It all started with a trip to the bathroom early Tuesday morning (November the 29th). I mean early like the middle of the night. Sometime between 1:20 and 1:30 I got up as usual to go to the bathroom and I remember that I felt something but it was not anything significant in terms of pain or anything…in fact it was so indistinct I barely noticed it. As I got up to wash my hands I noticed that the water in the toilet looked a little pink but in the dim light and my middle of the night delirium I flushed and moved on without another thought. About an hour later I felt the need to use the restroom once again. This time I felt somewhat uncomfortable, I noticed blood and experienced a contraction that felt a little stronger than the Braxton Hicks contractions I had been having for the past month.
I went to the bedroom and shook Kris awake. I explained what I had seen and asked if he thought we should call the midwife. He thought I was exaggerating and told me not to bother her unless things progressed a bit more. I went back to bed and had more contractions. None of them were more than 8 minutes apart and though not consistent they were definitely getting more intense. I couldn’t sleep so at 3:00 I went downstairs and sat on the couch with my Bible. I read for a while then thought about the events of the past few days and the very little I had been able to accomplish around the house because of sickness in the house. Owen had been ill since Wednesday and was just improving when I seemed to come down with something and though I wasn’t completely bedridden a low fever on Monday had kept me from getting any housework or cooking accomplished. Owen and I had lounged and laid around all day. The day before that was Sunday and almost out of habit I had done no cleaning or anything just because it was Sunday. As I mused over this between contractions I felt the need to do at least a little straightening because if I truly were in labor…people would be coming to the house.
I knew the living room hadn’t been vacuumed in over a week so I crawled around picking up lint in the main walkway between the foyer and the kitchen. I knew the dishes hadn’t been washed in over 24 hours so I emptied the drainer and the dishwasher and reloaded the dishwasher with dirty dishes which cleared the counters except for a few hand wash only items. I wiped the countertops and straightened a few things but left the floor dirty and headed back to the couch to sit down again. I had done all of this stopping every now and then to breath through a contraction and write down the time and how long it lasted. I felt really tired. I read my Bible some more and than looked at the clock. It was almost 5:00 a.m. and I decided to call my sister Kristy. I knew that she would be up since she lives in a time zone 7 hours ahead of the rest of us and I was getting more and more confident that I truly was in labor and wanted to tell someone. She was excited with me and we talked for about 10 minutes and then I let her get back to her boys and the cleaning she was working on. My sister Becky told me later that she would have been awake too at that time as she was in Atlanta (an hour ahead of Nashville) getting ready to begin the second day of therapy for her oldest daughter Grace. I finished reading the passages I had chosen in my Bible and sat quietly to pray for a while I was feeling so good and really believing that this was a bit of an honor to be having this baby early just as I had prayed I would. I was surprised at how early, but pleased that it was after the 36 week mark and well before our due date of Christmas day. I had prayed that he would come when God wanted him to come and that it would not be so early that it would cause any harm to the baby.
One of the scriptures that I read was Psalm 29:11 “The Lord gives strength to His people, the Lord blesses His people with peace.” I have had the verse underlined in my Bible for some time and as I read it that morning I felt that it was the word I wanted to claim for Ivan’s delivery. Only later did I realize it was also significant in that he was born on the 29th day of the 11th month, the same numbers as the reference for the birth.
I went upstairs and decided to lie down again. I was hoping that it would ease the pain a bit if I could rest lying down. Owen woke up and came in our room just minutes later so my rest was interrupted but I don’t think I was calm enough to really rest anyway. Owen had us both up and both laughing by requesting Spaghetti for breakfast. Of course we told him that wasn’t an option. I asked Kris if he would get him some cereal and explained how many contractions I was having and how uncomfortable I was. I told him that I thought we should call Kathy (our midwife) and let her know what was happening. He obliged me but I think he still sort of doubted it was going to happen anytime soon.
I kept remembering Owen’s birth and trying to make myself relax and not get too impatient or excited. I talked to Kathy and she too doubted that my contractions were the real thing. She asked me how much water I had been drinking and knowing that I had had a fever the day before she warned that it may be dehydration causing me to experience pre-mature labor. I told her I would ask Kris to bring me water and that I would let her know if anything changed. By 8:00 my contractions were 5, 4, and occasionally 6 minutes apart. They were consistently 60 seconds long and strong enough that I couldn’t talk through them. I called Kathy at 8:30 and explained this to her. She said that she would head our way, stopping at home to get supplies because we had only ordered our birth kit two days previous, thinking we had plenty of time for it to arrive before the baby would come.
The next hour I answered Kris’ questions as I laid on the bed, filled out a few things on the computer and tried to bear the pain gracefully. Kris was straightening the bedroom, changing the sheets on the bed, getting the pack-n-play set up for the baby and doing laundry. We got Owen set up with the lap top so that he could watch Sesame Street and soon Kathy arrived. She walked in the door around 9:30 got her things out and ready, handed me a handful of anti-biotics (because of the fever the day before) and got prepared to check my progress. As soon as she checked me, she looked surprised and said…”when did your water break.” It hit me suddenly…that’s what happened when I went to the bathroom at 1:30. I explained that and she said…I don’t feel any cervix at all I feel baby scalp. I said…”so can I push?” She said I could if I wanted to. We quickly got a shower curtain from the hall bathroom and laid it on the bedroom floor, Kathy pulled out several pads and laid them on the shower curtain. I got down on hands and knees and another contraction hit. I immediately started pushing and in literally moments I felt a lot of pain followed by a release of some sort. I said something happened and she replied…”yeah, his head came out.” Kris and I were in shock. Wow, this is not the way it happened with Owen. I kept pushing and before I knew it she laid this little crying baby underneath me and Ivan was ours. As the yelling and crying and surprise was going on Owen entered the room and looked at us. We were laughing and began explaining to him that this was the little brother we had been talking about, that Ivan had come and we waited expectantly for his response. He smiled and looked at us and sort of had this expression that said…”that’s nice” and said, “I go watch Sesame Street.” Owen left the room and we began the process of cleaning up and looking over the baby to make sure everything was okay. Kris called his mom to let her know and she refused to believe that we were telling her the truth. We had to send her a picture before she was fully convinced. Kris had also e-mailed our call list to our friend Tisra, who was in the process of letting people know I was in labor when Kris called again to say that Ivan had arrived. She quickly switched gears and began calling to give the new announcement. Ivan is born, everyone is doing well. Or so we thought…
Kathy and Kris seemed a little concerned by Ivan’s cry. I was so happy and pumped by the birth experience it was hard for me to fathom that anything could be wrong, but indeed he wasn’t getting enough air. His cry was more of a gasp or a grunt than a true cry and he was obviously struggling to make his lungs work right. Kathy made a couple of phone calls and we quickly got Kris and the baby ready for a trip to the hospital. I tried nursing him to see if that would help but he couldn’t even suck, he was too focused on getting air. Kathy suspected it was just a simple problem that a little lung surfactant would quickly clear up and that he would be home before the day’s end. I put a diaper and a gown on him, put a hat on his head, socks on his feet and we packed him in the car seat for his first drive. Kris was out the door with him in a flash and the house was suddenly quiet. Kathy left after making all the necessary checks and clean up detail for me. Tisra arrived just before Kathy left and was immediately into servant mode. She insisted on my rest, helped me if I needed to move, did laundry, washed dishes, made Owen lunch and put him down for a nap, answered phone calls and fielded questions. She did it all.
I was of course unhappy that Ivan had been taken away so quickly but couldn’t get over the elation of the successful birth. I was still expecting him to be home that night, so I wasn’t worried about him.
Kris arrived at Vanderbilt’s Children’s Hospital and went to the area recommended by the doctor Kathy had spoken to. They directed him elsewhere and no one seemed to know where he should be. He finally sat down and waited in an emergency area with Ivan gasping for air beside him in his car seat. Directly across the room there was a boardroom of some sort and several doctors were just finishing up their meeting. As they walked out a few of them heard Ivan’s labored breaths and asked Kris what his story was. He explained that the baby had been born at home, was a month early, only a few hours old and needed help with his breathing. The doctors told him to follow them. With the check in nurse yelling after them to get his information on paper the doctors made it clear that this was something that needed immediate attention and escorted him personally into a room where Ivan was examined and quickly moved to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Ivan was given favor his first day on earth. He is the only baby we are aware of that has been allowed into the Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital NICU, that had not been born at their hospital. That is something they normally don’t allow.
Kris called me as soon as he could and let me know that Ivan was expected to do just fine, but they would need to keep him for a full week. His poor little lungs were in need of some attention due to an air pocket that had developed between his lung and the lung cavity, threatening to collapse his lung. Also, the fact that I had had a fever the day before his birth led to suspicion that he was affected by the Group B Strep virus that can cause meningitis in newborns if present in the mother. They insisted that he be on antibiotics for a full 7 days to be absolutely sure he was not affected. Though Kathy had given me precautionary antibiotics in pill form just before his birth, he was born so quickly that we couldn’t be sure they had any affect on him.
Tisra and I talked and made more phone calls. We drummed up a plan and soon I was ready to join Kris at the hospital, Owen was packed to stay with friends and the day began to grow both literally and figuratively dark. I was determined however that I would not grow weary in my attitude of gratefulness and joy. God had given us a wonderful morning, we had a new son who was given a not so disastrous diagnosis and would be well in very short order…things could be much worse…so why dwell on what I had hoped for, when what I had been given was much to be thankful for? The name Ivan means, God is Good…and He is.
Kris and I were granted favor once again by being allowed to stay indefinitely in the little bedrooms in the hospital. Because of our situation of home birth, I did not have a hospital room but had just given birth so I was not in a position to be trucked back and forth to our home each day. We were not exactly comfortable but we were together and close to little Ivan who was doing very well.
A lot of things happened that week in the hospital. We had a doctor who was encouraging more and more invasive procedures to try to ensure Ivan’s continued health and healing. We were resistant but unsure, as we are not doctors ourselves, so we prayed and felt right in our intuitive reaction. We had been told that the doctors were rotated out monthly in the NICU and this being the end of the month we prayed that our new doctor would be a man who agreed with us. God supplied. The new doctor dismissed the fears of the old doctor and encouraged the nurses to step up on feedings and encouraged removing the feeding tubes as soon as possible. The feeding tube was my biggest discouragement. I wanted to nurse the little fellow and he wasn’t even allowed a bottle for what seemed like the longest time. The nurse tried to tell me it was all just fine and that there was no rush. I explained to her the nipple confusion theory and told her it was very important that he be taken off the tube and allowed to nurse. She sort of looked at me funny and didn’t say anything else. I don’t think she liked me persistence very much.
After five days in the NICU, Ivan was moved to a regular room. I stayed with him in the pull out bed and Kris slept at home. Ivan was kept on the antibiotics and the feeding tube, but the breathing tube was removed and his lungs were doing just fine. I was very frustrated with the feeding thing. They would allow me to give him a bottle but if he didn’t take the full amount, the rest of it would be poured down his feeding tube (now lodged uncomfortably in his nose). Logic told me that feeding him a certain amount every three hours and insisting that he take it all wasn’t ever going to even out. He wasn’t hungry enough to empty the bottle so they insisted that he wasn’t responding like he should and needed the tube. I knew that if we could just get rid of the tube and nurse, he would show them what eating was all about. But since I didn’t have any credentials other than “mother” it didn’t really matter what I “knew”.
We had another new doctor when Ivan switched rooms. Our Pediatrician was very nice but seemed to veer back toward our original doctor’s thinking and tried to insist on keeping Ivan another week to give him another dose of antibiotics and ensure he was truly safe from the possible exposure to Group B Strep. Ivan was doing too well to convince us of any problems and Kris flat out told him “No.” The doctor was a little taken aback I think, but we were gaining confidence in our position as authority over our child and our intuitive knowledge of what is best for him. Also, we saw things from a different perspective than the doctor, who was used to dealing with very sick children from very unhappy circumstances and often needed more time away from home than at home. Unfortunately we live in a very dark world where sickness often arises in stress filled unhappy lives. One of the nurses explained to us that we were one of the few families who were there together. Most of the time the sick children they treat are from single parent families and circumstances that make the caregivers feel afraid to send them home to. We again prayed, this time that God would simply change the doctor’s mind. The next morning he visited Ivan and God had done exactly that. The doctor had spoken with the doctor we liked from the NICU and agreed with him that Ivan was healthy and should go home as soon as possible. In fact he said…”after talking with him, I don’t know why we’ve had him here as long as we have.” I didn’t know either, but I sure was gaining an education through all of it. It was established that Ivan would stay the remaining day or so to finish out his dose of antibiotics and as long as he was eating well, he could go home after that. And that is what we did.
Believe it or not, I’ve left out a lot of details in this little narrative but I wanted to focus on the highlights and not make it so long that no one would read it. I may still have overdone it. Regardless, Ivan is home, eating, growing and an absolute joy to have around. God is good!