You’re sleeping right now.
Snuggled up against me – happy as a clam. I’m stealing these seconds to finish writing out the story of your birth. I want to capture it while every tiny detail is still fresh in my mind. Someday you’ll ask and I want to be able to tell you.
You’re nearly two weeks old now and, in that time, you’ve already grown and changed. We said goodbye to your birth month and welcomed in October, the days of your little life are quickly adding up. This isn’t the easiest stage, you’re dependent on your daddy and I in every possible way and, some days, we’re very tired. Yet, there are so many moments I want to cry with sheer joy over the preciousness of you. Often I do.
The way you came into the world wasn’t how we expected it to be but it was what you needed. And you? You’ve been worth every second of the unexpected.
You were born on the cusp of autumn, Evie, under the waning light of the harvest moon.
The night before you came to us your father and I sat at the lake watching the moonlight dance across the ripples and excitedly timing contractions – we thought for sure it was going to be The Night.
The last three weeks of my pregnancy with you were full of anticipation and almosts. The entire pregnancy we’d been preparing for a natural water birth at a birth center.
We talked about it all the time.
How we wanted you to enter the world into water, how your daddy would cut your cord, how we’d be able to bond – just the three of us. We took a birthing class, read books and your daddy wrote out a list of every tip and trick he would use to coach me through labor (it’ll be in your baby book, Evie – the time and detail he put into it make me cry).
We tried everything those last weeks to help you come, little girl. From acupuncture to castor oil we gave it a shot. Every appointment with our midwives resulted in the same outcome – no progress. You were comfortable and, since there were no signs of trouble we continued to wait on you, wanting to let my body labor on its own.
Those last weeks of carrying you weren’t the easiest part. I was tired, emotional and weary of waiting on a date surrounded by question marks. Yet, those days also hold some of my favorite memories with your daddy. His fingers traced my belly every night, talking to you – watching your legs kick. Together he & I walked along the rivers and lakes of Columbia. He patiently massaged my aching back and took me out for pumpkin spice drinks to distract from the waiting. We played cards and celebrated every small sign of labor progress the way we do most things- together.
Your daddy adores you, Evie. He walks the hallway with you at night, reads the Bible to you and whispers in your ear how pretty you are and how much he likes your outfits. It melts me.
The last ten days of my pregnancy I would lay in bed with stronger and stronger contractions – believing this was it. Every morning I would wake up up and they’d subsided. One night I was so convinced it was time that I told your daddy you were coming. Sadly, you weren’t coming just yet.
The three days before you were born were anxious ones. I knew that if I didn’t begin to labor soon we would have to deliver at the hospital. It’s a frustrating thing when you can’t force your body to do something you know it’s capable of, Evie. I prayed a lot those days and weeks – waiting for the fullness of time that would bring us you.
You were due on a Friday in early September. Instead, you came on the two-week anniversary of your due date – just three days before your daddy’s own birthday. We woke up on Friday, September 20th – not knowing it would be your birthday. We did know that since I still wasn’t in labor, and you were now a full two weeks late, we would need to transfer our care from the wonderful midwives at the birth center to the hospital. It was a hard morning for me as I struggled to accept the reality that your birth would look very different from what I had envisioned for the last several months. Your daddy was my rock. His patience and prayers for both of us carried me through a difficult morning.
The doctor did an ultrasound on you, little girl and found that your fluid levels were dangerously low. We watched you on the screen, Evie – your gentle kicks were only cushioned by one, small pocket of fluid. Honestly, we were shocked – there had been no indications that you’d lost any fluid and yet, here you were, with almost none. I’m so grateful for the protection of God on your tiny body during those last weeks that I carried you.
We checked into the hospital on Friday afternoon. I was hooked up to a monitor so your heart rate could be evaluated. Our doula sat with us as we discussed the options we had for your birth. While on the monitor you had one major heart deceleration because of your lack of fluid (you probably rolled over onto your cord)- you recovered and we watched your heart rate rise back to a healthy level. It scared me, baby girl.
The doctor finally came in. He reminded me of the uncles from Secondhand Lions, all brusque and seemingly stern but well-meaning. He quickly told us that he’d like to do an immediate cesarean section. Your daddy asked him and the nurse to give us some time alone to talk – as soon as they left, I cried.
A cesarean was the farthest thing from how I pictured you entering the world.
I wanted you to come to us in a birth tub. I had picked out candles for the room, we packed special snacks for when I was in labor and your daddy and I had dreamed of the moment when he could catch you.
To have all of the stripped away was hard. There’s no other way to put it. To also find out I may not even be able to deliver you naturally, albeit at the hospital, broke me for a little while.
Your daddy prayed over me. Reminded me that you were still the prize waiting on the other side of everything, reminded me that he was there to walk through the journey with me. Together we decided we wanted to try laboring naturally to bring you into the world. The doctor agreed, on the condition that I stay hooked up to the monitor to watch your heart – since your fluid was so low you had no cushion around your cord and, each time you moved, you were in danger of cutting off your oxygen supply.
We decided against breaking my water – since you had so little to spare and I’d been unresponsive to all other induction methods. I was started on a low dose of pitocin and, together your dad and I, began the labor process. I’d been having contractions for days and the pitocin helped increase the strength and frequency. Your dad quietly held my hands, rubbed my back and whispered prayers for you and I. I’m crying thinking of his quiet strength in those moments when we were somewhere we never thought we’d be.
After six hours of laboring your heart rate decelerated suddenly and significantly. It dropped from 180 bpm at the peak of a contraction to 50 bpm – normally your heart averaged around 140 bpm. The nurses put me on oxygen and palpitated you to move you off your cord. It took three minutes but slowly your heart rate rose back over 100 bpm.
I knew then.
Knew we would have to have a cesarean.
Evie, before this weekend I’d never been hospitalized and never had surgery. I was afraid but, in a paradox only possible by the grace of Christ, I was at peace. I knew that, for you to enter the world safely, it had to be.
Your dad held my hands, tears in his eyes as he said a final prayer and encouraged me to picture your face. The precious face I would be seeing so soon.
I was prepped for surgery, given a spinal block, strapped to a heart monitor and what felt like a thousand other machines. As we finished preparing your heart rate dropped significantly again – you recovered but it was further confirmation we were making the right decision for you.
You were born at 11:31 p.m. on Friday, September 20th.
Your daddy watched the whole operation (I wanted too but wasn’t allowed) and whispered updates to me. I could feel the pressure of you coming, the suddenness with which you were pulled out and then, then you were here. Everyone cheered and wished you a happy birthday, baby girl.
They held you up so I could see you.
You were a perfect bundle of dimples and dark hair and I cried. Cried with relief that you were here safely and cried that you weren’t already in my arms. Your daddy went with you to the other side of the operating room and watched you be cleaned and wrapped up.
(SO grateful for these pictures of the first moments of your life outside the womb. A kind nurse ran back to our room and got my cell phone so your daddy could take pictures. I was taken to the OR so suddenly that we didn’t even remember the camera).
About three minutes later (though it felt like an eternity) you were snuggled into my arms. Your little mouth opened wide, already wanting to nurse and your beautiful eyes glanced around, trying to understand what on earth had just happened.
Lemonade from lemons.
Our new family.
Your daddy went with you to the nursery while my surgery finished. The anesthesiologist patiently listened to me ramble about how much I loved you and how pretty I thought you were (he agreed).
I spent 30 minutes in the recovery room counting the seconds until I could see you again.
The nurse called your dad so he could come with me to our new room. He wheeled our bags in and, just ten minutes later, our little family was reunited. I fed you but it was your dad that changed your first few diapers because they wouldn’t let me get out of bed until the next day. He swaddled you up and we sat and stared at you. Relieved you were here, relieved you were safe and in awe of the speed with which our lives had changed. We couldn’t stop kissing your little face.
We spent a day and a half in the hospital and went home on Sunday afternoon. I dressed you in our favorite striped sleeper and we welcomed you home on the first day of Autumn. A change in seasons and a change in our lives.
The last several days have been full of little moments with you.
We’re learning what you like (snuggles and being held close) and don’t like (being naked) and how to best care for you. It’s overwhelming some days, you’re so tiny and so new at life but I know two things; you’re precious to us and, together, the three of us will make it through.
The new normal we’re discovering has knit your daddy & I even closer together. Watching him fall in love with you is incredible. You’re the “for better” we promised each other almost two years ago. The way your story unfolded reminded us both that so much of life is unpredictable and unexpected – in accepting that and trusting in the strength of God’s grace there is sweet freedom to adapt to hard situations. Thanks for reminding us of that, sweetheart.
We pray over you every day, baby. Know that. For protection, for wisdom, for all the days ahead, for patience through the long nights and need-filled days, for your little heart to one day know Jesus.
You’re an incredible gift baby girl and I’d do it all over again.
(We’ve listened to this song together through many late nights of nursing, Evie Claire. I’m so glad I get to be your mom).