“When I first felt her stirring inside of me, I was consumed with a terror that felt as old as life itself. Only the joy of holding her in my arms could tame it.” – Suzanne Collins | Mockingjay
In case I haven’t mentioned it, Nola’s birthday is this coming week, and I’m all kinds of nostalgic about it. I’m still having a hard time coming to terms with the fact that it’s been an entire year, yet at the same time, it feels like so much longer. It’s hard to imagine a time when she wasn’t here; our lives sharply divided into before and after. So much of that day is a blur, and I know it will only get worse as the years go on. So in honor of her last days as a baby, I’m revisiting that terrifying, chaotic, magical day when our little firecracker made her debut.
I had a pretty uneventful pregnancy. Aside from the typical complaints, nothing seemed too terrible about the process of growing a tiny human. Aaron’s mother spent years as a delivery nurse, and now works in an OB/GYN office, so it made sense to see that group of doctors. Plus, she was a fantastic resource for all of my questions as things came up, so I felt pretty confident about the process, even if I was still terrified of the outcome when I would actually have to parent this person and raise her to be a descent, responsible human being.
At the 31 week mark, I went in for a typical appointment, along with an ultrasound. It was a Friday afternoon, and I met with the doctor after going through all the typical appointment steps. I remember he asked if I drank, smoked or did any drugs. I kind of laughed at him – you’re kidding right? You know my mother in law works here – just go ask her. Never one to pull any punches, he flat out told me look – your baby is small. Smaller than she should be. I figured it was just due to her parents not being terribly big people (I’m 5’3″ on a good day – Aaron – who wrestled all throughout elementary, junior high and high school comes in at a more respectable 5’7″ish) but the doctor seemed concerned enough that he wanted to see me back the following Monday and twice a week starting immediately up until the end. After he left the room, I remember just sitting there, dumbfounded. Trying to remember the whirlwind of terminology that was just thrown at me. I enlisted the help of my mother-in-law, who chatted up the doctor, and sorted through all of it. IUGR. Intrauterine Growth Restriction. I think I wore out Google trying to read everything I could. While he wasn’t overly concerned, he wanted to keep an eye on things because for some reason, Little Bean was not growing the way they thought she should. I cut out the gym, started drinking Boost shakes in between meals, treated myself to Thai takeout more often, and hoped for the best.
Fast forward six weeks later, after continuing the twice a week appointments, and going through a roller coaster of emotions, I went in for my regular ultrasound and non-stress test that Thursday morning. I remember asking the ultrasound technician how much she thought she would weigh and she said she was estimating 5lbs 3oz. That felt encouraging! Bean passed her NST with flying colors and did all of the activities she was supposed to on the ultrasound, so I was prepping to head back into work for the remainder of our Business Analyst forum that had been going on all week. When my delivery doctor – a quick-witted, personable red head – came in the room, I’ll never forget what she said: “So here’s the plan – come back tonight and we will have a baby.”
Even at the estimated weight, little Bean was still too small for them to continue staying the course, so I was instructed to come back to the hospital that night to induce. After racing back to work to collect my things and tie up some loose ends on my project, I headed back home to pack and start making arrangements to bring little Bean home. I think the only thing we had in her room was her crib – no changing table, no dresser, nothing. I packed up some newborn outfits, along with a few things for myself, and tearfully snuggled with my dog, as I knew she would be uneasy with my absence and how her life was about to change.
That evening, I checked in, started the induction process and settled in for the long wait. I remember watching Catching Fire in the hospital room until I finally had to turn it off, because I couldn’t hear over the beeping monitors. The next morning, we determined the induction had failed – no progress whatsoever. So we began round two with high hopes that it would get things moving. Nothing. By this time, it was Friday afternoon, and my doctor presented me with an option: we could try a third round of induction, or she could do a c-section. But either way, I wasn’t going home without a baby. I remember calling my friend Beth, who had recently had her first child via c-section for some advice. She gave me the pep talk I needed, so we decided to go forward. We suited up, met with the anesthesiologist and got ready to meet little Bean!
The rest of the story, unfortunately is somewhat lost to me. They took me to the OR and gave me my spinal block. I waited for it to make me numb. And waited…….and waited……and panicked. I remember at the height of my absolutely embarrassing freak out, screaming “I’m absolutely NOT numb!” and then my doctor peeked her face over the curtain with a mask, and said “honey, we’re putting you out.” I think I sobbed for about 30 seconds until the anesthesia kicked in.
Meanwhile, poor Aaron is sitting outside in the waiting room – in full scrubs – wondering what was going on. He shared with me later that he was told they would bring him in after administering my spinal and he could watch the surgery. About 45 minutes passed and he was terrified thinking he had missed an instruction and was supposed to be somewhere he wasn’t! Towards the end of the surgery, the nurse did come out and give him an update, and let him know that Bean was about to come out, and they’d bring her in a couple of minutes. When they asked her name, he gave it to them – Nola – after my great grandmother. (Although he said he blanked on her middle name – Claire!) Thankful that he had the presence of mind to take the camera with him so he could get those precious first pictures of Nola. It was maybe 30-45 minutes before I was awake enough to be able to hold her, so I love looking at this pictures of her first moments. At 4lbs 15oz she was definitely the smallest baby I’ve ever seen, and I was a shock every single time I’d see her at how tiny she was. It’s surreal now to believe that just a year later, she’s got such a big personality, and fills our home and our hearts with so much joy.
Though the day was scary, I’d do it all again for you, baby girl. Happy birthday – the greatest day ever.