We had a very encouraging sign on Andrew’s second day in the NICU, which was his fourth day on intravenous antibiotics. On that day, he finally opened his eyes! Seeing his sweet brown eyes for the very first time moved me almost to tears. He was eight days old.
That first day at the new hospital was physically exhausting. The most walking I had done since giving birth six days earlier was to go from our car in the hospital parking lot to the NICU after Andrew was transferred, and even that had felt like a stretch. But that was only the beginning.
Because Andrew was so weak and lethargic, the hospital set me up with an electric pump and had me express milk to feed him from a bottle. Sometime during that first day or night, one of the monitors in the room started beeping loudly, and within seconds, a nurse appeared in the doorway and said that the baby’s blood oxygen level had dropped too low and told me to rouse him.
You can read Part 1 here.
At some point the next day I finally reached full dilation and started having the urge to push. While the hospital did allow water births, I decided to try using the birthing stool. It was a lot higher than I expected, and it was uncomfortable. But other than mentioning that I wasn’t comfortable, I made no effort to change locations. At that point in labor, a mother is simultaneously too focused and too overwhelmed by the birthing process to advocate for herself, and no one connected my calm, quiet comment that the birthing stool was uncomfortable with a real desire to move to the bed, which is what I wanted.
It’s been over five years since the birth of my fifth child, the child I never thought we’d have. Before we married, my husband and I agreed that we would like to have at least four kids, and after that, we’d see if we wanted more or not. Once we started having kids, it seemed to make sense to have them as quickly as possible, since I was already 28 years old at the time. For us meant that we had 3 kids in 44 months.
I enjoyed Andrew more than I had enjoyed any previous baby, but it was a bittersweet enjoyment. I was constantly thinking in terms of lasts. This was the last time I would get to take a newborn home from the hospital, the last time I would get to nurse an infant, the last time I would snuggle a baby of my own, the last time I would applaud my child’s first steps and first words. It was difficult to say goodbye to this stage of my life. So I was delighted when I found out that we were expecting baby number six, even though we hadn’t been trying to get pregnant.
If you haven’t yet, read part 1 first.
The infant stage with any baby has specific challenges, so my experience is that it usually takes about six months to adapt to having a new child in the family. However, the adjustment was much easier with James than it had been with Peter. The three older boys could all walk without help, I think they were all potty trained, and they probably even dressed themselves by that point. The 2-and-a-half-year-old probably still needed some help in the latter department, but I’ve always encouraged early independence among my kids, and I could enlist the older boys to help him. By the time that James was born, Samuel, our eldest, was already 5 years old and able to be really helpful. It was a completely different experience—and easier—than when I had only had three kids.
This post first appeared on Assist News Service in September 2017.
I used to write a column here about my experiences as an American missionary raising children in Ukraine, but it’s been over a year since my last piece. During that time, we went on furlough, had another baby, returned to Ukraine, and moved to a different house. A string of unexpected circumstances made this an often overwhelming season, and I needed to take a break from writing this column.
The first surprise was my husband injuring his knee shortly before our trip to the States. It was still giving him so much trouble when we flew that he had to use crutches. We must have looked like a hopeless menagerie after we checked in and headed towards security: a man on a beat-up pair of borrowed crutches that were missing their rubber feet and had a tendency to slip on the smooth airport floors, a woman who was eight-months pregnant, and four children ranging in age from 3 to 9! Plus a carseat, backpacks, and several rolling carryons. It really seemed like the wrong timing for this injury, but it turned out that the timing was just right.
This post is a continuation of an earlier post. If you haven’t already, you should read Part 1 first.
These contractions were stronger than the practice contractions I’d been experiencing for months, but they didn’t establish the textbook pattern of getting stronger and closer together. I was in frequent contact with my medical-school friend, and we decided that it must be false labor. But false labor or not, it seemed to be accomplishing something, and I was reminded of my first labor, when I had experienced weak, irregular contractions for 48 hours before finally going to the hospital and finding out that I was already 7 centimeters dilated, almost ready to have the baby!
The anxiety I had been experiencing turned into a strangling sense of dread. This oppressive feeling blanketed every waking moment, like the foreboding that a prisoner on death row must feel as his execution date nears. Frantic from the suspense, I was almost ready to check into the hospital and brave the medical system, but my husband, ever calm and logical, convinced me that was a bad idea.
My children have been born in four different cities on two continents under four sets of very different circumstances. Of all my births to date, I was the most nervous before the last one, my fourth baby.