"When patients bring me three page birth plans, I have to laugh," my OB said. "I tell them that the opposite will happen. If they'd just relax and realize it's all in God's hands, everything would be better."
She and I were finalizing my "birth plan," or my preferences for delivering baby number three. Since she'd delivered Collin and Frank, she knew to expect another stubborn, big baby. Fortunately I'm an incredibly patient person, so we would put off a C-section until it was an absolute medical necessity. However, I have little tolerance for pain, so she checked "yes" next to epidural. I had dilated to 3 cm, which meant labor was close. Now all I had to do was wait.
The contractions started Sunday morning, Oct. 13 as I was getting ready for church. Patrick wanted us to stay home in case we needed to call the doctor, but I insisted on going to Mass, especially if I was in early labor. I waddled down the street, sunk into the pew, and "sneeled" my way into the kneeler. The contractions were coming strong and regularly, exactly 10 minutes apart. We had sent Collin downstairs with the other kids for the Liturgy of the Word, but Patrick, who had been watching me and timing the contractions himself said, "when he gets back up here, it's time to go."
So, in odd fashion, we left Mass before Communion, packed up the car, called my mom to take the boys, and checked in with the doctor, who told us to head to the hospital. When we got there, they put me on a monitor and determined that my contractions weren't strong and regular enough to admit me. So, they told us to take a walk around the hospital and its grounds for two hours.
While we walked, I prayed. I wanted so badly to meet my baby, and I wanted it on that very day. Being sent home is the worst feeling in late pregnancy. Prolonged discomfort. So many nagging questions and comments from well-intended people you know and don't know. The shame of not knowing false labor from the real thing. When I got home, I stuffed myself in my bed, swearing not to come out until it was time to have the baby.
I was on edge all week, expecting my water to break at any second. Having never experienced it outside of a hospital bed before, I didn't know what to expect. And every stomach cramp felt like a contraction, but it wasn't. I prayed for my water to break or the contractions to start, but they didn't. And there was nothing I could do about it.
The good news was that there was an end in sight. My OB had scheduled me to be induced on Friday October 18th because an ultrasound had measured my baby to be big. Given the size of the older brothers at birth (Collin was 9 lbs, 14 oz and Frank was 8 lbs, 13 oz), she wasn't willing to risk birth complications or a C-section. So, I counted down the seconds until October 18th, praying for the patience to get me through to that day.
On the morning of the 18th, Patrick and I were running late getting out of the house. We were supposed to be at the hospital by 6 a.m. to start the induction, but we would be there closer to 6:30. I began to panic. "What if they make us reschedule?" I asked Patrick, as I frantically called the registration desk over and over, and finding no answer. "We'll be okay," he said. I prayed for mercy to trump my tardiness. It did.
Once we were checked in, we were introduced to our nursing staff for the next half hour. I really liked our nurse, a bubbly blonde with a daughter Collin's age and a passion for Halloween, and was worried that after she left we'd be stuck with a grumpy old troll by our side. I prayed for another nice nurse. Then, in walked Donna, the easy-going, attentive nurse who helped deliver Frank. Plus, my own two doctors would be on staff all day when it came time to deliver. It was a fantasy birth experience, and these were my star players.
I waited until the contractions were just painful enough to make me clench my jaw at a tooth-cracking intensity before I asked for the epidural. With Frank, I had a spinal migraine afterwards, so I was nervous just getting the numbing needle. I said a few Hail Marys while the anesthesiologist did his thing, reflecting on the admiration I have for Mary and every other woman who ever brought or will bring a baby into this world without anesthesia. The entire procedure was done, and I was numb in no time.
Just as it did with Collin, Frank, and even this little one on the previous Sunday, my labor slowed down for several hours. "They're not sending me home, right?" I half-jokingly asked. "Nah, you're leaving here with a baby," Donna said. I said a few decades of the Rosary, just as I had with my older two, and before I knew it, my OB showed up and said it was time to push.
In the final moments before my baby entered the world, I reflected on what an incredible journey this pregnancy was. With my circumstances, there were so many things that could have gone wrong. But they didn't. When we first saw this baby on the ultrasound just after Valentine's Day, a tiny beating heart was all there was to see. When we met with the high risk doctor, we were told that heart might be defective because of the medications I had to take. Scan after scan came back clear. Our baby was growing strong only because we kept praying and believing.
After a final prayer, not asking for anything, but thanking God for the gift He was about to give me, Leo Matthew was born. At 11 lbs, 12 oz he made a big entrance into this big world. With a first name that means "lion," he's sure to be courageous - he's already fought his way through a number of obstacles. With a name that means "gift from God," he's already been the answer to my prayers.
October 29, 2013 04:28
By Robyn Barberry
Since the birth of my second child five weeks ago, I’ve struggled to find a meaningful way to describe the experience for you. Our world is a revolving door with people coming and going at an astonishing rate. Nearly 50, 000 babies are born every day. So why should you care about mine?
Though my new little person and the proud big brother are the light of my world, there is no reason for me to expect my readers to feel the same rush of excitement I do about my experience. Every baby is a miracle, but that victory is God’s, not mine. The fact that He chose to bless my family with a perfect new member is awe-inspiring, especially considering everything that had to go right for that to occur. He did the hard work. My body and I just fell into line.
As I paced our bedroom in the throes of labor, my husband suggested we go to the hospital for the fourth time that week. “No!” I insisted. “They’re only going to send us back home again.” I’d resigned myself to the fact that I would carry this child forever. A little less than twelve hours later, he arrived.
When we got to the hospital, after my husband’s insisted, I promised myself that once I settled down I was going to take in every little detail. I wanted to remember more this time around.
Labor was long but relatively easy with my first son. The agony again was in the wait. I wanted to see my baby ‘s face and learn whether I’d be buying pink or blue clothing. Most of all, I wanted to experience what my sister-in-law described as “the best feeling in the world” – that moment when they first place your baby on your chest. When that moment arrived at last, and my firstborn child’s skin made contact with mine, every frustration I faced bringing him into the world melted away.
Almost three years has passed since that day, and no matter how hard I try to replay that moment in my head, I can never bring back that same feeling. During the worst moments of my second pregnancy, I kept reminding myself that I would have that sublime experience again soon. But, this time, I would find a way to prolong that moment as long as I could – forever, if possible.
For about five minutes after I discovered I was the mother of two boys, I held my younger son so close to my heart, it felt like he had never left my body. I gazed at his tiny features – nearly identical to his big brother’s and inhaled his soft, sweet pink skin. I traced his bare back with my finger tips, as I sent a prayer of gratitude to the One who gave me this sacred gift. Still, even as I try to recreate this moment on the page, as I allow my mind to drift back to that not-so-distant moment, it’s flat.
So, why does it matter to you that I experienced something so personal, and yet so powerful? Fifty thousand mothers around the world share this indescribable moment with their newborns every day. Every birth is a window to heaven. Every baby is God’s reminder that He’s never far.
July 02, 2012 02:43
By Robyn Barberry
“After you left this morning, he did something that broke my heart,” said Cynthia, the sweetest, most gentle daycare lady in the world.
My first thought was that my son had hit one of the other kids – that inescapable Irish temper. But what she said next was totally unexpected.
“He just stood at the top of the steps staring out the door for several minutes before I called him over. Then, he crawled into my arms and cried and cried for you.”
For many parents, this separation anxiety is a daily occurrence. At almost 3 years of age, this was the very first time my son cried because I wasn’t around. My son is Mr. Social; he will strike up a conversation with anyone, anywhere, at any time, which is scary in and of itself. But, because we are pulled into work so often, he’s also used to being cared for by adults who aren’t my husband or me (but thankfully are usually his wonderful and devoted grandparents) The time we spend together as a family is always special, but unfortunately not as quantitative as any of us would like.
A rush of competing feelings came over me. First came the pity. How awful that the sad little boy missed his mommy! Next, I felt a sort of relief and, though I’m ashamed to admit it, even slight gratification that my child loves me enough to miss me when I’m gone. The final emotion that struck that afternoon was the most painful: the guilt of my long hours, and especially of the ever-nearing arrival of our second child.
It had to be the baby, I decided. We’ve just about finished decorating his or her room with creamsicle paint, an alphabet bedding set, and pages of our favorite story books. The swing which once soothed my son as an infant is set to repeat its service in the living room. Tiny clothing waits to be folded, while my own shirts and dresses appear painted on my giant belly. We’ve been reading "I’m a Big Brother Now" every night before bed. Complete strangers tell me I’m about to pop (as though I weren’t aware). At the later end of age 2, my son is wise enough to realize his whole world is about to change forever.
When I dropped my son off at daycare the second day, I had to witness separation anxiety in the flesh. Any “good” feelings I had about the tears my son shed for me in my absence were washed away as he clung to me and told me not to leave. Within a minute, I was crying, too, along with Cynthia and her niece, Tasha, who also looks after the children.
“He never cries!” Tasha sobbed. And we cried some more. Finally, my son climbed into Cynthia’s lap and after hugging and kissing him goodbye, I left, my heart heavier than it had ever been.
How could I cause my child so much pain? Does he think he’s being replaced by his brother or sister? What can I do to make this easier?
Obviously, I’m not the first person to bring a second child into the family, but as parents there are some experiences we must endure that challenge our internal strength. I’ve talked to numerous friends and family members about how they prepared their children for the arrival of a new baby. The most significant thing I’ve learned for sure is that every situation is unique. Every family handles things differently, as does every child.
The age difference between children certainly has an impact on how the transition from only child to sibling will occur. My brother and I are 16 months apart, so I didn’t really know what was going on when he joined our household. My husband is five years younger than his sister, who was eager for a live baby, rather than a doll, to dress up and play with. My aunt and my father are 18 years apart, so she’s always been a second mother figure for him. One of my former students who babysits my son from time to time told me that her three nieces, all of whom are between two and three years apart, went through a similar experience to ours every time her sister was pregnant with another child. The good news: once the babies came home, the separation anxiety all but disappeared.
Gender differences also play a role in how older children will take to a new baby. Girls tend to be more excited, as they are both genetically and socially wired to nuture. Boys, like mine, are more likely to cling to their mothers and exhibit jealousy.
Some children dislike any disruption to their daily routines, while others celebrate novel experiences. My son falls into the latter category. He’s inherited the adventurous spirit my husband and I share. Children who do not like or aren’t used to change usually have the toughest time adapting to a new baby in their house, but even those who are accustomed to a dynamic day-to-day life can struggle with such a major upheaval.
When I woke up this morning, “Landslide” by Stevie Nicks was stuck in my head. I’ve always loved the song, but the lyrics really spoke to me today. The impact that earth-shattering change can have on our relationships tests our faith and our fortitude, but it also causes everyone involved to grow. As parents and children, God built us to withstand these and all circumstances.
If I can portray the addition of our new family member as the fun and exciting experience it’s supposed to (and will) be, hopefully big brother will climb on board. As we count down the days until baby’s arrival, there are special sibling stories to read, “Big Brother” shirts to wear with pride, stuffed animals for our little helper to practice diapering and feeding, extra hugs and kisses, and many, many prayers to be said.
June 01, 2012 05:17
By Robyn Barberry