Describe your first pregnancy…piece of cake or terrible experience?
[edit: warning to say, man this got long. sorry! i didn't plan for that, but i never really told my whole getting-pregnant-pregnancy-birth-story before, and it became therapeutic. now i'm glad it's there to share with little man one day. continue on if you want to read a slightly oversharing mini book :)]
Oh, pregnancy. You were one of the most wonderful seasons of my life and I remember you fondly. Truth be told, I often long to experience you again and sometimes get angry that The Hubs won’t get the chance to. But I am so thankful we got to experience you once.
My first (and only) pregnancy was a wonderful season of my life. I had dreamed of being a mother since I was young; my ultimate vision was to be a loving and loved wife and mother. I wanted a whole brood of kids and pictured my adult self with a baby on one hip, another running around, and another doing artwork at the table. When The Hubs and I got married, we both dreamed of those children but knew we wanted to wait awhile. We were young, we wanted our ‘married couple’ season of life to last a while before we brought children into the mix. When we found out we would be moving to Japan, that confirmed the ’5-year-plan’: not only did we know we wanted to soak in that experience freely, but we also knew our mothers would kill us if we had the first grandkid overseas! :)
But that only lasted so long…after a few years of marriage, my biological clock was ticking. My motherly instinct kicked in and I wanted a baby, now. After The Hubs’ second deployment and the experiences that he brought home, so did he. We knew it was time. So we started trying. I never thought we would have difficulty; I don’t think anyone does. But after a few months, it was getting more and more difficult emotionally to see the negative tests. I was getting stressed, and a bit obsessed. I began following fertility methods, trying different things we could try on our own, praying a lot, and probably making The Hubs a bit crazy. After 7 months of disappointment, we decided to stop trying for a while. I was about to graduate from college, we were building a home, and we would be moving back to the States soon. With such big stuff going on, it seemed right to wait a while. Little did we know, God had his own plans. A few weeks after letting go of the stress of ‘trying,’ we found out I was pregnant.
I remember the day we found out. It was in late April of 2008. I hadn’t been feeling myself; nothing in particular made me suspect anything, believe me by then I was a pro at ‘early signs’ and often imagined them! I just felt a little odd. I remember thinking, ‘might as well use up the last of these pregnancy tests, since we’re cleaning out for the move’ and grabbed one like I’d done a million times. Left it on the counter, went about my business. I actually forgot about it in there and didn’t check back for a while. But when I did and I saw those two lines for the first time ever, time stopped. I was shaking and slightly hyperventilating, and holding it up to the light to inspect it as if I were imagining the line. I have a distinct memory of sinking down to the floor of the bathroom and praying ‘Oh God, really?’ I was so afraid to believe it was true. The Hubs wasn’t home, he had gone to the rock climbing gym with a friend of ours, so I hopped into the car and ran up to the Shoppette right up the road. I grabbed another regular test and a two-pack of digital tests. I was a mad woman on a mission at this point, chugging water while I was driving haha. I immediately took the other test when I got home. Two lines. This time I started smiling and jumping up and down like a girl. I grabbed my phone and called The Hubs. When he answered, I said, “You need to come home, babe.” He was worried, asking if everything was okay. I told him everything was fine, I was okay, he just needed to come home right away. He was confused but could hear the urgency and said okay. I found out later that the friend he was with joked with him, ‘I bet she’s pregnant man’ but he didn’t really believe it and laughed it off.
When he came home I was grinning like an idiot, completely incapable of containing a surprise as usual. I told him to sit down on the couch and close his eyes and put his hands out. And when he did, I put the test in his hands. He opened his eyes and just stared. It felt like forever that he just stared at it, I guess unable to comprehend just like I had experienced. Then he looked up and smiled, and we proceeded to freak out haha. I took the digital tests with him there, just to see the word. Then we hatched a plan to tell our families. Part of me wanted to wait; I had made a lot of friends in the infertility world by then and I was worried about the possibility of telling too soon. But we were too excited. Since there is a major time difference between Okinawa and the Eastern US, we weren’t sure if we would reach anyone. I tried to call my mom and had to leave her a ‘I have news, call me back’ message. But we were able to reach his parents. We wanted it to be a little special, so we had taken a picture of us holding a “Hi Grandma!” sign and emailed it before we called. We were both on the phone but only The Hubs was speaking. He told his Mom to check her email, he had sent her something important and needed her to look at it right away. I could barely stay silent while she did, and when when she saw it she freaked and we were both saying “we’re pregnant!” and everyone was crying and it was great. Surely a memory none of us will forget. Once we got my Mom on the phone, we did something similar and shared a picture as well. Such sweet moments!
The early days of my pregnancy were wonderful. I had left my career in banking management months prior to focus on completing my degree, and I was weeks away from graduating when we found out we were expecting. I stayed focus on finishing strongly and was thankful to have my days at home. We were also preparing for an overseas move, so I knew things would be getting hectic soon. I prayed and prayed to avoid morning sickness, and I was very fortunate that I did. I never experienced any nausea, with the exception of one time when I smelled scrambled eggs and decided they were the worst thing on the planet. My days were easy; you would have never known I was pregnant except for the exhaustion, the naps, and the perma-grin I carried around as if I had a secret everyone should know. :) I started a blog (surprise, surprise!) to keep our family updated on the pregnancy since we were so far away. [I am now so, so glad to have that.] When I was about 9 weeks along, we had our first ultrasound to confirm the pregnancy and due date. I’ll never forget hearing that heartbeat for the first time, or seeing the look on The Hubs face when he did. He had taken off work to go with me and filmed the whole thing in a video I now treasure. We were both just in awe of how this little life was in there, a life we had dreamed of.
The rest of my first trimester went by smoothly. At the very beginning of the second trimester, we had a small scare but it ended up being a case of overexerting myself and all was well. I had a ton of energy and still didn’t feel pregnant at all. We were now preparing in earnest for our impending move and things were getting a bit crazy. At 16 weeks, we made the big move from Okinawa Japan back to the states. I’ll never forget that, phew. I suffer from motion sickness, big time. I can’t ride in the backseat, I can’t ride rollercoasters or even a carousel, and I can’t fly, unless I am using Dramamine or another motion sickness medication. I’ve always been able to use those meds and not let the motion sickness slow me down. But….those meds aren’t safe during pregnancy. SO here I was, facing 4 flights from Japan to Florida, one of those flights being 13 hours long, and I couldn’t use motion sickness meds. I was a terrible mess, so afraid and expecting an absolutely horrible experience. After much research I armed myself with Unisom (which is safe during pregnancy and in addition to helping you sleep is also supposed to help with motion sickness) and copious amounts of ginger candies to suck on (ginger is a natural nausea remedy). I’m sure The Hubs was expecting a horrible experience, but it ended up not quite as horrendous as I expected. Excitement kept me okay during the first leg. I was pretty damn miserable during the long flight, but that was mostly from being stuck in one position for 13 hours with a growing belly and incompetent bladder and grumbling belly and inability to sleep despite sleep meds. The rest of the flights proved to be nauseating during the landings, but thankfully I never ralphed. (I did make sure to where a ‘pregnant shirt’ so people would know why, just in case!) We picked our car up from storage and spent a month of The Hubs leave at home in Florida with our families. It was so wonderful to share our excitement with them, and I felt the first kicks (and they felt the first external kicks) while we were visiting. We celebrated our 5 year anniversary while there and felt like the most blessed people in the world.
In August, at around 20 weeks, we made the trek across the US to our new home in South Dakota. Thankfully we drove, so no more motion sickness issues. It took us 4 days of driving (we kept it to the suggested amount of daily driving hours for pregnancy) but was surprisingly pleasant. We loved the journey, loved the adventure, loved the exhilaration of knowing we were on our way to our next season. It was so exciting and I’ll never forget feeling. At one point while driving through the endless cornfields of Nebraska, Bob Dylan’s ‘The Times They are a-Changing’ was playing and we declared that our song of 2008. Moments like those are treasures. What a wonderful change it was.
At around 22 weeks, after we settled in and insurance got a clue, we finally had our gender ultrasound. By this point, everyone had their opinions on the gender! My family all thought girl (because my mom had all girls (four of us))and his family all thought boy (because many generations had all had boys). I wasn’t sure, waffling between boy and girl daily, and The Hubs wanted a boy so he could have his little man to carry on the Berky name. Secretly, even though I could go either way, I deep down couldn’t see myself being the mom of a girl. When I pictured parenting with The Hubs, I pictured a little boy. I didn’t know why or how, I just did.
And sure enough, at our ultrasound we confirmed that it was indeed a boy. Again, The Hubs was so excited he filmed the whole thing…a video I treasure. I asked the tech to wait until the end to do the gender part and tell us, but she caught it midway. I thought I saw something, but didn’t say anything. When she finally confirmed it was a boy, and I heard The Hubs say ‘Oh wow…’, all felt right with the world. I was so, so happy that he had his little boy, his little man, his Berky boy. Neither of us could scrape the grins off our faces as we left the midwives office that day. We drove to the mall to have lunch, and sat in the parking lot to call our fathers first. You see, we had had our names picked out since we were just a few weeks along. And the middle names were after our parents. We chose to have two middle names, one after each grandparent, and this meant that both of our Dads were about to have a grandchild named after them. We wanted to announce the gender by calling each Grandpa and telling them, “so, your grandkid is going to be named after you…” Just as we thought, it turned out beautifully. We were both able to reach our Dads and both were shocked and touched, not only by the gender reveal but by the honor of the name.
The rest of the second trimester went by smoothly. We got settled into our new home and began working on the nursery, I settled on options on like cloth-diapering and natural drug-free childbirth. I also began experiencing an odd phenomena that no one could explain. If you’ve ever heard of Restless Leg Syndrome, it was like that only the sensation was in my chest. In the evenings when trying to fall asleep, I would get this weird creepy-crawly feeling in my chest and arms, like I just HAD to move them and squirm to relieve the sensation. It led to many sleepless nights and no one had an explanation. (Even now, with Little Man about to turn 5, I still experience it from time to time.) I was beginning to feel exhaustion again and naps were a regular occurrence. Otherwise, I was a happy easy pregnant woman.
With the arrival of the third trimester came the beginning of the struggle. The tiredness gave way to aches and pains, and within a few weeks I was experiencing debilitating pelvic pain. Little Man (or Bean as we called him then) went through a massive growth spurt quickly which caused a huge jump in weight and stretch marks and hip pain and all sorts of things. I wasn’t sleeping, I gained 12 pounds in a few weeks, and I soon could barely walk from the pelvic pain. We learned I had SPD, or weakening of the pelvic ligaments. My pelvis was literally moving around and dislocating as I moved. Yowza. At an appointment shortly after, we also noticed my blood pressure was rising. Suddenly, my easy healthy pregnancy was getting scary. Dislocating joints, high blood pressure, protein in my urine, excess fluid retention…I was told to take it easy and was monitored frequently. We also experienced our first major blizzard during this time. The Hubs and I, native Floridians who had lived on a tropical island before moving to SD, had never even experienced snow before much less a blizzard. We were afraid I would go into labor during it but it ended up being an exciting adventure.
Appointments were happening often, Thanksgiving came and went, and things were getting more painful. Suddenly, around 36 weeks, I started noticing less movement. I was puffing up with water weight, the pelvic pain was worse, and I was starting to see ‘stars’ when I stood up. We went in and my blood pressure was through the roof. My midwife was worried about pre-eclampsia and after a few hours of monitoring, sent me home on bed rest telling me that if I didn’t have this baby naturally very, very soon, we were going to have to make it happen. She, The Hubs, and I were all on the same page about my dream of natural childbirth (I had given her and the hospital, which I was forced to give birth at since there were no birthing center and home births were illegal in SD, a detailed birthing plan of my wishes), but as much as she wanted to honor it, it was clear that our Little Man might be entering a danger zone.
A little over a week later I woke up and saw The Hubs off to PT, just like any normal morning. After he left I couldn’t get back to sleep so I went downstairs to watch TV. I fell asleep on the couch and woke up many hours later. I felt off, something wasn’t right, and a quick trip to the bathroom told me things definitely weren’t normal. As the day progressed odd pains and things were happening, and between my endless research and my natural instinct I knew something was up. The Hubs had planned to go to the grocery store after work to do our weekly grocery shopping for us since I couldn’t walk comfortably, and things weren’t terrible yet, so I waited until he came home to say anything. As soon as he got home he could tell something was up, but I told him I didn’t think it was a big deal and we went on about our evening. I remember that night like it was yesterday: I made a spaghetti bake and garlic bread, one of The Hubs favorites. (Little did I know that I would soon be cursing spaghetti and vowing to never eat it again.) While I was cooking dinner I kept getting contractions but just played them off as the Braxton-Hicks I’d been getting for ages. The Hubs would come rub my back and stir for me when it got to be too much and I leaned against the counter. After dinner I sat on my birthing ball, as it was the only place I was comfortable. I remember someone from his Shop came over to get something, I can’t remember who, and I was so out of it I just kept rocking on the birthing ball and nodded hello. As it got closer to bedtime, The Hubs was getting a little concerned but I kept telling him I was fine. He started timing the contractions on his computer but I told him not to worry, that he needed to get some sleep because he had PT in the morning. We went up to bed and after getting settled in, he would only go to sleep if I promised him I would keep timing the contractions. I couldn’t sleep anyway so I told him I would, and I kept the timer up on one screen while of course endlessly researching stuff on another.
A few hours later, a contraction hit that was so painful I could barely breathe through it and it suddenly hit me. Hello, you are actually in labor. I bolted up out of bed between contractions and jumped in the shower. I was terrified of going into the hospital stinky or without shaved legs or unkempt. Between horrible contractions, I took a shower, shaved my legs, did my hair, and even put on makeup (hello, shoulda worn waterproof mascara). After all of that, and getting dressed in my ‘cute labor outfit’ of yoga pants, I felt an odd urge. I’ll spare you the details but a trip back to the bathroom confirmed it was time. to. go. I woke up The Hubs and told him “I think it’s time, babe.” At this point it was 2 AM, we knew my midwife wasn’t there and we would have to call the on-call number. I freaked out, refusing to have a doctor and demanding my midwife. The Hubs took over and called and arranged everything, and called his boss to let him know what happening, and we got in the car and took off. I’ll never forget that drive. I was sweating and flustered, but it was snowing and freezing, our first South Dakota winter. The Hubs was your typical new expectant father, rushing and speeding through red lights but slowing down over bumps and ice patches, rubbing my arm and calming me down.
Once we got there, I don’t remember much from the early hours. I do remember I didn’t want him to leave my side, so I wouldn’t let him drop me off at the door. I stayed with him while he parked and walked up with him instead. I remember getting weighed during intake and shockingly turning to The Hubs and saying ‘that can’t be right!” haha. Next thing I remember I was getting an IV put in. Now, my birthplan had requested that I not get a routine IV. I didn’t want one unless I absolutely needed it. But my midwife, the one who believed in natural childbirth like I did and who was to be my enforcer in the hospital, wasn’t there yet. And I was retaining fluid, so no matter what I said, here came the IV. The fluid retention, which apparently had been happening since that morning but I didn’t realize, was making it nearly impossible to put in an IV. They tried my hand, my wrist, my elbow. I normally have great veins, but they were all getting blown out and it was so painful I was getting angry. They finally managed to get it in the middle of my left forearm, which was great because the next spot was my neck. I was so upset by then I just wanted B, my midwife. She got there shortly after, and my first exam revealed I was only at 3 cm. With all the pain, I was only at a 3! I was upset, and so was The Hubs, but we hunkered down for the rest of the evening and tried to get some rest.
The rest of my labor is a bit of a blur, with only a few distinct memories. I remember it being daylight suddenly, and the pain was coming faster, and I was suddenly very nauseous. I hated spaghetti with every fiber of my being and made it very known. The Hubs later told me I was pretty damn funny. The nurses kept trying to convince me to get some fluids and anti-nausea meds in my IV, and after consulting with my midwife I agreed. But it did nothing. Around mid-day, I remember feeling the urge to potty but not being able to make it to the bathroom. I was so incredibly embarrassed and in a mixture of defeat, shame, and pain, I cried. The Hubs didn’t know what to do and simultaneously cried and laughed and hugged me and picked on me. Very him. I also remember later on in the day being checked and learning I was only 5 cm. I cried and fussed a little. I wanted to make it move faster so I asked to walk and then go to the tub. I barely made it across the room before the pain was too much. I got in the tub for all of 10 minutes. We switched to the shower, no good. I just wanted to lay down and crawl into myself, like I do anytime I’m upset or sick or hurt. Unfortunately, that doesn’t progress labor. Several hours later it was so bad I was getting delirious. I distinctly remember waking up out of my daze, opening my eyes, pulling The Hubs arm to move him closer to me, and asking him, ‘would you be upset if I get the drugs?!’ He kept reminding me it wasn’t what I wanted, but that no matter what he loved me. I could tell, somewhere in my coherent mind, that he was struggling so badly. I found out later that he went outside at one point and called his mom, crying and yelling on the phone to her that I was in so much pain and he couldn’t help me and it was tearing him up. Such a sweet, sweet boy.
By about 6 that night, 17 hours since we had been at the hospital, 36 hours of active labor total, I had reached the ‘I can’t do it anymore’ point. The Hubs had stepped outside to get some air and I begged my midwife to just do something. ‘Please, just do something. I don’t care anymore. Cut me open, give me drugs, I know I told you not to listen, but ignore me. I just want my baby.’ Then I felt the urge. I asked to go to the potty, they went to go find The Hubs. After a few moments of excruciating, almost-giving-up, crying-real-tears, but-I-CANT pain, it was time. Two hours of pushing later, Little Man entered the world. But it wasn’t the moment I had imagined.
After pushing for what felt like forever, I started to feel weird. I’d had an out-of-body thing going on for a while, but this was different. It was like things were fading, I was seeing spots again, I couldn’t quite connect with what was going on. I remember looking at The Hubs who was holding one of my legs and trying to tell him with my eyes that something was wrong. Then I remember looking at my nurse on the left of me and right then I knew something wasn’t right. She was looking at the various screens and her eyes expressed the urgency of concern that I couldn’t seem to open my mouth to say. Then suddenly everyone was telling me to push NOW and I knew something was wrong. Things were fading, and then he was here. I remember looking down at my child entering the world, and instead of crying in happiness and welcoming him into my embrace, I saw that something wasn’t right. He wasn’t crying, he was purplish-blue. My midwife, who had been so vocal and encouraging, was quiet and her eyes scared me. She knew how much I wanted to immediately hold and feed him, so she put him on my chest for literally two or three seconds and then he was gone. I was still blurry around my vision, but I remember saying, ‘Why isn’t he crying? Is he okay? Babe, go with him..’ I lost a few minutes after that, but I remember the NICU rushing in and taking him, and The Hubs saying he was stepping out for a moment, and the nurse helping clean up a little. Some time passed and I called my Mom in a stupor. During the call the NICU nurse came into the room, but I was so out of it I just smiled at her and kept talking to my Mom until I realized I should get off the phone because she was actually there to talk to me.
The nurse handed me a picture, the first real glimpse I got at my baby boy. The Hubs wasn’t there, I remember looking for him but being alone in the room. My midwife came into the room and sat on my left and held my hand while the nurse sat on my right and told me all about my son. We had both sustained a threatening experience during the last few crucial moments of birth; I’d had some rapid decelerations but recovered quickly, but the stress of birth had caused respiratory failure in our Little Man. He had sustained a pneumothorax in his right lung and was struggling for oxygen. They were having trouble stabilizing his blood pressure and oxygen levels, and he wouldn’t be leaving the NICU anytime soon. I was devastated. I was in shock and denial and didn’t really comprehend everything that was said to me. The Hubs turned up a few minutes after the NICU nurse left. Turns out he had freaked out a bit over the stress and at the thought of losing me and Little Man, and needed a few moments to breathe. In those moments, he did all he could think to do and got in his truck and drove home in the snow to get the present he had bought to give me right after birth. That whole drive, he kept crying and praying, something he believed in but didn’t do with regularity. And during that drive, the song “Old Man” by Neil Young came on. It touched him, deeply, and became his fatherhood song. He returned to that hospital with the strength and resolve to take care of us, and presented me with my beautiful new Mother charm (for the Tiffany bracelet he would soon give me for Christmas, a week later) with tears in his eyes, promising to never leave my side again. He helped me to the shower, we got cleaned up and moved to a recovery room, and soon learned we couldn’t see our baby boy until he stabilized. In the quiet and dark of our new room, reality finally settling in, I lost it. I cried and cried, wailing my fears to my husband and unleashing my despair to the only person who could possibly understand it. He just held me, let me get it all out, and then reassured me that our little boy, the combo of our strength and resolve and love, would be okay. And with The Hubs love and reassurance, when the nurse came in and asked me if I wanted something to help me sleep, I said yes and was happily oblivious until the next morning when we finally got to meet our little boy.
From this point, things weren’t easy. Christmas rapidly approached and our moods kept souring. I cried when my midwife wanted to release me, I didn’t want to leave without my boy. She was amazing and managed to get us a ‘booking’ room in the hospital where we could stay since we hoped he would be an ‘active feeder’ in the NICU. Our Little Man experienced many setbacks in the NICU; one day he was doing well, the next he wouldn’t wake to feed or his levels dropped or he experienced too many bradys or his bilirubin was too high. Every day was a struggle for us too, as we prayed for him to be able to come home. We weren’t sleeping, we were waking at all hours to try to breastfeed even though he wouldn’t latch, we were seized with worry. The Hubs was back and forth taking care of insurance and military stuff. But this difficult, painful time also brought us so much closer together. It’s hard to explain but this hard time is one I look back on fondly. We never felt closer to one another, we never felt our love so tangible and so evident than in those moments that we were devoted to healing one another and the precious life we brought into this world together.
Finally, we received the good news and we brought our boy home the day before Christmas Eve. What started out as the easiest most simple pregnancy in the world had ended as the most difficult and painful time in our lives. Yet here we were, blessed beyond measure, celebrating the birth of our Savior with the birth of our own blessing.
Little did we know what the next year of our lives would bring, and just how much of a blessing this tiny new life really was….
I am so thankful for my first pregnancy. It was easy, it was hard, it was amazing. There will never, ever be another experience like it again. I will never forget the amazing moments of that season of my life, or the wondrous timing that God bestowed us with. From that pregnancy, I now see life every day…I now continue the blessing of The Hubs every day in the legacy he left with me. While I may dream of the blessing of another child one day, I know that the wonderland of my first is an experience that nothing will ever approach again. It was an unexpected divine blessing. Much like most amazing things in our lives… So in that light, who knows…maybe I will be blessed again. Maybe you will be. You never know when the most amazing things will happen to you… <3
This post is a response to the weekly Writer’s Workshop over at Mama’s Losin’ It!. Learn more about the ‘pretty much famous’ weekly prompts here. This week I chose: ‘Describe your first pregnancy…piece of cake or terrible experience?’