- Caroline Constantine
After month 6 the anticipation went from a level 4-5 to a level 10. I was completely nested: nursery complete, outfits hung, bows organized, swing assembled and house obsessively organized. All I wanted to do was meet her. Would she look like me or Anthony? I would picture her daily -- my hair, his skin, my eyes, his lips. I told my doctor that I didn’t have a birth plan… sure I’d done all the research and read about all of my “options.” My plan was to trust in my doctors and to “keep me and her safe.” They told me that because I was so petite it would be a good idea to induce at 39 weeks and because my parents would have to travel in for her birth, that seemed like a good plan to me. Have a date, be prepared and I am a planner after all.
Week 36 came - car seat was installed, my hospital bag was packed but I wasn’t “ready” yet. I was at work, it was a Wednesday, and I left to grab lunch for me and my co-workers. As I walked… no waddled… to my car I noticed that my ankles were huge. Now, I had been swollen sure, but this came out of nowhere. I called my doctor’s office who suggested I get my blood pressure taken at a pharmacy. Luckily, there was a Walgreens across from our lunch spot, so I swung in and had the pharmacist do the reading. She said, “Is there someone you can call? I’m not sure you should be driving with your elevated blood pressure.” My doctor recommended I go straight to the hospital for triage. What? My blood pressure had been excellent my entire pregnancy. No… Anthony was out of town on work… he was going to suspend travel starting NEXT week not this week…
I drove myself to Pittsburgh listening to “Livi’s List” on Spotify trying to remain calm. I got to the hospital and while I was waiting to get my blood taken, I met a woman who was familiar from my doctor’s office. We were due the exact same day and seemed to be on the same schedule this whole time. She was also there because of high blood pressure. We comforted each other while we waited because her husband was also unable to be there. I’m still thankful for her.
Anthony went 110 mph and made it from Buffalo to Pittsburgh in record time. Just in time for me to be admitted to a room. Tests were taken and it was determined that I had preeclampsia and needed to be induced that weekend when I hit 37 weeks. My parents got a flight and headed our way. We were going to have a baby! Almost 4 weeks earlier than anticipated...
My induction window was 9pm-midnight and they told me to sleep that whole day. SLEEP? Are you crazy? I was way too anxious. We went to dinner -- our last meal as a party of two. I started having pretty intense contractions throughout dinner and thought maybe we should head to the hospital early just in case. We got all settled in our room a little after 11 pm and the process started.
I’ll spare everyone the details of the induction and my 17-hour attempt to get past 5 cm but it ended with the baby's heart rate dropping dangerously low during my contractions and in a flash my nurse yelled, “we need to go now.” I was unplugged, surrounded by two anesthesiologists running alongside me as I was being rushed down the hall. When we got into the operating room I remember everything was so bright, cold and intense. Everyone was yelling and my epidural reverberated so I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I was all prepped and luckily Anthony was ushered in at the last second to be by my side.
There she was! 3:09 p.m Olivia Marie Constantine was a perfect petite 5 pounds, 9 ounces and 18 inches long. One of the things I was looking forward to the most was “skin to skin”, but they didn’t allow that with an emergency c-section. I was so loopy I didn’t get to hold her until the next day but her daddy was a hero and stepped right in.
One thing is for sure, after all the research I did and all the preparation, I didn’t prepare (mentally) for the recovery after surgery. Luckily, I had the absolute best nurses and rockstar husband to help me take care of Olivia and myself. We both hit our milestones and checkups and were sent home a day early.
Fast forward and I’m writing this exactly 7 weeks later. I’m on my last week of maternity leave. I have loved every single moment I’ve spent getting to know my daughter and watch her grow. She drinks almost 4 ounces at every feeding, sleeps 7-8 hours a night in her crib, coos, smiles, concentrates on her flashcards, “tolerates” tummy time like a champ and is such a good baby. Mommy, daddy and her (fur) brother and sister absolutely love her. We had NO idea we’d be bringing her into the world just in time for a global pandemic...crisis.
Every aspect of life has changed and so much fear and uncertainty loom around us. We are “stuck” inside with a newborn and instead of analyzing what “works” for our baby we are rationing diapers, scouring the internet to find wipes, and praying that the stockpile of formula we have will “get us through this.” The current events will wind up in a history book that Olivia will read one day. She’ll ask us “what were WE doing during the COVID-19 pandemic?” We will tell her we were the fortunate ones. Our anxiety, our minor setbacks, inconveniences, fear, and isolation were nothing compared to what so many others went through. Our silver lining was really the blessing that your dad, who would ordinarily have been traveling every week, got to stay home every day with you. Mommy got to temporarily work from home instead of dropping you off at daycare when her maternity leave was over. We were the lucky ones because of YOU. You were the light in our days and what got us through what would be the most difficult time in your parent's lives. We knew we could only “prepare” so much for your birth because nothing ever goes according to plan, but our perfect girl made her birth story perfectly imperfect and one we’ll never forget.