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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Memories of Birth, Gwenn

She was to be born on Monday, January 13th, 2003. My husband and I had chosen not to find out the sex of our babies, as we both felt it was one of God's greatest mysteries. I had had difficult deliveries with my other children. Beau had been blue at birth and needed to be rushed to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) where he was treated and observed for about a week. At that time, leaving my new baby boy at the hospital seemed unbelievable. He had had a very normal gestation, my pregnancy had been uneventful, I only knew he was a big baby. I was induced three days after his due date because he was big and my body wasn't moving him out. The surprise was when he was "sunny side up" and he was "stuck." Finally, when he was born with the help of vacuum extraction, his APGARS were very low, as I recall only about a five. Anything below a seven in very worrisome and an indication of possible long term damage. Beau is fifteen now and doing very well. My second birth was even more traumatic, Teale's APGARS were 0 at birth and 0 at one minute. At five minutes APGARS were a 2 or maybe it was a 3, my memory has let that one go. Anyway, you can read both Beau and Teale's birth stories in my past blog posts. The point is, with my third child, I was scared, no TERRIFIED to have things go badly. I had had one blue baby and one seriously brought back from dead. I was determined to give birth in a more typical way this time. My desires were very high to be handed my baby immediately after birth. After much discussion with my OBGYN and her discussing my case with others, it was decided I would have a scheduled c-section about two weeks before my due date. One of the beliefs was that while in labor, my placenta breaks down, it stops working and my umbilical cord stops providing oxygen to my baby. To avoid this, the decision was that I would not go into labor with this pregnancy. My cesarian date seemed ironic, given my other two births, but it was early enough without being two early and my doctor was available to do the surgery. Going into that weekend before Gwenn's birth was nerve wracking, I hardly slept at all worrying about it. The pregnancy had been good though, very similar to Beau's, except I was now considered high risk and many more tests and ultrasounds were performed. I had a very tough time gaining weight, an issue I had had in both my past pregnancies. This time my metabolism was at it's highest, burning everything I ate so quickly I was instructed by my doctors to consume 1000 calories above my normal intake in high caloric protein drinks. Considering, when I am not pregnant I struggle with weight gain, this was a strange phenomenon. Total weight gain had been 16 pounds when I checked into the hospital early Monday morning for my surgery. My fears were so over the top at this point, I concentrated on not crying much of the time. Beau was eight years old, he had been very involved in this pregnancy and was extremely excited to meet his new sibling. He had gone to school for the morning, wanting desperately to keep his perfect attendance record. He was in third grade and had never missed even one day of school. The teacher Beau had this year had looped with his entire class from second grade, making this the second year with her. In the one and a half school years with her, I had come into his class most weeks for about fifteen minutes to teach his classmates sign language. Beau's sister Teale, was born deaf, most likely a side effect of high antibiotics she was given to keep infection away. Her stomach had been open at birth and needed surgery to put her intestine and colon back into her. High doses of antibiotics were used on her so that she would not contact infections while healing. The other theory about her hearing loss was that an infection I had two weeks before Teale's birth may have caused it, as I was put on high antibiotics at that time. Either way, Teale was deaf in the high frequencies, mild to moderate hearing loss in the low frequencies, sign language helped her to understand and be understood, so our family learned ASL. While teaching ALS to Beau's classroom, they watched my belly grow and their interest in what I would have was very high. So Beau went to school to be with his classmates who cared about all of us. The plan was that my sister and my Mother in law would pick Beau up from school after the baby was born and then bring him up to the hospital to meet his new sibling. Mark and I had decided we wanted Beau to be the first person to know if we had had a boy or a girl, so no one would be told until after Beau was with us. At the hospital, the nurses started lines on me and told me the doctor was ready to take me into surgery. This was the moment I dreaded most. Mark would not be allowed into the surgery room with me until after my spinal was done, as we said goodbye I could no longer contain my tears. I broke down, gripping Mark and expressing my extreme fear of this birth going wrong also. He, also fearful, reassured me calmly and lovingly, as the nurses wheeled me from him and through the surgery doors. The anesthesiologist was ready as soon as I got into the room. My OBGYN was there waiting and so was one of the three NICU nurses we had had taking care of Teale for the two months she was in the NICU. I had contacted the NICU nurses and asked them to be in delivery with us, in case this baby's birth also had issues. This nurse had been available that day and would be given the baby after birth to do the APGAR rating. I needed this reassurance from someone I knew well and was hoping for my first APGAR over seven. We had planned well but still, until Mark walked into that room and I heard, for the first time a crying baby in delivery, I would be on edge. Mark came in as I was laid back down on the bed and the surgery was started soon after. I had had a thing about wanting Mark to tell me if the baby was a boy or a girl, so we reiterated this to the room. It is so common for people to know the sex of their babies, that I wanted to make sure they understood that we did not know. She was taken out of me and the room was silent, not a sound as they allowed Mark to cut her cord. Mark then told me, with much surprise, it was a girl. The pregnancy had been so similar to Beau's we had all thought it was a boy, but a girl, how perfect. I knew Teale needed a sister and I knew I needed a girl who was typically developing to enjoy my many "girlish" passions. When she didn't cry though, my heart stopped, not again, was all I could think. The NICU nurses reassured me though, she was fine and her APGAR was a seven. It wasn't perfect, as she was so quiet, but amazingly sweet, looking around at her new world with a wonder that she still possesses. After they made sure she was fine, she was placed on me. This was the first time I was to actually see and touch one of my babies in the delivery room. The joy and relief I felt was overwhelming, but a shadow of fear took over me as I looked at her face, she was blotched with red patches. No one was saying what the patches were but being that I was very entrenched in the special education world, my fear was that they were what is sometimes called port wine stain. This stain on a face can be a sign of deeper neurological issues. Mark was most likely unaware of this possibility, so he was blissfully happy to be holding our sweet baby girl, who was "even too sweet to cry," as he put it. I was unable to ask about the red blotches on her face at that time and tried to asses the situation and why no one was mentioning it. It took me until we were in a room alone to finally tell Mark my fears. He asked a nurse, who reassured us that her blotches were just stork bites, a harmless birthmark that would fade with time. Finally, I could relax and wait for Beau to meet his new sister. I knew he might be disappointed she was a girl, his hope had been for a brother. I though, thought God's plan had been amazingly perfect, a girl, a sister to look out for Teale someday and a friend for me. How I looked forward to pulling out all of Teale's beautiful pink clothes! Beau got to the hospital and the nurse caring for me was in the hallway as he arrived. She was to bring him to us so we could tell him the news, but instead she said "Have you met your new sister yet?" It ruined our plan, as my sister, mother in law and Beau all heard at the same time we had had a girl. Beau walked into the room slightly disappointed, but once he saw her, it was love. He held her and tried to understand her name, Gwenn Gabriela, he said over and over. Naming her PenGwenn right then and there, on her first Birthday he would give her a giant penguin. Teale would come meet her sister after her school program in the late afternoon. I needed to rest and Teale was always a ball of energy, so knowing she didn't totally understand all this, she would come later, after I rested. Gwenn had been born, with hardly a hitch, not exactly the ideal birth, but it still fulfilled a loss I had felt for years. I held my sweet baby girl and dreamed about her future in a way I had never done with my other two births. Today Gwenn is still a quiet soul, often choosing to not talk or answer questions when spoken to. She is much like me in many ways, loving animals, art, cooking and gardening. She is equally similar to her Dad with a shyness he posses. She has perfect pitch and in my opinion, sings like an angel, musical talent Mark's family has had for generations. Gwenn is a little sister, but as she matures above Teale, she also becomes a big sister, often looking out for Teale. It has not been an easy journey having three children. People questioned our decision much, but Mark, God and I knew what we were doing when we added Gwenn to our family!


  1. My heart is filled for joy for you. It's funny. I had a wonderful pregnancy (I loved being pregnant) and a vaginal delivery with few drugs and a midwife. It sounds perfect, but there are a couple of things that happened that make me feel it wasn't "perfect". I wonder if any of us feels their delivery was "perfect"! I just remind myself that, although it didn't happen exactly as I wanted, the result is still the same. How cool is that?!

    Beau and Gwenn must be your rewards for giving Teale a good life. Lucky you! On the other hand, they seem very much like a bit of extra help sent from above. hmmmm....