I walked into what I remember was a stark white room, although looking back, there were hints of color. Patterned borders, muted tile, and of course the indistinguishable blue scrubs.
It’s funny, but I don’t remember you wearing scrubs. Just a nervous look. I on the other hand remember feeling ready. At ease. You later told me that you were scared we were going to die, but when you walked into the operating room and saw me laughing with the doctors, you took a breath.
And soon after, so did our boy.
What you didn’t see was me hunched over a pillow while they administered the spinal, gripping tightly to Melanie’s hand and one of our OR nurses. We formed a triangle and between deep breaths, their warmth and my own voice in my head repeating, “you can do this”, the spinal was quick and painless. I squeezed their hand quickly when an overwhelming feeling of pressure entered my spine but seconds later, I was laying down and my legs felt like I had been sitting “Indian style” for days. Pins and needles and then eventually, nothing.
What you didn’t know is that you were with me at that moment. Right before the spinal began, “I’ve Seen All Good People” by “Yes” came on and I felt 20 pounds lighter. I sang along, taking it as a sign (like we know I usually do) and told our crew of doctors and nurses what a good song it was. They all agreed, and I could feel the room shed their own 20 pounds, as well. It was a welcomed feeling of relief following the intense, scary moments that happened hours before. And I was grateful for it.
When I called you that morning to tell you I was being sent from my 41-week ultrasound to the hospital because I had little to no amniotic fluid left and needed to be induced, I could sense the excitement, even amidst my fear. You showed up at the hospital with our bags, which I had packed weeks earlier, and our Christmas tree. That little tree became the talk of the hospital, lifting everyone’s spirit who came across it.
That tree sat down the hall in our apartment. I could see it from our bedroom door when I’d wake in the middle of the night, feeling him wiggle inside of me. That tree greeted me when the spinal started to wear off and the pain settled in. That tree stayed lit when learning to breastfeed the first couple of days, both him and I in tears. And that tree came home with us, a family of three. A newborn baby and two newborn parents.
When I left the house the morning of my appointment, I hadn’t eaten. I was starving, but I figured I’d eat something when I got back and we went about our day. I had no idea that it would be 36 hours until I ate something. And no idea that the first thing I would eat would be almonds. Man, were they good.
When the technician told me that there was little to no fluid left, they immediately started a non-stress test to make sure that he was okay. His heart rate was great, despite my sobbing almost the entire time. I had told you several days prior that I was nervous I was leaking amniotic fluid and now I blamed myself for everything that was unfolding. The doctors told me that it had to do with being a week overdue and the placenta no longer working, but the guilt was crippling and I needed so badly for him to be okay and for me to be in your arms.
Thanks to all of our ancestors and God and the Universe and everything everywhere, I was released and allowed to go to Morristown to deliver our baby. I was to be induced, which scared me, and I told my mom upon entering that I would do whatever it took to get him out safely. I was terrified that he wasn’t going to make it, even then. Before the beeping stopped. Before time hung in the air, waiting to be touched and shattered. Before I left my body.
We entered a room together and I dressed into my labor clothes — a comfy black bra I had been wearing almost all of pregnancy and a soft black robe I bought for this moment. I laid down on the bed where they strapped the heart monitor on my belly again and the beeping began. We listened to his heart, waited for our midwife (who I had spoken with at my appointment. It was Melanie and I smiled because I had asked our baby to come when she was on call), and we felt our bodies soften.
When Melanie arrived, she began explaining to us that in this situation (with low fluid), they sometimes make the call to do a c-section, but because his heart rate was so good, they were going to allow me to labor. She started explaining induction — what it looked like, what medicine they would use for me and suddenly, where there was laughter and excitement only moments before, there was now panic.
It happened so quickly, I didn’t register it at first. She was looking at me and now she wasn’t. Her eyes were fixed on his heart rate monitor and the world had turned in the matter of a second. Something wasn’t right.
I can’t remember a lot of what was said. I’m not sure much was said. In several more seconds, two nurses burst through the doors and started poking me. The IV didn’t take in my left wrist so they tried my right, as the bleeding picked up where they originally tried. They bandaged it but it was bleeding through quickly, so they taped another bandage on top and although it bled through that one, too, it stopped. Meanwhile, Melanie was inside of me, trying to turn our boy. She called to the nurses to get the OBGYN, and took a step back. My heart froze.
I could feel her fear even though she was doing a remarkable job of staying present. I pleaded at her with my eyes and she said to me, “You are brave, Devon.” She said something else, but I truly can’t remember. I just knew in that moment she was saying that for the both of us.
I was then asked to turn on my side. One side, nothing. The other side, nothing. Eventually, I got on all fours and the beeping started again. Melanie joked, saying “Maybe he wants to be born RIGHT now” and we breathed for what felt like the first time in hours.
I stayed on all fours, scared to move and scared for the beeping to stop again. I looked down at my left wrist covered in blood. I looked down at my right wrist where the IV sat. He was okay and time started up again.
Moments later, our OBGYN entered the room asking if I was having a clotting problem due to my bloody wrist. This made me laugh, which felt good. They filled him (and Bri and I) in on what was happening. Our boy, due to little amniotic fluid, was moving and hitting his cord. When this happened, he decelerated, which is a term used to describe a decrease in the fetal heart rate below the fetal baseline heart rate. His oxygen would also drop during these decelerations.
This deceleration happened two or three times more, never lasting as long — we now knew that going on all fours helped to bring him back — and we crept closer toward wondering if natural labor or any labor was going to be possible.
Everything inside of me screamed. I needed him out. Now. Safe and healthy. I needed to hold him. It was all I could think. All I could feel. I would throw myself in front of a moving train if it meant he’d be safe and with us. That’s all I knew. That I’d do whatever it took. It was the simplest and easiest feeling I’d ever felt in my entire life.
So that’s what we did. Our doctors were amazing and still gave us the option to labor, but alerted us that there was still a very high chance it would end in a C-section and that when I had a contraction, he would most likely decelerate again (that’s very normal and what babies do during labor, even with fluid, but could be dangerous without fluid).
When it was time, I hugged you and told you I loved you, walked in my hospital gown and IV to the operating room, sat down on the cold steel table with our team of doctors and nurses and it began.
And then we were together. First the two of us. Then three of us. And the moment I heard his cry, time stood still. I could not believe he was finally earthside. For so many moments over the span of many months, I wondered who he’d be. And the sound of his first cry felt like our very first conversation. I never wanted it to end.
Kittredge Wilder Loftus cried twice then stared wide-eyed at the world. He was so healthy, weighing 7 pounds, 11 oz with curly, dark hair and hypnotizing eyes. We did skin-to-skin while they stitched me up and when it came time for you and he to leave, Melanie stayed with me and I patiently waited to be reintroduced to our wild boy.
I loved being wheeled into post-op to see you bare-chested with our boy in your arms. I loved the team of nurses who helped me nurse Kit for the first time. Even through the slight haziness of post-op glow, I felt so aware and so grounded with you two there.
My experience is something I reflect on daily. You were there with me when postpartum anxiety took it’s grip and I feared every day that he’d stop breathing. You took care of me when I started therapy and began better understanding this intrusive thought and where it stemmed from. You loved me in moments where it felt like I was breaking open with every breath. You nodded as I explained how grateful I was for my c-section — how I wouldn’t have changed anything about his birth because it was his and ours — and how I still needed to process any scary moments that my body was still holding onto.
That duality — the empowerment and strength to hold such extreme emotions at the same time — is what motherhood means to me. The ability to hold the deepest hope and excitement for the future and also love and honor the fear that lives in your belly from loving something so much, in such a raw way. The grace to forgive yourself every step of the way and the commitment to love yourself more fiercely than you ever have, while still holding yourself accountable and wanting to show up the best you can for them. For yourself.
Being a mother is the most honorable role I’ve ever held. An otherworldly gift that the language here on earth cannot describe. It’s the language of the stars, of natural running waters, of the soul.
I’m finishing this letter to you as I rock in the rocking chair in Kit’s room, next to the 1950’s edition Winnie-the-Pooh books from your parents and the bassinet, from mine, that he so quickly grew out of. It’s spring now — another season together — and I can’t help but notice how much color surrounds us.