Julia's birth was definitely the hardest to wait for out of my three babies. I think partly because both of my older kids were a few days early . . . and that trend looked like it would continue with this baby.
I was especially anxious to find out the gender of this baby, as we wanted to be surprised!
February rolled around, and I had convinced myself that I only had a few weeks left (my actual due date was March 6th)! Which just meant I had to really work on my patience when the baby didn't share my timetable. ;)
God placed amazing people in my life to keep reminding me to savor the last days of being a mommy of two, and enjoying each day, whether it involved going into labor, or waking up still pregnant the next morning. I had night after night of steady, uncomfortable contractions, and then, nothing. I was convinced that this baby would never come.
I have never struggled with the irrational "I-will-truly-be-pregnant-forever" mindset until I was waiting for this baby to be born. My older two kids were easy on me. Olivia was born one day before her due date (especially nice for a first baby!), and Levi was born six days before his due date. I now understand why so many sweet pregnant Mamas have been a breath away from losing their sanity. I have been there! ;)
I tried everything I could think of to "naturally" induce labor. Raspberry leaf tea (I found out later, this really has nothing to do with inducing labor - don't fall into the same trap I did!), Mom and I would go to the mall and "mall walk", climbing stairs two at a time, building a snowman with my kids, my doctor even stripped the membranes twice, to no avail. Let this be a cautionary tale to all you desperate-to-just-give-birth-already Mamas - babies really do come when they're ready to come. God had this little one's book of days numbered before she would ever arrive, and there wasn't anything I, or any doctor could do to force his hand. It did make me feel a little better though to think that maybe one of my attempts would be the time God would give the green light! ;)
Finally, my doctor offered (for the second time) to schedule an induction for March 9, when my baby would be officially overdue. I gratefully accepted this time, and spent the next few days in restless anticipation.
At last, the big day arrived, and I was up before dawn. I had such conflicting emotions that morning. This was such a completely different experience for me. It was nice to have time to shower, and get ready for the day, as opposed to a middle of the night "this is it!" type of situation. But I was apprehensive that labor would stall, and because of the induction there would be more hospital interventions - and there were so many "what if's" associated with that. I really, really wanted to have a quick, natural delivery like my other two had been (Levi's was only two hours, unmedicated! I'd take that any day!!). I had so many butterflies!
Checking in this time was so surreal! Instead of arriving at the hospital in full blown hard labor, we casually walked in with our suitcase, and it was more like checking into a hotel! Instead of being hooked up to a fetal monitor in triage, we were taken directly to the birthing suite. We arrived at around 7:30, and by the time I was admitted, changed, and had my hep lock started, it was pushing 8:30 before they were ready to break my water, and get the party started.
If you notice, our nurse's name was Julie this time. She was phenomenal. She said she had been doing this for (I think?) around 25 years. I loved her to pieces! We had another nurse who was helping out and learning the ropes, and she was also very gentle and respectful. I really don't have enough good things to say about the staff at St Luke's.
Even little things like writing down the sibling's names, so all the staff know who to expect and who to congratulate when the baby arrives. :)
After they got me all hooked up to the fetal monitor, I was ready for the nurse to start labor (we hoped!).
Then it was just on to waiting for contractions to begin! By this point, I was literally ready to do jumping jacks if it came to it to get the show on the road faster - I just wanted to meet our baby!!
By about 9:15, contractions were starting to come fairly regularly, and the doctor stopped in and cheerfully quipped "Hopefully we'll have a baby by lunchtime!" I prayed she would be right! Since this wasn't my first rodeo, I knew that labor tends to go better for me if I am up and moving. The nurses were more than happy to let me get up and walk the halls, in hopes that we could get labor moving well.
Nate is absolutely wonderful. He is willing to do whatever he can to help me through labor and delivery. He is gentle, compassionate, and brave. I could not have gotten through my deliveries without him! Speaking of lifelines, my Mom is an incredible doula! She is calm, knowledgable, and especially since she's my Mom, she is a comfort I could not do without. I was so thankful for these two!
It was so interesting to be walking around the hospital while in labor! Again, this was a new experience, since with the other two, I had either labored at home the majority of the time, or given birth very soon after arriving at the hospital.
Contractions were coming about 5 minutes apart, and getting steadily stronger. I was encouraged! It was also nice to have the diversion of exploring the hospital wing. We actually bumped into our Pediatrician making her rounds, and she was cheerfully surprised to see us there! "I hope I'll see you guys later - that will mean I'll be checking in on a baby!!" :)
Contractions continued to get stronger, and come closer together - they were about 3 minutes apart when I would have to pause, and focus through them. Again, Mom was there with gentle, quiet direction - "Spread your legs apart a bit more to really open up your hips . . . it might help if you sway. Nate, try to put pressure here on her back . . . " etc. So helpful.
Really though, between contractions, I was feeling good!
Julie was so respectful and quiet - and really just let me labor on my own so long as I was feeling up to it. She would check in with me periodically, and occasionally she'd have me stop back into the room to check the baby's heartbeat.
I was drinking lots of water - as dehydration can really slow things down with labor. Also, I had read somewhere that a full bladder can slow labor as well! I was so paranoid about labor stalling, that I was doing everything I could think of to keep it progressing nicely. I stopped in the room to use the bathroom, and after that, contractions were coming about 2 minutes apart or sometimes closer, and getting pretty intense. Julie wanted to check me to see where we were at, and she said "I think you're around 5 centimeters." To which I exclaimed in dismay, "That's it?!?" She hurriedly said "Well, you might be at a 6 - maybe close to a 7 . . . " I think she was trying to make me feel better. ;) That was about 10:30.
I joked with Nate that the only times I could ever get him to slow dance were on our wedding day, and when I'm birthing his children. ;) At this point, contractions were coming so close that I lost track of how far apart they actually were - and I was also starting to feel pretty nauseous, which to me was an indicator that I was going into transition. I asked Julie if it would be okay for me to get into the tub, as riding out the hardest contractions would be largely alleviated by the warm water!
I made it back into the room, and had a contraction that literally brought me to my knees.
My Mom was quietly coaching me to breathe, and I was just praying for God's grace to get me through this contraction, and the next - and to please bring my baby safely into the world. Things were rolling along at a pretty good clip though - and I was so relieved and thankful that I could avoid Pitocin for the time being!
Being in the water is still, in my opinion the best part of labor. They don't call it a "midwives' epidural" for nothing! :) Again, Julie was so accommodating and respectful as I labored - she kept popping in every few minutes to check the water temperature (since I'd had my water broken, we had to monitor the temperature carefully for safety), or to see if I needed anything. And of course, Nate never left my side. <3
After being in the tub for about 20 minutes, I began to feel a lot of pressure. I called to Julie that I was ready to get out, and she agreed that it would be wise to check my progress. As I laid down on the bed, I felt the baby shift, and commented, "Whoa, something just happened!". I think I gave poor Julie a heart attack! She quickly checked beneath the sheets afraid she was going to find the baby's head popped out! Did I mention that I was ready to meet my baby??
As this was my third time giving birth, I knew what was coming, and I was dreading it. Julie checked me and mentioned to Meredith (our other nurse) that she could call the doctor.
Those last contractions are a beast. It took every ounce of courage I had to focus on the task, and not shrink from the final hurdle I had to clear: pushing. I dread pushing with every fiber in my body. I am not one of those Moms who feel an "urge" to push, nor do I find relief in pushing. It just hurts. Like the Dickens.
My doctor laughed when she came in - "Wow, when I said by lunchtime, you really meant it!" She checked me, had me push once, and then talked me through it.
There is no "easy" part of labor, but for me, this is the worst part. I started to succumb to the pain - I had reached my "I don't know if I can do this anymore" threshold, and my doctor saw it. She reached through my fog, and pulled me back to reality. I love her for it! One more push, and our baby was here!
There are no words in the English language to describe what is emblazoned on your heart in this moment. It is a powerful, spiritual thing to behold life beginning - flesh of your flesh, and bone of your bone.
And the moment we had all been waiting for . . .
It's a . . . GIRL!!
Joy. Relief. Shock! Love. Thankfulness. My heart swelled with so many emotions all at once.
The nurse asked us what her name was. I looked at Nate. Julia? He nodded. Julia. Julia Elise.
And she was here. At last! Our precious baby girl. I just marveled that God would choose me to be the vessel He so skillfully wove her together inside.
I held her close to my heart for a long time before the staff weighed and measured her. This hospital really is incredible at births!
Our sweet Julia Elise came in at 7 lbs 6 oz, and 21 3/4" long. She was my smallest, and longest baby of the three! Born at 11:13 am.
About an hour after the birth, I got up to move to the rocking chair, so that the staff could "turn the room" and I felt great! I ate lunch, and my Mom left to go back and give my big kids the good news. My sister arrived to meet her littlest niece, and I enjoyed hearing how my big kids had fared with her over the course of the morning.
After eating lunch, I stood up to use the bathroom, and lost a lot of blood. Now, having just given birth, I didn't think too much of it - they had had a bit of trouble getting the placenta out, however, so I figured I should at least let our nurse know.
Things got a little crazy after that. She began kneading my stomach, and called in another nurse. Julie's shift had ended, so we had a bunch of new nurses. They called in more nurses, who called in the doctor. I was in a lot of pain by this point, as they were pushing as hard as they could, and I hadn't had any pain meds during the birth - and I was still losing a lot of blood.
My doctor let me know that they would need to get me back to the OR, and that it was most likely just a stubborn piece of placenta that hadn't come all the way out. They had to start another IV line, and since I had already eaten, the anesthesiologist had me drink some really bad tasting magic potion that would prevent asphyxiation once I was put under if my lunch decided to make another appearance. One of the nurses started pushing forms at me to sign, and at one point, I heard "the worst case scenario is that we would need to do a hysterectomy . . . " and at that point everything else started to become a blur.
I just remember thinking, "what about my baby? Who is holding my baby?"
Nate was worried, understandably, and trying to remain calm and supportive as they wheeled me back to the OR. The nurse said, "Give her one more kiss!" and at that point, we both lost it. I remember whispering something to the effect of "go snuggle our new baby" and that I loved him, and then it was into the OR and under the anesthesia I went.
All in all, the whole procedure was very fast, and successful, and they were able to bring me back to the room a couple of hours later. My sister (bless her heart!) had stayed the entire time to be with Nate, who was pacing the floor and furiously texting updates to my Mom, who was at this point back at home with our kids.
Although feeling at that point like I'd been hit by a train, I was so. thankful. Thankful that it was over, and that I was holding my healthy baby safely in my arms. I was thankful for my husband's warm embrace, and thankful that God had mercifully brought me to the other side of yet another delivery.
She is absolute perfection.
And honestly? Worth every single moment of that labor. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.
For the beauty of the earth, for the glory of the skies, for the love which from our birth, over and around us lies. Lord of all, to Thee we raise - this, our hymn of grateful praise.