My Little Lucas,
It’s been three weeks since you were born and almost three weeks since we brought you home. I’m only just now having the energy and time to write about our journey through labor and not because you are a fussy baby but because healing from giving birth and taking care of you has left me with no time to want to do anything other than snuggle you and rest. I’m so glad that I denied having my membranes stripped. You were able to make your own decision as to when you wanted to arrive. Once you made that decision, things progressed fairly smoothly and relatively quickly. Not everything went as we had hoped, but it all turned out for the best. I’ll get to that later, though.
The Days Before:
I spent a lot of time the last week before you were born cleaning and organizing the already clean and organized house, verifying that my FLMA paperwork was filed correctly at work, and putting away/sorting through any other small piles of papers or things lying around. I also continued to leave work each day prepared to not return the next, leaving post it notes and instructions for my substitute all over my desk, only to have to remove them the following morning when you had not yet arrived.
The last weekend before you were born, I spent a lot of time with friends, family, and Daddy. Friday night my friends Alicia and Stephanie took me out for dinner at TGI Fridays to celebrate my birthday early, just in case you made your arrival before they could take me out. Turns out that was good foresight.
Saturday, Daddy drove me out to Plainsfield for The Great Cloth Diaper Change at the Natural Parenting Expo. I originally had signed up to change you there, back when I thought you would be arriving at the beginning of April via c-section, but wanted to go anyway to get a free goodie bag and see what the vendors had available. We got there early, so Dad and I walked around the upstairs of the building and followed signs that read “GHOST HUNTING: AS A HOBBY” and ended up walking by a room filled with several late-middle aged women and men listening to a woman talking about ghost hunting. It was bizzare! Dad and I kept laughing and joking that we should walk in and sit down or jump in and yell BOO!
Once the expo started, we spent most of our time walking around inside the one room where the vendors were set up around the perimeter. There were cloth diaper stores, a cupcake bakery, a babywearing group, the local La Leche League, a dairy, jewelry and purse sellers, a Scentsy table, birth photographers, doulas, and even a place that offered placenta encapsulation (no thank you…). Several people gave me sympathetic looks as I waddled around the room, and a few gave me advice as to how to jump-start labor, including eating the hottest hot sauce on food from Qdoba. We ended up going to Qdoba for lunch afterward, but I didn’t get the hottest hot sauce because I didn’t want acid reflux! Before we left the expo, I watched as a room full of mommas changed their babies all at the same time using cloth diapers. It was adorable. I bought a large and small wet bag with hippos on it, received a goodie bag with a Dr. Seuss diaper cover and other goodies in it, met a few of the Facebook momma group people in person, tried chocolate milk at the Oberweis Dairy table, and when we got home, Daddy signed us up to have milk delivered each Wednesday! I never thought we’d have a milk man in this day and age. It’s rather nostalgic; we both love it!
Aunt K (Anna) made it to the finals for her winter percussion performance, so Grandma and Grandpa D drove down to Ohio to see her last performance and then came to visit us later on that Saturday night and took us out for my birthday to The Cheesecake Factory. I waddled around Barnes and Noble as we wandered and waited for our table to be ready. I ate fried macaroni and cheese balls, which ended up making me have acid reflux later but were so good at the time! We watched The Muppet Movie and ate cheesecake at home and went to bed early. Sunday we went to our new church together with Grandma and Grandpa, and then, they left to go home. I spent the rest of the day organizing and putting away the last of the gifts that Grandma and Grandpa had brought down from the shower back in March. They’d also brought you more clothes, a plush hippo chair, and gave me a ton of Disney movies and a beautiful silver bracelet that says “A mother holds her children’s hands for a short while and their hearts forever” for my birthday. Before they left, Grandpa D said, “You just wait. We’ll get home, and you’ll call to say you’re in labor…” He was pretty close!
Monday at school I spent the majority of the day watching and grading students’ presentations, but I noticed during the middle to end of third period that I was having contractions. I thought at first that they must just be Braxton Hicks, as usual, but also noted that I don’t usually have them during that time of the day. I was completely calm and didn’t think much of it until I noticed fourth period that they were showing up a few times an hour. I called Dad and let him know the situation but told him not to worry or head home yet. The previous week, I left my classroom to go to the bathroom and had taken longer than usual. A student became concerned and rushed down to the office to tell them I’d disappeared and that she feared I’d gone into labor somewhere! By the time I got back to the classroom, my boss and the secretary were in there and other teachers were poking their heads out their doors looking to see what had happened! I was like, “Sorry! I had to pee!” So, to avoid a similar scene, I told no one that I was having contractions, and during lunch, I popped over to tell my boss that I thought I was having contractions but that they weren’t bad yet and that I’d keep her posted so that at least someone knew.
By the time the end of the day rolled around, I was pretty positive that I was in labor. The contractions were still consistent and had been getting stronger, though still totally manageable using the relaxation and deep abdominal breathing techniques I’d learned in class. When I felt one starting, I’d simply relax completely in my chair, let my face go slack, rest my chin on my chest, and breathe until it was over. No wonder none of the kids noticed! I was super calm and relaxed. I called Dad again and gave him the update. He sounded excited and reminded me to check for false labor, “You gotta eat something, drink something, go for a walk, take a shower, and take a nap!” I promised him I’d do just that, and he said he’d be home by 4:30.
I stayed after school to finish up the thank you notes to my fellow staff members who had given us gifts at the baby shower at school and had Alicia put them in their mailboxes for me. I also stayed after to get the piles of portfolios in order and post-it noted with instructions for my sub. The nurse and her walking buddies stopped by, and we chatted; I told her I had been having contractions, and she asked me not to return to school tomorrow because she didn’t want to deliver the baby at school, and we laughed. I wrote a note to my students on my board and left. The note said, “Hey everyone! I started having contractions 4th period yesterday. Hopefully, by the time you read this, I’ll have my son in my arms. Good luck with presentations and boards, and I’ll see you at graduation!” How right I would be!
After school, I called Grandma D to let her know what was going on and pleaded with her not to get in the car yet and drive down. I told her I didn’t know how long it would be or if it was real yet. I hadn’t had a good chance to do actual timing. I posted on Facebook, “Pretty sure I’ve been having contractions since about 4th period today. I think they are 15 minutes apart, but I haven’t had a chance to really focus on tracking them. Heading home from work now to do just that. Keep your fingers crossed for me!” I left school and took a detour through Burger King’s drive through for some chicken nuggets, fries, and a frozen coke-cherry icee. I was following the first two instructions to test for false labor: eat something and drink something. I got home, ate and drank, and put the rest of my icee in the freezer. All the while, I tried using the contraction timer on my phone to see how far apart they were. However, I was having a really hard time telling when they started. All of a sudden, I’d realize that I was in the middle of one and would scramble to grab my phone and start the timer. So, I decided to leave it be for a while and just shower and take a nap. I laid a towel down underneath me just in case my water broke. Once I laid down, the contractions seemed to stop for a while. I felt a little disheartened, but patted my belly and said, “Okay, buddy, if you’re not ready, that’s okay,” then fell asleep.
I woke up when Dad got home. He had brought home KFC- chicken for him and mac’n'cheese for me (my recent craving-he’s so thoughtful). Once I was awake and sat up in bed, the contractions started again. He crawled up in bed with me and ate his chicken, while I laid there and relaxed through contractions. We took Feeny on a walk around the block and tried timing the contractions again. It was much easier to have Dad run the timer. I’d just say, “Okay,” or “Here we go,” and Dad would know to start the timer. Once we’d gotten almost all the way around the block, we saw Casey, our neighbor from behind us who is a labor and delivery nurse at our hospital, leaving for work. She stopped her car, rolled down the window, and said, “Trying to go into labor?” I said, “I think I already am!” She said, “Well, I’m heading to work right now. Maybe I’ll see you there later!” and it turned out that she would!
I ate mac’n'cheese in bed while continuing to time contractions. I drank chai tea and ate digestives (chocolate graham cookies) and timed contractions some more. The time between had gone from 16 minutes during our walk to about 10 minutes apart then 8 minutes apart then 7. Dad got out of bed around 9pm to put our bags in the car, just in case. I tried sleeping sitting up because I didn’t want the contractions to stop when I laid down, but by 11pm I was tired and gave up. I slouched down and tried to fall asleep. Then, all of a sudden I heard a “click”.
It sounded and felt like when a delicate water balloon breaks underwater when you try to pick it up out of a bucket of water. I asked Dad, “What was that noise?” He said, “What noise?” Then, I felt a small gush of warm water. I looked over at the clock on Dad’s bedside table to take note of the time and said, “Never mind, I know what it was-my water just broke! Help me get up without making a mess!” Dad leaped out of bed and threw back the covers. He helped me roll out of bed while keeping the towel from beneath me wrapped around myself. I waddled to the bathroom and had Dad throw the memory foam bath mats onto the floor of the walk-in closet so that I wouldn’t get them messy. Feeny, by this point, was in the bathroom wondering what was going on. He sniffed all around and looked very confusedly at the bath mats sitting in the closet. He turned a circle and laid down on them and watched me. I got in the shower and rinsed off, continuing to lose fluid. I changed clothes, put on something so I wouldn’t leak everywhere, and gingerly headed down stairs to sit at the dining room table while Dad finished loading the car and moving around grabbing the other things I was thinking of at the last minute.
Dad kept asking me how I was feeling. My contractions were a lot more intense and were now 6 minutes apart. They really felt like waves now, but the ascent of pain was a lot faster than the peak and descent. I called Grandma D and told her what was happening. She was giddy and said they were on their way. Dad called Grandma B and told her too, and they left right away too. I posted the last update to Facebook I would make until way after your arrival. “Water broke at 11:20pm. Contractions are 6 minutes apart. Heading to hospital now!” Once Dad had everything in the car, he surprised me with a burgundy jewelry box from Helzberg.
We had talked before about taking the loose diamonds that had been cut out of my wedding band (so that it could fit up against my engagement ring) and putting them in a necklace with each diamond symbolizing each of our children as they were born. I had looked at several designs with Dad a few months ago, but didn’t pick one. Dad had chosen one that looked like a curled diamond shaped leaf and had all three diamonds placed down the center in a vertical line. He handed me the box and told me he didn’t want to pack it for the hospital but wanted me to see it before we left. It was beautiful. I wanted to cry but was so excited about your imminent arrival that I couldn’t do anything but smile and thank Daddy for the necklace, for you, for asking me to marry him. We had been waiting so long for you, and we were both so excited that you were going to be arriving within hours! Dad put the box somewhere safe, put a towel on the passenger seat, and helped me climb into the car; then, we headed for the hospital.
Country music played in the car on the way there, and I rolled down the windows a bit for fresh air as I breathed through contractions that felt even more painful than before. They actually caught my breath they were so strong. My relaxation techniques and breathing continued to be helpful, but I was starting to realize at this point that this wasn’t going to be easy. Dad parked the car in the loop and walked me upstairs to check in. Then, we were taken into a triage room where a very nice nurse had me change into a gown and then checked my blood pressure, oxygen levels (the finger clamp thing), and strapped fetal monitors around my belly. Everything looked good, and contractions were 4 minutes apart. They checked me and found that I was only 3 centimeters but almost completely effaced. 3 CENTIMETERS! I had been at 3 for two weeks! What the heck?! I was annoyed and worried- how long would I have to wait? How long would I have to deal with these contractions that were steadily getting more painful? The nurse tried, unsuccessfully, three times to put in my saline lock in my left arm and hand before calling Casey down to do it. Apparently, my veins kept blowing. Casey got it on the first try on my right hand. Once that was in, an intern came by to ask me questions, then Casey came by to let us know we’d been cleared to walk the hall by Doctor Perkins.
At this point, Dad reminded me that it had been 45 minutes and that I needed to go to the bathroom. I did so, but had a contraction as soon as I walked into the bathroom, and it hurt a lot worse than the ones previously, so much so that I actually moaned out loud in pain. Everyone kept reminding me to breathe deeply and slowly and telling me that I was doing a great job. I almost didn’t want to get up off the toilet because sitting in that position felt comfortable. Dad helped me get back up, and the nurse helped me get fitted with what looked like pantyhose with the legs cut off and a gigantic pad so that I could walk the halls with Dad.
I don’t know how long we walked for, but it felt like making it to the end of the hallway took forever because I kept stopping and bending over at the waist to grip the railing along the wall or hold on to Dad as contractions fell in waves in my belly and back. All I could do was close my eyes, breath as deeply (and sometimes as forcefully) as possible, and try to focus on finding the peak of the contraction so that I would know it was about to relent and relax again. We’d walk a few more steps and repeat the process. Dad would hold me up as I hugged around his neck or laid my weight against the space between his chest and stomach, tell me to breathe, encourage me, massage where it hurt, and remind me to relax, which was helpful until… “Just relax!” “I CAN’T JUST RELAX! I need you to tell me where to relax! Give me a body part! I can’t JUST relax! It hurts!” After that brief and hurried conversation, he was awesome at being specific (“relax your hands” “relax your neck” “relax your face” “relax your shoulders” “breathe, don’t hold it in” “you’re doing a great job”). After we walked up and back down the hall, the nurse had Dad grab some of our stuff, she grabbed the rest, and walked us to our labor and delivery room, stopping as I needed to during contractions.
By this point, it was well after midnight. The contractions radiated through my back, it was like being hit with a truck over and over again. The day after you were born, Dad told me that when I had mentioned that my back hurt, both nurses had looked at each other warily with a lot of concern on their faces. That’s when they had realized that you must not be in the right position. The nurses asked us if we still wanted to do this naturally. “If so, we will support you 100% and won’t ask again. You can do this, but you need to have some kind of understanding between the two of you in case you change your mind so that we know whether or not to listen to your pleas for pain medication.” One of the nurses mentioned that a couple used the word “doghouse” as their code word that she wanted the epidural. Craig and I said we wanted to still do this naturally. Contractions started appearing 2 and 3 minutes apart, sometimes one on top of another, and I felt like I couldn’t take it anymore. “I can’t do this! I can’t do this! It hurts! My back hurts! I can’t get a break! I can’t breathe!” Even though all I could do was breathe. I was a crumpled ball of pain and deep breaths and loud “haaaa” moans of pain. The nurses kept telling me that I was doing so well. Casey told me to try and conserve my energy by not moaning but focusing on breathing, but I couldn’t help it. I had to make noise. They asked if I wanted to be checked to see how I’d progressed. It had been four hours. I needed to know that all this pain had been worth progress.
I was terrified she was going to tell me that I hadn’t progressed at all. “You’re at 5 centimeters, halfway there.” I wanted to cry. I’d only progressed 2 centimeters? In all that time? In all that pain? How was I going to do this for 5 more centimeters? I felt like I wanted to quit. The nurse suggested getting into the shower to see if that would help. I sat in the shower and Dad helped massage my lower back as the warm water ran over me. I kept shaking uncontrollably because of the hormone rushes cascading through my body. It was hard to sit at an angle on the seat so that the water would hit my back without having to rest my head against the wall, avoiding the sharp, metal soap dish that was lodged into the tile wall. I had Dad roll a towel up to place under my head against the wall and turn the heat up on the shower to try and stop my shaking. I was finally able to relax, and the contractions felt more manageable, for a little while…then they went back to appearing one right after another.
I wanted to cry but knew I couldn’t without hyperventilating, so I just kept taking deep, sharp breaths and tried to relax. I said, “I can’t do this. I can’t do this anymore.” Dad said, “Yes, you can. You are doing this. You’re doing such a great job.” I told him, “But I don’t want to do this anymore. I don’t want to be in this much pain. I can’t catch my breath. I can’t get a break. I don’t want to do this for four more hours. It hurts too much. I want the epidural. Tell them I want the epidural. You’ve been such a wonderful coach. This isn’t your fault. I love you. You’ve been so helpful, but I just can’t handle this pain anymore. I don’t want to. I want to have some kind of energy to be able to push. I’m so tired. I’m so tired. Tell them I want the epidural. Doghouse! Doghouse!” Dad helped me get dried off and dressed as I was shaking too hard to really do much myself. We got my gown back on, and they had me get back into the bed and sit up facing out the side of the bed. The anesthesiologist came in (the head of anesthesiology) and asked me if I had any questions. I asked him to just tell me what to expect. He had me lean forward and waited until my contraction was over to start. He told me I’d feel a pinch and then just a lot of pressure, which I did. Unfortunately, that pressure started up just as another contraction began. They connected the epidural and had me lay down. It was 4:30 AM. I was exhausted. Dad was exhausted. I finally felt like I could rest in between contractions.
I kept having contractions and waiting for the epidural to kick in. My right leg started to go numb, and gradually I didn’t feel the contractions on that side. The left side still wasn’t numb. They tried turning me on my side a bit to see if they could get things affecting the left side, but it only partially worked. The contractions were still very present on the left, but they were so much more manageable. I finally felt like I could breathe and relax in between. They hooked up fetal monitors to check on you, and you seemed like you were doing well. Dad finally had a chance to go out to the waiting room to update our parents, who had been waiting since they arrived for some kind of update, then he came back in and held my hand. He looked exhausted and seemed in pain himself. I asked him what was wrong, and he said his back hurt. I tried to get him to lay down on the couch to take a nap, but he wouldn’t listen. He stood by my side and held my hand and brushed my hair away from my face. Then, I began to have a contraction and the fetal monitor started beeping. Your heart rate had dropped. The nurses came in and had me turn on my side. Your heart rate stabilized. They put me on oxygen, which at times made me feel dizzy because I was still doing my deep breathing when I had contractions since they still hurt on the left side and along the left side of my back, and they catheterized me twice to relieve the pressure on my bladder. Each time I had a contraction, your heart rate would drop- 140 to 130, 125, 120, 116, 100, 96, 86, but it always recovered quickly. Each time, the nurses would come in and turn me, or Dad would go out and get them.
They wanted to put a fetal scalp electrode in your head to better monitor your heart rate, but I asked if we could wait and see if it had stopped happening first. It hadn’t. They put the electrode on you. This continued to happen, but you always quickly recovered. I was so worried about you. The nurses assured me that your quick recovery made them feel that you were okay. It was 5:30 AM. They checked me again and found that in one hour, I had progressed from 5 cm to 9 cm! Casey said that the epidural had helped me relax so that I could finally progress. The contractions had been too painful, too close together before. They said to let them know if I felt a lot of pressure and left the room. I had a few more contractions, and then it was as if I was straddling a bowling ball. I told Dad to get the nurse. She checked me, and you had descended to +2 station! Apparently, once you knew you could get out, you wanted out right then! She left to call the doctor to tell him what was going on. While she was gone, Dad and I decided it was time to talk about what to name you.
Me: “So, what are we going to name him? What name do you like better?”
Dad: “What name do you like better?”
“I asked you first!”
“I like Lucas Matthew.”
“You’re not just saying that are you?”
“Nope. That’s the name I’m favoring. Let’s still see what he looks like though.”
When she came back, she told me it was time to start pushing!
They sat me up a bit and put my legs up in these cradle things. Casey explained that when I felt a contraction starting, I needed to lean forward, grab the back of my thighs, take a deep breath and hold it as I pushed for 10 seconds. Then, I was to take another deep breath and push again for 10 more seconds, and repeat one last time. I was to do this with each contraction. She told me to push as if I was having the biggest bowel movement of my life. I remember thinking before this day that I wondered if I was going to know how to push, that I was scared of hurting myself, and worried about pooping while pushing. None of those fears were realized. I just knew how to push- I could feel where you were, despite the epidural, and could feel the urgency to get you out. I was so amped up that I was about to meet you that I didn’t feel any pain, not even on my left side, just the pressure of your movement. I remembered to put my chin to my chest to complete the arc of my spine and to lock the air in my chest better and to keep my noises low. Dad stood by my left side and kept his hand on my back. I pushed for one maybe two contractions before a team of people showed up in the room.
We later found out that it was the NICU team because your heart rate had not risen back up all the way after one of the contractions. We discovered later that the cord had been around your neck, which is why your heart rate kept dropping during contractions. Doctor Perkins came in with the crew of people and immediately began to work. I have no idea what he was doing because I couldn’t see (and had told them when they lowered the mirrors and lights that I did NOT want to see) but he told me we needed to get you out and that you were very close. I pushed three times on another contraction, and I heard the doctor say to Dad, “Would you look at that? He’s looking right at me!” Dad looked (much to his dismay) and saw your cone head emerging and told me later that he had no idea how I was doing that or how the rest of you would come out! I pushed again 3 times on a second contraction, and the doctor told me I had to push a fourth count of 10 on that contraction because you were almost there. So I gulped air, locked my chin to my chest and pushed, and suddenly there you were! I could feel a sudden release in pressure as you left me very quickly. I could hear you crying, and it was the most incredible sound I had ever heard. “oooAAahhuhhhh oooAAahhuhhhh oooAAahhuhhhh!” Little, tiny, quick cries, itty grunts and bitty noises. They offered Dad the cord to cut, and Dad said, “But we wanted to wait for the cord to stop pulsating!” The doctor said, “I’m sorry; it’s too late. I’ve already clamped it. He’s okay. He’s got great color.” Dad cut the cord, and they laid you on a blue sheet on my chest. You were born at 7:32 AM- just two minutes after school had started. My note to my students had been correct: by the time they read it, you were in my arms!
As soon as I saw you, I started babbling and crying. “Hi, baby! Oh, hi! Hi, Lucas! Hi, baby boy! Hi, Lucas! Lucas Matthew, I’m your mommy! I’m your mommy! You are so handsome! This is incredible! I can’t believe you came out of me. He’s real! Look! He’s real! I can’t believe we made you! C, look what we made!” Tears kept falling down my face. I hadn’t cried the entire time during labor, but here I was crying just looking at your pale, squirming, skinny little figure wriggling on my chest. They took you over to the warmer and started to clean you off. I couldn’t stop staring at Daddy who was staring at you. Dad was so in love. I was so in love with the both of you. Dad just stood there and touched your hands and talked to you, smiling the best smile I’ve ever seen. He was looking at you with so much love and calm amazement. I was paying no attention whatsoever as to what was going on below deck. I couldn’t do anything but cry and watch Daddy watching you.
They weighed you and measured you and announced how tiny you were- 6 lbs 2 oz, 20 inches long. You received a 9 on your APGAR (Appearance, Pulse, Grimace, Activity, and Respiration) test. I told Dad to count your fingers and toes. He said they were all there, that you were perfect. I commented on your long legs and that you definitely had Dad’s butt. The nurses and Dad started laughing and making sympathetic “awww” sounds because you had started to stick your lip out in upset protest to being wiped down. “You guys are in trouble! Look at that lip!” they said. Dad was able to get a great picture of it.
A stinging sensation brought my attention momentarily back to the doctor, so I asked him what he was doing and if the placenta had come out yet. He said it had (I hadn’t even noticed!) and that he was just stitching me up. He said I had a second degree tear- very common- of which I was only just then starting to feel as the epidural wore off. I was still on a “birth high”. I had requested no pitocin, feeling that breastfeeding would help me to clamp down enough that I wouldn’t hemorrhage, but I ended up needing it because I was losing lots of blood. I also had continued to violently shake on and off afterward, which was very frustrating.
They wrapped you up and laid you on my chest so that we could get some skin to skin time. I just kept crying. I couldn’t believe how beautiful you were. I couldn’t believe that you were what had been growing inside of me for 39 weeks. You were so alert; your eyes were so wide and so blue and just the shape of Daddy’s. You took to rooting rather quickly, so with the help of the nurse, I tried feeding you. We quickly found out that my nipples were flat and that you couldn’t get them in your teeny tiny little birdy mouth that was all agape and waiting for food. You settled for snuggling in with me, your little rapid breaths making your tiny shoulders rise and fall quickly and steadily. The nurse brought in the lactation consultant, who showed up just after someone from the hospital bringing me a balloon and wishing me happy birthday! The LC brought a nipple shield and showed me how to use it. Once we had it on, she showed me how to get you latched, and you began eating. You didn’t eat for long before you fell asleep and snuggled back in to me. Dad and I spent some more time with you, about an hour I think, before having the grandparents come back to meet you.
Doctor Perkins had had to use forceps, but there were barely any marks on your face, and the fetal monitor had left only a little scratch on your scalp. Your head was definitely misshapen from being pushed through the birth canal, but that was totally normal. Your head also went back to a normal shape rather quickly; by the end of the day, we couldn’t even tell that you had had a cone head. Your ears were all curled up at the top and looked a little pointy at times, but Dad was just relieved that they seemed proportional to your head. (He was afraid you’d get his big ears.) They had wrapped you up in a hospital blanket and put a little knit hat on your head over your duck-fuzz blonde hair. We put your little hippo mittens on to protect your face from your talon-like fingernails. You loved waving your hands about and shoving them in your face (you still do now at 3 weeks old). You were completely alert and content for the grandparents to come see you and hold you. They all looked very tired from having waited all night long, but you were worth it. You were so worth it.
After they took a ton of pictures, Grandma and Grandpa B left to go back home, and Grandma and Grandpa D left to go back to our house to take care of Feeny, who probably desperately had to go outside by that time. The nurse took you over to the little plastic bassinet box to do some tests, and then I had to get up to go to the bathroom (the part I had been fearing the most post birth- and for good reason- ouch). The nurse had me sit on the side of the bed until I had my bearings, checking to make sure both legs weren’t numb anymore. Then she helped me to the bathroom. On my way out of the bathroom, they steered me to sit in a wheelchair. On my way to the wheelchair, I told the nurse, “Um…I’m starting to lose my hearing. I’m feeling light headed and nauseous.” They sat me in the chair, and I started to feel better. They pushed me in the wheelchair up to the maternity ward and the room we’d be in for the next few days- room 3016. On the way up there, they played the chimes “Jesus Loves Me” in celebration of your birth.
Once we got to the room, I had started to black out again. I told them, “I can’t hear anything. I’m going to black out.” The nurse said, “Take deep breaths. If you do, we’ll take care of you. You’ll be okay. Keep breathing,” as she held an alcohol wipe under my nose. I kept turning my head trying to get away from the smell, but she held my head steady so that I had to smell the alcohol wipe, which kept me conscious. Eventually, I felt better, and they helped me get into the bed, which was extremely painful to do by that point. While I had been on the verge of blacking out, they had taken you to the nursery to bathe you and give you vaccines. Once I was in bed, I curled up to sleep for a little bit, and the last thing I remember hearing before I fell asleep was Dad asking the nurse, “Um, can you show me where the baby is in the nursery? I feel like I’ve misplaced him already…” So, Dad took care of you while I napped for a few hours. When I awoke, I took a few pictures with my phone and posted them to Facebook with the message- “Today, I had the best birthday.”
The next few days were a blur of changing nurses, having my wounds checked, learning how to do peri-care to keep myself clean and avoid infection, taking pain medicine to keep my pain levels low (Motrin and Hydrocodone), learning how to breastfeed with the help of lactation consultants, syringe feeding you my pumped colostrum at one point (which was very entertaining because you got it all over your face and looked like a crusty milk-bearded mess), watching the required instructional videos on baby care, eating delicious (truly) hospital foods, especially baked potatoes and grilled cheeses in the afternoon and bacon egg and cheese sandwiches and oatmeal with brown sugar in the morning, watching Dad learn how to change you and crying more when watching Dad look so blissful as he held you and lovingly rocked you, snuggling you and getting lots of skin to skin time, and seeing visitors. All of my nurses and lactation consultants were fantastic and helpful, and Casey even had them send down a birthday cake!
The first night, Grandpa and Grandma D came back to see you for a bit, and while they were there, my friends Alicia and Stephanie came by and two of my students (Annie and Madison) surprised me too by showing up; I’m going to be handing both of them their diplomas at the end of the school year. They brought me birthday balloons, one said “Happy Birthday Mom!” “You know, because you’re a mom now!” and they held you, the first newborn they’d ever held. Another one of my students came by that day too- Allie, one of my seniors from last year-I had handed her her diploma. The next day Grandma and Grandpa D returned and your Aunt Crystal, Uncle Mark, and cousins Andrew and Collin came to see you and so did our friends the 4 Bs- Brad, Brandi, Brady, and Brianna. My boss, Alison, also came to visit and cuddle you and was so incredibly happy for us that she almost cried while holding you. Everyone kept saying how cute you were and how tiny you were and how sweet you were. I loved showing off your wrinkly old man hands and feet. You were such a calm and sweet baby right from the beginning, sleeping every 3 hours at night in the nursery and brought back to me for feedings. Casey visited us on our first night and brought me Medela soft shells to try to bring out and protect my nipples so that it would be easier, and less painful, to feed you. Thanks to those, we were able to start breast feeding without using the nipple shields. She told me that she had told her daughters about your arrival and that her oldest was very excited to meet “Baby Lucas!”.
When Thursday morning rolled around, I was not looking forward to leaving. I was scared to go home and take care of myself and you without a staff of nurses on call, but I knew Dad would take care of both of us. Dad and I watched those required baby care videos, ate lunch, and packed. Your pediatrician came in and reported that you had passed your hearing test, received all your vaccines, passed the routine check for heart defects, and needed to come in for a one week check up next Monday or Wednesday. Dad took the car seat down to the car seat check place and had them make sure he had installed it correctly. Then, I took a shower, snuggled with you, met one last time with the lactation consultant, and did my last check up with the nurse. Dad strapped you into the car seat, an experience you were not fond of but quieted right down once we got moving. You looked so itty bitty in the car seat! A nurse came with a wheelchair, and I sat in the wheelchair with you in the car seat on my lap as they wheeled me down to the car. Dad and I were nervous on the way home because we couldn’t see you. I kept sticking my phone back there with the camera on to see if you were still breathing. It was such a relief to get you home and out of the car seat where I could see you again.
When we got home, Dad went in first to say hello to a very overexcited Feeny; then, we switched, and I went in. Then, Dad brought you in as Grandma D videotaped Feeny’s reaction to you. He almost leaped into the car seat with his big head trying to sniff you. He was very concerned, crying and jumping and pacing about and trying to bury his head in the car seat. You were none the wiser, just sleeping away. I had to hold Feeny down so that he wouldn’t squish you with his big head. Eventually Feeny calmed down a little bit, but every time you squirmed or grunted or made any kind of noise, he was immediately up in whoever had you’s arms with his big head, sniffing and crying and trying to figure you out. He followed you from room to room with whomever had you and has continued to do so to this day (for the most part). Whenever people visit and have you in their arms, Feeny’s head is right there too, checking in on you. Feeny ended up bonding with Grandma D a lot that first week because she was the only one who gave him exclusive attention when I had you for feeding or snuggling.
First Nights Home:
The first few days home were busy. My first evening home, I developed those terrible tremors again, shaking like mad as if I were freezing to death, all the while having a temperature of 102 and sweating to death. After Dad picked up my pain medicine from the pharmacy (the pharmacists knew him by name after two days of going back to pick up medicine and other things we ended up needing) I took the Motrin, and the fever and shakes went away. This happened for a few nights though. On the third night, Dad called the doctor on call. He couldn’t figure out why I would have a fever but sent in a prescription for amoxicillin to be safe. Dad picked it up for me, but I didn’t end up taking it for fear of getting a yeast infection in my breasts, which would have interfered with breast feeding (which at that point was still painful due to the bruises and cracks that had formed from incorrect/poor latching). The fever didn’t return the next day. The nurse who called two weeks later to check on me from the maternity ward said it was probably due to my milk coming in. That first night, Grandma and Grandpa B, Maddie, and Alicia came by to see you. I don’t remember a lot of it because I was so worn out and feeling crummy because of the fever. I didn’t have any other major issues, just had to cope with the continued exhaustion and pain from healing below deck. By the end of week two, I felt back to normal although still a little sore. It took a while to get my stamina back for walking long distances. Just walking with Dad and Feeny and you to the corner down the block was exhausting. I also had a little bit of what they call “baby blues”- feeling overwhelmed and crying. Mainly, though, I cried when I was staring at you while holding you because I was so incredibly happy and amazed that Dad and I had created you. I’d just cry and say, “He’s so beautiful. I can’t believe we made this.” Those uncontrollable and overwhelming bursts of emotions and tears only lasted a week or so, though I often still feel flooded with gratitude to Dad or completely amazed at how incredible you are.
You are a very eager eater. Dad and I often laugh at the faces and noises you make when presented with nursing. You breath really quickly like a little puppy panting when I present you with lunch, and then you make this angry face and sort of growl and snarful as you latch on. Once you’re on, you’ll make this confused surprised face as if you have no idea what’s going on, and your eyes will get really wide and start looking up and around as if you have no idea how you got into that situation. Finally, you’ll start nursing. Your eyes get heavier the longer you eat, and you almost always fall asleep while eating. Sometimes while you eat you make these little purring noises with each breath, and you sound like a little squeaky old hinge “nree nree nree nree”. I always nurse you in the football hold position because I’m too well endowed to have you fit correctly in any other position. I’ve also made it a habit of kissing you on your cheeks and asking you, “Are you ready to eat?” before I lay you in position and begin nursing. While you haven’t smiled for real yet, you do seem to calm down and get happy when I do this because you have realized what’s coming next after the kisses, and you love to eat! Dad usually burps you (he’s magic- I can never get you to burp like he can) and if you’re still hungry, you’ll try to eat his hand while he burps you!
The day after we came home from the hospital, we went back for a meeting with the lactation consultant. While there, she weighed you, had me feed you, then weighed you again. As I fed you, the rest of my milk came in and literally soaked through your clothes and mine. Luckily, I had a zip up hoodie to put on over my shirt to hide the mess, and the LC had wash cloths on hand to clean you up (I was not prepared with a diaper bag at that point- silly me). She said you were clearly eating well as you had already gained some weight! While we were there, we also checked in on something I had realized once we had gotten home the day before. While we were in the hospital, Dad had put the birthday cake leftovers in the drawer of my bedside table so that the cleaning people wouldn’t toss it. We had never taken it out of the drawer! We told the nurse at the desk, and she had someone go check for it. Sure enough, it was still there, so we took it home!
During our first week home, you continued to sleep for three hours and then ate for 30 or sometimes 40 minutes at a time! When you were born you weighed 6 lbs 2 oz. When you left the hospital, you weighed 5 lb 10.5 oz. By your one week check up, 6 days later, you weighed 6 lb 5 oz! Most babies take a week to get back to their birth weights, but you surpassed yours in less than a week! By the following Thursday, you weighed 7 lbs 1 oz! Your frequent nursing and very loud swallowing sounds (which you’ve made since your first day in the hospital) have given me peace of mind that you’re definitely growing and eating enough.
As the weeks have progressed, you’ve continued your sleeping habits for the most part, sometimes sleeping only every 2 1/2 hours at night or on the rare occasion sleeping 4 or 4 1/2 hours a night, and you’ve cut your feeding times down to about 14-17 minutes. Your routine at night seems to go like this for the most part: sleep, wake up grunting or making frustrated little cries or making sucking sounds with your lips, eat for 7 or 10 minutes, then Dad takes you to be changed (sometimes your clothes get changed too if you’ve peed on yourself, which you do frequently as Dad or I try to change you); then, you’ll eat for another 7-10 minutes, get swaddled up, snuggle back to sleep, and then repeat in a few more hours. This is what we do all day long too, minus the swaddling, and you seem to have been sleeping less and less during the day, which has been good for establishing more sleeping at night. You’ve also started making all kinds of grunting noises at night while you sleep. Sometimes you sound like a little bleating goat! You usually eat at around 9 or 9:30pm, then wake again at 12:30 or 1:30am then again at 4:30 or 5am and again at 8:30 or 9am, by which point I resign to getting up to shower while you sit in your swing just outside the shower door where I can see you.
Life with You for Weeks 1-3:
You have very wakeful periods, more now than before, where you will just quietly stare wide eyed around the room and at whomever is holding you. You like to be held facing sideways, sitting up, leaning against my or dad’s chest, or you also like to lay on your tummy against my or dad’s shoulder with your head turned to the side. If you’re really fussy, usually that position helps you to burp or relax until you fall asleep. You have been an incredibly easy to please baby so far (*knock on wood*). You want to eat or be snuggled. You often don’t seem to care if your diaper is dirty, but we change it every time you eat, which is all the time…about 10-13 times a day! Also, you do not poop; you explode- every time. We had to use disposables exclusively for about the first week because your skinny little legs made you too small for the cloth diapers to fit you correctly, or they came up too high and covered your belly where your umbilical cord stump was, which we had to keep dry and free from irritation so that it would dry up and fall off. Once you gained a little more weight, we used the cloth mainly during the day and disposables at night since the cloth was still a little big and was more likely to leak when you had major super-soaker moments. We’re using cloth almost exclusively now but will occasionally use disposables as we need to. Some of your diapers are still not fitting quite right, so they leak out of the leg gussets when you pee. You and your skinny legs!
It took over two weeks for the cord to fall off. Dad was so annoyed by it because he was so worried about accidentally hurting you by knocking into it when changing your diaper or clothes. We also couldn’t bath you except for giving you sponge/washcloth baths until the cord fell off. You didn’t like being cold, but you comforted yourself by sucking on dad’s knuckle and didn’t really cry when you had your first sponge bath on your Blooming Bath flower in the tub upstairs. Even once your cord fell off and we could bath you on the Blooming Bath flower in the kitchen sink, you were content to sit propped up and be bathed as long as we kept the warm water pouring over you often enough. I love the way the Burt’s Bees Baby Bee soaps smell from the top of your soft little head. After your first real bath, we wrapped you up snug in a blue puppy towel, and you immediately took a big old poop right in the towel! We had to rinse you off and put you in a new towel, and thus learned that you need to be put in a diaper immediately after getting out of the bath!
You also peed and pooped on me twice while I was holding you during your newborn photo shoot. It was 86 degrees in the studio so that you would stay relaxed, and boy were you relaxed! The photos turned out great, though. Dad and I can’t wait to order them and get our thank you cards/birth announcements sent out.
You like being worn in my Snuggy Baby carrier, but usually only for about 45 minutes at a time before you want out to eat. Your neck muscles are incredibly strong already because you love to lift your head up while in the carrier to look at me or look around.
Some of my favorite of your faces are the ones you make when you’re sitting quietly and just starting around. You like to move your lips into this little “O” shape and raise your eyebrows, causing little wrinkles to appear across your forehead. My other favorite face you make is the one of complete comfort and love when you snuggle up against Daddy’s chest. You look like you feel so safe and content to just lay there forever. I understand the feeling; Daddy makes me feel that way too when he holds me.
My favorite moments are still watching Daddy with you. Daddy has several names for you- squeakers and snuggle-ruckus seem to be his favorite. He’ll often say, “Gimme that Lucas!” when he wants to snuggle with you or when he’s ready to burp you after you eat. The past few days we’ve started using some of my breast milk stores to have Daddy give you a bottle in the evening. I love watching him feed you. He thinks you’re so funny with all the faces you make while you eat. I also love watching Daddy snuggle you and watching you look at him when you’re wide awake. It’s the best thing in the world to watch Dad love you the way he does. I’ve fallen in love with him all over again in a totally new way. He’s such a good Daddy, and you’re such a calm and sweet baby. I feel completely and thoroughly blessed.
You’ve had a lot of visitors the past few weeks. Aunt Anna and Uncle Justin came down with Grandpa D when he came to pick Grandma D up to take her home the weekend after you were born. Aunt Anna was pretty ecstatic to meet you, and Uncle Justin was so proud! The following weekend, Uncle Aaron stopped by on his way out of town to meet you, and Aunt Rachel and Uncle Eric came down to meet you on Daddy’s birthday, which we celebrated by getting Famous Dave’s BBQ for dinner. Grandma B came to visit for a few days, and we watched Anne of Green Gables, took you on a trip around The Christmas Tree Store (which does not sell Christmas trees) and Buy Buy Baby. Two of my students, Amber and Kasen, came by to see you after school last week. Alicia and Stephanie come by often to snuggle with you, and my friends Emily and Brooke have also come by to meet you. Your Godmother, my friend Val, came last weekend to stay with us and snuggle you. She also made me breakfast for my first Mother’s Day!
Grandma D also came back to visit for a few days over Mother’s Day weekend, and she watched you while Dad took me on our first date since your birth. He surprised me with a huge bouquet of roses, star gazer lilies, and irises for Mother’s Day and took me to the movies to see The Great Gatsby. It was hard leaving you. I was worried you would get upset and that Grandma D wouldn’t be able to console you, but Dad was very comforting and helped me walk out the door. To make myself feel more comfortable with leaving, I pumped a bottle of milk and left it for her to give you. I was also concerned because you’d never had a bottle before. You took it without issue and slept on Grandma’s chest the entire time we were gone! Dad also surprised me on the morning of Mother’s Day with a frame containing your handprint and footprint using the Hallmark Magic Ink and a card. He also let me sleep in while he snuggled you in the rocking chair for a few hours. It was a wonderful first Mother’s Day!
Grandma D also helped me take you into my work for everyone to meet you. I brought you into my freshmen class, and they all came up to look at you and marvel at how little you were. One of my students said, “He has a little mouth!” I said, “Yes, he has all kinds of little body parts!” I think most of them had never seen a baby so small in person. My coworker Denise commented, “This can’t be your kid; his mouth isn’t open! He’s so quiet!” Everyone seemed amazed that you were content to just sleep the entire time in your carrier.
Dad took a week off when you were born and returned to work half days (kind of..more like 3/4 days) the following week. He had 900 emails waiting for him when he returned and has been incredibly busy ever since. Regardless of how hard he works all day long, he still is dedicated to getting up with you during the night to change your diaper/clothes after I feed you. Despite how tired he is, he says he wouldn’t pass up that time to see you. It’s difficult for me to feel productive most days, but it’s getting easier as I feel more energetic. It’s different being home all day without a structured schedule, but I’m definitely enjoying all the time I get to spend with you. I’ve even managed to get laundry and dishes done while you nap, and I made dinner last night for the first time since before you were born. I guess I’m figuring out this whole domestic housewife thing. I miss being in the classroom, but I wouldn’t trade my time with you for anything. We’ll continue to figure this out together.
Welcome to the world, little Lucas. We love you beyond words.