12. A significant number.
I’ve struggled and wrestled for 12 days now— the number of days Emmett was past his due date, and also the number of days that he has now been in this world with us…
to find the courage and strength to write about his journey into our arms. I am already sitting here in tears just thinking about how I’m going to write this. But then I look down next to me, at this perfect little baby boy, sleeping and dreaming peacefully, and I remember he is a good and perfect gift that God has entrusted Caleb and I with…and he is ALIVE and well.
I loved being pregnant. I loved watching my belly grow, and feeling every kick, wiggle and movement, right up until about the last 2 months or so when Emmett decided to start practicing his kickboxing skills in my ribcage. Turns out, he was a pretty big baby for my body to handle and he was just as uncomfortable in there toward the end as I was…and yet, he still decided he would never come out on his own. Isn't it amazing how our plans for ourselves and our futures can change in an instant?
About 23 weeks into my pregnancy, Caleb and I transferred our prenatal care from the hospital to a birthing center here in Nashville called Baby + Company, a center that provides a holistic approach to birth and babies. We were able to do all of our appointments there in the posh, cozy birthing suites— each equipped with queen sized beds, birthing tubs, pilates ladders, and other natural pain management methods. I had decided about halfway through my pregnancy that the hospital setting/doctors’ office environment wasn’t for me…I didn’t like the idea of how ‘sterile’ it felt, the fact that hospitals can seem like businesses just trying to turn beds over, and how often women seem ‘rushed’ through their labor and delivery, which can ultimately lead to unnecessary C-sections. I did my research and decided Baby + Co. was the place for us to have Emmett. I wanted to feel the natural pains of labor while bringing Emmett into the world. I wanted to feel like I was in control of my labor, and I trusted that my body was designed to do this. Oh, how different things turned out to be.
My body never went into labor on its own. I tried ALL the natural things in the book to try and bribe my body to do what I thought it could on its own. When I turned 41 weeks, my midwife required me to get an ultra sound at that point, because I was late enough that concerns of decreasing amniotic fluid levels could lead to potential dangers for the baby…so I went in at the beginning of that week for an ultra sound to check on little E. The tech informed me that E was measuring to be about 9 pounds…which, if you know Caleb and I AT ALL…you’d understand why this sounded so ridiculous to us! (laughing as I even type this…) We are two of the smallest people in the world, and yet somehow, this ultra sound tech was telling us we were going to have a HUGE baby. Naturally, I panicked immediately and started to second guess everything I had planned for my labor and delivery. I immediately began doubting my body’s ability to birth a 9 pound baby naturally and I burst into tears on the ultra sound table. Caleb assured me that I was absolutely capable, and that I was strong, and that I needed to trust the people taking care of me to help me bring my baby into the world the way I wanted to and had planned.
We followed up with my midwife that day, who told me that ultra sound techs were almost always off in their predictions of baby’s weight and size and that I didn’t need to worry about that. She did however, tell me that if at any point, I wanted to forgo the birthing center option and opt for a hospital induction, that I absolutely could and they would support that. I decided to give it few more days to see if E would decide to come on his own. This appointment was on a Monday. After careful consideration, prayer, another phone call to my midwife, and the support of our family, Caleb and I felt it was best to abandon our birth plan at the birthing center and schedule an induction for Wednesday, November 30th at 8:00pm at Vanderbilt Medical Center. I was 11 days late at this point and no signs of labor whatsoever. I was devastated to go another route with my birth plan that I had so carefully written and prayed over for so many months. In a way, I already felt like such a failure to my son for ‘giving in’ and opting for drugs that would force my body to go into labor. I wrestled for those two days and prayed earnestly that God would still allow my body to go into labor on its own…before my scheduled induction. But alas, God just had other plans for Emmett’s arrival. Needless to say, Wednesday was a crazy day of cleaning the house (a desperate attempt to distract from my nerves about that coming night), last minute errands, and nursery tweaks to make sure everything was perfect when we would come home with our little one just a couple days later. As 7:30 drew closer and closer that day, the time when we would get in the car and head to the hospital, so did my nerves and anxiety about our decision. Even in the quiet ride in the car on the way there, Caleb and I discussed our decision to induce and while we both outwardly told ourselves it was the right decision, we both inwardly were so hesitant about it. But the decision was made and we were on our way. Emmett was coming whether he liked it or not.
We checked into the hospital that night and were taken to our birthing room. I went into this process still wanting to stick as closely to my birth plan as possible, even though the environment was going to be different. I wanted to labor naturally as long as I could and experience everything that comes with that. Soon after we arrived, my parents arrived, a couple of my best friends Autumn and Jewel (who was also our birth photographer) arrived at the hospital and the excitement and nervousness was palpable in that room.
They started my IV and not long after that, gave me a pill that was supposed to begin ripening my cervix. In other words, a pill that would thrust my body into labor about 45 minutes later. I explained to the midwife there that I wanted to labor naturally as long as I could and her response was this: “That’s totally great Kelsey, and I respect your decision to do that. But I just want you to know that induced labors are SO different than natural labors when the body does it on its own. Induced contractions are much more difficult to withstand because they are not the body’s natural way of getting the baby out. You may experience fast and furious contractions that don’t give way to breaks in between. I can count on ONE finger…(she said “finger”, not hand by the way), the number of women who have been induced and been able to give birth naturally…it’s just very hard. But you are welcome to try as long as you’d like. And if you change your mind, an epidural is right around the corner and there’s no shame in that.” She instilled the fear of God in me at that point a little bit…but I was still determined to try. About 45 minutes later, I experienced my first contraction. And it wasn’t a slow fade into contractions…it was as she said—fast and furious. All of a sudden my body was contracting faster than I could breathe almost, and again, she was right—there were about 10 second breaks between most of them before I would try and survive the next one. They seemed to get stronger and stronger when I thought for sure, it was impossible for them to get worse.
I labored this way with the support of my mom and Caleb for about 3 hours. We were deep into the night by now and I was in excruciating pain. The midwife came in to “check me” and see if I had made progress after those grueling hours of contractions, because surely, they wouldn’t be for nothing…surely, I had to have progressed, right? She checked me and I was still at 2cm…what I entered the hospital at before my labor ever even began. She told me that I was still the same and that my body wasn’t responding to the contractions. I instantly burst into tears. Yet another failure it felt like. My body couldn’t even figure out how to progress with the drugs they were giving me?? How was this possible?? At this point, I knew it was going to be a really long night. I also knew that I could not withstand induced labor pains if it meant no progress. I gave in. I opted for the epidural. Minutes later, the anesthesiologist came into the room and Caleb stayed with me while they administered the spinal needle. While I was sitting there having this done, my water broke on the table. Of course. And immediately following that, another massive contraction…but I had to hold ever so still while they put the needle in that would finally bring some relief to the last few hours I’d spent laboring. After the epidural, my labor became tolerable. It definitely wasn’t pain canceling, but it made my contractions less obvious to me, and much more bearable. The next 12 hours or so, I labored in the hospital bed with the help of the drugs and my sweet husband and mama who never left my side.
I was so tired. Worn out. Still progressing so slowly…even with upped dosages of Pitocin constantly. Finally, around 5:20pm the next day and after about 21 hours of labor at this point, it was finally time to start pushing my midwife said. But at this point in time, I was so exhausted and out of it, that I’m told I literally responded with, “I can’t push today…let’s do it tomorrow instead. I just need to sleep”…
Isn’t it funny what your mind thinks is rational after no sleep and some trauma to your body? I actually thought in that moment that it would be possible to put off pushing until the next day…unfortunately my midwife informed me that’s not exactly how it works, and that I needed to dig deep and get this baby out. I mustered up some adrenaline and motivation because I knew that I was finally about to meet my baby. What I didn’t know, what that for the next 3.5 hours, I would be pushing for all I was worth to try and bring our little E into the world. The first hour of pushing was exhilarating. I felt like I was so close to meeting him, but after that hour and a half mark of pushing, I started to feel defeated and overly exhausted again. I lost some willpower around this point and started to doubt that I could push him out at all. I began to come off the rails a little bit. I started crying and telling them that I couldn’t do it anymore…I couldn’t push like that anymore. I was literally pushing for 30 seconds at a time during a contraction, and then completely falling asleep until the next one. I just couldn’t keep my eyes open…but I felt every contraction coming on, which would bring me right out of my sleep and into push mode once again. Another hour and a half later…(24 hours of labor, people at this point), I was losing it. At this point, it took an army of people to motivate and encourage me that I could and NEEDED to get him out. His heart rate was dropping with every contraction at this point from being in the birth canal for so long. They were giving me oxygen between contractions to help keep E going too. It was starting to look bleak. Finally, Jenna (one of our midwives) demanded the attention of the room (which was very full at this point with my entire family and a couple close friends…also never what I would’ve planned, but am SO thankful for looking back now) and asked my dad if he would pray aloud over that moment…that Emmett would make his appearance very soon. He prayed. Everyone prayed.
My body forced me to sleep between contractions, even though I tried desperately to stay conscious enough to hear my daddy’s prayer over me and my son. Minutes after dad’s prayer, with my family very literally cheering me on, taking turns counting the seconds as I was pushing, and Caleb coaching me through every contraction, Emmett finally entered the world at 8:41 that night. They immediately placed him on my chest and the room burst into loud cheers and sobs with joy, excitement and relief— that would only last about 45 seconds before everything would change and terror would take the place of our joy as we waited for that first cry…
It didn’t happen. The room changed. You could’ve heard a pin drop in that place. I instantly knew something was very wrong. My son started to turn blue in my arms. The midwives furiously rubbed and prodded Emmett to try and initiate that first sound every mother longs to hear when their baby enters the world…but silence still…except for the sound of my voice starting to rise and panic. I asked why he hadn’t cried yet and the voices of my midwives shakily told me he would…that he would be okay. But their actions didn’t line up with their words. They quickly pulled Caleb over to cut the cord (which I originally wanted to be delayed for the baby’s benefit), but they informed me it needed to be done, and done quickly because he still hadn’t cried…or taken a breath. At this point, the memories become a blur to me. In an instant, my beautiful son I had worked 24 hours to bring into the world, was whisked away from my chest…and 9 NICU surgeons and nurses poured into the right side of our room to try and get him to breathe. I laid helplessly without my baby on the table bleeding. My family, friends and husband were all on the left side of my hospital bed, the medical professionals to the right. And I laid trapped in the middle of the room…with the panic and terror of a mother’s worst nightmare rushing over me. I began screaming irrationally…psychotically really, about my son. Why hadn’t he cried or made a sound yet?? Was he going to be okay?? Could someone PLEASE tell me what’s going on?? I screamed, crying hysterically and my village turned to weeping, and praying…crying and begging Jesus to help our son breathe. Caleb draped himself over me to try and keep my thrashing body from flying off the table as I wailed uncontrollably. He tried to yell over my screams into my ear—prayers for our baby that wasn’t breathing…encouragement that he would be okay, all the while thinking himself, that we may not leave the hospital with a baby after all. These moments felt like hours. In the sheer panic and chaos that ensued for the next few minutes as the NICU teamed rushed to save my baby boy, there was a moment in time I will never forget.
I remember feeling trapped between two worlds almost. I looked to my left. There was my village. My mom, Tyler (my brother) and Autumn hit the floor on their faces to pray. My dad sobbed and prayed loudly near my head as I screamed. My other brother, his girlfriend and my friend Jewel also praying as we all sobbed and waited for what seemed like hours. Caleb secured me to the bed and prayed loudly into my ear. I looked to my right. Blue lab coats everywhere. The sound of my screaming, and the voices of the doctors flooded the room. But still no cry from my son. No one turning around to tell this terrified mama that her son was going to be okay. In that moment, I looked left again and through my screams, I heard someone yell the name of Jesus. Then I heard Caleb’s voice pierce through all the others and utter “Jesus”…and before I knew it, I too screamed out what only I had left…”JESUS”. Our village prayed Heaven down into that room. It felt like Heaven was on my left, interceding for my son, while Earth was on my right, using their expertise working to keep him alive. Heaven and Earth collided for me in that hazy moment, and out of the chaos and noise that filled that room, somehow my son’s first tiny murmur cut through it all and hit our ears. That first tiny cry. Then moments later, a big, loud wail— the sweetest sound my ears will ever hear in this lifetime. A rush of relief swept through the room and a NICU doctor finally turned to me and said “He is breathing, we are helping him…but he is breathing”, before he quickly turned back around to tend to my still blue baby that was struggling to breathe on his own.
About 5 minutes later, they finally brought him back to me, wrapped in a blanket, eyes wide open and skin still very white. But he was ALIVE. Breathing on his own. And looking into my eyes as if to tell me he had fought to find his way back to my arms. Caleb and I sobbed with relief and gratitude as we stared at our son together.
His life was spared and entrusted to us, and at that very moment in time, we realized the depth of the priceless gift we had been given. Emmett Rhodes Grimm, you were and are the most beautiful miracle we will ever witness in this lifetime. We couldn’t love you more than we already do, and we will spend the rest of our lives trying to show you that. You are our greatest joy, our most precious treasure, and our proudest accomplishment. We love you with the fire of a million suns. Thank you for making us mama and daddy. And Jesus, thank you for trusting us with him.