• Kim

It's been over four months, I figured I should get this all down while it's still fresh. It's going to be a long one, but it was a LONG labor. There's a lot to say.

**I'm going to throw out a TMI warning here - there's going to be a lot of talk about things like bodily fluids, birth, and my cervix from this point on.

Noah's entrance into the world came much sooner than I was expecting. I had just polished off my midnight snack, a bagel with cream cheese, and was watching The Real Housewives of New Jersey on my phone in bed. I got up to use the bathroom for probably the sixth time that night because I was 35 weeks pregnant and my bladder was about the size of a lima bean. As I crawled back into bed and climbed over my mountain of pillows, I suddenly felt a gush.

"Oh my gosh, I did not just pee myself!" I thought, but then the wheels very quickly began turning in my mind and I frantically shook Brian awake. "I THINK I JUST PEED MYSELF! LOOK!" He looks at the puddle beneath me and responds, "That's... not... pee." We exchange shocked glances and immediately jump out of bed. As I do this the flood gates continue to open, and I put in a very thin panty liner because I am certain I must almost be out of amniotic fluid at this point. Probably no more than a few more drops, right?

WRONG.

About thirty seconds later it becomes overwhelmingly clear that the only way we are getting our hospital bags fully packed, and out of the house without me making the entire house a slipping hazard, is for me to sit on the toilet and bark orders at Brian. As I sit there feeling useless, I realize I need to call my doctor. As the phone rings my anxiety starts setting in and I begin to lose it. I remember that I am only 35 weeks pregnant. I remember that birth was when I lost my first child. I remember that I am absolutely terrified.

My entire body is shaking. I almost forgot I was on the phone when the operator picks up. She says she'll page my doctor, but we need to make our way to the hospital now because I am preterm. I text my parents, Brian's parents, my sister, and my best friend but it's 1 AM and everyone is asleep. So I decide to try cleaning myself up a bit so I can get in the car. I remember that pack of Depends I bought for use after birth. I am so thankful for them now.

This is when I realize that I am bleeding. Not a little bit of blood. There is a lot. I keep hearing my doctor's nurse at my last appointment telling me to come straight to L&D if I have any red bleeding. It's replaying in my head so loud it feels like yelling. I am scared that I am losing Noah. I am scared that I have already lost him.

I need support.

I call my best friend. No answer because she's sleeping, as most people do at this hour. I contemplate letting her sleep. Then I say screw that and call her husband. He answers and I hear the sleep in his voice. I remember that he's one of the deepest sleepers I have ever met and this is going to be tricky. I have to say the right thing to get his attention because for all I know he's not even actually awake right now as he's talking to me. I firmly and calmly tell him I need him to wake up Maddie, and then I more frantically tell him that it is because my water just broke.

"OH SHNIKIES!!" I hear him say. I exhale, thank goodness, he's awake. I hear him telling her, I hear the excitment in her voice as she says, "Whaaaaat??" And it reminds me to calm down a bit, we are having a baby. A different baby. A different birth. A different outcome. I am feeling excited too now. Scared, but excited. We chat for a moment until Brian tells me the car is almost loaded. I hang up and go wait for him in the car.

As I sit in the dark, silent car breathing in the crisp January air, everything feels oddly still. It's almost too still. Then I realize it with a gasp; I haven't felt Noah move since my water broke. The shaking starts again. I poke and prod my belly. I say his name out loud. I beg him to move for me. He does not. Brian gets in the car, I tell him frantically that Noah's not moving. We peel out of the driveway and begin heading straight for the hospital.

This is the part of the story where I am thankful that my water broke in the middle of the night. Ordinarily, the Dallas metroplex is full of traffic and the 30 minute drive from our house to the hospital is a stop and go nightmare. On this night, the roads were totally clear allowing Brian to race to the hospital. I poked my belly over and over again the entire drive. Nothing. Not even the tiniest wiggle. When we pull up to the front of the hospital we skip the stereotypical scene of the husband grabbing a wheelchair for his laboring wife. The car hadn't even come to a complete stop and I had jumped out, ran through the hospital doors, and was panting as I reached the front desk. Thankfully, my doctor had paged them and they had a room ready.

As we entered the room I told my nurse I'd like to get on the fetal heart monitor immediately. I wasn't feeling him moving and I was nervous. I explained our history with loss as she hooked me up. A few moments later and I could hear the precious, calming pitter patter of his perfectly beating heart. I finally let myself take a deep breath. He's still here.

I tell the nurse about the bleeding, she takes a look. She brings in a doctor. They both assure me that while it's more bleeding than average, it's normal, and we are ok. I breathe again. Then we discuss what is going to happen next. My water breaking hadn't put me into active labor. I wasn't having any contractions or even a little cramping. They check my cervix just to see where we are at and I am two centimeters dilated and 50% effaced. Only eight more centimeters to go! They confirm with me that I would still like to attempt a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) and I tell them yes. The nurse calls my doctor to ask what he wants me to do now. He decides to give my body some time. It is now around 3 AM, and I am ordered to walk, squat, lunge, whatever around the hospital until 6 AM to see if we can get this party started.

As I wander the halls I notice there is a door with a picture of a white rose next to it. I pause for a moment as I remember the flower on the door when we lost Aria. I want to go in there. I feel myself being pulled into that room. I want to hug her. I want to tell her I understand. But I am also aware that it is not the time. So I continue walking, but after passing that room for the third time I decide to walk in a new direction, otherwise I'll be walking the halls with tear soaked cheeks.

Soon the nurse flags me down. My three hours are up, she asks if I am contracting and expects me to say yes. I wish I could say yes too, I am ready to meet this baby! But I still haven't had a single one. I am still in shock and denial, so I ask her if I'm getting sent home. She says, "Honey, you are having this baby!" So I get an IV put in and we begin to induce.

I was sure that induction would bring on labor hot and fast. It seemed that way on television. Maybe for some people it does, but my son had clearly changed his mind about coming out early. Two hours into my Pitocin drip and several increased doses later, I was having mild, barely noticable cramps.

We had to leave our dog at home when we came to the hospital, so I sent Brian home and told him to take the dog to her boarding facility so she'd be taken care of while we are here. He was antsy about leaving me, but nothing was happening anyways!

He returned about two hours later and things were finally picking up. I sat on a birthing ball which helped immensely, and Brian provided counter pressure on my hips during each contraction. We were a good team and honestly, I loved being in labor. Even as it got harder and more painful, there was something so primal but beautiful about the whole process. I'd do it again in a heartbeat. By dinner time, I had been in active labor for about eight hours. I was having good, strong contractions but I was surprised by my level of pain tolerance. It hurt of course, but I found myself welcoming the pain instead of wanting to dull it. I decided then and there that I wanted to try to do this whole thing without pain medication.

Brian tells me that he's getting really hungry and needs to go grab something to eat or he's going to faint. I call him a drama queen, half joking and half serious (hormones, ok?) but tell him to go eat. I know that I can't keep laboring alone while he's gone though, so I video call my best friend. She sits there on the phone with me (IN THE MIDDLE OF A DINNER PARTY) as I breathe and groan through each contraction. At one point my eyes had been closed for a while and when I opened them I saw her staring at my face like I was the most beautiful thing she's ever seen. She's a sucker for birth, too.

We hang up once Brian gets back and things are really progressing now. For the next six hours I have intense contractions back to back. I barely get twenty seconds between them. I can't speak much or open my eyes at the peak of them, but as long as Brian keeps squeezing my hips and I can grip the bed rails, I feel like I can make it through. But I am exhausted.

Once we reach the 24 hour mark of my water breaking, they decide to check my cervix and see where we are at. Three centimeters. I have been in active labor for over 12 hours and I have only progressed one stinking centimeter. The nurse mentions that perhaps the fact that I am not getting any breaks with contractions and am tensing so much could be preventing me from letting my body do what it needs to do. She tells me to rest and try to sleep. I've been awake for 36+ hours at this point so I would love a snooze. She turns off the lights, gets me some more pillows, brings Brian a blanket. She's about to walk out but stops to turn down the sound of Noah's heartbeat monitor so the beeping won't distract me from falling asleep. I ask her to turn it back up. Hearing his heart is the only way I'll be able to relax.

I lay on my side and grip the handrail, breathing through the constant waves of contractions. It's useless. I will never sleep while I am in this much pain. I know I can technically tolerate it, but for the sake of progressing I decide to get an epidural so I can rest. This backfires though because although I am no longer in pain, I now feel so much tingling in my legs that it's the only thing I can focus on while my eyes are closed. I realize I am not going to be able to sleep after all. I lay there grumbling while Brian sleeps on the couch beside me (well deserved rest, I admit) and frustrated that over 24 hours at this and I am still pregnant. I make a pact with myself that I will push this baby out before the next shift change.

Around 3 AM (approx. 27 hours elapsed) my body is no longer responding to the Pitocin. When a woman is being induced with Pitocin, it only has so long before the body's receptors stop responding to it. My contractions were beginning to weaken. My doctor puts me on what is called a "Pit Holiday" where they stop my Pitocin for an hour to let it leave my body's system, then work it back up.

A few hours later, it's time for shift change. I'm still pregnant. Dang it. I've been back on Pitocin for a bit and my contractions are coming back up but not enough to bring about good cervical change. We check my cervix anyways, I made it to 4 centimeters! I'm still deflated by this news though because I know I have such a long way to go. Since Noah's heart rate has been beautiful during all of this and I have zero signs of infection, we agree it's safe to keep laboring. We also have a very frank discussion about how minimal my contractions still are even at the max dose of Pitocin, and that the likelihood of my cervix getting to 10 centimeters is pretty much impossible if things stay the same.

My rock star nurse starts shoving pillows around me and moving my legs to help encourage Noah to come down further. We go another three hours, the doctor comes in and checks me again. Still four centimeters. Contractions are getting even weaker. My body has pretty much decided it was done with Pitocin. We start talking about a repeat c-section.

It's been 32 hours since my water broke. I want to keep going. I want a vaginal birth. I am also exhausted. I am also scared that it will soon become to much for both me and Noah to keep going so long after my water has broken. Our amazing doctor says she will support me if I'm not ready to call it, and she will support me if I am ready to have a c-section. (Birth autonomy is SO important folks!) She leaves the room so Brian and I can discuss it.

What I wasn't expecting was for Brian to break down and start crying as soon as she left the room. He tells me he doesn't want me to have another c-section. He is scared of seeing me cut open again. He is scared of history repeating and losing Noah too. I begin crying because I share the same fears. As we talk more and more I realize that I am done. I am ready to meet this baby. Although I am deeply disappointed that I wont get my VBAC, I make peace with a repeat c-section and we let our team know.

We get our operating room garb on, and for the first time since my pregnancy began we start to believe that we will actually end up with a living, breathing baby after this. We hold hands and look into each other's eyes just before they take us into the operating room.

Together we say, "We're having a baby."

By now, pretty much everyone in L&D knows our whole story. They know about Aria, they know about our infertility, our failed IUI's, the IVF giveaway, and my anxiety ridden pregnancy. They are all ecstatic to share in this long awaited moment with us.

At 9:59 AM on January 26, 2019 after 34 hours of labor, Noah Ryan Rose entered the world SCREAMING and peeing. His cry fills every cell in my body with redemption. I couldn't stop saying, "We did it!" Three years of infertility and loss and he was finally here.

Noah was perfect and healthy. He had to have some respiratory support after I held him in the operating room, so they took him up to the NICU. After 13 days we finally got to bring him home. He spent his first night in his sister's bassinet. I believe strongly that she watched over him that night, and every night since. He was after all, handpicked for earth by his sister in heaven. It wasn't until I met him that I fully understood. It took us this long to have him because she was choosing him.

  • Kim

The last four and a half months since Noah's arrival have been a whirlwind. There have been such wonderful moments, but a lot of challenges too.

I've been pondering a lot about my current place with grief quite a lot lately. Am I better? Am I moving on? How has my heart changed since Noah's birth?

The answer to those first two questions is "no" but to be honest, there are times when guilt creeps in and tells me that perhaps I am moving on. My brain is often so occupied with my daily life that it feels as if I'm losing the space that Aria once occupied. I'm up to my ears in diapers and my life revolves around Noah's nursing schedule. Yet not that long ago my world rotated around Aria and not a whole lot else. It's hard not always being able to focus solely on her, but it's also such an immense blessing as it is because I now have her little brother in my arms. Even so, it shouldn't be this way. She should be here too. I still struggle with the reality that she isn't.

I will admit though, my heart has changed. For one, it has doubled in size. Noah now occupies a space the same size as Aria's, he has never taken a single square inch of the area that belongs to his sister. It's amazing how we can do that. I once worried I wasn't going to have room to love Noah just the same as I love her, but it turns out that I do. It is a relief like no other.

There was joy before Noah, I admit. We did manage to find moments of happiness after loss, and in the wait for him. But he has added so much more with his presence. His smile lights up my world in ways I never thought possible. The first time he laughed I burst into happy tears. He makes the mundane seem so much more exciting and new.

His arrival has also brought a new layer of grief. He is our first experience parenting a child on earth. He was our first birth that was cloaked in joy. He was the first child we got to bring home from the hospital. He was the first to wake us in the middle of the night, and the first to need unplanned baths because of blown out diapers. He was the first child to make eye contact with us, and smile upon seeing us picking him up out of his crib in the morning. So we never fully understood all that we missed out on with Aria until we had him. We cherish every little moment because we know what it is like to have a child but not be able to experience these things with them, too.

Parenting after loss is indeed bittersweet. But oh, is it sweet.

You've heard a lot from me throughout the years. I talk really openly and honestly about my grief. I share my heart because it's healing for me. This blog is my therapy.

But I'm certain that there have been times when many of you have wondered about my husband, Brian. You all have cared so deeply for my family, and I know that you care for him too.

His walk with grief has been just as difficult as mine, but far more silent. His grief often lurked in the shadows, tucked away because he had so many things to juggle simultaneously.

But friends, it was HARD. The day Aria died, Brian's world went really dark. He was hurting so much and I could see him wasting away right in front of me. I tried everything I could think of but I just couldn't seem to reach him. There were moments when he seemed happy and okay, but it was all superficial. He sounded good, but he wasn't. Not by a long shot.

And then something really unexpected happened and he started changing. It was like the clouds had suddenly parted and sunlight was washing all over him. His joy was palpable. Hope had returned.

A year and a half ago a film crew came to our home and put together a short film chronicling this story. We are so excited to finally be able to share it with you later this week. Stay tuned. You won't want to miss it.