As an early New Year’s resolution, I’ve made a difficult decision to stop editing myself on my blog! A) because I don’t have the time anyway, and B) because I’ll never post anything anymore unless I just write and hit publish! So if my writing seems not as good, I guess it’s a sacrifice to at least have record of my memories!.
This post gets a little personal, and I debated even writing about it because I try to be private about some things, but I want to remember it all and hope that my experience will in some ways encourage or inspire other women thinking about having a baby. So stop reading now if you’d rather not hear about such things! I’m working against time here on this post because I believe there is something about a woman’s memory that is partially erased when she gives birth. For example, one of my best friends had a baby 5 years ago. It was an arduous all-natural water birth at a fancy birthing center. I remember asking her afterwards if she had a second baby would she go all natural again. Her response was a hearty, “Hell NO! I’m getting an epidural next time!” We talked about it again recently and she remembers it entirely different. She said it was marvelous and she would go all natural again if she had a second! Another friend just recently gave birth and has absolutely no recollection of another friend visiting her for about 20 minutes during her labor. Maybe it’s nature’s way of insuring that we’ll have more children if we somehow forget the suffering parts and only remember the joy! So I’m not sure how accurate my birth story will be, but before I get to that, I’m going to back up to about a year ago.
PART 1: NATALIE & TRAVIS DECIDE TO HAVE A BABY!
We always knew we would eventually start a family, but we didn’t have much desire to have a baby while we were in Japan. We were having too much fun gallivanting around the world and didn’t want anything to slow us down just yet. Then Fall 2011 Travis got sudden notice that he was going to have to deploy to Kuwait over Christmas. Just a few days later I was at the Yokota AF base clinic (aka- Medical Hobby Shop) being treated for a back injury that I got on an airplane (that’s another story). But instead, I found out by a camo-wearing Major in the waiting room of flight medicine that I was pregnant! About 7 weeks. We were in total shock, as this was not at all planned and we were both wondering how this happened! I mean, we know how, but seriously how?! Our shock soon turned into excitement, but then just as soon as we had adjusted to the news, our feelings quickly turned into sadness and grief when I miscarried less than a week later. We had not even told our families. And then a week after that Travis left for Kuwait. Talk about emotional roller-coaster! There were just too many changes over a two week time period, and we were both shaken.
The deployment time, though short compared to most deployments, was difficult. I had so many emotions to deal with, from sadness to feelings of guilt, wondering if there was something I had done to cause the miscarriage. Even knowing how statistically common miscarriages are, part of me wondered if I would have difficulty having children. My mom and sister never had miscarriages, but they also had their children so young. I was pushing 30, and I know that’s not exactly “old” but compared to the women on my mother’s side who started young and finished before 26, I was getting up there! With all of the aftermath of the miscarriage, and being away from Travis and my family, and at Christmas, it stung my heart in a way that I had never felt before. Suddenly, I wanted a baby. Didn’t know how much I wanted to start our family until I had it and lost it. While Travis was away, he also had a change of heart and wanted to try to have a baby as soon as we were together again. Before, every time I took a pregnancy test (all of the pee tests were negative even though I was pregnant), his response was always, “whew! thank God!” So I didn’t want to be the first to bring it up, as I didn’t want to pressure him and wanted to know that the desire was genuine. I was overjoyed when he came home from work a few days before deployment and said he wanted to try again as soon as he came back. We both felt incredibly selfish, having thought we were somehow going to see the whole world before welcoming a child into our lives. And suddenly, we saw things a little different. I am being painfully honest when I admit that before the miscarriage, we both looked at having a baby as a stumbling block for our personal plans and goals, but an inevitable duty of sorts. I had forgotten that babies are gifts. I know that for a lot of folks they come in difficult times and circumstances, but they are nonetheless miracles. During this deployment time, God continued to change our hearts. We knew that if and when we were pregnant again, we wouldn’t have one iota of begrudged attitude towards how our lifestyles would change. Yes, having a miscarriage is sad and part of me will always wonder what that child would have been like, but we have chosen to focus on the good that came from it all. It allowed us to have a serious heart tune-up, and we wouldn’t have our little Henry today if all of this didn’t happen! And that leads us to…
PART II: WE’RE PREGNANT!
We didn’t know how long it would take, especially because of the recent miscarriage, but we prayed about it and knew that all things were pointing for us to be open to growing our family. We hoped that the time away would play a role in the post-deployment fertility. Travis came home early February and we were pregnant with our little baby-boomer that same month. I know that for most it doesn’t come this easy; we have a list of friends trying to conceive that we pray for regularly. But everyone has a different journey of faith, and for us, being open to having a baby when we did was part of our journey.
We believe Henry was made in Japan, but we had just gotten to Little Rock for Trav’s instructor pilot school when we found out. The timing was great on this one because I was able to tell my stateside family and friends in person and keep it a secret for the first trimester from the Yokota community, where secrets that involve not drinking are impossible to keep!
Pregnancy was rough. It taught me the difference between joy and fun. There was nothing fun about it. For those who say they enjoy pregnancy, I simply do not understand. They say “morning sickness”, which really strikes all hours of the day, lasts about 12 weeks, but for me it was more like 18. And then it resurfaced again in late 3rd trimester. I waited for that so-called euphoric feeling that’s supposed to kick in around the 2nd trimester, but it never did. I felt more like Elizabeth Bank’s character in What to Expect When You’re Expecting. By the time I got over the morning sickness, my bowels, back and bladder had had enough! Even though I felt like poo, I was grateful to have a baby inside of me that made me feel like poo. It was so much fun celebrating with family and friends, and I had so much joy in anticipation of Henry’s arrival.
We found out it was a boy at 21 weeks. We were both so surprised. There were so many signs that it was a girl! All of the women on my mother’s side have daughters on or around their birthday (26th birthday to be exact, but I ignored this part). Henry’s due date was November 12, which was also my exact due date. I also found a charm on a street in Tokyo with a girl name that I liked engraved on it. My friends performed the necklace pendulum test on me numerous times, and every time it promised a girl. Not that I really had a preference, but the signs and my instincts all said “girl!” Sometimes our instincts betray us.
We had a gender reveal party with a few friends and found out at the same time (via blue frosting filled cupcakes) that we were in fact having a boy. The look on my face says it all:
We decided that we liked the name Henry pretty early on, (Travis wanted to call him Hank- I still prefer Henry) but there were several other contenders that we considered up until the last minute. I’m indecisive by nature and need a little spontaneous pressure to make up my mind. Kind of like when I’m at a restaurant and can’t decide what I want until the waiter is hovering over me to take my order; I wanted to see him and hold him and look at his face before committing to something on a birth certificate.
PART III: OUR BIRTH STORY
Since I’ve had Henry, one of the first things that women usually ask me has been, “how did it go?” Women are naturally more interested in the birth story, maybe because they’ve experienced it themselves or have considered having children and understand more that there are so many ways it could happen and regardless of how much you plan. People asked me throughout my pregnancy what my “birth plan” included and my joking reply was usually, “have a baby and survive!” Towards the end of the pregnancy, I had so much unexpected anxiety about what the delivery process would be like. I had heard so many negative stories about other people’s experience, which previously didn’t bother me, but started to overwhelm my psyche. I had pinned bible verses on peace that I had to pull up in the middle of the night to sweeten my thoughts a bit and take the fear out of it.
[Note to the ladies: If you had a horrific birthing experience, do not share it with a mom to be, particularly towards the end of her pregnancy! and if you are a first time mom to be, try to tune out anything negative, particularly towards the end. Stay positive and don’t assume it will be horrible!]
My mom, who has been a nurse for several decades, had never heard of a “birth plan”- they just trusted doctors back in their day and hoped for the best. Over the past decade or two, women have become more educated about the birth experience and the ‘birth plan’ has emerged with the idea that women can make decisions in advance, while they’re clear-minded about how they want their birth to go–everything from use of drugs to music, lighting and personal details. And perhaps avoid getting hoodwinked into an unnecessary c-section. I did eventually type up my “birth plan” complete with special font which included things like vaginal birth, no induction, no labor augmentation/pitocin, epidural if asked for, no use of forceps or vacuum unless absolutely necessary, c-section only if every other option is exhausted, delayed chord cutting, music played from my ipod, minimal staff present! I had multiple copies of it and I had planned on baking cookies to give out to the staff as they each took a copy so they would perhaps be more likely to memorize it.
Now that it’s all said and done, I think ‘birth plan’ should be renamed ‘birth dream-sheet’. These things rarely unfold according to how we plan them, and with my experience, I was more comfortable trusting the doctors that cared for me than trying to adhere to my dream sheet.
So my cookies never got baked and my dream sheet flew out the window on the morning of my 39 week appointment on November 5th. Travis usually went with me to my appointments, but on this particular day he was sleeping. He had stayed up all night so that he could sleep during the day and work the night shift of a base war-simulation exercise that was starting that day. My appointments had been going great up until this point. Blood pressure was low, baby looked good, my heart beat was a little speedy but nothing to be too concerned about. But on this day Dr. Molly George’s face looked very concerned when she did an ultrasound and couldn’t find any amniotic fluid. I could see for myself that there were absolutely no black pockets on the screen. Did my water break and slowly leak without me knowing it? My bladder wasn’t exactly the most trustworthy at this point so it was hard to tell what was what! Was the fluid low because he wasn’t peeing? We knew that there was some fluid build-up in his right kidney and that was also a concern that maybe his kidneys stopped functioning. Whatever the cause, the risk of a cord compression, which would cut off baby’s oxygen and food supply, is greatly increased when the fluids are low (almost non-existent in my case). Dr. George very calmly put down the ultrasound wand and said, “at this point I think we need to start thinking about induction.”
“Um, that’s not part of my plan, but when should we do this?”
I wanted to go home and get my bag, finish packing the last few things, wake up Travis, maybe vacuum my carpet and make the bed but they wouldn’t let me. They sent me upstairs to L&D and hooked me up to some monitors that showed that Henry’s heart rate was slightly dipping every time I had a little contraction because he was in distress over not having any fluid. While I was still in Dr. George’s office I sent Travis a text that read, “Babe, are you up???!!!” He called right away and said he was actually up making coffee and couldn’t sleep because he had a bad feeling.
“We’re having a baby today. Well, hopefully today and not tomorrow!” I told him.
He pulled himself together nervously, finished packing my bag and met me at the hospital and we started the induction process–a big old drip bag of pitocin.
We contacted our families to tell them the news and they stayed up late praying for us, which, ended up carrying us through what started out as a very scary situation.
Dr. George decided to do an amnio-infusion (fluid injection) which showed that he had a bm, but stabilized Henry’s heart rate and reduced the threat of c-section. Travis was more of a wreck than me and grateful that the Cowboys were playing in the delivery room for him to watch as he paced back and forth.
Around 3 or 4ish, the contractions really started picking up. I was told I could have an epidural at any time, and I was confused by this, as everything I had heard was that I had to be dilated to a certain point before they would do it. I knew my family history of fast births and didn’t want to mess around and miss my chance to get it! I also didn’t want to be hastily put completely under if I had to have an emergency c-section. So I raised the white flag pretty early on. Soon after the anesthesiologist showed up, outfitted in camo and a reflector belt (part of that war-simulating exercise that I mentioned earlier… yes, even the hospital has to play along which I had the joy of experiencing while having a baby). She waged war with my spine instead. This was the worse part out of the entire day. I don’t know how long it actually took, but it seemed like at least an hour of her searching for the sweet spot in my spine. She blamed it on my curved, bony back, but by the time it was supposedly in, I soon went completely numb on my left side but my right side was still on fire with the contractions. I suggested that we re-do it to even it out a bit, but instead she dumped an entire bottle of magic solution into my port, turned me on my right side, and chuckled, “well you should feel this now!” I could feel it alright. Soon everything was going numb, including my tongue and fingertips.
“You’re not supposed to feel it from the waste up! Tell us if you start have trouble breathing!” she replied.
Under normal circumstances, and even writing about this now, this would have freaked me out. But at the time I was dancing with unicorns. The bed was elevated high and I felt like a queen on a throne about to meet my little prince. I remember asking Travis, “Why would anybody not want this?!”
We chillaxed and watched Jeopardy. I wondered if I was a little crazy, but I could still answer a few Jeopardy questions so I took that as my answer that I was fine.
Then shortly after that Dr. George came in to check me and said I should be dilated to about a 6 or 7. Nope, I was already at a 10 + 2, meaning Henry was a comin’! We still had to wait on the pediatrician to show up since Henry had pooped under stress and they wanted to have them on stand-by in case they needed to suction his lungs out. Dr. G said we had a little time, and to please just hold on until the peds came. We were both starving and realized the hospital cafeteria was closed, so Dr. G told Travis he had time to run and grab something quickly before I delivered. Maybe she thought that would force me to hold it in before the peds got there?
Travis made a run to Subway, the peds were taking their sweet time, and meanwhile the pressure kept building. It’s hard to explain the feeling- how can I be completely numb but yet feel like this kid is going to fall out?! I asked the nurse to check things out down there because I honestly thought he was going to come out without me even pushing and be born while Travis was picking out cold cuts. Henry was, in fact, on his way out! Travis rushed back and I breathed a sigh of relief, telling the staff that this baby may be born with or without peds. They kindly asked me to “hold on” which I thought was hilarious. I had never expected this, but it didn’t seem like it was much up to me as my ironclad uterus was acting on my behalf. I asked them to please tell peds to hurry it on up- this baby was coming out. and soon! Just when I thought our little darling would be born with no pediatrician present, Dr. Romero, our sweet, petite, thick-accented Colombian pediatrician came swirling in the delivery room, in the very nick of time. I started pushing immediately. I stopped mid-way to ask Travis if he was okay. He held my hand and hadn’t planned on watching but looked like he was about to pass out and his palms were sweaty! Six minutes and 4 pushes later, Henry Wyatt Patton came into this world peeing and wailing. And we were so thankful for both, considering they were unsure whether or not his kidneys were functioning properly and he had aspirated quite a bit of meconium. I held him and cried and it was the most amazing thing ever. 10 fingers, 10 toes, big hands and big curious eyes. He was breathing great so they were able to accommodate my ‘delayed chord cutting’ request and thankfully did not have to whisk him away to suction him. Yes! I thought.. a check off my birthing dream sheet!
He weighed 7lbs, 2.5oz, and was 20 inches long. Travis and I just held him and stared at him in our own little world. The sweetest moments of our lives.
“I just had your baby and you got me a 6 inch? Why didn’t get me a foot-long?!!” I asked him.
He reminded me of the rush and the fact that Henry was coming out and there was no time to wait for a foot long. Good answer 🙂
We stayed the next 3 nights in the hospital. They kept us an extra night because Henry had a squeak in his voice that they thought was related to him ingesting meconium, but it turns out his vocal chords are a little uncoordinated, and so when he gets worked up or excited, they stay closed instead of expanding when he inhales. Sounds like a little squeak or sometimes a snort. The ENT said he would probably out-grow this with time. He still does it and it’s funny- we figure it’s just one of his quirks and may always be there. He’ll probably laugh like Eddie Murphy.
By the 4th day in the hospital we were so ready to go home. I was really pleased with the care we received, but a military base hospital room is far from the plush, spacious postpartum rooms in the US. And I had had enough with this ‘exercise’. People in camouflage were in and out of our room all day. There were loud announcements coming from the speakers 24/7. At first, I didn’t realize the announcements were part of the exercise. There was one about a tornado that had just touched down on the North side of base. The weather looked bad outside, and Travis had just left to get a few things from the house (having to drive through the North side to get there!). I called him frantically, telling him to get back to the hospital asap before he ran into the tornado! I soon realized there was no tornado and was reminded that I was at a military base first, hospital second. It didn’t matter because Henry was here and everything was fine. We are so blessed to have him and thank God for him everyday.