Giving birth is an emotional journey anyway, but coupled with the traumatic events that Hurricane Harvey has brought to our community, I think it's safe to say that this is one for the books.
I wanted to document here the specific events that led up to Devi Summer Keddington being born on Sunday, August 27, at 5:23am - smack dab in the middle of Hurricane Harvey.
Given my past history of rapid births, I knew that I could not wait for labor pain to go to the hospital. I needed to pay attention to contractions and timing. The anxiety that this alone brought me had me on pins and needles as I approached the 38-week mark (the exact timing I gave birth to my other two children.)
Thursday-Friday, August 24-25, 2017
A friend had texted me the previous Wednesday jokingly saying that
"babies love hurricanes." Not knowing what she was talking about, I
quickly looked and saw that Tropical Storm Harvey was in the Gulf and
strengthening. As I watched the forecast models say that it could be
come a Cat 2 hurricane at landfall, I watched it closely throughout the
day. It kind of came out of nowhere and organized itself very quickly.
Everyone in the community was on high alert regarding Harvey and Katy
ISD went as far as canceling school so people could prepare. I went to
the store on Thursday to get water, and grabbed two of the last cases. Bread and
milk were already depleted. I grabbed some juice and snack essentials
and felt pretty good about our supplies. I went to the gas station to
fill up and saw that the line was at least 6 cars deep at every pump.
So I drove to another one and got right in and filled up.
I'd been having contractions on and off during the week, which was normal. Monday at my checkup I was dilated to 3cm and 50% effaced (and had been for a week already), so I knew we were getting near. When they started getting regular on Thursday evening I sat up until 2am timing them. Because they had been regular since 10pm, I decided to go to the hospital when they were 5 min apart.
Rather than wake the whole family, I told Dave to stay with the kids and I would drive myself to the hospital and let him know what they said. The admit nurse was appalled no one was with me! "Now there's a real woman!" she said. haha
I was indeed having strong contractions every 2-3 minutes, but they weren't hurting and I wasn't dilating past 4cm. After several hours of monitoring, my doctor said that she could break my water to speed things up, or I could go home and wait for them to intensify. I opted to go home and wait for better timing when Dave could be with me. I was still a couple days shy of 38 weeks.
My doctor told me that the change in the barometric pressure because of the impending storm could cause contractions, just as the full moon does. She said that was more than likely what I was experiencing.
Saturday, August 26, 2017
Not much happened storm or baby wise on Saturday. It was the calm before the raging storm.
Sunday, August 27, 2017
Church was canceled so we sat around most of the day waiting for the rain to start. The storm had intensified even more, and now they were saying it would make landfall as a Cat 4 hurricane. I've been through tropical storms, Cat 2, 3, and 4 hurricanes before. Each one is so different, but I knew we were in for something. The storm was pounding Corpus Christi at this time, and so lots of Houstonians were pretty lax about any impact it might have on us. But the forecast kept saying it was slowing moving our way and going to dump a lot of rain. They were forecasting up to 20 inches for us. We'd had 13 inches before that shut down roads, so I was a little nervous about what 20 inches might entail.
My contractions began again that evening and were regular again. Anxiety levels were much higher now that the storm was at our doorstep. At 6pm I arranged for the kids to stay the night at a friend's house, and by the time we got packed and ready we were in a diluge of rain. I knew that if we didn't go now, I didn't know if the roads would be passable -- it was pouring that hard. And we still had a bit of daylight.
There had already been numerous tornado warnings during this storm, but as we drove to the hospital there was currently one over our area. We watched the sky closely for the eerie green color. Here is a video of our drive to the hospital.
When it was all said and done the NWS issued 228 tornado warnings and 14 actually touched down.
At this point, I had already asked the family for prayers, and I could feel them pouring in just like the rain. My anxiety level decreased significantly once I was safely tucked into a labor and delivery room. I had my eyes on the t.v. during the waiting period. This was new to me, as I always delivered fast -- I expected the same scenario. But my contractions went on until 11pm and the doctor decided to break my water to speed up the process. Still no pain. Still wanting to do this natural without an epidural.
The news was shocking. Water rescues were already being made. One report said an 8-month pregnant woman was sitting on her roof waiting for rescue. Homes were flooded. People were stranded on the roads. I felt so safe and secure, but so worried about everyone. Two people were already dead. I couldn't help but think of how busy God was, prayers pouring in, people in desperate situations, people losing their lives, and here I am, bringing one into the world. I was struck by the plan for each of us, and how our lives are all so different, yet he is so involved in our personal lives and aware and present in our cares. The omniscience of God struck me as being so expansive, yet so intensely personal.
The nurse said the contractions would intensify after they broke my water, and I expected to deliver quickly from that point. Not so. They did intensify on the monitor, but still no pain. At about 4am, the doctor introduced oxytocin and then I started feeling the familiar pain in my back. It was intensifying and uncomfortable, but I thought I could endure it. But truly the next hour was horrible. As the doctors and nurses (and my husband) watched t.v. and discussed the weather I writhed in pain. The dilation from 7 to 10 cm was the worst (as it had been with my previous births.) From this experience I think that I am in labor a long time without really knowing it and then boom, pain hits, baby coming. The decent of the baby into the birth canal was the hardest and longest time and at this point I'm seriously regretting not getting an epidural. About 5 pushes later she was here!
I thought it was so thoughtful of the nurse to grab my phone and snap some photos. My first thought was, "Where's her hair?" My other two had inch-long dark hair. Hers is a light strawberry blond and only about 1/4 inch long.
But they placed this sweet baby girl on my chest, and all pain vanished and was immediately replaced with love.
The next few hours were heaven.
She nursed fabulously, but as they moved me to my recovery room they noticed she had a little whimpering/grunting noise. The neonatal nurse confirmed she had inhaled some fluid on delivery and wanted to take her to NICU until the situation resolved itself.
I hated the idea of having her away from me. Feeding her became difficult because I didn't know when she was waking. By the time I made the long, slow trek to the NICU she was crying hard enough to not nurse well. The nurses were offering me too much advice, she was a tangle of wires and cords, and the result was not optimal.
So throughout the night I set my alarm every 2 hours and tried to arrive before she awoke. It was a long night. Up and down the hallway, coming back to be examined by my nurse, and then starting it all again less than an hour later. At some point during the night the hospital lost power. I'm not sure what knocked it out, but we went to auxiliary power. Nurses and staff were not allowed to leave the hospital. Some of them had already been there 7 days straight, and they were just rotating shifts. Other hospitals were being evacuated and the women were coming in droves to deliver because of the barometric pressure change. The hospital was at full capacity and all labor and delivery rooms were full. I really have to commend the nurses during this. They were absolutely amazing and cheerful and attentive. The cafeteria was rationing food, supplies were becoming more scarce. People were coming to the hospital asking for baby formula. I just sat in my room alone, overwhelmed by all that was happening around me. Unable to hold back my tears of gratitude, tears of heartache, tears of compassion, tears of absolute humility. I kept wondering why I was so fortunate when the suffering of others was all around me. My blessings were tangible and I kept receiving texts and notes on Facebook of so many praying for me specifically by name. I can't describe how that sustained me through it all.
With each trip to the NICU that night I saw improvement. They suctioned her out really well, did a chest x-ray, ruled out infections, and she settled down as I bottle-fed her since she wasn't satisfied with my supply.
Dave traveled back and forth to the hospital each day with the kids. Each day they watched the weather and waited for little breaks in the rain to come and hurried in. The first day they arrived right after they took her to NICU, so they didn't get to see her right away. We found out that siblings could go in, so they got to catch a glimpse of her, but she was upset and hungry.
The rains were intensifying and Dave had been concerned all night with water levels rising in Fort Bend
County. Tornado and flash flood warnings were coming so often they were ignored. The bayou behind our house was the highest its ever been. But
it would lower with each break in the rain. We don't know where it was
draining to, but our suspicion is they pump it out because we have a
water treatment plant next door that needs to stay uncontaminated.
Monday, August 28, 2017
Thankfully with another exam at 10am Monday morning they released her back to my room. She still didn't have a name because we didn't get to be together as a family to discuss it for very long. They came again in the afternoon and the kids got to hold her for the first time.
Maya kept saying "She's so cute!"
Ethen was hesitant at first to hold her, hiding behind the curtain. With a little coaxing he relaxed. He exclaimed, "I love her so much!" It was a sweet moment. He kept wanting more turns after that.
We talked about names. I liked Devinee still, so did Ethen. Dave threw
out Audrey, Natalyia, and Valerie. I think Maya still likes Amara and Makayla.
I took a bunch of pictures. She is so sweet.
The storm raged on outside, and she was such a sweet ray of light and hope amid chaos and destruction.
Tuesday, August 29, 2017
We got to pack up and bring her home on Tuesday, but before we could leave we had to give this baby girl a name. As I thought about her last night, I ruled out Devinee because it means dark-haired one in Irish. But I was still loving Devi. As I researched the meaning further, I grew to love it more. Dave suggested Summer that morning. I have always loved that name, but didn't want it to be her first name. We had no plans on giving her a middle name, but Dave wanted to call her Summer because he wasn't loving Devi. We compromised and came up with Devi Summer Keddington.
Sanskrit, Devi is the female embodiment of the divine. It is the title
given to the maternal goddesses, which carries with it all the supreme
power and energy. In Hebrew it is a form of David, meaning beloved.
Summer is self explanatory, but on the way home we saw our first patch of blue sky since this ordeal began. Such a fitting end and a new beginning...