A blog titled Birthing Me would not be complete without the occasional birth story. To honor the members of our family I thought it might be fun to tell their birth story on their birth day. So, today is my husband's birthday and to properly tell his story I contacted the woman who knows it best - his mama, aka Grandma Chris. In true Chris fashion she put her all into delivering the story I requested and it is a story. So, without further delay please give a warm welcome to first-time-guest-blogger Grandma Chris.
From the moment that I learned I was pregnant in the summer of 1979, I knew I was embarking on a journey that would be emotionally, medically, and financially challenging. What I did not know then that I do know now is how that difficult and often lonely and heartbreaking journey would change me, strengthen me, deepen me, and become the greatest love story of my life.
My husband and I met in 1975 as graduate students at Michigan State University (MSU) and were married on June 11, 1977. Unfortunately by June 1979 when I learned I was pregnant, there were already significant problems in our marriage. The reality of an unexpected pregnancy magnified to me the reality of our marriage: my husband did not want a baby, nor did he want me as his wife. I was devastated. My dream of a loving husband encouraging and supporting me through a potentially difficult pregnancy was crumbling. I agonized about whether it was even in my child's best interests to bring him or her into this world. I sought advice from several medical professionals who educated me about the special challenges and risks of pregnancy in diabetic women. (I had developed Type I insulin-dependent diabetes in 1973 and needed several daily injections of insulin plus a strict diet and exercise regimen.) I continued to see a marriage counselor, although after several sessions, my husband had refused to participate any further. The focus of my counseling shifted to how I would manage a high-risk pregnancy and child-rearing as a single parent.
At perhaps my lowest moment, I received a message of encouragement and faith in the form of a stained glass apple inscribed with the words "Any man can count the number of seeds in one apple, but only God can count the number of apples in one seed." I suddenly realized that my doctors and therapists and I had only been counting the obvious difficulties and challenges that I was facing. I knew I needed instead to believe that there were countless ways, yet unseen, in which this baby, this child, this person, would make a difference in my life and the lives of everyone he or she encountered.
From that day forward, I committed myself to the journey of single parenthood with faith, love, and positive thoughts. Almost immediately circumstances changed for me. I was contacted and enrolled in a research project at MSU Medical College involving pregnant diabetic women. The equipment and monitoring that was provided to me at no cost were a true blessing. I was able to frequently test my blood sugar levels at home and adjust my insulin needs accordingly. Medical professionals monitored me closely and were available by phone for any questions or problems that I had.
I began to marvel at the changes in my body and the miracle of the life growing inside of me. The week of my 27th birthday (October 15) I felt the first detectable flutters of movement. It was an indescribable moment that moved me to tears. I read and studied everything I could about pregnancy and childbirth and especially the special concerns of being a diabetic mother. I hoped I could have as normal and natural a delivery as possible.
On the advice of my doctors, I resigned from my full-time job to better care for myself. I also made plans to move back to Wisconsin where I would have the love and support of my family and friends. In early November 1979 my father flew to Lansing to help me pack my car and a trailer and drive me back to Wisconsin.
Soon after returning to the Eau Claire area I met with my family doctor and an OB/GYN doctor who both were willing to monitor my pregnancy so that I could continue to participate in the MSU research study. For the most part things went smoothly. I did have two short hospitilizations in my third trimester: one for blood sugar problems due to a stomach flu and the other because I'd developed pre-eclampsia. I learned from my OB doctor that the babies of diabetic women often die in the 39th and 40th week of pregnancy for reasons that were unknown at that time. Therefore it was standard practice to induce labor or do a C-section several weeks before the mother's due date. However, if delivered too early, the baby's lungs may not be fully developed and the baby could have serious respiratory problems. To avoid this, an amniocentesis procedure could be done to measure how well the lungs were developed. On February 19, 1980, I had the first amniocentesis. The test result was close to the desired level but my doctor felt it best to go one more week. The next amniocentesis was done on February 26. I remember the doctor taking one look at my huge belly that day and declaring, "Looks like it's time to get this duck out of the oven!"
The test revealed my baby's lungs were developed enough for life outside the womb. Because of the position of the baby, the doctor felt it best to deliver by C-section and arrangements were made for me to check into the hospital that evening and have surgery early the next day.
I had read about and prepared myself mentally for a C-section. Although I regretted not having a natural delivery, I knew it was more important to bring my baby as safely as possible into the world, given my diabetes. I was planning to have a spinal anesthetic so that I could be awake and be able to see my baby as soon as he or she was born. The evening of February 26, 1980, I checked into the hospital, had numerous blood tests performed, and preparations for surgery at 8AM the next morning.
That night I found it difficult to get to sleep. I was feeling so many emotions - mostly excitement and joy, but also anxiety and fear about the surgery and my baby's health. I even felt a sort of sadness about the pregnancy ending. It had been such an incredible experience and I felt a very strong bond with this mysterious and yet very familiar being living and growing and tumbling around inside of me. I prayed for strength and guidance and wisdom for the months and years ahead and made a promise to my baby that night to be the best mother that I could be.
Thanks, Grandma Chris! We look forward to part II! I'm thankful for the choices she made that brought my wonderful husband into this world. It sounds like it was a time of much reflection and meditation. Raising kids is challenging with two parents so I can only imagine the challenges she faced as a single parent, but she raised an incredible man and should be very proud of herself and of him.
Happy Birth Day, Babe and goodnight.