I have to start by saying: it’s pretty surreal to me that I’m writing a blog all about George’s birthday while it is still 2020, but I guess that’s par for the course for this crazy, unpredictable year. This will be a little stream of consciousness, but I wanted to write everything down before I forgot any of the details. George was due on January 16th, 2021, but decided to make his appearance on December 14th, 2020 at only 35 weeks and (barely) 2 days.
On Saturday, December 12th, all was normal. I went for a 3 mile run and even posted something about how I wanted to get in at least 50 more miles before George was born. (Ha!) For some reason, though, I was more emotional than I’d been pretty much this entire pregnancy. After I put Tillie to bed, I sat at our kitchen counter and cried to Jeremy (who was unfazed, considering I’m a big time crier). I was feeling overwhelmed with emotion knowing that Tillie wasn’t going to be our only baby for much longer. I was nervous for childbirth during a pandemic, the newborn days, and how Tillie would adjust, and for some odd reason all of those feelings just came pouring out of me that night. That night I also told Jeremy, “I don’t think I’m going to see my due date. I think he’s coming early.” Of course, he is our second baby and I had maybe a week early in mind, but still.
The next morning, we woke up and had “Pancake Sunday,” a tradition in our house. Jeremy and Tillie watched cartoons while I made pancakes, and we sat down and enjoyed ourselves. After Tillie had finished eating, she began fussing in her highchair and I stood up to take her out. The moment I stood up, I felt a massive gush of liquid. I screamed, which caused Tillie to scream, and Jeremy yelled, “What just happened?!” I told him that I thought my water had just broken, and then followed that with, “But I’m only 35 weeks!”
(It’s funny to note that we have a “splash mat” under Tillie’s highchair, and my water broke while I was standing on it. It was pretty perfect.)
I stood in our dining room for a bit trying to figure out WTF was happening, and Jeremy put Tillie in front of the TV to watch Moana so we could figure out what to do. I was in denial for a bit, and told Jeremy that maybe George had just awkwardly karate kicked my bladder. Jeremy humored me, but told me later he heard the massive splash and knew my water had broken. It quickly became apparent that it was indeed my amniotic fluid when it just didn’t stop coming. I changed clothes and packed a hospital bag (we were completely unprepared, obviously!) and headed to the hospital to confirm my water had broken.
Sadly, because of Covid precautions, Tillie wasn’t allowed into the hospital and Jeremy had to drop me off at the front door. We had planned to hopefully have his parents quarantine before my due date and then watch Tillie when I went into labor, but obviously no one thought that would happen until mid-January! They were still in Toronto, my mom was in South Carolina, and we decided it made sense for Jeremy to stay home with Tillie that day while I figured out what the game plan was.
At the hospital, it was confirmed my water had broken and I was admitted. I received a steroid shot to help George’s lungs develop quickly, as a premature birth seemed imminent, and they hooked me up to monitor my contractions. That day was a stressful whirlwind, as neonatologists came into the room to explain how a 35-week delivery would differ from Tillie’s full-term delivery, and they prepared me for the NICU time we’d likely be facing. Because we don’t have any family in the state and we were really uneasy about having anyone else watch Tillie during a pandemic, Jeremy stayed home with her while I handled all of this alone. It was… not fun, to say the least. The hope was that I would receive a second steroid shot the following day to help George’s lungs as much as possible.
By that night, I was only having super intermittent and minor contractions and I figured I’d make it to the second steroid shot without issue. Because I thought I might be induced after receiving the shot, I told Jeremy to stay home that night and get some quality sleep. I wanted him to be rested when things got real the next day! I took a sleeping pill and settled in for the night.
However, it wasn’t even an hour later, around 11 PM, that my contractions became intense. I tried to breathe through them, but it wasn’t long before I was in severe pain. I paged my nurse, and the moment she saw me she knew I was in active labor. We discovered I was five centimeters dilated, and I quickly requested an epidural. I called and woke up Jeremy, and we decided he would join over FaceTime, considering Tillie was sound asleep in her crib and it seemed like George was coming fast.
By the time the anesthesiologist arrived to my room, my contractions were unbearable and I was shaking uncontrollably. (At one point, my nurse said she didn’t know if I’d have time to even get the epidural, because my contractions were basically coming back to back. I nearly lost it.) Luckily, however, the anesthesiologist made quick work and I got relief right when I was at my breaking point. They checked me again immediately after I got the epidural, and I was already at 10 centimeters. I had gone from five to 10 within about half an hour… no wonder my pain was so extreme!
Even though I was 10 centimeters, I was told to wait to start pushing until a team from the NICU could assemble in my hospital room. Out of everything that went down that day, that was one of the scariest things to hear. When I had Tillie, the only other people in the room were Jeremy, my midwife, and two nurses. The lights were dim, it was an extremely peaceful and beautiful moment, and I was able to nurse and do skin-to-skin with her immediately after she was born. This time, the room was bright, there was a team of specialists by my bedside ready to take George away, and I could barely see Jeremy’s face on an iPhone propped up on the other side of the room.
In that moment, though, I simply focused on what I needed to do to get George here safely. I pushed for about half an hour, and he was born at 12:49 AM on December 14th. Hearing his cry was incredibly reassuring, and I was thrilled to see he didn’t look as tiny as I worried he might. He weighed five pounds and nine ounces. It was clear he was struggling to breathe, and I watched (and cried) as the team from the NICU worked on him and put him on a CPAP machine. I wasn’t able to do skin-to-skin or nurse, but I was able to hold him briefly before they took him to the NICU, which I was incredibly thankful for.
Jeremy was finally able to come to the hospital the next morning, and we both completely lost it when we finally saw each other. We’d said goodbye as a family of three, and we reunited as a family of four – it was a really strange but wonderful feeling. One of the most bittersweet moments of the entire experience was hugging Jeremy before he went into the NICU to meet his son for the very first time. I wasn’t able to witness their first meeting, because only one parent is permitted in the NICU at a time right now. Luckily, Jeremy took plenty of selfies so I could get a glimpse at their first interactions.
George spent six long days in the NICU, and I really cannot put into words how it feels to leave your newborn baby at the hospital. I can’t adequately convey how badly it hurts to go home, get into bed, and not feel any baby kicks – but to also not see a baby in the bassinet set up beside the bed. The first few days (and weeks) postpartum are challenging, but I can say firsthand that waking up to nurse a newborn is so much better than waking up to pump while wondering how your baby is doing at the hospital.
That said, I recognize how fortunate we are to have only had a six-day NICU stay. I have dear friends who have spent months going back and forth to the NICU, and other friends who never got to bring their sweet babies home at all. While it killed me to be separated from George for that week, I knew he was getting the care he needed and would come home when he was ready.
George came home on December 19th, 2020 and we’ve been adjusting to life as a family of four for almost two weeks now. This adjustment has come with its own share of challenges, but I’m just so grateful to have my family under one roof. I’ve found myself grieving several things –that my very last pregnancy ended so abruptly, that I didn’t get to savor my last days with just Tillie, and that Jeremy missed the birth of his son – but I’m trying to focus on all the positives that far outweigh the negatives. We have a healthy son, our family is complete, and we are wrapping up 2020 together, at home. While this year looked absolutely nothing like any of us could have predicted, there is still so much to be grateful for.