Sarah Kate’s birth story, published in honor of her 10th birthday in December, was among the most popular of my recent posts. As I said then, it seems a bit narcissistic to publish my children’s birth stories, but Sarah Kate’s was obviously interesting to many of you, who expressed interest in hearing Nathan’s, as well. He’ll turn three next Wednesday, so in honor of his birthday, I’m posting his birth story (also in multiple parts). Come back Tuesday for Part 2.
Before Sarah Kate was born, I wanted multiple children. After she was born, I didn’t.
It wasn’t that I didn’t love her, or that I wished she hadn’t come along. Instead, it had more to do with a feeling that my reproductive life was doomed, and I just didn’t feel like trying anymore. Things changed after Sarah Kate was born, too. Instead of Having It All – career AND children – I found myself without a career, living on half the income we previously had, and facing a mountain of therapy bills. I feared that a second child wouldn’t receive the attention he deserved because of the extra care that Sarah Kate required. My reproductive history just seemed to seal the deal – we would be a family of three forever.
Sarah Kate had other plans, though.
When she was in kindergarten, she started working on Mr. Andi and me about having a brother or sister. We explained to her that not everyone has siblings, so she would probably be an only child forever. After awhile, she stopped asking, and we thought the matter was settled. Later we would learn that she had instead directed her energies elsewhere – she took the matter up with a Higher Power and began praying for a baby brother or sister instead.
When I learned I was pregnant with Nathan, I wasn’t happy.
Sarah Kate had finished her first of year of school – kindergarten – and had done well. I could see the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel – the possibility that I could have a career again, or at least a job that would bring in some extra cash. When the at-home pregnancy test showed positive, my reaction of “Shitdammit!” stood in stark contrast to Mr. Andi’s laughter.
From the very beginning, I wasn’t optimistic.
I felt terrible physically, and my emotional state wasn’t much better. I felt trapped and alone. As much as I hadn’t wanted a baby, I also didn’t want another catastrophe. I refused to tell anyone that I was pregnant, because I was certain that as soon as I uttered the words, the baby would be gone. We were new in town and I didn’t know a lot of people well yet, so it was easy to hide out and pretend I was just getting fat. I had registered to run the Marine Corps Marathon in late October, and with my ob/gyn’s blessing, I continued to train for it.
With a week to go until the marathon, when I would be sixteen weeks pregnant, I created cards to mail to each of our immediate family members, announcing our news. Since we’d moved away from everyone, it had been easy to avoid seeing them up until that point. We told Sarah Kate about the baby – to which she responded by slapping herself across the forehead and exclaiming, “It’s going to get in my room and mess up all my stuff!” – and mailed the postcards the day before I left for D.C.
The hours when I went out for a run were the rare positive moments for me.
The rest of the time I was tired, ill, and depressed. I felt trapped. My ob/gyn had classified me as “high risk” because of my prior history and placed me on an every other week appointment schedule. I went through the motions, waiting for the other shoe to drop. When the nurse couldn’t hear the baby’s heartbeat at one of my appointments, I held my breath. She found it, eventually, but I believed in my heart that each time would be the last.
Mr. Andi, of course, was ecstatic that we were having a boy.
I tried to seem happy and hopeful, but the typical pregnancy woes and my long-running pessimism won out most of the time. My sister gave me some of her baby items – everything we’d had with Sarah Kate had long since been donated to the crisis pregnancy center – and I put them in our guest room and closed the door. My mother purchased the crib bedding, and I also put it in the guest room, unopened. I bought a couple of things after the 30-week mark, but I left everything in its original packaging and I saved all of the receipts so I could return it later.
Once I passed the 34-week mark, I finally relaxed – a little.
We’d spent enough time in the NICU with Sarah Kate to know that the 34-weekers don’t hang around long. On Wednesday, March 10, just before I hit 36 weeks, we attended a surprise baby shower hosted a group of Mr. Andi’s colleagues and their spouses. I had declined all offers of baby showers, so this event was the only one that we had. Just before leaving, I felt several sharp pangs in my abdomen. A few hours later, I was in the clutches of a severe stomach bug. Mr. Andi picked up the same bug a day later, leaving the two of us dehydrated and miserable.
By Saturday morning, I was feeling much better but still crampy. I timed the cramps, just in case they were The Real Thing, but they weren’t coming in a regular pattern. I’d been dealing with Braxton-Hicks contractions since very early on, made worse when I was dehydrated, so I chalked it up to the after effects of my stomach bug and went about my day. I went for a walk in the neighborhood, laid down on the bed for awhile, waiting for the crampyness to subside. It was Mr. Andi’s birthday and we debated what, if anything, we should do to celebrate, as neither of us had fully recovered from the stomach bug.
Around the middle of the afternoon, the cramps began to change. I can’t describe exactly what was different about them, but I began to think it wasn’t just residual cramps from the stomach flu anymore. Shortly before 5:00, I called the hospital and we headed in, Sarah Kate in tow and without an overnight bag or even a camera.Read the rest of Nathan’s birth story here: Part 2 | Part 3