Sunday, January 29, 2012

I Celebrate You, Gracie Lou

This weekend we did a little of this:

And some of this:

We had a early family celebration for Grace's seventh birthday. Tostadas: check. Angel food Birthday cake: check. Laughter: check. Good company: check. A very happy girl: check.

Her real birthday isn't until tomorrow, and I felt a little hesitant celebrating early, like maybe it was bad luck or something, but I am all for a celebration, especially in honor of her.

Seven years ago, at about this time, I was in the last hours of my second pregnancy, worried, in pain, and eating a Happy Meal . Grace wasn't due until around Valentines day, but circumstances out of our control prompted our doctor to want her out early. A scheduled induction was set for the thirtieth, and here it was the twenty ninth of January, and I was having somewhat disorganized, but serious enough contractions, enough for us to pack our suitcases and head to the mainland. It was nothing new to me though, because that was what the prior two weeks had been like. Lots of false alarms, even an admit to the hospital, only to be sent home to try and rest and stave off an earlier than anticipated birth. Back to the ferry bound Island we'd go, each time. Gulp.

Jeremy had chosen that day to decide to shampoo the carpets. Sigh. I was super irritated, but didn't have the energy to fight it, plus, boy did he have MAJOR nesting urge. With both babies, the three days prior to the births he was hammering, cleaning, painting, scrubbing, until like, two in the morning. Who was this man, and what have you done with my husband?  Anyways, I remember halfway dozing on the couch that was now moved into the kitchen, glancing up at the jiggly numbers on the microwave, timing contractions while smelling carpet cleaner that stunk to high heaven. Jeremy got done with the carpets (Grrr!!) loaded me into the car with a hand truck (not really), and we headed to the ferry we were really hoping on catching, with not one minute to spare.

We were planning on checking into a hotel close to the hospital for the night, but once we got off the boat I was (surprise!) hungry. So, we booked it to McDonald's and because of my nerves, I wasn't so hungry anymore, so I only ordered a Happy Meal, you know, for the baby. : ) We took our meals and decided to do the five mile drive at Pt.Defiance Park while we ate. We drove it slowly as I contracted, and reveled at the lush greenery outside, and how in maybe just mere hours our world would once again, change forever. I will always remember that drive, just me and him, and that feeling of anticipation, eagerness, and extreme fear. Grace's pregnancy was so emotionally difficult, I just wanted her out so I could see and hold her, and make sure she was alright, but that I feared too. During that drive it really felt real. I was having a baby. Another baby. My last one didn't survive, was I really ready for this? I didn't think so, and didn't know, but I didn't have much of a choice in the matter. This new world of mine was coming, whether I was ready for it, or not.

Jeremy parked the car at the Narrows view point as we licked the greasy salt off our fingers and sat in the car. I snapped this picture as we sat and chatted, and decided to ditch the hotel idea and go straight to the hospital:

The five mile drive makes me smile now every time we go on it. All I have to say to Jeremy is "Remember when I was pregn-" and he'll interrupt and say, "Yup," and smile too.

An hour later we were waiting in the hospital and I was being examined by a doctor that I was very very glad was not my chosen OB. If I wasn't in true labor, that exam was SURE to put me in labor. Sheesh! and, ouch!! I was, in fact in true labor so they settled us into a room and just like the past two weeks, my labor started to slow as the night progressed. Seeing as I had an induction in the morning and since I was crawling on my knees, holding onto the nurses ankles begging not to be sent home, they let me stay (!!!) and even brought a cot for Jeremy to sleep on.

By late evening, Jeremy, after all that hard work shampooing carpets ( grrr), was sleeping soundly.  I was wide awake, watching the clock, listening to the footfalls of the sneakers that moved outside my room. I still didn't like hospitals. They still made my heart sicken and the tears fall. The smell. The feel of the industrial linens against my skin. The sounds. The pale tasting food. Prior to having babies, the hospital was my old stomping ground. I had worked in the hospital for five years, and knew it's details, and ran it's halls. That was my prior life, and after Vanessa's first year I was planning to go back to work, a few days a week, but that never happened, and I let my licence lapse, never wanting to go back to it. Ever.

By midnight, a nurse walked in with a sleeping aid. I really didn't want it, but she insisted.
 "Tomorrow is a big day. You will need this tonight, I promise. You need to save your energy."
 I reluctantly took it, and an hour later, I wobbly entered dreamland where I slept through all my night checks by the nurse, and was locked into the darkness I so badly wanted, just to get a respite, if not brief, from the fear that was eating away at me. This fear of the extreme vulnerability that was about to happen, of becoming a mother again.

In the early morning, around six I think, my eyes opened to a figure near my I.V. pole. The figure heard my morning squirming and turned to look. It was a nurse, but in the dawn coming through the windows, I could only see her silhouette. She bid me good morning and scrounged up a stool to sit on, and wheeled it towards my bed. In my sleepy Ambien haze, I barely remember our conversation. I don't remember her name, and there was not enough light to get a clear look at her, but all I remember was her dark silhouette and her gentle soft voice, talking to me. She told me she read my chart. She spoke to me about Vanessa. She spoke of the heartache then, and the heartache that was about to come, and how motherhood is just one big throbbing heart. She told me there is going to be difficult days ahead, and how joy would  prevail. I remember listening, trying to push sleep away, but it was difficult. She was the first and only person that hospital stay that brought up my past, and acknowledged the pain I was feeling, besides labor. She also told me how important it would be to distinguish a difference between the two babies, and how important it was going to be, to be present for this new one. She encouraged me, and spoke to me as if she knew my pain.  Maybe she did. I'll never know. What I do know, is this mystery figure sure felt like an angel. She was comforting, and I felt a connection between us that was very deliberate. She slipped out of my room moments later, and I never saw her again.

With the morning light came sounds of the hospital at daybreak, a dose of Pitocin to get things started, then a dose of Cytotec to really give it a kick in the butt. When that didn't work, they broke my water. Family started trickling in, and labor pains started to deepen until it was beyond reading magazines, or keeping conversation. During both labors I didn't want to be touched. I wanted a hand to hold, maybe, but no soothing words, no touching. I wanted in my head, and to stay there, undisturbed.  To climb that hill of the contraction, and slide slowly down. By myself. Jeremy offered chapstick. I angrily shook my head no. People Magazine? no. Food Network T.V.?  NO!! Ohhh...Laboring woman with no T.V. preferences means remote up for grabs... anyone?.. anyone? ... Bueller...anyone?? Okay, Barrett Jackson auction it is, and so it was.

After a handful of stomach splitting contractions I ask for an epidural. Too many things are happening in my mind to resist it, and I am about to loose control. My knight in shining armor is tracked down and is now standing in the doorway. The anesthesiologist is an older attractive gentleman with a trusting face and explains the procedure to me through a deep contraction. I yell at him in my head and he sticks the needle in my back warning me not to move. I don't and am scared. It it painful. Way more painful than the last one I got. The last time I got an epidural with Vanessa, it was put in wrong and made my heart freak out, so I was scared on many, many levels.

He finishes, and his attention turns to Jeremy and the T.V.
"Barret Jackson!" His face lights up, and he and Jeremy immediately go into conversation.
Woman. In labor. CONTRACTION. Over here. OUCH!
The nurse is tending to me as the anesthesiologist looks at my chart and spies my reaction to the past epidural, and says he wants to stay a little bit for observation....of Barrett Jackson, that is. He pulls up a chair next to Jeremy and they oogle like two little schoolboys over the cars as I glare at their backs for the next fifteen or so minutes. He then gives me the OK, signs my chart, and reluctantly leaves. I still frown a little when I see Barrett Jackson on TV.....Barrett Jackson...Grrrrrr.

Family is getting antsy as they have been there since morning. Barrett Jackson is silent as the T.V. is off. It is now late evening and I am only at five centimeters. A while ago I mentioned to the nurse that I felt like I had to go to the bathroom, but they don't think so, and I can't tell much what I feel anyway. By seven thirty they decide to listen to my wishes, and drain me. The nurses eyes get wide as she does this, as I was right. They should have listened to me hours ago. I did need to go, and they were draining, A LOT. I feel something shift and have a very painful contraction as soon as they empty my bladder. And then comes a hammering of incredibly painful waves that felt as if I was coming apart. I ask Jeremy to get the anesthesiologist quick! Instead, the nurse comes in all nonchalantly and hears me scream for the first time. I have had an epidural, and am screaming like I haven't had one. Something hurts I tell her, really, really, bad and something doesn't feel right. She starts to investigate and finds I have become fully dilated after being only five centimeters ten very painful minutes ago. She's hovering around the baby monitor and is now worried. Baby's decel's are not recovering. Baby needs to come out. Now. I scream through another contraction and feel baby start to suddenly descend. The nurse is pulling equipment out of the wall in a hurry, getting ready to wheel me to the OR, but I tell her baby is coming, NOW, and she is screaming at me not to push and I am screaming at her. Suddenly the dimness retreats from the room as all the lights are blasted on and my doctor and a student doctor comes in and so does my mom and mother-in-law. I am propped up and barely have time to gather myself and have no choice but to push. I shut my eyes and I push hard. And again. And one more time, hard, and I feel her entering the world and feel the separation start. I keep my eyes closed and hear my mother's gasp as she is born, but I also hear the terse words "cord" spoken, and hear nothing but murmurs and quick movements. A button is being pushed, I do know that, and I do know from knowing the internal working of the hospital, that it is the Code button. I still don't open my eyes as I hear the NICU team rush into the room. I am still in pain, but my heart is breaking, and that is all I feel. She is not crying. I hear them work on her. Breathe for her. Pump her chest. It seems like a long time. Too long. Jeremy is holding my hand tightly and I am having a major panic attack. I hear the nurses saying "Come on, baby......Come on, baby", then I hear a garbled cry. It is the best sound of my life, and I still can't believe what my ears are hearing. Sighs of relief and tears of joy flow from the family and I still do not open my eyes."It's okay!", they tell me, but I shake my head no. No. That wasn't OK. That was not how she was supposed to come into this world. That was too close for comfort. Way to close.

I hear someone bringing her to me. Before I open my eyes for the first time to see her, I hear her sucking on her fist. "Mama, I'm hungry", translated. I finally open my eyes and she is there. My daughter. Looking at me with the whole world to see, and our eyes are transfixed on each other. It was a moment I will carry in my heart that is all mine. A moment where words cannot bring justice to the emotion I was feeing.

I tell her all the time that I love her, but I save these words special, for times when I really want her to know how I am feeling, and I look deep into her eyes and feel her puzzle piece click into mine and I say these words: " I am so glad you are mine." And I mean it, with all my heart.

Tomorrow I will celebrate her and throughout this week and throughout my life. Her miraculous spirit was chosen to be mine and I am humbled and forever so very grateful.   Her sunshine pours into my gray heart and her laughter tends to my wounds on a daily basis. I celebrate you, Gracie Lou. Who you are, who you will be, everything about you. You make me so proud, and I will always feel so very lucky to be your mama. I am yours, and you are mine.

Happy Birthday, My Love


  1. Oh Marla,
    Another beautiful post has me tearing up. Happy Birthday Grace!

  2. Thanks for the b-day wishes! Hope you are doing well!! When you are on the Island next, look me up, I'd love to see ya! XO