My Favorite Newborn + Postpartum Must-Haves!

1:41 PM

We survived the infamous first 6 weeks and are fast approaching the 2 month mark -- Woo! Experiencing parenthood with a newborn (especially the first time) is a roller coaster, lemme tell ya. It's one of those things that if someone told you what all it involves beforehand you would think you were completely incapable...but then day in and day out, by the grace of God, YOU DO IT! πŸ™ŒπŸΌπŸŽ‰
Ella has really been a relatively easy baby (and we're SO thankful!) but these early days can't truly be defined as "easy."πŸ˜‰ However! I wanted to make a list of things that I feel made/are making it easier for us! Several of these things I saw on other new mamas "must-have" lists while I was pregnant (yay for them sharing!) so I'm hoping that this will be a helpful resource to someone too. πŸ˜Š

Alright! Let's get down to business! (to DEFEAT...the HU--yeah ok, you get it....) πŸ™ˆ
For Baby:
I cannot say enough good about this adorable product! I have the Boppy Nursing pillow as well that was helpful for the first week as I got accustomed to holding her properly but this little guy is a wonderful thing to have around! Babies that are freshborn often prefer to sleep curled up like they were in the womb and this is the perfect pillow to allow them to do that! It also has been really nice to have a place to set her down where she will be comfortable but also laying at an angle that we can see her face when she's sleeping. You will also find that you can't really safely put a newborn down anywhere because they can't control their movements very much. And holding them 24/7 (though insanely fun) is not always practical. Ella napped beautifully in this for the first several weeks and now it's just a great place to let her sit (at a mild incline so not harmful to her spine!) to look around now that she's focusing on things better. :)

 2.) Wipe Warmer
I can hear the naysayers now, "Oh here we go with the first time mom luxury items. Get over yourself and wipe that kid with a cold wipe!" While a wipe is a wipe is a wipe, I have found that Ella very rarely cries during a diaper change at home (where her wipes are luscious and warm) as opposed to her almost always fussing during a diaper change abroad (with Arctic tundra wipes.)  I know this probably doesn't seem like a necessity but making your baby comfortable (and crying less!) is always a plus in my book. This particular one is great too because its anti-microbial! Its always wet and warm in there and yet never molds. Score! I find it especially nice for a fall/winter baby. 
It came as no surprise to me that one of the funnest parts of parenting a tiny human is the tiny clothes. Putting together outfits is always a joyful adventure but the truth is, when they're so little zippered pajamas are SO much more convenient! I underestimated how difficult it would be to get her tiny self into clothes. Though it feels like dressing up a doll, a newborn's floppy limbs that randomly tense up in opposite directions and their general dislike of being pushed and prodded unnaturally makes things a lot harder than your old childhood pastime. Furthermore, your head will spin when you realize how often you have to change diapers...and you'll be shocked by how much your baby will sleep during the day! Because of these factors, having them in something easy-to-get-on, soft, comfortable, and warm is great. And because they're so cute, it totally suffices for a cute outfit to take them out in. But without the hassle of "Did one of her socks fall off? Are those pants too big? Do you think that shirt is warm enough?" P.S. They don't have to be from Carters, of course. I just like how Carters is affordable and has such cute designs...and you can find them in so many stores! P.P.S. Babies tend to scratch their face and put their hands in their mouth. And germy outsiders who mean well, ignorantly tend to touch babies hands. So bonus points if you get ones that cover their hands as well! Problem solved! Here's my favorite one of Ella's. πŸ’•
This is gonna sound like another extravagant item to some I'm sure, but I have really appreciated this one! Ella was severely jaundiced in her first two weeks so she lost way down below her It was scary! At her one week check-up she had already lost a full pound and later in the week at another check-up she had only gained an ounce. The pediatrician assured me if I kept feeding her often and treated her for the jaundice, she would recover and start gaining. But I certainly didn't want to wait until her one or two month check-up to learn if that was working! Thus, this product. As a breastfeeding mom who can't know just how many ounces my baby is getting at each feeding, it is such a relief to see her weight going up throughout the week. I know some will say "You'll know she's'll be able to tell!" This is true...but I certainly didn't know she had lost so much weight in the beginning until I saw the numbers on the scale. You might not be able to see a big difference in them physically because we're talking about a matter of ounces, but ounces matter when you're talking about someone who only weighs a handful of pounds! Anyways, this is a favorite item of mine to put my mind at ease in between check-ups...and its also super fun to watch your baby's weight go up day to day! I also like that this converts to a toddler scale so I'll be using it for awhile. 
If Ella could write poetry, I'm almost positive she would write an affectionate ode to this swing. It's funny because in the beginning she seemed like she could totally take it or leave it and would only swing in it for a few minutes before getting antsy. Trevor, of course, gave me "a look" when he saw this because he had questioned owning it from the start. It isn't the smallest item in her nursery by any means so if it was a very occasional resource, that'd be a bummer. She went through this stage (for a good solid 3 weeks!) where she would exclusively calm down and or nap when I was holding her. It was exhausting because I am also her only food source (basically I was holding her all day and all night and she would start crying if she was with anyone else.) But! Then one day she was fighting sleep pretty severely and I had to do something without her in my arms. I wrapped her up in a blanket, set her in the swing, turned it on high and exclaimed, "I know you're not gonna like this but I will be right back in here!" I ran in the other room to get or do what I needed and rushed back only to find her laying there silently, going from side to side. "Hmmm, interesting." I thought to myself as I sat down in my rocking chair on the other side of the nursery. She didn't look thrilled as she went back and forth. In fact, it looked like she was glaring at me from across the room. πŸ˜‚ But lo and behold, thirty minutes later she was sound asleep. Without me! (This was very bittersweet.) I thought it might've been a fluke until I put her in it the next day and, in minutes, she was snoozing! The rest is history...if we have trouble calming her down now, the swing is the first thing we try...and often it works its charms quickly and we have the happiest (sleepiest) little girl in minutes or even seconds! Positive features: There are different swinging positions so they can rock side to side or front to back which is nice since different babies prefer different directions. It plays soft music or white noise type sounds if you find that helps calm your baby. It has a mirror and mobile on the top...Ella just focused on hers for the first time the other day and we were so excited! She's growing up!

Because I'm breastfeeding I was very hesitant to try the pacifier route. I knew I wanted to wait at least until the recommended 4-5 weeks to try and I'm so glad I did! When she was put back in the hospital for jaundice, they gave her a paci to keep her "calm" while under the blue light. She was right at a week old and we had had no latching or nursing problems whatsoever. But, blame it on the stress of being in the hospital environment or what, but she had a horrible time nursing while we were there! Her latch was bad, she seemed disinterested, and was fussy like she wasn't getting full. They even sent in a lactation consultant because they noticed I was having a hard time. I assured her that this was so out of character compared to how Ella had done in the days prior. She glanced over at the paci in her hospital bassinet and said "That's probably your issue." Thankfully we didn't have any lasting problems once we came home but I definitely wanted to hold off on the paci until I knew for certain that she had nursing down pat. Super glad I made that decision, but also super glad we chose to introduce her to paci eventually. It has been a big help when we know she's not hungry -- just wanting comfort. It's amazing how a baby would just nurse 24/7 if they could depending on their different needs. (Hunger, in need of comfort, sleepy...) Having the paci for some of the in between times has been a life saver. Especially for car rides or for other people trying to get her to sleep instead of me. I have found that this kind, compared to others we've tried, causes little to no "latch confusion" for her when it comes to feeding. 

This dude was recommended to me by a good friend who said they much preferred it to your standard Diaper Genie and the like. One of the coolest perks is you don't have to use the brand specific refill bags like with other diaper pails. It is made to be compatible with any kind of liner or trash bag...cheaper and much more convenient! This is easy to use, keeps in odors, and makes dealing with hundreds of diapers a month not seem so bad. It doesn't hurt that it's cute...especially since we were given a pink one. πŸ˜‰ 
 8.) Boppy Carseat Insert
These seem to make her carseat experience a lot more comfortable and it makes me feel better that it's helping keep her from getting a flat spot on the back of her head. It's also nice that they're removable so you can use them anywhere you lay your baby head down for an extended period of time (like an activity mat.)

For Mama: 
1.) Milkies Milk Saver
While Ella gets to work on her ode for the Puppy Swing, I'll start writing one for this wonderful product. Breastfeeding is a strange, confusing, fascinating, surprising phenomenon. I never would've imagined all that it involves! Or how quickly it becomes your life after you have a baby. One thing that I had heard could happen was leaking from one side while you're feeding on the other. My sister saw a Facebook video ad for this thing and said I should register for it. Since I followed anyone and everyone's advice about what to put on the registry (better safe than sorry, right?) I quickly added it. Never could I have imagined how much this would come in handy! Once I actually experienced what "leaking on one side while you're feeding on the other" is like I was frantically looking for this in the pile of all my baby shower gifts. Leaking is not a pretty thing and once it starts, it takes no prisoners. I figured I would just be sparing my nursing bra and shirt from destruction...I mean, it's like a leaky faucet so we're talking a few drops per feeding, right? WRONG. 30 minutes later when Ella finished eating I pulled the Milkies out of my bra and my jaw dropped. That rubbery piece of brilliance had collected almost 3oz. of milk! Once again, ounces are such minuscule little measurement in a common person's daily life but amongst breastfeeding moms it might as well be a gallon -- a ton, even! 3oz. just wastefully pouring down my clothes or sopped up in a cotton nursing pad? No thanks! Yay Milkies! (And yay for collecting some milk without the hassle of pumping!) 
2.) Kiinde Breastmilk Storage Kit
Speaking of collecting milk, you're gonna need a way to store it, right? This kit has been so nice to have! I love that the bags have screw-top lids instead of just sealing like Ziplocs because you can actually screw a bottle top onto them and feed right from the bag! It's very user friendly and comes with a defroster (that I haven't used yet. I'll update you when I have!) It's also compatible with almost any kind of pump you can think of so for those of you who pump, this is a huge plus!

3.) Baby Nursing App
Oh man. This also deserves a mighty eloquent ode for sure.  I found it randomly when Ella was two or three days old (and my brain was thoroughly mush) because I wanted something to keep up with how long she was eating and which side I had finished on the previous feeding. I had been trying to set a stopwatch on my phone, jotting down on a piece of paper, using sheer memory...yeah. Trainwreck. But then this jewel was discovered! *sheen, sparkle, sparkle* It didn't take me long to realize it was incredibly valuable. For nursing, all I have to do is hit the "L" or "R" depending on what side she's on and it automatically starts a timer! Then I click stop when she's finished. The feedings are all logged together and averaged for me to see when she's cluster feeding or if her eating habits are changing in anyway. But it doesn't stop there! It also has a section to track height, weight, and head circumference. And a timer for pumping if you pump! And a tracker for bottle feeding if you're doing that! And a sleep tracker to help with sleep scheduling when they're older! And a chart to keep up with solids when they start eating those! And a timer/chart for bath time! And a chart to log doctor visits, medication, and vaccinations when those come along! AND a place to chart diapers! Besides the nursing feature, the diaper log has been the most helpful. Now hear me out...before I had Ella I probably would've questioned the necessity of tracking wet and dirty diapers. And I certainly would've been grossed out at the thought of *pauses to scrunch nose in disgust* photographing them. BUT! This feature was incredibly useful and needed when she was first born. First with the jaundice, her dirty diapers were not the color they should be. And even after her billirubin numbers started to improve, she was still having dark dark dirty diapers. (Sounds gross but as a new mom it's scary and heartbreaking knowing something is up health-wise with your itty bitty!) By taking pictures of the diapers (that are saved only in the app! so your actual photo album isn't clogged -- pardon the pun -- with poopy pictures!) I was able to show them to the pediatrician rather than just trying to describe them. (Believe me, you never realize how many questions there are to answer about poop until you become a parent.) He was able to quickly identify that I was feeding her too much foremilk and not enough hindmilk. He suggested encouraging her to feed twice on a side before switching to the other side to make sure she was getting the richest milk. Within a few days her diapers started yellow-ing up! πŸŽ‰ Trust me, this app is essential in EASILY and EFFICIENTLY keeping up with all the things that your pediatrician will ask you!

4.) Tight Camis
These were a plus for me in several ways. First off, postpartum pudge is life. It's not just normal, it's inevitable. You had an entire human in your abdomen for crying out loud! (Maybe even more than one! *looking at you heroic moms of multiples*) Despite the "okayness" of this remaining soft, loose bread dough belly it can be frustrating knowing what to *do* with it. Wearing your maternity clothes can make you still feel and look pregnant and this can be a serious bummer (especially when dealing with all those crazy postpartum hormones.) You've been waiting 9 months to feel like yourself again and you definitely do not like you thought you would when that baby comes out. Maybe its the contrast of going from having a tight round belly to empty's a strange feeling! Another issue I dealt with was mild diastsis recti (separation of the ab muscles.) Because of this (and just the soreness from pushing a baby out. ha.) my core felt completely a time when I kinda needed it a lot. Can't change diapers or feed a baby or pick up that baby (or even pick up a blanket really!) without functioning core muscles. Having something that held my middle in tightly really helped with this. It probably didn't hold my abs together as efficiently as a legit belly binder girdle type thing would have but it was a cheaper, less bulky, more normal option that I appreciated. New motherhood is a stark contrast between desperately trying to find your old normal and slowly accepting a new normal. Gotta help both emotions out when you can! The third reason these have been great is because I do the double shirt nursing method. (Having a tight cami isn't essential for this but because I'm wearing them for the other reasons, it works.) The basic rundown of what that is: you wear a cami/tank top under any shirt and when it comes time to nurse your baby, you pull the cami down and the over-shirt up just enough for baby to latch on. No judgement on anyone who nurses differently but this, for me, has felt like the most discreet way to nurse Ella anywhere. I have even nursed in front of my uncle this way (who is typically very uncomfortable being around nursing mamas! some people just are!) and he later said he had no idea I had been feeding her! Score! I have tried using a nursing cover once and it immediately felt bulky, cumbersome, and like I was wearing a huge neon sign letting the world know I was dealing with my breast. Yikes! Kudos to all you mamas who are able to do that swiftly and gracefully because I am certainly not one of them. I'm also not totally comfortable with nursing without any attempt at coverage at all so the two shirt method is perfect for me. And it didn't take long to master which was a huge confidence boost. I live for the moments when people are shocked to discover I had nursed right in front of them and they never knew. *fist pump*
For reference, this was the day before I had Ella vs. the day after

And this is 4 days postpartum! It felt so good to be "contained." 

The only picture I have of myself nursing with the two shirt method. It was while she was in the hospital getting phototherapy for her severe jaundice so the bluelight is what is making this picture look wonky. But maybe you can shirt goes all the way to her face and you can't see any of me! 

I have to admit I have been admiring Solly Wraps since long before I got pregnant. In fact, one of my first thoughts when I found out I was a mom was, "I get to carry my baby in a Solly!" (Such a nerd, I know.) A kind friend gave me a black one and I recently purchased the wrap that Solly collaborated with Rifle Paper Co. on. I am an absolute Rifle fanatic (Ella's nursery is basically Rifle themed!) so when I saw that this wrap existed I knew it wouldn't hurt to have it along with my black one. Two is better than one, right? Anywho! This takes a little practice getting it positioned correctly and tightly but I have really enjoyed every time I've carried her in it. Feeling her close and being able to still walk around and use both hands is a plus and she almost always drifts right off to sleep in it so it's a huge score for when naptime is a struggle! And I love the stretchy, jersey knit, t-shirt type material it's made of. It's breathable and super comfy! 
P.S. Daddies can be baby wearers too.

6.) Always Discreet Underwear
Aaaand ending on a hashtag keeping it really real note: these guys. I had already been warned that postpartum involved mesh panties and life raft sized pads so I felt prepared for the unglamorous days ahead. But then! I saw Depends on a friend's "Hospital Bag for Birth" list and was intrigued. (It's quite a day when you're excited about the possibility of wearing disposable underwear because it appears to be a better option than what you were prepared for.) Then when my mom and I went shopping for my hospital bag supplies we found these from Always next to the Depends and I was even more stoked. (The pitifulness continues...) I have long preferred Always' period products so this felt comforting and familiar to buy such a product with their name on it. (It's amazing how much more it made me feel like I was just a young woman shopping for my period rather than buying diapers intended for the elderly which is what my mind associated with the brand name Depends! It's the little things!)  Suffice it to say, if you're pregnant or have just given birth -- you already know, either by reading or starting to experience it -- postpartum will not be the most dignified time in your life. Bleeding for the first time in 9 months along with shocking and embarrassing struggles with incontinence...all while caring for an infant! Though it's a tough truth, it's life (and being her mama is worth it all!!) and I feel like these are easier to manage than ginormous pads...especially in the beginning! They aren't uncomfortable and they don't feel bulky under clothes and they also have a low-rise option that is great for wearing jeans! Anways....*insert Forrest Gump's "And that's all I have to say about that."*

In Conclusion!
Wow! I got exceedingly more longwinded about all of these than I intended to but I hope some of my rambling proves to be helpful for at least one new mama out there in the crowd! My final bit of advice for the day? You are doing this, girl! You are making it! And if you feel like you're just barely getting by, DON'T REFUSE HELP! Just don't do it! It won't stunt your ability to pick things up on your own. You don't have to tough it out and figure it out on your own. Those veterans that want to give you a hand? It's because someone gave them a hand way back when. Also, postpartum hormones and emotions are REAL (and crazy, exhausting, horrible, evil, etc.) Don't keep that yuckiness to yourself. Talk to whoever will listen: the Lord, your husband, your mom, your best friend, the cashier at Wal-mart. Get it OUT of you! We're all in this mama thing together and though you may be bombarded with ridiculous "mom guilt" along the way, you've joined a pretty welcoming group over all. And keep snuggling that baby! Don't underestimate the incredible power of that newborn smell and softness. Also, remember when Christ said "Come unto me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest?" Number one: Christ's promises are true and He never breaks them. Number two: A new parent is hyper qualified to be called "weary and heavy laden" so, yay! This promise definitely applies to you! Keep coming to Him and...

Enjoy those babies, friends!

The Birth of Ella Jane Ruby

6:37 PM

The Story of my Natural, Unexpectedly Early and Relatively Short Labor: The most surreal, tiring, triumphant, sacrificial, beautiful, terrifying and yet satisfying thing I've ever done.

From start to finish, pregnancy was nothing I ever imagined it would be. I based my presumptions on the experiences of others in my family or friends around me. I figured getting pregnant would be a long process of waiting, possibly even heartbreak. I was truly shocked when, after "not preventing" for only 6 months, I found out we were having a baby. I had pictured that Trevor and I would suspect that it was coming, have lots of conversations about it, and be together when I took the test. Instead I didn't think about it that month at all and it certainly wasn't something we were talking about. I'm still unsure what made me take a test that early morning of March 21st. I woke up while it was still dark outside, couldn't fall back asleep, and so laid in bed and read Psalm 139 of all things. As I read the well known "fearfully and wonderfully made" passage I found myself marveling and praising God about my own existence and having been divinely knit in my mother's womb. The thought of someone being knit in my own didn't even enter my mind. As the sky began to turn from navy to lavender around 6:00 I got up, headed to the bathroom, and found myself setting a three minute timer and hovering over a white stick. Almost instantly two bright pink lines appeared. I blinked hard and immediately started shaking. My life had suddenly and drastically changed. I had become a mother.
My mom had ridiculously easy pregnancies. All my life I had heard her talk about how she wished she could just stay pregnant her whole life because she never felt better than during those 9 months carrying my sister and then me. She enjoyed every second of it -- no nausea, no discomfort...just complete maternal bliss. Her mom felt the same with all four of her children. With this in mind, I had always looked forward to this season in my life thinking I was in for a similar experience. The 4 week, 5 week, and 6 week markers passed and I felt great. Third generation of miraculously wonderful pregnancies! Or so I thought...
My sixth week began the horror story that was "morning sickness." And those cute little quotation marks? Let's just say the nightmare that it truly was was never confined to just the morning...or just the first trimester...or just mild nausea. I was eventually prescribed the glorious magic pill that is Diclegis and it truly worked wonders. I could still get sick from time to time, especially in the first and second trimester. But for the most part it kept me upright and functional...something I certainly was not without it. 

From my research, even though its not always guaranteed that you'll have pregnancies similar to your mom's, it is almost certain that your labors will be similar to hers. As positive as it would've been to replicate my mom's pregnancy experience, inheriting her labors gave me a pretty bleak outlook. It took an emergency c-section to get my sister "earthside" (at 2 weeks overdue.) Then at 40 weeks with me, an all day induction got her nowhere and the doctor couldn't break her another c-section it was. 

As the weeks and months of carrying my baby girl wore on, I kept getting comments from people saying they thought I would "go early." This sounded like beautiful music to my ears since, surprise surprise, I didn't much enjoy the journey. It was something I was thankful to be able to do, it was breath-taking to be carrying life by the grace of God, and it was an opportunity to marvel at His unbelievable design...but it wasn't a joy to me. It was certainly a humbling, uncomfortable struggle that I looked forward to being done with. And though my eyes would glaze over in dazzled glee at the thought of being done early, it was not something I thought was very plausible. A first time mom whose own mother went overdue and had c-sections? Yeah..the cards were stacked against me.

Though my husband Trevor and I live in central Louisiana, I was seeing a midwife in Northeast Texas where I am originally from. This probably sounds a bit insane (and indeed Trevor found it a little overwhelming) but at the beginning of my pregnancy I did my research, weighed out all my options, and felt the most confident about using the midwife and hospital close to my hometown. I was due Thanksgiving Day so I knew having her close to my whole family would make things easier on everyone...instead of them all having to drive hours and hours away during a holiday. I absolutely loved my midwife and since my monthly appointments meant I got to see my family regularly, I really didn't mind the 3.5 hour drive at all. 

The plan was for us to come stay and "wait for baby" when I reached about 38/39 weeks or so. I anticipated having to stay a couple of weeks since surely I was going to be hitting the 40 week mark or more. My appointments had gone from monthly to biweekly to weekly starting at 36 weeks. (October 27th.) And with the 36 week appointment came the wonderful world of cervical checks. (Not particularly comfortable but certainly not as bad as I believed it would be by the way.) My pessimistic self of course expected to not be dilated or effaced at all. Much to my absolute shock I heard the words "You're dilated to a loose 1cm and 60% effaced!" My mom was at the appointment with me and in unison we both exclaimed, "WHAT!? You're KIDDING!" as I nearly fell off the exam table and my mom out of her chair. Even the midwife was excited that I had already begun to progress. "A young first time mom? That's not very common! Maybe you'll have her early!" I asked her if that meant I should change my plans about waiting until 39 weeks to stay and she said that still sounded like a good time to come. "Women can stay at 1cm for awhile so no rush! But it is promising that your body is already getting ready." So back to Louisiana we went! 

My deepest desire was to know without a shadow of a doubt that I was in labor. I really wanted to stay away from the hospital as long as I could to avoid being there for hours and hours (or days) because I had heard from many friends that laboring in a hospital is truly exhausting and can be very discouraging if you're not progressing quickly. "If only my water would break at home...then there would be no questioning!" I hoped and prayed throughout those last weeks. I knew this was a long shot dream since, contrary to what Hollywood would have us believe, women going quietly about their business only to suddenly have an ocean rush out of them turning them into a screaming panic of pain just doesn't happen in real life as much as it does in the movies. Trevor's mom had had the experience with him of waking up in the morning without pain, her water breaking at home, and then having him a few hours later. But she was one of very few women I had heard that happening to. Most likely I would reach a point of unmanageable pain, head to the hospital once I couldn't stand it a minute longer, and either have my water broken there by my midwife or it would break while I labored (or maybe not until she was coming out!) A girl can still dream though, right? πŸ˜‰ 

November 3rd:
We decided to go ahead and pack our bags and bring them when we came back for my 37 week appointment just in case things had drastically changed...and its a good thing we did. I laid back, expecting to have a similar report as the previous week but instead..."A loose 3cm and 75% effaced! You're definitely not going home!" If we were shocked the week before, this completely dumbfounded us. It was my mom's birthday and my dad, sister, and I had planned on taking her to Dallas that evening as a surprise. I had the whisper of a thought in the back of my mind "What if I go into labor while we're there??" My sister all along had said "What if she comes on Mama's birthday!! That'd be so fun!" This was the first time that that didn't sound completely ridiculous or far fetched. Lots of driving and walking were involved that night and we all joked that she was going to fall out of me. Mama was giddy all night just at the thought of sharing a birthday with her. Unfortunately all the jokes didn't amount to anything and we made it back to my parent's house with no signs that labor was about to happen. 
November 5th:
That Saturday I had my last baby shower and I was just tired. I felt so incredibly done and it showed all over my face. I was waddling and aching and so full of baby. I told Trevor to keep his phone on and close because I didn't know how I could possibly stay pregnant much longer and surely something was about to happen. The stir-crazy phase had officially kicked in and I felt trapped. My back was sore and the heartburn was brutal. It seemed like she had dropped and yet I still could feel her all up in my ribs. But once again, the sun set and I was still carrying her inside instead of out. 
November 6th:
The next evening, a switched turned. I suddenly started cramping and I was scared to death. I tried taking a bath and drinking cold water and laying on the couch and bouncing on the birth relief. "Is this it?! Is this the real thing?!" I pleaded with my mom with tears in my eyes. I was tense and stressed. Should we call Trevor's parents? They were both planning on jumping in the car and heading our way once I gave them the green light. I was totally overwhelmed and so not ready! My mom asked if I felt like I was having contractions but I didn't know...I was just hurting! It was intense sharp pain that just wouldn't dull at all. The issue wasn't coming and going, it was constant. Contractions come, intensify, and then relax...certainly not what I was experiencing. We called the hospital and they said we could come in and have me hooked up to see if I was having contractions. But because I was so uncertain I did not want to go up there and nothing be happening. Sure enough the pain began to die down and I was glad we hadn't jumped to conclusions. 

November 7th:
The next morning I contacted a friend of our family who is a local Nurse Practitioner who was a Labor and Delivery nurse 20+ years and talked through what the previous night had been like. She offered to check me, saying that if it had've been contractions, I'd be progressed at least a little bit past what I was the Thursday before. So I got the first appointment she had available; hoping, wishing, and kinda expecting to be a little farther along. But 1:30 rolled around, she checked me, and she said I was exactly where my midwife had said I was. "Grrreat." This crushed me a little bit and all my fantasies that had started to form in my mind about having her early slipped away and I was resolved, once again, that I would definitely reach my due date and probably go past it. I was so discouraged and left holding back tears. 

November 10th:
My 38 week appointment came that Thursday and I had no hopeful expectations. I heard the words "Still at a 3" and nodded knowingly...but she continued. "80% effaced and your cervix is verrry soft. If I had to guess, I'd say you're gonna have this baby girl any day now!" My ears perked up. Could it be so?! "I didn't expect you to be dilated anymore than before. You'll probably stay at a 3 until you're in labor." She answered the exact question that was on my mind. "So it isn't a bad sign that I'm not dilated more! She thinks I'll go early! I could have a baby any day! I'm almost DONE WITH BEING PREGNANT HALLELUJAH." Sooo many emotions. πŸ˜‰
November 13th:
My mom and sister had been saying for weeks that I wouldn't make it to my due date because of the famous Super Moon coming...not only a full moon, not only a Super Moon, but the biggest, closest, and brightest Super Moon since 1948! I had rolled my eyes plenty of times when they talked about it. "Y'all are being ridiculous. That is an old wives' tale. I'm a first time mom. She's coming on time or late. No doubt about it." I always assured them. Apparently the moon was coming gradually over three days starting Sunday the 13th. My mom and I laid in the guest bedroom that evening watching the Netflix series, the Crown. I kept resting my hand on top of my belly subconsciously as we watched. Finally my mom glanced over and said "Are you hurting? Or are you just feeling her kick?" Realizing there was a pattern forming of when my hand would find it's way to my stomach she watched and waited for me to do it again. Suddenly she said "Your stomach is getting hard! You're having a contraction! Do you feel it? I can see it peaking up!" It took me focusing on it to see that it was hardening but I wasn't having any discomfort or pain. "Oh funny. Must be Braxton Hicks." I shrugged. Unbeknownst to me she began watching my belly in her peripheral vision and timed the contractions. As one episode ended she exclaimed "Those are coming consistently 10 minutes apart! Those may not be Braxton Hicks! This may be early labor!" We laughed and said "Wouldn't that just be hilarious. It's the first night of the Super Moon right?" As the night went on they never changed in frequency or intensity so I was fully convinced it was nothing. 

November 14th:
Sunday night as I was sleeping and into Monday morning I felt the same mild tightness coming and going as I had been having and even just casually watching the clock noticed they were coming every 7 minutes. I was scheduled to have my membranes stripped that morning around 8 because I was so ready to get things going! I had heard positive and negative things about this but since I didn't have Group B Strep I wasn't afraid of complications from that (which is one of the cons usually.) For the most part I got the general consensus that if my body was ready it would work and if it wasn't, it wouldn't. So no harm done either way in my book! I was getting ready to leave when I got a text from my midwife saying she wasn't feeling well and wouldn't be coming into the office that morning so we'd have to postpone until Tuesday. I was bummed that I had to wait to have the jump start but by that afternoon contractions were coming every 5 minutes. I still had NO pain...not even discomfort! Monday night we went out and stood beneath the bright moonlight and I became aware the contractions had reached the every 2-3 minute territory. I texted some wise mom friends and my midwife and I got mixed reactions. Some said pain could hit at anytime, this could be real and I should be hospital bound. "At least go hang out at the Sonic beside the hospital and see if anything changes. I really think your water could break any time with contractions that close together." One mom (of ten children!) advised. It wasn't until that text that I questioned my nonchalantness. What if I was just being completely naive by not feeling the urge to leave?! My mom had gone into labor with my sister but that was nearly 30 years ago! She didn't feel confident about what to do either. She finally suggested I just contact my midwife and do whatever she said. 

So it was settled! This wasn't the real deal and I just needed to get some sleep. I'd go and get my membranes stripped the next morning and then maybe things would change. 

November 15th - Morning:
At 2:00 Tuesday morning I woke up with sharp cramps in my thighs. All I could think was "Ok, this feels unmanageable." I got up and walked around. I tried to massage my legs but the pain wasn't subsiding. I contemplated getting on my computer to try to relax...then I thought maybe I should wake up my mom and let her know. I was also ravenously hungry and starting to feel restless and spacey. I wasn't feeling any strong contractions or pain in my stomach that I knew of so I finally decided I should try to go back to sleep. I got back in bed and tossed and turned but eventually did doze off again. I got up at 7 to get ready for my 8:30 appointment and briefly mentioned the cramping to my mom. "Guess you can ask Dana today and see what she says. Your legs are probably just sore cause she's getting heavy." As I was getting ready, Mama ran out and snapped a photo of the moon that was still dimly shining. "That's the last of it I think!" she said as she ran back in to get ready as well. 
She texted my sister Holly to be on standby since the membrane strip might cause me to go into labor. I was trying to mentally prepare myself for all that could happen after this appointment. I had heard it often left you very crampy and uncomfortable. "But if it makes me have her sooner rather than later that's VERY worth it!!" I kept reminding myself. I took a shower and felt helpless as I couldn't reach my legs to shave them properly. I watched the water roll over my bulging belly and thought, "This is the strangest thing I've ever done. How is this even me?!" I got out, understandably winded, and slipped into a maxi dress from of the only things left that fit me. I felt like a bloated whale and didn't have the energy to do anything with my hair as I quickly braided it to the side. "Almost done?" my mom called from the other room. I put my shoes on and waddled into the living room. As I approached the front door at 7:50 I felt a small "release" of liquid trickling down my leg. I stopped like a deer in headlights and looked up at my mom. "I...I water just broke?" I lifted my dress and there was a visible small stream of water still going down my leg. "I probably just peed on myself." I moaned, knowing this was a common symptom for women at the very end of pregnancy. I went to the bathroom, but after going...the liquid kept coming. " That's not pee. Your water broke. Let's go!" my mom said as she stood in the bathroom doorway. I went to wake up Trevor and told him we were leaving, my water broke, and he had 10 minutes to get in the car and be headed to the hospital. He groggily rolled over like he wasn't going to get up and I shook him again, "Trevor! I'm having the baby! My water broke! I could have her in like 30 minutes! You gotta come on!" We waited just long enough for him to get out of bed and then we were out the door and I hoped he'd be following soon. It made me have flashbacks of the morning I told him I was pregnant; his sleepy eyes, his foggy gaze as he tried to let it sink in but lingering sleep wouldn't let him fully grasp it. I knew it would hit him that our baby was COMING about 15 minutes later...just like that morning in March when I told him our baby existed. πŸ˜‰
As my mom and I drove to the hospital, we were unusually calm. I put my makeup on and my mom called my grandmother to tell her to be praying. I wasn't spazzing out, we weren't giddily screaming "SHE'S COMING TODAY!", I wasn't nervously crying or scared to death. It felt oddly normal...or at least we acted like it did! I still wasn't feeling any pain...and couldn't even tell if I was having contractions at all. (I was...they just weren't hurting!) We arrived at the hospital at 8:35 and my mom dropped me off at the front. "I'll bring everything in. You go ahead." I walked up to the door and heard her call my name. I turned around to see her beaming from ear to ear, holding her phone up telling me to "Smile!" as she snapped a picture. It was all going over my head at the time but thinking back on this moment has me tearing up now. The memories of her dropping me off in front of my elementary school in the morning and calling out my name so I'd turn around so she could say "I love you!" one more time before I went in are colliding with this turning around to see her smiling with the window rolled down. But this time, instead of heading off to learn basic math and how to read three syllable words, I was going to have her first grandbaby.  
I waited in the lobby for her and an old man who volunteers at the hospital walked up and asked if I needed any help. "No sir, I'm fine. Just here to have a baby." I said, calmly smiling. My mom walked in about this time and we headed towards the elevator. The man, completely flabbergasted, followed us. "Umm, do you...I mean...are you sure you're alright? You don't need...I can get you a wheelchair!" He followed us onto the elevator as if I was one of the wonders of the world that he couldn't keep his eyes off of. I assured him I was perfectly fine but he insisted walking us to Labor and Delivery...even after we told him multiple times we knew where it was. "You're not hurting at all? Are you just here to be induced?" I laughed and shook my head. "No sir, my water broke. I'm in labor...just not hurting I guess!" Once I got to the desk at Labor and Delivery they all seemed confused as to why I was there. "My water broke at 8." I said with a smile. All the nurses looked skeptically at each other. "Well...I guess you can't use the tub. You said you wanted to use the tub for pain management right? You can't use that if your water broke." One of the nurses informed me with a confused look on her face. Another nurse stepped up and said "Go to Delivery Room 2, please. I'll check if your water really broke." I could tell by her tone of voice she did not believe me not one bit. I guess I can't blame her since I'm sure many women whose water has broken at home come into the hospital screaming perhaps. 
I walked into the room and she started asking me questions. "So this is your first baby? How old are you? Are you at 39 weeks yet?" With every answer (Yes, 21, No: 38 weeks 5 days) I could see her getting more and more sure that this wasn't the real thing. She sighed and said, "I'm just going to let you know, you've most likely peed on yourself." I went to the bathroom to change into the hospital gown and the pad I had put on at home was wet and slightly pink. I rolled my eyes. "Definitely not pee." I thought to myself. 
When I got out of the bathroom she told me to get on the bed so she could do the Ph test to see if it truly was my waters or not. As she swabbed she continued to tell me how many women come in only to find out they had actually peed on themselves. "It's extremely common." She kept saying as she waited for the test strip to show the results. All of a sudden her mouth shut tight and she stared at the test for a second before saying, almost under her breath, " looks like you...might be leaking...some fluid." She then did a cervical check and I was a "4.7 and 70-80% effaced." Since I don't think you can become less effaced I'm gonna say I was 80% like I was the Thursday before. πŸ˜‰ About 20 minutes later my midwife showed up to check me again to confirm what the nurse had done and a lot of fluid gushed out...much more like what you see in the movies or would imagine your water breaking would be like than what I had had earlier. "I felt hair!" She exclaimed as she finished. "Oh my goodness! She felt her head!!" I thought to myself in disbelief. 
As we were getting settled in I was increasingly more aware that the nurse and I were just not meshing. She wasn't the nicest person I'd ever met and I was starting to get slightly anxious at the thought of having her by my side the whole day...especially this of all days! Thankfully my mom's cousin Tanna is a Labor and Delivery nurse so we were about to call in a lifeline! My mom shot her a text message and 10 minutes later she was there to be my nurse for the day. (Praise the Lord!!) Sadly the first nurse insisted on doing my IV before switching and...after a blown vein in my right arm and a poorly placed hep lock next to a bone in my left wrist (πŸ˜‘πŸ˜©), I was finally in Tanna's hands! I finally felt like I could settle in. I propped pillows around myself and felt like a happy mother hen preparing her nest for her precious egg she hoped to soon lay. 
Tanna came back in and said, "Alright, if you want to get things moving you're gonna have to walk, sister!" Whoo! 9 long months of waiting and I was finally about to "walk this baby out" like so many moms before me had done. I was still smiley as I made my way down the hall, the nurses still telling me I wasn't making enough noise or hurting enough...I had a long way to go in their eyes. But my high pain tolerance battled on and I was as calm as a cucumber. Surely it was not sinking in that MY WATER HAD BROKEN. I would NOT be leaving that hospital without having GIVEN BIRTH. The biggest, hardest thing I would ever have to do was HERE and yet there were no nervous tears or even "beside myself" jitters. As I waddled (MAJOR waddling by that point...girlfriend was low! πŸ˜†) down the hall back and forth to "get labor going" it all still felt strangely normal. My parents, sister, and Trevor walked with me like a quiet parade, none of us rising above our chill demeanor. After several laps we came back so I could be hooked back up to the monitors to check my contractions and Baby Girl's heart rate. 
They had drawn blood from my IV site and the results showed that my sodium was pretty low. Since this causes fatigue and lethargy it was not very conducive to someone needing to push a baby out in the near future. So I was confined to the bed while they gave me some sodium through my IV. But 20 minutes later I was free to walk again and my sister and I went back in the hall to resume our "labor parade." πŸ˜‰

After we came back from our walk to check back in with the monitors, Tanna said it was time for me to be checked again. "5½!" I felt so accomplished. The walking was really working! And still without me being uncomfortable yet! I had walked and swayed myself further along...I was really doing this! 
Tanna smiled at my excitement but then quickly sat down on my bed with a "We need to talk" look. "Here's the deal...your water broke at 8 this morning, right? Just so you know, its hospital policy that you have to have this baby in 12 hours or she will have to be put on IV antibiotics. It's just protocol to avoid infection. So! You're progressing well on your own and I have no doubt you could go on and have this baby by yourself...but...maybe not in 12 hours. But if we started you on a small pitocin drip that would speed things along and regulate your contractions just enough to get her here on time I think. It's still up to you...I know you said you preferred to do this natural and preferably unmedicated. And we can always stop the pit at any time if you want us to. Unless you're like at an 8 or 9...then you're staying on it because you'll be almost done." Whoa. This all suddenly hit a very serious note and for the first time it felt quite the opposite of pretend (which I suppose is what I kinda felt like prior to this.) This felt like a life defining, make it or break it moment. I had heard nothing but horror stories about pitocin. "The devil's drug", "Nearly impossible to have pit without getting an epidural", "Your freedom is taken because you can't leave the bed"...all the nasty things I'd ever heard stampeded my brain. Tanna could read the fear and hesitation clearly on my face and said "Tell me what you're afraid of." I took a deep breath, trying to stay calm. I looked at my mom with what she calls scared little girl eyes and then back at Tanna. "I just...I've only heard bad things about it. But," clearing my head and trying to think logically, maturely, and thoroughly, "I guess most of those people were induced when they weren't in labor to begin with. My body is already doing this on its own. Pit would only be giving me a boost. I certainly don't want her to be on an IV when she's born! Tell me honestly, do you think there is anyway I will make that 12 hour deadline on my own without the pit?" Tanna's reply sealed the deal for me. "You're doing amazing, you're progressing well...but natural labor just takes longer and there is a very good chance you won't quite make it without a little bit of help." I nodded and, like a general calling for the cannons to be fired after much deliberation, I said, "Let's do it." At 12:45 they started me out gently on two units of pitocin. 


My mom had gone to grab some lunch in the cafeteria at 1:00 to be back in time for them to do another cervical check at 1:30. "6½ The pit is working!" I was relieved to hear that my body was responding well. And though I could feel that my contractions were more uniform, I still wasn't in pain! Thirty minutes later they upped the pitocin drip from 2 units to 4 but I didn't realize it at the time. Thankfully I was not stuck in the bed like I had feared I would have to be but instead I was free to rock in the rocking chair beside the bed which kept me a lot more focused, active, and comfortable.
I got back into bed about 2:20 knowing they would soon be in to check me again. When they did I was still at 6½cm but slightly more effaced. I tried to not be discouraged by this and they assured me my labor hadn't necessarily stalled. Contractions were still coming regularly, I was handling them well, and things were still happening. But shortly after this I started to feel slightly uncomfortable. I quickly realized I needed to use the bathroom. This terrified me a little bit because I had heard that was some women's "sign to push." I knew that surely couldn't be the case since I was only a little over halfway dilated. At 3:00 I finally got up and went to try. The fear of having my baby in the toilet and the effects of the pitocin (which they had upped to 6) were starting to do a number on me. I felt like I was going to get weepy and I started to somewhat hum and moan through a couple contractions for the first time as I sat there. Tanna came in to check on me and asked me what was going on. She laughed when I told her I needed to go but was scared it was going to make me have her there in the bathroom. After she assured me I wasn't anywhere near that happening, I was able to calm down enough to go some which relieved a bit of the uncomfortable pressure I had been feeling. I didn't feel like I was finished but with the contractions being more intense, I felt like I was going to overtire myself working against the pain. By 3:20 I was back in the rocking chair, eyes closed, and humming or moaning every few contractions.
The next cervical check I had hit the legendary 7cm mark. Well, perhaps not that legendary to everyone but it was a milestone in my mind for a couple of reasons. One being something my midwife had told me several months ago at one of my prenatal visits, "The pain never really gets worse after 7cm. Contractions are closer together and things feel more intense because the end is almost there but whatever pain you're feeling at a 7, you'll be feeling it on that same level until the end." And the other thing was, 7cm was the typical epidural cutoff. This of course was of little importance to me  as I didn't feel the need for one at all. That brief thought was probably the only time the word epidural crossed my mind throughout the entire ordeal. A few minutes later I became acutely aware that Trevor wasn't in the room. He had gone downstairs to check on my dad who was waiting but I didn't care. All I knew was that he wasn't there and I wanted him with me. Which was quickly arranged. πŸ˜‰ 
I was still managing everything relatively well but I had definitely reached a new territory. I got in bed and focused on resting in between contractions; never falling asleep but actively trying to let my whole body relax. During my birth class I had been told that contractions are kinda like getting a bear hug from behind. The beginning is like the second you realize someone's arms are around you with minimal pressure but no pain. Quickly the "hug" intensifies and they are squeezing you tighter and tighter. At the height of the contraction would be when you would ask the hugger to please let go because it was hurting and then after a few seconds they start to loosen their grip slowly. I kept trying to hone in and picture this pattern clearly in my mind as the contractions came. I soon could tell that a bear hug doesn't signify what they actually feel like, but it is more an exercise to remind you of the pattern in which they begin, build and wane. 
At this point I could officially say I was in pain. I still wasn't out of control, flailing about, screaming, or begging for the end. But I officially didn't feel like this was the easiest thing I'd ever done.πŸ˜‰ The pain was coming quicker and feeling sharper and I was having a hard time staying "on top of it." Suddenly at 4:22 I asked for something to throw up in and they got me a small pail just in time. I didn't feel nauseous at was simply my body reacting to the pain. It was then that I knew things were getting really real. My body was officially doing something bigger and more daunting than it had ever done before. I was jumping over the threshold of, "This isn't so bad" into "Here's where the supernatural strength kicks in." 

While I labored away, the nurses who had offered to take photos during my delivery took my cameras to the front desk to "practice." I love that we have these.
My midwife came for another cervical check and I was at 8cm. No turning back now! (As if there was a chance to turn back during any of it...but this is the way the mind works in this situation. πŸ˜‚) After she checked me I started to feel like I was being overrun by the pain. I didn't feel in control and I had a drowning sensation. I was losing track of when the contractions were ending so I was forgetting to breath and relax between them. I knew I was capable of withstanding it but my brain was panicking and not letting my body do its thing. Tanna came in to look at my monitor and I asked her if there was something, anything, that could help me get out of my head without stalling or lessening the physical pain. I didn't want to be numb. I didn't want to be freed from the pain. I wanted to not feel like I was losing my mind. She nodded and said, "I'll be right back." She quickly came back and gave me a small shot of fentanyl (basically a slightly stronger version of Tylenol that wears off quickly.) She let me know there was a heavier medication that they give most women but she said she didn't think I would need it in light of how I was tolerating the pain thus far. And, BINGO! It was exactly what I needed. My brain was just loopy enough to not freak out when the contractions would come but I could still fully feel the intensity and pain of them so I was at peace knowing my body was still working hard. 


Just when I felt like "I got this! I could do this all day long!" (Okay...maybe not quite that chill. I was certainly in my zone, eyes closed, intense focus, and no conversation) my midwife came in to shake up the game. "Alright, Allix. Baby Girl is sunny side up [i.e. posterior position, face up] and I really don't want you to have her like that." 
Pause for a quick Labor and Delivery lesson!πŸ˜‰
Mothers whose babies are face-up at birth tend to push longer and have a significantly higher risk of having an assisted vaginal delivery or a c-section. They also have a greater risk of a postpartum hemorrhageThose who do give birth vaginally to a baby who is posterior are more likely to have an episiotomy and severe perineal tears than moms whose babies are in the more favorable face-down position. The posterior position at birth also is associated with a higher risk of short-term complications for the baby, such as lower five-minute Apgar scores, a greater likelihood of needing to be admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit, and a longer hospital stay

"So here's what we're gonna do. I'm gonna have you do some practice pushes and I'm going to try and turn her, okay?" My head started spinning. "Push? PUSH?! Did she say push? I'M NOT READY TO PUSH." I started hyperventilating as they hoisted my legs up and started shouting at me to...well, you know. πŸ˜¬ The first time was understandably half-hearted, though I felt like I was doing all I could. It was in that moment that I became aware of how freaking hard it is to push a baby out! MY GOODNESS. I felt like I was pushing harder than physically possible and yet I could feel I was nowhere close and they were saying, "Harder, harder, harder! Not good enough, you can do better!" They had me push again and even though I felt like I had given even more than my best effort, I could tell I had fallen short again. But apparently I had done enough for now because she had successfully turned Baby Girl into the face down position and I had gone from 8cm to 9. 


She came back in to check me again and said I was 9¾cm, "Basically 10cm with an anterior lip!" She said she would check on me in another hour and I should be ready to have her! "Call us back in here if you start to feel pressure or the need to push, okay?" I nodded squeamishly. "Are you alright?" She asked and I admitted I was starting to feel like I was losing it again. So they gave me another dose of the fentanyl since the previous shot had worn off, but this time the dose was slightly higher than before since she thought I still had perhaps an hour or more left of the transition level pain. 


Since it seemed like we still had quite some time to spare, my mom went to get coffee and to update everyone in the waiting room. Trevor had gone with her so it was just my sister and I left. They had broken the bed down so I was sitting in an upright position, more like being in a chair and the lights were all dimmed. I was back in the state of "body present, mind absent" but there was a realization creeping up on me quickly. Pressure. I was feeling pressure. But I was not about to call them back in there. You see, I had imagined going into labor plenty of times. I had felt Braxton Hicks and therefore anticipated what contractions would be like. The contractions building throughout the day had prepared me for "the end" when I knew they'd be coming so close together, I wouldn't be catching a break. I had had countless dreams of holding her for the first time and what she would look like. And I had most certainly thought about not being pregnant anymore. But suddenly I knew the one major detail I had forgot to envision...pushing my baby out. The practice pushes had done enough to terrify the daylights out of me. I had heard of one too many women who pushed for hours before meeting their babies or even some who had endured hours of pushing only to have a c-section in the end. I was also aware of how NOT flexible I am. I have never been a limber person, no matter how consistently I stretched or tried to train my body otherwise. I knew that pushing meant having my knees up by my ears and I simply could. not. do that for an extended period of time. The practice pushes had also proven, in my mind, that I wasn't strong enough. I had given it all I had and they wanted more. I had heard before that a lot of women felt like pushing was a relief from the pain of contractions. I was all about feeling some of that so I decided to experiment. I geared up as a contraction started to come and I focused all my efforts downward and slowly, lightly pushed. My intent wasn't to have her on my own or to really fully push. I simply wanted to try bearing down to see if I felt that mysterious relief I had heard about. Sadly all my secret practice half pushing was doing was making me doubt myself all the more. So. Here I was, the ultimate dilemma. I had reached the climax of this mighty act that my body had, by God's abundant grace, done so masterfully well up to this point and I couldn't go on. I was the sad climber who dies right before reaching the summit of Mt. Everest after little to no effort during the first half of his journey. I opened my eyes and saw Holly quietly sitting beside me on her phone. "I can't do this." I said in half a whisper. She looked up with a confused look on her face and asked, "What was that?" I gulped, closed my eyes again, and sighed. "I...can' I'm exhausted and I'm not strong enough." Holly didn't know what to do with this information so she slipped out of the room to go find Trevor and Mama. 


When the three of them came back in I was completely resolved. Mama came to my side and said, "So what's going on?" Here's where my logic started to get clearly flawed and it's obvious that I was not entirely in my right mind. I said with full confidence, "I can't do it, Mama. I already know I'm not strong enough to push." She laughed and said, "What do you mean?" In my somewhat drunken stupor I raised my hands, eyes still closed, and said "If I could just...sleep...If I could just rest without any pain for a few minutes....then I might be strong enough." She looked at Holly and said, "Go get them. She's ready." and off Holly sped. Now it was Trevor by my side and I told him my, now memorized, speech. He nodded and said, "Okay. That's alright if you can't do it," as he held my hand and kissed my forehead. Within a few moments the quiet serenity that had been my room up to this point exploded into movement, hustle and bustle, loud sounds, and bright light. My midwife, a couple student nurses, and a hoard of other nurses (two of whom quickly grabbed my DSLR cameras) rushed into the room and turned on every light. They grabbed the table of instruments, laid me back, and assumed their "battle positions." Now I have to add here, Trevor, having just heard me say "I can't do it" and having never seen or been exposed to what a c-section is like (being wheeled to an operating room, drawn curtains, numbed mama, daddy in scrubs, etc.) perceived what was happening to be the preparation for me to receive a c-section. I had said I couldn't do it after all and there was a table with scissors and such and things had gotten awfully serious rather quickly. Knowing now that these were his thoughts makes me SO proud of him because he didn't move a muscle. Something you must know about Trevor...he's certainly the "weak stomach when it comes to medical things" type. If he's watching a sporting event and someone is injured, it takes everything within himself to even finish watching the game. Simply explaining how someone got hurt can turn him green and have him begging for you to stop. Therefore, him thinking I was about to be cut wide open in front of him and him staying in the room? What a trooper! I, on the other hand, the one who had been the trooper all day was done...completely done and out of my mind. If you ever hear that the end of labor puts you in a primal state, it's incredibly true. I felt the urge to thrash around, I was gripping at the bedrails terrified, and I began to sob. "I! Can't! Do! This!" I cried out, hoping someone would listen to what I had been insisting for the past twenty minutes. Tanna grabbed my face in her hands and said firmly, "Allix! You can do this! You will do this! You are doing this!" I shook my head wildly and started to bring up my "I need to sleep" argument again and she straightened my face until I was making eye contact with her again and said, "You will sleep when you have this baby! have! to! push!" UGH! That dreaded word. She had finally said it and I knew they weren't going to let me run far far away like I desperately wished. I felt my legs being hoisted up again and I laid my head back in defeat, positive that I would either die in childbirth or have to have my poor baby cut out of me because I just didn't have what it took. My mom had one leg, Tanna had the other, Holly was pressing against one side of my back, and Trevor was pushing on the other...until he got scared and stood to the side terrified and praying. A contraction was coming and my midwife started to yell for me to push. I gave it all I had and all I could process was them saying, "Harder harder harder!" I pushed again and they kept shouting. "Not quite there, keeping going, almost had it!" What did they mean?! I KNEW I wasn't strong enough! I pictured myself being able to lay back and breath for a minute or two like I had seen or read that is typical for in between pushes. But to my dismay and surprise they were asking if I was having another contraction and that I needed to push again. "WHAT?! What about my break?? Women don't push without breaks until the baby is literally coming out of them! I've only pushed twice! Whyyyy are they doing this to meeee?!" Then I heard my mom gasp, I saw her grin from ear to ear and with happy tears in her eyes she exclaimed, "Look at all that curly black hair!" This threw me off guard...she could see her head? "Allix, are you having a contraction?!" My midwife shouted at me again. I shook my head violently and tightly shut my eyes. Tanna looked at the monitor and started poking my belly with both hands. "Yes she is!! Allix PUSH!" Again I excerpted every ounce of energy and force I've ever imagined having and with them pushing my back and my legs being held up I felt the same sensation I had had all during pregnancy...this huge ginormous thing that my body was doing was also something being done to me. I was pushing but I was also being compelled and propelled to push. This third push felt different at the very end...that's when I was suddenly aware...I was pushing her OUT! 
One small push later and my baby girl, who 1 minute earlier had only had the tip top of her head peeking out, was rushing out of me in one fell swoop. Everyone gasped in disbelief as she lay, blue and wrinkly, on my belly. In the most utter shock I've ever been in in my life I just kept saying to anyone and everyone around me, "I did it. I did it. I did it." This certainly wasn't said in triumphant pride...but truly in complete disbelief, almost as a question. 
As that last push was occurring my midwife was also crying out, "She's tearing! She's tearing! She's tearing!" as she desperately tried to hold me together. I knew within moments of delivery that, though she had come quickly, she had left a tragic trail of evidence behind her. I was also blinking in and out of total conscience as the pain shot had not quite worn off. One blink and I saw her face. The next blink and Trevor was gazing into my eyes with the most scared look I've ever seen. Another blink and he was cutting her cord. Another blink and she was gone. 
Without me being fully aware they had taken her off to the side to give her a small dose of oxygen because she wasn't crying. By coming so fast, the amniotic fluid had not gotten released out of her lungs and stomach and so she was bubbling and gurgling more than breathing. Within a few minutes I felt my placenta slip out of me with little to no effort. I was incredibly thankful that it was so uneventful since I've heard that for some people that is more painful than actual childbirth! Then...blood. Lots and lots of blood. The nurses were massaging my stomach to shrink my uterus down and encourage the bleeding to stop. And my midwife was also trying to make sure no pieces of my placenta were left which didn't feel very pleasant. Then, I heard my baby's first cry and was again reminded that she wasn't on my chest. 
I tried to focus my eyes that were stubbornly insisting on being glossed over as they brought her back over to me. As soon as they put her in my arms I tried to take her all in. I had fantasized about this moment for ages...the sweet "golden hour" that I would get to have her on my chest and soak in every sweet moment of being done with labor and meeting my child for the first time. But then...I started shaking. Mildly at first and then violently. Trevor and my mom had to support my arms because I couldn't really hold her. Then I heard the midwife say, "Y'all are gonna have to raise the bed. This is going to take awhile." So my bed was raised up until she was eye level with "the damage" and she began sewing...or, trying to at least. I had suffered a complete perineal tear as well as a second degree bilateral tear. And I won't sugar coat felt as miserable as it sounds. Sadly Baby Girl, though she had been turned in the right position, had had her little hand up by her face which resulted in excess destruction that I could've avoided had she had that hand down. I continued to shake and I was in wild amounts of pain. My mom was instructed to make sure I got some food so I could take pain medication. She immediately texted my dad and sent him on this errand. (Thank the Lord for the Sonic directly next to the hospital!) 
I was beside myself as I knew time was ticking on and I was really not enjoying not one second of that sweet golden hour I had looked so forward to. She wasn't wide eyed and alert either like I had heard freshborn babies are so there was no glorious eye contact happening between us. I was beginning to panic because I couldn't fully focus on her face so I finally just held her against me tightly and stopped trying to look at her. I kissed the top of her head a million times and tried to process the good of what was happening. I had an amazing midwife who was doing her very best to make sure I was taken care of. My daughter was OUT OF ME. I wasn't pregnant anymore! We had made it before the 12 hour cutoff so no IV for baby! As I laid there with my eyes closed, baby tucked under my chin, thinking of the positives, I felt a prick. I didn't flinch or make a noise but I heard a little cry by my ear. I thought it was a funny coincidence...almost like she was crying for me. But then with every prick as my midwife sewed me up, there was another tiny cry to accompany it. I don't want to sound crazy and I can't back my theory up at all...but it was the strangest and most moving phenomenon. After 9 long months of being unfathomably and indescribably connected, perhaps we were still intimately connected even then. As I was still more or less out of it, someone came in asking if I wanted her to have the antibiotic cream in her eyes and the Vitamin K shot. With huge tears welling up in my eyes I looked at my mom. I couldn't comprehend what was going on or if these were things I wanted done. I held my baby tighter, absolutely terrified that whatever they were trying to do to her they wanted to do right then...which meant them taking her away from me. My mom whipped around and told the nurse, "Listen. She's not really in a state to answer those questions and she's holding her baby right now so can this be done later?" The nurse assured her they wouldn't have to take her now, they just needed an answer. I finally nodded, feeling more at ease if I didn't have to give her up. 
Trevor's biggest question was, "How did you just do that?! You said you couldn't do it and then...YOU DID!" He was completely overcome...and so was I. 

A long, daunting, hour and a half passed before my midwife was finished stitching me up. She had done a wonderfully thorough and kind job but I was beyond sore. I had only had the strength to eat a few bites of food but it was enough to take some meds. She was then taken for the eye cream and the Vitamin K shot and another nurse came to "take her to the nursery for a bath! Be back in about an hour, is that alright?!" 
I broke down sobbing. My not-so-golden hour had been consumed in hormonal shakes, loopy medicine wearing off, and everything between my legs being practically recreated with a needle and thread. Now they wanted to bathe my baby...for an hour?! AWAY FROM ME?! My mom quickly stepped in again and asked if there was anyway they could bathe the baby in the room instead of taking her away. The nurse happily obliged and came back quickly with the supplies. They weighed and measured her first and I finally knew I had an 8lb. 1½oz. and 18½inch long baby. 
They got me upright and into a wheelchair and I finally felt like I wasn't drugged. I enjoyed every sweet second of watching her chubby little body being scrubbed and I was slowly beginning to "take her in." This is also when Trevor and I decided for sure that her name was Ella Jane.

After the bath, I was finally at peace enough for her to be taken to the nursery so everyone in the waiting room could see her. But I certainly missed her terribly the moment she was gone. What a strange feeling to suddenly be in a different place from my sweet girl who had not ever been separate from me in her entire little life. 

The next few hours were a blur of smiling faces and happy tears and, "Hello Ella Jane!"s. She was passed around and kissed and loved on and squealed over. I sat in my hospital bed, groggily grinning as I continued to live in light of the sweet reality that I was no longer pregnant. I know I keep saying this but when the 9 months were not particularly enjoyed, this is a wonderful truth. I felt my stomach beneath the hospital blankets and marveled at its loose flatness. 12 short hours earlier this skin was tight and round and bulging with a human squirming beneath the surface. Now my emptiness was beautifully displayed as that same little human was able to be in the arms of all the family members that had waited so long to meet her. 
Trevor showing off Ella's famous "Talk to the Hand" move from her 3D ultrasound. Guess I should've been prepared for her hand to be up during delivery after all....
Meeting Trevor's mom, Grandma Chelle...or Nonnie...or to be decided when Ella learns to talk. 
Hi Aunt Holly and Great-Grandma Carolyn!
Grandmama's girl!
Her Grandaddy is completely smitten...just like he was with me 21 years ago! 
P.S. I do NOT even recognize this child! She was SO swollen!! 
Ella and her Daddy taking, what he called, "Sellafies" ;) 

My hospital room remained full until almost midnight when the last of the visitors reluctantly slipped out. By 12:00 Mama and I were all alone with her and we happily stared. Shortly after, a nurse came in to help me try to feed her since we hadn't even tried that yet. I was a bit fearful when she wouldn't latch and didn't seem interested in eating at all. I knew nursing was difficult for many first time moms and I was beginning to realize this might be my trial as well. After no success the nurse left...only to return again an hour later. I soon could tell that she was just as determined as I was to make this work. We tried different positions, I would express some colostrum in an attempt to entice her...we even dipped a finger in sugar water trying to get her to at least work on the sucking motion. But Ella seemed just as determined to not cooperate. The nurse took her to the nursery for a hearing test about 1:30 a.m. and when she brought her back at 2 she said Ella had failed the test pretty severely. This horrified me but the nurse quickly reassured me that that was very common if a baby hadn't started feeding yet. We worked with her again and she finally latched for a minute or two. It was an incredibly surreal moment as I watched myself feed my very own baby. But the lovely moment ended as quickly as it began and she couldn't seem to get latched on again. The night wore on, the nurse coming in every hour to get Ella to try again. She finally told me after trying at 5 a.m. that she would give me a few hours of rest and would be back later on in the morning. So my mom got settled on the infamously uncomfortable couch bed and began to doze off. Ella was laying in the bassinet beside me and I had been instructed to fall asleep at least for a little while. But every time my eyes closed I had another adrenaline rush and they would pop right back open to look at her. I was certain I would never be able to take my eyes off of her again. I couldn't even fully comprehend how much I loved her and how beautiful she looked. (Dear New Mamas, rest is definitely important...but don't feel bad if you can't conk out because you're just so hyped up and can't stop staring at your baby! I don't think I actually went to sleep for more than 20 minutes at a time for...3, maybe 4 days? I know that sounds crazy but when the largest amount of adrenaline you could ever imagine is rushing through your system, sleep is nearly impossible.)  
At 6:00 she whimpered slightly and I bounded out of bed to get her. As I held her close I realized it was really the first time I had gotten to hold her without the threat of her being taken away within a few minutes. My mom was still sleeping, the sun hadn't come up was just me and my lovely Ella Jane taking in each other fully for the first time. I was overcome with such a rush of love and duty to protect and take care of her that I decided I wasn't going to wait for the nurse to come back later that morning. And there, in the navy lavender light of dawn, the same light that had filled the sky the morning I found out she existed, I got my sweet baby to latch all on my own and she ate and ate for nearly an hour. It was a heavenly intimate time and probably the first that made me feel like what I am proud to call myself now: her mother. 
In conclusion, just as nothing about my pregnancy was predictable or expected, my labor and delivery (and recovery) certainly followed suit. But! After the high of it all started to die down during her first week I was humbled to tears when thinking back on the experience realizing how incredibly the Lord answered our prayers. Trevor had hoped so much that I wouldn't go into labor in the middle of the night because we are huge fans of sleep and he knew that both of us needing to be on our A-game without a sufficient night's rest would be disastrous. My water breaking first thing after waking up after a full night of sleep fits that description pretty well, right? And speaking of my water breaking...that was another desire of mine, remember? I was SO afraid of being unsure...but that's indisputable...and exactly what I had wanted, as rare as it was! Then what blessed my heart probably more than anything was my "birth team." I had been allowed three people to be in my room all day and I knew for months the three I wanted were my husband, my mom, and my big sister -- no doubts! I knew Trevor would have to be unbelievably brave to endure the day, and he WAS! He thoroughly exceeded all my expectations. And my dear mama and sister...both who have never (and may never) experience natural childbirth. I wanted them to not only help me through experiencing it for the first time, but to feel like they were an intimate part of accomplishing it themselves. My heart is too full to truly express how much that dream was fulfilled. All in all, I could not have asked for a better three to be by my side, as they had so many other times in my life. To have them terrified, horrified, mesmerized, and enchanted right along with me...that is a gift I pray I never take for granted. 
My dad also counts as part of the team because he bravely held down the fort in the waiting room and endured a ton during those 10 hours since he couldn't be in there with us. 

And to my precious midwife Dana and my beloved nurse Tanna, I can never thank y'all enough for being the strong force I needed guiding me through such an enormous feat. Plenty of people have marveled at "my strength" when I recount this story but really, I would've melted into a pitiful puddle of defeat without you two! 

The words "Be still my soul, the Lord is on thy side. Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain. Leave to thy God to order and provide; In every change He faithful will remain. Be still, my soul: Thy best, thy heavenly Friend through thorny ways leads to a joyful end." played through my head at random times throughout my 10 hours of labor and no sweeter or truer words could've encouraged me on during the hardest parts. He sustained me through every dark part of pregnancy (and there were many!), He graced me with a shockingly manageable labor, and even in humbling and sanctifying me with a rougher than desired delivery, He abundantly blessed me with outstanding hands and hearts to help. I would be hard-pressed to name a time that I felt more provided for or specifically loved by my dear Lord than I did during childbirth. 

This novel I've written doesn't even begin to skim the surface of how magical and powerful November 15th truly was for me...even if I talked for years about it I would never do it justice...but I hope I have given at least a glimpse of the day that forever changed me, the day I met my Ella Jane. ❤️ 
"Fear not, I am with thee; oh, be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid.
I'll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by my righteous, upheld by my righteous,
Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.
When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not thee o'erflow,
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee, and sanctify to thee,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.
When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply.
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, thy dross to consume,
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine."