everett hudson gadd: a birth story

Our alarm went off at 7:00am and unlike most days, we both hopped out of bed right away. Brett went downstairs to enjoy breakfast while my stomach growled loudly in the shower. I was hungry and thirsty, and slightly irritated that a scheduled c-section required 12 hours of fasting. I prayed in the shower, the first of many prayers that morning. I took my time, washing my hair slowly and reminding myself that I probably wouldn't have another good shower for a while. Brett and I stood at our sinks smiling at each other in the mirror. He brushed his teeth; I put on some makeup. We hardly talked at all aside from the occasional, "Can you believe we get to meet our son in FOUR HOURS?!!" The drive to the hospital was a blur. I thought of the woman whose c-section was scheduled at 9:00am that morning before ours. I wondered how many other women across the world were having scheduled c-sections that day. I looked at the clock. It was 8:40am, only three hours before I would meet my son.

We pulled up to the parking lot and my photographer friend Sarah was already there waiting. She started snapping photos of us through the windshield and I smiled and waved. It was nice to see a familiar face.

We walked into the hospital together at 9:00am and were promptly taken to my prep room where I changed into one of my pretty Annie & Isabel gowns. Sarah was snapping pictures right and left, cracking jokes the entire time. I was thankful for her presence, and grateful for the light mood of the room.

One of the nurses came in and hooked me up to a monitor to check the baby's heartbeat. They did one last ultrasound to make sure Everett was still in the breech position, which he was.

At 10:15 our parents came in to pray over us. Everyone was smiling from ear to ear and excitement filled the room as we joined hands around my bed. Brett, my dad, and his dad took turns praying for me, Everett, and our doctor. As soon as the collective "Amen" was heard, I knew it was time. We hugged and kissed everyone, promising to send updates as soon as we could.

Once our room was empty again, my nurse Kris came in to give Brett and I our surgery gear. I just needed a cap, but Brett required a full on "bunny suit". I told him if anyone could pull off a bunny suit, it was him.

Shortly after 11:00 I was summoned to the operating room, where I would be without Brett for 20-25 minutes. We kissed one last time before I walked down the hall to get prepped for surgery. My heart started to beat a little bit faster, but all things considered, I was still miraculously calm.

I walked into the operating room with Kris and met Kelly, the anesthesiologist. The room was bright and sterile, but in that moment, it became a sanctuary for me. There wasn't a tub or candles or music, but it didn't matter. In less than an hour my son would be born in that room, and because of that, it became perfect to me.

I stepped on a small stool to get up on the table, as Kelly prepped my back for the spinal block. She told me to relax and bend forward.

"First I'm going to numb you before administering the medicine. This will feel like a little bee sting....are you ready?"

I nodded my head and leaned forward on Kris, my arms around her shoulders. She kept me perfectly still, which was important.

"Okay, good. Now I'm going to give you the spinal block. This will numb you from any pain, and you'll feel it slowly start to travel through your body."

I was still leaning forward on Kris, but could feel the medicine entering my back. It almost felt like ice was shooting though my veins, and I started to feel very tingly. Once she was done, her and Kris helped me lie down flat on the table. I could slowly feel myself getting numb.

"You'll start to feel more and more numb over the next few minutes," she reassured me.

As soon as I was situated, the prep began. A sheet was pulled up right below my chest and I could hear a few more people in the room, sterilizing tools and chatting with each other. Kelly asked me every few minutes how I was feeling, and I told her I was feeling more and more numb. I wasn't trying to move, but my whole body felt like it was falling asleep.

"Good," she said, "Let's test you....can you feel this?"

I felt a tiny bit of pressure on my inner thigh.

"Yes!!! I can feel it!!!"

OH MY GOSH. Whatever you do lady, DON'T CUT!!!!!!!

"Okay, but it didn't hurt, right?" she asked calmly.

"Well....no....but I still felt it!"

She smiled and explained to me that the spinal block would numb me from pain, but not numb me from feeling. She told me that they had just pinched me extremely hard and had I really felt it, I would have winced or at least said ouch.

"Don't worry. We will make sure you don't feel any pain during the operation. I promise."

I wanted to believe her, but part of me didn't.

"Alright Ashlee, we are going to bring your husband in now."

A minute later Brett walked through the door, wearing his sterile spacesuit and a giant smile. Kris showed him where to sit, and he plopped down next to me and grabbed my hand.

"Are you okay? Can you believe this? We're about to meet our son!"

He was so excited, I almost started to cry right then and there. The next four minutes were a blur. The doctor came in, said hi to me over to the sheet, and the next thing I knew, we were ready to start.

This is happening SO FAST. God, keep my baby safe!

Brett gripped my hand tightly, and smiled at me. We didn't talk, we just looked at each other.

"Okay Ashlee, we've started," Kelly said, "If you were feeling any pain, you certainly would have let us know by now."

AKA, they were cutting into my body and I wasn't screaming. Well, that's a relief. I could feel pressure around my abdomen, and the top of my body was shaking from left to right. It felt like they were tugging and pulling on my organs, but it didn't hurt at all. I had a whole new appreciation for modern day medicine. I stared at Brett and he stared back at me.

"Are you okay??" he asked.

I nodded. I couldn't talk. I was waiting to hear the cry. The doctors and nurses were talking through the procedure but that thin blue sheet might as well have been soundproof because I wasn't processing anything they were saying. Kelly was giving me occasional updates but I wasn't even listening. My ears were waiting on one sound and one sound only: my baby's cry.

"Ashlee, we're ready to pull him out. You are going to feel a lot of pressure, okay?"

I started to cry.

This is it!!! It's happening!!!

My body was rocking back and forth on the table, and I felt one big last tug. And then, THE CRY. It was the best sound I have ever heard in my whole life. Tears were streaming down my face as I looked to my left to see him brought to the warmer.

"He's peeing! He's pooping!" one of the nurses exclaimed. I heard some of them laughing and felt an instant sense of relief. If he came out crying, peeing, and pooping, clearly everything was working properly.

My eyes were fixated on the warmer as I saw him come into view. Brett squeezed my hand.

"That's our son!!! He's right there babe....our son!"

I still couldn't talk. Everett and I were both just crying and crying. He was perfect. Part Brett and part me, he was perfect. I couldn't believe we made him.

"Would you like to cut the cord?" one of the nurses asked Brett.

I watched in awe as my husband of almost five years stood over my baby boy. The love I had for both of them overwhelmed me.

"Hey Everett! It's me....your daddy!"

Thirty seconds later, Everett's nurse was placing him on my chest under a warm towel. It took him a few seconds to stop crying, and then we studied each other, his little hand wrapped around Brett's finger. I could still feel the doctor tugging and pulling on my body as she put me back together, but in that moment, as cliche as it sounds, it felt like we were the only three people in the room. The blue sheet above my chest created a haven for our first moments together. Nobody talked to us. Nobody touched Everett. Everyone in the room left us completely alone for the 25 minutes it took for them to stitch me up. I felt like the bottom half of my body was completely detached from the top. One side of the blue sheet was practically a scene out of Grey's Anatomy while the other side carefully protected our first moments as a family.

I was so content there, I could have stayed in surgery for two more hours like that with Everett on my chest and Brett by my side. I was in love. More than in love. The peace and gratitude that accompanied the joy I felt was more intense than love.

Once they were done stitching me back together, Everett's nurse picked him up and handed him to Brett so they could transfer me to a new bed. They inflated a small mattress under my body, picked it up (with me on top), and shifted me to a rollaway bed next to the table. Everett was immediately placed back on my chest, as Kris rolled me down the hall to my recovery room with Brett walking next to us.

Sarah started snapping pictures right away, as Brett and I continued to stare in amazement at our baby boy. My heart ached for him.

And then, I started to feel sick. Really sick. Up until that point, I wasn't even aware that nausea was a common side effect of anesthesia.

"I think I'm going to be sick."

The words had barely left my mouth when Kris handed me a bucket and I started throwing up. I continued to throw up, on and off, for the next nine hours. It was miserable, but all things considered, a relatively small price to pay. The nausea came on quickly and left quickly. One minute I'd be holding Everett and laughing, the next I'd be puking violently. There was no in between; I was either feeling great or feeling terrible.

At one point, I was holding Everett in my arms when I knew I was going to be sick. I'll never forget Brett quickly instructing Sarah to grab Everett so he could hold a bucket up to my face. I had a flashback to our pre-marriage counseling when our pastor told us that no matter how much we loved our children, we should always love each other more. Brett had been a father for less than an hour and was already demonstrating that love to me. When given the choice between holding our newborn baby and tending to my vomit, he chose the latter. It was gross, but it's also something I'll never forget. The love and romance in our marriage is not always glamorous, but it's always there. And for that, I am thankful.

Despite being sick, we spent three wonderful hours together just the three of us, bonding as a new family. Kris weighed and measured him, and took his footprints.

Finally it was time for our family to meet Everett. Everyone took turns coming in to visit in small groups of two and three. Sometimes I was barfing and sometimes I wasn't, but nobody seemed to mind. They all just wanted to hold Ev and smother him with love. At that point I was receiving both pain meds and anti-nausea meds, but the pain medication was winning. I wasn't in pain, but I was still sick.

By 7:00 that night we were alone again, and Brett went to the cafeteria to get dinner. While he was inhaling pizza, I was munching on ice chips, still too sick to eat. Around 9:00pm that night I was feeling better, and with the help of Brett and a nurse, was able to sit in a chair. I also ate a popsicle, which I immediately threw up.

We went to sleep around 10:00pm that night---me in my bed, Brett in a pullout chair, and Everett in his little rolling bassinet. The night nurse checked on us every few hours, but for the most part we were left alone. I wasn't able to get out of bed so anytime Everett cried, Brett had to get up to hand him to me. That was our first sleepless night, but we were so happy we didn't even mind.

The next morning I was feeling much, much better. I was on different pain medication that wasn't making me nauseous and I woke up starving. I had not eaten anything but a popsicle in 36 hours. Breakfast arrived at 7:30am and while I had been instructed to eat slowly, I gobbled up that french toast like it was my job. It was DELICIOUS. After breakfast, I was feeling well enough to walk so Brett and I took Ev for a slow stroll around the hospital.

We stayed in the hospital two and a half more days while I recovered from surgery. Everett never left our sight during that time, and I was thankful for our hospital's 24/7 rooming in policy. Every checkup, every test, and every bath was done in our room.

By the time we were discharged on Thursday afternoon, I felt surprisingly good. I was ready to bring my baby home.

......

We've been home for a month now, and I really can't express in words how much I love being a mother. It's like I've been given a whole new purpose in this life. I still find myself staring at Everett in awe, the same way I stared at him the day he was born. It feels surreal to know that he is my baby....that God would trust me with such a treasure.

Things that used to matter don't matter as much, if at all. I'm covered in spit-up on most days, and rarely shower before 3:00pm. My house is a mess. There is no food in the fridge. The laundry is out of control. And I don't even care, about any of it. So long as Everett is happy, I'm happy. He is teaching me to be patient and selfless, among other things. He makes me smile every single day, and has brought a whole new level of joy into our home. I can't imagine a life without him. Truth be told, I can't even imagine having a girl now. I'm head over heels in love with my sweet, perfect boy.

I always thought I wanted two kids, but after meeting Everett, I could easily do this two or three more times. Don't tell the grandmas.

Until next time...