Joshua’s Birth Story
As I sit here nursing and soothing my baby, I can’t imagine our family without its newest member: Joshua Charles. He was born on January 1, starting our year with considerable excitement.
Our family feels so complete now. I dreamt we would have a third child, but never believed it would happen — our hands seemed so full with two children and my health challenges, so a third baby did not seem logical. I think Joshua was meant to be part of our family, though. We looked forward to his birth with great anticipation, but had to get through a challenging pregnancy first.
This was my third, and most difficult, pregnancy. We got through it thanks to considerable family support. I was increasingly ill all fall, hospitalized just before Thanksgiving, and then spent December on modified bedrest, unable to go to the bus stop to pick up my daughter, cook meals for my family, or create the holiday crafts and baked goods I would normally enjoy. Every day was about growing this baby, keeping him in, making sure we bought some more time. If I rested, things would be all right. I am eternally grateful to the cousins who drove long distances to bring us gluten-free meals, special breakfasts for our kids with food allergies, and even lunch-size portions of soups for my daughter to bring to school. My husband, mom, dad, in-laws, and neighbors all stepped up and made sure that our kids were taken care of and that I rested. We even were visited by cousins and an aunt and uncle who spent one hugely productive day rearranging furniture, moving our older children into the same bedroom and setting up the baby’s room. It was frustrating to not be able to do all of this myself, but I was so incredibly blessed to have wonderful family and friends step in and make sure that we were alright.
Once we made it to Christmastime and I was 36 weeks pregnant, the pressure lessened considerably…until the entire family got sick. Suddenly I wasn’t just trying to keep a baby in for the baby’s sake, but instead was doing so because everyone around me had the flu or a stomach bug. I was scheduled to have a c-section in mid-January, and we were counting on grandparents to watch our older children, so we hoped everyone would get well in time. Every night I would awaken with contractions that would last a few hours, so I knew my body was getting ready for labor. I was not allowed to labor, though — everyone around me felt sick, this would be an early baby, plus my going into labor was considered dangerous, so I tried to stay lying down and will my labor to go away. We were so lucky that my sister and brother-in-law were in town for Christmas and were able to help with our older children, so I could lie down during the daytime and ask my body to please keep the baby in for another day.
On January 1 I couldn’t take resting any more. We visited family friends in the morning and went to my parents’ house in the afternoon, to hang out with them and my sister’s family. I felt off that afternoon — I kept falling asleep sitting up, and was confused by how I could feel both restless and ready to fall asleep simultaneously. To keep myself awake, I suggested that we sort through a few boxes of our family’s things that had been stored in my parents’ garage. That activity was enough for my water to break. Oh my. Our second child was born several minutes after my water broke, so we wondered if this baby would also come quickly. I spoke with my obstetrician, we left our kids with their grandparents, and we headed to the hospital.
It turned out that we had plenty of time — I arrived at the hospital having contractions, but was only two centimeters dilated, so we had the chance to visit with my obstetrician, have an extensive conversation with an anesthesiologist, and hang out with my cousin for a while prior to the c-section. It was so helpful that there was time for the anesthesiologist to explain the odd sensations I might experience during a c-section, so my anxiety during the procedure was reduced and I knew to speak up…that there were things he could do to help. One delightful surprise was how warm and friendly the atmosphere was in the operating room once the surgery began. The obstetrician, anesthesiologist, nurses and tech took care to make happy conversation and to include my husband and me in it. Instead of feeling separate, we felt part of a friendly exchange, and it made it so much easier to stay calm during the surgery.
We did not know if we were having a boy or a girl, so when our obstetrician pulled our baby out she carefully spoke in gender neutral terms: Baby is pink and healthy! This cutie is doing great. Then she lifted our baby up high so we could see him over the surgical screen, and we saw our squawking, red-faced, strong little boy for the first time. Joshua Charles was born at 7:02 pm on January 1, weighing 7 lbs, 5 oz.
My husband held Joshua while I was stitched up — they had some father-son bonding time — and then we all went together to the room which would be ours for five days. I was so grateful that my cousin was there to help me with the initial breastfeeding attempts — latching on a floppy, newborn baby while medicated with morphine is an interesting experience! My husband stayed for a few hours, then went home to be with our children and my mom, and I settled in with Joshua for the night. I couldn’t believe that he was here.
I was so excited to see our older children the next day and to introduce them to Joshua. I missed them so much while I was at the hospital! They were timid at first, but then were proud to hold their new brother and begin getting to know him.
Joshua had a challenging beginning to breastfeeding. He was very slow to gain weight, so we had to spend an extra night in the hospital and learn to supplement with formula and pumped milk using a syringe and tubing (finger feeding). When we went home from the hospital, he had just begun to gain weight. I went home having caught a horrible flu-like illness that my children, husband, father and mother all had, and we were all sick for the next 3 weeks. We joked that Joshua must think it was normal for every adult to be constantly coughing, and we marveled that he never got sick along with us. We croaked when we spoke, so no one sang to Joshua for his first few weeks, and he looked at me as if I was an alien when I was finally able to sing him a lullaby. It was a difficult time. Meanwhile, we were trying to keep Joshua growing, with various forms of supplementation, and this constant pressure to eat led him to go on a nursing strike. I was already breastfeeding and pumping 10-12 times per day, but then he completely stopped nursing, so we had a sense of crisis. We were so sick, he would not nurse, and we did not know what to do. A wonderful lactation consultant made two house calls, and taught us how to gently follow Joshua’s lead, not force things on him, and lead him back to nursing. I don’t know what we would have done without her.
It’s been a delight to watch our older children get to know Joshua and find their favorite ways of interacting with him. I was prepared for lots of jealousy from them, but instead they are so in love with him. Our 3-year-old was so proud to introduce “my baby” to his preschool class this week, and our kindergartener enjoys being big enough to give him the occasional bottle of milk. They know that Joshua looks up to them and smiles when he sees them, and so far, they enjoy being big siblings.
My husband has been my true partner in this time, getting up with me at night for most feedings and caring for Joshua while I pump more milk for him. Joshua’s breastfeeding difficulties, combined with my c-section recovery, meant that I really needed my husband this time around and he has truly been here for me. We’ve always been a close team, enjoying working together and caring for our children, but during this time with a newborn we have been even closer.
We are just beginning to get back into the swing of things…to realize all that has not been done while I’ve been constantly nursing and pumping, and to think about when we might tackle many, many tasks. Honestly, I’m still constantly nursing and pumping, so perhaps I’m only just aware of what I’d like to do (not actually able to tackle a lot yet). Still, I feel we are turning a corner. In the last week or so I’ve felt more like a complete person. The spring sunshine, combined with getting longer stretches of sleep at night, is waking me up again and letting me know that this season of life (with a newborn) is wonderful but temporary. I’ll snuggle him while he needs me and watch him grow.