On the evening of March 25, Collin drove us in my Honda Civic 10 minutes down the road, our last car ride as a family of three. Every available space was completely crammed with everything we owned, it seemed - Bri's animals (Bear and Puppy), toys and clothes, Collin's and my hospital bags, and the infant car seat. The infant car seat!
We settled Bri in at Collin's parent's house and then made our way to the hospital. Collin wanted to stop for a nice, quiet dinner with just the two of us. It would be the last chance we would have for that for months and he was right to want to make time for it, but I am a rule follower and I was told to be at the hospital at 7:30 and at the hospital at 7:30 I would be. So we parked and carried our bags and pillows and pink, feathery door hanger through the parking deck, into two different elevators, and through the maternity ward hallway, finally settling into what would be our home for the next 70 hours.
I was told to change into a gown and there was poking, prodding, and sticking from the nurse, And there was grimacing and gazing out of the window from me. Finally, Collin and I were left alone after being told that I would be given pitocin to push my body into labor around 11 p.m.
"11!" I complained, regretting not having that quiet dinner Collin had suggested. But we were already there and I was already hooked up and there was nothing to be done about that.
The television was on, but neither Collin or I watched it. I turned on some music and we daydreamed and slowly talked about Landyn's arrival. I was nervous about what my body was about to go through, even knowing (hoping!) I would be getting an epidural.
"What if she's not ready to come?" I said aloud or thought to myself, I don't remember which. I just remember worrying that she was comfortable in my womb and we were about to prematurely throw her into this world, cold and bright and noisy, and she wasn't ready. Or I wasn't ready?
But it didn't matter because my body wasn't hosting her as nicely as it hosted Bri. There wasn't enough amniotic fluid for the professionals to be comfortable with and it was just time to bring her out into the world so we could all make sure she was safe; her Doctors, her Daddy and I.
"I guess we should decide on a middle name," Collin said and I was happy for the distraction, grateful for it.
We had both liked Avery, but in the last few months of pregnancy, I threw out Victory, a play on my maternal grandfather's name, Victor. No one liked it but me and so I had conceded to defeat, but in the dimly lit hospital room on the eve of Landyn's birth, Collin told me I could give Landyn this strange middle name if I wanted to. It was so nice of him. It was a gift to me.
But with this freedom, I immediately questioned the choice. Would it be too weird? We were already giving this poor child a boy's name. I didn't want her to HATE me. It was too weird, wasn't it? And so I put off deciding.
Eleven came and went and then the nurse came in and asked if I was feeling any contractions. I wondered why I'd be feeling any since I wasn't in labor and she was alarmed to find out no one had come in to start my medicine. So she started it and I took a sleeping pill, and the next four hours were filled with falling in and out of sleep while the nurse came and left, and came and left.
At 4 a.m. the doctor on call (not my doctor!) gave me the grave news that if I hadn't progressed enough for them to decide it was okay to break my water then they would stop the pitocin, have me wait all day, and then begin the process again the next evening. Luckily I didn't have very much time to worry about this option because he checked my progress and yes! My water could be broken.
The doctor started talking to Collin about the Kentucky sweatshirt he was wearing. The nurse handed the doctor something and without any warning, my water was broken (after a lot of unexpected pain).
I cried. I didn't remember it hurting so much the last time. And Collin and the doctor were still talking about Kentucky and I thought, 'I am beginning labor and why are they talking about basketball of all things?!" But then, it was March.
The nurse was surprised to see my crying. "What's wrong?" she asked. I just shook my head, wondering why the doctor hadn't warned me about what he was about to do, and wondering why it hadn't hurt this much last time.
And then I remembered that I had already been given an epidural when my water was broken during Bri's delivery. I started feeling contractions and I started shaking a lot so the nurse started getting things ready for my epidural.
The anesthesiologist came in wearing a Kentucky cap (Go Big Blue!) and he and Collin chatted while the nurse held me and a needle was plunged into my spine. I thought again, 'I am beginning labor and why are they talking about basketball of all things?!" But then, it was March.
I was able to get some sleep after that and then early the next morning my doctor (Dr. Ellis, yay!) came in to check on things. I wasn't quite ready to push. She saw Collin's Kentucky shirt and they started talking about basketball. Why was everyone in this hospital so obsessed with Kentucky basketball? Turns out, she was a Kentucky graduate.
Dr. Ellis continued to talk to us and then was about to leave again to check on some other patients, but I told her I was starting to feel a lot of pressure so she checked me again.
It was time! A short while later, 9:03 a.m. on her Maternal Grandmother's birthday, Landyn was placed on my chest. She looked like my mom in that first glance I got of her. Dark hair, a very round red, red face, and two deep blue, soul-piercing eyes.
She had of course been crying at first, but the nurses tucked her under my gown so that she was skin-to-skin with me and she immediately calmed down. She was sticky and yucky from birth, but I didn't care about that. I was just so glad she was in my arms and healthy, and she was so quiet.
From that very moment, I was struck with how different her first few minutes and hours were from Bri's. Bri came into this world screaming and hot with temper. Landyn arrived peacefully and with a sweet calmness.
Landyn's first nursing was perfect. Latching immediately, she knew what she wanted and what she was doing. The nurse said that Landyn could teach a nursing class.
Reluctantly, I allowed the nurses the take her. Collin dutifully followed -- watching, smiling, taking pictures. And after she was bathed, weighed and diapered, she was laid down in a bassinet. And she stayed there.
She laid in her bassinet on her own -- something Bri wouldn't do until after that first, exhausting month.
The hours and days following were a blur of visitors, nursing sessions and hospital paperwork. At the last minute, a middle name was chosen. It was Avery after all.
Each hour that passed by, Landyn looked less like my mom and more like Bri (and Collin!).
Landyn got to meet her big sister -- her 4-1/2-year-before twin -- and when Big Sister wasn't there, the name Landyn got called most by me was "Bri". It was as if I'd gone to sleep and woken up in the past, living Bri's first few days over again. Suddenly and very clearly, I understood why most of my life I was called, "Heather, Valoree, Elizabeth, Caroline, Mary, I mean...Ashley."
My body healed more quickly this time. I was up walking that very evening, taking only Motrin for the minimal pain. Collin and I slept longer, sent Landyn to the nursery, allowed the nurses to give her a pacifier, and just enjoyed the time we had there while extra hands were around.
Motherhood made sense to me, holding Landyn those first 70 hours after her birth. Fear and worry didn't exist. Instead, it was replaced with laughter, long gazes, frequent napping and pure joy.
In that hospital room, it wasn't just me - the self-conscious, but otherwise carefree girl I once was. It wasn't just me and Collin - the newly married, madly in love, yet somewhat selfish couple we once knew. And it wasn't me, Collin and Bri - young first-time parents with a willful little girl, nervous and worried and scared, and wondering what the heck we were all doing. No, it was all of us; the four of us. We love each other fiercely and fully, and we are a family.
The Aynes Family.