Though in some ways this has been my hardest pregnancy (mostly due to the crazy insomnia it caused!), it was also the one that I cherished the most. This is likely my last baby! So I did soak up the kicks and the movements and even loved to see my belly swell with this child who was about to complete our family. In many ways, not knowing the gender made me think about the pregnancy more often because I could not stop wondering if I was carrying a boy or a girl! Though nearly everyone was CONVINCED it was a boy (namely- Matt, Henry and Rhodes!) I knew that we all had a 50% chance of guessing right and mulled this over every day. It really was a special part of this pregnancy, and one I’ll be forever grateful to have experienced.
I suppose the birth story really begins at my 36-week appointment. I was 36 weeks and 4 days pregnant and SO EXCITED to have my first internal exam to see if I had begun dilating at all. Matt was able to come with me and we were both just so happy to be together again (he’d just come back home from Nicaragua that last week) and about to hear about my pregnancy progress.
When my wonderful doctor checked me, she said, “Well, you’re definitely already 2-3 cm dilated, but I’m not sure I’m feeling a head down here. Let’s do a quick ultrasound check and see about the positioning.” So we moved along to the next room and she got it going. Right away when she put the sensor on the top of my belly, we all saw the big round head pop up on the monitor. I’m pretty sure I actually shook my head and blinked in surprise. I was in SHOCK. The very next thing she said was, “Ok, so we need to talk scheduling a c-section with a breech baby.” And I’m pretty sure that’s when my brain was saying “No no no no no no no no” while I was trying to remain calm and listen to Dr. Fisher discuss planning for a surgery at 39 weeks.
I started to cry. My shock caught up with my senses and I couldn’t hold back the tears. A c-section? For me? But I do vaginal births! I’ve had 2 good ones! I was actually LOOKING FORWARD to childbirth. My body can do this, I know it can! I’m not supposed to be talking c-section!
My sweet husband and doctor swooped right in with kindness and assurances. She offered to try a manual version for me at the hospital later that week (where the doctor tries to turn the baby by manually pushing the baby around in your belly) and I agreed that I’d definitely want to try that out. She was clear that the success rate wasn’t great, but offered that I was a good candidate for it and she wanted to try to give me the birth I wanted.
You know, I didn’t even realize how attached I was to my birth “plan” until it seemed to be unraveling. I was totally undone by the news. It felt in the moment like the worst news I could have heard. I was mad at the baby. I wanted to just find out the gender and forget about trying to have a birth “experience.” I was mad that the doctors wouldn’t consider delivering breech. I was scared at the thought of surgery, and the thought of the recovery to follow. I was never scared for my safety, or for the health of well-being of the baby, but selfishly I felt like I’d been played a terrible hand, and I was ready to just fold.
Matt was so gentle with me as we walked out to the car and I broke down in tears again. I was just a bit inconsolable in my shock. I hated myself for feeling so entitled and yet couldn’t convince myself to have perspective on my self-pity. This is ok, I tried to tell myself. It’s not what you want, but it’s ok to not get what you want. But then more tears would come…
I called my mom who went through an emergency c-section to have me (!!) and called Calee, who also went through a c-section due to her breech baby. Of course both were positive about it all and it was wonderful to talk with them, but I still felt sad and a little angry. That night, I decided to do what I could to turn the baby at home (think handstands, laying nearly upside down, etc) and to not worry about it til I did the version attempt.
The version was a little crazy- it was definitely painful and unfortunately didn’t work. Apparently this baby’s booty AND foot were lodged down in the birth canal (baby was basically sitting indian style!), and so it looked like unless the baby decided to turn on it’s own, then he/she was coming on May 19th for a scheduled c-section. I was much calmer after the version attempt. I felt like we’d done what we could and that God could very easily have this baby turn if I was meant to have another natural birth. I was told to come to the hospital as soon as I started having any contractions that were about 5 minutes apart, even if they weren’t painful to avoid a more emergent c-section situation with labor that had progressed too far. I took this to heart, because there was something in me that absolutely, 100% KNEW that this baby was not going to be born on May 19th. Mama’s intuition maybe? Or wistful thinking?? :) I also had done some research and had seen the MUCH greater fatality risks to mamas and babies who are born breech. Thankfully I did have the protective sense to know that our health was the #1 priority, as I knew that it was for Dr. Fisher, too.
I’d also begun to realize that while this was unexpected (and perhaps unwanted) news, it wasn’t BAD news as far as news you can get in your pregnancy goes. A dear friend had a miscarriage just days after I found out about the breech, and another had placental previa at 39 weeks and their baby was having seizures and was on life support in the NICU. Talk about some perspective. I suddenly felt thankful to have the knowledge of the baby’s positioning so that he/she could be delivered safely. That gratefulness absolutely did take away some of the fear.
Tuesday, May 10th started out as a wonderful day. The night before, I’d taken a long bath and started reading a fantastic book (Hope Heals by Katherine and Jay Wolf) and had a restful night of sleep. I dropped the kids off at school and went to teach my very last bible study of the year! While there, I mentioned to everyone that I was having braxton hicks but that I felt good, etc. Everyone prayed over the baby and it was just a fun, sweet morning of Jesus and community and prayer. I picked up the kids, we played on the playground for a bit because it was an absolutely gorgeous day (sunny and 80), and then we headed off to a little lunch date. The kids had been begging me to go to Jason’s Deli and I’d promised it to them yesterday. What a fun little date I had with my two kiddos! We ate our food, got our ice cream and then decided to head up to Target. I offered that they could pick a toy out that I’d keep until Mom and Dad were going to the hospital to meet the baby. Oh, the foreshadowing!
(BTW- we prepped the kids for the birth by letting them know exactly what was going to happen.We said that mom and dad had to go to the hospital so the doctor could help Mommy’s baby come out, and that Pop and Lulie would come and stay with them in the house for a few nights while we were gone. They were PUMPED. SO EXCITED to have Pop and Lulie coming- no nervousness whatsoever. That made my heart feel so at ease, and I didn’t worry at all about their adjustment to the baby or the new life we’d be adapting.)
While in Target, I was letting the kids peruse the toys and I felt like my contractions were picking up. Not picking up in intensity necessarily, but they seemed to be coming pretty regularly. I’m not great at guestimating time so I pulled up my stopwatch on my phone. Sure enough, they seemed to be coming about 3-6 minutes apart. But then every now and again I’d have a slightly longer gap, so I thought maybe this is just how it always is and I’m just noticing it more? But I was really close to the hospital at Target, and because I didn’t want to be dumb, I called the doctor and they said to come on into the office to just get checked to be on the safe side. I called Matt and he was at his office, but able to take the kids while I went in. I dropped the kids off with him and headed into the doctor’s office, but not before asking Matt’s co-worked Tyler to take a few family photos of us in the OFF-CHANCE that I was actually in labor and would have the baby. I’m so thankful we have these… I am literally just about an hour and a half away from birthing a baby here!!
The ride to the doctor’s office was a little comical. It was almost 4pm and schools must have just gotten out, because I was behind about 27 school buses and was stopping every 25 feet for kids to get out. It took me forever to get over there! On the way, Matt called to say he was just going to go ahead and take the kids home. This was another providential thing, though we didn’t know it then. I was ushered back to an exam room and waited a bit for the doctor, who came in and did an internal check. “Well,” she said, “You’re about 5-6 cm and so Hannah, you are having a baby today!” AHHHHHHHH I was in shock again, but this time GOOD shock! I looked at my phone to see the date- May 10th, and it just felt RIGHT. Dr. Fisher told me she still felt the booty down there, and to head to the hospital to get prepped for a c-section. She said she had a few more patients but that she’d come over to the hospital to deliver the baby for me. It was her night off, but to know she’d be there made me feel so calm and happy and truly excited even for the surgery. We were going to meet our baby today!
I went into the bathroom and called Matt- I think he was a little shocked, too! I called my friend Erica whose son Max is one of Henry’s best friends and asked if she could keep the kids tonight for us til my parents got here. I called my parents and then my dear friend Stephanie to see if she could pick up the kids from Erica and put them to bed at our house. She had to cancel a date to do it, but thank the Lord she also was available. My mind was SO AT EASE knowing that these kind friends who my kids loved and adored were going to keep them while we welcomed their new sibling.
I headed down the road to the hospital, praying for the baby and the delivery. I still didn’t FEEL like I was in labor (no labor pains yet) so I calmly walked into the hospital and to the L &D ward. I was greeted by several nurses who said, “We’ve been waiting for you, let’s go get you checked in ASAP!” I was ushered into the room and a flurry of nurses were in putting in my IV, gathering my insurance, putting my stats into the computer, taking blood samples and talking me through the c-section process. I had clearly miscalculated the urgency of it all- I asked the main nurse how long it would be until I went back for surgery and she said, “Oh, honey it’s going to be as soon as we get your blood results back from the lab, probably 20 minutes max.”
Um… I knew Matt had left to go back to James Island not 20 minutes before. It was now 4:30/45 and rush hour traffic was strong. I truly thought- Matt is not going to make it back for this surgery! I texted him to COME QUICKLY THIS IS HAPPENING SOONER THAN WE THOUGHT and begged the nurse to please let me wait til my husband was here! The doctor had just come in to do an internal check (I was 6-7 cm, baby still breech sitting indian-style in there!) and she assured me that they would wait to deliver the baby til my husband was here, even if they needed to get me prepped and give me my spinal before.
It was honestly a blessing to have it all happen so quickly. I didn’t have time to get scared for the surgery itself- as soon as Matt arrived around 5pm, they wheeled me back while he changed into scrubs and suddenly I was in a bright, stark white, COLD room. The nurse who had scared me before with the rushing ended up getting me warm blankets and then rubbed my shoulders as I received my spinal.
That was such a weird feeling, nearly impossible to describe. I could still sense the lower half of my body, but I couldn’t feel anything at all. I could tell that they had laid we down with my knees out and were prepping me for the incision, but with the curtain up I couldn’t see a thing. They brought Matt in and he sat down to the left of my head… I can’t remember if we even said anything to one another…the last thing I remember was him praying for us before I was brought into the OR.
The doctors made everything very calm and happy. I wasn’t fearful for a moment! Dr. Fischer told me I was going to feel some tugging, and before I knew it, not 3 minutes after Matt came into the room, I heard the screams of the baby and felt a huge “whoosh” as she was pulled out.
A nurse brought her immediately around to where Matt was and held her upright… Matt looked over and said, “Oh my goodness, it’s a GIRL!” and we just cried and laughed and were in total SHOCK that we had just had another daughter!!! That was absolutely, without a doubt one of the most FUN moments of my entire life. While they cleaned her off and took her vitals we just laughed and laughed at the surprise. She looked so much like henry… I couldn’t get over how much she looked like baby henry when he was born. She was teeny and delicate and absolutely beautiful.
May Walker Alexander was born at 5:21pm at 6 lbs, 5 ounces and 18 inches long.
I’ll write more about my recovery in another post… it was pretty intense, and not one of my favorite things I’ve ever been through. But even that couldn’t take away from the absolute happiness I felt in getting to know my daughter.
My parents brought the kids to meet Miss May the next day… oh, my goodness, it was THE BEST! I hated that I still felt a bit loopy and swollen and immobile, but I will never forget the sweetness of those two kiddos meeting their baby sister. They were as smitten as we were, asking to hold her, talking sweet nothings to her and showering her tiny head with kisses.
Our precious May baby. We love you so much. We’re so thankful you came to us safely, and we cherish your life with us!