Landon Steel’s story all began in March 2012 when we took a pregnancy test and saw that it was positive. Landon’s older sister, Blair Nicole, went to be with Jesus on November 11, 2011 and we knew we eventually wanted to have another child. It took a lot of prayer and understanding that it would be ok for us to try after three months of recovery for my body. So we were so relieved and blessed when we got pregnant right away. We immediately spread the word and our friends and family began praying for our little miracle. We were so excited, but also a little fearful for the long 9 months of waiting.
My pregnancy was very similar to Blair’s with virtually no sickness from the start. I love being pregnant because I truly do feel my best, and the feeling of life inside me is just amazing. However, this pregnancy also came with a lot of anxiousness. I feared the worst with every normal ache and pain, every span of not feeling him move even though it was just because he was sleeping, and the small chance that I would hear bad news again at a doctor appointment. Yet, I reminded myself with every fearful thought that God was in control, my son was in the Lord’s hands, and there were so many people praying. It gave me a lot of peace knowing those things and really helped me get through it.
On Friday, September 28, 2012 (one day shy of being 32 weeks) I had an appointment with my high-risk doctor in Midland at 9:00am for the first of my weekly fetal monitoring appointments. My mother-in-law, Patty, was with me and we had plans to drive to Dallas for a girls shopping weekend while the guys went hunting in New Mexico. It had rained the night before and was still raining a lot. The roads were also flooded in town making it a little more difficult to get there. Yet there were still cars on the road and businesses were open as usual. Except for my doctors office, which was closed and did not call me to inform me of this. Who does that!? So...very frustrated, I called my regular OB to see if I could get in for at least a test to hear the baby (NST). They were able to get me in at 9:30 so off we went. Our baby boy looked GREAT on the NST and all was well, however, my doctor noticed I was having some contractions so she wanted to check me before we went to Dallas. She discovered I was 3 cm dilated and 30 percent effaced. CRAZY! So, needless to say, I wasn’t going anywhere! I was admitted into Labor and Delivery to be monitored and given meds to stop the contractions. They worked off and on, but I continued to have contractions anywhere from 3 in an hour to 2-5 minutes apart. They were very irregular, but definitely there. I could feel the contractions, but they were not painful. Just a tightening and cramp like feeling. I didn't change any in dilation, but became 50 percent effaced, so they kept me overnight to continue monitoring me. I was checked again Saturday morning, and my doctor found that I was 3 1/2cm dilated and 70 percent effaced, while still having contractions. So she made the decision to send me to Odessa Medical Center, which has one of the best NICU units around. This was IN CASE our baby boy decided to greet the world earlier then planned, not because there was anything wrong with him or me. Therefore, I was transferred from Dr. McBrayer's care to Dr. Kelly in Odessa, which was hard being that I have grown so close to my doctor through the last year. But it was a smooth transition and I really liked Dr. Kelly and his staff. I was in the L&D in Odessa from Saturday afternoon until Sunday evening being monitored with the least amount of meds to see if I would naturally stop contractions. I did, so they moved me to a postpartum room Sunday night for less continuous monitoring. At this point, I actually went from being 3 1/2cm dilated back down to a 2! I didn’t even know that could happen!? Praise God! We then were told that we should not leave Odessa because I needed to be as close as possible to the hospital in case labor picked up again. We then began trying to form a plan and some good friends, Bryan & Tasha Creech, offered for us to use their 5th wheel trailer. We found out that the hospital had hook-ups free of charge right in the parking lot!! WOW! Another God thing for sure! So...I was put on bed rest hoping to make it to at least 37 weeks. I was not confined to the bed, but had to be off my feet as much as possible. I had lots of friends and family come to visit and I was often able to get out and have some freedom. I had appointments at Texas Tech Medical Center with Dr. Kelly twice a week for NST's, sonograms, and check-ups, so it was comforting to know what was going on. Clint went to work as usual and made the hour drive back and forth between Odessa and Big Spring. It was hard to be away from home and out of routine for 5 weeks, but so worth it knowing we were close to the hospital if anything were to happen.
On Friday, November 2 I had my last NST with Dr. Kelly and was officially off of “bed rest” the next day because I would be 37 weeks and considered full term. I had scheduled an appointment with Dr. McBrayer for the following Monday to make a plan with her to deliver in Midland. My mom had come in town on Wednesday and we went home to do some things at our house and I started to notice more pressure and pain, but nothing to make me think it was true labor. However, when I went to my appointment at 8:30am Friday morning there were more contractions then “normal” on the NST. The doctor decided to check me and discovered I was 4-5 cm dilated. Again, I wasn’t going anywhere! I was sent to Labor & Delivery and was told I would be having my baby TODAY! There was no stopping contractions this time!! My mom cried with excitement and I just sat there in shock! It was finally time! So we threw shopping out the window and headed to L&D. Once there we started calling everyone letting them know what was going on. Clint was on his way from work when we were both finally convinced that it was really happening this time.
I sat in the bed for a while still having the same contractions I had been having with no real pain, yet I did start to notice they were happening more often. Dr. Kelly then made the decision to break my water to progress things and help the baby drop. Dr. Bowman and Dr. Kelly worked together to break my water around 2:00pm. During my pregnancy I had been diagnosed with polyhydramnios, which is excess amniotic fluid in the amniotic sac. I couldn’t believe how much water was actually inside me!! I immediately felt lighter and smaller the minute they finished. My contractions also progressed and became more painful. I was asked and told SEVERAL times if I wanted an epidural at any time just to let them know. I had really prepared for a natural delivery my first pregnancy with Blair, and when I was unable to do that I knew that I wanted to try in the future. Therefore, I made the decision to do my best to have my baby boy naturally with no pain medication. I could not have done it without my team though! My husband did the job of putting pressure on my back and helping me push, my mom massaged my feet, back, and hands making it as relaxing as possible while also helping Clint, and my mother-in-law Patty coached me on my breathing. I can definitely see why women say it is the most painful thing they have been through, but the minute it was all over and my son was in my arms it was all worth it! I would do it again for the feeling of accomplishment I had holding him in my arms! I also had the ideal situation with the amount of time it took. From the time my water was broken to pushing it was 4-5 hours of contractions, and I only pushed for about 20 minutes. At 5:56pm he was born! Truly a blessing!
However, I did not hear the sound I had envisioned hearing all this time. I heard some short cries, but not the screaming baby I had expected. After Clint cut the cord, Landon was immediately rushed to the bassinet and the nurses began rubbing him and putting a tube to his mouth to give him oxygen. Those were the scariest moments ever as I was forced to stay in the bed and watch my son get worked on by NICU nurses. I kept thinking, “Oh please Lord, not again! Let me hear him cry!” We were told several times that everything was ok and that this was typical for a 36-week baby, but I was still very worried. It was a total of about 7 minutes, which felt like an eternity before we heard him start to scream. That sound was music to my ears as they brought him to my arms. We looked at our son with complete joy and excitement! Thank you Lord for this sweet miracle of life! I looked at Clint and asked, “What should we name him?” He said, “You just went through natural labor! You can name him whatever you want!! Haha!” He then said, “How about Landon?” I looked with amazement that he agreed to that name! It had always been my number one choice, but had to grow on Clint. He said it had been at the front of his mind for a while and he thought I deserved my first choice! We both loved the middle name Steel because it symbolized strength and resilience and the Lord had definitely given us those things over the past year. So Landon Steel Schuelke it was! A 7 pound 10 ounce, 20.5 inch bundle of cuteness!
We moved to a postpartum room and had great visits from family and friends as we navigated these new waters as parents of a newborn. We were discharged and sent home on Sunday, November 4. The amazing feeling of going home with a baby in the back seat was unlike anything I can describe. What a change of emotions from just last year! We felt so blessed! We came home to a clean and organized house surrounded by our family- another huge blessing! We were now officially a family of four! I know Blair was looking down on us with joy as we got to bring her little brother home. Blair will never be replaced and the ache in our hearts will always remain as we miss her so much every day! Yet, I am just amazed at how the Lord has brought beauty from the ashes of a fire that burned in our hearts not so long ago. Our God is a God of restoration and healing. He has brought us through the storms in our lives to teach us something about ourselves and His deep love for us. We have learned how to love deeper-- to love our God, to love each other, to love our children, to love our families, and to love this world that is lost even more. We have a hope that is greater then anything this world can offer. We have already seen our hope revealed in our son, Landon, and can’t wait to teach him about the love and hope that God has for him and our family.