Sitting down to write this post, I initially gave myself an hour and the topic of gluten-free dairy-free… However, running to get a tissue three times to stop a monstrous sneeze from covering everything in front of me with snot, changing a sick little princess with a blowout diaper (like, four days of not pooing all in one tiny diaper) and having my chest covered in spit up, snot and who knows what other fluids post-nursing makes me not want to write about food. At all.
So, I’m writing about Jaxon, instead. When I got pregnant I was one of those women who did NOT want to read the millions of various baby “how to” books, much less that bible-sized book famously named What to Expect when You’re Expecting. I wanted to buy it solely so I could throw it at anyone who tried to tell me I needed to read it. I wanted a natural vaginal birth and was going to breastfeed, end of story. If I had questions, I Googled it or called my mom and mother in law. My lovely husband, however, wanted books. Daddy books. So, I got them for him and I must say he was amazing throughout the pregnancy. He even got sympathy pains, which… I hated. I was the one growing a child and I hated that he got moody, emotional, body aches and cravings. It wasn’t fair! But, as most of my role models and friends with kids said to me, it just meant he was really invested and cared – and considering that perspective, I became thankful and grudgingly excited. It wasn’t that I wasn’t excited, I think I was overwhelmed with moving to a new place (we found out we were pregnant three weeks after moving into our new house 2,800 miles from my home of 19 years) and it didn’t seem real that I was going to be a mom.
All that being said, I was not the one who did the baby registry. I was not the one who picked out nursery items. I was not the one who thought of things such as diaper brand or types of clothing and such. My husband did. I must disclose that Jaxon was a planned baby and I did want to have a baby with Josh, but I was 19 at the time and truthfully hadn’t planned on having kids until I was 25 or 27 or even later. It happened fast. I was thrilled to be pregnant and I don’t regret it at all, but at the time it just didn’t seem real.
I enjoyed my pregnancy. Though I was crazy emotional and hungry all the time, I had a good pregnancy. When I was about four months into my pregnancy I started working as a swim and water aerobics instructor, which I did back in WA. It kept me busy, in shape and making some extra spending money. We had just gotten a second dog, Bella – a chow and husky mix -, from a shelter as a companion for Gustav and I absolutely felt like I already had two kids with them running around. If you want to have kids someday, get a dog first. It definitely prepared me, especially doing dog-training with them; it’s amazing how many training rules apply to raising kids, such as following through on consequences, saying things once and enforcing that they listen to the one command and showing that you are the head of the household and set the rules. It’s crazy, so seriously… if you want to have kids, get a dog first.
Josh and I visited his family in Iowa for the holidays and we visited mine in Washington in my third trimester. Little did I know that a week after returning from our trip to visit my family, I’d be in labor and having my baby just over four weeks early. In my second trimester, I had been put on light-rest per doctors due to being “too active” teaching classes and being sent to the hospital with contractions, dehydration and irregular pain. At a month before my due date, May 2nd, I went to work as usual and did my paperwork to wrap up the session’s classes and proceeded to go home, change and head out to our first Labor & Delivery: Birth Class. It was awesome. The whole 90 minutes was entertaining, informative and straight-forward. The instructor closed out with to “get things going, go home and get some going.” So, we did.
I rolled over at 2am with light contractions and drank water, figuring I was dehydrated again. I woke up every twenty minutes with a contraction until 5am, when they became stronger and ten minutes apart. Chug more water. 530am and they’re five minutes apart, so I get up and call Labor & Delivery at my hospital and she suggests that because I’m only 35w+5d, I’m probably just in false labor, but maybe to come in and be checked anyway. I make myself some tea and diddle around on the computer for half an hour, knowing Josh doesn’t have to be up until 6am. Once I heard his alarm go off, I go into the bedroom and say “So… I called L&D and they think I should come in to be checked… I’ve been having contractions for a few hours.” With wide, sleepy and slow-processing eyes, he says “Okay, well… I’ll text in and tell them I have to take you to the hospital. Do we need to leave right now? Or…” And I told him no rush, it’s not too bad and I’ll probably just be put on bedrest. He says “Okay, let’s eat breakfast and then we can go. Why don’t you pack a bag? Just in case.” So, I do.
We left the house around 7am and by that point my contractions were a little less than five minutes apart and fist-making painful. We get into the hospital and after being admitted and being told my contractions weren’t “that bad” per the monitor, they gave me a pitcher of water and told me they’d check again in two hours. 10am, and I finally see a doctor. She does a cervical exam and with a surprised look on her face she says, “well, you’re 5cm dilated… and definitely in labor.” By 11am, I was just about 7cm and the doctor says “All right, are you ready?” Unfortunately, sweet little unborn Jaxon was not in a safe position to be born vaginally and I ended up signing a consent for a cesarean-section. It still hadn’t hit me. Josh was standing next to me a mess of emotions, mostly of excitement, shock and disbelief that our precious jewel would be coming that day.
The C-Section went without a hitch and Jaxon Wyatt Barker was born at 12:47pm at 5lbs 9oz and 19in. It all happened so fast, and they showed him to me and Josh went with the pediatric staff while the surgeon stitched me up, and I dozed off. In the post-op room, I attempted to breastfeed, and gave Jaxon what colostrum I could manage to hand-express but the staff were not comfortable with his blood sugar levels and took him immediately to the NICU. It still hadn’t hit me. I was taken to my room to sleep and recover.
My “it hit me” moment.
On May 5th, two days after he was born, I asked a nurse to take me to the NICU. I’d been a handful of times since then to visit and give them my pumped breastmilk for Jaxon, but this was the first time I’d be going without Josh, as he went home to take care of the dogs. Seeing him in the little see-through bassinet, all by myself. Having him placed in my arms and holding him, smelling him, feeling his little fingers and toes… it finally hit me. I was a mom. I had a baby. I had this baby. He was my baby. It was amazing and heartbreaking. That was the first moment I felt like a mom, and it was also the first moment I felt like I’d failed all that being a mom was supposed to be. I didn’t plan. I didn’t get to have him vaginally. I didn’t read the books. I didn’t stay informed. I didn’t fight to have him vaginally. I didn’t know my options. It was the beginning of a long three months of guilt and a journey of forgiving myself.
Once I was discharged as a patient, I was allowed to stay in the NICU’s Rooming-In room. He was breastfeeding great and was hardly being supplemented anymore, it was all looking good. I was placed in this room at day 6 of being in the NICU, in hopes that we’d be going home within 48 hours, but little buddy had other plans. He had a dsat spell, which meant his lungs were having some slight issues… and that we’d be there for another five days. I couldn’t tell you how many days and nights I cried. I would go for walks, and see the names change on the rooms of the mother-baby unit, knowing that they got to take their babies home and I was stuck there, waiting and not able to go home. What made it worse was that my room was an internal room and had no window, which made my baby-blues even worse. After those four days of observation, I was told he was doing great and just had to make it through the night without another dsat spell. I went to my room and slept, praying we’d be able to go home soon. I woke up right before the doctors did rounds and went and sat with Jaxon so I could hear the news I wanted, that he’d be in my room and on the road to going home. Hearing that he’d had another dsat spell early that morning broke my heart. I almost lost it and started crying right then. The doctor told me that because Jaxon had fixed his breathing on his own, they were only going to require three days of observation before reevaluation, but all I heard was more time in the hospital.
I hadn’t been home since that morning I went into labor at 2am. I wore the same four outfits, changing pieces out and switching them with things Josh brought. I was eating pizza, take out, nuked food and knew all the gossip within the entire NICU staff, ha. I stopped getting my hopes up and on that third day, I went to hear how he did expecting that we’d be there for longer, only to hear that he did great and he’d be in my room within a few hours. Let me tell you that going from a baby hooked up to a machine keeping track of practically every possible bodily function, and having a cordless, normal, newborn baby is one of the hardest, I think, adjustments as a parent. You’re constantly checking his pulse, breathing and temperature because before he needed all those cords, and now he just… doesn’t? It doesn’t compute.
Well, after a total of 16 days, we were released to go home. The longest 16 days of my life and by far some of the most emotionally straining days. He was a great baby, though. He slept well, ate well, fussed as normal and threw up occasionally due to my having oversupply of milk. It was quite the adjustment, but we made it work. I had baby blues which turned into a lot of guilt and emotional struggle relating to my c-section. It was three months of stress on our relationship but I realized that I had been blessed with the most amazing husband who had sympathy pain, enjoyed spending time taking care of his son and wife and that God provided me with a healthy and happy baby, no matter how he came into the world. My scar is still prominent and instead of reminding me of something I felt guilty and ashamed of, now it reminds me that God has a plan and works all things out together for my good. For the longest time Josh and I wondered if it was the stress of travel, the sex the night prior, the activity of my job, all of the above or just a chance that he was 29 days early. It wasn’t until our little Abigail was born 29 days early as well that we came to the conclusion that our babies, and God, had different plans than we did, no matter what we did, they were coming when they wanted. My NICU experiences have humbled me and ultimately brought me closer to God and my husband. I wasn’t quite thankful then, but looking back on our journey, I am so grateful for all that it’s given me.