As Saturday evening melted into the early morning hours of Sunday, July 17th I was soaking in the bath breathing through contractions. The contractions were nothing new, having come and gone for the last month, but with Luna’s due date upon us I was hopeful this was the real deal.
Jason and Stella woke later that morning and I eagerly ushered us out the door for a hot summer morning walk to Eastern Market. As we noshed on my favorite chocolate croissant, fresh fruit samples, and icy cold lemonade the contractions stayed mild yet steady at 8-10 minutes apart.
I called my midwife team at 11am with the early heads up and took the next few hours to nod off between contractions. I had learned to be open and be patient after labor with Stella had clocked in at 50 hours.
This labor was our little secret. We didn’t call our family and I did my best to hide my strain as we ran across friends and neighbors throughout the day.
After dropping off an excited big sister for a sleepover with her best friend, Jason and I walked to dinner and home again.
By midnight I started questioning my decision for a second drug free labor and delivery. I could certainly just tell Jason to head to the hospital for an epidural. But even as I said that I repeated my mantra, “I can do hard things.” I dug deep and labored at home for the next several hours.
At 3:30am I called go time and we set the wheels in motion to meet my birth team at the Birth Care Birth Center in Alexandria, VA at 4:30am. My midwives Marsha and Annie as well as my birth assistant Holly met us there.
Soon enough it was time to push, but as I did it was clear even after my waters broke, I wasn’t making much progress.
Through the fog I heard Annie say the baby was posterior and she would be working to turn her through the next contractions. Right then I felt defeated. Stella had been posterior. The trauma of her birth flooded me. I began crying and told my team I just couldn’t do it. But as soon as I said it Marsha and Annie coached me to get low in my voice and show them my strength. Holly reminded me this was not Stella’s birth as Jason repeated over and over you can do this. I needed each and every reminder.
Luna was born at 7:38am on July 18th, and at 7:50am she was taken by ambulance with Jason to nearby Alexandria INOVA hospital.
Luna was breathing upon birth, but lacked muscle tone, that rosy baby color, or the characteristic first cries. Everyone promised me she was going to be fine as I lay in shock seeing her leave with the paramedics. And so her first skin to skin was with dad in the bumpy ambulance ride and the first time I held her to my breast was over an hour later when I was able to arrive at the hospital.
The hospital team first told us Luna was stable and would be going home with us right away. We just needed to wait a little bit for the blood tests to come back. So as we waited I was able to nurse and cuddle with her. We each called our parents to rejoice in Luna’s arrival.
The blood tests threw another loop in our journey. Luna’s bilirubin level was high and more significantly her glucose (blood sugar) level was low. She would have to be admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). And here came the nurse to take her away.
I hit pause. I couldn’t let Luna go again. Over the next hour we negotiated for Luna to be admitted to a mom and baby recovery room on the third floor. If further testing showed she wasn’t improving she would move to the NICU on the fourth floor. That is the way it went.
By Monday afternoon Luna was in the NICU. Seeing her there under the phototherapy lights, with the monitors and IV, was heart wrenching. Early on I pulled her off the lights crying that I just had to hold my baby.
As Luna’s stay continued Jason and I found a sort of rhythm. I was there for every feeding from 8am to midnight while pumping in between each three-hour interval. The hospital allowed us to stay in the recovery room the first two nights and we managed back and forth from home the last part of the week.
Stella visited Luna daily as well. I needed to hug her, to kiss her, and laugh as Stella told her sister the imaginary tales of The Hundred Hospital Babies. The escaping babies stories must have worked. Luna chewed out her IV Thursday morning and rather than re-sticking her the nurse waited for the next testing round to see if Luna had turned the corner. And she had.
From that point forward Luna “passed” everything asked of her. Luna was released Friday afternoon and the four of us drove home together for the first time.
In the weeks since coming home Luna has kicked off her sluggish start to let us know she will be just as fierce as sister Stella. It must be her Welton gene shining out. We hardly take the easy road, and we always make a mark.