Ok, I’m not really forty weeks pregnant! Thank the Lord! We’ve just been a bit preoccupied the last week and a half.
“For this child we prayed and the Lord has granted us what we asked of Him.” 1 Sam. 1:27
Isaiah Johnnie Edward Harlan was born by c-section on Monday, December 2nd, at 3:13pm. He was 9 lbs, 3 oz and 21.4 inches long. Isaiah is a name I have loved for many, many years, and Troy came to really love it, too. Johnnie Edward is the name of Troy’s father, who passed away when he was a teenager. All three generations share the middle name Edward. It meant the world to Troy’s mom to include his father’s name in Isaiah’s name. And Davie Ann has four names, so it kinda works on that level, too.
Sunday, December 1st I woke up feeling awful. All the pregnancy-related symptoms were out in full-force. Both arms were completely numb but pains were shooting up from my middle fingers up to my shoulders. My lower back burned. Cramps were non-stop. My left hip felt weak. On top of all that, I had a nagging headache and I could see stars in the periphery of my vision.
Out of sheer stubborness, I got us all up and off to church. On the way home I still felt awful so we stopped at a CVS pharmacy and I took my blood pressure twice, and both times it was sky-high. When we got home, I paged the OB on call. I had a sneaking suspicion they would keep me if they sent me L&D. So we cleaned the house up, swept, mopped, did the dishes, the laundry and took care of the animals. We packed out bags and loaded everything in the car. I washed my hair and shaved (truly a Herculean effort at this point). After three hours, I still hadn’t heard back from the OB, so I had him paged again. It turned out, they had been paging my actual OB, who was on vacation in Chile! The OB on-call told me to go to L&D right away. My dad came and picked up Davie Ann and took her to their house for the duration.
In L&D, they had me change into a gown, started an IV, and hooked me up to monitors. My urine showed no protein, which was a relief, and my BP was down but still high. I asked the OB on call and my RN, if my BP is better, can I just go home and keep my regular OB appt on Wednesday? At this point I was still thinking that a c-section was inevitable, and if I was going to have to schedule one anyways, I might as well work one more week and get the extra paycheck. They just stared at me and then said, “No, you won’t be going home until this baby comes.” So I had to let go of my ideals and go with the flow. What I didn’t know at the time was that if my BP was over 160 twice in a row, they were planning to rush me into an emergency c-section. Fortunately, although it was all over the place all night, it never got that high twice in a row. I liked the OB on call, but the one who came on at night was VERY young, and I think I would’ve freaked if I had known that not only was my trusted OB not going to be there, but that someone so young was going to do it in the middle of the night.
Surprisingly, I was finally dilated to 1 cm and 50% effaced. Despite that progress, the baby had still failed to descend into my pelvis and was still very high. It was also surprising to find that what I was calling “cramps” were actually very hard, regular contractions. Troy and I settled in and had a snack of cheese and crackers (I could eat and drink until midnight) and watched The Walking Dead and The Talking Dead. Finally, we drifted off to sleep.
The next morning, the contractions were getting really uncomfortable. But still the baby had not descended. One of my OB’s associates, Dr. Harkins, came in to talk over options with me. I remembered Dr. Harkins from my pregnancy with Davie, and I trusted him as much at Dr. Breen (my OB). I was so happy and relieved to see him! He was so kind and thorough. He took over an hour just to sit with us and discuss all my options. He had reviewed my case over the phone with Dr. Breen as well as with the board of OB at the hospital. All agreed scheduled c-section was the right choice, although they were very sensitive to my desire to try for a vaginal birth. But the worst case scenario would be to labor for 24 hours and then have to do an emergency c-section. I came to really understand and make peace with the knowledge that a scheduled c-section was what was best for me and for the baby. Surgery was scheduled for 1pm, although we got bumped for an emergency and didn’t actually make it in until 2:45pm.
Two good things happened after this: 1. They allowed me to have two family members in the surgical suite with me, my mom and my husband; and 2. Dr. Breen made it back from Chile during the night and was able to do my c-section! I was so, so happy he was there! My mother-in-law Marilyn and my sister-in-law Sharon visited with us a while before the surgery and were able to wait in my recovery room.
Everything else was … hard to explain … the worst experience of my life. The spinal block took FOUR tries to numb and FOUR tries to put in. Horrible “electric shock” pains shot up my spine and down my legs with each try. Finally it was successful but was one of the most awful sensations I’ve ever felt. To be numb from the waist down but still completely aware of a tingling, “my-foot’s-gone-to-sleep” sensation. From the moment the block was done, I began to shake uncontrollably. The shaking lasted until I was back in recovery. There was a horrible 10 minutes before mom and Troy came in that I strongly considered begging them to put me under. Then Troy was there, holding me hand, hard. Then there was violent shaking and pulling on my body. It turned out the cord was wrapped three times around Isaiah’s neck. It was so shortened, it prevented him from decending into the birth canal. If he had, it would have pinched off his oxygen. They actually had to cut me extra wide so they could reach in and unwind the cord before they had enough length to lift him out.
Then the most beautiful sound – his first, wet cry. I know it’s a cliche. I don’t remember Davie’s first cry. But in that situation, in the depths of a terrifying experience, it was so beautiful. If nothing else, he was here, and he was breathing. There were several comments about “generous man parts.” Lots of suctioning. I could see him in the isolete, a perfect pink color, a perfect round head. The average infant head circumference is 11-13 cm, his was 15. My little round-headed boy. Then Troy left with the nursery staff and my mom smoothly moved in and grabbed my hands.
I could hear the OB talking to the two students with him. See, there’s her bladder. We need to hook it back up here. Below that, see her colon. Pull that facia together with this one. That knot is quite ugly, let’s try again. It was hard to wrap my mind around the fact that he was describing MY innards. That I was lying literally spread open. I was shaking so hard. My mom began to chat with the anesthesiologist, and it was a blessing to join in their conversation, to drown out the anatomy lesson going on on the other side of the sheet. Please let this be over. I don’t think I could’ve borne it without my mom and the kind anesthesiologist.
Finally, finally, finally it was over and they were rolling me back into recovery. I was handed my sweet boy. Ps. 113:9 became my reality: “He makes the barren woman to be the happy mother of children.” We have a son! Everyone was exclaiming over him, telling me stories from his short time in the nursery. He latched right away. Another surprise blessing – I had colostrum! After the difficulty breastfeeding Davie (after a breast reduction 10 years ago), I never thought I’d have colostrum right after a c-section! What a joy!
Just a short time later good friend Melissa came and stayed with us a while in recovery. Later, my dad brought Davie Ann and my two nephews. They were fastinated by Isaiah. I’m not sure at the time Davie Ann put it all together, that Isaiah was the baby that was growing in mommy’s belly OR that he was here to stay. But she gave him lots of kisses and then lost interest. Finally, everyone left except mom and we were settled in a post-partum room. I’m so glad she was there to help me for the first few days while Troy had to go back to work.
Recovery story to follow!