I had no idea that when I suggested Bourbon Street as my craving of choice last Monday night, that it would again define a special place for our relationship and journey together. It was supposed to be a sort of ‘Last Supper’ for us, just two days away from my scheduled induction, aka, the last possible day I would have to wait to meet the baby I had been carrying for so long. I was hungry for chicken parmesan and looking forward to one last special date night with Beau before becoming parents.
It was this very place, in fact, the very booth we sat in the night we got engaged, that I also experienced my first labor contraction. Beau could tell something was off by the look on my face. It felt so different than any other ache, pain, or Braxton Hicks contraction I held felt the last few weeks, and it made me a little nervous. So nervous, it completely wiped my appetite. We ended up leaving after an appetizer, glass of wine, and glass of Sprite. Excited and overwhelmed, we hurried to the car, hurried home, and waited.
By the end of the night, much to our disappointment, the contractions had stopped. We watched an episode of Boardwalk Empire, I assured Beau that this baby would wait until he was forced to come out, and we went to bed. A part of me was overridden with disappointment, a part of me was overwhelmed with relief. Was I truly ready for this? How do I know when it is time? Can I do this? These questions raced through my mind as I curled up in my bed Monday night.
3:30 am. The time it finally registered to my half-asleep self that I was having contractions once again; however, far more defined than at dinner. I knew without a doubt they were indeed contractions and decided to start timing them. I also decided to wake up my sleeping husband, to simply give him the ‘heads-up.’ He took the ‘heads-up’ similar to a soon-to-be father in the movies. He jumped out of bed, paced the house, threw cell phone chargers, laptop chargers, and cribbage boards into bags, and packed my hospital bag in the car before I even had the time to get out of the shower. My contractions started about seven minutes apart; within a half hour, they were four minutes apart, then three minutes. Although they were more uncomfortable than painful, my impatient husband insisted I call the hospital and insisted we go in as soon as possible. I showered, put on my makeup, did my hair, and snuck one last baby blanket in my hospital bag before saying goodbye to Jade and shutting the door of one more chapter of our life together.
As I look back on the day of October 12, just one week ago, it’s amazing to me to see the magnitude of the miracle that was at work. As nervous and unsure as I was, the minute we walked through those hospital doors, I was overwhelmed with a sense of faith and trust. God was working behind the scenes in so many ways that day, watching over the three of us and providing just what we needed to make the day perfect in its own way.
The first person to greet us on the third floor of the RWH Clinic for Women at Covenant was Amy, a nurse I had met at one of my last prenatal appointments. She instantly made me feel comfortable, answering questions, calming some nerves, and treating me as a friend instead of patient. Beau told me that as he watched the two of us interact, it seemed as though we had known each other for some time. Amy S…Godsend Number One.
After changing into my hot hospital gown and getting hooked up to my first two (of many) monitors and cords for the day, we were able to watch and confirm that I was having contractions; however, they were not progressing at a ‘satisfactory’ pace. This news only confirmed the over-looming fear I had of the day that was to come. A long labor, lots of pushing, exhaustion, a failed epidural…pretty much every horrific detail I could possibly imagine. At about 7:30 am, Amy told Beau and me to grab a little breakfast and start walking the halls of the labor and delivery floor to hopefully give my contractions a little more ‘kick’ before starting me on pitocin.
So, we walked. We quickly realized we had about three long hallways to walk and in order to make this task somewhat enjoyable, we needed to create our own fun. We called our moms. We developed a rating system and code name to track the level of pain I experienced with each contraction. We made friends with the laundry guy. We walked until we reached the very end of the hallway and tagged each fire extinguisher and hand sanitizer we found. We made fun of my socks. We did what we could to walk, talk, and breathe in the day ahead…a day that would eventually be the most memorable, most important day of our lives.
I never thought I would go into labor on my own. I was destined to go late, likely through induction, and after my induction was scheduled for October 13, I accepted the fact and actually looked forward to the opportunity to ‘plan around’ my labor. I also loved that my doctor, Dr. Hines, would be there to deliver Baby J. As we walked, I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointment that I wouldn’t have her there to be the support she had been throughout my pregnancy. She was exactly the type of calming presence I needed in that delivery room. I trusted her and genuinely felt that throughout my pregnancy, she cared about me as a soon-to-be mom. As much as I wanted her there, I knew it was wishful thinking when Amy mentioned that she might come in on her day off to deliver Baby J. “We’ll give her a call and just let her know that you are here today,” she said.
When Dr. Hines walked into my hospital room that morning, Beau said my face said it all. There she was, on her day off, ready to deliver our baby boy. My mind was flooded with emotions. Excitement and gratitude, relief and reverence, guilt and a new motivation to get this baby out in a decent hour so as to not keep her there all day. Although Dr. Hines didn’t exactly commit to hours upon hours of labor, she simply smiled and casually said, “Well, I’ll be around for awhile to see how you’re doing.” I think at this moment, we both knew she was there for the long haul. Dr. Hines…Godsend Number Two .
In the last few weeks of my pregnancy, I always found it interesting (and a little disheartening) that women found it important to tell me every horrific detail about their own labor, as if to fill my already clouded mind with nightmarish visions of what was to come. Well, now that I am part of the motherhood club, I plan to be different. I plan to hug soon-to-be moms and tell them about all the joys I remember about the day I gave birth. Joys that blow the horrific details out of the water.
I think God had decided I had waited long enough to meet this little boy. The morning that had started off so slow quickly turned to a series of quick snapshots that will forever be etched in my memory. I had no idea that at 10:00 that morning, as I apprehensively gave the ‘okay’ for my epidural, that I would hold a baby boy in my arms in a matter of five hours.
It all went so fast; however, there are details I will never forget about that afternoon.
I remember Amy’s hands pulling my shoulders in close as I silently prayed through my epidural. I remember Dr. Jackson laughing when I asked whether I would feel the needle and he replied, “I’m already done.”
I remember my mom giving me a kiss on the forehead when they arrived and wondering how she felt to see her daughter just hours away from having one of her own.
I remember the look of worry on my little brother’s face as I winced in pain through the ‘hot spot’ that developed in my abdomen.
I remember Amy being so excited about my progress and making Dr. Hines “find out for herself,” instead of telling her how dilated I was.
I remember Dr. Hines telling me she had better run home and “put something in the crock pot for dinner,” and me smiling, knowing she would not leave until this baby was born.
I remember Dr. Hines saying, “well, I guess I better get ready,” as I first realized this baby was ready to come much faster than I anticipated.
I remember the look on Brenda, another nurse’s face, as she calmly encouraged me through pushing. I remember the impressed faces of the nurses and the motivation it provided me to keep going. I remember the “oh mys,” and “wows,” and “this is amazing,” and “you are doing so good, Ashley,” that accompanied my 20 minutes of pushing. I remember feeling stronger than I’ve ever felt before. Superwoman.
I remember skipping a couple contractions and breathing through an oxygen mask because the baby was coming much faster than what he should. I remember Dr. Hines saying, “this is incredible,” and Amy grabbing my camera, and looking at Beau’s face, and wondering what my parents were thinking in the waiting room.
I remember the first cry. The first glimpse of the sweet body, the scrunched up face, and the warm touch of my little boy on my chest. I couldn’t stop touching him, kissing him, staring into his sweet little face. I remember whispering, “mommy’s here,” and “I love you,” and Beau’s face so close to mine, sniffling through tears as we stared into the face of our son.
I remember the warmth of his body on my chest, all 8 pounds, 21.5 inches of him. I remember his new little cry, and his perfect little round head, and the way he seemed to instantly recognize my voice.
(Isn't this picture awesome?!?! Thank you, Amy, for capturing such a moment. I have a feeling this is a picture we will laugh about for years. I can just see it displayed on Cruz's graduation table someday!)
I remember the nurses asking for our name and Dr. Hines telling me she had never delivered a Cruz before and that she thinks we may have started a trend.
I remember the looks of my family’s faces as they filed into the room. The smiles and laughs and kisses and hugs they shared with us, with the nurses and doctors, and with each other.
I remember the peace I felt in our hospital room after the last visitor left for the night. The dimmed lights, a swaddled baby in my arms, and the soft quietness of the room. I remember feeling so proud, so in awe.
It’s really hard to put into words the next two days in the hospital. A part of me felt like we were playing house, but a bigger part of me knew it was the real thing. We were parents. Our lives were changed forever. I remember wrapping Cruz in a tiny blanket and taking him for his first walk around the hospital, down the same halls we had walked just one day before. I remember decorating his hospital cradle with my favorite blue blanket, his hippo from Grandma Kelly, and puppy from Cousin Charly. I remember feeling such a bond, such a strong instinct to love, protect, and take care of him.
I loved our days at the hospital. It was a sort of honeymoon. Two days of drowning out the world around us and focusing on nothing but the new baby in our lives. Having an amazing group of people there giving us time to bond as a family, yet, making sure I was taking care of myself. And who can forget the amazing jacuzzi tub! Beau was more than ready to go home on Thursday, but I knew I would miss the people, miss the newness, and miss the escape.
The day we went home from the hospital was a whirlwind. But the moment we walked in our house, I felt this incredible sense of peace. Peace in the form of a wide-eyed, soft faced boy laying on his mom and dad’s bed for the first time. Peace in the form of a house tour, showing Cruz every room, every important detail of our world. Peace in the form of staring at him from the side of the crib rail. Leaning over and kissing the forehead of this little boy…it became real…this moment is a moment I have dreamed about for so long.
Welcome to this world, Cruz Bennett. Know that we have more love for you than we know how to give and our lives forever changed on October 12, 2010.