Although we are incredibly sad, talking about Arthur with people brings a smile to my face. And talking about his entrance into this world makes me laugh. A good portion of my anxiety over the past few months came from thinking about this event – how he would go from my belly to the outside world. Would it be like a normal delivery, comparable to my labor with Adele? Would he come on his own? Will he come early because of excess fluid? Or will I have to be induced because his condition might hinder a natural start to labor? If it’s a long labor, will I be too exhausted to hold him and love him? Will natural labor be too stressful for him? Should I schedule a c-section to increase his chances of him being born alive? I was looking for anything to grasp that would give me and indication of what might happen. We eventually decided against doing a c-section and would seek to give birth to him whenever he decided to come, hoping we wouldn’t need to be induced.
Tuesday December 8th. Two days past his due date. Most of my family was in town at this point. Most of the previous days I was met with the question, “So, anything yet?” Nope. Just the same back aches and tired legs. Artie and I had a staff Christmas party we planned to go to that night after dinner. We packed up our “white elephant” gifts and decided to grab a quick dinner together, just the two of us, before heading over. In the car, I felt a very mild contraction. I mentioned it to Artie, but I wanted to eat. We were headed to Panera and I told him I’d record what was happening in our handy dandy labor app on my phone. I thought being out and about, eating dinner would help settle things down if it wasn’t real labor starting. Well, in between bites of my Fuji Apple Chicken Salad, I was grasping the table and taking deep breaths. By the time we left Panera, my contractions were averaging just short of a minute long and were 6ish minutes apart (from the beginning of one to the beginning of another). They were mild, but stronger than the one in the car. Needless to say, we were not going to that Christmas party.
When we returned home, I immediately got into some cozy clothes and parked myself on the couch, dealing with mild to moderate contractions and having some back labor just like I did with Adele. A little after 9pm, things took a sharp turn. Contractions were 2-3 minutes apart and we were still at home, 20 minutes away from the hospital. I could barely get into the car, they were that close together. Fortunately for me and Arthur, we had a great labor team: Artie (Daddy), our coach; Jeanne (Artie’s mom, Grammy to Arthur), the veteran L&D nurse; Kelly (my mom, Kommy to Arthur), the utility player; and Jack (my dad, DaddyJack to Arthur but Adele has been affectionately calling him… Jack), the occasional back-rubber and driver. We arrived at the hospital shortly before 10pm.
Upon arrival at Carolinas Medical Center, there was a slight delay in getting us into a labor room. But after waiting a few minutes in a triage room, I was carted to our delivery room, contraction on top of contraction, maybe having 30 seconds between the end of one and the beginning of another. I was in the room for 2 or 3 contractions when I felt the urge to push at the end of the contraction. To my relief, my midwife gave me the go ahead. But my water hadn’t broken yet.
Two words to describe Arthur’s delivery: rapid and forceful.
Rapid, because my first contraction was at 6:27pm and he was born at 10:20pm. That was an answer to a specific prayer request I had given to people leading up to his birth. It was fast, but not too fast. We were able to make it to the hospital for him to be born there, but we were only there about 20 minutes.
Forceful, because of what I’m about to share. Disclaimer: I am about to share in some detail, so if you are not a woman who has given birth or if you are not interested in this sort of thing, you can skip the next paragraph. In a different scenario, I probably wouldn’t share this part so publicly, but it is a part of Arthur’s story that makes me laugh (although I was not laughing at the time) and will be a memory that everyone who was in that room will remember forever.
Babies with anencephaly typically have more amniotic fluid surrounding them in the later part of pregnancy. When my midwife had checked me earlier in the day at my appointment that morning, she told me there was quite a bit of fluid. The water not breaking for most of the labor was extremely helpful for Arthur. It provided some protection for his head and had helped labor progress quickly up to that point. But when I pushed during that contraction, it could be contained no longer. As was described to me later by everyone else in the room, a tidal wave of fluid came out, covered the midwife and everything behind her, including the wall, TV and chair. Artie’s mom, a labor & delivery nurse for a few decades, had never seen anything like it. The midwife, had never been doused like that. Nurses who witnessed it came to our postpartum room the day after and were still talking about it. Artie said it sounded like a bucket of water had been dropped from 3 stories. I didn’t see anything, I was just focused on getting Arthur out, but it felt like a canon shot off.
Another contraction came shortly after. One long push and Arthur was out. A moment of relief followed by the question I didn’t want to ask, but wanted to know: “Is he alive?”
Tears of joy and relief. The moment was finally here and God had answered my only other specific prayer request, the one I pleaded with him in private, in my heart of hearts. “Lord, if you could give me anything in this, all I want is to see him alive. Oh God, would you please do that? That is my heart’s desire – but your will be done.” And boy, did he answer that. And give me so much more.