Here is the story...
Max-Pascal’s Birth Story
It seems like Max and Ruby decided, in true sibling form, to have a contest over whose birth could be more full of surprises and drama. Ruby, as you may remember, threatened to come 8 weeks early: I discovered at my 32 week checkup that I was already 3 cm dilated, which landed me in OHSU on bed rest for 13 days and then on modified bed rest from home for the rest of the pregnancy. I was assured daily and then weekly that “she’s probably going to come any day now.” I went into labor with her the day before her due date and she was born at 2:11 AM on her due date, May 24.
Given all of that, my midwife took no chances with this pregnancy, and starting at 20 weeks I was monitored very closely with ultrasounds and cervical checks to make sure that there was no “funny business.” Thankfully, there was none. Everything was the way it was supposed to be, until we hit the 36 week mark or so.
I went in for my visit and asked, casually, if the baby was head down yet. The midwife (I think it was Bonny and not my usual midwife Alyssa) probed and said, “You know, I’m not sure. I think he might be sideways still.” They ordered an ultrasound and found that he was indeed transverse breech (sideways). That wouldn’t be a huge deal, because babies can still flip into the proper head down position at that point...but they also checked my cervix and found that once again it had dilated sneakily to about 3 cm. When that happened, I’m not sure! Those two factors combined to make trouble: a transverse baby cannot be delivered vaginally. It just won’t work. What is likeliest to happen if the water breaks is that the cord will prolapse, and my basic understanding of that is that the cord gets down into the cervix and gets in the way and makes a whole lot of trouble for baby. There was much discussion of what should be done next, but it boiled down to playing a waiting game until 37 weeks, when the baby would no longer be considered officially premature. Also, I was informed that the due date I had been going by for the whole pregnancy--April 5th--was not correct based on the ultrasound measurements. It was correct based on my last period, but not by the size of the baby taken from measurements. From those measurements, the new due date was April 9th. Okay! Then, at 37 weeks, the doctors would perform a version, which is a procedure that attempts to move the baby’s position from the outside. If that worked and the baby flipped, fine. If it didn’t, there would have to be a c-section scheduled (or emergency if the baby went into distress during the version).
And did I mention that during the week where I’m supposed to be waiting it out and taking it easy we were moving to a new house?!?!?!?!?!
I took the week off of work so that I could stay pretty close in case I needed to get to the hospital, and it is just as well that I did, because it was an incredibly intense week with the move. We moved into the new house officially on March 15th. My baby shower was that Sunday, March 18th, and we played a guessing game of when the baby would be born. Some people had their proverbial money on March 20th, the day I was scheduled to have the version performed.
The next day was Monday, March 19th (and my dad’s 54th birthday) and I had an appointment scheduled with Alyssa for one last ultrasound to see if Max had obediently flipped himself during the week and saved us all a lot of trouble. He hadn’t. I had also further dilated another centimeter or so and Alyssa decided to see if they could do the version that afternoon instead of waiting an extra day. She handed me over to Dr. Miller-Davis, one of the OBs in the practice. Thankfully Allen was able to leave work early and be there for the version, which was a really unpleasant and painful experience. It’s pretty old-fashioned: Dr. Miller-Davis greased up my belly with mineral oil and applied a lot of pressure as she tried to lift and move the baby counter-clockwise so his head would be down. I can’t really describe the feeling; one thought that came into my mind during the procedure was that it felt a bit like trying to put on a way too small article of clothing and how much it squeezes you as you pull it on, but that doesn’t really do it justice. It also didn’t help that she had sharp or ragged nails that were scratching me as she pushed. I think she only probably tried for about 8-10 minutes but it felt like forever! It was not successful, and we left with a scheduled c-section date for Tuesday, April 3 (39 weeks). “Personally, I don’t think you’re going to make it that long,” Dr. Miller-Davis said to me as she left...but I’d heard that kind of thing before when I was pregnant with Ruby and so I didn’t really put much stock in it.
I decided to go into work that week, since it was the last week before spring break and I needed all the income I could get before having the baby. Work was okay, although on Tuesday I was horribly sore from the version and didn’t think I could make it through the whole day. I had heard, however, that there was going to be a gift presented to me after school at the faculty meeting, so I decided to stick it out until then. It was a beautiful little wooden chair that had been decorated with favorite storybook characters illustrated by each of the teachers and aides (a very Arbor idea, coordinated by Laurel Glasmire). The next day turned out to be a 2 hour late start due to snow flurries, and I was thankful for that. It had been a bad night’s sleep because I had woken up at midnight with contractions and the realization that I hadn’t felt the baby move in a while. That was cause to go into the hospital and get monitored to make sure everything was okay. It turned out to be fine, but we didn’t get back from the hospital until 3:30 AM and I was exhausted. The extra sleep time helped me get through the shortened day, though. Thursday turned out to be a complete snow day, which was nice, although it meant all my stuff was at school on what was supposed to be my last day before spring break and maternity leave. Oh well, I would just get it later, I reasoned.
Friday night the 23rd was spa night at Adina’s house, organized and run by Candace. A few other ladies from life group (Joanna B. and Morgan) joined us and we pampered ourselves. My foot soaker thing felt SO good, and Morgan painted my toenails for me, since I couldn’t really reach them myself! Candace waxed my eyebrows, which was a real treat since I love the way they look after waxing but rarely am willing to spend the money on it. It was so relaxing and nice to spend time with other ladies at another house. I had felt very cooped up and crazy with unpacking and watching Ruby and being stuck car-less at our new house.
Saturday the 24th I spent a lot of time getting our room in order. The nesting instinct ran strong that day, and in retrospect I think God’s hand was obviously in it, getting me ready! I washed and dried the new baby clothes, set up the baby swing, got out the new car seat, and generally prepared for new baby Max. That night after Allen got home from work I asked him to watch an online video presentation the doctor had emailed me about c-sections. It was also Ruby’s 22 month mark, and I thought once or twice during the day how funny it would be if Max was born that day; then they’d be exactly 22 months apart.
I woke up on Sunday morning feeling pretty normal. Allen had a soccer game at 9:45 up in Northwest Portland that he wanted to go to. About five minutes before he left, I started to feel contractions, but I didn’t really make mention of it to him. Why not? Well, I had had plenty of “false alarms” and I had no real reason to think these were different. I also remembered back to the Sunday that I went into labor with Ruby. I had begged Allen to miss a soccer game that day because I didn’t want him to be away while I labored (even though I was not in hard labor at the time of his game). He had been a bit grumpy about it, so I didn’t want to repeat that scenario this time. He went off to his game and I kept busy in the kitchen trying to get Ruby fed and the dishes washed, all while having increasingly stronger contractions. When I went to the bathroom I noticed some bloody show and I knew that these contractions meant business; this was likely to be the real thing, and I shouldn’t mess around. Allen had taken Toby’s car to his soccer game so that I could take Ruby to church, but I didn’t want to drive myself to the hospital. I put Toby in charge of Ruby and asked Whitney to drop me off at the hospital. Thankfully my hospital bag (already packed!) was in our car so I was able to grab that. I called the hospital to let them know I was coming in and called Allen to let him know to meet me there. He only got about 10 minutes of playing time in, but he left early because he knew that the baby really was on his way.
At the hospital they got me hooked up to an IV and gave me some trib to stop labor. They were hoping to stop labor so I could make it until my scheduled c-section date, but it didn’t work. The contractions subsided for a little while, but then they came back, along with more bleeding. So, at close to noon (Allen had just gotten there at this point), Dr. Susanka, the doctor on call, decided that it was time to perform a c-section and bring Max into the world!
Allen was given his “bunny suit” and he got all cleaned up while they prepped me for the c-section. I was nervous about the anesthesia and afraid that it wouldn’t work and I would feel everything they were doing. However, that fear was baseless: the spinal block worked like a charm and my body from the chest down felt warm and heavy. I could feel them touching and pushing and pulling, but couldn’t feel any incisions or stitches. Allen was seated next to me and he watched a lot of the surgery, which made him feel pretty queasy at points. He remarked to the doctors, “You all are strong women. Wow. That is...wow.” The surgery went quickly. Soon enough I was hearing Max cry for the first time. It was so different than the natural childbirth process I had experienced with Ruby; it was very surreal, not feeling anything and then seeing baby all at once. Max was born at 1:10 PM and weighed 6 lbs, 3 oz and was 19 inches long. He was a little peanut of a thing, with lots of dark hair and dark eyes and rather darkly complected skin; you’d never look at him and think that he was a sibling of blond-blue eyed, fair skinned Ruby! One nurse later asked if my husband was hispanic (she hadn’t seen Allen yet, obviously). His nose was squished to the side because of the way he had been lying transverse in utero, but it is already starting to straighten out.
We spent the rest of Sunday through Wednesday morning in the hospital. Max started in with cluster feeding the first night, or so it felt. They have a rule in the hospital not to fall asleep while the baby is in bed with you, which is hard to follow because Max always wanted to be snuggled. He likes co-bedding, apparently! He would cry when I put him in his crib and just wanted to nurse. As of writing this (Thursday afternoon) my milk still hasn’t come in, which is making me anxious since last time I had trouble, too. I’m doing all the herbal supplements already (blessed thistle, fenugreek, mother’s milk tea) and I’m nursing and pumping but still only making colostrum and not much at that. Still, when we left the hospital they were not concerned by the amount of weight Max had lost (it was 7% of his body weight, and they don’t worry until it is over 10%). I think that if the milk doesn’t come in overnight then we’ll check back into the lactation department tomorrow to see if we need to supplement for his weight’s sake.
As I type this, Max is snoozing on my chest and Allen and Ruby are curled up on our bed, asleep. It is a napping house for sure. Don’t worry, Max and I got our snuggly afternoon nap in, too. While it is certainly a big adjustment already to have two kids instead of just one, I am so happy with this addition to the family. Max is a beautiful, sweet boy, and quite a fighter. He obviously wants to do things his own way! I thank God for our sweet son, Max-Pascal James Cook.
And by way of post script, I’ll explain his name. Way back before we were married (a whole three years ago now!), we went on a road trip to St. Louis so Allen could meet my parents before we got married. One of the topics of conversation on the way was names for our future children. We came up with a boy’s name fairly quickly: Benjamin Wade Cook. We like Benjamin and its nicknames Ben and Benji, and Wade is Allen’s dad’s name (plus I knew an adorable little boy named Wade). We came up with Ruby Rose Cook as a girl’s name [Ruby being a gem that we liked as a name and Rose being Allen’s mom’s middle name]. Well, after Ruby was born, I joked at one point that if she had a little brother, we were almost obligated to name him Max after the Rosemary Wells book characters, Max and Ruby the bunnies. Allen said he liked the name Max, and I did, too, so I started to think of it past the joke. When we found out that this baby was in fact a boy, it cemented the Max part, but what would Max be short for? We got a lot of feedback that Max should be short for something. Allen’s grandma pointed out that Maximilian was a family name on her side, and my mom seemed to favor Maxwell. Allen and I thought about a lot of other things that Max could be short for (Maxson? Maxelo?) but nothing really grabbed us besides just plain Max. Later, I was thinking about his due date and how close it was to Easter this year. “If Max is born on Easter, I think his middle name should be Pascal,” I told Allen. Pascal means Easter and it is also the surname of one of the great Christian philosophers, Blaise Pascal. We really liked the sound of Max Pascal, but didn’t want to sacrifice the middle name of James, because it would be a tribute to both Allen and my dad (Allen’s middle name is James, and James is my dad’s first name). So, we ultimately decided that we could solve our problems by giving Max a hyphenated first name: Max-Pascal. Now Max would be short for something AND we could keep Pascal AND James. We still plan to call him Max primarily. So, there you have the story behind his name.