I never understood why many women choose to blog about their baby’s birth story. The experience, to me, seemed too intimate to share with family and friends at great detail. Recently though, after reading sweet stories from friends, I started to understand why people write out their baby’s birth story. The experience is unlike any other…a moment no one wants to forget. And of course, after Anna’s arrival, I became the doting mother who can’t wait to capture all of her “firsts” in writing. So, this is the tale of Anna’s last hours inside me, and her first hours in the world. Thanks for letting me share it with you.
I not so secretly hoped you’d arrive a little early, or at the very least, “on-time.” I hate to admit my hopes of an early arrival since babies will come on their own timing—but—I was ready for you. I think most moms don’t particularly enjoy the last few weeks of their pregnancy because everything is hard. It’s hard to bend down. It’s hard to walk for long periods of time. It’s hard to sleep. It felt like you were taking up every part of my tummy.
For weeks my doctor had been telling me that I was carrying you very low. Because of this, I’d convinced myself you’d arrive early. At my appointment the Thursday before I went into labor, Dr. Ho said it didn’t appear likely. “Looks like an August baby to me,” she said. I returned to work feeling discouraged and tired.
And thus began a few labor inducing measures… we bought pineapple, and a special tea and vitamins that supposedly help encourage a baby’s arrival.
On Friday the 15th I finished my last full day at work. I was planning to still return the next week part time, but it would mostly be to train a new employee. Finishing my last full day felt like a milestone, and indeed, it was! My plans to relax and get projects done before your arrival would never be.
On Saturday the 16th, your daddy and I set to work on the house. Your nursery was mostly finished but I still had a few artsy projects I was working on. I was also determined to get the garage cleaned up, laundry finished, and floors cleaned. We got up very early and took the car into a service station to get fixed, then we set out to work. At one point that day your dad said, with concern, “I think you’ve reached nesting mode. I want you to calm down and not work so hard.” I told him that I’ve been nesting since December, when we bought the house. Nesting is who I am. I like things neat and clean. Plus, what was the worst that could happen? I was ready for you to come!
We went out to a nice dinner that night. Daddy had made the reservations a week before without any input from me. I love when he does that! We figured we should get in one last date night before you came. We slowly and leisurely got ready to go. I put on my special perfume that I wear whenever we go out for a nice occasion. We held hands all the way to the restaurant—Ella—in downtown Sacramento. Our meal was perfect. I ordered a special truffle pasta and a glass of wine…my first since before I was pregnant. It tasted amazing, and I secretly hoped it might help move things along because I read wine was another labor inducing technique. After dinner we walked to Ambrosia Café for dessert. The restaurant was very quiet and we chose a seat near the window looking out at the cathedral. Quiet music played—the kind you’d hear in a little French café. We slowly ate our dessert trio and watched people pass by on foot. I felt like I was on vacation in Europe.
Back at home that night, we cuddled on the couch. I remember turning to your dad, completely relaxed, saying, “Everything is ready. My bag is packed. The house is clean. We had our date night. This baby can come!”
The next morning, Sunday, I woke up at 6:00am. I thought I heard someone pounding on our front door but no one was there. I also had to use the restroom. (Not an uncommon occurrence in the later days of pregnancy.)
Something just didn’t feel right when I climbed back into bed. I tried to remain hopeful I could get a few more hours of sleep but was somewhat resigned to the fact that I should just get up and start the day. A few minutes later, I got up again to use the restroom, and that’s when my water broke . Baby, you were so easy during my entire pregnancy that I really shouldn’t have been surprised that my water broke neatly over the toilet. What are the chances?! At first I was in shock and then denial. I went into the kitchen and made myself toast. When I stood up again, another gush.
“Ahhhh, so this is it,” I decided.
I woke your dad up in the same way I told him I was pregnant–straight out of a dead sleep. I crawled on the bed and then whispered, “Love? Love? So, my water just broke.”
The thing you’ll learn about your dad is that he always appears to be sleeping soundly, but if you pop big news on him he’ll shoot out of bed quickly.
Jonathan went into full Dad mode as soon as he processed the news. I think most first time fathers fear the process of driving to the hospital. In the weeks prior he’d expressed concerns about a fast labor, traffic on the freeway, and other complications. He’d even downloaded an app to time contractions. I, on the other hand, stayed cool as a cucumber. After calling the hospital, and being told we had to come in within a few hours, I told Jonathan to call his mom while I called mine. Then, I demanded breakfast. (I didn’t think the hospital would feed me once I arrived, so Jonathan made “lightly scrambled eggs” as suggested by What to Expect When You’re Expecting.) I put on makeup, straightened my hair, and finished packing my bag. It wanted to look good for you baby.
The drive to the hospital was surreal. The Sunday morning freeways were empty, and the sky was gray. The odd summer weather reminded me of the morning of our wedding—another gray Sunday when my life changed for the better. The world seemed so quiet as we zoomed toward the next phase in our life. Jonathan put on Hillsong United, and I fought back a few tears as I thought about the huge blessing we were about to be given. YOU!
We got to the hospital at 8:00am, and once there the day seemed to fly by. After hooking me up to monitors to make sure you were okay, the nurses let me walk the halls on and off for hours. We turned on the women’s World Cup soccer match, which I watched standing up or in the rocking chair. I wanted to encourage you to move downward before I needed an epidural. Sometime in the early afternoon my doctor checked me and recommended I take drugs to help you progress. I hadn’t dilated at all (part of the reason she thought you’d be late). Once water breaks there is a higher risk for infection, and at the slow rate things were moving it night have been several days before you’d have come out on your own. After giving me a pill to ripen the cervix, I then got put on Pitocin sometime around 2:00 or 3:00pm.
And then, the contractions began getting much stronger.
Fortunately for everyone, Legally Blonde was on TV. I texted Katie H and Jenny to tell them about my luck. We used to watch Legally Blonde frequently in college. It’s one of those hilariously dumb movies that we’ve memorized all the lines and scenes. I sat, mesmerized in pain, while your poor Daddy put up with the movie and my breathing exercises. He was so patient with me, so encouraging.
Around 7:00 or 8:00pm, I requested the epidural. They’d already given me a narcotic to help with the pain but it had only made me sleepy. (Not a good decision!) I decided the epidural would help me be able to rest before the long night ahead.
It was a great decision.
The epidural really didn’t hurt and didn’t scare me. I didn’t like the way my legs felt, but I loved the ability to rest. From 9:00pm to 1:00am I dozed in and out of sleep while Jonathan tried to do the same on his couch. It wasn’t great rest, but it helped. At 1:00am, Dr. Ho checked me and said I’d progressed quicker than she thought. She told me to rest for another hour and then get ready to go.
Of course, I was so giddy and excited at that point it was hard to rest. A little before 2:00am I insisted your dad bring me a juice box for energy, and my makeup, for vanity. You’ll learn I don’t wear much makeup usually, but I had a big zit on the middle of my face which needed covering for pictures plus I wanted to make sure I’d taken off all my mascara from the day before to avoid raccoon eyes when the tears started flowing (which they later did).
By 2:40am I was the woman I’d only seen in movies and TV— legs spread, huffing and puffing and pushing. It wasn’t nearly as terrible as I thought it would be. Our nurse Sam was the only person in the room with Jonathan and I. The lights were dim and voices were soft. In between contractions Jonathan would encourage me. We chatted with Sam who was comforting and kind. I felt very little pain except for one section of my leg that never became numb from the epidural. That little section of leg would tell me when I was having a contraction. Soon, Dr. Ho arrived to help maneuver you out. I picked Dr. Ho because Kara had highly recommended her back in December. She described her as gentle and matter-of-fact, two traits I appreciated during every doctor visit and during your delivery.
I knew you were getting close when other nurses came into the room to warm your little bed and get all of the tools ready. Their presence gave me motivation to push hard and meet you. Everyone was ready, but I’d been ready the longest.
At 4:00am, on my last push of a contraction, you finally popped out. Immediately they put you on my chest where I couldn’t take my teary eyes off you. You were quiet yet so alert—your eyes wandering around; your little white body so long across my tummy. I don’t think you cried until a few minutes passed. Later, when people asked if your silence had concerned me, I realized it had not. I knew right away that you were strong yet pensive. So far, in your first few weeks of life, you have remained incredibly calm and quiet.
After a moment or two I looked over at your dad. I had wondered how he would react. Would he cry? Would he laugh? He was fairly quiet as he snapped pictures and then cut the umbilical cord. Later he would admit that at first sight, you were a little bit scary especially since you were so quiet. (I’ll admit– you certainly were a lot cuter once they cleaned the blood and goo off your body, and your cries turned your skin a healthy pink color.)
I was in such a daze that I missed most of the action around me. From my bed I watched as they measured and weighed you, then put you in your daddy’s arms. A few minutes later you were back on my chest, skin-to-skin, so that I could whisper in your ears and study your sweet, puffy face.
By 4:30am we were alone again in our room. The nurses and doctors cleared out to give us time with you. Jonathan rocked in the chair next to my bed as we marveled over your tiny body. Eventually he took off his shirt and also held you on his chest, letting you feel his heart beat for the first time.
The rest of our time in the hospital was a busy blur. Our families arrived around 7:00am, once we’d been moved upstairs to a different room. Both the Sebek and Miller grandparents arrived along with Auntie Allison, her boyfriend Matt, and your Uncle Matt. It was there in our room that we finally shared your name with everyone. Like us, they fell in love immediately with your sweet, soft skin and beautiful face. There was so much love in that room all day long as guests came and went, and we tried to doze from our long night.
Baby girl, it’s been two weeks since you entered our lives and my heart has only grown more in its love for you as each day passes. I love your silly faces, your cuddly body, the way you nuzzle up against my neck. I even love your sweet cry—though it breaks my heart every time I hear you use those little lungs. Basically, I just love being your mama and can’t wait to watch you grow.
Welcome to the world, little one.