And he is here! Baby boy Castle arrived on July 11th after a grueling 58 hour-long labor.
The big story begins in the wee morning hours of July 9th when Mandy began having contractions. Around 7 AM or so, Mandy and Ben came down to our house (it had been agreed on beforehand that if Mandy went into labor that she would stay at our place until it was time to go to the hospital because we're so close to the hospital and they're far away). We were all excited and so began making Mandy comfy with some fruit in between contractions, and Ben turned on some Pixar movies. They visited the doctor, who said Mandy was still in early labor, so they sent her back here. By the evening, the contractions were becoming more intense, and after midnight they were very strong. Finally, Ben took Mandy to the hospital to see how far along she was; there was no difference from earlier that day, which had been the same for the past few weeks. However, the hospital did admit Mandy, so Mom followed her over there while Mandy's friends Kathryn and Bethany went there for encouragement.
Thursday was a tough day. Mandy was in a lot of pain, which impacted all of us emotionally, and her progress went extremely slow. Her doctor was very cool-headed but at the time did not want a C-section since both Mandy and Nathaniel were fine. However, Mandy was soon exhausted because she had been up for longer than 24 hours, so that evening they gave her an epidural, enabling her and Ben and the labor crew (Mom, Kathryn, and Bethany) to get some much-needed rest.
Friday was the big day. A good night of sleep helped everyone. Mom and Dad went to the hospital in the morning and learned Mandy was at nine centimeters. Excited, Dad picked me up from the house, so we spent some time in the room with a sleeping Mandy, laughing at Kathryn's stories. Hours passed, but there was no progress. Finally, by 1 PM, the doctor said that since Mandy was not advancing at all, they would have to deliver via c-section. Ben's mom Kelly arrived shortly before the surgery began, and we all went to sit in the family waiting room. As the hour wore on, we grew more nervous because Ben had not yet come to tell us if everything had gone well. Kathryn then distracted us with a game, which helped.
Then Ben walked in, and everyone screamed. Nathaniel had safely arrived!
As it turned out, it was very providential that the boy had been delivered via c-section. When the doctor was doing the surgery, he saw (and pointed out to Ben) that the cord was tightly wrapped around Nathaniel's neck... twice. It had not been tight enough to interfere with his vitals, but a normal birth would have been very dangerous for him. We were very thankful that Mandy's labor had permanently stalled and that the baby had not been born normally.
The three grandparents first went in to meet the little guy, then the rest of us followed them into the recovery room. Mandy was tired but nursing the hungry boy while we admired him. People trickled out, and soon it was just the family. We fetched some crushed ice from Zaxby's for Mandy then returned to the recovery room to find her out like a light. Dad and I watched as the nurses gave Nathaniel his first bath (which he did not like) then inserted an IV and took some blood for a test.
Now, there is something that did happen during Mandy's labor. Sometime on Thursday, Mandy had a low fever of around 101, so the doctor put her on some antibiotics, which brought her fever down. However, the doctor and nurses were concerned that there might have been an infection, so they put Nathaniel on antibiotics for a few days and did daily blood tests. We believe he might have been fighting something off, but he recovered quickly and has been doing excellently ever since then.
Ben and Mandy had originally hoped to leave on Monday, but the pediatrician was still concerned about a possible infection, so the three had to stay in the hospital for four days. Finally, on the 15th they were given a clean bill of health and were allowed to go home, where they had adjusted splendidly. Nathaniel had his first visit to the pediatrician yesterday and was reported as being excellent.
So... what does the little guy look like? Well, you can find my pictures on facebook. Needless to say, he has his mama's face but his daddy's long fingers, torso, and toes. He is a big baby (he was born 9 pounds), and newborn clothes are a bit snug on him, so we expect that very shortly he will be out of those. He is very active and easy-going, and he has already been trying to lift his head. He loves to snuggle and is also proving to be a very smiley baby (I'm expecting him to be like his mama; Mandy was a very smiley baby).
To say we're thrilled about Nathaniel is a bit of an understatement. We have fallen in love with holding him, snuggling with him, and squealing over the precious pictures that Mandy sends us. He is indeed a precious gift from God, and we are very thankful for him and for his safe delivery.
Before I end this post, I wish to thank certain people (who will likely never read this blog) who were involved in the labor/delivery process. First, Kathryn and Bethany for being such a solid support to Mandy, for helping her on the labor ball, rubbing essential oils on her, and for coaching her during contractions. They were amazing, and we are so thankful for their support. Second, to the Howland family. While Ben and Mandy spent several days away from home, they took care of Ben and Mandy's patio garden, cleaned the house, got the mail, etc... And also to all those who were praying for Mandy during the difficult labor. Without everyone, we would not have been able to get through this. This time has been very humbling for us as we recognize the Lord's goodness to us in sending us a loving church body and family, and I pray that it would make all of us more thankful in recognizing his great faithfulness to us despite our weak, sinful natures. The Lord be praised!
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