Thursday, February 25, 2021

Our Daughter is Born

"We are going to offer you an induction," spoke the maternal-fetal medicine specialist at our 38th week growth scan. These words hit me like a ton of bricks. Wes was participating in this appointment via FaceTime from the phone in my hand, which I was about ready to drop. I did not want to believe that our baby was truly at risk for stillbirth if I let her arrive naturally--naturally meaning without the use of synthetic hormones or other invasive procedures to force my body and the baby into labor. I wasn't against medical intervention if I was in control of deciding when to initiate it, but since this recommendation came as a curveball to us, we were definitely not prepared.

The MFM specialist didn't say it then, but when I reviewed his notes after getting home, he had diagnosed us with late onset fetal growth restriction. He told us only that the baby had an abdominal size of under the 10th percentile, and that this was reason to be concerned that she would do better with nourishment outside rather than inside of me.  I knew that we were referred to the MFM department to begin with because the baby was measuring small for most of the pregnancy, but according to the OBGYN at our last appointment, she had caught up and was at 13th percentile. I figured that this final growth scan would just be a safety check, nothing crazy, maybe we'd get some souvenir ultrasound photos to take home as we get pumped for her arrival.  I was confused when the doctor told us that she was not necessarily safe to stay in until 40 weeks.  I always thought that our baby would need all the time she could get inside of me to get catch up on her, inductions are for babies who are overdue, right?  Going back to the doctor's notes, it was indicated that the baby was in the 2nd percentile with her abdominal size, which definitely worried us.  With this more specific information, I accepted the fact that she was not getting what she needed in the womb.  The doctor let us know that if we were willing to have the induction, it would be best to do it the following week on Friday January 29th, citing that 39-week inductions are perfectly safe and in fact reduce the chance of needing a C-section.  We nervously booked the appointment right then and there.  

When I emerged from the hospital building, Wes, who had participated in the appointment via FaceTime, was waiting on the sidewalk and ready to give me a hug. We had to take this in. First, we were shocked that we'd be meeting our baby so much sooner than expected. Her due date was supposedly February 4th. Then, we had to try not to worry about her size for the rest of the days leading up to induction day.  Finally, we had just one week to be sure that everything at home was ready for her, and that we could be mentally prepared by then.  Fortunately, we had been slowly getting things together and cleaning up over the past few months due to the stay-at-home order, so the only thing we really needed to do was to finish the nursery projects and let family, friends, and coworkers know.  We ended up getting excited for the 29th, and Wes pointed out that at least now we had a target date to plan around rather than having to be caught off guard.  I still was disappointed that I would have to be induced and that things couldn't run their course, but I was definitely on board with seeing the baby come out safe and sound.  I marked our Google calendars on January 29th at 3:00 PM as: "The Day that Our Lives Change Forever," for lack of any other words.

Literally two days before everything happened, I made Wes take these photos to commemorate our nursery (before it inevitably becomes chaotic).  This room used to be the random room in our house that held our miscellaneous items, where I'd often do yoga.  I really love how it came out, and I might have to credit the pandemic for giving us so much at-home time to make this happen gradually over the last couple of months.

I made a scrapbook of the pregnancy with all of the highlights, starting from our very first sonograms and ending with some holiday photos of my big, festive bump.  

We are very proud of this mobile that we made--Wes did a lot of the sewing, which surprised all of the women on both sides of our families.  He also stained the wooden beads and filled the large holes with wood glue and re-drilled smaller holes through that.  I got the materials, drew the shapes, and mocked up the design.  We think that this is more for us than for the baby, since she really can't see anything outside of black-and-white in the beginning.

With that in mind, Wes also made this Munari mobile as the baby's first mobile.  I had every intention of making it, but Wes ended up doing it, haha.  It may look simple, but aligning and cutting the pieces and balancing the parts requires neatness and patience, which Wes has way more of than me.

Wes recreated a plain white Ikea dresser on the right by building a wooden frame around it and adding cute hairpin legs.  He also built the diaper changing tray, all using maple wood to match the crib.  I tried my hand at watercoloring and abstract art for the paintings hanging on the wall.  I also curated the books--many were also gifts and classic used saves--and per my mom's recommendation, we picked out a Montessori-style early reader shelf.

The toy shelf is also Montessori-style, and I had a lot of fun picking out developmentally appropriate toys for the first six months to go on it.  The Room & Board crib is a lucky find from OfferUp, which we started using in order to accumulate baby stuff, and the wall decal is from Etsy.  Wes also weather-sealed all of the windows to ensure that drafts don't get through the cracks (even though baby will be sleeping in a bassinet by our bed for the first few months!).  Being gadget-guy, he also selected the air purifier, researched our baby monitor system, set up the hue lighting system for nighttime, and installed a speaker.  

Here's the obligatory rocking chair corner, for everything from feeding to storytime.  Wes picked out the chair (Article), I picked the floating shelves (Crate & Barrel Kids), and we got pompoms from my sister's friend's Etsy shop.  My mom cross stitched the adventure decoration and we placed our music box from Hokkaido, a family photo book, a diary for me, and the cute stuffed rhino and squirrel from Sophia on the shelves.  The fancy ring sling from Margaret is draped over the chair.  We have received so many wonderful gifts and hand-me-downs from everyone, it's impossible to list it all out or display each item, but this room is just bursting with love and good vibes from all around.

On Sunday morning, January 24th, most likely right after taking these nursery photos, I noticed a blood stain on my underwear.  A showing of blood towards the end of pregnancy often is a signal that labor would be just around the corner.  But according to the Internet, that could mean hours, days, or even weeks, depending on the woman.  So, I brushed it off and we went about our day as usual, though with a little bit more guardedness.  I secretly was hoping that maybe the baby would come on her own sooner than "The Day that Our Lives Change Forever" to avoid a long and unnatural induction.

That night (technically the morning of January 25th),  I woke up at 3:30 AM to a cramping sensation.  At 38 weeks and 4 days pregnant, I was no stranger to sleep interruptions and odd body aches or baby kicks at any given time of day.  I flipped to the other side and attempted to go back to sleep.  I was successful, but only to be awoken again ten minutes later by another cramp, in the same spot.  I went to the restroom and then, back to bed.  Ten minutes later, it was back.  My mind began to race--I picked up my phone and Googled, "What do contractions feel like?"  My lame search confirmed that these could really be early labor contractions, so I immediately began to time them.  They came right on the dot of every ten minutes.  It was a little bit creepy.  I waited for a few more rounds of contractions before rousing Wes.  Apparently, he had sensed that I was awake and asked what was going on.  When I told him what I thought was happening, he immediately got up and threw the dirty laundry that we hadn't done yet into the washing machine and finished packing the hospital luggage that we had prepared, tossing in the last minute items like Internet hotspot, chargers, instant coffee.  Note: we did not ever use any of the things that we brought except for the cameras (Sony RX1, Go Pro) and my nipple cream.  

Oddly, at around 7:30 AM, the contractions started to subside.  They started coming every 20 minutes or 30 minutes, so I wondered... was it all a false alarm?  Did we just lose all of this sleep for nothing?  We both still had work today... we were going to be so dead... at least we're working at home... anyway, I made a call to the Labor & Delivery Triage line and described the situation.  They told me to just stay home until the contractions came back with more frequency.  I also let them know that I had seen blood on my pad the day before and that I've been bleeding lightly since then.  They again told me not to worry about a little spotting, and to call again when things got more intense.  So I hung up and went about the workday.  I was late to two meetings and held a straight face through several contractions that came and went.  We also went on two walks (hey, they say that walking is good for helping to dilate the cervix!) and I called a friend and my mom.  During both calls, I would have to pause during contractions because it would be impossible to speak.  Eating was rough too.  Wes ended up boiling up some of the bone broth that we were planning on bringing to the hospital for labor.  Honestly, I was in a great mood despite all of this discomfort.  I was excited that even if we don't go into labor until Friday's induction appointment, my cervix was dilating and effacing, and my body was obviously preparing for childbirth.  Maybe the induction would not need to be as long and intrusive, then.

By the time we had finished eating dinner and were getting ready for bed, I mentioned to Wes from the bathroom that the number of pantiliners that I was going through today seemed uneconomical.  It was then that it hit me… maybe wetting this many pads was not considered normal.  I called the Labor and Delivery Triage line again to tell them about the wet pads, and this time, they suggested that I come in for an assessment.  Wes asked, “What have you done??”  We were both exhausted from the day, it would be crazy if this was it, and annoying if we were turned away.  Anyway, we drove over to the hospital and I went up to Labor and Delivery while Wes waited in the car downstairs, per COVID policy.  They checked me and indeed, my water bag was ruptured and I was to be admitted.  I FaceTimed Wes from my phone and gave him the verdict.  In a few minutes, we were transferred to a large, spacious room down the hall.  This was where the baby would be born.  

It was already past midnight and the two of us were trying to sleep.  I ended up having to be put on Pitocin through an IV anyway because since I tested positive for GBS (Group B Strep bacteria), it was imperative that I have the baby within as short a time after the water breakage as possible.  Since we weren’t sure when it had happened for me, they needed to speed up the process of labor and get those contractions going.  I found them to be quite tolerable for about an hour, but then they started to become uncomfortable.  I realized that these contractions were going to keep me up all night, and I had not slept since 3:30.  I decided to go with the epidural so that I could rest up and have the energy to push and bond with the baby the next day.  That turned out to be a great decision, because as soon as they administered it, I felt a nice, warm, tingly sensation spreading down my legs as my lower body numbed out.  My heavy eyelids immediately closed and I slept deeply until the next morning.  

I woke up just a few hours later to a nurse telling me that the baby was ready to come out.  I quickly applied some eyeliner (hey, gotta look good for that first family photo right?) and Wes just barely had time to wake up and set up the GoPro camera (nope, no time for that cup of instant coffee) when she summoned him to the bedside and ordered him to hold up my leg.  She told me to start pushing.  I did, and Wes exclaimed, “Oh my god, there is so much hair.”  The baby’s head was literally there between my legs!  I asked to see for myself, and the nurse wheeled a large mirror to the foot of the bed.  I pushed again while craning my neck to look in the reflection, and sure enough, that baby’s head was crowning, with jet black hair all over the top.  People began to pour into the room, donning their latex gloves, shoe covers, and scrub caps while spiritedly introducing themselves to me as I lay there with my legs wide open.  I could not believe that I was able to crack jokes and ask questions during this final phase of labor—that epidural is pure magic.  The hospital staff just happened to be going through a shift change, so everyone was new...except for one person.

The OBGYN doctor who was overseeing the delivery entered the room and introduced himself.  I suddenly recognized him—he was the one who had attended to us when we suffered our second miscarriage.  He was the one who diagnosed me with recurrent pregnancy loss and referred me for infertility testing.  He was also the most compassionate and caring doctor I had ever dealt with.  He went the extra mile and called my cell, leaving voice messages in the days after the miscarriage to check in. When I made this connection, I immediately was overwhelmed with tears.  It had all come full circle today.  

Through my tears, I was cheered on by the medical team, who surrounded my bed as I was guided through the pushing by a midwife.  She was great—I really liked her approach.  There were times when she told me to blow rather than push, and she had me turn onto my side.  Everyone was so excited, and I deeply felt that positive energy through all of the emotions that I was experiencing.  In less than fifteen minutes, they said that the baby was out, and I peeped between my legs to see an actual baby, right on the bed!  I could only say, “Oh my God,” and, “Is she okay?”  I was desperately waiting to hear the sound of her cry.  Then, I heard a whimper, followed by a stronger sob, and then outright wailing—a sound that I will never forget.  She still sounds like that now sometimes when she cries.  We were overcome with a wave of joy and relief as the baby was lifted up and placed on my bare chest.  The rest was all a blur, as I focused on the feeling of her little form quivering against my body.  I think I remember asking them if I had torn, but the answer did not matter.  All that mattered was her, and she was here, breathing and crying, alive and so fragile.  I also vaguely remember Wes courageously cutting the umbilical cord, even though he had been saying that he was too afraid to do it when asked last night.  We were being congratulated, I was being stitched up, but my world was lying on my chest right there.  

Breastfeeding commenced right after I was cleaned up.  I was so glad that I had the energy and that we got to have this key bonding moment before the baby was taken away for all her tests and measurements!  The nurses were very helpful with showing me how to breastfeed, and I actually appreciated that they were hands-on, because I had honestly no idea what I was doing.  The baby was smart though.  It's incredible what is wired into humans through our natural instincts and reflexes.  My breasts somehow had stuff to give, albeit a tiny little bit of clear stuff, and the baby somehow knew what to do with a nipple when it was placed by her mouth.  She also grasped onto my finger with her tiny hands immediately when she was placed onto my chest, and I somehow knew how to comfort her.  It was also amazing and moving to see Wes's tender side kick in--he has been nothing but the best father.  Yes, he's an excellent swaddler and he was taking all of these momentous photos, as I would have expected, but he also sang the baby her first lullaby (Fly Me to the Moon) and gave the baby her first kiss.

As we were finally digging into our breakfast, I was able to ask Wes what his experience of watching everything happen was like.  It was crazy that it had all happened so quickly and that just like that, we had become parents.  It was then that I looked over to the clear plastic baby tank where our little newborn was lying and commented, "She is really cute."  It was like I never actually had the chance to take a good look at her, even though she was right there in my arms pretty much from the minute she was born until right now.  Wes laughed, "You're only noticing this now?"  There must have been just too many waves of sensations and emotions overloading my body and brain.  I was finally able to take a breath and fully digest what had happened and to actually begin to register what was going on.

We named her Zoe.  At first, we threw the name Zoe out there as a joke because Wes recalls always being at the end of the line throughout grade school since his first and last initials both started with letters at the end of the alphabet.  We thought that it would be funny if this happened to our kid too.  Well, the name Zoe stuck.  I looked up the meaning and when I found out that it meant “life,” I knew that we had our name.  Life is beautiful.  Life keeps you guessing.  Life is precious.  It is not to be taken for granted.  Zoe has breathed new meaning into our lives.

Her Chinese name is 黃慧虹 - Wong Hui Hong We decided to use the phonetic English spelling of her Chinese name as her middle name, Huihong, so that she may never forget its significance and so that she will always remember her cultural heritage.  Hui 慧 is the word for "intelligence," "wisdom," and "brightness." Hong 虹 is the word for "rainbow."  When Wes’s dad came up with this name, he was not aware of the American term, “rainbow baby.”  Coincidentally, he chose this word because he saw Zoe's arrival as the well-timed, welcomed glimmer of hope after the storm that 2020 was.  Hong also sounds similar to the word for "hero" or "heroic" in Chinese.  And I will say that Zoe was definitely my little heroine that day, and she will always be our little rainbow who made it against the odds. The wait and heartache was worth it.  She decided for herself when the right time would be to enter this world, and there could not have been a better day to do it. Though she surprised us, she at the same time took away any doubt or anxiety that Mommy had regarding the dreaded induction, and she came smoothly and swiftly with minimal damage done. We were all too happy to meet her a week and a half sooner than we were supposed to!   It's crazy that we have been anticipating this moment since she was merely the size of a poppyseed.  We loved her immeasurably the minute she came out, and each day that love has grown.  

We learned loads at the hospital from many attentive staff members, but we were so ready to be discharged home the next day to spread out in our own home and to quietly start our life together as a family.  Although we were nowhere near confident about our parenting abilities after just about 24 hours, we trusted that things were going to be fine, and we knew that Zoe was strong, though a mere 6 pounds and 2.8 ounces, and 18 inches long.  She was able to successfully latch onto my breasts (though the left nipple is a bit more troublesome) and she has slept well in between her feedings, allowing us both to get a little bit of shut-eye ourselves.  Her cuteness keeps us up though, and we can't wait to see what kind of a human she will become.


  1. LOVE this post and so happy for the two ... no THREE of you!! <3

  2. Beautiful words Marilyn thank you for sharing!

  3. 美麗的痛, 美麗的連接, 美麗的笑容還有.... 美麗的肚皮! 哈哈哈