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A Winter Solstice Surprise

Emerson's Birth Story

I guess you can say Emerson’s birth story started on November 28, 2020. I had been on modified bedrest since October 23, so Brad was on Christmas decorating duty, while I shouted specifics from the couch – “a little to the left, nope, a little to the right” – a true test of patience on both ends. Around 6:30pm, I went to the bathroom and had some very light bleeding. I called the doctor and she suggested just keeping an eye on it this time, but if it got heavier, to call back. We finished decorating around midnight and decided to blowup an air mattress and sleep in our family room so I wouldn’t have to go upstairs. At about 2:30am, I woke up knowing I was bleeding. I used the bathroom and that “broke the seal” – heavy bleeding began, and while I laid on the bathroom floor, Brad called the doctor and grabbed our hospital bags, as we knew this meant we probably weren’t coming home without a baby this time.

We got to the hospital around 3:00am on November 29, 2020. Still actively bleeding when we arrived, the Labor and Delivery (L&D) nurse greeted us with, “welcome to your admission.” In case of emergency, I was prepped for surgery, having two IVs put in immediately upon arrival – with the bleeding and regular contractions I was having, we needed to be ready for anything. The nurses were having trouble finding my veins and all the poking, prodding and people hovering over made me nauseous. I started dry heaving, which caused heavier bleeding. At that point, the doctor came in and did another clean out like they had during my first bleed, to start my body fresh and hopefully get things under control. After that, everything settled down and we were told the goal was to get to 37 weeks – or December 27 – which meant at least five weeks, and Christmas, in the hospital if we could make it.

On November 30, we were moved to an antepartum room in the Maternal Child Unit (MCU). This allowed monitoring of contractions and Emerson’s heartrate three times a day. I also had an anatomy scan to check on my placenta previa (still complete) and Emerson’s growth – she was doing great! We started to make ourselves comfortable, since we knew Howard County General Hospital (or Hotel Howard as we now refer to it) was going to be our home away from home for quite some time. Thankfully, the only places in the hospital allowing visitors were any maternity related units, so Brad was able to stay as my single visitor – and he never missed a night there during my stay. The couch doubled as his bed, dining room table and office. As we settled in, the nurses encouraged us to decorate our room for Christmas, so Brad went home and brought some of those decorations we had just put up to the hospital for us to enjoy instead – including a mini tree, our stockings and advent calendar.

Throughout the next couple weeks, I bled on and off and had contractions from time to time, going back and forth to L&D six times before Emerson even arrived. Since the bleeding was becoming more regular, the doctors decided it would be best to change our goal to 36 weeks – or December 20. Between IV changes every three to four days, blood draws every two days, COVID tests, monitoring, weekly anatomy scans and bonding with the amazing hospital nursing staff, we prayed every day that we would make it to the goal, and avoid Emerson needing to go to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) as a premature baby.

As we waited for her arrival, I spent the days in bed, working, addressing holiday cards, writing baby shower thank yous, blogging (even landing a feature on Love What Matters), coloring, watching every HallmarkChristmas movie ever made, and ordering a lot of DoorDash – thank you to everyone who sent gift cards and meals during our hospital stay, we are so blessed to have such thoughtful, generous friends and family! We also weathered a flood in our antepartum room, moving to another MCU room for a couple nights, then back to a different antepartum room. Racking up our room total during this stay alone to ten different between MCU and L&D. We joked with the nurses that we could give a review of the best rooms to stay in at the hospital ­– from awkward wall bump-outs to whiteboard placement to outside views, we definitely determined our favorites.

Finally, it looked like we were going to make it to 36 weeks, so they scheduled my planned cesarean-section for December 22. We went to sleep on December 20, super excited to have met our goal. Around 3:00am on December 21, I woke up to use the bathroom and had significant bleeding. At this point, we knew the drill – if the blood to urine ratio was higher, it probably meant a trip to L&D. But this time, it meant Emerson was coming unplanned and on her own schedule, instead. They immediately took me to L&D and began prepping me for the Operating Room (OR). When I say immediately, envision me putting contacts in, deodorant on and brushing my hair in bed while having a second IV put in my arm.

They gave Brad his scrubs and he waited outside while they took me in the OR for my epidural. I felt a “zing” in my left leg and then shortly after it went numb – but I didn’t feel numbness anywhere else. They laid me down on the table, restrained my arms and waited a bit, hoping it would kick in. They started poking me to test feeling in my body – I could feel everything. After that, they gave me a spinal block and told me my husband would be in momentarily.

Then, I felt something I’ll never forget.

I reacted with, “what was that?” The doctor asked me what it felt like. “It felt like you sliced me.” Her eyes got really big as she looked at the anesthesiologist. That look told me I could still feel everything, and the spinal block had also failed. I started panicking and feeling nauseous – the mask wearing wasn’t helping. I looked up at the anesthesiologist standing behind my head and asked if he could please take my mask down because I thought I was going to be sick. He did, then I coughed and felt a gush of blood from my body. The doctor got that big-eyed look again and calmly told the anesthesiologist, “mom is bleeding, she can feel everything, you need to put her out.”

And that’s the last thing I remember before Emerson arrived.

They intubated me with general anesthesia and my planned c-section, turned unplanned, had turned emergency. Sadly, that meant Brad never got to come into the OR. I woke up being wheeled back into L&D and was told she was here – and she was perfect!

Emerson Kamrie Eberhardt was born December 21, 2020 at 5:46am weighing 6.5 pounds and measuring 18.5 inches long. She came into the world on the magical day of the Winter Solstice and rare occurrence of the Christmas Star. It was also her paternal great-grandmother’s birthday. Brad’s dad passed away from cancer in February 2020, before we knew we were pregnant. We’re pretty sure Emerson unexpectedly being born on his mom’s birthday was his way of letting us know he’s watching over us and his granddaughter.

Emerson’s name is special because she was named after the current community where we live, and where she was brought home. It’s named after Ralph Waldo Emerson and all the street names come from his poems. She will never remember being here since we are building a new home that will be ready to move into later this year. But it’s the place I bought my first house in 2011, the first home Brad and I shared together in 2013, the first place we lived as husband and wife in 2018, and where we’ve made so many amazing memories and friends, who have turned into family, throughout the past 10 years. Her name honors all of that. Her middle name is a mash-up of Brad and my middle names – Cameron and Marie, but we spelled it with a ‘K’ like my first name.

Just about an hour after her birth, I was able to hold Emerson for the first time. The tears were streaming down my face and my heart was instantly bursting with love for our tiny human. She was able to feed right away, but when she was done and I was holding her skin to skin, Brad and I noticed she started to appear a little “dusky.” We quickly alerted the nurses who were in the middle of shift change and then hurried her into the warmer where her coloring came right back.

Soon after, we were moved back to MCU – in yet another room (and yes, we redecorated for Christmas every move). But after four weeks in the hospital, and making friends with the staff, you get the VIP treatment – we were given a room double the size of a regular one. It’s typically reserved for nurses who delivered at the hospital or families with multiples. We were so grateful for the extra space, furniture for lounging and roomy shower.

Around 1:30pm on the day of her birth, Emerson finished feeding again and laid skin to skin. Again, we noticed her coloring change. Our nurse took her to the bassinet and rocked her forward and back bringing her beautiful olive coloring back. But as a precaution, she was taken to the nursery for monitoring since this had happened twice now. While she was feeding in the nursery, it happened for a third time – and that led to a NICU stay.

Emerson was monitored there for three nights – we made many daily trips down the hall for feeding, snuggling and reading stories. The doctors believe she had experienced respiratory distress with oxygen desaturation due to the general anesthetic being transferred to her during my c-section. She was eating, then forgetting to breathe until it cleared out of her system.

How does the story end? We were discharged on Christmas Day.

I couldn’t have scripted a better ending to my pregnancy journey if I tried. I have experienced zero – I repeat, zero – pain post-surgery. I never took a narcotic – just the standard Tylenol and Ibuprofen. The nurses and doctors were completely baffled, calling me a “unicorn” with an extremely high pain tolerance. But if you ask me, I think this was just God’s way of kindly paying me back for the hell I went through – dating as far back as my 2018 miscarriage – to bring Emerson into this world.

We spent 27 days in the hospital from November 29 to December 25, 2020. It was a weird end to a really weird year, but we wouldn’t change it for the world. Brad and I had extra time together, he was able to be 100 percent part of my third trimester despite COVID restrictions, we met some truly wonderful nurses who we eventually connected with via social media, and we ended the year at home with our rainbow baby.

The happiest of endings.

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