Monday, July 28, 2008

Meera's Birth Story

The Birth of Meera Grace, as told by her Mom

I had an incredibly healthy and active pregnancy. Once I got over the initial shock of being pregnant I did what I do in times when I find myself in the midst of the unknown: I started reading as many books as I could on the subject. I read books about pregnancy, pregnancy nutrition and cookbooks, labor and delivery, and breastfeeding. From the start, even during the “morning sickness” stage (what a misnomer – whoever named it that had obviously never been pregnant – more like 'queasy-nauseous-all-day-and-all-night-sickness'), even during the gaining-a-pound-a-day-stage, even during the late pregnancy aches and pains stage, through all the utter exhaustion of being pregnant with twin three year old boys and a demanding career… through it all, it honestly felt really wonderful to me to be experiencing pregnancy.

Having been immersed in the adoption world for so long I have many friends who have gone through infertility. For me, it felt like a real privilege to be able to experience what it is to be pregnant. It also felt great to be, for once, doing something so physical. Having been immersed in the world of academe for so long it was nice to finally be focused so much on the body instead of the mind. The timing was perfect in this sense; I had spent the past thirteen years working toward the goal of tenure, and in the second month of my pregnancy I was officially granted tenure. Two weeks later, trying not to laugh, I promptly announced that I was pregnant and would be taking the following fall semester off. It felt like I had been given license to come up for air and just breathe – and the pregnancy made the breathing feel even more real to me, even more sensational. The third trimester was, for me, the best. I hadn’t really ‘shown’ until then, but starting around February I began to be visibly and obviously pregnant. I felt more alive than I’ve ever felt. I loved moving and living in the world as a very pregnant woman. Most people I encountered in those final few weeks commented to me about my appearance and my level of activity. Everyone said I "looked great, for being so pregnant" (which I decided early on to just take as a compliment!), and everyone raved about how active I was (which I ignored when I sensed that they meant I should really just sit down with my feet up). I am glad that I was able to keep the blog during my pregnancy because it will help me to remember all that we did, and some of what I was feeling, during those nine months.

I was determined that if at all possible, I wanted to have as natural a childbirth as I could. I knew, however, that I wanted to do it in a hospital. It felt safer to me that way. Braydon was fully on board with this. All along we felt very comfortable and confident with my OB doctors. And we had a wonderful experience with our Lamaze class. My belly was always relatively small, but as the due date grew closer I began to appear more and more “ready to pop!” Everyone -- from close friends and family, to strangers on the street, to my obstetricians -- was telling me that I was “all baby!” I had no serious pregnancy complications, no real health problems, etc. Everything seemed on target for a natural delivery either on or before the due date. The due date came and passed and the days started to drag forward. I worked hard to assure my doctors that I did not want to be induced unless it was an absolute last resort. I was showing all the normal first-time-pregnancy signs of impending labor, and we were all hopeful that I’d go into labor on my own soon. I remember thinking each day that “this was the day!” and then thinking each night, “o.k., this is really the night!” I was so hopeful that it would happen at any moment. And so disappointed after each moment that it hadn’t.

When I was fully two weeks past my due date I started to feel in my heart that I was not going to go into labor. It was no surprise to me when Braydon and I sat in my doctor’s office and were told, in no uncertain terms, that “the standards of practice of the American Obstetrics Association will not allow for us to let this go any longer.” They wanted me to go straight to the hospital to be induced, but I asked if I could go home and have dinner with my boys first and they reluctantly agreed. So, I was to be induced beginning at 8:00 that night. I remember I felt very foggy and hazy for the next few hours. Braydon and I went to the grocery store so that I could buy what I needed to make one of our favorite family dinners that night. We arrived home and I told Kyle and Owen the plan. We ate pasta with turkey sausage and broccoli rabe for dinner and – trying to prepare the boys – we talked at length about what would happen over the next few days. My parents were there already, thank God, and I felt completely comfortable about leaving the boys at home with them while Braydon and I left for the hospital.

We had barely made it out of the driveway before the tears started to pour down my face and down my neck, soaking the collar of my shirt. I was so deeply sad that I would not have the natural childbirth that I had hoped for. I felt like everything I had prepared for was being pulled away from me. I did not want it this way. I remember saying over and over to Braydon: “This wasn’t supposed to be this way. This is not how it is supposed to be.” I needed to mourn that loss before I could move on in my mind. About halfway to the hospital I remember driving up a hill, the evening sky was glorious, and I looked out across corn fields of deep spring almost summer. Suddenly it all looked so incredibly, incredibly beautiful to me. I looked over at Braydon and suddenly felt such a huge relief come over me. I wiped my tears and I felt myself move forward to a new place. It occurred to me that we’d be bringing a new baby home the next time I was on this road. I remembered deep in my soul how very much I had been longing for a newborn baby. I was suddenly so very excited about my baby. And for the first time, ever, it felt truly real to me: that we were going to have a sweet baby girl that would be all ours and that we were giving our precious boys the sibling that they so desperately wanted. I remembered the feeling in my heart that had become so familiar: that this baby was the completion of our family, that it was exactly right no matter how she came to us, and that we were so ready to begin this next chapter of our lives.

When we arrived at the hospital I felt confident and strong and peaceful.

And that – confident and strong and peaceful – is how I felt for each and every hour of the next several days.

I remember not knowing what to expect when they started the Pitocin drip into my IV at noon the next day. I had been told by many friends how horribly painful and just plain terrible Pitocin inductions were. My mother had gone through it when she was in labor with me, and I had heard the horror stories my whole life. My doctor (who knew how committed I was to a natural labor and delivery) had explicitly explained to me to “prepare myself” because “being induced is exponentially more painful than a natural labor” and that it was “very unlikely that I wouldn’t be wanting an epidural.” I understood. I knew I had a very high pain tolerance. But I was expecting excruciating mind-numbing pain. The mind-numbing part is what I was waiting for – I had made the decision, and had told Braydon, that I wanted to be as fully present as possible for the entire experience. When the pain became mind-numbing – truly mind numbing so that I was not able to be present and engaged in what was happening – that then is when I’d be ready for pain drugs. That time never came.

I remember the nurses and doctors and residents and medical students asking me over and over if I was ready for the epidural. When I’d refuse it they’d offer me other drugs, and I’d refuse. I was told numerous times that they’d never seen a woman labor on this high level of Pitocin without drugs. I remember nurses coming in “just to see this!”, as if I was some sort of case to be documented in the medical archives. I remember one nurse telling me that she’d been an OB Nurse for twenty years and had never witnessed a woman on Pitocin this high without an epidural. Another nurse told me that she didn’t think it had ever happened in the history of that hospital. Finally my doctor asked me why I wasn’t taking the epidural. I remember saying, “Because I’m waiting for it to get really bad.” He said, “This is as bad as it is going to get! It doesn’t get any more painful than this!” I was completely shocked. I remember saying, “Oh! Then I’m just going to keep going!”

I have never been more fully present for any experience in my entire life. Although now it is all sort of blurry what I remember most was how real it was and how much in it I was. I know it sounds strange, but I genuinely loved the experience of it – the feeling of the contraction coming, of the wave rising, of the intensity building, of the pain expanding and then diffusing a bit before it would quickly spike back up again. I was so focused. I remember saying to Braydon, “I am so grateful to be able to experience this.” I remember feeling truly that way; like it was such a gift to be able to do this. Throughout the entire time I felt completely connected to Braydon, fully trusting of him, entirely in tune with him. I remember my mom being totally surprised with how I was doing this labor. I remember my dad staying in the room for long stretches of time and making me laugh. I loved that Braydon and my parents could see me doing this, because I felt that it was the truest representation of me.

I remember feeling thankful for everyone and everything in the room. Not just my parents and Braydon, but also the doctors and nurses and the equipment and all the monitors and machines and the big windows and the pillows and the ice water. I felt so glad to be in a place that felt so safe to me because it allowed me – I think for the first time in my entire life – to truly focus entirely and completely on myself for an extended period of time.

At one point they lost the baby’s heart rate. Her heart rate had shown some signs of distress, but at this point they actually lost it completely. Doctors and nurses came running and the room was suddenly full. My body was being jolted and prodded and tugged at. I don’t remember much about it except that I was fully aware of what was happening and I was deeply afraid. I remember my mother on one side of me holding one hand and Braydon on the other side holding my other hand. I remember staring up into Braydon’s eyes on my left side. Our eyes locked for the entire time and he was reassuring me that it was all o.k. Once they got the heart rate back and things settled down I broke down into a heavy, heavy sobbing cry. I was scared the baby had died, and was able to feel now – as I had not before – how completely I wanted this baby to live; how completely I would be devastated if she didn’t make it; how deeply I already loved my baby girl. It was a turning point.

After having been in the hospital for over 24 hours and having been on hard-core Pitocin for 9 hours I knew that something was wrong. I remember saying to Braydon, “I feel like we’re on the road headed straight to a c-section.” I remember I said it calmly and peacefully. I was o.k. with it. I had turned a corner. Nothing now mattered except that she was born and that she was alive to be held in my arms.

Lying on the operating table was surreal. I remember thinking it was just as I had seen it on Discovery Health channel television shows. Except that I wasn’t scared. I was very much at peace with it all. I knew Braydon would want to watch and I remember being surprised with myself when I told him to stand up – to not worry about me – and to just watch and see. I was so glad for him that he could be able to do that. I could hear the snapping of his camera above my head. I could hear everything that everyone was saying. I heard my doctor when he discovered and pointed out the inside of my pelvis to the residents and explained to them the problem: my pelvis was misshapen and my body would never be able to deliver any baby vaginally. And I heard him as he had them inspecting the placenta: that it was severely depleted and the baby would not have made it much longer. These things came as a huge wave of relief to me as I laid there feeling them working on my numb body and as I then heard my baby screaming. I felt utterly at peace.

I remember telling Braydon to stay with our baby, that I was fine. I watched as he moved out of my line of vision to see her. I remember hearing her cry, so loud. It filled me with such relief and such joy and such completion.

Meera Grace.

I remember in the recovery room when the pediatric nurse brought her to me. I held her for the first time and it felt so completely right. I look at pictures from that moment now and am shocked by how little the photos resemble my memory of it. To me she looked like the most perfectly beautiful thing I had ever seen and I felt like the strongest woman that had ever lived and my connection to Braydon felt 100% pure and intact. It was the exact same way that I had experienced my first meeting of Kyle and Owen. Exactly the same only completely different.

Meera was sweet and mellow and good right from the start. I remember feeling blessed. And I have been feeling blessed by her ever since. She is two months old today and my baby girl is everything – absolutely everything – I had hoped for and longed for.


Mrs. Baker said...


Its perfect.

Thank you.

Troy & Tara Livesay said...

Each of our kids have their own stories ... adoption or biological they are very special and unique stories and they all deserve telling!

You brought me back to both Noah and Lydie's stories ... sniff. Thanks for sharing.


ps- the look on your face in that top photo is so good -- and the fact that you can see Braydon is smiling under his mask ... :) I have that photo of Britt and Troy showing me Lydie. (I was totally under for Noah and Troy was not allowed in --- but even there God was crafting a beautiful birth story)

much love to you all.

Tracy R said...

Braydon and Heather, both of these posts made me tear up. As an adoptive mom to twins I was happy to read that the adoption experience for you was just as intense, though different, as the birth experience. I guess the first time you see your child's face is always an unforgettably moving experience -- no matter what age they are!
Mom to twins adopted domestically

laurafingerson said...

This is the line that made me really start to tear up, "I remember telling Braydon to stay with our baby, that I was fine." That is SO true in so many ways -- from being a complete trusting teammate in raising your kids together to putting your kids first. Thank you for sharing both of your stories -- they brought back memories (sniff here too!) and a reminder how every birth and every adoption is a miracle.