Friday, August 26, 2011

Two People

There are two people who have made this whole transition possible for me without losing my mind. And honestly - they just deserve a blog post. They deserve so much more than a blog post!

The first is Mr. Zion Spencer. I just love him. From the beginning of labor - he was right there and never disengaged. I honestly think that's saying a lot. It was a long day and it was a hard day in many ways. We started at 3:30 am on August 3 getting ready to go to the hospital and finally put our heads down to sleep around 3:00 am on August 4.

Because of the cessarean, my capacities were limited from the very beginning. Let's just say that nursing was nothing less than a two person job! I couldn't get out of bed without huge effort so he was up and down getting baby boy with each feeding - changing every single diaper and tracking every feeding and the 'contents' of each diaper. From the beginning, Zion oozed love for Liam. And THAT - melted my heart.

When we came home - his help continued. It was really nice that he was able to have time off of work to be with us in that first week. What's more - he handled my very very raw emotional state like a champion. He saw more crying from me in two weeks time than perhaps the whole of our marriage! Lots of hugs and taking me out for our first post-baby coffee date meant so much to me. It's so frustrating to feel like your emotions are out of control and receiving so much grace and support from Zion made it a bit easier.

Last night Zion got back from a short work trip. Watching him love on Liam after a few days away was precious.

Check out this pic. One morning I had ventured to the bathroom for a shower and came out to see that they had brough Liam to us while I was showering. Zion was so tired that they had a hard time waking him up. :) So - they got him awake enough and then just put little Liam in his arms. And this is what I came out to: LOVE.

Meet person number two: my momma. I seriously don't know what I would have done without this woman. She helped me in the hospital but she had no idea what she was in for once we came home!!! LOL. She came each day to help me learn how to take care of Liam. And man alive - what a learning curve it has been. Not only has she offered me her base of experience - she helped me figure out each little hiccup we encountered over the first two weeks of Liam's life. INCLUDING - answering a call from me at 3am last week when Liam all of the sudden refused to breast feed and was screaming. I was crying, Liam was screaming, and here came Mom driving over to our house at 3:30am in her robe. She wasn't sure what she would do when she got to us - but she came. We eventually figured out I was dealing with engorgement. She stayed overnight with me for the following two nights until we got it worked out - she would get me hot compresses before each feeding and made me tea to go with it.

She has given me worlds of perspective on what is normal and has kept encouraging me that I was doing great and that Liam is doing great. Sometimes that's just what you need to hear when it seems like you have zero idea what you are doing and you have no real idea what is normal for a newborn.

I am currently trying to tell myself that I can do this without her for small amounts of time during the day lol. She has given herself to us and I have loved and appreciated it more than I can say.

So many people in our family and friends have offered such great support and I appreciate every meal, encouraging text, and visit. It's just one of those times in life where the need is huge and every ounce of help means to the world.

I love you Zion and Mom and this one's for you two!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A Place Called Saint Francis

This entire post is dedicated to my hospital experience...because I loved it SO much! Did not anticipate that but I surely welcomed it.

From the very beginning of our experience - checking in at 5:15 am on August 3 - each and every nurse and tech we encountered was comforting, wonderful and beyond kind. It was so amazing. And get this - I had two different nurses during labor and delivery. Alyssa and Whitney. I had known Alyssa through mutual friends for quite a few years and she was with me for the first hours of labor. She was nothing but encouraging and life giving. I am intimately aware of what a special calling a nurse has and what a ministry they provide after this experience. And THEN - one of my longest life-friends Whitney came in early to be my nurse. She stayed from 11am to 1:30am the next morning. Not even kidding. Annnnnnd - God smiled on us in a pretty unbelievable way. The day Liam was born - approximately 40 other babies were being born at St. Francis. The halls were alive with action! But - by some true miracle - Whitney was never assigned another patient aside from me. For the whole day. Do you know what that means? My nurse and dear friend stayed in my room with me for almost the entire time. She went out to talk to the doctor and get things but otherwise she never left my room. God is so good. In the midst of a very challenging (yet beautiful) 18 hours - He gave me angels to walk through it with.

I call Whitney Liam's 'patron saint' lol. We're not Catholic but it just seems fitting!

Annnnd then came the baby nurses. I will never forget Lacy. She was the one who got Liam when he came straight from the operating room with Zion after swallowing amniotic fluid. Zion was able to stay right with him during that whole time and that allowed me to relax knowing that Liam wasn't alone and that he was being loved from his daddy from the very beginning. Lacy came into my recovery room after a bit just to give me an update and tell me what was going on with him and then about 30 minutes later - here comes Lacy with Zion and Liam to tell me how well baby boy had done and that he was 100% stable. She was the essence of comfort and care when I desperately needed to see that the woman who had taken care of my baby was just that.

One amazing thing about my time at St. Francis was that they just finished renovating the post-partum wing two months ago. Everything was sparkling new and beautiful. I am big on the aesthetics of an environment and it made me feel so special to be there. Kind of like a hotel! Friday morning - about 28 hours after Liam was born - my doctor walked into my room asking if I was ready to go home.....that got a quick and resounding NO out of me. I mean, do I look crazy? Leave all of these wonderful nurses who know how to take care of Liam and me so well and so kindly? We stayed until Sunday evening - the max that we could. :) I highly recommend it!

After the trauma of the delivery experience, things started turning around quickly! And Liam made quite a splash in the nursery. Before I knew it, Steph, the charge nurse of the nursery had decided he was pretty that's what I call a discerning woman! LOL. She would personally bring him to us and she would come check on him. When he was in the nursery - she had her eye on him - which came in handy as she made the call to suction out his nose via a tube two different times because Liam was still dealing with too much congestion from the fluid swallow. It brought a lot of peace to my heart to know that he had already stolen hers and that he was getting special attention. :)

We had so many wonderful visitors while we were in the hospital. I felt like a truck had run over me - repeatedly - but it was still a special time to share the joy of Liam with friends and family. I cannot express the mommy-joy that filled my heart as I watched other people fall in love with him. What can I say - he's a charmer! When people would hold him, he would often try to open at least one eye to get a glimpse of who was talking to him. Melt my heart little boy.

We did let Liam go to the nursery at night between feedings so that we could sleep some more....still wasn't great sleep but it wasn't the highest thing on my priority list at that point. I remember on either Thursday or Friday night I called the nurse to bring him to me early in the middle of the night because I just needed to see him. We shared such special moments in the dark of the room in the middle of the night before we fed as I realized how this gift from God met one of the deepest and truest desires of my heart. Words cannot express how full the heart feels in moments like that. I still look at my two-week old baby boy and marvel and how God did it.

And now a note about I am being wheeled out of the hospital to head home the nurses all say goodbye to you as you're leaving. And then my nurse for that day says - "Can't wait to see you again in a few years Abi for baby number two!" Maybe I love being sold or maybe I am just gullible - but I really think Therese meant it. Of course the business side of me is saying 'dang that was a good line!' Either way - I would love nothing more than to head back to the Pink Palace to welcome another sweet baby into the Spencer a few years that is. Not any time soon!

I really thank God for my time at St. Francis and for each and every person who brought care to us. After a looooong day on August 3, it was a balm to my soul to receive such loving care.

Heading home with Liam for the first time!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Birthday Story for Liam

Took me long enough! Oh man oh man what an adventure we've been on since August 2. But today, I am watching Liam swing and praying for sweet minutes until it's time to feed again. :) Such a precious blessing William Justice is. So - what's about to unfold is really more for me than for you. I want to document all of the moments I can remember leading up to the birth of sweet little man Liam. You are welcome to come along for the ride but I can tell you right now that this is going to be a long post!

Let's start at the very beginning... a very good place to start. Smile. Liam's July 26 due date came and went. And then went and went and went. Our sweet boy ended up being 9 days past due date when all was said and done. WOOHOO!!!!!!! I did fairly well with the wait - if you look past a few frustrated moments. It was a huge blessing to be able to work from home as I waited because I could keep my very puffy feet elevated for the most part and I was able to relax physically. A blessing! So - on Tuesday, August 2, Zion and I went to my 41 week appointment. As my doctor was doing my routine ultrasound she could find no pockets of amniotic fluid showing up which meant that the fluid levels had dropped too low. Now - if you're like me - I didn't really know what that meant. Basically - amniotic fluid is directly attached to the placenta - which is the literal life source for the baby.'s important. Our doctor felt strongly that we induce the next day - so much so - that she bumped the girl that was scheduled for induction the next day to Friday so that I could have her spot.

We did not want to induce but we felt peace about it. It just felt like it was time and my body had started showing me signs that it was ready to go for it (I won't go into those details :) so I didn't feel that I was forcing my body to do something it really wasn't ready to do.

So - what did we do? My mom drove me to my accupuncture appointment (a natural way to stimulate labor which I think actually did work) and then we met up with Zion again for my last great meal before giving birth. Man oh man. Let me just tell you - I ate so well and am so thankful that I did because it would be a loooong time before my appetite really came back! We headed to Charlestons and shared things like a prime rib sandwich with au jus and bread pudding. It was SO GOOD!!!! And it was so exciting to know what we were about to embark upon. After lunch Zion and I went home and took naps and then did some final preparations before we headed back to the air conditioned hospital to walk the halls....again trying to prompt labor as naturally as we could before the pitocin kicked in in the morning. We prayed as we walked. We prayed over Liam, over me, over all of the doctors and nurses and just as the Spirit led us. It was a really memorable time and full of peace and anticipation.

So..... that night I slept about one and half hours. Can you blame me? I wasn't nervous or scared but my body just wouldn't let down enough to go to sleep. Awesome. But - we made it to the hospital by 5:15am on August 3 and we were ready to go. I was so thankful to have my team of three with me all day - Zion, my mom and our doula (and good friend!) Bernadette. This trio got me through quite the experience.

We started the pitocin around 6:30am and off the contractions went. But - for the most part I wasn't feeling a whole lot and we were just enjoying ourselves :). In came my doctor at approximately 9:00ish and she broke my water. OFF WE WENT! Thankfully the contractions were going very well at a very low level of pitocin and they took the pitocin from a low amount to a very low amount to none at all because my body had taken over labor on its own. That was really cool for us because everything was able to happen naturally from that point on.

Friends have asked me how the pain was and I can't even begin to put words to it. It was so other-worldly and so much more intense than anything I have ever experienced that I just don't even have words to say what it was like. My little team plus one of the world's best labor and delivery nurses (and one of friends from since we were little girls) got me through an unreal experience. I will say - going into the birth with 1.5 hours of sleep was not ideal. Two different times, I had a drug called Stadol. It is a short lived deal that just takes the edge off....but for me it allowed me to have a thirty minute nap two different times. If not for those breaks - I would have called in that epidural angel pretty early on! Zion was admittedly amazing throughout the entire experience. He never zoned out and he was there and with me the entire time. By the grace of God, after the second round of Stadol, labor progressed really well. By about 3:30 I was dilated to an 8 and we were sure things were getting close. Well - by 7:00 I was still at that same 8. The contractions kept coming but no progress was made for three and half hours. I don't know what to say about that other than it was starting to get serious. We tried so many different positions and methods to get things to continue progressing. It just didn't happen.

So - at that point we had two differnt options: a c-section or an epidural. We chose the epidural because it would: give my muscles the chance to relax and do what they needed to do in terms of dilation and it would buy us more time. At twelve hours into very intense labor and having been dilated to an 8 for hours with no progress I felt fairly accomlished in my 'au naturale' efforts. We were willing to do whatever we were capable of to avoid the surgery. Once we made the decision to go for it - I told Whitney to go down to room 21 (where the anesthesiologist was working with another patient) and get him to stop whatever he was doing and get in my room asap. I mean, once you've decided to do it - DO IT! :) I had once again reached a point where my physical strength had run out and I knew I needed a break. However, I have no doubt that had dilation continued - I would have had the grace and strength to make it through delivering Liam naturally. Heck - after about 14 hours without the epidural - what's a bit more? Welllllllll then Dr. Bailey came in and it was epidural time. Like I said - I was ready because I knew I had given it my all and done everything within my power to avoid it and this is just where we were. After the epidural set in, what followed was hours of laying in different positions for thirty minutes at a time. Not only were we waiting for my muscles to relax and finish dilating - but Liam had turned sunny-side up and was not in the right position. So - for the next hours I shivered under the effects of the drug but was able to rest and wait.

And then - finally - it was time to push. At this point - it was about 10:30pm. My poor family and friends had waited a very long day in the waiting room for us to get to this point! So - we started to push. And push. And push. And nothing. Liam had gotten stuck in a very cockeyed position. Here comes my doctor again - and sorry for the graphic nature - but she shoved that hand up me and grabbed onto him and attempted to rotate him for about ten minutes. He was just stuck. We had pushed for an hour at that point - his head coming down and then going right back up and still in the wrong position. My doctor looked at me and said - well, I think we really need to consider a c-section at this point.

A few other things had led up to that as well. During the hour of pushing, Liam's heart rate finally started showing signs of stress and I developed a fever. Both signs that things were getting more serious and that we were both at our limit. If my fever continued to accelerate as it was, I wouldn't be able to hold my baby after he was born because I would be contagious to him. Even typing that sentence still makes me tear up. Oh the clash of emotions in that moment! For the entire pregnancy - I had imagined and prayed about delivering naturally but more than anything - I had wanted to avoid a c-section. And now it came to this moment. It wasn't what I wanted....I had so many thoughts of not only my own disappointment but the disappointment others would have on my behalf or in me. Sick isn't it? LOL. So Zion and I talked it over with just us in the room - and we both cried. But - we were in agreement that we would do it because in my gut, in my knower, I knew that it was what needed to happen for Liam. It was time to see our baby and he needed help coming out.

What happened from there was so fast that it's hard to even remember the details. Within ten minutes I was in the operating room and was being prepped. People were swarming and even as they started to actually do the procedure - Zion was coming in to sit with me. I could see the tears in Zion's kind eyes and I knew that he was with me through thick and thin. I love him more than ever.

The actual c-section was bizarre to say the least. Because Liam had spent a good amount of time in the birth canal, he had gotten into a pretty 'catty wompus' (doctor's term) position. Just as my doctor went in to pull him out - my uterus had a strong contraction pulling Liam in the opposite direction. I couldn't feel any pain but I could definitely feel a LOT of tugging. My doctor was right there and I could see her literally yanking her body around and she tried and tried to get him out. Liam ended up coming out feet first and he swallowed some amniotic fluid on his way - so he was stunned upon arrival. It took about sixty seconds to hear that cry but oh my gosh when we did - it was amazing. We looked at each other and there came the tears again.

Remember me saying this was not going to be a petite baby? Liam was our 8lbs 8oz little boy and to us - that was just amazing and wonderful. Hope this isn't too weird - but in the Bible, 8 is a symbollic number for new beginnings. And THIS boy is a new beginning! Despite all that we endured - 18 hours of labor and lots of ups and downs - there was our God showing Himself to us.

They brought our precious Liam to me and then he and Daddy headed to the nursery for about an hour and half to get all of the fluid out of those lungs and make sure everything was stable. Liam bounced back from his rough entrance into the world beautifully. I was shocked by how quickly I was in and out of the operating room. What a team that helped Liam come to us!

In truth, the labor and delivery was a long day and it has been somewhat challenging to recover from. We had originally wanted to avoid induction, an epidural, and mostly - a c-section. And, in the end, we experienced all three. Man. That's one of those things that hurts a little bit. There is zero disappointment in our sweet boy. He was such a champion and stayed strong and stable throughout a very long day of labor and trying all kinds of things to make it happen. But - there is disappointment that my personal goal was not able to be reached. And there is disappointment in the fact that further births will be affected because of the c-section this time. I am thankful to say I have no regrets about any of our decisions. I felt the induction was timely and that my body was ready. We used the epidural to get to our end goal after doing labor naturally for about 14 hours. And when it came to the c-section, my doctor put no pressure on me. We made a choice based on gut instinct and it turned out to be the right one for Liam and the right one for me. Many tears have been shed but in the end, we have a VERY strong baby boy named Liam and he is a miracle. AND - I am thankful that we live in a day when he was able to be delivered safely after trying our best to do it naturally and without a c-section. It's just one of those things. :)

Since this post has become unbelievably long at this point....I'll have to do part two about our experience after delivery. So I'll leave you with precious pictures....if you're still reading that is! LOL.

Thank you God for my Birthday Boy Liam!!!!

Love y'all,