I have to admit, I'm not a fan of clichés. "Every cloud has a silver lining." "The grass is always greener on the other side." "It's just a drop in the bucket." Not only are they trite, but I think they sound downright condescending when they are directed at me.
Lately, though, one phrase in particular has become especially true for me: "Life can change in the blink of an eye."
Like the day last August when we got a positive pregnancy test, even though we hadn't really decided whether or not to try for a third baby. Blink.
Or the day less than three months ago when they handed us a beautiful, tiny little boy. Blink.
Or the day just last week when a specialist told us that Roo's future—and ours—would be much different than we had planned. Blink.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me tell you a little story.
About this time last year, my hubby and I were enjoying life with a 4-year-old and 2-year-old. We were trying to decide if we wanted to have a third baby, and on any given day the decision ranged from "Wouldn't it be nice if we already had a third one right now?" to "Let's schedule a vasectomy for tomorrow." It was a negotiating process.
And then one Saturday morning in August, we realized that the decision had been made for us. The pregnancy test was positive. It was completely unexpected… and completely exciting! It was really going to happen—one more baby in the Epling family!
The next nine months were a constant adventure. I had been struggling with depression before we got pregnant, and the exhaustion of the first trimester—and the later discovery that my iron was low (which can cause a lack of energy)—didn't help. And every pregnancy symptom I'd had with my first two came back with this one, but intensified about 150%. But the real roller coaster was happening on the inside. Major spotting during the first trimester sent us running to the midwife's office… and then she couldn't find a heartbeat. We spent 45 miserable minutes waiting for an emergency ultrasound, and then discovered within seconds of having the wand on my belly that everything was fine. At the 20-week ultrasound, a spot on the baby's heart caused some alarm, but was later ruled to be just a common abnormality. Toward the end, I started to have some worries about little things that didn't seem to be concerning my midwives… the baby started measuring small, even though my due date had already been moved back by 10 days. He didn't seem to be as active as my other two were. His heart rate had been at the low end of normal. Little things. But I wondered if anyone was really looking at the big picture, putting all of the little things together and wondering what they meant. I decided I would bring them up at my 37-week checkup.
The checkup happened to be scheduled for the same day as a Spring Break Tea Party that the Lamb and I were planning for some of her friends. The night before, my husband and mother-in-law (I told you, what would I do without them?) planned to spend the evening helping me decorate, make food, etc, etc. Instead, they walked in the door and I said, "Change of plans." I'd been having contractions all afternoon, and they had been getting stronger and closer together. We took the kids to a friend's house and headed to the hospital.
Let me tell you… getting sent home after a false alarm with your first baby leaves you feeling a little sheepish; getting sent home with your third is downright embarrassing. We didn't have the baby that night, but I'm glad that we went in. Apparently I was dehydrated, which was part of the reason my contractions were so intense. But they also noticed that Roo's heart rate would periodically dip with my contractions, which was not a good thing. They monitored us for a few hours before being satisfied that he was safe, but I had only gone from 1 cm to 2 cm in that entire time… So they sent us home (at 3 AM) to get some sleep.
By then I was too exhausted and too far behind on the party prep to even think about entertaining a group of 4-year-old girls, so we cancelled the party. My contractions were still going full force, but I was afraid that they weren't really causing any progress after our experience in the night. So I tried to just continue with our normal life while I counted off the hours to my regularly-scheduled appointment that afternoon. I didn't even realize that my contractions were slowly getting stronger and stronger. Fortunately, my mom was more concerned than I was, so when I announced that I was going to Target, she did insist on going along and convinced me that the kids would have more fun staying behind with Papa than going with us. By the time we got done shopping, I could barely stand up during the contractions.
But did that stop me from driving myself to the doctor's office for my appointment? Of course not! (My hubby had gone into work for a few hours while I was out at my parents' house, so I drove from their place and he met me there.) I waddled in there, taking frequent breaks to try not to kill anyone during my contractions, and was promptly hooked back up to the monitor to make sure Roo's heart rate was stable enough to withstand delivery. All of my little concerns were long forgotten by then—I no longer had to worry about the pregnancy because I was not going to be pregnant much longer!
The midwife said that I was 6-7 cm dilated and sent us to the hospital (which, fortunately, was actually attached to the building that houses my midwives' office, so we essentially just walked down the hall). We walked into the birthing center at 4 PM. I asked for an epidural, but quickly realized that there wasn't going to be time for that.
Roo was born at 4:17 PM.
It was amazingly fast. Unbelievably fast. We had called our parents on the walk to the birthing center, but only my mother-in-law had made it before he was born. (I was glad that she had made it because she brought the camera!)
It's funny how quickly you forget just how little newborn babies really are. But when the labor & delivery nurses—who see newborn babies every day—remark over and over and over how little your baby is, you know his size is something unusual. The nurse put him on the scale… he was 4 pounds, 2 ounces. FOUR POUNDS. I had never even SEEN a baby that small, let alone held one! This little guy was just full of surprises!
Little did I know the adventure was just beginning.
When I sat down to write this, I didn't intend for it to be a multi-part story. It's just too long, though, to put into one post. So I guess I've got a hook to bring you back, eh? ;-)