Winter Break just began & I was so looking forward to spending break finishing the nursery, enjoying Christmas with the family, & having some romantic couple time with Kenny before we became a party of three. The last day of work I spent time closing up my classroom just in case I decided not to come back the last five days before my maternity leave began on January 11th. I cleaned, I organized, I put together sub lessons, & made trips to my car with the student & staff Christmas & baby gifts I received. My pregnant belly was starting to be too big to maneuver & my feet were swollen as I waddled back & forth in my classroom & out to my car. I was probably the last one at school on that Friday break began. I was so uncomfortable by that point I was wishing for my last trimester to be done & praying for strength to get through my last month as I knew I was only going to get bigger.
Sunday, December 20th, marked the beginning of my 37th week; three weeks away from my due date. Kenny was getting ready for work & I remained in bed, tired & uncomfortable. As Kenny headed out the bedroom door he asked me, “Are you doing ok?” “I just feel uncomfortable,” I told him. He kissed me goodbye & I told him to have a good day at work. Not wanting to get out of bed quite yet I picked up my phone to read about what to expect in the 37th week on the three different pregnancy apps I had on my phone. I was reading about how the baby will be gaining a half pound each remaining week & how I will only get bigger as the time went on. In three days Kenny & I would have our last ultrasound to see baby’s position & size. I was looking forward to seeing him in utero one last time & was hoping he would not be too big. As I was looking through the apps, I heard & felt a little bubble pop, almost like a gas bubble, but it was not coming from my gut. Slowly I could feel fluid leaking. Did my water just break? No, it couldn’t be. Maybe I just have to go to the bathroom. I got up out of bed & as soon as I reached the restroom, more fluid leaked onto the floor. Is that my water? I guess I’ll just wait and see. I decided to go downstairs & make breakfast just as I began to feel cramps.
As I made breakfast I timed my cramps, which were roughly six to eight minutes apart. I continued heading to the restroom as more fluid continued to leak. My birth plan was to labor at home as long as possible & head to the hospital when contractions were three minutes apart. By this point it was 10:30 a.m. My water broke thirty minutes ago & I decided to call Kenny at work. “You’re going to want to come home, babe,” I told him over the phone. “I think we’re going to have a baby.” I explained to him how my water broke & I was experiencing cramping. I could hear his excitement over the phone when he told me he was leaving right away.
While waiting for Kenny to arrive home I called the advice nurse, since I was three weeks early & not sure if I should come in to get checked out. They wanted me to come in. I was still somewhat in denial. We had nothing ready. The nursery wasn’t done. The carseat wasn’t installed. Our hospital bags weren’t packed. There were still several essentials I needed to purchase, like a diaper pale, crib mattress, & changing pad. Kenny arrived home shortly after 11 a.m. All I could do was smile at him standing at the top of the stairs as he took off his coat. I told him the hospital wanted to do an exam, but I assumed they would just send us home. We both seemed rather calm despite our excitement, but also had a sudden urge to be productive. Kenny went out to the fire station, which ended up being closed that Sunday & scrambled over to his cousins’—parents of three boys—to get help installing the carseat. In the meantime, I took a shower & put myself together. By the time Kenny got home we decided to put a hospital bag together just in case, even though we probably would be sent home. Contractions were still mild, but started to come a little bit more regularly. I could still talk & smile through them. In packing the hospital bag I realized I had nothing I had hoped to have. No special hospital pajamas. No special hospital robe. No nursing tops. I had asked for those items for Christmas.
It was about 1 p.m. by this point & Kenny sat me down by the Christmas tree, handing me several gifts to open (he had forgotten which one was which), until I opened my special hospital outfit. I couldn’t believe this was happening! Were we really about to have this baby?! We quickly finished packing & started to head for the hospital, but it was lunch time & neither one of us had ate yet. I insisted we stop for sub sandwiches on our way. Of course the sub sandwich people were shocked Kenny had his pregnant wife in labor in the car while he was ordering food. 🙂 On our way to the hospital I gave my mom a call to let her know what was going on & I told her I’d call her back if they were going to admit me.
By the time we reached the hospital I was becoming a bit more uncomfortable, causing me to stand with each contraction. I could still talk & smile, so I knew they were not too bad. As soon as the nurse escorted us to Labor & Delivery, she was taking us straight to a delivery room, but then we all second guessed this decision. My contractions were very mild & I still questioned whether my water was truly broken. However, as soon as I dressed down in triage more water leaked. “Yep,” the nurse confirmed, “it is your bag of water. Let’s take you back to the delivery room.”
Once settled into the delivery room, my contractions came & went, & although they were starting to come more often, they only hurt like bad menstrual cramps. Our nurse, Amanda, who was the sweetest nurse & also had had a baby three weeks early (who was now two), was so calm & on-the-ball. Since it had been six hours since my water broke & I was slowly progressing, I was given progesterone to move things along. And boy did it work! I could feel the contractions coming closer together & gradually becoming more painful. I had to stand, leaning over something, to get relief. I was beginning to be unable to talk during the contractions. My parents showed up by this time to support us. Sunday Night football played silently on the TV (Broncos v. Steelers) & my mom brought my jambox so I could play music from my favorite Christmas pandora station.
Hoping to progress my labor & because I was really starting to feel pain, Kenny & I took a lap around the Labor & Delivery floor, stopping every few feet so I could lean against the wall & breath through the contraction. I wanted to labor as long as I could, but my plan had always been to get an epidural. It was after dinnertime by this point. I thought about using the tub, but I thought that may be a hassle, so instead Kenny & I hopped in the shower. I was unaware of time once we were in there. I went from embracing Kenny between contractions to leaning over the shower chair allowing the water to hit my back during contractions. I didn’t realize we were in the shower for two hours, but by the time we came out of the shower I was feeling nauseas during contractions & I knew it was time for an epidural.
By 9:30 p.m. I had my epidural & I was finally getting some relief & resting. My dad went home & my mom went to rest in the waiting room while Kenny & I tried to sleep. From here on it started to go by quickly, the nurse helped me move from one side to another with a birthing ball between my knees. By midnight I was 7 centimeters dilated. By 2 o’clock I was beginning to feel pressure. I knew I was going to push very soon & I suddenly felt very anxious. Amanda, our nurse, was amazing in helping my anxiety, telling me what to expect & lending me words of encouragement. Dr. Murphy, my OB (it was serendipitous that he happened to be on-call that night) examined me & said I was 10 centimeters & 100% effaced. We would be starting to push soon. I woke up Kenny & had him go get my mom from the waiting room. I began pushing at 3 a.m. with little progress. His head was stuck on my pelvic bone & I could barely feel myself pushing. Dr. Moses, our OBGYN resident, came in to coach me & it was decided my epidural should be turned down. Finally, exhausted after an hour of pushing, I began to make progress & I could feel myself pushing. Dr. Murphy came in to deliver. K.C. was coming & I couldn’t hold back anymore. Dr. Murphy was just putting on his gloves & his smock when K.C.’s head was being delivered. Dr. Murphy had to catch him in his half-on smock & his gloved hand, totally catching him off guard.
At 4:34 a.m. on December 21st, Kenneth Charles Strand IV was born, weighing 6 pounds & measuring 19 1/2 inches long. Tired, but so in love, we were given a precious two hours of skin-to-skin family time after Kenny cut the cord, the placenta was delivered, & I was all stitched up. My labor was surprisingly easy & not as bad as I thought it was going to be, little did I know what risks came with a three week early baby.
I had in my mind that I’d spend 24 hours in postpartum & then we would be going home, happy & in love with our new baby. I did not know what was in store for us. We then spent four days in the hospital, battling jaundice & a 9% weight loss. K.C. needed to learn to eat & we had to suck train him & use donor milk with a bottle. That time was harder than anything I have experienced in my life. Kenny fed him a bottle, while I pumped. I dreamed of nursing my baby. Instead I felt tired, discouraged, & struggling to bond with my son. I wanted to go home. It was Christmas time & I loved Christmas. I didn’t want to be in the hospital for Christmas, but I also wanted K.C. to be healthy. It felt as though every day the pediatrician gave us a new target to reach in order to go home. I felt like they kept moving it, making us stay there. The frustration we felt as new parents added to our fatigue, but people were praying for us.
Through prayers across the country via family & friends, we were able to come home on Christmas Eve. We brought a bili blanket home to continue light therapy & it took an additional two weeks until we were exclusively breast feeding. Everyone tells you how hard it is to be a new parent, but you really don’t know until you go through it. I felt unprepared & sad that Kenny & I did not have our last moments of just him & I. But now, it feels as though K.C. has always been in our lives. It is as if he was always meant for us. I couldn’t imagine life without him. He is such a good baby; easy going, sleeping & eating better all the time, & surprising us with his abilities. My little Christmas miracle is now coming on two months old & continuing to put on weight. We just started graduating from our newborn clothes & as I was folding the last of his newborn laundry this afternoon I felt nostalgic. I could barely believe he was once swimming in those newborn pajamas.