After a miserable weekend of inconsistent, but painful contractions, I was uncomfortable and ready to have this baby. In fact, I was sure she was coming early Sunday morning- so sure that I woke up at 2 AM, showered, dressed, and packed my hospital bag. Then, the contractions stopped. Later on that same Sunday morning, I got my sad self outside and went on a one-hour vigorous walk around my neighborhood hoping to make something happen…again. Nothing. So, off to church I went- feeling tired, sore, and more uncomfortable than ever. Monday morning comes and I felt great- business as usual, which was a little depressing, to be honest. After Lauren begged me to go to the gym for at least an hour, I finally relented and met Sheree at our usual circuit class at 10 am. She filled me in on her secret castor oil cocktail for inducing labor. I was desperate and decided that today was the day I needed to have this baby- 38 weeks and 4 days.
I found some castor oil, bought some ice cream to chase the aftertaste and waited to perform the deed until Lauren was napping for the afternoon. I very barely swallowed the 4 ounces, chased it with some tortilla chips and the ice cream and then wanted to wash my mouth out with soap- or anything to get rid of the nastiness. Then, I waited.
I’ll skip the dirty details, but suffice it to say that around 5:30 I asked Brian to please skip his work dinner and get home. Because I wasn’t in actual labor at the time, we decided that he would stay at the dinner and remain on high alert. At 6:15, I called my mother-in-law Barbara, and told her I needed help. I was feeling pretty gross and didn’t think I could manage the kids all by myself for the night. The minute I hung up the phone, the contractions started kicking in. I immediately called Brian in tears- no words needed. He was on his way. By this time, my contractions, which had come out of nowhere, were two minutes apart and STRONG.
Hunching all over the house, I gathered my things for the hospital and tried to pick up the house a little bit- or at least ordered my kids to, through my pain and tears. Its amazing how willing kids become when they see their mommy crying. ☺ Fifteen agonizing minutes later Brian and Barbara arrived within a couple of minutes of each other. Brian ran in the front door and straight out the back, where I was waiting for him in the car with my things.
We raced- 90 mph- to the hospital, which was about 20 minutes away. I called my doctor to let her know we were coming in, that I labored fast, that I was at a 4 and 75% effaced at my last appointment on the previous Thursday and could she please have an anesthesiologist waiting in my room when we arrived. ☺
My contractions were literally on top of each other…to say I was terrified at this point, would be downplaying it a little bit- I knew that there was a very real possibility that I might have this baby in the car- or that’s what I was convinced of. The idea of not getting an epidural was enough to make me entirely regret the castor oil cocktail- seriously terrifying.
We arrived at the hospital, I hobbled into a wheelchair, Brian raced me up to the labor and delivery unit, where my nurse was waiting for me at the unit door to take me to my room. You have never seen a pregnant lady strip down so fast- I was in my hospital gown in less than 5 seconds. I knew time was everything at this point and right now it wasn’t on my side. My nurse checked and I was at a 5. To my total and complete relief, I could get my priceless epidural. But, I had to get some fluid in my body first. I was a little dehydrated, so my veins weren’t really cooperating. They had to balloon open my veins to get more fluid in faster.
By 7:30, the anesthesiologist came to the room, and gave me the fastest and most pain-free epidural I’ve ever had. Finally, I could relax. By the time all of the nurses left the room, I was ready to just enjoy the moment with Brian. And, just a moment it was- around 8:00 one of the nurses came in to check me again and I was at a 10! I wasn’t ready for it all to happen that fast, but I guess baby was in control this time. They called the doctor, who lived about 15 minutes away and then about 15 nurses entered the room as they realized that Tessa’s head was already making its appearance.
They had me wait to push until the doctor arrived- my nurse was adamant that “she wasn’t going to deliver my baby”. Thanks for the boost of confidence. Doctor finally came, baby’s head was entirely out, and I pushed two more times to get out the rest of the tiny and precious little body.
They handed her to me almost immediately- a moment that I just love to soak in. Then, they took her off to clean and inspect her. Brian had them immediately check for an intact palate- a constant fear of ours after Kate’s ordeal 7 ½ years earlier. To our total and complete shock, we were told within minutes of the birth that our sweet new baby did indeed have a cleft palate.
I cannot describe the despair and hopelessness that washed over me as I instantly assumed the worst. I will never forget the trials and testing that we went through in caring for Kate the first year of her life and I knew that I just could not go through that again, much less watch my baby go through it again. Confusion, sadness, and shock brought me to tears as I thought through the implications of a birth defect that we had already once lived through.
Over the next couple of days, Brian and I relied on each other and the doctors at the hospital to come to the realization that although Tessa Jane had the same birth defect, it was different at the same time. It was a complete cleft (meaning it involved both the hard and soft palate) but a large portion of her palate was still intact, making it nearly impossible for me to nurse, but possible for her to take a regular bottle. I’ve never been so happy to see a baby take a bottle. I spent all of the time I could getting to know my baby Tessa, staring at her sweet and perfect face, and realizing what a humbling experience this was and could be for our family. The veil thins when something like this happens- and we are grateful for the blessings that have already come to our family because of our sweet Tessa. We are so happy she is here and is mostly healthy. She is very loved.
Tessa Jane. Born November 7, 2011. 7 lbs, 3 oz. 20.5" long.