the one about finally

Last week, I decided I was done with this pregnancy.

Once I reached the 36 and a half weeks mark, I felt ready to meet this baby. I had not been sleeping well, if at all, for several days...waking up at 2 a.m. and not sleeping the rest of the night. My hip pain that had seemed to resolve a few weeks ago had returned, making walking, sitting, laying, and standing very uncomfortable. My heartburn was creeping back into my daily life, even after taking prevacid for the past few months. My blood sugar readings started to become unpredictable. One day, my fasting numbers would be low and great. The next, they would be too high. Despite insulin, metformin, and countless dietary restrictions, it felt like my body was out of control. All of that, combined with a 1 cm long cervix, incessant contractions, and back pain that were just frequent enough to always have me on high alert but not intense enough to swing me into full-on labor... I was just done.

So, I did what any pregnant lady who wants to go into labor would do. I started walking my neighborhood a couple times each day. I ate eggplant parmesan (no noodles, no bread, because...diabeetus) because there is an urban legend about a restaurant out east that is known for having pregnant women go into labor within a day or so of eating their eggplant parmesan. I ate as much pineapple as my diabetic diet would allow. Spicy foods were daily staples (including a hamburger smothered in jalapenos), and I became so desperate that even castor oil was sounding tempting (I didn't do it).

On Friday night, I had a breakdown. I think all the worrying and anxiety about potentially having this baby preterm had caught up with me...and I found myself frustrated, even angry, that he hadn't arrived yet. It felt like as soon as I stopped my procardia at 36 weeks (which was helping with contractions) and my progesterone injections, that the baby should just come immediately after that. I knew better, or at least I should have, but my emotions got the best of me, and I found myself really upset that I was 37 weeks and still pregnant.

Through tears, I forcefully told Luke that I was NOT going to be induced. I was NOT going to have a c-section. And I was DONE being pregnant.

Somehow, I was able to return to a mostly-sane person and the weekend went on. A chaotic trip to Menard's to order toilets and bathtubs for the new house with the girls in-tow brought about a few contractions, so I decided to capitalize on that and head out to walk some laps at a another store. I committed myself to doing 10 brisk laps before coming home. Though I worked up a sweat (and probably looked a little ridiculous to the store manager who saw me each time I made a lap), the contractions fizzled, and I was bummed.

We enjoyed last-minute adult night out to celebrate our brother-in-law's birthday. Our babysitter came in time for us to enjoy mass without the distraction joy of our girls being with us. This was a true gift. To be able to hear the readings and enjoy the music and actually get something out of the homily was exactly what I needed to refocus and remember how blessed I am. Following mass, we went to dinner with family and headed home.

Early Sunday morning, I awoke to contractions, which wasn't unusual. I started to realize that they were coming about 3-4 minutes apart for about an hour. I woke Luke up to tell him and continued timing them. Determined not to "lose" the contractions again, I started walking laps in our house. After about 3 hours of this, we felt like this could be the real deal and decided to head to the hospital.

Our bags had been packed for weeks, but I didn't allow Luke to bring them into the hospital with us for fear of being sent home. The pregnancy walk of shame is a real thing that I wanted to avoid. In my heart, I felt like this was "it," but I didn't want to take any chances.

When we walked to the elevator, I was still contracting. Luke asked, "Elevator or stairs?" My instinct was to punch him. What man asks his 37 weeks pregnant wife who is actively contracting if she wants to take the stairs to labor and delivery? But then he said it would probably keep the contractions going, so I decided to go for it.

Up four flights of stairs we went, and we both were huffing and puffing when we made it to the floor. Thankfully, my doctor was already there and had alerted the nurses that I was coming, so they were ready for me. The same nurse that helped deliver Shiloh was there, and she knew how I ran out of time for an epidural the last time. Before I was even put in a room, she asked if we should call for the epidural so I would have time to get one. I declined at that moment because, again, I wanted to make sure this was actually going to be "baby day."

Within minutes of being in a hospital gown, we learned that it was definitely going to be "baby day." I was near 7 cm dilated and contracting regularly, so it was game on. I allowed Luke to get our bags from the car, and I settled in, anxious to see how the day would play out.

Slowly, steadily, and without too much pain, I progressed to 8 cm within a few hours and we were ready to break my water. My prayer in the weeks leading up to delivery was that this birthing experience would be calm, smooth, and relatively slow to progress. I know that sounds crazy, but after my near-car birth experience with Charlotte and my really intense and quick experience with Shiloh, I just didn't want to feel fear, panic, or worry. As fun as the stories are to tell now, I have never been more afraid in my life than the night Charlotte was born. And if this delivery was to be my last, I didn't want to remember it in a negative way.

To make it to 8 cm without an epidural and without screaming in agony was an answered prayer. Prior to breaking my water, my doctor and nurse asked me multiple times if I wanted the epidural, knowing there would not be time after my water was broken to get it done before delivery. I felt conflicted. Why would I not get one? Why would I want the misery? Why would I turn down the option for a less painful delivery? But something inside of me told me to just do it-- to let my body do what it was going to do and to get through the delivery without an epidural. So, I declined it for the final time.

It wasn't very long before I started to regret the epidural decision. Lots and lots of pain awaited me in a matter of a few minutes. Very quickly, it was "time." Thankfully, just 3-4 contractions stood between the most incredible, intense pain I have ever felt and holding my son.

For some reason, this picture makes me laugh. Like clinging to the bed was going to save me at this point... but I think you get the idea of the pain level.

 Bless Luke. I am squeezing his hand so hard.

There is no way to describe the feeling of your child being placed on your chest for the first time. Even with this being my fourth delivery, it feels new and exhilarating every single time. Sneaking the first look at his hair, his fingers, his toes, his lips, his cheeks.... counting the rolls of baby fat on his back and checking to make sure he was "still" a boy...such amazing, fulfilling memories of the end of an emotional pregnancy and the beginning of a brand new life.

Leo Benjamin. There is no greater love.

Luke and I were presented with the opportunity to have photos taken during Leo's birth. When Luke was born, he was very sick and needed to be in the NICU for a couple of months due to his lungs being underdeveloped. The doctor who took care of him and can be credited for saving his life, Donna Wilkins, still works in the NICU today (even though she is supposed to be retired). She also has a gift in photography and enjoys taking birth photos. She messaged me just the night before about taking photos of Leo's birth. We made loose arrangements, hoping it would work out for her to be there. Sure enough, the next day, it did work out for her to be able to take photographs of Leo's first breath. How incredibly special that the woman who was so instrumental in getting Luke to where he is today was in the room with us when our first son was born. We will cherish these images and this moment in our lives forever.

After a wonderful hospital stay with supportive nurses, tons of visitors, and plenty of treats (goodbye, diabeetus!), we are home and now adjusting to life as a family of six. There have already been instances of sibling jealousy. I have cried many tears-- wondering if I am "mama enough" for all of them. Shiloh has probably been the most out of sorts. She is acting out and seems so different than the way she was before Leo was born. I know it will take time to get us all back on track, and I know we won't get there without a lot of help, prayer, and teamwork...but I can't help but feel sad for her that she seems so upside down.

I have been reflecting on this pregnancy and new life as a mother of four. The word that keeps cycling through my brain is finally.

Finally, we have a boy. A son. A little man. A beautiful soul who might be able to provide just a hint of balance in this female-centric family. Leo is everything we never knew we needed. Luke was never pining away over having a son. He would have been fine as a dad of four girls. But when I see them together, I know that Leo is just the perfect fit for this family.

Finally, the never-ending pregnancy saga is over. No more needles. No more medications. No more weeks with 2-3 doctor's appointments at a time. No more contractions all day long. No more pain.

A small compilation of my progesterone and insulin needles used throughout this pregnancy.

Finally, a feeling of peace in my heart as I contemplate if Leo will be the last child I carry inside of me. While I don't know the answers right now, I do know that my heart is so full and my life is so blessed.

Finally, Leo. We did it.


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