Finally, what a happy happy day. It’s my Christmas!
Last year this weekend I was bracing myself for a nonstop pain fest of seeing every giddy mother on Facebook announce what she and her family did for Mother’s Day. Rightfully so – I would obviously not expect everyone I know to skip out on posting about their special day just because of my circumstances. So, I decided to skip out on social media for the day and hunker down in my dark hole of a home.
That’s not the case this year. I’m a MOM! Mommy, Mama, Mom. I feel like I’m breathing in sweet rose colored air with every mention of this special day. My lungs fill up with happiness and completeness, and I exhale a sweet sigh of relief and calmness. All that matters is that on this day I have a child here on Earth to call me Mama and fulfill my life in a way I never knew possible. I know that Jake has some precious surprise up his sleeve, which no doubt I am so extremely excited about, but just to wake up in the morning and hear the words “Happy Mother’s Day” brings anticipatory tears to my eyes. I’m weepy already thinking about it. Finally!
I thought to commemorate this special day for me I would share Liam’s birth story. It is precious and perfect and MINE – most importantly. He was born from another womb but the sweetness of knowing that this experience is finally mine to tell overshadows, to a degree, the fact that I was unable to carry him. I can tell him the story of his birth when he’s older and can understand, and I am so lucky to be able to have the perspective that I did of the entire experience.
Here it is – I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy reliving it every time I close my eyes.
April 3rd 2012
3:30 am – Time to go to sleep! Yes, I was up until 3am running around the house preparing as if the President were coming to our home. Vacuuming, mopping, doing laundry, organizing, packing, etc. I packed our hospital bags as if we were staying in a hotel for a week. Realistically, I was not going to be “admitted” per say, so I needed more clothes than a “traditional” mom. Naturally, I also needed 5 outfit changes for Liam, a curling iron, Jake’s clothes, computers/cameras/chargers, and so on. Needless to say, Jake wasn’t super excited that we would be walking into the hospital like the Kardashian’s.
Jill stayed over to take pictures of our last moments as a couple and a surrogate, and unknowingly to help keep me from jumping out of my skin. It was like Christmas eve, except I knew good and well what Santa was bringing the next day.
5:30 am – The alarm goes off. We need to be at CMC-University by 7:00 am for Kristen’s induction. I felt as though I was asleep for 5 minutes, but that’s okay because today I’m going to run off of adrenaline. Of course, I had my outfit picked out for our hospital arrival, so getting dressed took no time. Jake proudly donned his “Keep Calm & Chive On” shirt, but promised he would change into his “Liam’s Daddy” shirt before the birth. Men.
7:08 am –
We arrive at the hospital and check into the 3rd floor – Labor & Delivery. I was so excited, I’m surprised I didn’t skip down the halls to our room. In true Pursley fashion, we had an adjoining hospital room to Kristen so that we could stay next to one another (it was joined via an owl cove storage closet, so no awkward half-dressed hallway visuals necessary). We dropped our bags in our room and checked out the amenities – these L&D rooms are like hotel rooms! We then walked over to Kristen’s room (after she changed into her custom hospital gown, courtesy of the famous Jaime Gatton), and met our nurses for the day. It took a while to get everything settled before the nurse came in to start Kristen’s IV. Even then, the IV administration didn’t go exactly as planned. Kristen warned the nurse that she wasn’t the “best” for finding veins, and that she preferred (politely begged) for them to place the IV in her radial artery (on her wrist) versus on top of her hand. I can’t blame her, those suckers are not comfortable.
8:40 am – I was about to jump out of my skin with anticipation, so we decided to go down to the cafeteria and enjoy some breakfast. Jake had fond memories of this cafeteria (no, really, he said it was the only “good” part) from my stay a year before. He was right – the place was like a service line at a hotel. We ate, avoided talking to anyone as I am highly reclusive when I’m anxious, and made our way back to the room.
9:00 am – It took two teams of nurses, but around 9:00 am they finally had her IV placed and Kristen settled into her hospital bed. Around this time, we finally got an idea of the timeline for the rest of the induction from Dr. Rollins. Soon she would be in to start Petocin and then shortly after, break her water. Then it was only a matter of time. At this point, I felt like a child waiting for Disney Land to open. Are we there yet, are we there yet!? Some contractions had already started on their own, but not consistent or strong ones.
9:30 am- Petocin drip given and misc. fluids started. We had helped Kristen decide that she would get an epidural somewhat immediately, since we didn’t know how fast she would progress. The request was placed and soon after the anesthesiologist made his grand entrance.
10:00 am- A tall doctor enters the room to place Kristen’s spinal. The thought of it made me kind of woozy, but I wanted to be there and just pretend like I could imagine getting it myself. I don’t know if I would have gone through with it or not, had I been able to carry, but it definitely wasn’t as bad as I had imagined (the placement). The doctor said that one person could stay with Kristen for the placement, and I won that role. In all the craziness, I realized then that Kristen was scared. Who wouldn’t be? A large needle going into your spine doesn’t seem like a walk in the park to me, either. I gave Kristen a supportive hug and told her she could do it – she knew the deal, and I knew she was only afraid of the possibilities of a complication just like any other woman would be. I watched the nurse help position her so that her back was as rounded as possible with an enormous globe-like belly, and the doctor quickly began numbing her back. I watched all of it, I was very proud of myself, but not nearly as proud as I was of Kristen. Damn, that’s a long needle! After a few test draws, he finally found “the sweet spot” for the line and finished his handy work, taping the line on Kristen and helping her get into resting position. He wasn’t the warmest of doctors, he definitely gave off the “all business” vibe. Before he left, he exchanged a short conversation with Kristen about the epidural and “drip button”. Kristen briefly brought up her terrible experience with the anesthesiologist in England (Hayden’s birth), and thanked this doctor by saying “I can tell you’re not an asshole. Thank you.” We laughed so hard. Even he was totally caught off guard – and the nurses commented to Kristen, “he never laughs that hard. Well, he never laughs” – leave it to Kristen to knock this doctor’s wall down with her beautifully uncensored humor, after having a 3 inch needle inserted in her spine.
I’m sure Kristen felt like my stares were burning holes through her as I anxiously waited to hear that the medicine was taking.
10:40 am – Dr. Rollins came back in to break Kristen’s water. She checked her stats before and Kristen was still only dilated to 3 cm, and at a -2 station with 90% effacement. Let me set the scene: in my mind, I visualized a movie-esque experience of a water breaking. A trickle down her legs, wet sheets, etc. I had always pictured it like that pee you can’t hold in when your best friend makes you laugh too hard. WOW. I was wrong. Wrong, wrong. Dr. Rollins used (for lack of the proper term) a crochet hook to aid in the process. Then it happened, and I had opted for a birds-eye view of the experience. Oh. My. God. Surely Kristen was going to drown in her own amniotic fluid, as I was positive at one point that the room was going to fill with water. It just kept coming…and coming. Does it ever stop?! Is Liam going to slide out waterpark-style? I mean seriously.. that was the craziest thing I’ve ever seen. Ever. (Apparently, the New York Times writer thought so too, as they used a photo of my expression from the experience in their story, see below).
11:30 am – I was getting tired and the lack of sleep from the night before was haunting me, so I decided to retreat to our room and take a nap. I was in the bed for a good 30 minutes trying to shut my brain off before I could reach blessed sleep – so many things running through my mind. I kept thinking the phrase “it’s really happening”. That was a sweet nap – the last of it’s kind!
1:35 pm – I was still asleep, but Kristen definitely was not. She got checked again and was at a 5 (cm) and now a -1 station. Liam was dropping, but not quite there yet.
1:45 pm – I woke up from my nap and walked over to Kristen’s room after freshening up my bed head and wrinkled sweats. I made Jake change into his “Liam’s Daddy” shirt I had made for him – I wanted to make sure he was suited up for pictures. When I got into Kristen’s room, they had just checked her and I was told she had progressed to 5 cm. I feel like I asked those poor nurses a million times “so, how much longer?”. Now, I know good and well that those women aren’t psychic, so I don’t have a clue why I asked them so many times. After a little while I went to the waiting room to visit for a while with our family and friends since I hadn’t seen them in a while; I told everyone about Kristen’s progress and shared in the giddiness of the moment.
2:50 pm – Kristen was in a fair amount of pain and her contractions were stronger than before. Our nurse was in the room at this point and told me that she was certain that Kristen was now progressing much faster than we thought. She checked Kristen and sure enough, called Dr. Rollins. Things begin to get a little blurry for a while after this – but this was the exciting part.
Dr. Rollins entered the room and confirmed what the nurse had discovered – Kristen was indeed at 9 cm dilated and ready to do some trial-pushing. I couldn’t believe what was going on around me, each moment was like a snap shot in my mind as I was trying to soak every second in of what was about to happen. I had asked Dr. Rollins several times “is this it?!” as any anxious (and blissfully clueless) mom would. I watched her assist Kristen in her trial pushing, as I found out this occurs before true “pushing” to ensure the baby is positioned correctly. This was another eye opening experience, and I couldn’t believe how engaged I was with this part of the process. I’ve never had a queasy stomach when it comes to medical procedures, so thank goodness my iron stomach didn’t fail me now. Poor Jake stood glued in place, perched next to the sink well behind Kristen’s head. Thankfully Kristen (as I had anticipated) didn’t care if he was watching in this moment. He cared, though. “No thank you” I believe were his words.
As promised, Dr. Rollins finally gave the signal to call in the wet nurses and for everyone to scrub in.
A few of the nurses I had met weeks before entered the room to assist, and a few of them to just be there for the experience. Dr. Rollins knew that I wanted to assist her in the delivery of Liam, and graciously she instructed her nurses to scrub me in. I felt so honored, like an assistant to her in some way.
3:00 pm – As I had planned with my lactation specialist, I intended to have the immediate skin-to-skin contact with Liam the minute he was born. So, I got undressed from the waist up and put on a fresh hospital gown. On top of that was a sterile mesh gown, as well as latex gloves. The process was going so fast that the nurse helping me get ready was shaking and trying to help shove my sweaty hands in the gloves. Finally done, I walked over to view the progress and just in time to see the very first view of my son’s head crown. Kristen was now ready to push.
3:15 and beyond – minutes that felt like hours, precious time that is engraved in my memory for life. I finally talked Jake into coming to see Liam’s head crowning. It was breath taking. “Come see!” as I pulled Jake over like some prenatal tour guide – “that is your son’s head!”. Jake’s face was priceless, and I felt it coming over me like a warm wash of emotions.
Then the warrior and professional baby-delivery vessel named Kristen pushed two more times. Liam’s whole head was out, and I could see his face. His eyes were still closed, but I knew him regardless. Dr. Rollins guided his head and neck into proper delivery position so that his body was aligned, and I noticed our lactation specialist (and now, dear friend) was holding Jake in viewing position. His face was scrunched and he looked like he was feeling the delivery himself – but truly, he was watching as Dr. Rollins guided Liam out of the birth canal. It wasn’t a look of disgust, it was a “oh my gosh, his head is going to come off” typical-man-expression. He surely would have ran at this point had it not been for Lisa (lactation). Thank God for her, because Jake would have missed the greatest miracle of his life.
3:19 pm – I was in position next to Dr. Rollins and ready to receive my baby. Two more pushes, and out he came, quickly and like an umbrella he opened up his arms and legs as soon as the air hit him. I watched him take his first breath, and I watched from above my own body as he was handed to me, my son. I pulled him into me and I was no doubt, in complete shock.
My life was done, the old me was gone. Washed away were the feelings of despair and sadness, fear and anxiety. He was here and he was ours; he was beautifully perfect.
His warm little body against me felt euphoric. I’ve never experienced that kind of high before – this little human was the ultimate happy pill. Then just moments after Jake cut his cord, I walked over to a chair to pull off my uniform and let Liam smell my skin for the first time. Nurses helped pull off my gowns and Liam’s fresh (and still wet) skin was placed on mine. It was electric running through my veins, the moment that my heart became whole. Our hearts were only separated by a few layers of skin and muscle, and I knew he could hear my heartbeat for the first time. I just stared at him, repeating the phrase over and over in my head “this is real – this is happening”.
He stayed on me for a little while until the nurses took a quick weight and heel prick. They escorted us over to our room where I would breast feed him for the first time, and continue to let him remain on my chest, skin to skin. He latched right away, I felt a bit smug that all the months of preparation and hard work in stimulation had paid off. He ate and then slowly, one by one the nurses let us have our special time together in the hospital bed. Jake and I, Daddy and Mommy, with our Liam. Our Heaven.
Family started to come back to visit a few hours later. We had requested that everyone respect our private time with Liam, as we knew that we would be bombarded in the days to come with well wishers and visitors. Most importantly, we wanted Kristen to be the first to hold Liam before anyone else. The miracle she grew inside of her was always going to be a piece of her, and she deserved more than anyone to meet the living angel she had delivered unto us. Weeks before we had thought that Kristen holding Liam might not be the best thing for mine and his bonding, due to the pheromones that moms/babies produce at delivery to create their own bond. But, it was very clear that this little boy knew that I was his mommy from the very second he entered the world – so that hesitation went out the window, and Kristen held her Godson.
Our parents, my sister, my grandmother, aunt, uncle and cousins were the first to come see him. Everyone got to hold him, despite how hard it was for me to pry my hands away from his perfect little body long enough for our family members to meet him.
We spent two days in the hospital total – surrounded by caring, compassionate, and bar-none the BEST medical team one could ever hope for. We were absolutely spoiled by our team, “Team Liam”, and we will never forget their loving souls. It takes special kinds of people to be nurses – but it is a truly selfless and heaven-sent human being to constantly go out of their way to make a semi-complicated birth (our “surro-birth”) smooth and enjoyable as these nurses did for us. We felt comfortable and safe, and well taken care of; in fact, I would have been happy to have stayed another few days in the hospital surrounded by those women. From the bottom of our hearts and with every smile looking back on that experience, Thank You to the nurses & staff at CMC-University. You stand alone, my friends!
*Be sure to visit Penn State’s News site for Jill’s entry and view all of her fantastic photos from Liam’s birth. I am so thankful she was there to capture the most important day of our lives.*
From a thankful MOM – hugs 🙂