It wasn’t the birth experience I was hoping for. In fact, it was downright disappointing.
I blame the hospital tour where I saw a re-designed postpartum unit, complete with its color light therapy over the large Jacuzzi bathtub and a full-sized memory foam bed. It somehow convinced me I was going on a spa vacation. I actually started looking forward to my hospital stay. Sure, I had to actually go through the whole labor, delivery and pushing out the baby part before my husband and I got our “spa” vacation. But, I’ve done that three times before; it wouldn’t be my first rodeo.
Looking back on it now, I’m going to go out on a limb and say anytime you’ve looking forward to a hospital stay because it’s the closest you’ll get to a vacation – you’ll be disappointed.
A nasty flu outbreak and the especially frozen tundra-like conditions of another Wisconsin winter filled our local hospitals and gave this mother-to-be a serious case of paranoia. Worried one member of this family or another would catch the “death flu,” I put everyone on lockdown. It was almost a war crime, really. I forced those I love to stay in the house for days on end with my nine-month pregnant self and I was in the worst mood of my life.
I ended up being induced. That involved an IV of what is basically poison trying to convince my brain to go into labor. Yes, it can be a good thing when mama and baby need an induction for medical reasons, which this mama and baby did. Overall, the stuff is evil. With the first contractions I knew this labor wasn’t going to go well. One medical intervention lead to another, and then another. My body doesn’t do well with drugs and I had one negative reaction after another – all while being stuck at 4cm for hours and hours. Some of my veins boycotted and decided to walk off the job by collapsing. I spent the day feeling like a pincushion – and wondering why this baby hated me.
My doctor’s opinion was that a fourth baby should come quickly. His readiness to wheal me into the OR for a section like I was a car going through the carwash stole the last bit of sanity I was clinging to. My husband is as supportive and sensitive as they come, but I could see the worry start to wash over his face. We begged for one more chance and I spent those painful minutes praying a silent rosary and mentally solidifying that this little girl’s name would be Elizabeth. I then invoked her patron saint.
The baby cooperated by moving down ever so slightly and convincing my doctor that she too was just a seven pounder with a normal size head that would indeed fit where it needed to fit, just as those who came before her had. I progressed rapidly and within the hour our fourth daughter came. A sigh of relief did not come with her.
Her arrival was a silent one. When she was placed on my chest I didn’t have time to look at her face or smell her in before she was snatched away and the NICU nurse was called. I spent well over an hour unable to see her or know what was going on in the corner of our hospital room. I was paralyzed from the cocktail of drugs that came with my labor experience. The poor little love had somehow almost drowned herself on the way out. Her little lungs and tummy were full of fluid. When the fluid came out an hour later, so did her first cry.
By the time we checked into the postpartum room my delusions of a restful vacation snuggling a baby had all but vanished. Little Miss Elizabeth had come on the very day of my monthly work deadline. I had planned on working after I delivered. She had other plans. When the pediatrician came to give Elizabeth a once-over she began choking on more fluid and my husband and I agreed it was best she be taken for the night. My restful recuperation in a spa turned into stress-filled, sleepless nights.
A few days after we returned home with our new little lady my initial fear was realized; I had caught the flu in the hospital. My fever spiked at 103.5, the highest fever I’ve had in my adult life. As I tossed and turned in my bed I cried and cried. There were tears of disappointment for the birth and initial bonding experience that had been lost. There were tears of fear and feelings of being overwhelmed with having four daughters five years old and under. Here I was, not even a week in and I was unable to care for my children. With no family around and no live-in nanny, how would I ever do this when I can’t even get past day three without dropping the ball?
I wish I could recall the time leading up to welcoming our Elizabeth as exciting. A time filled with joy, hope and anticipation for the new life that was being gifted to our family. But that’s not my truth. I longed for those feelings I felt as a first time mom, but they never came.
What did come was our daughter.
The first of four to look just like me.
A baby sister that will sanctify and bless our “big” girls.
Another little soul entrusted to our care.
A challenge I say “yes” to, just as Mary did with her fiat.
How fitting for my feelings of disappointment and fear that Mary sought counsel and went in haste to Elizabeth, whose excitement and support blessed her with strength. My Elizabeth too will bless my “yes” each and every day- starting with day one.
Day one of any journey begins with a “yes.”