Thursday morning, at 3:39am, I met face-to-face with a rainbow.
Matthew was born.
Let's go back, though. I'd like to tell the story.
On Wednesday, April 24, I checked into the hospital with Mike and Carpenter's teddy. We were sent to the High Risk Antepartum unit, and I was immediately put on an NST machine. A short time after we arrived, my friend Jenn came in to visit.
Jenn, Mike and I sat around talking about inane things like Speed Walking, the Olympic sport (which is not a joke at all). It was absolutely beautiful, just sitting there, remembering how our friendship started in exactly this way. Last February, Jenn sat down with us while I labored with Carpenter, and she kept us sane. All we did was talk about Seinfeld and mock spelling bees, but she was really helping us survive that nightmare. This time, it was beautifully similar, as if to show us that Carpenter was there with us, and he was going to make sure we all got a happy ending.
My doctor came in next and talked to us. He's honestly the best. I have no idea what we talked about, but he decided he'd come back later to give me the Cervadil, so he headed back to his office.
Next was the neonatologist. He explained to us what we should expect after delivery. The plan was to have a team with me during delivery who would whisk Matt away very quickly to get blood panels started. I asked him to teach me all the normal ranges for hemoglobin, reticulocites and bilirubin. When I heard them discussing those numbers later, I was determined to understand. The doctor had me feeling totally confident.
Then came the Cervadil.
That stuff hurts.
So they put this med-on-a-string basically up against your cervix to get it to thin out and dilate. It's supposed to sit there for 12 hours and then pulled out. We did not make it 12 hours. ...I survived two hours. And they were hellish. I'm not sure how I managed to not cry, but I could have kissed my nurses when they came in to check on me. They basically said that my contractions were coming too hard and too fast for my own safety. They didn't even wait on my doctor to agree. They pulled the meds.
My doctor was a bit miffed when he found out they stopped the induction meds without his orders. However, when he saw my monitor and then realized I hadn't dilated more at all, he was satisfied they made the right decision. Many hours of pain, and still at 1.5cm. So, the question was whether we would just go naturally for a while or if he would give me another induction medication. Actually, he chose secret option #3.
He wanted to strip my membranes. Well, I've heard from a few people that this hurts. So I asked..."Doesn't that hurt really badly?" My doctor's brilliant response was (honestly verbatim): "It's not excruciating." The man should never change professions to used car dealer. He and Mike actually got a good chuckle out of my frustration with that answer, and they patted each other on the back for not sugar-coating with me. Boys.
By the way...it hurts. But it's not excruciating.
I could feel a difference in the contractions from then on. They were even lower, and completely wrapped around to my back. I knew they were helping...but they were absolutely killing me. The nurse brought me Dilaudid, which really helped for the first two hours. The next dose did nothing. I just kept breathing in my own semi-remembered, semi-made up Lamaze style, praying for the contraction to hold off for a few seconds before it started again.
Luckily the nurse decided my pain level was enough that I should probably get my epidural. Sometime around this point, my friend Emily showed up. She had been sitting at home, about 200 miles away, wondering how we were doing and when Matt would come. Suddenly something told her she had to leave immediately, and she hopped in the car. Her mom thought she was insane. Hell, she was insane. But she was right, and arrived with almost no time to spare. About that time, the nurse checked me again and decided I was 3.5cm and moving to L&D was imperative.
So we moved. Emily and Mike packed everything up, and they wheeled me around to a room that mercifully looked more like Olivia's delivery room than Carpenter's. At the very least, we were facing the opposite direction from last time.
The anesthesiologist arrived very quickly, thank God. We asked him if he knew Carpenter's anesthesiologist, and of course they were good friends. I was sad we wouldn't get to see Dr. C, but Dr. E was excellent at his work. Within minutes I was feeling no pain, but was not so drugged up that I couldn't feel what the contractions were doing. That helped so much when it came time to push. With Carpenter, of course, the name of the game had been "let her feel no physical pain because the emotional is bad enough." Dr. E was also pretty hilarious. He and Mike were talking about that SNL skit, "D*** In A Box." I'm not sure why that stood out in my mind of all things...
Emily, Mike and I spent the next hour or so just hanging out. Actually, I think Mike took a shower while Em and I chatted. I was barely able to keep my eyes open, so I couldn't say what we talked about besides Em's boyfriend and her crazy job.
Of course, when you have an epidural, you have to rely on the kindness of nurses to use the bathroom. So I called the nurses' station and asked for help. My nurse, Lori, called me on the phone and told me she was heading in to assist with another epidural, and she wondered if I would mind someone else pinch-hitting for her. I didn't mind, and Samantha came in. I really felt like I was going to burst, but Samantha decided she needed to check my cervix before she ran the catheter.
Fun. Let's not let Annie pee.
Samantha got on her glove, felt my cervix, pulled out her phone and said, "She's ready."
Ready for what?!
Apparently ready to give birth. Well, physically, at least. I had gone from 3.5 to 10cm in about 2 hours.
The flurry of activity was pretty intense. Samantha started making phone calls. I had Emily and Mike calling Jenn (who was determined to be at the delivery), my mom and my sister. Of course, I contributed to all of this in such a helpful way.
I started sobbing.
And in that moment...in that whirlwind...I was overwhelmed by an emotion I hadn't anticipated. Guilt. Mike walked over to hold my hand and I told him I felt so guilty. I know I caught him off guard. I caught myself off guard. But the guilt was deep, and the tears flowed. I felt guilty for a million things that this baby had and would have that Carpenter couldn't. And while I was so excited for the happiness Matt would bring, I could not (and WOULD NOT) separate this event from his brother's birth just one year before. My rainbow was being born, and I felt my angel in the room. I know he sent his brother and is happy for our whole family. I know he wants me to be happy, and doesn't need or want me to feel that guilt. But grief is a miserable beast, and there's no controlling it. So I will instead rejoice that every part of me was carrying all our children through this process. We were all there, for better or for worse.
Dr. L and Jenn were both obviously at home asleep when they were called to come in. So I had to wait about 20 minutes for them to each arrive. The whole time, I was having horrible contractions, so low, and was dying to push. So I kept my mouth shut, my legs crossed, and concentrated on my breathing. Dr. L arrived and started prepping while nurses turned the transformer bed into a delivery table. He came over to my side and said something about getting started to which everyone said no.
We had to wait on Jenn! She had said she intended to see us through to the end with Matt, and I wouldn't say no to that. It's the least I can do to thank her for all she's done for my sons and our whole family. How could I not have her by my side for this delivery? Dr. L completely understood, and we all settled for a little wait.
Jenn arrived just a few minutes later, though, and we got to work. Soon after she walked in, a team from the NICU also appeared, waiting to take Matt downstairs as soon as I had a chance to say hello. Team Annie was all there. Mike, Emily, Jenn, Dr. L, Lori, the NICU team...about ten people ready to greet Matt when he took his first beautiful breath. So we got started.
My water still hadn't broken, but Samantha described it as "a bulging sack." My doctor agreed with her and decided a slow leak was best. He popped a tiny hole in the sack and got up to throw something away. He turned his back to me and suddenly we heard a very loud "POP!" and my amniotic fluid burst like a water balloon. Everyone started laughing and commenting on how they'd never seen or heard anything like that before. Just one more way my kid keeps people guessing.
Finally it was time to push. Mike kissed me once more and thanked me, telling me how proud he was. He and the nurse helped me get my legs into the stirrups and I scrunched down into position. I grabbed the backs of my legs and gave one big push. Out popped a head. I tried to hold it together even though I couldn't hear a cry. Emily and Mike (I believe) told me to relax, that he couldn't cry yet because he wasn't actually out. Dr. L rotated his little body (which feels so strange!) and told me to push again. Once more, and he was out. Out and breathing. Out and alive. A rainbow, officially.
Dr. L carried Matt to the incubator table and was just starting to say something about delayed cord clamping when SPLAT! Um. Well. When Matt came out, he decided to take everything with him...including the placenta. That fat, disgusting blob came flopping out onto the floor, still attached to the cord.
I have never, ever, ever wanted to see a placenta in real life. I wish I could scrub the image from my mind.
But it was pretty funny.
Again, not one person in the room had ever seen that happen. My kid is special to a creepy fault.
But Matt was out and safe and crying. And I was done. And it was over.
I had delivered a rainbow.
And it was better than anything you could ever imagine.
There is a lot more to the story, but I want to let the delivery stand on its own for now. I'll write about Matt's NICU adventures soon. Thank you...so very much.