Will someone please tell me how it is possible that my sweet little baby Harvey is nearly one year old? This past year has been memorable and challenging in so many ways, but it has been a time to treasure through the frustrating moments because we added this handsome little man to our family. Every mom with multiple children jokes and comments about how things are so different with the second child. The house is noisier during naps, tempers run shorter, the baby gets held less and has to wait longer for attention than the first child ever had to, and there simply isn’t as much documentation of that little person’s life. Poor Harvey has been no exception to that reality. I photographed more of his monthly milestone photos days (sometimes weeks) past the actual milestone. But Harvey has been loved every bit as much as his big sister. In fact, he has probably been loved even more because he’s got one thing going for him that Dessa never had as a baby: a big sister to shower him with all of her love, kisses, songs, and sweetness. (Oh my goodness, I am already tearing up and I have barely even begun to write this post.)
Harvey also has a moment taking place one full year ahead of his sister’s timeline: I’m finally sitting down to share his birth story on the blog. I realize that 345 days is a long time to wait to share a post, but I didn’t get around to publishing Dessa’s birth story on the blog until her second birthday, so I’m feeling pretty proud of myself for granting my sweet little Harvey one gift in a more timely manner than his sister received it.
Much like my children, the events of their birth stories have many similarities (in both cases I was induced because of gestational diabetes during a local baby boom when rooms were in short supply and the maternity ward was hopping, was delivered by the same doctor, and suffered through an episiotomy plus a tear during both deliveries – which each led to uncontrolled sobbing that just couldn’t be comforted shortly after both my babies were born), but were also quite different. It’s almost as if the events ran parallel to each other but played out in very different ways. Even though the story of Harvey’s arrival was more painful than I anticipated (thanks to an unexpected natural delivery), his birth story is special to me because it ended with a sweet little 7 pound, 12 ounce wonder in my arms.
Preparing for a Scheduled Induction
When the doctor suggested scheduling an induction for Harvey’s birth after one of my bi-weekly non-stress tests, I was relieved. I was 39 weeks pregnant at the time without a single contraction and my blood sugar had been difficult to control, even with daily insulin injections for my gestational diabetes. I was scared that the baby was going to be HUGE and I wanted him or her to arrive as soon as possible.
The prospect of a scheduled induction also gave me a tremendous amount of peace of mind for Dessa. My mom labored very quickly for both of her deliveries and I had no idea how my own natural labor would progress since Dessa had been induced. I was very nervous that labor for our second child would come hard and fast with little or no time to get Dessa settled before the baby arrived. We had been planning for Dessa to stay with my parents while Rob and I were at the hospital and a scheduled induction would provide plenty of time for both of us to drop Dessa off at their house, with lots of love and snuggles before the two of us set off for the hospital.
My induction was scheduled for 7 am on October 2 and we dropped Dessa off at my parents the night before my appointment so she could get settled and be free from the 5 am frazzled wake-up that Rob and I were gearing up for the following morning in preparation for the induction. It was a bittersweet moment to say goodbye to my baby girl and soon-to-be-big-sister that night. We dropped Dessa off, got her settled for a fun couple of days with her grandparents, and had our last photo as a family of 3.
My eyes teared up as we drove off and watched Dessa wave goodbye with my mom from the driveway. That night Rob and I enjoyed the first dinner for two and night at home without Dessa that we had shared in a very long time. It was a fitting way to gear up and get some rest before the unpredictable crazy day ahead.
We woke up bright and early the next morning so we could arrive on time for our 7 am induction appointment at the hospital. I knew from previous experiences in and out of the maternity floor that a scheduled appointment time is a guideline at best and that things would probably progress very slowly. What I didn’t anticipate was being pointed to the family waiting area because it was too busy on the floor and the hospital staff had to figure out what to do with an abundance of expectant mommas and a shortage of space.
As we sat in the waiting room, my mind immediately began to wonder and worry about how to proceed if we were sent home. Since my induction was scheduled and not an emergent situation, there was a very real possibility that our plans would be postponed. We were nearing the end of Dessa’s ISR swim lessons and I was mentally figuring out how I would get Dessa to the pool on time and whether Rob should go to work for the day. Fortunately, all of my worries and alternate planning proved to be in vain.
Around 8:30 am, a nurse came to let me know that they were ready to help me have the baby. Other mothers who were less emergent were sent home and given later appointment times, but I was considered a priority because of my gestational diabetes diagnosis. It was one of the very few moments that having diabetes actually worked in my favor. From the moment I stepped into my hospital room, I was surrounded by a flurry of activity with paperwork, IV, antibiotics, Pitocin, and pelvic exams. It was one thing after another and was a little overwhelming.
Then, the bustle of activity abruptly ended and they left me to rest with Rob by my side and let the drugs do their thing. I had been prepared for several long, boring hours while we waited for my body to get ready for delivery and had brought along my laptop to keep busy. Rob kept me company and read a book while I worked on a blog post, hopped onto Instagram, sat in the dark, and let myself soak up the last chance to rest before things picked up. While I waited, one of the biggest thoughts on my mind was fantasizing about my first meal after the delivery. I was facing the final hurdle after several long, frustrating weeks of carefully monitoring my perpetually-elevated blood sugar and I had my heart set on a pizza for dinner that night. Dessa was born during the wee hours of the morning and I prayed that this time I would have a baby in my arms by 10 pm before the local pizza places closed for the night.
Shortly after getting settled, I was introduced to Jessica – the nurse who would care for me throughout the day. Jessica was very low-key and fun to talk with while we waited for the drugs to do their thing. We chatted a bit about our children at home, my decision to get an epidural, and the fact that I was really looking forward to dinner that night. I asked Jessica to make a prediction about when the baby would arrive and she hesitantly told me that it would probably be late at night. She figured my chances of having pizza for dinner were about 50/50 and I think she was trying to brace me for disappointment.
After an hour or so, Jessica stopped by and let me know that some contractions started to show up on the monitor, but they were very minor and I didn’t feel any of it. My doctor checked in around 10:30 to see how I was progressing. The visit was followed by more waiting. Rob went to grab some lunch and we watched TV together to pass the time. The doctor came back around 1:45 and broke my water to help things move along. The nurse asked if I wanted an epidural before they broke my water, but I decided to wait since I still wasn’t feeling a single contraction and it seemed a little crazy to get one before I was actually in any pain. My cervix was dilated to about 4 at this point, but I still had a long way to go.
Low Platelets = No Epidural
A little while later, I began to feel contractions begin to come and go. They were fairly mild, but becoming increasingly uncomfortable so I asked for an epidural around 4:00 pm. As soon as my nurse was available, she came in and started to get everything ready for the epidural. I was sitting up, in position for the procedure, and waiting for the anesthesiologist to arrive; when Jessica’s phone rang. I wasn’t really paying attention to her conversation but when she hung up, she looked at me and broke the news that I wasn’t going to be able to receive an epidural for my delivery because my platelets were too low.
I was caught completely off guard by the news and tears immediately welled in my eyes. I have been scared of the pains of childbirth ever since I was old enough to know how babies are born. I may have given birth once before, but I certainly hadn’t experienced natural childbirth and I was terrified. I was so upset that tears welled in Jessica’s eyes because she could see how scared and disappointed I was feeling. She called the anesthesiologist back to see if there was anything that could be done and offered to draw my blood a second time to see if my platelet count was any higher. This was a total shot in the dark because I was told that platelet levels decrease over time, but they quickly processed a second set of lab work for me. As predicted, my platelets hadn’t improved; but I was thankful for a nurse that did everything she could to try and keep me comfortable.
Around 4:30 pm I was scared, uncomfortable, and basically a wreck; so the nurse gave me morphine to help me relax and ease some of my discomfort, but I wasn’t feeling any of the effects. I was still in a lot of pain and the contractions felt constant without much of a break between them – it was just like an unrelenting wall of pain.
When my contractions had begun, the nurse mentioned the possibility of using a peanut ball to help move things along. I didn’t really know what she was talking about so I sort of shrugged it off. After my contractions became more constant, she mentioned the peanut ball again and suggested that I give it a try to see if it would speed things up. I literally had nothing better to do, so I tried it. Just in case you’re as clueless as I was, a peanut ball is a lot like those exercise/balance balls that people sit on for fitness purposes. The only difference is that this one is shaped like a peanut, rather than a sphere. The idea is to place this oddly shaped ball between your legs (there are lots of different positions that a laboring mother can use) to help open the hips and pelvis for a faster delivery.
Anyways, the nurse brought in the peanut ball around 4:45 and urged me to give it a try, letting me know that we could always stop using it if I got too uncomfortable. I was in plenty of pain, but the peanut ball felt fine and certainly didn’t intensify my discomfort. I laid on my side with the ball wedged between my legs for 15 minutes or so, then Rob helped me roll onto my other side when the position became too uncomfortable so I could keep using the ball from a different angle.
Since my contractions were still fast and unrelenting, the nurse turned down my dose of Pitocin to ease them a bit. The pain and discomfort was still awful, but at least they weren’t constant anymore and I was thankful to have a short break in between the waves of pain.
By 5:15, I had been in the throes of some pretty intense labor and was desperate for a distraction. Rob and I scrolled Netflix and Hulu on my laptop, looking for any lighthearted movie that we could stream and watch as a distraction. We decided to watch You’ve Got Mail, which did help to distract me for a bit before another wave of really rough contractions came my way.
Shortly after starting the movie, the nurse came to check my progress. I had been feeling some pelvic pressure and was relieved that she was checking me so I could get an update on the situation. Despite the pressure, the nurse assured me that it would still be a while before the baby arrived and I was still looking at the prospect of a late-night pizza.
As the pain continued to escalate, I started scrolling through photos on my phone in search of any videos of Dessa laughing or being especially silly to help me feel better because nothing else was working. I had successfully located and saved one video of Dessa to an album on my phone when the pelvic pressure intensified and my contractions started coming really fast.
Around 6:00 pm, I became convinced that things were picking up and told Rob to call the nurse. Rob didn’t seem to appreciate the urgency of the situation because he awkwardly introduced himself on the phone and said something along the lines of “Um, this is Rob Gavin. My wife is in room …” He didn’t have a chance to finish that sentence because I cut him off in exasperation and blurted “She knows what room we’re in. Tell her to come quick!”
One minute later, Jessica was at my side for another check at my cervix. I had rapidly dilated to 9 and the baby’s position was at +1. I was right to get the nurse because Harvey was on his way and he was coming fast! There was suddenly a rush of activity in the room and the next thing I knew, a team of doctors and nurses were at my bedside getting everything in place for me to deliver. Rob quickly texted an update to my mom with news that the baby was coming.
The next thing I knew, it was time to push. I pushed with all my strength for about 20 minutes, but the delivery proved to be particularly difficult and the baby wouldn’t budge. I couldn’t believe that it had only been 20 minutes because it felt like an hour had passed. I was tired and the doctor used a quiet moment between contractions to ask if I wanted to speed things up. I remember getting really excited about the prospect of delivering the baby with any added speed, which was immediately followed by disappointment when he casually said, “I can do an episiotomy …” That’s the thing about my doctor. He is very good at delivering babies, but he isn’t exactly known for having the best bedside manner. I quickly agreed because I was eager to meet my baby and wasn’t optimistic about my ability to push him or her out on my own since my delivery with Dessa required an episiotomy and the use of forceps.
Finally, at 6:22 pm, Rob told me “it’s a boy!” and I laid eyes on Harvey – the sweet little baby I carried with me for the past nine months that I had delivered naturally! One of the nurses let Harvey rest on my chest for a few minutes so I could hold him while they waited for the placenta to be delivered. When Dessa was born, I only had a brief moment to see and hold her before she was whisked away and the doctor worked extensively to repair the damage from a tear and episiotomy that had occurred during delivery. I had to wait an hour before I was finally able to hold her and my heart broke as I waited so long to finally hold her. This time, I was able to hold Harvey for a few peaceful minutes after working so hard to meet him and that time was so satisfying. I knew the doctor still had work to do on me and that the nurses needed to check on Harvey. I didn’t mind letting him go because I knew there would be plenty more snuggles ahead.
What I didn’t know was that the worst of my delivery experience still lay ahead. Just like with Dessa’s, Harvey’s birth left me with a cut from the episiotomy and a tear for the doctor to repair. After I delivered Dessa, I was still numb from the epidural. The doctor spent an hour repairing me and I was in emotional distress as I waited to hold my baby, but I didn’t feel any actual pain.
This time was different. Nothing was numb and I required lots of stitching. I felt every excruciating poke and it was awful. When I asked what was going on, the doctor told me it was like putting together a puzzle (which is not the metaphor any woman wants to hear about her anatomy after giving birth.) The doctor really wasn’t super forthcoming about what was happening down there, but I felt dozens of sharp pokes that were stabs of pain – far more pokes than could have possibly been from actual stitches. The best I can guess about my experience is that my doctor was trying to find effective ways to stitch, but it was a lot of trial and error. I cried a lot and sobbed hard because I just wanted it to end. The doctor patiently told me to try and relax my legs because he wanted to avoid putting me under. I tried my best to remain relaxed, but my legs kept tensing up. I kept watching the clock because I had my heart set on eating pizza that night and I did not want general anesthesia to interfere with my plans.
Meanwhile, everyone around me did their best to comfort me. Rob knew how much it had broken my heart to be separated from Dessa after she was born. He held my hand and brought Harvey right next to my bed so I could see my baby while I waited for the doctor to finish. I was desperate for water and ice chips, but there were so many pokes and pulls, I didn’t want to drink and be caught off guard by a painful moment.
An incredibly sweet nurse named Bella who came in to assist with the delivery saw that I was in considerable distress and did all that she could to help. She held my other free hand, dried my eyes, gently petted my hair, reassured me that I was going to be ok, and helped me drink when I was ready. Bella was one of those women whose age is impossible to guess. It felt like she was older than me, but I might just have that perception because she sweetly acted like a surrogate mother during my distress. Bella’s shift ended while the doctor was still working on me, but she stayed past the shift change so she could be with me until I was finally comfortable. She left my room after the doctor finished stitching, but returned a few minutes later to check on me one more time before heading home for the night. Bella wouldn’t be back at work for a few days and she wanted to make sure I was settled and feeling better before she went home for the night. I was so thankful for the kindness she demonstrated and cried because I was overwhelmed with appreciation for all of her support.
Our First Night with Harvey
Once all the stitching was complete, the nurses helped to clean me up a bit, gave me a dose of painkillers, and I was finally able to snuggle and feed my brand new baby. I felt so much better with all the delivery events behind me. I was still pretty grimy and in serious need of a shower, but I didn’t care or want to move any more than I absolutely had to.
Once I was finally settled, Rob sent a quick text to all our family and friends letting them know that our son had arrived!
Welcome to the world, Harvey James! Born at 6:22pm, weighing 7 lbs, 12 oz and 20.75 inches. Thank you so much for your prayers, support and encouragement along the way. We can’t wait for Dessa to meet her little brother.
Once he sent the message, Rob headed out to pick up the pizza I had been craving for weeks. While he was gone, the nurse gave Harvey his first bath. I knew that it was nearing Dessa’s bedtime and that she really wanted to see photos of her baby brother before going to sleep so I snapped a few quick photos on my phone and sent them to my Mom before the nurse returned Harvey to my arms.
Rob arrived back at the hospital while I was feeding Harvey. We waited for Harvey to finish, then laid him down to sleep so I could finally savor every bite of my pizza dinner. My good friend Kristy stopped by for a quick visit around 8:15 to meet Harvey and brought a birthday cake to celebrate his arrival. She stayed for a bit and soaked up some newborn baby cuddles before heading home for the night.
After Kristy left, I finally showered. That shower was life-giving and I felt like a million bucks to be fully cleaned off and back in my own pajamas. It had been a long day, so Rob and I settled in to get some sleep as soon as Harvey was fed, changed, and resting quietly.
Harvey’s first night in the hospital was a lot busier than I anticipated. We had to monitor Harvey’s blood sugar as a precaution since I had gestational diabetes. Thankfully, his blood sugar was right where it needed to be, but I needed to call the nurse to check Harvey’s sugar right before feeding him and I had the hardest time remembering to do so.
The doctor came by sometime after 11:00 pm to circumcise Harvey and returned him shortly after. Then around 2:30, a nurse came to get Harvey for a hearing test around 2:30 am and offered to keep him for a few hours so Rob and I could get a little more rest. Sleep sounded great, but once I was awake, I realized that I was starving. As you might guess, there weren’t a lot of dining options available at that time of night, but the nurse scrounged up a turkey sandwich and some animal crackers, which helped to take the edge off. Once I had some food in my stomach, I drifted back off to sleep until around 4:30am, when the nurse brought Harvey back to our room so he could eat.
The next several hours were a blur as Rob and I dozed in and out of consciousness during the early morning hours, based on Harvey’s needs. We eventually ate a late breakfast, feasted on the cake Kristy had delivered the night before, took lots of photos of our sweet little man, and enjoyed every quiet moment that we could before the craziness of life as a family of four set in. We didn’t have any visitors since Rob’s parents were out of town and everyone else we knew had to work.
I spent most of the morning trying to process the fact that we had a baby. Even though I had spent the previous nine months preparing for a baby and I had given birth the night before, it still felt completely unreal that there was a new member of our family. Even though I was still trying to wrap my head around all the changes coming our way, I absolutely loved staring at our beautiful son.
Since Harvey was born in the evening, they gave us the option of staying in the hospital for a second night. It was a tempting offer since the nurses and hospital staff offered more support than we would have at home. Dessa had been doing great with my parents, but she had already been away from us for two nights and we figured she was eager to head back home with the two of us and her new baby brother. Dessa had also missed two days of her ISR swim lessons and I wanted her to get back in the pool as soon as possible, so we decided to head back home later that day so we could all sleep in the comfort of our own beds.
Rob left to pick up Dessa around 1:00 pm, which meant that Harvey and I had a little time to ourselves. I got dressed and started getting things in order so I would be ready when it was finally time to be discharged. I hadn’t ever been separated from Dessa for more than one night before and I was so excited to give my very big girl a hug and let her finally see the baby she had been waiting ever-so-patiently to meet.
Meeting Baby Brother
Dessa arrived at the hospital around 2:30 and I swear you could feel the nervous anticipation in the air. She carefully snuggled next to me in the hospital bed and said hello to the newest member of our family. New experiences always make my little girl a little uncomfortable (even when they are experiences that she has been excitedly looking forward to) and the birth of her baby brother was no exception. Dessa was more reserved than usual, but glimmers of her silly self began to shine through the nervousness and Dessa started to warm up a bit when my baby-obsessed little girl finally had a chance to hold her brother.
My mom followed Rob and Harvey to the hospital so she could meet her newest grandson and she also got her fill of new baby snuggles.
Having grandma around also helped Dessa acclimate to big-sisterhood a little more quickly. She held Harvey a second time and I could see the love in her face as Dessa stared at her baby brother.
Once the excitement of meeting Harvey began to wane, we let Dessa know that Harvey had brought a special present just for her. Dessa opened the gift to discover a brand new baby doll. She immediately named her baby Harvey and proceeded to dote on her own baby.
Rob and I spent the next few hours cooing over Harvey and catching up on the previous days’ events with my mom while we waited to be discharged. Dessa was a trooper while we waited. She kept herself busy with her baby doll, got lots of snuggles with mommy, and even shared a few of those snuggles with her baby brother.
My very tired girl had a few snacks and watched a movie on my laptop and nestled into the hospital bed with her new baby doll – until finally sometime after 6:00 pm, we got into the car and headed home for the first time as a family of four.
We are preparing to celebrate Harvey’s first birthday in three short weeks. His arrival into the world wasn’t exactly the birth experience that I planned for, but it is an experience that I will forever cherish because it brought the perfect little boy to complete our family.