Family Vacations and Happy Birthday to Halle

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Welcome to a new week!  Over at the Cartwrights, we are working on recovering from one of those awful summer viruses that has hit everyone of us.  It has been a long time since that has happened in our family.  Even Joe is sick, and he rarely catches anything from the rest of us.  I think we are on the mend, though, so on to a new week…

…But, back to last week’s subject:  Family Vacations.  Last week while you were reading my posts about preparing for vacation, I was actually doing research on going on vacation by going on vacation.   You forget a lot about vacation when you’re not there…and some parts you don’t want to remember.  This time our vacation was quite wonderful, they usually always are, but I was struck by how many changes we made along the way while we were vacationing.  We had to because there are a lot of unpredictable factors that come with combining multiple personalities, interests, and moods with weather, illness, and sleep schedules.

This time around, we had to change plans because Lainey and I were sick, the river was too high to float on, the hot air balloons couldn’t launch in the rain, one of our debit cards had expired the week before, and there were thunderstorms every afternoon.  But, we were flexible and made different plans because that’s how we roll when we are on vacation.  We learned a long time ago that things don’t always go according to plan when you are on vacation!

Exactly 11 years ago today, daughter 4 Halle Jo, was born while we were on vacation.  Really!  Talk about messing up your vacation plans…and your birth plans.   Because it has been 11 years and I’m sure I’ve already forgotten some details, I’m going to write about it now.  I hope you’ll indulge me because how many people do you know that leave for vacation with three girls and come home with four?

Background details:

-We left on July 8th for my in-laws Lakehouse in Sandpoint, ID where we had vacationed every summer for the past eight years.

-I was 33 weeks pregnant when we left according to my doctor and ultrasound.  Although I had mentioned one or two times that I felt like I was further along, the doctor and ultrasound disagreed.

-We intended on returning home when I was 37 weeks.

-I had birthed three other girls, and NEVER started labor more than two days early.

-After a few days at the lake, Joe had flown back to our home to work for the next few weeks, leaving the girls and I at the Lakehouse with his parents…we had done this every summer for the past 8 years.

We were enjoying a wonderful time at the lake and all that entails, sans waterskiing for me that year.  I was very pregnant and a bit uncomfortable, but nothing unusual.  After a day of swimming, caring for the girls, and my usual walk, we were all piled in bed reading Mrs. Piggle Wiggle when my water broke.  I stopped mid-sentence and told the girls that I needed to go to the bathroom.  This is what happened while I was gone:

-My 9 year-old made my 6 year-old smell the puddle on the bed…the 6 year-old reported that it smelled like pancakes.

-My 6 year-old told my barely 2 year-old that “mommy might die.”

-My 9 year-old comforted the 2 year-old and sent the 6 year-old to eavesdrop on my conversation with my mother-in-law, Marilyn,  that went like this…me, “I’m pretty sure my water just broke,” her (calmly) “Let’s think about what else it could be,” me (a bit urgently), I know my water just broke.”

Marilyn could tell that I wasn’t messing around, so it was time to make a plan.  First, we called Joe who was in Utah, and told him that he needed to get up there ASAP.  It was either a 12-hour drive or a plane…he chose the plane.  Then, I soothed the girls and got them settled in bed and Marilyn and I headed for the hospital while grandpa stayed with the girls.

The drive was a surreal experience.  I sat on a towel and watched the full moon reflected on the lake as we drove.  And I prayed for a lot of things…a healthy baby, a quick flight for Joe, peaceful girls, a good doctor, insurance coverage, and not too much pain.  I prayed for a long time because the hospital was about 30 minutes away and when we got there it was quiet because it was the middle of the night. In fact, we woke the nurse up and she had to call a doctor at home…it is a very small hospital.

The nurse wasn’t too sure about my water breaking either, but after they saw all of the puddles I was leaving, they checked me in and the phone calls started.  Of course, all of my medical records and my doctor were back in Utah, so the hospital needed everything faxed, and it was still the middle of the night.  The answering service in Utah paged my doctor and that good man got up and went to his office in the middle of the night and faxed all of my records to the Idaho hospital…how many doctors do you know who would do that?  He even called and talked to me and gave me great reassurance and confidence.  My only request that he didn’t fill was getting on a plane so he could deliver my baby.

After the hospital received all of the records, they decided that I needed to be in a larger hospital where there would be a NICU for my baby that would be 5 weeks early.  That meant traveling to Spokane, Washington, about 1 1/2 hours away.  We discussed that thoroughly:

-Okay, I said, we will just get in the car and go.  I was a bit uncomfortable, but no serious contractions at all.

-No, they said, you will get on a helicopter and fly to Spokane.

-No, I said, I will not.  I could tell that I was a long ways from delivery and the thought of laying on a helicopter, in the dark, with total strangers, was enough to make me drop the baby right there…well, almost enough.

-We will just drive I said.

-Fine, they said, but I hope you are rich because the insurance will not cover anything if you refuse transport.  I HATE health insurance rules!!!

So, we compromised, and I rode in the back of an ambulance that went over 100 mph with lights flashing all the way to Spokane.  We definitely got there quicker, but my poor mother-in-law almost didn’t survive the drive in the front seat.  We were traveling really fast!  Meanwhile, I laid on a stretcher in the back sucking on giant cotton swabs that were flavored with something wet and lemony, and talked to the ambulance attendant.  I had a few light contractions, but not much else.

After we checked in at Spokane, there was little progress, and I tried to get some sleep (didn’t happen) and hoped Joe would arrive in time.

While all this was happening in Idaho and Washington, Joe was in Utah trying to find a plane that would get him to Spokane.  He finally found an early a.m. flight, but he had to travel through Seattle and catch a connecting flight there.  He was also gathering up baby clothes and blankets and the car seat and throwing his stuff in a suitcase.  After an hour drive to the airport, in the middle of the night, he was on his way to Seattle and there he barely made his connecting flight to Spokane.  He caught a cab to the hospital and bounded in the delivery room door saying “Okay, the baby can come now.”

But, she wasn’t coming and she was early and my water had broken 12 hours earlier and so they decided to move things along with Pitocin.  YUCK!  I have had to have Pitocin with three of my four deliveries because I just don’t seem to contract…ever!  I think those three girls would have been in there forever without it.  My water breaks and then nothing happens.  So Pitocin it is…which means no gradual increase in contractions or pain.  It comes full force!  I so wanted to have a natural child birth, and I waited for hours, but I ended up with an epidural this time, and it was great!  A few things that happened during labor:

-I got mad at Joe for crunching his potato chips too loudly.

-We finally chose a name.  Joe’s mom had suggested Halle, her great-aunt’s name, several months earlier, and when the nurse brought us a baby name book that said it meant “looking at water,” we decided it was the perfect name for a Lakehouse baby.

-Joe’s mom politely asked if she could come in my room and watch her favorite political show (she loves politics) and I not so politely said “are you kidding me” and that was even after she took that crazy ambulance ride…sorry, mom!

-The doctor came in and introduced herself minutes before delivery and she was wearing a white sweater.  I asked if she was really going to deliver my baby while wearing a white sweater, and she blushed and everyone laughed.

-It seemed like there were a ton of people in the room because they had special preemie doctors and nurses in there and it was a teaching hospital so there were a few students, too.  It was so not the birth I had hoped for!

Halle finally arrived at 5:18 p.m. and surprised everyone by weighing 6 lbs. 7 oz.  She was perfect and healthy and completely fine…and at that point that was all that mattered.  All of my prayers were answered, I was in love with a new baby girl and the way she came was no longer an issue.  In fact, it makes for a pretty great birth story…I never get tired of telling it.

So, back to my original topic, be prepared to deal with lots of changes on vacation…you might or might not come home with an extra child.  And just in case you were wondering, I heard from a six year-old that amniotic fluid smells like pancakes.

Happy Birthday, Halle Jo!  I love you.

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