Over the next few weeks, I want to go back and take a look at each of the times we added to our family. Each of the boys have been so different, and my response and growth through the process was different too. These experiences shaped my motherhood. I have learned a lot in the past few years–and I want to record the process for myself. You, of course, are welcome to come along for the ride!
In the later part of 2006, I sat motionless in a doctor’s exam room as I was told I had a hormonal imbalance that would impede conception. I was advised to come and see my doctor when we planned on starting our family. It was far from the news I was hoping for–I was twenty-one when we married, and I had hoped we’d have children right away. We even already had a list of names that we wanted to use.
In the later part of 2007, we were shocked with a surprise pregnancy, then devastated a few weeks later when it ended in a missed miscarriage. Over the next few years I find myself slipping farther into despair when I thought about the possibility–or lack thereof–of children. The first obstacle was could I get pregnant? And once that bridge was crossed, there was the horrible possibility of can I stay pregnant once I get that way?
Then, in the summer of 2010, we were surprised with another accidental pregnancy. The day we found out, we both cried, and Jeremy anointed me and the room we would use as a nursery with oil and prayed for protection.
I have to start the story of Ephraim with the losses that preceded him, because they changed everything. I would spend the first few weeks of the pregnancy in mixture of sickness and terror. I had never felt so miserable in my life, but I was so afraid of losing another baby. I took every day of sickness as a sign that everything was ok. I refused to be upset over any of the trials and struggles and pains that accompanied the life growing in my womb. There were many moments when I found myself crouched by the toilet with Jeremy hovering by the door saying, “Praise Jesus…Praise Jesus!” I was in my second trimester before we were able to go to the doctor for an ultrasound, and we wept openly again when we saw the tiny wiggly baby with his strong heartbeat.
If I could sum up Ephraim’s pregnancy in two words, they would be these: Fear and Faith.
I was so afraid throughout his pregnancy; anyone who has been pregnant after a loss knows that horrible limbo of waiting, the fear to hope, to be excited. It was a long time before my anxiety lessened to the point that I could enjoy the pregnancy at all. I forced myself to give the baby a nickname–I hadn’t wanted to, in a desperate attempt to guard my heart from the pain of a loss, should it come again. I called the baby Beetle-Bug, just because. Tiny steps of faith like these were both heart-wrenching and heart-healing.
At the same time, the lessons were pouring in from other people. Faith suddenly seemed like the topic on everyone’s lips, from VBS sessions I was helping with, to gifts we were given, to prayers that people prayed over us.
When we learned we were having a boy, we used the name we had chosen six years previously, before we were even married: Ephraim Aleksandr. We chose the Russian spelling for Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and because my great-grandfather and his family emigrated from Russia in the late 19th century. It was only some time after we officially named him that we realized that the name Ephraim meant “fruitful”–not that the child would be fruitful, but his parents–and that it was the name of Joseph’s second son. Ephraim was also our second child. It was astonishing how fitting the name actually was.
By the time I was feeling him move regularly, I had relaxed somewhat and was starting to feel at home with the pregnancy–maybe even a bit in charge.
Because he was my first and I had no idea what to really expect, I assumed I’d go late and have him around 41 or 42 weeks. Because, you know, statistics show that most first-time moms go past their due date that first go-round. I casually read some books on birthing, frequented sites on natural birth, and borrowed my friend’s incredibly detailed natural birth plan to use as my own. I had my shower when I was 36 weeks and 2 days, and my mom insisted on coming down right after it to help me get the items I still needed and to prepare the nursery. I thought she was jumping the gun a little, but chalked it up to maternal instincts and let her take over.
Ephraim was born a few days later.
Everything about his birth was a shock.
Everything from the penultimate doctor’s appointment where my OB met me in the waiting room (never had that happen before or since then!) asking me if I knew that I had low platelets. Being sent home from that appointment with instructions to return in the morning and to bring my hospital bag. (That’s code for “You’re having a baby tomorrow.”) Stopping by my classroom to print out long-term sub plans and take home my favorite coffee mug. (I would never go back to that classroom.) Going home to pack that hospital bag, which I hadn’t even considered yet because I still had four to five weeks to go, supposedly!
I laid in bed that night and tried to watch Wall-E, but I was on pins and needles and couldn’t pay attention.
The next morning I was subject to an emergency induction due to my very low and rapidly falling platelet count–and because of said platelet count, I wasn’t allowed an epidural. No problem, right? I hadn’t wanted one anyway. (HA.) Everything on my borrowed, detailed natural birth plan was thrown out the window. I had constant monitoring. I had an episiotomy. I tried to sit on a birth ball for one contraction and hated it–I mean, really loathed it. Standing next to the bed was the only thing I could tolerate. Once my water was broken, the pain was incredible. I kept looking at the clock, thinking “I can’t do this forever.” Fortunately, I didn’t–my labor was only six and a half hours from start to finish.
Towards the end I asked for and was given drugs through my IV. They didn’t do much for the pain, but they made me loopy enough to where I couldn’t quite comprehend the pain of the induced contractions. They also made me loopy enough to where, when Ephraim came out and they laid him on my stomach, I didn’t have the slightest idea what to do with him. I just laid there and looked at him.
The first hour or so after his birth was calm. I passed the placenta and tried to nurse Ephraim. Then I had a funny feeling of birthing the placenta over and over again, which I thought was odd. I mentioned it to the nurse, who checked me to find that I was hemorrhaging.
Immediately the room was filled with fifteen or so nurses, my OB and another OB from the same practice. I was experiencing uterine atony, and they began trying to force my uterus to contract down properly. There is little I remember from this point other than it involved hands up inside my womb, lots of pushing on my belly, lots of pain, pain, pain, then the anesthesiologist coming and giving his spiel and I can’t comprehend what he’s saying. I hear the second OB say as they’re wheeling me out to the operating room that they are going to try to get the bleeding stopped, and if they can’t then they will do an emergency hysterectomy. I remember my dad laying his hands on my head and praying for me as I’m wheeled out. I don’t remember anything after that.
It was a few hours later that I woke up and tried to focus blurry eyes on the people standing next to me–my parents and my obstetrician, the latter of which told me, cheerfully, “We saved your uterus!” as a way of greeting. (I am sure she said things before that, but I can’t recall them.) I had lost copious amounts of blood and would spend the next couple of days having blood fed slowly into my IV. I was taken back to the room where I had given birth, and they brought Ephraim back to me for a while before taking him to the nursery. I cried at that, but it was decided it would be better if I could just rest that night. I’m pretty sure that birth plan I used included strict instructions about no formula and no pacifiers, the former being impossible since I couldn’t feed him while they were trying to stop the bleeding, and the latter falling by the wayside during his night in the nursery. (For the record, neither had an impact on our breastfeeding.)
Looking back, it is incredible to me how sure I was that things would happen a certain way, and then how utterly different they all ended up turning out! The shock of the situation would deeply affect how I transitioned into my new role as a mother, and I am sure contributed squarely to the fact that bringing our first child home was, by far, the hardest task of any of them.