Happy Mother’s Day! Seems like a good day to share the story of how I became a mama to one perfect little ball of mischief and love.
Magnus was due July 24th. It’s completely silly, but in my heart, I really wanted him to hold out for his due date because it would make his astrological sign match his middle name, Leo, and I thought that would be cute. But that wasn’t to be.
My pregnancy was pretty healthy, at least for someone with a history of severe asthma, but an infection in late May triggered some pre-term labor contractions in my third trimester. My doctor recommended I take it VERY easy, and would put me on modified bed rest when they cranked back up at various points through the rest of my pregnancy. I mostly listened. But I’d also agreed to do set dressing for our local theater group’s production of Willy Wonka so late in June I put in a couple of long days with too much time bending over and crawling around on my knees arranging a river of chocolate and securing giant lollipops to a bridge, by the end of the second day I did not feel right. I tried over the next week to be really, really gentle with myself but I’m not sure I ever felt great pregnant after that. I didn’t immediately suspect anything because who expects to feel great when 36 weeks pregnant? Also, I was kinda busy trying to organize a move.
Yeah you heard me, we were moving in the ninth month of my pregnancy. After a previously failed attempt at a sale and purchase the year before we thought we’d stay put going into the pregnancy. But then we got robbed, which lead to quotes for major remodeling, and eventually lead to the decision to try selling again. This time, we found a buyer and we were closing 9 days before Magnus was due. Because of our crazy timeline, we decided to move our bedroom early so that if he happened to make an early debut we would have a port in the storm. Thank God for that.
So that first week of July a lot of my mental energy was spent trying to orchestrate a move where I couldn’t really move anything. We’d planned to spend a big part of the holiday (July 4th) weekend packing and moving things, but by Thursday afternoon on what I didn’t know them would be my last day of work I felt awful and actually had to go home a little early. I took a nap and woke up with a swollen face, crazy headache and a racing heart. I remember from my prenatal reading that headaches could be a symptom of blood-pressure issues so I borrowed my dad’s at-home blood pressure cuff and took a reading. It was high. Not like go straight to the ER high, but higher than I’d ever seen for me. Since it was after hours on a holiday week, rather than my doctor, I called the birthing center. They told me to take tylenol, drink lots of water, lay on my side, and take my pressure again in an hour. If it didn’t go down, they wanted me to come in. But it went down, so Friday morning, Aaron and our friends went ahead with our moving plans as scheduled. But by that evening, it was back up even higher and it wasn’t as responsive to rest. They ordered me in and I spent the next few days playing preeclampsia and c-section chicken. (Side note: even though I only met some of the criteria for preclampisa when I first went in, I was POSITIVE something was up and I’m glad I listened to my body and my intuition and went back after being released or else things would have gotten much worse out of the watchful eyes of the doctors and nurses who took care of us).
I hadn’t slept a full night since around the 20 week mark of my pregnancy (which incidentally may have been the cause or earliest indicator of my pre-e according to some journal articles I read) so Sunday night, which was unbeknownst to me at the time, my last childless night, the doctor on-call, ordered me to stay and loaded me up with sleeping pills. I thought I wouldn’t sleep in the hospital bed, especially since we’d decided it was best for Aaron to go home, but I got a glorious full night of sleep for the first and last time in months.
We were excited for my doctor to see me Monday morning, as he’d be back in after the holiday and finally get some answers on what was going on and how much longer pregnancy would continue. I got up early to shower, shave my legs, and color my hair in the hospital bathroom. Yes, I know, it was a little insane. But I was already overdue for a root touch-up and didn’t want all my new baby and mama photos ruined for me by only seeing my grays and I rightly predicted it might be a fair bit before I’d be able to do those things again. Freshly cleaned and colored, we waited all morning for the doctor.
After a few hours, I was getting impatient and hungry! I was about to send out a search party for an OB for a cheeseburger, when in walked two nurses to prep me for the C-section I didn’t know for sure that I was having! Apparently my doctor had reviewed my stats and made the call first thing in the morning that my baby needed to be delivered that day as I officially met all the diagnostic criteria for preeclampsia and it seemed to be getting worse rather quickly, but the message didn’t get delivered. He came in a little bit later and did another pelvic exam to double-check that I still wasn’t well positioned to be induced since my cervix was still unfavorable, my baby’s head was measuring very big (42 weeks at 36 weeks), and my pelvic inlet had been charitably described as “not-impressive.” We agreed the C-section was the right call. My surgery was set for 1:00pm.
With a couple of hours before go time, I sent Aaron home to have lunch and finish a small electrical project he’d been working on for our new bedroom. Yes, the day of our first child’s birth I had my husband switching out light sockets. But they were loose, and loose sockets are a fire hazard and I worried if they weren’t done pre-baby it would be months!
As I waited for Aaron to get back and surgery drew nearer, my fears emerged. I’d spent that whole weekend sure something was wrong and insisting my baby needed to be out to be safe, but once I knew for sure it was happening that afternoon, I felt a little bit terrified. All of the sudden I was changing into a hospital gown and wiping down with weird sterilizing cloths. I wanted time to slow down.
Aaron donned his gear and walked me down the hallway to the operating room holding my hand. I remember uttering silent prayers for the safe entrance of my little baby boy. I found myself whispering to him in those last minutes in my belly how much I loved him, how excited I was to meet him and how honored I was to be his mom. Telling him he was exactly what the world needed and that we were ready for him.
Aaron was positively radiating joy and excitement. I’d seen his little kid on Christmas morning face before, in fact it was this capacity for wonder that made me fall in love with him, but on that day it was all the more. I thought in that moment with him that it was the most I’d ever loved anyone. They weren’t going to let Aaron stay with me while they administered the spinal block so he went back to wait and I entered the operating room.
The hospital staff was gathered around to introduce themselves to me and the room glowed with bright white-blue light. It felt incredibly surreal. One of the nurses made conversation with me as I squatted over the table and the anesthesiologist prepped me. She had the kindest smile and bright blue eyes and as I chatted with her and told her our baby name and what I knew of our boy so far, she made me feel so safe. Her kindness was an incredible blessing. Getting the block was uncomfortable, but unremarkable. I remember getting help moving from the squat up on the table, to down flat on table as I was quickly losing feeling in my legs. Several people remarked at how calm I seemed as I was cracking jokes about Magnus’s head size and preeclampsia sparing my lady parts. I told them I knew I was in good hands and I wasn’t afraid.
Then I lost feeling in the lower half of my body. Which really isn’t a great way to describe it, because I didn’t lose all feeling, just normal feeling, what it actually felt like is that half of me was suddenly 4x heavier and my butt and legs were full of that pins and needles you feel when your foot falls asleep. I desperately wanted to move them, but I couldn’t and it freaked me out a little. I was complaining about it when I broke out in a terrible sweat and a rush of extreme nausea hit so violent I was certain I was going to pass out and/or vomit. The anesthesiologist added something to my dosing for that, and the wave of awful crashed right as Aaron was ushered in. I was so relieved he was there. He took my hand and as the worst of the nausea faded, I complained about how funny my ass felt.
My doctor came in and the surgical field was set. He asked if we were ready to meet our baby. We were! I felt the pressure and tugging I knew to expect from reading c-section stories all weekend just in case. The doctor asked Aaron if he felt up to taking a look. Aaron being 6’4 and not at all squeamish, stood up and easily peered over the blind. I remember feeling left out, so I asked Aaron to tell me if he could see Magnus. Before he could answer, the doctor asked if me if I wanted to hear about him or see him for myself? Of course, I wanted to see this tiny little person I was already in love with, so he lifted him up over the field.
It was only for a second, but I remember thinking he didn’t look like I expected. As I did, some of the goo that he was covered with dripped off of him and landed right on my mouth! Talk about baptism by fire! Less than a minute into motherhood and already the gross had started. I couldn’t even wipe it off. My arms were still strapped down, and I couldn’t speak because what was on my mouth would fall into my mouth. No one noticed as they whisked the baby over to examine him. Aaron went with him, like we’d planned, and anyone not attending to the baby was busy helping the doctor close me up, all except for the anesthesiologist. Mercifully, after what felt like a lifetime but was probably less than 30 seconds, he noticed and wiped me off.
I heard Magnus wail and my heart sang. I called over inquiring about his Apgar score. My doctor, who knew me too well, laughed and told me when they cry like that you don’t have to worry about the number (it was 8). They finished closing me up, unhooked and unstrapped me
Aaron had Magnus swaddled and cradled in his arms when they brought him over to me. He looked red and swollen and totally adorable. I asked for him immediately. Looking back and forth between his face and Aaron’s and realizing that no matter what else happened, we were finally the family we were always meant to be. My heart had burst wide open. I got to hold him as they wheeled us back to my room, beaming and crying the whole way at the sheer magic of this little creature we’d brought into the world. As we passed our families waiting in the lobby, the feeling got even stronger. Just minutes old and already so loved. He was here!
Magnus Leo Allard was born at 37 weeks and 3 days on July 6th, 2016 at 1:50pm. He was 8lbs 8oz, 20.5 inches long with a head full of hair that no one had expected.