurse came with Lou to explain what they had been doing for Evie. They had done quite a bit of suctioning in her nose, throat and lungs, but they needed to monitor her and administer medication to eliminate any infection that might have occurred due to either length of labor and/or meconium ingestion. She would have oxygen tubes in her nose, a feeding tube in her mouth, and an IV.
The nurses’ shift change was about to take place so we had to wait until 8 a.m. to go see her. When we got to the NICU, Evie was lying in her bassinet with all the aforementioned tubes and wires in place. When your daughter is hooked up to machines the first time you truly get to see her, your heart breaks. I saw Evie and immediately began sobbing. She was so tiny with big dark eyes, she was absolutely beautiful, but those tubes … oh, those tubes. The oxygen tubes were taped to her cheeks, the feeding tube in her throat was ever so small, and she had little pin pricks on the soles of her feet from the IV. We weren’t allowed to hold her at that time but we did get to change her diaper, and we held her hands and stroked her hair and stayed as close as we could.
The doctor came through for rounds at 10 am and gave us more info on Evie’s condition. She was receiving very specific amounts of oxygen, medication and baby formula, the first two of which they hoped to decrease over the next two days as her body gained strength and stability. The formula they fed her was suctioned back out of her stomach at intervals to check gastric juices and make sure her stomach was digesting properly. The NICU staff was optimistic about Evie’s prognosis, and we were allowed to spend as much time in the NICU as we wanted, aside from the two shift changes each day.
That afternoon, the feeding tube in Evie’s mouth had been replaced by one in her nose. The amount of oxygen she needed was slowly decreasing, meaning her lungs were working well on their own. And joy of joys, we got to hold her! We had to be very careful with all the tubes and cords, but you put up with just about anything to hold your precious newborn child.
Over the next two days, Evie’s little body showed incredible strength and resilience. Her respiratory issues resolved themselves quickly and her stomach digested good amounts of formula very well. A batch of paperwork had to be completed before she could be discharged, but even then she was discharged only about two hours after I was. Time seems to pass ever so slowly when your child is in the NICU, and yet Evie’s stay there was really very short. And so, Tuesday afternoon we packed our little family into the car and headed home, where Chuck and Mimi (my mom) were anxiously awaiting us.
It really is amazing to discover what your mind and body can do when it comes to childbirth. It’s also difficult to NOT compare your experience to that of someone else … I have several friends who were able to give birth without any drugs at all, but my body simply couldn’t deal with that. It did not want to progress beyond 6 centimeters without help, and risk of infection became greater the longer I labored without said progress. In the end, there is absolute truth to the mindset that a healthy baby is all that matters.
Today, Evie is 6 weeks and 1 day old, and she’s quite the little champ. At birth, she weighed 7 pounds 12 ounces, and was 19.5 inches long. At her two week appointment, she had already gained 9 ounces, and I’m certain she has steadily gained since then, as she is an absolute pro at breastfeeding. She has begun smiling more readily, and my heart just about explodes each time. Her eyes are still a dark gray and she’s got a bit of a mullet going on, and I take every opportunity to dress her as fashionably as possible. We’ve gotten no end of compliments on how beautiful she is, and we have to agree 100%. You always hope your child will come out NOT looking like an alien, and we’re in constant awe of her beauty.
This little girl has absolutely destroyed us – in all the best ways. We simply can’t get enough of watching her, talking to her, staring at her, holding her, even in the wee hours of the morning (because of course she is completely awake after those feedings). Our minds are blown at the gift God has bestowed upon us, and we cannot help but tell our story to anyone who asks. Now that we are on the other side of this journey, everything we struggled with during those two years seems so much further away, one could almost forget about it … and yet I know I never will. Indeed, that part of our lives makes the existence of our daughter all the sweeter.
It is my very dear hope that our story brings encouragement to others. In all the time we waited to become pregnant, God’s faithfulness was never diminished. However, now that Evie is in our lives, I cannot imagine that anything would ever cause me to doubt His faithfulness or His goodness.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is my great privilege to introduce to you Miss Evelynn Joy Moreno.