At 3 AM, four days after Anna was born I realized it was my due date. And despite feeling inexplicably tired, I couldn't help but be grateful that I wasn't in labor AND that I was holding a perfectly healthy baby.
And I'm going to be real here and state the obvious, but labor sucks.
Its pretty much the worst ever.
(Can you tell how fake this smile is?)
However, the end result could not be better, so I'll keep the complaining to a minimal.
Thumbs up = total lie.
Anyway, Nick and I both thought that we would have a baby conference weekend. I was convinced that I'd be sitting, listening to the Prophet and eating sticky buns while nursing a baby. All week I had been incredibly crampy and I'd had tons of random contractions, so on Sunday when I was still pregnant I went to bed a little disappointed. Luckily, I had a midwife appointment Monday morning so the next day I headed in. After a quick exam, my midwife informed me that I was dilated to a 4 and that she would be shocked if I wasn't in active labor by that night or the following morning. (She also stripped my membranes at my request)
As I was driving home from my appointment, I knew I would be having a baby the next day. Nick and I decided to call my mom (who was in Portland) and have her keep her phone on her so that when I started having regular contractions she could drive down and stay with Ev. The rest of our day was fairly uneventful - Nick went to school, Ev and I ran errands, and I continued to have random contractions. For family night, we decided to get ice cream (and maybe dinner too...) and I started having regular contractions while eating my delicious Oreo Blizzard. (I'm contemplating writing DQ a thank you note and demanding that they offer me free blizzards for life since I'm pretty sure that perfectly blended blizzard really got things rolling)
Anyway, we enjoyed our last few hours with Ev and put her to bed. It was so hard to not really be able to explain to her that when she woke up the next day her life would be so different. Plus I assumed that when she got up, Nick and I would not be there (which was true).
My mom drove down to Eugene late Monday night and by 11 PM everybody was asleep, but me (my contractions were 8-10 minutes apart). I tried so hard to sleep, but my contractions kept waking me up, so I just gave up and turned on the TV. Normally a night of uninterrupted TV would be heavenly, but I really just wanted to get to the hospital. Since we made it to the hospital with little time to spare when I had Evie, I assumed that my labor would be just as quick, if not quicker. (WRONG)
By 4:30 AM my contractions were 5, sometimes 4 minutes apart so I woke up Nick and we headed to the hospital around 5. On the way there I was sure that I was pretty far along into my labor, so I was really excited to be examined by a nurse and then validated.
Upon examination, the nurse told me I was only dilated to a 5, but they admitted me anyway. I can't lie, I was pretty ticked. I only dilated one centimeter in 9 hours! It felt like I was working much harder than the one centimeter I had earned. Just kidding, I know labor doesn't work like that, but I was just so surprised that things were happening so slowly since my previous labor was so fast.
We just wanted to meet our baby! So like any good parents, we decided to get breakfast. And by we, I mean Nick, since I definitely didn't feel like eating. Nick went downstairs and came back up with this - Breakfast of Champions (chocolate milk and a maple bar).
Let me state one thing about how I feel about labor. I don't really care how you deliver your baby - hospital, birth center, bathtub, epidural, natural, cesarian, whatever - I just think you should do what you want. I don't believe in birth plans or methods of certain things and I really hate all the judgmental jargon associated with childbirth. I don't think that having a baby without medication is "superior" or "inferior" to getting an epidural and I think how you view your birth experience is largely based on attitude, since so much is beyond your control. And I think my dismissal of birth plans makes my practioners a little nervous. Its not that I'm nonchalant or apathetic, I'm just happy with whatever happens as long as my child is delivered safely. So when my midwife asked me how I felt about delivering naturally, I shrugged and said, "Whatever happens." What I meant by this statement was, I'd like to go as long as I can without an epidural since sitting in a bed all day sounds miserable. Then when or if I felt like I needed meds, I would get them. This was my plan (or lack of plan) with Evelyn, but she came so fast that I basically asked for an epidural in the lobby of the hospital.
Since my labor was progressing fairly slowly (I was dilated to a 7 at about 9:00 AM) I was able to learn a lot. I know this sounds weird, but with Evelyn I had no time to do anything once I got to the hospital but have her, so this time I actually learned how to labor, which was a terrible experience, but one that I'm grateful for (I think it will help me with future deliveries). My midwife taught me all different positions to help with pain, I bounced on a ball, walked, got in the jacuzzi, etc. and I learned what worked best for me. In fact, I wish I would have known all this information when I was up all night laboring at home - it would have been so helpful.
I also think Nick felt more helpful. Since we actually had time, he was able to walk around the halls with me, rub my back, get me juice and shout positive words of affirmation when I begged for a sledgehammer to the head. My midwife and the nurses were also amazing. They gave me massages and barely left my side. Everybody was cheering me on and helping me and I could not have asked for better staff. My midwife, Patricia, was seriously amazing. I felt as strong as Dwayne Johnson, but as beautiful as Charlize Theron with all her kind words.
By the time I felt like I wanted an epidural, I was exhausted. Like just ran a marathon after fasting for three days exhausted. I hadn't slept in over a day and labor is hard work! I told Patricia that I "might" want an epidural (so passive/aggressive of me) and she suggested getting into the hospital bed (I was in the jacuzzi) and then accessing the situation. Moments after I got situated, I felt the urge to push. I think everybody in the room (but me) knew that I didn't have time for an epidural (clearly I was in denial).
When I realized that I was actually going to give birth naturally, I started to panic a little. I didn't have a full-on breakdown or anything, but I found it difficult to control my breathing and even mid-contraction I could feel how fast my heart was beating. I was terrified and started to cry a little, not sure if I could actually do it. Then I remembered the blessing that Nick gave me before we went to the hospital. We have been jokingly calling it "the midwife blessing," since having Anna, but I have no doubt it was inspired. When I had Evelyn, the blessing Nick gave me was equally beautiful, but very different. It talked a lot about what capable hands I would be in and how everyone surrounding me was prepared to help deliver my baby and that I would be comforted and strengthened by the good care I received. Which is amazing because we barely got to the hospital in time (for a medicated delivery) and my actual doctor (and an anesthesiologist) happened to be there available to me. But the blessing I received for Anna talked about nothing and nobody else but me. It talked about how strong I was and how my body was ready and prepared to deliver our baby safely. Anyway, when I started to panic before pushing, I was truly comforted by the words in the blessing Nick gave me. I just kept telling myself that I could single handedly destroy the Hulk if I had too, so giving birth must certainly be doable.
That said, I really struggled getting Anna out of the birth canal. I think it was a combination of a few things. 1) I'd never really learned how to push. Even though I could feel a ton of pressure and pain even with an epidural during Ev's delivery, its not the same and it was hard to tell which pushes were most effective. So I really had to learn how to push effectively while having Anna. 2) I was so tired. Towards the end, I was falling asleep when I wasn't having contractions for a minute or two and then waking up and pushing and then falling back asleep. It was weird. 3) It was excruciating. Imagine someone taking a blowtorch and an axe to your groin simultaneously. You get mild relief from your contractions when you push, but then you get bombarded with extreme pain when you realize how bad it hurts to get an 8 pound human out of your body.
Anyway, I pushed for almost an hour before Anna was born. I can't even count how many times Nick, Patricia or one of the nurses said, "Okay, she's almost here! One more push!" I would push with confidence hoping it were true and it felt like forever before it was.
Finally, at 11:58 AM, it was true! Pushing was over and we got to hold our perfect baby*. I do have to interject here and say that Nick caught Anna. When Patricia first suggested that Nick do so, I think we both feared (despite Nick's obvious athleticism) that something might go amiss. Patricia reassured both of us that it was impossible to drop her and hurt her. She also said something really sweet - that Nick would be the first person on Earth to touch our daughter and that his hands would guide her into life. I thought that was really special because so much attention is giving to the mother (for some obvious reasons), but for Nick to have an active role in Anna's labor was important to both of us.
*And I apologize for the nastiness of some of these photos.
When Anna was born, we still did not have a name for her. Throughout my pregnancy my whole family called her 'Lucky,' and it stuck. When we talked and prayed about our baby we called her Lucky. At some points when we couldn't agree on a name, I feared we might actually have to name her that since it was clearly the only name we could both happily call her. I still call her Lucky often.
All the staff thought it was hilarious that not only did we not have a name, but we had so many options. We brought in three lists - a first name list, a middle name list, and a long shot list (all my personal favorites that Nick hated) in case nothing on the first two worked. Each list had 8 names on it. All the nurses would look at the lists and tell us which names they liked best and we still weren't sure what to name her. We tossed a few names around and after an hour or so we settled on Anna and it just felt right. Nick and I also agreed that her dark, curly hair reminded us of my brother, and so she was Anna Shea.
And I hate to use the word lucky, but in many ways that's how we feel - so fortunate to have a healthy baby. That is definitely something that we are so incredibly grateful for as parents.
After Anna was a few hours old and I'd had some rest, I really started to get anxious to see Ev. I knew she was having the time of her life with my mom, but I missed her! So my mom brought Ev to the hospital to have dinner with us.
She had no desire to touch or look at Anna initially. In fact, she mostly ignored her. She kept saying that the baby was in my tummy still.
Thankfully, Ev had plenty of interest in spending time with me. She spent a couple hours in the hospital room with us and it was so good to see her, especially since Nick and I would both be staying the night away from her.
I was so excited to get home and be with Ev, but also terrified to have two children. I told Nick that I made sure to pack makeup and hair supplies this time since last time I didn't and basically looked homeless in all our hospital pics. I had such grand aspirations of Jenny Packham calling me and saying that Kate Middleton just didn't do justice to that polka dot gown and offer to be my right hand lady per post-baby fashions. But I've come to realize that its just not in the cards for me to channel Kate Middleton in the hours following childbirth and the only things I touched in my makeup bag and hair supplies were chapstick, toothbrush and a hair tie.
Ev has really warmed up to Anna and is now mildly obsessed with her. She loves to share her toys and blankets with Anna and is constantly giving her kisses (we have to watch her quite carefully to avoid smothering). She really is a great big sister.
My mom stayed for 10 days (she left yesterday afternoon) and I literally wept when she left. I just kept telling her how scared I was to do it without her. You have to understand something about my mom - babies are her "thing." She has many talents, but by far her greatest skill, is being the world's most amazing baby whisperer. If a baby is crying and she walks into the room, I swear, NO LIE, the baby stops crying. She just knows what to do in every situation (I'm sure having six of her own children helped facilitate this) and she took such good care of all four of us while she was here. She cooked fabulous meals three times a day - seriously I woke up to omelets, pancakes, etc. every morning! She cleaned and scrubbed and changed diapers and helped entertain Ev and held Anna so I could play with Ev and let me sleep and basically worked like a slave for 10 days.
She's so unselfish. I know she probably wanted to just sit on the couch and snuggle Anna all day (which she thankfully got to do a little), but she spent her entire time here taking care of us. I would wake up and roll over in bed and there would be a sandwich and a water bottle waiting for me. I would come downstairs and she'd be cooking in the kitchen or playing with Ev or scrubbing my toilets. She must have been so exhausted when she left! I'm resisting the urge to call her and make her come back and take care of me. I think as a mom, you spend so much of your time taking care of other people that when someone takes care of you, its the most meaningful, special thing in the world. And that's how I felt the whole time my mom was here, so special. She just knows how to nurture and I'm so grateful to have benefitted from that my whole life, but especially the past 10 days. She has made the transition from child to children much easier on me and I cannot thank her enough.
I still can't believe we have two kids! Its like we've always had Anna but she's brand new at the same time. We simply adore her. She's such a good baby and I'm hopeful that I'll be able to tackle two kids with confidence and patience. My friend Heather told me that since she's had two kids she doesn't shower or do makeup on the same day. I can totally relate since I neither shower or put on makeup anymore. But hopefully when I'm not so sleep deprived my personal hygiene will regain some momentum.
Here are some things I've learned since having Anna:
1. You don't need two hands for anything.
2. The only hair I do these days is Evelyn's (and only since my mom left).
3. If you have an opportunity for a hot, uninterrupted shower you should take it, even at 3 AM.
4. A little bit of fresh air goes a long way. For example, walking to the mailbox.
5. Laundry is a full-time job.
6. Sleep wins every battle, which is why my personal hygiene is truly offensive.
7. Anna does not mind the smell of my janky breath.
8. I really love having two kids and I'm so grateful to be a mom.
And some more random phone pics that I don't have the energy to put in order.