It’s been two weeks since we met our baby girl. Originally we intended to write about our journey to here before we left the hospital. We quickly realized hovering over the bassinet of a sleeping one day old ties up most your time. Then we thought we’d write about it at one week. Visiting with family, running to the grocery store, and holding a one week old we quickly realized can fill up an entire day. So now we’re at two weeks. Grace is asleep in her crib. Tiff is asleep in bed. So I am sitting in the office typing, but why am I sharing what is by all accounts largely Tiff’s story. I suppose for two reasons. We both knew we wanted to share our story to here, because having Grace and expanding upon our family didn’t happen overnight or even over nine months. It was a two year journey that took us through two miscarriages, one very scary ER visit, and a realization of how truly lucky we are to have the family and friends we have. Second, I need to share this story because Tiff will be too humble. She will gloss past the details that really make her the remarkable woman she is. I however will not. It’s my fortune and joy that I can praise her strength. I won’t embellish, but witnessing her strength and her heartbreak over the past two years doesn’t really need any embellishment.
So about this story of starting our family. I suppose at this point it is really almost three years since we first decided we wanted to start a family. I think we both had the thought, “Ok, we’re going to start a family. In nine months there will be another person in the house.” We weren’t prepared for the fact that it might not be that easy. Well it seemed easy at first. A positive pregnancy test, but a few weeks later three tests turned up negative. The tests were sad, but we had resolve. Certainly we would get pregnant again right away. The months passed and no positive test. Then in April of 2012 we were surprised with another positive pregnancy test. We didn’t share the news with anyone because things were still early, but as we sat in bed on May 26th things quickly went from “I’m sure things are ok,” to me yelling for a wheel chair outside the hospital Emergency room. To date it’s the most scared I’ve been, and probably the second hardest I’ve ever prayed. The ultrasound showed we had lost the baby, and all I remember thinking was “God gave us this pain now, to spare us more pain later.” We called some family and friends to let them know what happened, mourned the loss, and picked ourselves up with the resolve to keep trying. Our doctor, who is also a dear friend, gave us hope in the statistics that most women get pregnant in the three months after a miscarriage. The three months came and went and no positive pregnancy test. We started talking options for if we needed medical help. Our doctor started Tiff off on Clomid. We don’t regularly stock Advil in the house, so for Tiff to take a prescription was a big deal for us, and the fact that she could only take it for three months because of possible side effects made taking it that much more unnerving. Month one came and went…no positive test. Month two…nothing. The third month the doctor wanted to double her dose. Tiff agreed, and in December we had another positive test. My dad was coming off of treatment for prostate cancer, and though we were dying to share the good news with the family to lift spirits before the holiday we knew it was to early to share much. Though in February we did get the chance to tell some family and our close friends. We shared the exciting news HERE.
For those first three months we never really felt out of the woods, but how quickly a busy schedule can make the time fly by. Before we knew it we were past the half way mark. In fact we were down to 15 weeks left. Why is 15 weeks significant, because our baby birthing class compromised 12 weeks of two hour classes. Baby birthing class, it’s one of those things that you don’t realize how little you truly know until you start getting educated about a topic. Tiff had always planned on a natural birth. With how health conscious I am I didn’t understand why she would opt to have a natural birth. Then she started educating me, and we started our baby birthing class. I want to make sure I say that I am not making this an endorsement for natural birth, nor am I saying anything negative about medications or whatever birth style anyone wants to use. For Tiff and I though a natural birth fell in line with a lot of our beliefs so it was the path we chose.
When your plan gets ripped out from under you. The due date came and went, and our doctor had us come in the following day for an ultrasound. We were told the amniotic fluid was a 7.5. This translates to the amount of amniotic fluid around the baby, and basically cushioning the baby. Below an 8 they consider low/normal, but as our doctor said, “once you go past your due date we really look for any reason to induce.” Because she is a good friend of ours she did give us some leeway, and told us to return in 48 hours for another ultrasound. If the number was above eight we could keep waiting to see if Grace came on her own. We returned two days later, and got the news. The new number was 6.9. To some this may not have felt like such a blow, but my head was already racing ahead to what drugs they would want to use to try and get things started, and whether or not Tiff would be able to handle the intensity of them without an epidural. The epidural was one thing Tiff really did not want, so I really did not want it for her. Our doctor was at a different office so a partner physician came in and started giving us the rundown on our options. We weighed the risk of waiting and the amniotic fluid getting too low against the intensity of the drugs and whether or not Tiff could handle being in induced. We decided as much as we wanted a natural birth we wouldn’t do anything that would risk the safety of Grace. We left the office with the directions to go home and grab our bags, and to wait for the hospital to call us about when to arrive.
Back home we started setting our bags in the living room. We were clearly packed for a worst case scenario. Be it a five day hospital stay because of a c-section or a zombie invasion. We had it covered. The one thing we quickly discovered we did not have was the right base for the car seat. Tiff decided she was running to Babies’r'us to switch it out. Why is Tiff doing this instead of me? Because this is Tiff. She doesn’t complain, she just says what she’s going to do and then she does it. Since we had not heard from the hospital I decided to go for a run before we had to leave. I love running, not because I enjoy running, but I get to clear my head, think things through without distractions, and I get to talk to God. I don’t stop enough in the day to day to talk to him. At least not as much as I should, but when I run I do. Even if it’s, “God please don’t let me get run over.” That day though I just asked him if he would allow Tiff to go into labor on her own.
8:00pm. The hospital told us to arrive at 8:30 for check-in. We were told they would be applying Cervidal tonight to get Tiff ready for the induction tomorrow. Tiff actually joked that she was looking forward to TV at the hospital. We don’t have cable, so the idea of sitting in a room watching senseless reality TV seemed really appealing. Though we had packed half a dozen bottles of water, two dozen plus protein bars, chocolate chip cookies for the night staff and muffins for the morning staff (I’m not above sucking up) we realized we should probably grab something for dinner before we go in for the night. As we pulled into the Publix parking lot Tiff commented that she felt like she was having a contraction, but she wasn’t sure. She had not had any Braxton Hicks contractions, so she wasn’t sure if what she was feeling was a contraction or Braxton Hicks or nothing at all. I ran into the store and returned with more protein bars and a container of cut up watermelon. (I’m awful at shopping under pressure.) As we made the drive to the hospital Tiff kept feeling the contractions. They were sporatic, but they were there.
Again when it comes to making sure Tiff is taking care of I am not above being cheesy and sucking up to any and everyone. This started from the moment we walked up to check in. I would consider my banter just being friendly, but Tiff would certainly deem it cheesy. Either way, it did keep the front desk girls checking on us as we waited for a room to become available. As we waited the contractions continued, and I was actually happy for the wait. The longer we waited, the greater the chance this could be real labor starting on it’s own. I asked God several times in my head if this could be, and if he would let it be.
10:30pm. We grab our bags, and follow one of the nurses back to our room. Incredibly sweet, she gives us the quick lay of the room, and asks Tiff when she is ready if she will get into the gown, and our nurse will be in shortly. We set our stuff down, and then it hits you like you stormed the beaches at Normandy. Screams echoing through the wall. The kind of scream that actually froze us where we stood. I laughed. It’s what I do when uncomfortable. Tiff did too, but it may have been at my ironic laugh that came out. For a woman that knows that pain is around the corner to hear another woman already screaming is at the very least a bit unnerving. We find the TV remote and immediately flip the TV on. We bump the volume up until the noise of a Cialis commercial outweighs the noise from the adjacent room. Tiff switches into the hospital gown and walks around the room rocking her hips from side to side.
12:00am. A woman had already come in to gather all of Tiff’s information, but now the night nurse has come in, and it’s time to start the Cervidal. At this point Tiff has already had pretty regular contractions, but we are still expecting a long time before we are actually in “active” labor. The nurse places the Cervidal, hooks Tiff up to the monitor to track the baby’s heart beat as well as contractions, and gets ready to leave the room. Before she slips out though I hand over the container of 50 Whole Foods’ chocolate chip cookies we had picked up for the night staff. Then I ask her for a quick explanation of what is what on the monitor. I am a big believer in always being an active participant when inside a hospital, and always trying to know as much as you can about what is going on. She gives a quick education on the contraction graph, what they tend to look for, and the baby’s heart rate graph.
12:00am-4:00am. These four hours went by fast, and Tiff’s contractions came on equally as fast in intensity and frequency. *sidebar. This starts the point where I said Tiff would gloss over how incredibly strong and amazing she is. A friend used this analogy on me the other day when he asked me how is Tiff when she stubs her toe? Tiff had actually stubbed her toe the day before, so it was fresh in my mind. She was quiet. I knew she was in pain, but all she did was stop where she was, lean forward with her hands on the wall, and breathed until the pain subsided. She may have been screaming in her head, but on the outside she was calm and quiet. This was Tiff during labor. Calm and quiet. I knew she was in pain, but only because she would stop, be quiet, and breath deeply. Then she would say, “it hurt really bad.” She was matter of fact about it, so matter of fact that I assumed we must be in the very early stages of labor, and we still had a long way to go, and a lot more pain to get through before Grace would be here.
4:00am. Tiff is sitting on the side of the bed leaning forward onto a rolling table when the night nurse comes in. The night nurse glances at the monitor and back to Tiff. ”Honey I need you to lay on your side.” Tiff is in the middle of a contraction, and says she can’t move at the moment. ”I know but it’s your baby’s heart rate. I need you to move to your side.” The words that something could be hurting the baby, and Tiff leans herself over to her side. On the monitor I see the number move from 87 to 135 instantly. I ask the nurse what the number needs to stay above. ”We like to see it stay above 120.” The nurse looks at the long piece of paper that the contractions have been printing out on. We had asked earlier if Tiff might be able to have the Cervidal taken out since she is having such strong contractions. The nurse says she is going to have the doctor look at the contractions and come back. Minutes later. The Cervidal is taken out. It seems Tiff is going into labor on her own.
4:00-7:00am. The contractions have been coming just under every two minutes apart. They have kept Tiff hooked up so they can track the baby’s heart rate, and occasionally we have to flip from side to back to other side to sitting to standing. Whatever seems to help with the pain and make sure the baby’s heart rate stays up. There hasn’t been any sleep, and I can see how tired Tiff is, but she doesn’t complain. She says it hurts, but she says it quietly and as a fact. The emotion is removed. It’s not cold or desolate of emotion. She is simply a leader, and she is going to take whatever is coming, process it for what it is and move ahead. We spend these hours moving and changing positions. Doing what we can to help the time pass.
7:00am. The day shift has arrived. The room is still dark except for the glow of the monitors, but our day nurse is as amazing as our night nurse plus some. I hand over the muffins we had picked up, and she quickly finds a stool so Tiff can sit in the shower. I stand hovering outside the shower curtain. Tiff sits in there for about 20 minutes allowing the warm water to hit her back.
7:20am. Tiff is back in her robe, and hooked back up to the monitor. She stands leaning on me as we both sway from side to side. We are trying to make our way back to the bed, but the intensity of this contraction has Tiff frozen where she is. We take a few steps before the next one comes. On the monitor I see the spike of her contraction, but I also see Grace’s heart rate. 112…102…97…86…82… the number keeps going down. As calmly as I can I encourage Tiff to try and sit on the bed. ”Is it the baby’s heart?” Tiff asks. For a moment I run through my head whether to tell her the truth and make her nervous or lie and hope this contraction ends any second. I don’t want to give her any additional stress, but this contraction has gone on beyond the minute mark, and I’m sure Tiff’s question is being said equally as much as a statement. ”It is,” I tell her. I look at the monitor. Grace’s heart rate has dropped in the 60s, and then a red box outlining the monitor has begun flashing. ”Baby I really need you to sit…” before I finish my statement two nurses fly into the room. One guy and one girl. I absolutely loved these two. If we hadn’t already known something was wrong they certainly would not have let on to it. They moved with an urgency, but they acted with such calm collection that it momentarily gave me a sense of ease. ”Hey guys, how are you all doing?” the male nurse asks. ”Hey you mind if we take a look at your monitor here. Hey sweetie do you mind sitting down for a minute for us. We’re nerds. We spend all of our time looking at your monitor from out there, but wanted to come take a look at it in here.” …and like that they distracted us while talking about the monitor, and got Tiff sitting down, and immediately Grace’s heart rate was back to 145. The female nurse got Tiff to lay on her side for a second, and I must have missed something getting said but all of a sudden the room was filled with three additional nurses who were setting things out like it was go time.
7:30am. Dixie, the midwife on call, comes into the room. We had originally planned on our friend delivering Grace, but she was unavailable until 4:00pm, and with everything progressing as fast as it was we asked to see the midwife on call instead of any other doctors. I’m glad we did because Dixie was amazing. Kind, reassuring and incredibly patient, she made us feel like the only patients in the hospital. In a hospital that delivers 17,000 babies a year that is no small feat. Dixie checked Tiff and told us that here forward goes a lot faster then what it took to get here. This shocked us. Up to now we still thought we would be in labor until this evening. Again, with how calm Tiff had been to now I couldn’t image we were that far into labor. From where I was squatting next to Tiff’s head I managed to pull out my phone and fire off one text. ”Things are changing fast. Grace may be here shortly.”
7:30am-11:00am. Tiff stayed in the bed during this stretch. She had already been up over 24 hours, and was trying to conserve what energy she had. She would roll from side to side, close her eyes and breath deeply as the contractions hit, but she was moving through this so well it actually left our Doula a little handicapped for what she could do. I forgot to mention we hired a Doula who was going to function as a pain coach to help Tiff get through the pain of the labor. Because we didn’t think things would move as fast as they did we didn’t call her until 7:00am, and she didn’t make it to us until 9:00am, but with how well Tiff was handling the pain there wasn’t a tremendous amount for her to do, or me for that matter. I held Tiff’s hand and would brush her hair back, but she was amazing. In fact people had commented about how tranquil our room was. Tranquil is not traditionally a word I assume is associated with a delivery room.
11:00am. Tiff said she felt like she had to push. Dixie who literally was sitting in the corner of our room, like I said made us feel like the only patients, calmly walked up and helped Tiff get ready to push. After about fifteen minutes Dixie asked Tiff to rest for a little, and we would try again shortly.
11:40am. This was the only time I really saw very clear pain on Tiff’s face, and it was only there for an instant before it was gone again. She cried for a moment, said it really hurt, closed her eyes and breathed. That was it. The next sounds were only the strong exhales as she would catch her breath after the nurse had counted down to one.
11:55ish. Dixie hands me a pair of gloves. ”Put these on, so you can catch your daughter,” she says. I was iffy on whether or not I wanted to cut the cord. Now I’m catching my daughter. My hands are shaking so bad I tear one of the gloves trying to get it on. She hands me another, and tells Tiff to push again. Dixie is cheering Tiff on, while our day nurse counts down from 10-1 for her. I’m holding her hand as she squeezes mine.
12:03pm. “Robert come right here and put your hands next to mine,” Dixie tells me. It’s truly a blur. I’m sure my hands are shaking, but all I can think about is I’m so happy to hear her crying, and is she okay tangled up in her cord? Dixie untangles the cord as I hold her, and as soon as the cord is straight Dixie takes her and places her on Tiff. As Grace cries so do we. It’s involuntary and comes from the soul. I’m not really sure how to describe it, but I would do it again. I know Tiff feels the same. It was a scary, amazing, heart breaking, rewarding journey that we were only allowed to have by the grace of God, and we are so grateful for it. Now we sit here with the scary, amazing, heart breaking, rewarding future all ahead of us, but for now we are just trying to soak in each day. These two weeks have already gone by so fast that for now we just want to breath and be present for them.
-Robert & Tiffany