But there she was, after a year and a half of letdowns and heartbreak, a little blue plus sign on a cold and sunny January morning. Doing Mardi Gras before she was even born. All 3 of us ran around dancing with joy.
Leaving that evening was a bittersweet moment. Pregnancy had been brutal. I was more than ready. But it was the first night I'd ever spend away from Alice since her birth. And the last time we'd be a family of 3. Later, in the wee small hours of the morning, when a nurse walked in to find me sobbing, she hurriedly checked my vitals, then finding nothing going on, sat down and told me stories of her grown babies.
Around 7 that morning, our doctor, with whom we'd carefully cultivated a relationship with for months, the person who was supposed to get us through this delivery without repeating the damage from our first, apologetically told us she had to leave at noon and would likely not be able to deliver us. This was a devastating blow. And while we had a pretty loose birth plan with lots of room built in for flexibility, things were NOT going even a tiny bit according to plan:
Instead of laboring at home like we did last time, we spent the night in an austere hospital room, not really sleeping, and not really laboring either. Instead of having the reassuring presence of a well known doctor, we were going to get someone we'd never even met before. Instead of being relaxed and focused on our upcoming birth, I was busy making sure every nurse who walked in the room all night didn't turn off the lights because I was afraid of the dark since the fire. Instead of being at home just snuggling my girl I was at the hospital about to have another girl! What the hell had I been thinking a year ago!?
Our Doula, Heather, urged me to shove it all aside and focus on the task at hand, to which I MAY have replied, “F**k no, I'm so mad!” I could tell this was not the response she'd expected. And even though she was right, I didn't care. I informed her that for the next 20 minutes I was going to have a Bad Attitude and she could get out of my face--another statement she likely hadn't been expecting. To her credit, she just rolled with it. Our nurse, Jennifer, found a continuous string of reasons to be in the room, most likely interested to see how this was going to play out.
I took the time to be sad and grieve unmet expectations. Then 20 minutes later, with Heather practically counting down the seconds, I pushed all the crap (mostly) outside that hospital room door, brought my mind back to the present, and at 10 a.m. we began.
Here's the thing about the epidural though. You have to give them 45 minutes. They have to get an entire bag of IV fluids in you for safety reasons. So while your brain has already given up and made the switch, you have to make it though 45 more minutes of pain. And then you have to sit STOCK. STILL. while someone puts a needle in your spine.
It was during this time that I almost broke Andy's finger. And while I think he was exaggerating, he did have tears in his eyes, and it wasn't out of sympathy for me. I remember retreating at this point, beyond all awareness of anything but pain. I remember sitting with my eyes closed, dimly aware of hands all over my body trying to help me through a contraction. So many hands. How many people were actually in this room? I didn't care.
And then it took the anesthesiologist THREE tries to get the epidural placed correctly. If there wasn't a risk of lifelong paralysis, I would have turned around and stabbed her in the eye with the epidural needle.
Once the epidural was finally in place and starting to take effect, the Kiwi's heart rate dropped, along with my blood pressure. Within moments I had an oxygen mask strapped on and they were rolling me to a different side. This was the moment during Alice's birth where it all went wrong. Andy and I looked at each other in disbelief. There was no possible way the SAME thing was happening again.
The Kiwi didn't respond and Jennifer ordered everyone to get me flipped up on to my hands and knees, no small feat when you can't feel anything below the waist. When my blood pressure still didn't recover, she jammed a shot of ephedrine into my leg. Andy and I worked on not panicking. Within minutes everyone stabilized and we were able to settle in for the wait.
Heather urged me to nap since I hadn't slept in days, but I didn't feel sleepy. A few hours later, when it was nearing time to push, I finally started falling asleep between the great pressure of contractions. Maybe I could just nap this baby out.
The epidural wasn't so strong that I couldn't feel pressure so I was able to direct the energy after some coaching. I had to ask for instructions after the first contraction, realizing that we really didn't do this part the first time around with Alice. Even though I was working hard, it was a really relaxed and calm atmosphere. We chatted and laughed between contractions. There was no sense of urgency or fear. And when, after about an hour of pushing, Dr. King laid her on my chest, all the stuff that came before ceased to matter. Here she was at last.
Alafair Bea Svilar Finley Newlin. September 26, 2018. 6:03 p.m. 8 lbs 15 oz 19.5” Our hard-won baby girl, born of fire and ice.