Our newest arrival is 2 weeks old today. I am so overjoyed to be her mommy and to have a newborn to snuggle. I just want to stare at her all day! (Maybe that's why the sink is overflowing with dishes and the house is messy with toys and books and diapers and laundry??).
In honor of Claire's second week of life, I wanted to share our birth story. After two difficult deliveries, I have described this third birth experience as "beautiful," and "all I could have hoped for in a hospital birth." All of the following I wrote while I was still in the hospital:
((This post contains birth-related stuff; you're now fairly notified))
On Thursday morning, December 4th, 2014, I was five days overdue and eager for our third baby to arrive. I was scheduled for a Dr's appointment that morning at 9:15AM (one I thought I'd never have to go to, because "SURELY I would have our baby before then"), and I was so eager to see if I had dilated or if the baby was in position.
"The baby's still really high," said the nurse practitioner, "but that can be normal when you've already had children, for the baby to drop once you're in active labor." I was dilated to a 3-4, and the nurse said she truly believed I would be in labor "today or tomorrow." I left excited, but not letting my hopes get too high. I had another few days to wait before we would have to discuss inducing or c-section.
I dropped off a large load of donations at Savers (nesting goes full throttle when you're in overtime - I reorganized our entire closet the night before, cleaning out unwanted clothing). My mom called and asked if I wanted a manicure -- yes please!! So I went and had my nails done (thank you, Mom! And thanks to my husband as well who had the kids this whole time).
I went home and had lunch while Tedd put Nora down for a nap. Then I painted a pallet for my Etsy shop while Ian watched a cartoon by my side. Then Ian and I took a nap together on the couch; I wake before he does and slip out of the living room to check on Nora.
Now it's roughly 2:30. Nora's sitting next to a large bin of books in her room, poring over them one-by-one, "reading" with enthusiasm. I decide not to interrupt and sneak to my room to get through yet another random contraction. (They'd been going on for a week now, but never really consistent enough to be true labor). I text my husband to tell him how cute Nora is, and then text:
"Hey. FYI. These contractions are getting painful. They're still sporadic on the timing, but they're strong...like I wouldn't really wanna be out running errands by myself when one hits, ya know? My water could break tonight...I think we'll be having a baby late tonight or tomorrow."
Then I text a couple who wants to buy a pair of boots from me. I tell them I'll meet them at 4:15 at the post office down the road. ((so much for not running errands, right?!))
3:30 I start tidying the house. My contractions start coming in waves. I ask Tedd (who was hard at work on attic renovation) to go ahead and find a stopping place and grab a shower because I think we might be going to the hospital later.
I go ahead and call my mom to ask her to get the kids. I didn't want to cut it close like last time.
Now 4:15 is rolling around and Tedd agrees to meet the couple at the post office. "Wanna go to the hospital after I get back?" he asks. "Mmmm...not yet," I tell him, "I don't know if I'm really in active labor yet or not."
While he's out I text:
"I've changed my mind, I do want to leave for the hospital in the next half hour or so. It's hard for me to walk when I have a contraction."
My mom arrives and washes dishes in the sink while I start picking up toys, wiping down the kitchen, and tidying everything in sight (I'm a neat freak and want to be sure I come home to a tidied place when I've got a newborn). The kids are happy, oblivious, and having a snack. :) I keep pausing while having contractions and my mom confirms, "yea, those are getting really close together." Tedd RUNS to the door and is in move-out mode. He grabs our hospital bags, we kiss the kids goodbye, and head out.
We decide we should eat something while I'm still feeling decent. The contractions are getting intense and more painful, but the 7-10 minute breaks in between are completely relaxed. The drive thru line is long, so Tedd runs inside. I have to unbuckle now and lean myself over the back of my seat to get through the next couple of contractions. I'm starting to feel afraid and anxious; I know what's coming. I've been here before.
Tedd and I eat quickly in the parking lot and discuss "epidurals," in which he gently asks me to make a firm decision now so he can advocate for me when I'm "no longer in my right mind." (That's our little running joke about labor). We talk again about why we want to go drug-free, sort of pep-talking myself, but I tell him I just can't commit to anything - I'm just too scared at this point. The pain is becoming all too familiar.
We pull in to labor and delivery, make our way to the third floor, walk up calmly..."Hi. I'm in labor and I'd like to go ahead and check in..." Lol. That felt so weird and the nurse's face let me know she was a bit skeptical. But what else was I going to say?
It was evening so I didn't have a way to talk with my doctor ahead. Thankfully she was the doctor on call that night! Despite her having just had knee surgery, she was there assisting births like a champ!
They tell me they just need to confirm I'm actually in labor, etc, and Tedd is a little annoyed ("she's definitely in labor," he told the nurse) :) I get in my gown, which is hard at this point - standing and changing clothes during a contraction - and feel thankful that we're at the hospital now and I'm not on the verge of having the baby like last time. Things feel peaceful.
I'm now on the bed and being monitored. The chart monitoring my contractions flows up and down into peaks, valleys, and plateaus. They check me and I'm a 6 - and it's official that I'm in labor :)
The staff leaves the room and it's just me and the man I love, laboring and praying, singing and groaning. He reads Scripture to me during each contraction and prays for me while I hold his hand.
I rocked my hips, leaned over the head of the bed (in a non-reclined position) on my knees, biting my pillow, focusing on a little knot in the woodwork on the wall. "Lord, help me just to get through this next one."
And I did, one by one. The Lord gave me the strength and the grace to get through each one.
Each time I would start to tense up and fight the pain, I would try my best to take a breath and say to myself, "let the baby be born; let your body open," and try to let go of my tension and relax. (And by relax, I mean to physically and mentally sort of "un-clench" all the muscles in my body; as many of you know it's nearly impossible to truly relax during labor contractions!)
"Transition" occurred probably around the time that I started crying, telling Tedd I was so frightened - I knew that the hardest part was still left for me to overcome. We prayed more. He read to me. The nurse came in to check me. I was a nine.
They left us alone again and I bit down on the pillow and let out all my raw agony through each of those awful contractions. The ones that make you sort of heave and push involuntarily, and finally my water broke! There were no more valleys on the monitor, only peaks and lofty plateaus. I knew it was close. And the Lord was gracious to give me some relief in between so I could catch my breath.
I was overcome with gratefulness in those moments for the suffering of Christ, for the salvation of my soul, for mercy...
Tedd asked if he could run to the bathroom while I was getting a small "break" between contractions. "Yes. Just hurry because I need you." He ran quickly :) and while he was away another contraction hit me hard, ending with another involuntary push. That's when I felt everything move into my pelvis and a sensation as though the baby were about to fall right out!!
"Tedd!!!" I yelled. He shot right back into the room and pushed the call button. "Help me!" I cried out like a helpless child. The doctor and nurse ran right in and started setting everything up, and they were FAST! The baby's head was close to crowning and I managed to turn my body around so I could sit up. The bed was positioned like a large recliner, so I was able to sit upright and watch the whole miracle unfold.
I gasped for air like I was in a torrent - determined not to tear. Everything burned and I felt like I might split open. The doctor encouraged me that everything was fine. I couldn't really bear the intensity of all that pain and pressure in my body at that point. I could only repeat desperately, "help me, God. Oh, God, please please help me..." and I meant it.
Tedd reminded me to look and see the baby emerging. There she was. I couldn't believe it! That was all I needed to take those last controlled breaths and nudge her out carefully. I pushed carefully, pausing in between to wait, build motivation, breathe...
Within a few minutes, she was out, and the doctor let me be the first one to reach down and take her. It was amazing! I drew our newborn baby as close as I possibly could. "Oh I love her, I love her!!" were my first words as I held her. I held her for the next hour before anyone asked to weigh her or clean her up. It was beautiful. I really couldn't have asked for a better hospital birth experience - very redemptive, private, peaceful, spiritual. I felt I experienced the entire labor and delivery with every part of my body and soul.
We held our Claire Elise for the first time at 9:48PM on December 4th, 2014, weighing 7 pounds and 12 ounces, measuring 19.75 inches long, head covered in a thick mop of soft black hair. We are so in love and praise God from whom all blessings flow!!