Zachary Morris Ells Jr.
On the night of May 27th, we put our Lucy girl to bed for the last time before we became a family of four. My parents arrived to stay the night. They wished us well and we said a teary goodbye.
We opened the garage and our neighbors cheered for us. Zach honked the horn and we waved.
“Here we go,” I said to Zach, as I breathed a big sigh and wiped the tears from my eyes. I was on my way to have our second baby in the middle of a global pandemic.
I had spent the last few months of pregnancy isolated. Other than a few trips back and forth to see my parents and doctor’s visits, we hadn’t been anywhere. It was going to be our first night away from Lucy ever. We felt like we were going on vacation.
We were supposed to check-in at 9 and we arrived at 9:15. We called the front desk and they directed us to park in the ER lot and enter through that entrance. We walked up, bags in tow. They took our temperatures and gave us masks.
I had been tested for COVID a few days prior to going to the hospital. I did a drive-thru test and it felt like a scene from the movie Contagion. I drove up and a medical staff member directed me where to go. I rolled down my window to a nurse dressed in a hazmat suit with a face shield on. With her gloved hands, she inserted a long q-tip like object into my nose and swabbed around for 30 seconds. Longest 30 seconds of my life, but worth the brief discomfort to know that the caution we had been taking was working because I tested negative.
After we checked in at the ER desk, a security guard led us through back hallways to the maternity ward. The lighting in the narrow hallways was dim and a few spare empty hospital beds were lying around. The atmosphere was eery and it seemed as though we were the only people in the whole hospital.
We arrived at the maternity ward. The security guard was buzzed in and he showed us to the check-in desk. I filled out the forms and we were led to our room where the induction process would begin. Zach set up his chair that folded out into a bed. I got cozy in my hospital gown with my IV. The wires from the fetal heart monitor laid beside me. Amidst all of the unknowns, I took comfort in the feeling of familiarity. I knew what needed to be done and I was safely where I needed to be to do it. My plan was to pop this baby out and get back home.
When I was officially set up, the nurse came in and told me I was contracting regularly. I hadn’t even realized it. I had had a few random contractions at night in the days prior and had been feeling some inconsistent pressure, but it didn’t register that they were actual contractions. I hadn’t felt any real contractions leading up to Lucy’s birth. Since I had already started contracting, she told me the process would probably go quicker than the first time. With that in mind, I was able to rest easier. The evening progressed and Zach and I were able to get some sleep.
By 7am, we were transferred to the labor and delivery room. Go time was upon us.
When I had Lucy, my parents and Zach’s parents were able to filter in and out of the delivery room. When it came time to push, my mom was by my side with Zach. This time, it was just us: me, Zach, the hospital staff, and the little person in my belly. Everyone wore a mask and Zach was required to wear a mask when the staff entered the room.
As time passed, the contractions were getting stronger. It was time for an epidural. I got an epidural the first time and I fully intended on getting one this time. The anesthesiologist came in and began to set up. He asked me to sit on the edge of the bed, lean forward, and stay as still as possible.
“Wow, I can’t believe how still you are. Do you meditate?” He asked.
“This ain’t my first rodeo,” I said.
As the epidural set in, I was able to relax. Both Zach and I napped for about an hour. Even though we were missing our families, we focused on how grateful we were to be able to be alone and rest.
Around 11am, my doctor came in to check my dilation. I was about three centimeters. She reiterated that second time deliveries often go faster and that I should expect a baby by lunch time.
Another half hour passed, and the nurse came in to check on me and said the baby’s heart rate was going up and down fairly often.The nurse believed the baby didn’t like the position I was in. She said the cord may have been smooshed between the baby and one of my organs, which happens often. I had to remind myself to breathe. What if something was wrong? She consulted with the doctor and they agreed I needed to reposition.
“Okay,” I said. “Whatever the baby needs.”
“So we think if you got on all fours, that might make it better.”
Get on all fours. With a baby in my belly. After having received an epidural. Sure, why not.
I grabbed the guardrail on the bed and began to hoist myself over, dragging my dead legs with me. The nurse offered to help but I insisted on doing it myself. Somehow, I ended up on my hands and knees.
“Okay, just stay like that for fifteen minutes and we’ll see how the baby does.”
Time ticked on. My head was in my hands. Zach stood by me and encouraged me as he took a couple pictures.
“What time is it?” I asked Zach.
“It’s 11:33,” he answered.
My shoulders were getting shaky. I didn’t even know where my legs were. Were they still attached? I assumed they were under me. But no problem, I was doing it for the baby. What seemed like 20 minutes had passed, so I asked for the time again.
“It’s 11:36,” he said.
“3 MINUTES PASSED? Are you freaking kidding me?! I can’t do this anymore. Where are they?!”
“But you told the nurse you’ll be fine.”
“Well I’m not! I can’t feel my shoulders, my elbows, or my legs, what the hell are they doing to me?! They said fifteen minutes. It’s been longer!!”
A few minutes later, the nurse came in.
“The baby seems to love the new position. Are you okay to stay like that a little bit longer?” She asked.
“Oh good, the baby is okay. Yeah, sure, I can do this a bit longer.” I smiled at her as she left the room.
Zach looked at me.
“Why didn’t you tell her you were uncomfortable?!”
“Well, the baby is okay so let’s wait a little longer.”
Another ten minutes ticked away and the nurse came to check on me.
“I really can’t do this anymore. I can’t feel any of my limbs,” I said.
“Okay, let’s straighten you up,” she said.
I grabbed the rail again and with the help of the nurse I turned myself back over. The nurse arranged the bed in more of an upright position. As soon as I was settled, the pressure was intense.
“We need to get the doctor in here,” I said. “This baby is trying to get out.”
The nurse left the room to get the doctor. Every emotion I had been feeling the last few months came to a head. I was overcome. Tears welled up and I felt like I couldn’t speak. Flashbacks of Lucy’s birth popped in my head. I thought about how much I wished my mom was with me. I thought about the scariness of everything going on in the world.
“Zach, this baby is going to come.” I grabbed Zach’s hand.
My doctor came in and checked me.
“Okay, you are ten centimeters. Let’s have a baby.”
She urged me to do one push.
“Woah! Okay, the head is right there. Hold on a minute while I get my team.”
Oh my God was she serious?! She said the baby was coming out and she wanted me to “hold on a minute?!”
I could feel the baby bearing down so hard. My instinct was to push. This was so unlike Lucy’s birth. I had to force her out of me. This time the baby was doing the forcing.
Within a minute, the doctor was back with a nurse and a resident.
“Okay, big push.”
Zach was by my side.
“I can’t see you,” I said to him in a frantic voice. “Move up so I can see you! I need to see you!”
I caught a glimpse of him before I turned forward to push. Love, hope, and excitement floated in his eyes.
I can do this, I thought. I gathered every ounce of strength I had, took a deep breath, and gave one big push.
Another deep breath, another big push.
6 minutes later my doctor held up our baby.
“What is it?” She exclaimed.
Zach shouted, “It’s a boy!! It’s a boy!! Oh my gosh, it’s a boy!”
At 1:14pm, Zachary Morris Ells Jr. arrived.
Zach cut the umbilical cord and they handed Zachary to me. It was as unreal as the first time I did it. Even though I carried him in my belly for nine months, it’s still hard to comprehend it. How in the world did I do this a second time?
It felt like we had known each other for years. He nestled in on my chest and started sucking his thumb. I embraced him and breathed in that new baby smell. Everything else melted away. It was just us. The best feeling ever. Zach stood to my right and spoke. Zachary’s eyes shot up and searched the room for his dad. I had done it. I had safely delivered our second baby.
As we gazed at our new baby boy, reality hit me and I couldn’t help but feel a pang of sadness. There was nobody waiting outside in the waiting room for us. Zach didn’t get to run out and do the big reveal.
I SO appreciated that I had Zach with me. Some women had to give birth without their partner because of the pandemic. I know it’s selfish to complain we didn’t have 20 people waiting to meet the baby the second he came out. It’s not that it wasn’t as incredible as the firs time because it really was. And they were right, it went a heck of a lot faster. It was just different. A good different, but still different. We sat with him for a couple hours, telling him about his sister and all of his extended family. We told him how he is the eleventh grandchild on my family’s side and the 2nd on Zach’s side. So many people already loved him. We FaceTimed and called our families to let everyone know it was a boy. The all reveled in our joy and excitement.
The nurses cleaned me up and took Zachary’s vitals and then we were carted away to the maternity ward. We masked up before going to the hallway. As a precaution, we weren’t allowed to leave the room for any reason. We settled in our intimate space with the newest member of our family. Nurses came in off and on to check on me and Zachary. We marveled at our new creation and rested when he did.
The morning after he was born, Zachary was taken out for his assessments. We tried to sleep while we waited, but the two of us were anxious. It was a mutual anxiety that stemmed from our experience with Lucy. Everything had gone well so far, but I sort of felt like I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. When your first experiences with pregnancy and childbirth are scary, you go into each time with a wary step. At last that is how it is for us.
After two hours, they brought him back. He had passed his assessments and the doctors agreed that if I felt comfortable we could go home. I had felt pretty good, as good as one can feel after pushing a 7lb 14oz baby out of their body. I had the expected soreness and aches. Like I had said, it wasn’t my first rodeo. I was anxious to get home to Lucy.
I went in, I popped the baby out, and I went home. All within 42 hours.
We arrived home to my parents, Lucy, and our neighbors on our driveway. Even though we couldn’t hug anyone and they were spaced out on the grass, it was a warm welcome. The love in the air embraced us all. Though I felt some disappointment in how it went, my excitement with our new phase of life outweighed the doubts and fears.
Lucy met her baby brother and we went inside to begin our lives as a family of four.
Both of my babies had unique entrances into this world. Another lesson for us that you can plan and plan, but life will not always follow. The important thing is Lucy and Zachary are healthy and happy kids growing within the walls of a home built from love.