Since I was a young girl, I’ve dreamed of being a mommy. When I was in my early teens, most girls were sneaking pecks from boys in the back row of the movie theater. I was home making preemie clothes for my Cabbage Patch dolls. I was a wee-bit old to be playing “baby” at the age of 14. My peers were more into Punky Brewster and New Kids On The Block than Xavier Roberts. Who is Xavier Roberts? Well, Xavier happens to be my FIRST red-headed, yarn-haired Cabbage Patch Kid. Yes, I still remember her name. Don’t judge! (insert:giggle) However, instead of actually playing with my dolls, I was busy learning how to sew doll clothes on a sewing machine. It was fun to make Xavier clothes and display them in my 80’s style bedroom.
It was way back then that I imagined the fairy-tale life where I would marry, have children, and live happily ever after. When I turned thirty, I was beginning to lose hope. I was not married and had no children. The highlight of my typical evening was a glass of wine, a Yankee Candle, two cats and the romance movie “The Notebook” to sob myself to sleep with.
It’s true that when you give up on the one thing you wish for, it will happen. That same year, I started dating my future-husband, Chad. He had two children and was a full-time dad, full-time lobster fisherman, and had a full-time crush on me. One year passed, and then Chad hit one knee. Both of Chad’s girls were teenagers when he proposed to me and before I agreed to marry him, I asked him one important question: “Do you want more children?”
Because part of my dream was children. My own children.
I anticipated him saying “NO WAY!” He was in the teen-stage with two head-strong young women who, at the time, were into “goth”. They wore black from head to toe and black eyeliner half streamed down their faces. Not a family picture was taken without their tongues sticking out. Oh, and they were into boys.
Turns out, Chad had no problem saying “Yes” to any new additions to our newly-wed family. He told me that if it was my dream to have children, he’d make that dream come true. And he did! A year after we were married, I was pregnant. I was going to be a MOMMY!
I was never so happy as the day I found out I was preggo. I studied every book I could get my hands on, and spent hours on the Internet. Name me one new mother who doesn’t immediately buy the book “What To Expect When You’re Expecting?” Well… maybe you didn’t, but this girl did. I bought that book; I bought ALL pregnancy books. If the main character was expecting in some novel newly released on the New York Times Bestsellers List, I had my hands on that book quicker than the press could put it onto the book-store shelves. I wanted to know it all. I wanted to know what to expect, when the baby’s heart would beat, when the fingers and toes would form and I wanted insight into what my body was experiencing. I even watched every episode of “Baby Story”, a show on TLC that has real-life baby/delivery stories. (I bet many of you can relate to this, cant’cha? You’ve probably seen them all, too.) Needless to say, my DVR was full for months!
You learn a lot in your pregnancy research; things like, you should exercise during your pregnancy and exercise can actually help you when it comes time to deliver. You should take vitamins, and eat lots of fruits and veggies. I learned cons, too… Gas, for one, that’s a wonderful side effect. I learned that you shouldn’t drink much caffeine, you shouldn’t lift, no more wine, and of course no smoking. Certain foods should be avoided, like tuna, which is high in mercury. Don’t sit in a hot tub, and for heaven’s sakes don’t touch kitty litter. (Though the one thing I LOVED hearing was that I no longer had to dump that ammonia-filled bin that my three adorable cats frequented at LEAST three times a day… each). Anyway, all that “you shouldn’t this” and “you shouldn’t that”… it was exhausting.
Before long, I was brain-bogged with everything I should and shouldn’t do. I became someone I’m normally not. I was a tired, caffeine-deprived, organic-eating health nut who took cold showers and wouldn’t eat chocolate for fear of trace amounts of caffeine racing to my unborn baby’s heart. I craved pizza (okay, I’m busted… forget the health-nut comment; that was a lie) and sex. Yes, you heard right. I was a raging horn-dog the entire first trimester. I had more hormones in me than a fertility clinic and was being deprived of sex. (Maybe the gas was the issue, come to think of it. ) No seriously, my husband, knowing my history of four miscarriages, had a theory. And his theory was that “A penis CAN poke out the eyes of your unborn child.”
So what do you get when you deprive your wife of sex, caffeine, wine, and chocolate? You get more pizza, that’s what you get. And you deliver it with a smile on your face if you’re a smart man. Speak nicely, boys.. the mere mention of weight gain is dangerous business if you live in a pregnant woman’s world.
It goes without saying that I was two slices of bread short of a sandwich with this pregnancy. In other words, I was nuts.
But all that studying and reading didn’t do me any good. It turns out, my pregnancy was unlike any other I’d been reading about. Things I didn’t understand were about to happen to me. When I was 16 weeks into my pregnancy, I learned I had an incompetent cervix and was 3.5 cm dilated. I was transferred to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor where I started seeing a new doctor who specialized in high-risk pregnancies. I had a procedure called an “emergency cerclage”. In laymen’s terms, this is a stitch in my cervix that ultimately sews it shut. From there, I was put on strict bed-rest. I was told I was only allowed in the vertical position to use the bathroom and go to doctor’s appointments. Once a week, I traveled to Bangor to get a progesterone shot which helped my cervix to calm down. So I got to enjoy the outdoor scenery once in awhile.
But I felt I was going foolish looking around at all the things that “needed to be done.” There was a single spider web that drove me NUTS the entire time on bed rest. I could have asked Chad to get it for me, but he was already doing so much other stuff that I felt silly nit-picking the housework apart. And while Chad was great, he didn’t have the attention-to-detail that I did. But don’t let me allow you to think ANYTHING other than Chad was a pure God-send to me the entire time, and waited on me 24/7. If I’d have asked to have that cobweb taken down, he’d have done it. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it, so I let it haunt me for the duration of my bed rest. What do you suppose was the first thing I did when I was up on my feet again?
Many people thought bed rest would be fun and would comment “Oh you lucky devil, I had to work straight through my ninth month!” But it wasn’t lucky at all in my eyes. It was no more working, no more dishes, no more grocery shopping, nothing. You might think that this sounds heavenly, but I’ll bet my bottom dollar that if you had to lay still, completely still for only a week, you couldn’t do it. You’d go crazy. Oh yes, now take away that pizza and ALL comfort foods that you crave. Because being on bed rest while eating pizza is a no-no unless you want to gain 100 pounds. (P.S. I gained close to that.)
I was now facing the duration of my pregnancy laying in bed, and it was no longer a fun pregnancy. Every day took me one day closer to the dreaded labor and delivery that terrifies every first-time mother. But on the plus side, it was also one more day “I’d made it” and managed to keep Lainey safe and sound. I was a barrel of emotions. I had shifted my “fun” reading topics to medical studies on how early my baby could be born and still survive. I was reading up on NICU babies and premature baby complications. I gave every doctor I saw the third degree and a 20-questions speed-drill. And they ALL responded: STAY OFF THE INTERNET, NADINE! I was scared to death every single time I peed, praying that each time, my water wouldn’t break. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. I. PEED, I prayed. Something that many women take for granted, was scaring the daylights out of me. Mine was not a typical situation, not by a long shot. And with every new week of my pregnancy, came new rules. Living with my prognosis was an incredible challenge.
I did it though. I didn’t budge and I layed there day in, and day out, kept my faith and got through a difficult pregnancy. I went from 24 weeks, 25 weeks, to 30 weeks, and I was starting to relax a little (no pun intended) with every passing day. I had lots of visitors, and lots of home-delivered meals, cards, phone calls and friends-with-support galore. Chad did all the housework, the girls got all the groceries. I did nothing but eat, read, sleep, and surf the web. Lainey was now the “miracle baby” in our community and everyone prayed for us.
At 33 weeks and 3 days, my water broke. I was now going to have her, whether it was her time or not. I bet you thought that if your water broke, you were having a baby, didn’t you? Well you’re wrong, and so was I. You can be hospitalized and given plenty of fluids and antibiotics to prevent infections and then give birth DAYS after your water breaks. You won’t have a dry birth, either. Yup, tried and true example sitting right here typing this blog for you. Who knew?
I was kept on bed rest for about a week in Bangor when finally the doctor came in, removed my cerclage (an easy procedure) and said it was time to have a baby… back up… wait a minute… It didn’t matter what the doctor wanted. My body had been given shots once a week to STOP dilation. You can’t pump your body full of a hormone that STOPS birth, and then expect (two days after your last shot) that it will want to give birth. Not happenin’, my friend.
I was put on a Pitocin drip. This is what women get to help dilate the cervix. It was 18 hours of intense contractions that felt like my innards were being twisted out, and those lovely hourly cervix checks. (Ohhh, you gotta love a cervix check. You can sugar-coat it all you want but it feels as if the doctor is going up inside you to rip out your intestines with his bare hands. Graphic? Maybe. Accurate? You’re damned right it is.) Finally I was told Lainey was not coming naturally. This was music to my ears because by now I’m doubting my ability to focus, having been partially blinded every 5 minutes for 18 hours with a tsunami-scale contraction. I know women do it every day, and the fact is, my body WOULD have had that baby naturally over time; it was inevitable. But my energy was gone. And to push her out at this stage was a figment of my imagination, and thankfully per doctor’s suggestion, she was coming via c-section.
Now they’re going to numb my spine for the c-section. Easy right? Turns out, I am one of the 1% of the human race whose body doesn’t respond to an epidural. In my case, my body refused to go numb. I had two epidurals back to back and could still feel my toes. I had the best-of-the-best of the anesthesiologists at EMMC try. He failed, too. I just wouldn’t go numb. Talk about adding insult to injury. I tried for 7 months to keep her INSIDE and now she wouldn’t come OUT! Who’da thought I’d have to go through all of this to have a baby? If they had this episode on TV, I missed it.
I didn’t get to see Lainey being born. I didn’t get to hear her first cry. Chad didn’t get to cut the umbilical cord and I didn’t get to hear “It’s a GIRL!” as she arrived into our world. But what I got when I woke up was a brand new 4 pound baby girl and a lifetime of funny stories, scary situations, and pregnancy humor. Everything that could have gone wrong, went wrong (it seemed) and everything that I’d studied didn’t mean jack-squat when I thought it would. What went completely right was that despite everything, I was finally a mother and every dream I had, came true on February 21st, 2011 at 11:21 PM (2-21-11 @ 11:21.. all ones and twos!)
Lainey’s story has a happy ending. She was born early, so she stayed a month in the NICU at Eastern Maine Medical Center. She had a staff of amazing doctors and nurses who helped her finish growing and preparing for home life. Having a premature baby is now not as life threatening as it was years ago. Medicine has come a long way, but Lainey had to stay for awhile and it was scary, none-the-less. I cried the entire time she was there. It’s awful to be discharged from the hospital knowing you have to leave your newborn baby there in the care of someone else. The last couple months of development in the womb are as important as the first couple months. In the last months, the baby’s lungs are maturing. Lainey’s stay in the “Hotel-d’Uterus” was cut short, and her lung development was also cut short. When Lainey was born, she couldn’t suck, swallow and breathe at the same time. So she had a feeding tube, oxygen and a few other bells and whistles. It was hard to watch her like that, but she was alive, and all that stuff I’d read meant nothing. I had learned through experience that she was her own story and she was the only one telling it.
So no, there is no book to fully prepare you for pregnancy. Your friends will likely have a different journey. Still, listen to them, because if anything, they’ll keep your thoughts at bay, and your emotions in check as you panic with each new symptom. Just remember, the only true “book” is the book of experience. You can study and read and self-teach yourself a thousand scenarios, but your life and your baby’s life will walk it’s own path. It will go the only way it knows how and often times it’s not as you expected. My advice: Go with it. Get a little “nutty” and read all the books, roll with the punches, watch all the shows, and enjoy your moment (scary or not) in your OWN story.
At the end of each day, just let go, and let God, and wait for YOUR happy ending to unfold in it’s own way. The end result is a bouncing baby and a lifetime of “When I was pregnant with you…” stories that you can tell your kids for years to come. I wouldn’t take back ONE DAY of my pregnancy, and neither will you.