A Change in Plans
Allen Presbyterian Hospital is a "baby-friendly" hospital which means they encourage methods that a lot of the bigger, more "corporate" hospitals don't - such as tools to help you labor naturally with birthing balls and birthing bars attached to the bed, letting your baby "room in" with you rather than in the nursery, and providing amazing help with breastfeeding rather than peddling pacifiers and bottles. So we realized soon after we arrived there that we were in good hands with Dr. Pierce and his staff, although this could not be further from our original plan.
Once we arrived at the hospital, I remember things in flashes - having a contraction in the elevator and scaring a little boy who was standing next to me, being hooked up to all kinds of machines and having to sign hospital admittance papers with a shaky hand. Although I had never wanted drugs during our baby's birth, my body just wasn't producing enough pitocin on its own. So the plan was to provide me the absolute minimum possible dose of pitocin through an IV - just enough to get labor going and to get me fully dilated. The nurse left Steven and I in the quiet labor room with only the sound of the heartbeat monitors. The problem with synthetic pitocin, however, is that it makes the contractions much worse.
We kept going for about another hour, at the end of which I felt myself starting to break. I could no longer breathe calmly through the contractions and began to cry and then totally lose composure at the peak of each one. I finally looked my husband in the eye and in one of the most vulnerable moments of my life said, "Babe, I can't do this anymore. I NEED HELP NOW."
I felt so at the end of my rope, so tired. So ready to not be pregnant anymore and to meet our baby.
"I did my best," I said. "I tried to be brave..."
And then, my sweet husband who had been fighting alongside me said, "You were so, SO brave. I am so proud of you. We will get the nurse in here and see what we can do about the pain. It's okay..."
We both cried and held each other as we waited for nurse Elizabeth. Then, I did something I never thought I'd do - I asked for an epidural. I'm pretty sure I told the anesthesiologist I loved him before he left the room and within minutes, I felt like I was floating on clouds of chocolate. Once I had the epidural, they increased the pitocin hoping that I would dilate more over the next few hours and have some time to rest before pushing.
While I rested, Steven left with his parents to grab a quick meal. In the meantime, the amazing Dr. Pierce entered the room and explained to me that he wanted me to have the birth I desired, but he was getting concerned about how long I'd been in labor with my water broken. He said he'd give me until 7:30pm that night and that he would love nothing more than if I would be dilated past 5 cm at that point. But if I still hadn't progressed even on the pitocin, I would have to have a c-section.
It all seemed so surreal - a C-SECTION? It wasn't even on my radar, and here I was, just a few hours away from the possibility of major surgery. But as Steven and I let it all soak in, we agreed that ultimately, we wanted to do the safest thing for our girl. I had to totally surrender my expectations of how the birth had been painted in my mind for the last ten months and let the best plan happen.
Well, 7:30pm finally came, and Dr. Pierce checked me. And unbelievably, I was still at 5 cm.
Meeting Our Girl
Everything about the surgery is so vivid in my mind. From the bright fluorescent lights to the masked faces of Dr. Pierce, Dr. Joseph, and our sweet nurse Joy standing over me, all in a state of quiet, controlled hurriedness. The anesthesiologist said, "We're going to move you to the operating table now" and I oddly couldn't even feel my legs touching the table. The sensation of numbness crept up my chest, and my entire body was shaking uncontrollably, yet I was acutely aware of what was going on. I saw Steven next to me in a hat and mask and surgical scrubs with a look of nervous excitement in his eyes.
Through chattering teeth I asked, "When is it going to start?" And Dr. Pierce told me they had already begun! Then, lots of tugging on my abdomen. Dr. Pierce asked Steven if he wanted to take a peek on the other side of the curtain to get an "anatomy lesson" as he viewed all of my exposed organs. Steven said they reached in and pulled out our daughter like a rabbit out of a magician's hat.
And then, finally...a healthy, robust cry!
After ten months of waiting, Luci Isabelle entered our lives just eight minutes after we entered the operating room. The first time I saw her face is when I turned my head to the left and saw the nurses quickly wiping off the blood and fluids and wrapping her in a blanket. I cried out, "There she is! There she is!" and soaked in every sight - her arms waving wildly, her long legs, her wet, curly black hair, her Asian eyes and huge Piccione mouth. Our daughter!
About a minute after she was born, she was on my chest skin-to-skin, just as they had promised. She was still crying until I put my arms around her and said, "Hello, my little darling," and she immediately stopped crying, turned her head, and looked at her mama.
As I held her, they stitched me up, and Steven went out to the waiting room to announce the birth and her name to both sets of grandparents.
She nursed within an hour of being born, and it was beautiful.
The rest of our stay at the hospital was like a mini-vacation - well, minus the fact that I couldn't walk or move for a few days and was pretty much high on Vicodin. But we were basically the only ones on the postpartum floor and got personal attention from all the wonderful nurses who served us hand-and-foot, laughed with us, and took care of our family and friends who visited. We were free to just enjoy our daughter, to gaze at this vulnerable being whose life had now been entrusted to us.
Of one thing I am sure - I was always meant to be a mother. How very grateful I am to be the mother of Luci Belle!
One last thing I wanted to share...the special meaning behind her name.
Luci means "light." I have prayed this entire pregnancy that our daughter's life would be full of joy and happiness and that she would be one who bears the light of Christ to everyone she meets. She is also named in honor of my dear Aunt Lucille who passed away last September just a few weeks before she was conceived. In my last conversation with Aunt Lucille, I told her we were trying to have a baby, and she laughed and was so happy. Then, I had a dream about Aunt Lucille a few days before we found out we were having a girl. And we knew then, if we had a girl, that we would name her Luci.
Isabelle means "God's promise." I can think of no better phrase to describe what our marriage has been thus far. It began with a rainbow on our wedding day, and over the last five years, God has kept His promise that if we would trust Him, He would take care of us. Through all kinds of difficulties that should have ruined us, instead we are stronger, with more joy and more grace. We have been able to build an incredible love together, one that we can now welcome our little daughter into.
Belle means "beautiful," and we actually referred to her as "Belle" to each other my entire pregnancy and were planning on calling her that. But when she came out, she just looked like a Luci! So we mostly call her Luci Belle.
Here are some favorite photos from her first few weeks of life...