Because a mom needs to reflect sometimes, I’m sharing the birth stories of each of my children as we count down the weeks to Baby Whitaker. Most of these were pre-blog days, so while I share these with you, I’m really writing these for the kids. And, here’s hoping I don’t cause them to duck under the nearest table from embarrassment.
Confession time. When our second child was six weeks old, I sat on the couch crying my eyes out. I looked up at Scott and said these (now very funny, then notsomuch) words: “I cannot, CANNOT, have any more children. Two is my limit.” And then I sobbed some more. I just felt so overwhelmed. This is why I tell people not to make big decisions the first three months after having a baby. You are not rational. You are sleep deprived. The fog lifted somewhat at 3-3-3: 3 months, 3 weeks, 3 days and I was rational again. Scott and I began discussing the possibility of having another baby. We prayed heartily.
Because we struggled for more than a year to conceive John Paul, we opted to start trying sooner rather than later, hoping for a smaller gap between the kids. And this is how I know God has a sense of humor. John Paul and Anna-Laura are exactly 16 months apart.
He answered our prayer. Quickly.
I originally began seeing the OB that delivered John Paul, but the front office staff became increasingly difficult to work with at each visit. The straw that finally broke me was my 8am nurse’s visit to have my blood drawn (I was having spotting and completely freaked out) that resulted in an hour wait and nary an apology. This wasn’t the first time I’d waited more than an hour and her staff was clearly overbooking her schedule. So, at 8 weeks, I switched OBs. Best decision I ever made.
Because I was a week overdue with Will and induced two weeks early with John Paul, we had no idea when this sweet babe would arrive. Five days before my due date, I knew the time was near. I got the car washed, picked up some dry cleaning and mailed a few packages at the post office. There were a few contractions around 9am, but they were inconsistent, so I ignored them. But, when it took me nearly an hour to iron three shirts because I was in so much pain, I figured those were probably real contractions. I’m psychic like that.
A quick call to my mom to come watch the kids and a call to Scott to get his hiney home and we were headed to the hospital. I made sure to eat before I went because I was ravenous during John Paul’s delivery. Labor did teach me something.
We arrived at 1pm and then the contractions all but stopped. Figures. At 3:30, they returned with a vengeance and we knew today was the day. The epidural was started and the OB broke my water around 5:30. The thing I remember most was chatting with Dr. O, my OB. We discovered she was Catholic and had the most faith-filled, uplifting conversation. In the eye of the delivery storm and worry, God knew I needed some reassurance that all would be okay.
At 7pm, the contractions really ramped up and the on-call doc was paged. Our sweet Dr. O was officially off the clock and as it turns out she only missed the delivery by about an hour! Before I began pushing, Scott and Dr. F discovered a shared love of baseball. In the middle of “his curve ball is amazing” the nurse rolled her eyes and said, “Um, she’s crowning.”
Focus people. I did my first push at 7:55, the next at 8 and my third and final push at 8:04pm.
IT’S A GIRL! the OB shouted. My reply? “Show me.” He happily obliged by holding her up by the ankles.
I do remember Dr. F saying something about loving “banker’s hours” and “getting home in time to see ’24′.” Hey, I aim to please.
At midnight that evening, while nursing, Anna-Laura turned blue and I FREAKED THE FREAK OUT. We paged the nurse and she was swiftly taken from my arms and up to the neonatal intensive care unit. Her lungs had some wetness and everyone was concerned. At 3am, we found out her O2 levels were low (in the 80s) and we took the wait and watch approach. If not better in 48 hours they were planning to transfer her to the Level III NICU in downtown Austin. And if that wasn’t enough drama, we received a call from Scott’s mom. His dad was not doing well, at all, and she was afraid he may not survive. It’s possible for me to count that as one of my worst nights as a mom and wife.
The coming days and hours brought a slight improvement in both Anna-Laura and my father-in-law. Not surprisingly, her Godfather, Fr. David, stopped by to check out his Goddaughter in the NICU. Within a half hour of giving her a blessing, her O2 levels skyrocketed to the 90s and we began weaning her from the oxygen tent.
That is no coincidence.
After 48 hours, I finally held and nursed her again. Words cannot describe that joy. We came home after just three days in the NICU and I was grateful for such a short stint and no lasting health concerns. Three weeks later, we got the call again from Scott’s mom. Scott sped off first to his hometown and I followed a day later with all the kids. And, three weeks after she was born, just hours after meeting Anna-Laura, my father-in-law passed away.
So, while we said goodbye to one life, I cradled a new one in my arms at the funeral.
The meaning of that moment has never left me. The deep bond we share as family and the importance of telling – and showing – people that you love them. Anna-Laura’s life was healing to so many. God knew just when she needed to arrive.