An open story to you, my sweet boy!
Your story begins long before you were born. It could even begin years before your father and I were married. You waited for us. We waited for you. And you were, are, and forever will be always wanted, always cherished, always loved!
When I met your father I didn't know if I wanted children. It was such a big decision. A title I would wear for the rest of my life, mother. And frankly, it seemed daunting. I always enjoyed children but I wondered if having a child of my own meant that my life would be over. As I got older I thought about this question more. I even remember asking friends and family if they ever regret having children! I didn't understand how the decision to bring a child into the world actually came about and since I felt such confusion, I just assumed maybe kids weren't for me.
I stayed in this way of thinking for a while. Then in 2017 during a girl's trip to Amsterdam, I felt it.
The first real tug at my heartstrings that YES!, a family was something I wanted. I remember it clearly. I was with my mom and sister. We just finished lunch and wanted some ice cream. We walked the streets of Amsterdam and eventually found an ice cream shop a little way down the road. It was a small place so I waited outside and sat on one of the little wooden benches facing the shop. I watched as customers exited the ice cream shop, big grins on their faces with sweet treats in their hands.
Then a family started to exit the shop and sit down on the benches across from me. We couldn't have been more than 5 or 6 feet from each other. I was trying not to stare, but couldn't help myself. The events proceeded like this; first, what I assumed was the mother and one child came out of the shop with their cones in hand and had a seat. Then another older child. Next came what I assume was the father with another small child. The family scooched closer together so that everyone could have a seat on the bench. Then finally the grandma and grandpa came out. There was a space for the grandma to sit, but the grandpa stood standing with his two-scoop cone. The two youngest children looked up at him and then down at their seats. To make room for the grandpa one of the boys slid behind the other, then he looked up at their grandpa and lovingly patted the seat that he just vacated. The grandpa sat down and the little boy immediately tried to go for a lick of his cone. I silently chuckled wondering if his innocent motive of creating space was actually in hopes of getting more ice cream. But it wasn't. His intentions were pure. The grandpa gave him one lick of his cone before then they snuggled in close. I could tell that I had lost any type of slyness, I was full-on staring at them but I couldn't turn away. They were so happy, so connected, they were a beautiful, multi-generation family. I felt tears start to fill my eyes and managed to briefly look up in hopes of stopping the tears. But my gaze was quickly brought back to this family because they all started to sing! I kid you not, they were all singing and clapping!! I am not sure what since it was in a different language but they were having a grand ole time.
My tears were getting harder to choke back and I couldn't even try to stop my smile. I was in their sweet, little perfect moment that they had created and I wanted that. I wanted that so badly it felt like my heart was going to explode. My whole body was warm and it was an overwhelming feeling of purity and joy. I knew I had to look away because I was smiling and crying right next to this family. I looked into the door of the ice cream shop and saw my mom and sister each taking a taste of the other cone and I just laughed even more. What I wanted, I did have, right in front of me. And what I wanted, I knew I wasn't totally ready for, yet.
I remember calling your father, who was just my boyfriend at the time, over Wi-Fi and sharing this experience with him. I could tell he was excited.
Your father and I always had (and still do) so many plans. In the span of a few years, we bought a house, got engaged, talked about moving to Japan for a few months, and the various trips we wanted to take. Then in the Fall of 2019, COVID-19 hit and it changed everything. We decided to continue with our wedding plans but we realized this extended travel would not happen anytime soon. We also had more serious conversations about what it would be like to grow our family.
I still didn't feel ready. I felt nervous, scared, and was afraid that life would be over. I don't know where these thoughts came from but I wanted to un-learn these fears and learn more about my body, pregnancy, and birth. I wanted to feel prepared and empowered during this time. Since I am always on the hunt for a good yoga training, I eventually found Blooma and the offering of a Prenatal Yoga Teacher Training. I signed up for the 2-part training. The first portion was held over a weekend in April. Before this weekend all participants were assigned coursework to complete before the start of the training and I. ATE. IT. UP.
So many things I had just assumed, so many fears I had created, and so many narratives I came to believe, all shattered! I realized that my body and pregnancy were not things to be feared, but instead to celebrated. I learned the science behind pregnancy and birth. I watched birth videos. I read the books and wanted to absorb more! And, there was a small piece of me that was still a little bit nervous. I remember sharing a bit of this uncertainty during the training.
At the time a good friend of mine had experienced a trialing conception journey. It took many, many moons for her and her husband to finally conceive. Being the Type A person I am, I also thought it would be a good idea to have a baby in May or June. I was fearful of postpartum depression and thought that the summer sun would fight away the baby blues. But that seemed like such a long time to wait before starting the TTC process. Your father and I went back and forth a bit and decided we should just go for it because what if it took us many months or years to conceive? We were ready for you and didn't want to wait any longer!
So, we forgot about our big plan of having a summer baby and by the time the second Prenatal Yoga Teacher Training weekend rolled around in June, I was 6 weeks pregnant! I shared this news with some excitement, some uncertainty and some OMG-what-did-we-just-do feelings. It didn't feel real and continued to feel very surreal for a good portion of my pregnancy.
The planning came naturally. I decided to go with a birth center. I knew I wanted a doula through Blooma. I knew I wanted your room ready before the holidays. I continued to read the books, watch the YouTube videos, join the and Pregnancy Centering Groups. But I didn't know how my pregnancy would progress or how your birth would unfold.
Pregnancy was rather straightforward. But honestly, I didn't enjoy it very much. Not like anything was wrong or painful. I didn't have morning sickness, and I didn't start showing until well into the pregnancy but I had a hard time adjusting to the limitations of movement, food options, lack of saunas, all of the restrictions. We also chose not to find out your gender. And maybe that contributed to this surreal feeling. Since I didn't know who you were it felt like all of these changes were just happening without a rhyme or reason.
It wasn't until the third trimester that I really hit a pregnancy groove. Things just felt better. I enjoyed lots of bodywork, I took all the yoga classes and your birth was getting closer and closer. I was excited!
I remember hitting the 37-week mark and thinking "Yes! We have made it. You can come anytime now!". For some reason, I thought you were going to come early even though the doulas, midwives, and chiropractors continually reminded me that for most first-time mothers, who don't choose intervention, birth happens closer to the 41+3 mark. I believed them but didn't think that would happen for us. Boy was I wrong. Another week went by. And another. And another. I was 40 weeks and still NO sign of labor. Thankfully, I at least had my maternity leave to look forward to, which I started at 40 weeks.
The third trimester really went by in a flash. Until I hit this 39/40 week mark. Then every day felt like a week. I spent my days walking outside with your Oma, making sure things were clean and organized, and I even played The Sims for hours at a time. Anything to distract me. But even then the distractions wouldn't always work. I was emotional. I cried every day. I was ready to be done. I was ready to meet you. But still no sign of labor.
Then after what felt like the longest wait of my life on February 16 around 4 am, I had my first contractions! I was so excited I woke your father. FINALLY! It was happening. I tried to rest but I was so excited. But of course, by the morning the contractions had stopped and we were back to, what felt like, square one. I accepted my reality. That I would just be pregnant for forever. I came up with a nickname for you - Little Roo. I was a kangaroo and you were going to stay in my pouch for the rest of eternity..
On February 19, again around 4 am, I felt more contractions. This time, I did not wake your father. I didn't want to get excited and just went back to bed. But this time when morning came the surges were still present! I was thrilled! We called the midwives at the Minnesota Birth Center. We texted our doula team and we texted the grandparents! This was it, but we had only just started the marathon and I recalled a quote a yoga teacher/ doula told me "birth isn't like running a marathon, it is like doing an Ironman... and then you get hit by a bus afterward". By this time though, I was just so excited, I didn't even care about the sensations to come. I was ready!
Around 10 am your father and I took a walk by the river. When we were walking, the surges got closer and closer together, about every 10-15 minutes. My excitement continued to build! When we came home and took off our winter gear though, the contractions had stopped yet again. I grabbed my breast pump, put it on, started pumping and within a few minutes the contractions were back. I was motivated and you weren't going to stay in there much longer.
Things began to pick up around noon. I was using the tools and comfort measures I had learned about. Using the birth ball to sway my hips, close my eyes and focus on my breath, and mentally repeat my mantras. I also started to throw up. The vomiting was worse than any of the surges and it generally came right before a contraction. When Oma came to pick up Ryker she would put a cold cloth over my forehead and your father would apply pressure to my back or hips and that combination eased the un-comfortability. After a few moments, the waves would recede and I would have time to rest, attempt to drink something, and gain strength for the next wave to come over my body.
For me, contractions felt like a tightening. Like two bolts in my lower back, just above my glutes, slowly being twisted down into my hips creating pressure. I never felt them as painful, just tons of pressure and sensation. Because of this, I worried I wasn't actually in labor. Maybe this was just false labor or just the start and what was about to come would be much worse? But I didn't think too far into the future. I just closed my eyes and went inward. I was lost in the darkness and supported by breath. I was so ready to end the pregnancy journey. And, I was prepared for the long haul of labor.
I opened my eyes around 4 pm and noticed that it was getting darker. Time seemed irrelevant. Had that much time really passed? Things were progressing but it was still hard to know when to call in the doulas and when to head to the birth center. Eventually, we decided it would be best to call the doulas and at least make a plan. Jess would come over to our house around 5 pm and we would drive to the birth center together.
Once she arrived, I could tell in my body that something had shifted. It was time to go to the birth center. It was a slow process, leaving the house. Waves would take over my body and I would wrap my arms around your dad, letting him support all of my weight while I let out a low moan and gently moved my hips.
We slowly started to put jackets on, grab the birth bag and make our way to the door. Jess warned us of how slippery it was outside, it had been an icy winter, but our sidewalk to the driveway was totally snow and ice free! Papa had worked so hard at keeping it safe for us. Jess laughed with amusement!
We made our way to the car with a few stops for surges. Just getting to the car seemed like a huge effort. I had no idea how I was going to get into the car and honestly I don't totally remember. But somehow I made it into the backseat where I landed on my hands and knees, my torso being supported by our bags.
We had made the drive to the Birth Center so many times at this point, I knew exactly where we were even though my eyes were closed. On this drive, though I felt every single bump in the road. I let out more low oohs.
After 15 minutes we arrived at the Birth Center. I remember getting out of the car and being so nervous that I would be sent home, told I wasn't actually in labor yet, and that I wouldn't be admitted. The walk from the car to the birth center felt long and I just wanted to get into the tub. Before that could happen though, they had to perform a check to see dilation. I personally thought it would be better not to know the number but somehow through a bit of miscommunication, I was told I was dilated to a 6! I was thrilled!! I was in labor, I wouldn't be sent home, you were on your way and I could get into the tub!
The tub felt incredible. The water temperature was comforting and my body felt lighter. I had the support of your Papa's hands applying pressure to my back. The lights were dim and my eyes were closed. I honestly didn't even know how many people were in the room. I felt calm. I felt powerful. I felt confident. Surges continued to come and I could tell the intensity was increasing. But I continued to stay with my breath. When surges would come I would use my voice to let out low sounds. The moaning was a release. Time starts to feel even more irrelevant in this time of darkness. I couldn't really gauge how many minutes or even hours had gone by. But eventually, I felt another shift and I could open my eyes.
For the first time since arriving, I was able to talk with the midwives, see everyone in the room and take a drink of water. I knew with the vomiting I was most likely dehydrated and also in need of nourishment. At this point in time I also remember being nervous again. What was this shift in my body? Could my dilation go back down? So many questions. All of my nerves were calmed quickly though because the midwife team asked if I was wanting a water birth. I was shocked! It seemed like you would be in my arms within a few hours. A midwife went off to make me my bread while another midwife told me some of the important parts of a water birth - none of which I remember now. But it was time! Time to push!
With each wave, I let out a growl and pushed. I took rest in between and had a cool cloth placed on my head. Another wave would come and the cycle would repeat. After a few more rounds of this, the midwives had me stop. They were looking at my lower half and not seeing the indications they were hoping to see. They wanted me to get out of the tub so that they could perform another cervical check. Getting out of the tub was deflating because I knew I would not be getting back in. It took me a while but I eventually got out of the tub and made it onto the bed where they checked. I was only 9.5cm dilated and not actually ready to push. So, we changed positions and I continued to turn inward. I leaned into the intensity of the sensation. I kept breathing. I was ready for you.
I was using every tool, every prop, and every strategy the birth center team had for me. I sat on the toilet, I sat on a birth stool with the silks, I stood with the silks, I climbed a flight of stairs - TWICE! But, it seemed like nothing was happening. How long would this all go on for? I didn't know how much I had left. A few worried thoughts came up but my confidence in my team rose above any fears.
This is really where timing starts to get fuzzy.
They decided we all needed to rest. Everyone left the room. Your dad and I lay on the bed. I was told not to push but it was so hard to resist the urge. I felt lost and maybe even a little scared. I didn't understand why I was feeling so alone and why the contractions were slowing. I tried to rest but surges continued. I reached for your fathers hand and tried my hardest not to push. My low growls continued but nothing was happening. Time continued to be irrelevant. Eventually, the team quietly came back into the room. It felt like 30 - 45 minutes had passed, but apparently, it was TWO HOURS!
They performed another cervical check and I was still at a 9.5. It was official labor had stalled. They started to monitor your heart beat more frequently with what seemed like every continuing surge. When the urge to push came your heart beat lowered. My team was still calm and collected. I wasn't panicking but I was concerned and my worry was starting to build.
Eventually one of my midwives told me we might have to entertain the idea of being transferred to the hospital. I was devastated but still very motivated. I did not want to go to the hospital but I also did not want to put you in jeopardy. She informed me we could go through the various change of positions again and after that, if anything hadn't progressed, we would have to transfer to the hospital. I remember feeling a rush of energy and strength. I could do this. We would do this! I listened to my team and was giving it my all. We walked the hallways and climbed the stairs. I was giving it my all and trying to somehow bring the contractions back.
We got back to our room the midwives told me it would be their recommendation to go to the hospital. I felt totally defeated. I was scared. I did not want to go but I agreed to their plan. I slowly got dressed with their help, got my bags packed and made my way to the front of the birth center. Once I arrived I was greeted with a wheel chair that would take me from the birth center across the street to the Mother Baby Center at Abbott Hospital. Your Papa and Jess drove over with our belongings.
Being outside felt incredible. The cool air on my face was refreshing. I realized how hot I had become in the birth center. I took in deep breaths as we quickly made our way to the doors of the hospital. The admittance process seemed slow but the waves were essentially gone at this point. It gave me time to rest.
By the time we made it to our room, the sun was shining high in the sky. We took more rest - me in the hospital bed and your Papa on the little couch. My midwife, Toni, and doula Jess were also getting situated. During this time of rest I was so weak, so confused, so sad. I was truly exhausted, totally drained. I just wanted this to be over but it felt like the process was just starting over again. I felt a deep sense of sadness. This was not the plan. This is not what I wanted for you or for me.
Toni described with such care and compassion the next steps. I would get pitocin at the smallest dose until the contractions started to pick up. I agreed and somehow regained strength. The pitocin started and within 20 minutes so did the contractions. But the small dosage wasn't enough yet. They gave me a bit more and the waves started to crash over me with more force and power; one right after the other with no break in sight. I was feeling the pressure and having a harder and harder time connecting to my breath. It was an intensity I couldn't move away from and it just continued to build and grow and consume my body. I so badly wanted a break, just for a second to catch my breath. But I knew the only break would either be in the form of an epidural or your birth. I was motivated and didn't want anything to prolong our meeting. With the support of my team, I stayed focused and had faith that I could endure this intensity. I had a heartbeat monitor around my belly and it would shift often. There seemed to be so many other noises and beeps from machinery. I wasn't sure what was related to what but the loudness in the room seemed to grow as the minutes went by.
Then Toni told me she could see your head! FINALLY! My confidence returned and I could once again begin to push. I think she could tell I was excited because she quickly followed the update by saying "pushing can be a long process. We could still be here for a few hours." I didn't care, the end was actually in sight this time. I dug down deep, listened to their guidance, and continued to push. After 20 or so minutes they brought a mirror over so I could see what was happening. I could see you; I could see your dark brown hair! This was really happening. This view continued to motivate me. All the while monitors were beeping, nurses and midwives were giving instructions, I changed positions and pressed into the hands of your dad and our doula. I was making progress but your heartbeat was still dipping. I kept asking the team if you were okay and they told me you were but I was terrified they were lying to me. The beeps and the noises continued but I tried to focus on Toni's voice. Push after push after push. All of these pushes weren't for nothing though. I could see more of your head start to emerge. With that sighting the buzz in the room grew. A birth was about to happen - your birth!
After an hour and a half of pushing Toni had me push and keep bearing down. She asked me to internalize my moans and had me put all of my energy into my bottom. I pushed as hard as I could and with that push your head was birthed! It was a huge sensation of relief, so much pressure -was gone. But there was still work to be done. She told me that even though I wasn't feeling a contraction that I would need to push again. I bared down and gave it everything I had and with that the rest of your body was born.
I could feel your long, bony body exit my body and the nurses immediately sprang into action. The NICU team had arrived prior to your birth due to the lowered heart rate. After you were born, your umbilical cord was immediately cut and you were taken to the NICU table across the room. In the transition from my womb to the table someone said "they don't know the gender, Aaron would you like to make the announcement?" You father called out "It's a boy!" I remember crying, but there weren't any tears. I was so dehydrated and exhausted and now so filled with fear. You, my darling, son were Earthside but I didn't know if you were alive! I asked them if you were okay and they kept saying yes but you were blue, you hadn't cried and you were so far away from me. I felt paralyzed. It seemed like an eternity but also a tiny sliver of time until you finally let out a cry. I let out a sigh of relief and joy and started to push the fear away. Within another few minutes they brought you to me and you were bundled on my chest.
There you were. My precious baby! You had made your journey Earth-side. You and I did it. I was stunned and in love. I was in this whirl of emotions - this is what my body was doing all those months leading up to this moment - building you! I held you close as you out out more cries. I told you it would be okay. I told you that I was your Mama and you were safe. I couldn't stop staring at how beautiful and precious you were. As I continued to whisper sweet nothings into your ear you settled down and snuggled in. Your father and I were beaming with joy!
What came next also happened very quickly and is a bit of a blur. After our precious moments together the NICU team wanted to take you back to monitor you and make sure everything was okay. We decided that Papa would go with you and that Jess would stay with me. Shortly after you and Papa went to the NICU my midwife told me I needed to push the placenta out. I was confused by her urgency, I thought it would just come naturally. But she had me push and even though I didn't understand what or how to push it out. But the placenta came out quickly. The nurses began examining the placenta and between their assessment and my midwife they came to the conclusion that the placenta did not fully detach. I believe this is where they gave me the abdominal "massage" which was so painful but it also could have happened right after you were born. Toni attempted a few more times to retrieve the stuck pieces but with no luck. After a brief discussion we came to the conclusion that I would need a D&C.
I was taken away on my hospital bed, by myself. Jess had to stay behind and you my sweet little Roo were with Papa and the NICU nurses.
My procedure was sterile, cold, and lonely. It felt like something out of a TV show. The room was bright white, everyone had gloves and masks, there were at least 5 people in the room and they all had to verbally agreed to their roles and the procedure. It felt surreal. I don't really remember the injection where they numbed me from the hips down but I do remember shaking uncontrollably because I was so cold. They put this hose under my blankets that was shooting out heat - that eventually helped, but it took my body a while to warm up. I tried to close my eyes and take this as an opportunity to rest but my mind was on you. How were you? Were you crying? Or lonely? I worked to push any fear from my mind because I knew in my heart and mind that you were safe with the nurses and your Papa.
My procedure ended and they wheeled me to the recovery room. Shortly after your dad and Jess met me. We cried and hugged while I waited for sensation to return to my toes. While I waited I drank apple juice as the nurses gave me something that I believe they called a blood builder. I knew I had lost a decent amount of blood at this point, but no one really knew just how much. Between the juice and the medication though, I started to feel better. As we waited your father told me more about you, how you were healthy and stable and how he had given you a bottle. I was so grateful he was the one to feed you since I wasn't able to be there. I couldn't wait to get back to you. After 45 minutes or so the extreme exhaustion lifted, I could feel my toes and I was READY to see you.
They had me stay in my hospital bed, but the nurses took me, with Papa by my side, to see you! I was thrilled. I didn't understand why the nurse wasn't running down the hallways. We finally got to the NICU, down into your room and two nurses were there. It was a relief to see you so bundled and cozy. You looked so peaceful and content. The nurses all commented about how big your eyes were and how alert you had been. They asked me if I wanted to try nursing. I immediately took my shirt off. This was the moment I had been waiting for. Our precious skin-to-skin, our time to connect! I scooped you up and brought you right to my chest. You latched quickly and began to suck. It felt like a triumph! You were doing it, we were doing it. It was as though the past few hours didn't happen, like we weren't ever separated and like you had just been born. You nursed for a while and then eventually fell asleep. I didn't want to let you go but I was so, so tired. The nurses told me I could come back in a few hours to nurse you again and I agreed to the plan. You would rest, I would rest and we would be together again in just a few hours.
I set my phone alarm that night to wake me every 2 hours so I could be wheeled down to you. I would scoop you up and snuggle you close. You would eat and I just stared. You fell asleep in my arms and I continued to just sit there for another hour watching you sleep, holding you in my arms until the nurse suggested I go back and get some rest. The cycle continued until the morning when we received the exciting news that you would be discharged!
At this point in time there was still some uncertainty about my discharge. My hemoglobin levels had dropped significantly and they wanted to continue to monitor my vitals. I didn't have any symptoms though and now I was just thrilled that you would be with us, in our room. The news that we would all be together was all I needed.
Toni, our star midwife, came back the next day. By the time she arrived you were admitted to our room and out of the NICU! She came to our room and brought us bread, a knit cap for you and explanations. She went into more detail about your birth. Informing us that your cord was extremely short and it was wrapped around your foot. She said this might have been the cause of the stalled labor, but we would never really know. She told us how I did in fact lose a lot of blood but how blood builds and within a few weeks my levels would be normal. She did want me to take it very easy, be aware of any of the symptoms and rely on family for support. I asked questions and she gracefully answered them all. She agreed with the Abbott nurses that an additional night in the hospital would be best. We all cried and hugged. She shared that she was so proud of me, of us. She noted our strength and she gave us her love. We would be in touch again soon but for now, it was time for her to go and for the three of us to snooze and snuggle.
The second night in the hospital was long. We were tired of nurses checking my vitals, of all of the beeping noises. You frequently woke wanting to nurse. And although I wanted to be home I was also a little nervous. How was I supposed to go home and take care of you!? It all seemed so foreign! You seemed so fragile and although we had taken all the classes, I suddenly felt very unprepared. By the morning we did get the good news that I would be discharged and that we could all go home. We got you dressed in a fleece footie. You were drowning in it, but since you were so long it was the only thing that really fit. We packed our bags with haste, well the haste that we could muster, and we started to leave the hospital.
Bags packed, you in my arms, the nurse pushing my wheel chair and Papa getting the car. We went out the front door to our car that had been pulled around and it was snowing! It had been snowing, big, beautiful white snow flakes. Your first winter wonderland. Your father drove home safety and slowly. I sat with you in the backseat. We were going home!
Once we arrived home all of the nerves I had about leaving the hospital vanished. We were safe in our home. It was quiet and warm. We were together and it was totally perfect.
Our first morning home from the hospital we woke up with full hearts and so much excitement. Your dad made a delicious breakfast of pancakes and we ate it in bed. We had nothing to do but just to be together. Our home was ready for you, we were ready for you and here you were, our healthy, beautiful baby boy!