Welcome to the world, sweet little boy! I’m overjoyed to introduce our son, Oliver Hudson.
I’ve been counting down to this day for nine months: it’s Oliver’s due date. April 10th. Though I knew that my doctors wouldn’t let me reach 40 weeks of pregnancy, this was still the date that we had in our minds as his birthday. Instead, we’ve been new parents for nearly two weeks now, and the experience has been so much more than I ever expected. We’ve been waiting to be parents for more than three years, and the road has been bumpy, to say the least. Now we’re here, with Oliver in our arms, and it has been worth every tear and every second spent waiting.
In mid-March, my fabulous OB went ahead and set the date for my labor induction: March 27. We were to report to the hospital at 7 am to begin the process of welcoming our boy into the world. One week before the big day, Oliver decided that he was no longer comfortable head-down and started to turn transverse (sideways). Obviously, babies can’t be born that way, so talk of a c-section began. Happily, when we arrived at the hospital, he’d turned head-down again and everything was looking great. The nurse took my medical history, started me on fluids, and began the Pitocin drip. Labor was pretty uneventful and my progress was slow. My OB broke my water around 1 pm, and we were terrified to see meconium in the fluid. Had he inhaled it? Would he need to stay in the NICU? The nurse assured us that it looked fresh and isolated, that it was common, and not to worry. We sure tried. The hours ticked by. I had to be induced with Gracie also, and that labor lasted for about 18 hours. Since Oliver is our second child, everyone assured me that things would go much faster. I was unconvinced. The doctor seemed sure that he’d be born by dinnertime, but I knew from the get-go that he wouldn’t arrive until the wee hours of the next morning. I just had a feeling.
As it turns out, I was right. Labor was moving very slowly, and he just didn’t want to come down into my pelvis. The nurses tried everything to speed things along. When my regular OB left for the night, I was 7 cm. By that point, I’d been at it for more than twelve hours, but I was doing just fine. A new nurse came in, as did a new doctor, and we kept on truckin. Two hours later, I was still at 7 cm. Two more hours went by, and I was still at 7 cm. The doctor and nurses knew that I wanted desperately to avoid a c-section, so they let me keep going. Oliver’s heart rate was steady and normal, and he showed no signs of distress. One of the most vivid memories I have from the night Grace was born is the silence in the delivery room. Where most parents get to hear their child’s first cry, we heard only our own. I have longed for that moment when my boy announces his arrival. I wanted the doctor to set him on my chest. I wanted to look into his eyes and say hello, only seconds after his birth. Aside from the fact that I was terrified of the recovery from a c-section, I didn’t want to be robbed of that moment yet again. So when labor stalled at 7 cm, I begged the doctor to let me keep going. I was fine, the baby was fine…we were in it for the long haul.
Around 3 am, the doctor came in to check on my progress. To my immense disappointment, nothing had changed. Seven damn centimeters. Fifty percent effaced. Zero station. The doctor was unwilling to keep waiting. It had been more than six hours with no progress. She told us that it was time to perform a c-section. She said it with such authority and assuredness that I didn’t feel like I had a say in the matter. Looking back, I wish I had argued a little bit more, though I don’t think it would have changed anything. I’d been stuck at 7 cm for so many hours with zero progress, so what good could a few more hours have made? Trey gave the ok, and they started prepping me for surgery. I sobbed and began shaking as my dream for Oliver’s first moments disappeared. At the end of the day, all that mattered was that he was born healthy and screaming, but I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t disappointed. I was crushed. I tried to focus on the fact that I’d be meeting my son within the hour, but it was hard. Trey suited up for the OR suite, and I tried to calm myself. By the time they wheeled me out of my room, I was shaking violently. (I had the same physical reaction during my labor with Grace, so at least the shakes didn’t surprise me this time.)
They wheeled me down the hall into the cold, stark, white OR. I remember thinking how dingy and old the ceiling tiles looked. The anesthesiologist stayed near my head and calmly explained everything that was going to happen, and then narrated as we went along. They raised the sheet near my mid-section, and Trey was finally allowed in. When they were satisfied that the anesthesia was sufficient, they began. I was still shaking so violently that I wondered how they’d ever be able to make a straight cut, even though I knew that my bottom half was probably still. I held Trey’s hand and cried as the pushing and tugging began. Earlier in the day, the nurse had warned me that because there was meconium in the fluid, they wouldn’t stimulate the baby right away so they had a chance to suction his throat before he cried. She told us not to be worried if he didn’t cry right away. After a few moments of quiet surgery, at 3:41 am, someone beyond the curtain announced, “He’s born!” Only a few seconds later, we heard the sound we’d been waiting for: our child’s first cry. He was here. He was fine.
There are so many different kinds of tears a person can shed. I’ve cried tears of sadness, happiness, frustration, and heartbreak. During those first weeks after Gracie died, I shed a brand new kind of tear. I’d never experienced such grief and loss, and my cries were just as foreign to me as the situation we were in. I’d never cried that way before. When Trey and I first heard our son cry, we looked at each other and I burst into a brand new kind of sob. (I’m glad there were no cameras allowed, as I am certain that it was not a pretty cry!) The moment was surreal. It felt more like a dream than reality, and I had a hard time connecting with the fact that my little boy was just on the other side of the curtain. They took him to the warming table, where he continued to cry the most adorable, polite little cry I’d ever heard. Trey went to meet him and the nurses had to tell him that it was ok that he touch the baby…this was his son, after all. I waited alone while they cleaned and weighed him. (8 pounds six ounces, 20 inches long. Near-perfect 9.9 APGAR.) A few quick minutes later, Oliver was bundled in standard-issue baby blankets and placed in Trey’s arms. Trey brought my son to me and placed him on my chest. I remember thinking right away how much the baby looked like Trey, but he still didn’t feel like mine. It took me hours to truly feel like he was my child, and not just a cute baby on loan. I asked Trey to take Oliver off my chest, since I could get a better look at him when he was in Trey’s arms. (Plus, I loved watching my husband hold our son. Instant little family.)
As the nurse suspected, Oliver was sunny-side up, facing my naval rather than my spine. This explained his inability to fully engage in my pelvis. I could have kept laboring for hours with no change. His face had been pressed hard against my stomach, and when the doctor made the incision, her blade nicked his cheek. She apologized profusely for cutting him, but we didn’t care. The mark would heal and he was alive. What else mattered? (Trey said that even if it didn’t heal, “chicks dig scars.”)
They finished stitching me up, and lifted me off the operating table and back into a bed. Finally, after years of waiting, I got to properly hold my little boy in my arms. I don’t remember the ride back to our hospital room. I suppose my focus was directed at the beautiful new life in my arms. I no longer cared about the change in birth plan, or the recovery ahead of me. I had my little boy, and he was beautiful and perfect. Back in our room, Oliver met one of his grandmothers (my mom), aka Pete. The nurse took him from me and gave him his first proper bath. I wish I could remember more about these first few hours. I got a little sleep, and Oliver was taken for his first round of pokes and prods. At 7 am, twenty-four hours after admission, we were moved up to the maternity floor. We said goodbye to our extraordinary L&D nurses, and left the labor ward much happier than our last visit.
The hospital was under construction and lots of other women decided to have their babies all at the time, so the maternity ward was full. We were taken to an “overflow” room. Private but tiny. Once my bed was in there, there was barely enough room for a chair and Oliver’s tiny cot. The hours passed quickly thanks to constant visits from the nurses. Trey went home to shower, nap, and tend to the dogs, a hail storm passed over the hospital, I got out of bed for the first time, and made my first attempts at breastfeeding. Before long, our nurse told us that one of the proper maternity rooms was available, and that we’d get to move. Hallelujah! Our new room was about four times as large, and had a pull-out couch and a rocking chair. All great news since we had so many people who wanted to come meet our sweet boy. We settled in for the long haul: we’d be there until Monday.
The days passed slowly. We watched a lot of TV, I nursed nearly constantly, we took a lot of pictures of our beautiful son, we had lots of visitors, and the nurses came and went several times an hour. (They tell you to sleep when the baby sleeps, but the nurses won’t leave you alone long enough to let that happen!) The hospital food was atrocious, so we were grateful that my parents and friends kept us well-fed with food from the outside world.
I struggled quite a lot in those early days with breastfeeding. My milk was very slow to come in, and Oliver never seemed satisfied after eating. He began to lose weight a little bit too quickly, so the nurses wanted us to supplement with formula. I felt like such a failure that I nearly reached my breaking point. I remember desperately thinking that I am incapable of doing anything right for my children. I can’t conceive on my own, I couldn’t keep my daughter healthy and alive, I couldn’t give birth to my son without surgical intervention, and now my body wasn’t producing enough milk to keep him healthy and thriving. Maybe parenting is just something I’m not meant to do. We met with the lactation consultant, all of our nurses helped me get a good latch, and we tried pumping. None of it helped. It was obvious that Oliver needed more in order to grow, which is of course our priority, so we gave in and started a supplementation routine. Oliver isn’t the problem; he’s a natural at getting a good latch, and if my supply were strong enough, he’d be big and fat. He lost more than 10% of his birth weight, which is the magic number for doctors to start freaking out a bit. Nearly two weeks later, we’re still struggling to put weight on him and are having to supplement after every feeding. I can deal with the sleep deprivation, the c-section recovery, and the poopy diapers, but I’m having a really hard time dealing with my breastfeeding issues. I feel like things are slowly getting better, and I’m hopeful that we won’t have to supplement forever. I’m determined.
Monday finally came and we were released from the hospital. I relished every second of walking out of that building with my child. I remember the empty, hopeless feeling of leaving without Grace, so putting Oliver in his car seat was a special moment. We pulled into the driveway, carried Oliver inside, and closed the door. We were finally home, finally a little family. We’ve spent the last two weeks as typical new parents. We’re tired but we don’t care. Even after enduring loss, I love him more than I thought was possible. When he cries at 3 am and I’m dead on my feet, I look at his face and don’t feel a single iota of annoyance or frustration. I am immediately struck by his beauty and my heart swells with the need to take care of him and soothe his cries. Oliver is such a calm, steady little boy. He’s incredibly aware and alert for such a young baby, always looking around and seeming to be fascinated by his surroundings. He sleeps very well, almost too well. Most of the time, he’d sleep for eight hours if we let him, but I have to wake him every 2-3 hours so he can eat. Gotta put some weight on that skinny minny! He’s a very sleepy eater, which is yet another breastfeeding obstacle to overcome. We worry over every little thing, like every other new parent. Is his poop the right color? His umbilical stump fell off so soon…is that bad? What’s wrong with his goopy eyes? Why does he sound so congested? We’ve been to the pediatrician four times, and are headed back tomorrow for our fifth visit. (Two of those were simple weight checks, and one was a sick visit for his poor little eyes.) We’re trying to walk the line between taking responsible care of him and not worrying too much. I’m also trying really hard not to flood my Facebook wall with endless photos of him. Sure, we think he’s adorable and precious and perfect, but there’s a limit to the number of photos our friends and family can see before they start getting annoyed with me. Hopefully I haven’t already reached that number! Trust me, people…I’m showing incredible restraint!
Tomorrow, Oliver will be two weeks old. These have been two of the most remarkable, wonderful weeks of my life. I am amazed by the beautiful being we have created. I find myself sneaking peeks at my husband and feeling more in love than I’ve ever been. He’s been such a wonderful partner through everything, from our lowest lows to our new highs. Our family and friends have been so generous with their love, in ways both big and small; I feel wrapped in a cloak of their support. Trey has been lucky enough to get to stay home with us for these two weeks, and I’m so grateful for that. His presence has meant that I get to focus on breastfeeding and diaper changes, instead of dishes and laundry. He’s helped me in and out of bed when I’ve been in pain. (Word to the wise: don’t let yourself run out of pain meds three days after someone slices your stomach open.) He’s tried to calm me down when I’ve felt frustrated with breastfeeding. He’s made me dinner, kept the house clean, and has had such a positive attitude. He’s gotten to be here for so many “firsts,” and we’ll both be so sad when he goes back to work on Monday. I suspect that I’ll be sending him lots and lots of photos each day! We’re only two weeks into such an important chapter in our lives, and I have to keep reminding myself to pay attention and enjoy each moment. It’s gone by so fast. Oliver is incredible. He has such a big personality already. He loves to spread and stretch his fingers, he does huge, full-body stretches when he wakes up, and his bottom lip quivers big time when he’s unhappy. He’s peed on me a few times and pooped on Trey once. He doesn’t seem to mind the dogs, who are perplexed by him. He doesn’t really like bath time. He loves to be bounced, so we sit and bounce on the yoga ball when he won’t settle. I haven’t been able to get a great picture yet, but he frequently raises his eyebrows and wrinkles his brow in the cutest way. Each day brings something new and wonderful, and I find myself loving him more than I did when I went to sleep the night before. I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings.
I wish Gracie were here to meet her little brother. I wonder what she’d look like now, at 18 months old. She’d be such a good big sister. I look forward to watching Oliver grow and change, and I will think of Grace often when I look at him. They look so much alike. I love my two babies and am so proud to be their mommy.
(I’m sure that I’ve missed parts of the story, and I’m certain that I’m not as coherent as I usually am. I’m a bit tired!)