Monday, July 29, 2013

When a military wife becomes a mom

           Well, not many weeks after the good news that Calvin would be okay, I got up to walk him very early one Saturday morning in October.  Just before the walk, I had the suspicion I should take a pregnancy test.  So I let it sit while I walked Calvin and all the while pondered whether I could truly be pregnant.  It had only been 2 months since I went off the pill.

            I was so excited walking back to the house, hoping the test would be positive.  Matt was still asleep, but I knew if it was positive, it’d be a good way for him to wake up.  Sure enough, I had some happy news to share!  We were both in shock, but Matt held me tight and immediately prayed, thanking God for this baby and asking for protection over him/her.  I, of course, went online immediately to calculate my due date and cross reference my symptoms.

            It was such an exciting time!  We agreed to hold the secret for a little bit, not even telling our parents.  But we couldn’t wait longer than a week before telling both sets they were going to have a grandchild.  We Skyped with Matt’s family, as they live overseas, and I called my mom with my dad listening nearby.  It was pretty fun to see and hear the reactions!
Matt's FA 24 graduation...barely pregnant
            As my 1st trimester began, I was filled with worry.  (This seems to be a running theme in my writing, I know.)  I was so concerned I would miscarry or something else would go wrong.  It was such a weird feeling to know I had absolutely no control, even though it was my body.  I just had to wait and see (and as you know by now, I stink at waiting!)  I finally was able to get an appointment, and since my due date fell after we would move, they put me in the OB department instead of Family Practice like most people.  I saw a nurse practitioner who was able to do an ultrasound on the spot.  I was so surprised because I was only expecting a routine appointment.  Matt wasn’t even there!  But she printed pictures for me to take home, and I was able to hear the heartbeat.  It was so surreal!  At that point, I wasn’t having many symptoms so I didn’t feel that different.  Yet a lot was happening!

1st glimpse
            Those first several weeks were so hard emotionally and mentally.  Any symptom or lack of symptom sent me rushing to my computer to find out if this was normal.  Of course, as you probably already know, it’s all normal!  You can have any symptom under the sun or none at all, and the baby can still be perfectly healthy.  That drove me nuts!  Again, fear of the unknown, the lack of control…God was teaching me so much before my baby was even born!

             As the 1st trimester gave way to the 2nd I began feeling more and more excited and less worried.  Over Christmas, we traveled to Matt’s family in Washington where the sweet women in his family gave me a shower before we even knew the gender.  They gave such thoughtful gifts, including sewn blankets and bibs.  It was so special!  We finally began telling other people (besides family) in my fourth month, and I was overwhelmed with the reception.  As I stated previously, we were in a very temporary place at Ft. Gordon, but the amazing people at our church and PWOC gifted us beautifully with things for our baby.  And once we found out we were having a girl, my mom especially was over the moon and threw me the most elegant and special baby shower.  Friends I had known from high school and various Army posts, as well as family members from out-of-state all came to celebrate with us.  Those months were so special as people literally showered me with such amazing and generous gifts.

Shower that Mom threw me

Wonderful church shower
            Time dwindled, and I got bigger.  Before we knew it, it was time to move to Ft. Carson, Colorado.  Six weeks before my due date we were set to leave.  Once again, our families helped way beyond the call of duty.  Matt’s mom came and helped me clean the house and supervise the movers as Matt finished his remaining class days.  Then we met my parents in Nashville, where they took over driving my car out to Colorado so I could relax and ride with Matt.

            We had begun looking for houses while still in GA but really wanted to live on post.  I had done all the legwork, faxing in Matt’s orders, LES, and housing application to get us on the waiting list.  I checked weekly but didn’t see much progress.  A few weeks before we actually moved, I called the housing office in Colorado and was delighted when they told me we could have a house in one of the neighborhoods on post!  We set up an appointment for the Monday after we arrived, not knowing if we would actually take the house but very hopeful we would.

            My dad had already flown back after driving my car out west, but my mom stayed another week to help me because Matt had to go to Michigan for a few days to be the best man at his brother’s wedding.  I was desperate to get settled quickly so we would be fully prepared when our baby girl arrived.  Before our move, we had not even bought the nursery furniture, and my nesting instincts were in high gear.  It was time to get busy!

Taking in some sights before the big day
            The Lord was so gracious to give us that housing appointment.  We met with the leasing agent who was ready for us to sign the lease before we even saw the house.  But we did not feel confident enough to do that since we’d only seen it from the outside.  They agreed to give us the keys and let us see it on our own time.  I’ll admit the neighborhood looked very cramped with 4 townhouses in a row and only 1 car garages.  This was not the neighborhood we should have been assigned to according to rank, but it still fit under the qualifications.  The “right” neighborhood would not have a house opening until after my due date, and I was in no frame of mind to wait that long!

            When we got to the house, it was literally filled with dead moths.  Colorado was in the midst of a great Miller Moth migration, and it was evident everywhere you went.  Being a true Army brat and now spouse, this didn’t phase me…much.  When we got to our quarters at Ft. Stewart, it had dead cockroaches.  Moths were much better!

            The house was smaller than what we had in Augusta, but we couldn’t beat the location.  We could see the hospital from our backyard, and Matt wouldn’t have a long commute to work.  It was ideal from that respect.  Not only that, but the movers called the same afternoon and would be able to deliver our household goods the next day – a huge answer to prayer!  Had we not gotten our house, our things would have had to go into storage.  So we signed the papers, vacuumed up the moths, and waited for our furniture.  Matt had to leave 2 days later for the wedding.  My mom was a huge help!  Being 35 weeks pregnant and with the altitude, my ankles began to swell, and I was not able to do as much as I wanted.  My mom unpacked boxes and boxes, refusing to quit.  By the time Matt came back, we only had to hang curtains and pictures.  It was amazing! 

New house
            In every step of this pregnancy and move, God was smoothing the way.  I would not have believed it if I didn’t live it.  When He says that He will supply all of your needs, He is telling the truth.  I have pages worth of evidence to that fact!

            The truly fun part of this move, however, was setting up the nursery.  It took a few weeks because as I said, we didn’t even get the furniture for it until we arrived in Colorado.  But thanks to all our showers, we had plenty of stuff like the bedding, towels, toys, clothes, etc. to begin the process!  Another huge answer to prayer in this process was the graciousness of Matt’s new boss to allow him not only permissive TDY to set up the house but also time to spend with me before our baby girl arrived.  Matt had never worked for so gracious of a boss, and we were realizing this choice to become an FA 24 was no mistake!  While Matt was home on leave, he put together the crib, dresser, and nightstand and painted shelves “ballet slipper” pink.  It was a delight to my heart just to go in that room!  I was so excited! 
Girly and pink...perfect!
            The hospital here in Colorado was great to get me seen right away since I was so far along in the pregnancy.  I saw 3 different midwives in 3 weeks before I found one I liked and could request her for the remainder.  Since I was measuring small, they ordered an ultrasound to check my fluid levels and the measurements of our daughter.  All was fine, and it was so neat to see her so well developed and to hear she had hair!

            I was certain I would be late as my mother had been with both me and my brother.  So I began asking about the induction policy and preparing myself to go past my due date.  The midwife reassured me I wouldn’t go too many days past 41 weeks.  Seeing as how I felt no different – no contractions, no dropping, etc., I was prepared for the long haul.  But at my appointment 2 days before my due date, they checked me, and I was already 3 cm dilated.  They stripped my membranes, and from that point on, I began feeling cramps.  They sent me home with the guidelines on when to go to Labor and Delivery.  By that night, I couldn’t sleep I was so uncomfortable with the contractions.  They weren’t evenly spaced nor were the durations easy to measure.  But that combined with the excitement and worry over what was about to happen precluded me from sleeping.  Matt took me to the hospital that night, but I hadn’t progressed any so they sent me home with some Ambien.  The meds helped me fall asleep, but I couldn’t stay asleep.  The next day was more of the same with the cramps turning more into contractions.  I tried to sleep again that night but to no avail, despite the Ambien.  We went back to the hospital, where they checked me and told me I had progressed a centimeter.  Ugh!  I was very discouraged, but they told me to walk around the hospital for an hour and come back.  So we did, walking very slowly and stopping often. 

            When we went back, I still had not progressed enough to be admitted so they told me to walk for 2 hours and come back.  It was about 4 or 5 in the morning at this point, but we obeyed, even going home and walking Calvin, knowing it might be a long day.  When we came back, they checked me again and said my contractions were still too far apart but they would keep monitoring me.  They wanted me to walk more, but I told them going on almost 48 hours with no sleep, I just couldn’t do it.  So they kept me in a triage room and told me to keep moving around in the bed.  Finally a few hours later they said they would start my blood work and work on getting me a room.  This took several more hours as all of the L&D rooms were full.  I was desperate to get the epidural so I could rest. 
Gotta love Army hospitals!
            Eventually they got me in a room, and I had a great nurse who explained everything and worked so hard to get the anesthesiologist in so I could finally rest before show time.  I was beginning to shake with the pain and exhaustion and was nervous about moving during the epidural.  But I had a great anesthesiologist who did a wonderful job.  Once it took effect, my contractions began to speed up (not the normal effect, I know).  The nurse and midwife were very encouraged by that but allowed me to rest as my body did the work.  I was so glad.  Matt, too, was able to sleep some in the chair by my bed.  By 5 that night, they said it was time to start pushing.  Since the epidural was working so beautifully, I couldn’t believe it.  I didn’t feel ready, but they reassured me they would walk me through it.

            Sparing you the gory details, my little girl was finally born at 9:51 that night.  I had spiked a fever during delivery so they had to start us both on antibiotics right away, which meant she had to go to the nursery for several hours to receive the IV.  I only got a few minutes with her and didn’t know what to do while she was gone.  It felt so strange!  I just wanted my baby!

This is what no sleep looks like
            Soon after I was taken to the Mother Baby Unit though, they brought her in and we attempted breastfeeding for the 2nd time.  It didn’t go very well because my sweet girl just wanted to sleep, and apparently on my chest was just as good a place as any.  The nurse was somewhat brusque and attempted to help with various suggestions but nothing really took.  Since I didn’t really know what I was doing either, we tried what we could until the next time, 2 hours later.  This began a very long, arduous attempt to breastfeed (more on that later).  As the nurses changed shifts, I got new suggestions and tips but nothing worked.  I started to feel desperate and begged to see a lactation consultant.  She finally came and encouraged me to pump frequently so my milk would come in faster and hopefully would encourage my girl to drink.  By the time we were discharged from the hospital we had had only minor success, but we were so in love with our girl, we knew we’d figure it out. 

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