Welcoming Morrison

I can’t believe it’s been over 2 months since baby Morrison arrived, adding a new level of love and madness to our lives. I finally found time to pick through my scattered notes and relive the day of his birth! His arrival was certainly less dramatic than his brother’s, but no matter how it happens, having a baby is always an epic event.

There were so many things about my pregnancy that were different the second time around. With Oden, I had no idea what to expect, so every emotion, body change, and craving was NEW. It was fascinating! Even when I felt kind of bad, I really enjoyed pregnancy. The same went for the 9+ months that I was growing Morrison- I savored the time with my bump, knowing it is very likely my last one. But some things were noticeably different, like how long I experienced morning sickness (a solid three months). We also opted to find out the gender of baby #2 before he was born (we let my parents tell US it was a boy!). And we didn’t really need a doula or even a birth plan since after an emergency C-section and a big first baby, we knew Morrison’s birth date months ahead of time. Unless he had other plans, Mo would arrive via surgery on December 3.

Now, a C-section is serious business. There’s no reason to go into detail here, but don’t ever let anyone tell you that it’s the easy way to have a baby. It’s major abdominal surgery, the recovery takes months, and it’s usually not by choice. In Oden’s case, he’d stopped responding on the monitors after I’d already labored with him for almost 24 hours. We had to get him out, and fast. I was beyond exhausted and my body was full of many drugs at that point. What a relief to see that healthy baby OUT of me! (Read about Oden’s arrival here.)

It was pretty surreal and, frankly, terrifying to simply walk into the hospital to have Morrison via scheduled C-section. This time, I knew firsthand what was coming. Many people thought that would make the experience easier. But I was willingly walking into a surgery that would happen while I was awake. That sounds insane! But it’s amazing how a woman’s body works. It wasn’t until the last couple of weeks that I felt ready for Mo to be here. I was happy to keep him baking away in my oven, but there at the end, things got noticeably more uncomfortable relatively quickly. My big belly got so heavy that I carried it around from underneath. I had pressure and pains in my sciatic area that wouldn’t go away. My already-low energy disappeared and I had constant headaches and nausea. I got super emotional (even more than before). About two weeks before my scheduled surgery, contractions started. They were consistent enough that I visited the hospital to be checked and the doctor on call said that I could stay and have the baby (!), but my folks had just left after Thanksgiving and John wasn’t with me… so I went home. I had no idea what it felt like to go into labor since I had to be induced with Oden, so it was interesting and nerve-wracking to be on baby-watch. No one, not even my doctor, expected that big baby to stay put until December 3. But by some miracle, we made it!

There was fresh snow when we left for the hospital that Monday morning. Later, our neighbors across the street would send us a lovely photo of our house at sunrise, not knowing it was a particularly special day. We learned that it was a super-busy surgery day, partially due to the fact that the year was ending. People had met their deductibles for the year, so they wanted to get surgeries taken care of under their insurance policies! Our 10am start time got pushed back until after noon, so we just hung out in the hospital room, making jokes with our nurses and trying to keep my anxiety at bay. We were overjoyed to learn that two of our favorite nurses from Oden’s birth, Robyn and Sarah, were still there! John took a nap while I got more and more nervous. I honestly just wanted to get started so the scary surgery could be OVER and behind me…and I could finally hold my baby in my arms!

Sometime around 1pm, the nurses came into the room with a different energy. It was showtime. This was the hardest part of the process for me: walking with relative strangers to the Operating Room for anesthesia while my husband stayed back to get his scrubs on. For some reason, they don’t let the spouse come in until after the drugs are administered, but I desperately wanted to hold his hand for that part! I walked down the hall to the surgery room, which was brightly lit with quite a few masked medical people bustling around. I looked for something familiar about the room from Oden’s birth but I didn’t remember anything. Dr. Bailey, the kind anesthesiologist, reviewed what would be happening. Although he was quite friendly, he was sort of matter-of-fact and spoke quickly and it all seemed to be happening fast. Where was John? Luckily, Dr. Bailey’s assistant, Donna, was a very sweet older woman with a calming accent. It was her job to sit me on the table, position me correctly, and basically chill me out until the spinal could be administered. She asked me all about Oden and tried to get me to tell her the baby’s name (I wouldn’t budge). I clung to her arms so tightly that she probably had bruises on her arms!

I should mention that my dear childhood friend, Stacy, had just had her second baby via C-section, also. We’d ben talking quite often leading up to our babies being born. During her surgery prep, not one but TWO spinal attempts were ineffective! She could feel their sensation tests and ended up needing an epidural. I couldn’t get it out of my mind that the medication might not work… but within minutes after the bee-sting pain of the injection in my back, Dr. Bailey asked me to move my feet and I couldn’t. They put up the screen below my neck to block my view of the surgery and finally, FINALLY, John came in. I released poor Donna’s hand and started clutching John’s. He said later that he’d never seen me so scared. He did a great job talking to me about everything under the sun until Dr. Clark came to greet me. It was game time. He said, “Let’s meet this big boy!”

When I was younger, I used to say that I wasn’t going to have babies until they could give me a magic pill to make me fall into a pleasant sleep and wake up with a baby in my arms. Someone said, “That’s called a C-section!” Not true. There is no sleeping. You don’t feel pain, but you definitely feel pressure and tugging and movement. You hear things. You imagine things! Dr. Clark would call out updates now and then, and it was simultaneously helpful to know that things were going well and frightening to know what he was doing as he was doing it. I didn’t need a play-by-play, though the whole process is relatively quick.

Suddenly, I heard a squawking sound, like a little bird finding his voice. He was here, at 1:27pm on December 3. Just like with Oden, everyone in the room immediately made surprised comments on how big this baby was! And then someone brought him around the curtain to me, all purple and puffy and covered in white goo, squawking away. I noticed his plump little lips first. I saw his dark hair. They placed him on my chest and his sweet bird cries stopped immediately. He gripped my finger tightly with his little hand and we soaked each other in. Just like that, everything had changed, again. A new life! I said his name out loud, the one we’d only settled on within the last couple of weeks: Morrison Byrd Cameron Howe. Mo’s middle names come from my grandfather’s middle name and John’s grandmother’s maiden name, another big name for another big boy. I said that he was smaller than his brother, but when they took Mo to be weighed, I was just barely correct! Mo came in a 9 pounds 8 ounces- just an ounce shy of Oden at birth. Dr. Clark said, “That was easy! Let’s do it again!” and I thought John might pass out right there in the Operating Room!

It was pretty amazing to be so much more coherent after Mo’s birth than after the exhausting marathon of Oden’s arrival. We spent a lot of time skin-to-skin and Mo started nursing right away. Proud Papa sent photos to everyone we knew. My parents, who were home with Oden and anxiously awaiting the big news, sent us a video of Oden saying, “Happy birthday, Morrison!” My heart exploded into a thousand pieces. My long-dreamt dreams of a family had come true not once, but twice. It’s such a unique moment in life; I wonder if I’ll ever feel that blissful again.

The next few days were a baby blur. We marveled at just how similar Mo looked to Oden at birth, scrolling though photo after photo. We learned that there were three other C-section births before Morrison was born- all tiny, 5-pound babies except for Mo! The whole Labor and Delivery floor was full, no empty rooms. The nurses were fabulous, just like we remembered. My first meal (I was ravenous after the delayed surgery) was a southwest chicken wrap, and we would proceed to order salted caramel cheesecake from the hospital restaurant every day during our stay. Our pediatrician came by to do her thing and laughed at the size of our babies! Mo enjoyed his first bath so much that Leslie offered to do it again before we went home.

My mom planned to stay with us for a couple of weeks to help with the household and kiddos, but my dad needed to go home to Colorado to keep up with life there, so he stopped by the hospital on his way home. He was our first visitor the morning after Mo’s arrival. He cried the whole time grandpa was there! (They made up for it when Papa returned a couple of weeks later.) Later, my mom and our beloved nanny, Tere, brought Oden to the hospital and my heart exploded all over again. Oden was simply in awe of his little brother. He’d been talking to “brudder” in my belly for months, telling me I was “very big” and that the baby should come out. He’d try to see the baby through my belly button and was fascinated by other babies we’d see around town, pointing at my tummy and telling everyone there was a baby in there (as if it wasn’t obvious!). Oden was so joyful and surprisingly calm and gentle with Morrison. He even got protective of him when Tere or my mom tried to hold the baby! He kept hugging him and stroking his head, kissing him unprompted. I don’t know how long I’d wished for a child, and then prayed for another one, and envisioned them meeting for the first time… it was just magical, better than I’d hoped. (That is, until it was time to go and Oden did NOT want to leave Mama and the baby. He threw his biggest tantrum to date, right there in the Labor and Delivery hallway. But I choose to remember the joyful part.)

We stayed at the hospital for three nights. John camped out in a sleeping bag on the floor! My friends Nancy and Alison both visited, quickly snatching up the newborn in a way that only another mother would do. I was ok being in the background- Mo was the star! We took advantage of the nurses’ support and tried to get as much sleep as possible. We ate more cheesecake (YUM). We juggled the medication and pain pills. I took a tentative shower. It felt like our room had a revolving door with people in and out, all day, all night, checking on me and doing tests on Mo. We learned that Mo had lost almost 10 % of his birth weight already, so I fed him constantly and we scheduled an appointment with the pediatrician two days later. Mo finally passed his hearing test and had one more wonderful bath before we tucked him into the car seat and drove the 5 minutes to our house.

When we arrived, there was a “Welcome!” banner and orchid from Tere and some blue balloons that Oden had picked out. Cholula immediately stuck her nose into the car seat and kept it there for a while, becoming acquainted with the smell of her new brother. She’d show concern every time he made a peep. Oden woke from his nap and immediately wanted to hold his brother. My mom fell right into her Grandma Fairy role. And from there, overall chaos ensued as we tried to figure out how to juggle a newborn, a toddler, and a mama recovering from surgery…but those are other stories for other days.

I hope you’ll stay tuned- I can’t wait to share more!

More about Oden and Mo.

More about our difficult journey to parenthood.

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