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Monday, December 10, 2012

Blessed by Brenna: Brenna's birth

*Each day this week - the week leading up to Brenna's first birthday next week - I'll be posting a part of a series I wrote about Brenna's first week of life. Here is Part 1...

As my due date on January 13, 2012, nears, our anticipation begins to grow.

My pregnancy has been fairly typical, save for one thing: fetal movement. Our baby has moved just enough to ward off any real concern, but the movements are so subtle. Not at all the rolling and jabbing that I experienced with my first pregnancy.

But movement is movement, and after I pass one test fairly late in the game with flying colors, I stop worrying about it.

The morning of December 19, a Monday, Evan is scheduled to travel to Indianapolis for business with one of his colleagues. I have been having Braxton Hicks contractions for a few weeks, so even when the contractions move down into my back and intensify through the night, they still aren’t regular enough to cause either of us to believe that the baby is coming. Connor had been induced a week late, and labor was a long, intense process, so we are not expecting an early arrival, especially four weeks before my due date.

Evan rolls over that morning as his alarm clock sounds at 6 a.m. and asks how I am feeling.

“I slept on and off, and a couple of contractions did wake me up,” I admit. “But they are still so sporadic.”

He gets ready and heads out the door, making me promise to call him if anything changes. I shower and even curl my hair with hot rollers, with the thinking that if I am going to go into labor, I want to try to have a slight improvement over the beat-up look I sported in Connor’s arrival photos, after I pushed for two hours on my hands and knees, causing popped blood vessels in my face.

I put on some videos for Connor and feel a bit of anxiety as I time my continuing contractions, though they still are not at all regular. Emotions begin through me - excitement, worry, nervousness - and I am so aware of my heart pounding quickly in my chest... is this really going to happen today? I am reeling with the thought that I might be holding my daughter in my arms soon. I watch Connor for a couple of minutes, reflecting on the fact that he's not going to be my only baby anymore (and how he's so unaware of what could happen soon!)

A half hour later, I’m making the bed when a contraction comes on rather strong, intense enough that I have to lean against the bed to get more comfortable. I feel a huge amount of pressure, almost like I should start pushing, and I slowly make my way to the bathroom, my whole body tensing with the pressure. I’ve just hit the bathroom tile when the pressure releases, and I’m left standing in a huge puddle.

For a split second, I’m confused, and then it dawns on me: my water just broke. My first labor was induced and my water broken for me at the hospital, so this is a new experience and one that I am not expecting.

The fluid continues to stream out, leaving me no choice but to awkwardly stride around my room with a towel between my legs, trying to remember what I should pack in my hospital bag. Evan is my first call, as I sheepishly inform him of this latest update. At 19 miles from Indianapolis, he now has to turn around and come right back.

Calls to my mom and my mother-in-law go unanswered, and I panic a little, forgetting when exactly I should go to the hospital after water breakage. I dial my doctor’s office, and the nurse tells me to head in as soon as possible and that she will alert them of my impending arrival, which helps me to calm down.

Connor wanders into the bathroom and points down to the growing puddle.

“Mommy, clean it up,” he says, which causes me laugh really hard, despite my nervousness about the onset of labor four weeks early.

My dad heads over to stay with Connor, and it’s more than a little embarrassing to open the door for him, towel still between my legs and fluid leaking out.

“Sorry dad,” I tell him, and he is looking anywhere but at me, telling me to return to the bathroom and quit trying to pack. Thankfully my dad has deluged my mom with phone calls and finally is able to reach her and pull her out of a meeting.

Mom charges into the house as I’m tossing things into a bag, pausing every so often for a contraction.

“We need to get going, honey,” she tells me, after a particularly strong contraction. “They’re starting to come closer together I think!”

By the time we reach the hospital, my pants are soaked and the towel around me is almost wet through as well, and when the nurse tells me, after I get situated in my delivery room, that she wants to check to make sure my water broke, I consider throwing something at her.

Immediately I’m asking for my epidural because I am not one of those women who wants anything to do with enduring more pain than I have to. And I know from my prior birth experience that things can get pretty painful pretty quickly. Unfortunately they’re moving a little slow in anesthesia, and I am more than uncomfortable by the time the anesthesiologist arrives, moving at a snail’s pace in my pained opinion. By this point, though, I am 8 centimeters dilated, and I am secretly a little proud of myself for making it that far with no medicine.

Also at this point, Evan still hasn’t arrived, and unbeknownst to me, my mother has been frantically texting him in the hallway to check his whereabouts. I, on the other hand, am not worried in the slightest, because even though this labor is progressing so much faster than my first, I don’t have a single doubt that Evan will make it in time.

With my epidural, I am extremely comfortable, and I update my Facebook status: “In labor at the hospital…looks like we’ll be getting an early Christmas present!”

My own doctor is not on duty at the hospital that day, but I immediately like her partner, Dr. Klein, when she introduces herself and monitors my progress.

“We’re going to have a baby within the hour!” she announces to me and my mom, and I am really surprised by this assessment.

Eventually Evan strolls through the door, and my excitement grows exponentially. Finally, everyone is here, and we’re going to have a baby soon!

Less than a half hour later, I’m 10 centimeters dilated, and it’s time to meet our new daughter. It's all happening so fast - faster than I ever thought my own body could birth a child after such a rough labor with Connor - and the thought runs through my mind about how this could be so easy and so ideal.

I’ve only pushed for 20 minutes when the head of our baby girl becomes visible, and I can, barely, see Dr. Klein scrape at the scalp a bit.

“This is the thickest vernix I’ve ever seen,” she comments to the attending nurse.

“What’s vernix?” Evan and I ask at the same time.

“That cottage cheese-y stuff that is on babies when they’re born,” she replies.

We shrug it off as another contraction began.

I brace to push again, wishing there was a mirror on the ceiling like at Connor’s birth, where I can see the head and baby emerge. As my contraction eases and I temporarily stop pushing, Dr. Klein continued to pull at the baby.

“She’s just going to slide right out,” she exclaims, with a little surprise in her voice.

As my baby enters this world, time moves in slow motion for me.

“They just need to wipe her off” is my first thought as the doctor places my newborn baby girl on my chest.

My vision feels a bit clouded from the overall emotion of just having brought a new baby into the world, but I look down at the complete whiteness that covers my daughter’s body and gently, lightly place my fingers on her head, wondering if I should even touch her. Wondering if she's alive. Wondering why they're not just wiping off the thick whiteness.

The whole room is stopped, staring at the scene unfolding. But within seconds, the medical staff springs to life. My baby girl is snatched from me as the nurses rush to care for her. They begin wiping her off, and I am grateful, but this does nothing to calm the doctor’s concern.

Evan has just enough time to snap a single photo of her birth, and my eyes find him now on the opposite side of the hospital room from our baby’s warming bed as he sinks, light-headed, onto the green plastic couch while a nurse covers his head with a washcloth.

One of the nurses barks an order into the nearest intercom, requesting the presence of a Dr. Darling immediately.

"She's in an operating room," the static answer comes back.

"Get her in here now!" the doctor and nurses snap practically in unison, with an edge of panic in their voices. Though they try to give me reassuring smiles, the worry in their eyes bring tears to my own.

The only thing that gives me hope at that moment is the strong cry coming from my baby.

While the nurses tend to Evan, me and our baby, Dr. Klein quietly cuts the umbilical cord and begins packing up the cord, cord blood and anything else that might end up being beneficial to whatever it is that is causing our daughter’s shocking outer appearance.

Out in the hallway, my parents stand waiting, instead of retreating to the main lobby waiting area, seeing as how the doctor was so assured that the baby would come quickly. Upon hearing Dr. Darling’s page, they stop a passing nurse and ask, “what kind of doctor is Dr. Darling?”

“A neonatologist,” she replies. And panic sets in for them too.

To be continued…

Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5


  1. You know that phrase about the world crashing down around you? It's so true. My story, aside from knowing it was a faint possibility beforehand, mirrors yours right up to the preemie Christmas delivery and the spouse away at work when labor hit.

  2. I should not have read this at work - tears streaming down my face in front of my students! (it's silent reading time this morning) I remember reading your facebook status while I was laying at St. John's in labor with Levi and I even commented to you that we were there too and how exciting our babies would share a birthday! I'm SO happy at the situation we've all found ourselves in a year later! I can't wait for Dec. 19!

  3. Great work, Courtney! Even though I have read Brenna's birth story numerous times, this still gave me goosebumps. I look forward to more excerpts!

  4. Oh my gosh are a wonderful writer! For those of us that have read your every blog, we are right there with you. Hard to believe it has been almost a year....Brenna has come so and Evan are such great parents!
    Pete and Judy Olesen

  5. Oh Courtney,
    This is so wonderful. I am so glad you are doing this! I am already full of anticipation for the next excerpt and the book!!!

  6. You are truly gifted in many way. I can't wait for the next excerpt.

  7. amazing! i can't wait for tomorrow's excerpt....

  8. this is going to be an amazing book! I want more.

  9. You're leaving me hanging. Lol. Can't wait 2 read more!

  10. Wow - what great writing. I, too, had goosebumps. Can hardly wait for the next excerpt.

  11. looking forward to your next post!

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  15. It's strange at how this leaves you wanting more when I have been following your blog from the beginning. I know how it ends but you write so well, it would be a hard book for someone to put down, let alone, not read again.


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