the ponderings of a mother

These are the ponderings of a mother in love with her children, both in my arms and in the grave. Some of these ponderings are quite emotional, some are funny, others contemplative and spiritual. All are sincere. May these writings bless you in many ways and bring you closer to the one, true God and Redeemer of all things.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The day Jonan Eilam Pelletier was born

We were picked up at 3:30am by the Millers to drive to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Prentice Women’s Center.  I had a huge chocolate-peanut butter protein shake as the woman on the phone the night before had warned me of the “ice chips only” diet I would be on for the day.

We drove through an empty dark city to the hospital; the lack of traffic being the one benefit of driving around this time in the morning. The entire ride I clutched my jar with a ribbon around and the 3 yellow tulips, one for each of us.  As I walked up to the desk to check in they thought I was a guest because I had flowers in my hand. I let them know I was indeed carrying my own flowers…why not? They seemed to enjoy this and said it looked a little sparse, so they added a large handful of fresh flowers from their own vase, daisies and daffodils. Ice chip lady faded from my memory, these were great people.

With my wrist band in place and all the papers signed, it was time to go to the 8th floor and get checked in. We sat in the waiting room and I briefly recall talking a bit about holding a dead baby. Not exactly sensitivity toward the others awaiting live birth, but such was my brain that morning, and at that hour.

All four of us got up and walked down the long, wide hallway to a beautiful birthing room. It was so large when we walked in I thought it would have two beds in it. Only one, thank the Lord. But it had huge windows with a grand view of other tall buildings in the city. And a bench that made out into a bed…should that be necessary for Jeff for a long night of laboring.

Nurse Bridget started my IV, or at least she tried. First try in my arm was a painful no-go. The second try in my hand resulted in a painful blown vein. My hand looked like it had a blood-filled golf ball under the skin, and pool of blood underneath it on the cloth covering my bed, unsuccessful.

 “Oh, Lord, if this is how this day will go, I just don’t think I can do it. Please be near.”

Another nurse came in and carefully inserted this IV into my other hand. It was much less painful, but now I had two useless hands for the day. No blog updating for me. (I have always been a bit driven).
After this I was able to get a short nap in. Jeff stayed nearby and did something, I am not sure. But he was nearby. I felt such peace in that room, it was really quite nice actually.  I don’t remember if it was before or after the nap that I had my first dose of cytotec. Being only my sixth month with Jonan, my body would not respond to Pitocin. The receptors on the uterus would not have picked up the Pitocin, but the citotec was supposed to be much more aggressive.

My first dose came around 7am and did not result in anything major.  I could feel some slight contractions by about 9am, but nothing I could not talk or relax through. Jeff and the Millers were around on their computers doing work as I rested up for the big day ahead.  I did try to watch television at one point to distract me. It was useless. Honestly, I didn’t feel I needed distraction, I felt true peace.  The prayers of so so so many of you were already being felt.  I received texts of encouragement and prayers, and began to feel a real sense of peace come over me, it was a stark difference from the terror I had felt the night before.

I have often used my imagination in prayer to help me focus my attention on God.  There was a strong sense of me being in God’s hands that day. My mom even text me the same things, saying she really felt that as she prayed for me that morning. When I closed my eyes I would picture the Lord’s gentle hands replacing the hospital bed I was lying in…and I would picture myself relaxing into these hands as I gave birth to Jonan. And truthfully, this was the only point during the day I would think toward the future. The most profound prayer answered this day was God helping me stay in each moment as it came. I enjoyed the staff, my family, my friends, etc. all as they came. I had a distinct sense that the Lord was giving me what I needed for each moment as it came.  

Eleven a.m. came around and with it my family and another round of cytotec. It was great to see my parents and sister Sarah come up. But, I wondered why everyone would come so early. This was going to take a long time, what were they going to do? But I was constantly reminded that I only needed to take care of myself that day, everyone cared and wanted to be there to support me, so don’t worry about them (some people know me very wellJ).  Jeff went to lunch with my family and the Millers while Dawn, a friend who was my last minute doula, stayed with me to help as the discomfort set in. 

We got one of those big medicine balls for me to sit on while she dug into my back…it felt so great.  The pains started to get stronger and stronger and relaxing was no longer an option. Dawn helped me get in the most comfortable of positions, she followed me even to the bathroom.  She was so helpful. My desire was do this naturally; I never have wanted an epidural in my life…that has always seemed scarier than labor and childbirth.  With her massages and coaching me through breathing as the contractions got stronger and very close together I toughed it out…

…for about 2 hours. By this point others were back in the room with me, Jeff was by my side and the contractions had been consistently coming about 10-15 seconds apart for about 1 ½ hours. They were so aggressive and I was so tired that I was actually blacking out at the end of one and coming to again when the next one would begin…and I was not even dilating yet L 

I had been so determined to do this naturally and actually be able to feel myself give birth to Jonan that I was devastated at my inability to continue on.  I eeked a prayer out to the Lord and felt nothing but overwhelming weakness. There was not enough time for me to recover in between contractions, and this would likely go on for another 8-9 hours I was told, at least. I have pushed through pain many times, but this time I felt only weakness. My body was not going to handle this pain, but I didn’t want to give in.

The nurse, now nurse Nikki as the shifts had changed, came over to talk with me.  She said something like “I know you are strong, and you could do this if it was a regular birth, but it’s not, and these contractions are not how they naturally come. This is just too much pain for you with all the emotional pain as well…I can call the anesthesiologist.” At this point she had tears in her eyes. I began to cry as well. She said she was so sorry, she wasn’t trying to push anything on me, but she felt so bad. Karen, who was listening to everything, said to nurse Nikki “it’s okay [that you are making Kimberly cry], you are only saying things she needs to hear right now.”  Karen was right.  The prayers that were being prayed by everyone helped me to be weak at a moment I felt I wanted to only be strong.

I asked for the anesthesiologist.

Everyone had to leave the room for the epidural procedure. The anesthesiologist was so kind. He answered every question I had and had no air of arrogance to him. He was gentle and understanding to my fears.  I know so many women have had epidurals, but I have always been so scared of them. Nurse Nikki held my hand throughout and twenty minutes later it was all done. I was lying down again and feeling great. I even had a “magic button” that I could push for my medication if I felt pain. I assured him I would probably never use it (ha!).

Others were able to come back in again and we sat there and talked and I told the story. I felt so proud that I had done it. Every person who came into the room for the next hour I welcomed with a smile and “I did it! I go the epidural!”  They must have thought I was crazy, but for me, that was a great victory.

The afternoon wore on and I asked to be alone again with Jeff. We turned the lights off and were quiet for a while so I could rest.  I could feel the contractions, but there was no pain. It was amazing. I truly couldn’t help but think of the miracle it is to be a woman and how God has made our bodies to give life (of course, the relief from the unending contractions helped me think these deep, happy thoughts).

The later crew was now arriving. Jeff’s parents had arrived from Arizona, my other sister from Champaign, Jeff’s brother and wife, and more friends. Dawn, my last minute doula, had to leave and was replaced by my great friend Beth who would be by my side as the night unfolded. Visiting times came and went as I asked them to, I both needed others around and needed more rest. I was on my third dose of Cytotec by dinnertime and pushing my “magic button” a little more as evening went on.

At 7:30pm another nurse shift change took place and we were back to our original crew from the morning. It was difficult to say goodbye to nurse Nikki, but we managed after a few fun pictures at my bedside.  Right after she left my water broke all on its own…a good sign my body was accepting the drugs and doing what it should do. My check-up showed that I had dilated to ½ centimeter…it wasn’t much but it showed I was on my way.  We had no idea what the hours ahead of us still held.

About an hour and a half later, about 9:00pm, the machine connected to my “magic button” of pain relief began beeping…it was out of drugs. I needed to be sure that was filled up as I was able to feel more pain now that before with the epidural.  Jeff and I were alone in the room at the time and so he called the nurse it.  Right as she was filling my drug machine I felt a significant movement and then felt some pretty amazing things I won’t write for the general public. But I will say the best part was that my epidural was such that I did not feel much pain, but I could feel every movement of the birth process; it was the perfect epidural. I told the nurse something pretty big just happened and we needed a doctor right now.

The labor and delivery resident was the first one to get in the room and when she checked me she said “Okay, he’s out,” in a very calm manner….What!? He’s out!! I thought. I was so glad and amazed that I could feel everything, but I didn’t think he would come so easily. He was small and only about 10 or so inches long, so I didn’t need to dilate much. But oh, my goodness, he was out.

My mind flooded, my first thought was…am I okay? I feel okay… but am I okay?  I said, “Are you cutting the cord? Am I bleeding? Is his cord short?”  She was very calm, she said he cord is short, be very still as she had to cut it very close to me. The plan had been for them to take him to the side of the room immediately to first, be sure I was okay and second, give us time to think about seeing him.  Everything went as planned, Jonan’s body was getting cleaned up and Jeff sat at my beside… and didn’t blink for about 10 minutes. I couldn’t believe what had just happened. All my fears, all my terrorizing thoughts were useless. He was out, I was not bleeding.  We still had to wait on the placenta, but all was looking good so far. Thank you, Lord.  Every prayer answered. Every best possible scenario had worked out so far (given the circumstances). The relief I felt was palpable. 

My friend Beth rushed back into the room just after the nurses had turned to us and said, as gently as they could muster “you probably shouldn’t see him, he is really bad.”  Oh, those words nearly make me tear up writing them.  The fear and confusion was back immediately. What should we do? Will this haunt our dreams forever…whether we do see him or don’t see him? Will we regret our decision?  Will we be traumatized? Oh, God, be our Guide. We are so scared.

Beth offered to look at him and give us her opinion, with our permission.  Jeff and I trust her tremendously and knew she would tell us the truth.  Those minutes felt like hours. She came back from the curtain and the first words out of her mouth were “He has the most precious feet.”  These words could sound like the punch line of a crass joke or they could be the most gentle and true words a mother could ever hear in this situation. They were gentle and full of sincere love. She went on to explain his entire body to us. If you read the initial email we sent out to friends and family, his abnormalities match exactly that description. After her explanation Karen came back in the room and asked to do the same thing for us. I don’t remember which of them said it, but one of them said to the effect of “there is nothing to worry about, no matter which you choose (to see him or not), God will be here to heal whatever regret or fears you may face tomorrow. So take your time and trust the Lord.” They both saw our son before we did and loved us through these uncertain next steps…

 We had the nurses bring him close enough so we could see his body, but we unveiled him slowly.  We talked through every part of his broken body and our hearts felt a fullness growing in them. We loved him more with each new inch revealed. Sure, his abnormalities were not a picture of something one would be drawn toward; I think Jeff and I both understood that.  But we thought he was amazing. This was the moment of greatest joy and pride for us. Finally he was in my arms and I was a queen. We kissed his little feet and loved him so much. The thought of letting him go was far from our minds, we were with him now and head over heels in love with our Jonan Eilam.  Yet another prayer answered.  

 Sometime in here the placenta also delivered intact, with absolutely no tearing, bleeding or complications whatsoever. Every best case scenario had happened. More prayers heard and answered. I had birthed Jonan in the hands of the Lord.

Two of most precious parts of being with Jonan Eilam on the gloriously devastating night was sharing him with our family and his little mouth that just wouldn’t close. One of the things explained to us was that the expression on his face may be a little startling for us to see.  They couldn’t get his mouth to stay closed no matter how many times they tried to.  To us this was so beautiful…it was as if he entered heaven singing and his body was just showing that.  We have a private picture of him where he is our singing Jonan…and to mom and dad, he’s perfect.  

Sharing our son with our family was an incredibly privileged moment for me. We introduced him slowly, so those who did not desire to see him did not have to. But all were able to hold him, whether covered or not, and feel his weight in their arms. He was not just “contents”, he was our son.

 We closed our time with family with a priestly blessing by Father Kevin Miller. This was a beautiful and terrible time.  I just held my son for the first time and now I have to release him. “Oh, God, give me the strength. My heart is broken.” With family around, priestly words spoken, prayers, and holy water, we commended Jonan Eilam Pelletier into the Lords hands. There were many, many tears.

Jeff and I now had our time to be with Jonan alone. I talked to him a lot. I kissed his feet. I held Jonan, Jeff held me. We prayed. I cried in a way I hope to never cry again. Ever. Different than a cry, actually, it was more like a whimper. I felt my heart may pour out of my chest. It was the feeling of a “breaking heart”. Now I understand why it is called such. I could hardly breathe between whimpers. “Lord…Lord…I miss him.”  I wasn’t quite sure how we would say goodbye. We would have to leave his body behind, and with it our hearts.   Somehow I think Jeff knew I would potentially, literally never be able to do it myself. Truly. So he said goodbye and helped me follow. We laid Jonan down, covered his body, and called the nurse. It was time. We had stayed with his body until 2:00am.

They wheeled me up to recovery where Jeff and I slept for a long time. That was the day Jonan Eilam Pelletier was born into heaven.

(I will finish this week mirroring the week’s events 2 weeks ago; there is still so much to recount of all the Lord has done)

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