As I noted in my Week 39 blog, my induction was set for Tuesday, October 10th at 4:00 am. My mom and aunt arrived the Sunday evening before as planned. My husband and I took that Monday off work to do some last-minute tasks. We tried to get a few hours’ sleep, then rose at about 3:30 AM to head to the hospital.

I got checked in and hooked up to the monitors, and the Pitocin drip started around 5:15 AM. We didn’t really know what to expect. But my son’s birth had gone very quickly, so I felt confident baby girl would be born sometime that day. Especially given how early we got started.

One of the doctors did a membrane sweep around 6:30 AM. Then, around 9:30 AM, another doctor (one of the few from my new practice I had not met yet) broke my water.

Assuming things would move more quickly after that, I opted to get my epidural placed. Things did escalate, but the epidural was working so well I really didn’t notice. We thought perhaps she was “sunny side up,” and I was having back labor. The nurse got out a peanut ball and said we would change my position every 30 minutes or so to encourage her to turn around.  She had just helped me shift to my left side with the ball between my knees when my mom and aunt got to the hospital.

The nurse figured I would deliver that afternoon but didn’t think it would be imminent. So, at nearly noon, my support crew headed for the cafeteria to get lunch before anything happened.

While they were gone, my nurse decided to check my cervix again. Instead of a progress report of centimeters dilated, she exclaimed, “Oh, that’s the head!” She urged me to text Mike to come back ASAP because I was ready to push. Mike, Mom, and aunt made a mad dash back and got there just in time.

The doctor who had broken my water arrived and gowned up. Though we hadn’t met before that day, she was personable and confident. She said the baby was “basically going to deliver herself,” and her confidence transferred to me.

This was happening. Baby girl would soon be here after months–years, really–of waiting. I pushed through only three contractions.

Then, at 12:20 PM, out my daughter came, with a dramatic spray of the last of the amniotic fluid.

She was beautiful, with a fairly full head of hair, perhaps explaining my heartburn! They put her on my chest right away, and my husband and I cried with joy and relief. The nurse was in no hurry to weigh and measure her. She let us snuggle her for about an hour before taking her over to the scale. She was 7 lbs, 5 ounces of sweet, adorable perfection.

Mary's Birth Story - Meeting Naomi

Author’s Personal Collection/Mary Mathes

During that hour, my husband and I asked for some time alone with her and decided on her name, Naomi Helen. We’d had a short list of options and wanted to meet her to decide for sure. Naomi means “beautiful” or “gentle/pleasant,” and Helen (my grandmother’s name) means “light.” So she is our beautiful, gentle light.

We spent just one evening at the hospital.

My mom and aunt brought my son up to meet her briefly, but the hospital setting was making him anxious, so they quickly took him home. My husband went with to see him off to bed, then returned to spend the night with us. We all went home the next day because baby and I were both doing so well.

Mary's Birth Story - Introducing Naomi

Author’s Personal Collection/Mary Mathes

I wish I could end this here and tell you that after our blissfully smooth delivery, every day since has been even more amazing. But in that case, I would have written my birth story much sooner.

As it turned out, my daughter NOT being born on Friday the 13th, didn’t spare us from bad luck after all.

On Friday, October 20th, when she was just ten days old and while my in-laws were driving down from Chicago expecting to meet her, I noticed my daughter felt quite warm. Our pediatrician had told us that a fever of 100.4 or higher meant we should go straight to the Children’s Hospital emergency room. I got a temp of 101.6.

In a panic, my husband and I bolted for the ER in separate cars. Our son’s daycare was closing early for their fall festival, and we’d need to pick him up by 5:00 PM. It was already 2:00 PM. We didn’t know exactly what would happen, but we knew there was no way it would take less than three hours.

My husband took Naomi in his car, and I followed. I hated not being able to ride with her, even if I would have had to cram into the middle seat between her carseat and her brother’s to sit by her. Instead, I tried to swallow my anxiety and cursed the traffic between me and the hospital.

Indeed, we would not be home in a matter of hours. They admitted her that evening.

While still in the ER, we held her little hands and comforted her as best we could through a catheterization and two attempts to place an IV. One doctor had told us that an infant that young can only see about 8-10 inches in front of their face. Recalling this, I laid my head on the bed next to her so she could look at me while the nurses worked.

Mike had to go get our son before the third part of the protocol for newborns with fever: the spinal tap. So, while an EMT positioned Naomi’s tiny body, I held a pacifier dipped in sugar water in her mouth with one hand and her tiny fingers in the other. I put my face as close to her as I could get, whispering, “Mommy’s here,” over and over as she couldn’t see me this time. I hated that she had to go through any of this, but at least they didn’t make me leave the room.

Baby feet in hospital socks - Mary's Birth Story

Author’s Personal Collection/Mary Mathes

To cap off that experience I would rather not have had, I learned two things I would rather not know once we got to her room. One, they make those awful hospital socks in infant size (and, inexplicably, they still put rubber tread marks on the soles). Two, Halo makes sleep sacks that snap instead of zip, including over the shoulders. So you can still swaddle your child around their IV line and monitor cords. (As a corollary, I also learned that after a few run-ins with hospital laundry services, only about half of the plastic snaps will still function).

They do all these tests on an infant this young due to the risk of potentially very bad things like sepsis and meningitis. Unsettled by this possibility, I snuggled her and prayed/worried while we waited to see if anything nefarious would present in her labs.

I briefly left Saturday morning to go home and see my son. This visit proved disastrous for his two-year-old toddler self. “Mommy was gone, then she came back with this baby, then they were both gone, now mommy is back, but she’s leaving again…” I decided it best not to come home again until we were back for good.

And to be honest, it was best for me too. My nerves were shot. I’d been powering through on willpower and adrenaline, focusing mainly on functioning for my daughter and not letting myself think too much lest my mind start envisioning worst-case scenarios. Seeing my little boy struggle because his mommy wouldn’t be there when he woke up from his nap broke my heart.

Sunday evening, they finally cleared us to go home after her labs continued to be negative for bacterial infections.

The only test that was positive was for rhinovirus. My in-laws left Monday afternoon, and we tried to relax, breathe again, and get back to figuring out our new routine.

Then, Tuesday morning, her fever spiked again. Our pediatrician sent us back to the ER. I called my mom in tears, then had to pull it together so I could get my son to daycare while my husband headed back to the hospital with our girl.

They readmitted her and had to place another IV. This time, it took four tries. Thankfully, it was not necessary to tap her spine again. My husband stayed with her this time, as we agreed my son needed me home with him that night. My in-laws upended their schedules to come back the next day to provide moral support.

While packing an overnight bag for my husband, in my worry and anxiety, I remembered something that might help. At least, something that would give me comfort and let me feel a bit less powerless.

In the back of my dresser is a tiny glass bottle with a silver cap. It contains water from the Grotto in Lourdes, France. Lourdes has spiritual significance to Catholics who believe its waters to have miraculous, and healing, properties. I’ve had it since my wedding day, a memento from my stepfather. I stuck it in my pocket before leaving for the hospital.

A bottle of holy water - Mary's Birth Story

Author’s Personal Collection/Mary Mathes

When I got to her room, I uncapped the bottle for the first time in the six-and-a-half years it’s been in my possession. I touched a few drops to Naomi’s forehead as she lay in her crib. I was terrified of losing my little girl after everything we’d gone through to have her. Would her labs reveal something worse this time? Would she be taken from me because Fate decided I was not destined to have an October girl after all?

I held her while my husband stepped out to get something to eat. As I sat with her, praying she would be alright, I thought about her name, Naomi Helen. Helen, my grandmother, had passed away shortly after my son was born, just shy of her 100th birthday. The name was also chosen in honor of my own namesake, my aunt Mary Helen. She had died at just four months old from an illness. Had I doomed my daughter to the same fate by naming her after my aunt?

As I sat there second-guessing, I realized I should instead be asking my grandma and my aunt to watch over my daughter. I said a prayer pleading to them to help her, then asked my lost baby to watch over her sister too.

Whether thanks to the water, the prayers, and the intercession of guardian angels, or just thanks to modern medicine and her own fighting spirit, my little girl’s fevers subsided again. Her labs continued to look good, and we gratefully took her home again the next day.

She got to spend a long weekend being adored by her grandparents, and us, of course. So far, she has stayed healthy, and with every day, I breathe a little easier. We have begun (again) to help our toddler (and ourselves) adjust to this new normal of being a family of four.

Four who are physically here, that is. And one whose presence is memorialized with a small but growing cluster of white pumpkins on the mantlepiece.

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