Holding on while letting go.

July 23rd, 2014. Just a usual prenatal visit with our midwife, Heather, at The Sanctuary. Everything has been checking out just fine the entire pregnancy, I’m 36 weeks pregnant. 

During the appointment we noticed baby Micahs heartbeat was on the slower side, so she asked us to come back for an ultrasound later in the day. Cut to a few hours later, after a big ol lunch…and his heart is ticking just fine! Through the rest of the ultrasound however, the doctor says “well, sometimes you look for one thing, and find another”. Not something an expecting mother wants to hear! Micah was measuring small for his gestational age, and alarmingly so. We weren’t left with much information other than that we should get in to see a specialist asap since the only two things it could be, would not be very good. 

Two days later and we were in with the specialist. Per his ultrasound, the baby was measuring small yes, but his vitals looked good. We were put on a non stress test to monitor his heart to see if it dropped at any point. The test went well, and we were told to come back early next week to make sure his vitals were good enough to stay on the inside. I was put on a high fat diet and bed rest just to try and do as much as I could to beef our lil guy up.

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014. We went in for another ultrasound and after as much effort as possible, baby had not gained any weight at all. We did another non stress test, and…seemed baby was a bit stressed. Heck, don’t feed me for two weeks and Id be a bit lethargic too!! Doctor suggests we come back to the hospital and be induced, that day. 

Our magical home birth, with our two dogs prancing around, submerged in a  warm pool with burning candles came crashing down in just ten minutes time. It was a crazy two weeks wondering if our baby would be okay, hearing different opinions, getting all that more confused on the matter but remaining hopeful. Now, just right now, that’s all gone. Seconds later and you have to snap to, when you realize that the baby needs this. You have to let it all go, all ten months of preparing, you have to let it go and wrap your brain around a process you tried NOT to think about. Okay…lets do this. 

5PM, same day, we arrived at the hospital. We had a meal in the waiting room and walked into our labor and delivery room an hour later. There was a calm in the air as we accepted that this was where our baby was going to be brought into our arms. And really all that mattered, was just that. Heather arrived, the doctor arrived, and then broke my water. There was a silence in the room, and then the doctor looked at me and just said “well, that’s not good”. I had a lot of blood in my fluid, which lead to an immediate run down of what would happen in an emergency Cesarian section. Everything keeps changing, so quickly, so unknown. My heart rate is racing, Im nervous and scared, trying to calm my heart with a focused breath. My baby’s heart beat on the monitor in the background draws my ear, and I feel my heart trying to catch up to his…not good for my blood pressure. I can’t keep it calm, so now I am being tested for preeclampsia. Everything keeps changing, so quickly, so unknown. 

The nurse brings in the IV with pitocin (synthesized oxytocin) to get my labor started. I was 2cm dilated upon arrival, so it seemed my body was already prepping for his marathon race. 

Things start out steady and moderate. It was 7:30 PM. We are going to give labor a go, and monitor Micah and the bleeding. The lights are dimmed, just my husband and I now. We turn on the electric candles trying to make the room as comforting as possible. We play a calming pandora station in the background, and I try and rest between contractions. The thing about being induced though…is there isn’t much “rest” or an “in between” at all! Good part though, time seems to be flying by. 

It’s a feeling just as described in our class; cramping, pressure, and in a wave. It starts out slow, building through the middle, and then slowly fades away. Paying attention to this wave was my life saver. My husband by my side, through every contraction, was my life saver. “Deep breath in, now out, in, and out, almost there, now in, and out…gooooood job.” It seemed to be our mantra. It was a perfect mantra. He was a perfect husband. Focus your breath, counting on the in, and then on the out. All I had to do was get to 20 and it would be over. One contraction, thats all I knew, thats all you can know. There were times when Id get nervous at the onset, knowing was what ahead of me. Drawing my attention to my husbands voice…I knew I could get through it. I knew it was in me to stay focused. 

The nurse came in to check how far I was dilated about 7 hours later. 6cm. SIX CENTIMETERS! God, I was hoping for an 8! The contractions were growing to an intensity that I could no longer explain. Writhing and the comfort of my bed side rail was quickly becoming a necessity. I wasn’t sure how much more I could take, and I swear I heard an echoing of “epidural, epidural” whispering around the room. Turn it off, you CAN do this! 

Thirty minutes later, I yell to my husband to call the nurse, a new pressure I hadn’t felt and I knew he was coming. At that very moment she arrived in the room before we could even call. Seemed to be the story of the day; not as we wanted, but everything was lining up how it needed to be…In those thirty minutes and I went from 6 to 10 centimeters dilated. He was there and ready to arrive! Those thirty minutes were the most intense moments of my life. 

Mike calls the midwife, Laura (our nurse) calls our doctor. Sure enough, there’s his head. Now, the hardest part of all… “Okay Amanda, Im going to need you to do everything you can, to NOT push!”. Imagine your a water balloon being squeezed between two walls forcing you to pop, and instead of allowing it and feeling to sweetest relief of your life, you now much push that wall back with all of your might. Twenty minutes, some how, I did it! As soon as the doctor arrived, the first contraction I had, I pushed! Its a strange thing…pushing. You brain says “STOP” and you know that you have to do it! Second contraction and the baby’s heart beat drops. He’s now in distress. “Okay Amanda, you HAVE TO GET THIS BABY OUT NOW. This contraction, right now.” I didn’t have time to fight the fleet mechanism within me, my baby needed me to be stronger than that. And I was, I was greater than the suffering that I had. The first of many sacrifices of motherhood I imagine. And at the top of my tolerance, and with all of my might, one last breath, and his head was out. The sweetest relief any human can imagine having! It felt as though the rest of his perfect little body just flowed out and into my arms. With a strong loud cry, he was our baby, and he was ready for the world. 

He was rushed to the NICU team since he had a heart beat drop and seemed to check out just fine. Moments later we were wheeled to our recovery room. Latching and breastfeeding out the gate, our IUGR tot knew he had some catching up to do! We are settled and seeming to be fine. Then out of nowhere our baby chokes on some milk, stops breathing, the NICU team rushes in and wheels him away. True to form, our labor and delivery is a continued roller coaster ride. Good thing I’m not afraid of going upside down, because it feels so good to be right side up again. So here’s the holding on… 

Nurses, doctors, oxygen machines, blue baby. Me running after him holding onto my maxi pad as its falling out of my robe. Focus your breath. 

Micah was wheeled away to the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit). He was hooked up to monitors, an IV drip, and blood was drawn. Im not sure I had time to count to 20 in those breaths before it was all done. Hold on. 

4:34 am he was brought into my arms, 11 AM he was taken away.  We were told to go back to the room and they would have to monitor him for a while. I pumped as much as I could to get my milk in for my little baby. I prayed to the milk gods for a flow. I prayed to the other gods that Micah would be safe. “God doesn’t give you anything you can’t handle”. Thats what my mom always said. Thats what we get for being so strong I guess. We can hold on. 

Micah is holding his vitals, but tested for high jaundice. I go back to the NICU every two hors to feed him, while he’s on an IV of sugar water. Breastfeeding is stressful the first few weeks the way it is, but when your baby’s life depends on it…its even more intense. He’s a good boy though, and we’re growing more and more in synch, even while attached to all those wires. 

I’ll spare you all the stress of the NICU. Three days of hanging in, and he’s allowed to come home with us. Let the life long journey of holding on, and letting go begin! 

Life for me began on a military base in upstate New York.  I bounced around like army brats do, eventually landing in Exeter, PA.  Facing those harsh east coast winters year after year was my drive to get someplace warm...Los Angeles sounded nice at the time, so that's what I worked for.