Saturday, September 22, 2012

My Heart Has Grown Ten Sizes

It was a dark and stormy night.

No, really— it was!

Tuesday had been so stormy all afternoon and evening that we had flood advisories, wind advisories, and tornado watches all through the area.  The local cross country meets were even postponed— so you know it was bad.  Perfect day to hunker down and stay home.  We settled down to watch a movie at home, hoping the power wouldn't go out, casting occasional glances out the windows at the sideways driving rain.  As the movie came to the end and the rain began to lessen, I got a text from Bekah, "Do contractions feel like period cramps?"

When she confirmed that the "cramps" were indeed coming at regular 7-minute intervals I told her to let me know when they were five minutes apart.  My own labors had each lasted more than 24 hours, so I didn't feel that rushing was necessary at this point.  I went to bed to catch some sleep before driving up to be with her.  Yeah, right.  I lay in bed for two hours, maybe dozing at some point, but real sleep was out of the question!

At 11pm Bekah called to tell me that the contractions were now 5 minutes apart and her water had broken.  They were on the way to the hospital.  I alerted Erin, grabbed the camera bag and toothbrush, poured two tall mugs of coffee, kissed Jim goodnight, and jumped into the car to make the two-hour drive to Scranton.  The rain might have slowed to a drizzle at home, but as soon as we got onto the highway it became a monsoon again.  I'm pretty certain the Lord sent that weather to keep me from getting any speeding tickets.  It worked.  We encountered virtually no traffic, and even the turnpike north was entirely empty until the final miles when we saw the taillights of one car and a truck ahead of us- which by then was a help.  We arrived at Moses Taylor Hospital at 1:30am, not long after Bekah and Sean.

Bekah was already in the birthing suite, lights low, with Sean watching over her.  Months before, Bekah had decided that she wanted to have as natural a birth as possible, without pain medication.  She's grown up knowing that I gave birth to her and her two sisters at home with the help of a midwife and without the help of pain medication.  My Bekah is a stubborn strong girl, and I had no doubt that, barring unforeseen complications, she'd do fine.  Sean, bless his heart, not having the advantage of history and experience that we have, did not share my confidence.  At one point while she was out of the room he asked me, please, if the need became apparent, to encourage Bekah to take the pain meds, because she wouldn't listen to him, but she'd listen to me.  I assured him that I would, and really, I would have, and I tucked that bit away in my heart.

Because of the monitoring systems they had in place I was able to watch the contractions come and go as they lit up the numbers on the screen and printed out below, like the tracings of a mountain range.  Initially the peaks were in the 30's and the "mountains" were spaced apart with low valleys in between.  As the contractions came Bekah would assume a preoccupied look on her face and her breathing would slow down to deep, steady breaths.  Good.  We all settled down to get what rest we could, knowing that when the time came we'd need all the energy we could summon.

After a couple of hours Bekah was looking at me as the contractions came stronger and I realized that it was time to put on my coaching hat and help my little girl.  I told her that when each contraction began to think of blowing soap bubbles— gently, steadily, controlling her breath and focusing on imaginary bubbles instead of the tension of the contractions.  The only way to survive each contraction as they come is to stay out of the way and let the body do what it's designed to do.  Keeping everything else relaxed is the battle.  So from the top of her head, all the way down her face, neck, shoulders and arms, then her legs, ankles, and feet, I talked through soothing and calming scenes:  Floating in the gentle waves of a perfect day at the beach, letting the foam noodle support your body as you lay back and relax in the warm water.  Allowing the tension to roll right over you as if you're standing in the shower with the water rolling down from the top of your head to your feet.  I gently stroked her arm, changing sides now and then, (for the sake of my twisted back) to help her focus on releasing any hold on the tension that tried to build up.

Erin had come in to join us from the waiting room and I asked Bekah how she felt about her sister staying through the delivery.  Bekah said it was up to Erin, who decided to stay.  Where in the room she wanted to be was up to her.  Erin and Sean eventually napped and Bekah and I had time together to talk. I was trying to keep things light when she looked at me and said, "Mom, I'm scared."

Oh my sweet darling, this is something I can relate to, because I've been there as well, and made it through to the other side.  

I looked right into her eyes and told her that I knew she was scared, and that she needed to know that it would get worse before it got better.  But her body was designed by God to do exactly what it was doing, I would be there with her the whole way through, and once her baby was in her arms the pain and fear would only be a memory.

The sun eventually came up and morning sunlight filled the room.  Bekah was so tired.  Sean and Erin went to find breakfast, and Erin soon came back with something for me to eat as well.  While the nurse was in taking care of Bekah I gobbled down my meal.  The doctor came in at some point and broke her water again, as she hadn't lost all of it the first time.  This helped things to move along even faster.  Once the doctor and nurse left I resumed my post with Sean holding Bekah's other hand, with instructions to feel for any signs of tension and help soothe her down.  Poor fella, the worst thing in the world for a man, Dad, or Marine to do is sit by and watch helplessly as a situation unfolds before him which he can do nothing to fix.  If we'd told him that he could help her by shoving the entire building two inches off its foundation I believe he would have done it.

The mountain peaks that were her contractions became higher and the valleys became more of a low ridge between.  Nurse Lisa had been coming in to check on her regularly, and suggested that she roll over onto her side to "stir the pot" a bit and get things moving faster.  That sure did the trick!  As I watched the monitor the numbers indicating the strength of her contractions would race upwards into the 70's and 80's.  Staying ahead of the pain was getting difficult.  It was time to switch from imagining delicate soap bubbles to swimming lessons and sticking your face in the water to blow as hard as you can to make water bubbles.  I breathed and blew right alongside her (and started to feel lightheaded).

Just as Bekah was showing signs that she wanted to push—I recognized that immediately— Nurse Lisa returned and I told her Bekah seemed ready to push.  A quick check and Lisa said, "I'll get the doctor, you go ahead and push!"  After some brief instruction for effective ways to push, she left the room and Bekah began actively participating in the process.  Only a few moments later the doctor and a whole team of nurses arrived to prep for the arrival of our boy.  We re-arranged Bekah's position, Lisa took one side and I the other as Sean was stationed at her back to help her lean forward with each squeeze.  What seemed like an eternity was only another 15 minutes and Sean Patrick was born!  Daddy Sean left the cord-cutting to the professionals, Erin handed me the camera, and the whole room jumped into action.

I was able to shoot off a couple of photos before the nurses took Baby Sean to the warming table to clean him up and take all the pertinent measurements and readings.  I followed with the camera.  Baby Sean was turning all pink and looking as confused as would anyone who had just been shoved out of his happy, warm, dark, and cozy place into a world of wide-open bright light.  Daddy Sean came over to meet his little guy, the look on his big, tough, manly face so tender and awestruck; I'll never forget it.  Baby Sean began registering his disapproval with the whole process with strong cries as the nurse continued with cleaning and checking him over.  (I really must agree with him— that nose-sucking bulb thingy is no fun!)   The scale tipped at 8lb. 5oz. and the measuring tape gave a length of 21 inches long.  He peed on Daddy before being diapered for the first time, then had a knit cap popped onto his little head, was wrapped up in a blanket, and taken back to Bekah.

The rest of the morning passed as a whirlwind.  I had an opportunity to hold and talk with my grandson—turns out, we speak the same language!  Sean's Mom and sister (Auntie Jess) came to meet and be entirely enthralled with baby Sean.  Bekah was taken to a new room, baby Sean was given a bath in the Nursery and returned to Bekah after she had a visit from the nurse who would be overseeing her care for the rest of her stay.  You know, I remember a lot about the process of childbirth, but the process of recovering afterwards has been conveniently forgotten.  Bekah was briefed on what to expect and how to care for herself until she fully healed.

Erin held her little nephew for the first time right before we left, having waited quietly through all the rest of the commotion.  Baby Sean wrapped his Auntie's heart right around his little finger.  Tears began running down her face.  Hooked.

Before we knew it, it was time for Erin and me to leave.  Driving south the sun shone brighter, the trees were more vividly colorful, and everything was more beautiful.  By the time we arrived home I had been awake for 36 hours, had had only two tall cups of coffee—finishing neither, had eaten only mediocre hospital food all day, and yet I was still soaring.  My Grandson had arrived!  I was able to not only be a part of it, but had bonded with my Bekah in a way that I couldn't have imagined.  This event will be a memory for us together for always.  Erin connected with her sister as well—not to mention bonding with our precious little baby!  And we've had an opportunity to grow closer with Sean too.  We've not had much time to get to know each other very well, but this has strengthened our relationship as nothing else could.

Oh, our little Sean Patrick, you have filled our heats to overflowing.  Our gracious, wise, and merciful Father has sent you to us in His perfect time.  As He knit you together in your mother's womb so perfectly, and allowed you such a safe entry to our world, may He continue to watch over you and cause you to grow healthy and strong.  I pray that you will learn to know our Savior Jesus Christ for yourself at an early age, and that you will never remember a time when you did not love Him.
Grandmommy loves you, little guy.


Compleat Mom said...

You made me cry, Barbaranne. Thanks. Pray for our event as we are patiently waiting, knowing God's timing is always perfect. Love to your whole adorable clan.

Barbaranne said...

Dearest Debby, I can't wait to hear of your own newest arrival. Kilby is also a stubborn- er- strong girl; I trust our Father that she'll do fine. Especially if you're there with her to coach her on through. Watching you blossom as a Grandmother, even from a distance, has been so beautifully encouraging to me. God's blessings on your head. Love to Kilby. "C'mon already!" to Hilary...