Juliette Ruth joined our family this past weekend. And here I sit before you, a few days after, thankful to bring you her beautiful story. Just days before her arrival, friends of ours lost their newborn. My heart wept for them, even throughout my birth, knowing how empty my arms and womb would feel after such an experience.
It's with great thankfulness that I get to introduce Juliette to you – a happy, healthy, and beautiful child of God.
As many of you know, we were planning and preparing for a high-risk VBAC for the arrival of our fourth little one (I'm sorry… but how do we have four children?!). Just hours before the contractions began, I stood in the shower, crying (because that's what I do when I'm super pregnant, yo), and praying to God.
God, let me be at peace with what you have for us. If it's a VBAC, great. If it's a cesarian, please put my mind at ease about that. Let me feel at peace with whatever it is and whatever it looks like.
God, please, oh please, oh pleasssssse, let me go into labor tonight. I'm desperate. I'm at the end of myself. I can't do it anymore! If it's all the same to you, I'd really, really, reallllly like to get this baby out already!
But, ya know, your will be done and all that jazz.
Not 15 minutes later, my contractions began – slow, steady, painless. They continued on this way for a few more hours while I tried my best to distract my exhausted mind with the newest season of an Anthony Bourdain travel show. It was late a night. Everyone was asleep but me and the little soul inside my belly. I woke Stu up to go out with me and feed the little lambs, steadily pacing up the driveway and squatting down by Rosie to hold her while the lambs drank – keenly aware of each movement… each pain… each wave of tightness. When the contractions faded off, I prayed (once again) that they would continue.
I was ready to meet my little one. And finally, finally, my body seemed to be obliging.
Another few minutes of steady contractions lead me to call my parents, who quickly came over to sleep with the other three munchkins while we headed into the hospital. We were under strict orders to not labor at home so they could closely monitor baby. I kissed Will goodnight quickly before we left – nuzzled in his fleece blanket with his favorite ‘Little Blue Truck‘ book tucked up under his arm. I almost died of happiness and sadness at the same time saying goodbye to him that night. He's still so little.
The drive into the hospital was calm – the sky was dark, almost no cars on the road. Stu drove slow. We rolled down our windows and breathed deep. We talked about how much we hated the songs on the radio. The contractions were still pretty painless and I was enjoying feeling the final movements of baby – knowing this is (pending unforseen Providential circumstances) going to be our last little one.
After checking in, the nurse encouraged us to go for an hour long walk to see if we couldn't get things moving. If things aren't moving, you get sent home, man. And there was no way I was going to enter back into my home without a fresh baby in my arms. The last few weeks of pregnancy had been miserable and I wasn't about to submit to more of that.
So walk I did.
Stu and I looped our arms together, like teenagers, and we walked. We went outside and paced the dark streets. I waddled around like gigantic whale, flopping back and forth with each fast step. I practically did squats up the stairs and kept going up and down the same hill. For weeks, I've avoided such physical activity – not because I couldn't do it, but because it hurt to do it! Vaginal pressure is a real thing, man. But God gave me courage and the beautiful gift of adrenaline – my body welcomed the pain of it all. The more it hurt, the better it felt. And the pain came. In big waves, the contractions began to grasp at my being. I began to lean on Stu. To moan. By the end of the designated time, I was in the grasp of labor and that train wasn't stopping.
By the time we got back to our room, ‘active labor' was determined, and I melted into the pain. I stood at the back counter of the hospital room, bent over with my head on my folded arms, hips dancing side to side, consumed. I'd never been allowed to labor long before the epidural for my cesarian sections and even my previous VBAC was forced with a bundle of interventions and unique circumstances. This time, I stood in an almost empty hospital room, with only my husband by my side, experiencing those horrible and beautiful pains that are beyond anything words can describe. The hospital staff were but a few shadows in the backdrop – never asking me to even change out of my pajamas. They let me labor. They let me moan. They let me cry out to God. They let me be.
When it was time for the IV, they asked me to go sit on the bed. I threw out my arm from under my head and shouted “Do it here!”. And they did.
I agreed with my Doctor to do an epidural so that we could be prepped for a cesarian because we were at high-risk for such to occur. When it was time, I was in a different world. Stuart says I was saying things I can't even slightly remember.
I do remember a few places my mind went in the pain.
I went to the color purple. Why? I have no idea. But I kept thinking of purple.
I went to my baby's nursery where I kept seeing Will's smiling face reading “Little Blue Truck”. When I thought of Will, I felt so much joy, I could physically feel my cervix relax.
I went to my husband, who was holding me. Comforting me. Calming me. Loving me. The only person in the entire world I wanted to touch or to touch me – I craved him and buried my head into his chest.
In just over an hour, we had progressed to 9 cm. It came and moved through me like a freight train.
By the time the anesthesiologist left, I was praying that it would kick in before it was time to push the baby out. Because I could already feel the splitting pressure surging. The nurse dimmed the lights and left the room – Stu and I lay in the bed together and prayed. Boy, did we pray. We calmed down for a few minutes before our lives were, for the fourth time, changed forever. Moments before we welcomed a new soul into our world – a soul that we didn't know yet, and yet, we knew so well.
Just a few minutes later when the Doctor arrived and after (literally) 8 seconds of pushing, Juliette entered the world. Stuart announced to me it was a girl and I wept. She was beautiful. And she was screaming. (Also, there are but a few blurry photos from the hospital. That's what happens when the photographer is the one having the baby and her photography assistant is the doula/husband).
As she lay on my chest, I began to whisper in her ear. And she calmed down. This girl – she knew me.
She continues to surprise me, as she reacts so strongly to my voice. She feels like a bond – a soul sister – that I didn't even know was missing. But now, my other girl is here. Another piece of my being wandering free in the world.
And by ‘wandering free', I mean she's never allowed to leave my side. Ever. Because I love her desperately.
Gratitude overflows from my Mama heart. Not only is Juliette here healthy, nursing like a rockstar, and cute as a bug, but she arrived via the most calm and beautiful VBAC we could have ever hoped for. On top of that, upon delivery of the placenta, we found out that Juliette's umbilical cord had a perfect knot tied in it. The nurse hugged me and told me to consider my baby a miracle – they often seen babies die from such. There is truly, so much to be thankful for. Before we had children, I wept, wondering if my condition would keep us from ever being able to do so. And here we stand, in the absolute madness of four children five and under, and I can feel is complete thankfulness.
And soreness. There's a bit of that too.