in honor of our second daughter’s third birthday I’m posting her birth story…
September & October, 2009
Dear Mary Kate,
During your first week of life, your daddy commented on how quickly one adjusts to a “new normal.” And when your Grandma kissed you goodbye when you were two weeks and two days old, she told you it seemed like you’d always been a part of our family. But even now that you are three weeks old, your mommy still finds it hard to believe sometimes that she has two precious little girls. I don’t know if it hasn’t sunk in or I’m still in awe or I’m still feeling the lack of sleep. But regardless of whether it feels “real” to your mommy–I’m so very thankful for you, for your safe arrival, and for all the help of our family and friends along the way!
I don’t know if it was walking around the Fair Saturday night, or the Lindt Extra Dark 85% Cocoa your daddy and sister bought for me after the Fair at Safeway, or all the Red Raspberry Leaf tea I’d been drinking–but regardless, you arrived twelve days early, on Sunday, August 30, 2009, at forty-three after seven in the evening. You were due September 11 (Patriot Day). You and your sister are setting a trend for Mommy to have early babies, in the month before her due date! Ruth Ann was due December 7 (Pearl Harbor Day), but because Mommy had toxemia symptoms Ru had to be induced on November 21, the day before Thanksgiving. Thus I thought maybe you’d come the day before Labor Day, but you girls like to keep us guessing.
I’d been to the doctor the Monday before your arrival. I called your grandma after my appointment, and told her not to get freaked out, but the doctor said I measured 3 centimeters dilated and was 70% effaced. I’d been having contractions–sometimes quite strong ones–for weeks, but that afternoon, my contractions only increased. I called your daddy, near tears, overwhelmed at the thought of you arriving when there was a whole stack of dishes undone and a whole lot of hay your daddy needed to bale! He came home and helped me calm down–I took a nice cool shower while he did the mountains of dishes. Then your Aunt Marlys came over to help with Ruth and laundry and sleep on our couch to be there for me while your daddy baled hay.
l woke at 12:30, after maybe just barely two hours of sleep…with contractions that were getting more painful even though not more frequent. By the time I called your daddy–still out on the tractor baling–and told him maybe he better come home and clean up, they were four minutes apart. I was hoping they’d slow down when he got home and he could get some sleep. But they were still about four minutes apart, and everyone had been telling me to go in if they were consistent, not waiting until I couldn’t get through them. So we headed in close to 3 a.m. By the time the OB nurse got there at 3:30, I’d had no more big contractions… And she checked me and she could barely find my cervix or your head that had been so far down at my doctor’s appointment that morning…and she said I was only dilated 1 1/2 centimeters! She put Mommy on the monitors anyway, and checked my blood pressure and all that before sending me home to rest. You were sure active, trying to kick the monitors off Mommy’s tummy! But I only had one real contraction the entire time I was hooked up to the monitors. But it turns out that your grandpa had been praying that you would wait until they came to arrive–which is why my contractions stopped at 3 a.m. when I called him! We finally got home at five in the morning, and after a bit of sleep your daddy finished baling the hay. The nurse had been so nice about it, telling me it was better that I come in and get checked than have your daddy delivering a baby in the tractor or something! But Mommy was still rather embarrassed to have had a “false labor”. At least we’d found out Daddy could drive to the hospital in just ten minutes!The rest of the week I had lots of contractions, but nothing very strong or regular. And all the pressure I’d felt from your head on Monday was suddenly nonexistent. I kept calling your grandma to update her, and I’d hear the panic in her voice every time, until I reassured her that I wasn’t in labor yet. The church your mommy and grandpa grew up in was celebrating its one hundred and fiftieth anniversary on Sunday, August 30, and I wanted so badly for your grandparents to be able to be there for the big program. I kept telling them just to plan to stay for it unless something changed–while admitting that if I called them in active labor they might not have time to get here before you arrived! It was quite the week. I even got to our family business one day to say hi to Daddy and saw some customers who’d apparently been in Tuesday and heard I’d had false labor–they said, “We thought you’d be all skinny again!” Meanwhile, your grandparents planned to come to our house on Monday.
So Saturday evening found your big sister Ruth going to the Fair with Daddy and Mommy after Daddy was done with work for the day. We took Aunt Marlys and Uncle Mason along with us, meeting up with Papa, Nanna, Aunt Katie, Uncle Tom, Aunt Megan, and cousins Hannah, Calum and Gracie when we got there. Mommy kept her walking slow and to a minimum, and was even careful not to eat too much Fair food! Daddy ordered French Fries but didn’t realize they were Curly (which Mommy doesn’t like, despite her curly hair!). I ate the few regular fries in the basket, and part of our pulled pork sandwich on sourdough. I saw another pregnant lady there, and when she asked when I was due I said “September 11, but the doctor says any time!” We saw a local farmer whose wife works at the hospital, and he knew I’d been in labor because his wife had seen my name on a list at the hospital! Everyone knew you’d tried to make your appearance already…or at least that I thought you were trying. Little did I know you’d be there before another twenty-four hours had passed.
We stopped at Safeway for milk on the way home. Mommy rested in the car, while Daddy and Ru went inside. They took a long time, and came back with some dark, dark chocolate–Mommy’s favorite! It was all I wanted to end the day, but I did sneak a bite or two of Daddy and Ruth’s macaroni and cheese (made with white cheddar!) right before bed. I was tired, but I felt fine. It was probably eleven before Daddy and Mommy fell asleep. And I awoke a few hours later, at 2 a.m. Sunday morning, quite uncomfortable! I moved to the couch so I wouldn’t wake your daddy up.
From 3 or 3:30 on, I was having strong contractions every five minutes on the dot (and it’s impossible to fall asleep in those few minutes between contractions, just so you’ll know for future reference). I was surprised I didn’t wake your daddy up with all my groaning and breathing. I took several showers, I tried every position–I even went out and sat in the hammock as the sun rose. It sounded so relaxing, to labor in the hammock–but it didn’t turn out to be any better. In fact, my favorite position throughout my entire labor with you was sitting cross-legged. Your daddy was surprised the couch was still in one piece, as I kept gripping the back rest through every contraction. I woke him up at 6:30, and he tried to help me relax. I relaxed, but the contractions didn’t! At least until I called your grandparents at around 7:30. I tried to make your daddy call, but he said they would really be worried if he called–so I waited until right after one contraction, and dialed. I called their house phone so they wouldn’t freak out when they saw my name on caller ID on their cell phones. But when I told your grandpa hello he announced to the rest of the family, “It is Gretchen!” and that was my greeting. I told them I’d been having regular and strong contractions all night, so they just might want to have their bags packed and ready to come up right after church, instead of waiting until the morrow. I just wasn’t about to have them miss the church anniversary celebration for another false alarm! I had a contraction the second I got off the phone with them. But right about the time Sunday School starts at their church, my contractions slowed to a near stand-still. We’d already decided we wouldn’t be going to church that morning, even if it was only a minute from the hospital. So we watched a Loui Giglio movie called “Indescribable”–while I tried to rest and eat a few crepes and the bacon your daddy fried up for me. We called your grandpa between Sunday School and church to let him know not to worry, my contractions had slowed way down.
I got about an hour of sleep Sunday morning while your big sister slept and your daddy worked on painting the shed. It was amazing to go an hour without a contraction strong enough to wake me! We talked to your grandpa after church and he said they were going to come up anyway, and they’d talk to us when they got on the way. We decided to go to your Papa and Nanna’s to celebrate the August birthdays with Uncle Tom and Aunt Megan’s family. There were a few gifts for Mommy, too, and they laughed when I had to wait until after a contraction to open them! (Your big sister thought it was quite funny when I had a contraction. Mommy didn’t think it was funny!) I watched the ladies play a game of cards, and Aunt Katie kept wanting me to tell her when I had a contraction so she could time them. I reassured her that these were not very close together, so not to worry! The nurse had recommended taking a warm bath if I thought I might be in labor, so I took advantage of Aunt Marlys’ bathtub and tried to relax in the warm water. At that point, a water birth sounded awfully nice, even though Mommy’s not typically much into swimming pools or the like. But the warm water felt so good on my back–I’d been having back labor the entire time. Your big sister came in with your Daddy to check on me. While admiring my water she went headfirst into the bathtub and ended up taking a bath with me. She had fun until I had another contraction and your daddy wasn’t there. When he came to rescue her, he watched me and let me know that my contractions were every couple minutes again. I had been enjoying the lack of a clock in the bathroom! But it was about 3:30 Sunday afternoon when the contractions started up in earnest again, having taken a break since 8 or 9 that morning. By the time I was dressed and made it down the stairs, I had to stop and hold onto the wall for a contraction before I got out into the kitchen. Your daddy and I decided to leave Ruth with Aunt Marlys, and go home and finish cleaning up the house just in case. I was pretty miserable by the time we got home. But I wanted your daddy to make the decision about when we went to the hospital, so it wouldn’t be my fault if it was another false alarm. Uncle Tom and Aunt Megan came over to get their meat out of our freezer and your Aunt Megan left reassuring me in the middle of a contraction that this strong, they wouldn’t go on for long. By this time I was tired, stressed, and near tears. Your daddy kept coming over to rub my back during a contraction, but I kept telling him to get something to eat, because I wasn’t leaving until he’d eaten. I tried eating a bit more of the Hawaiian Chicken Aunt Megan had made for lunch (I’d had a bit at Papa and Nanna’s and it was good!), but I made your daddy finish it, soon knowing I couldn’t eat anything more. By now I knew from all the pressure I was feeling that you were coming, because these contractions were like what I’d had in those hours right before your sister was born (just slightly worse then, because I was being induced and going quickly!). I was drinking my Red Raspberry Leaf tea and telling your daddy to please, pack his clothes, and please, don’t worry about picking up the house. He finally got ready (it seemed like “finally” to Mommy but I’m sure it was only a few minutes!), and miraculously, he didn’t even try to do the dishes before we left. That had been his concern on Monday, was that you’d come and we’d have to leave a whole counter full of dishes. But I think by the time he got done eating he realized we better go if we didn’t want you born at home!
I relaxed again when we got in the car, because we were finally on the way. Your daddy told me everyone was staring at me as I gripped the handle above the window and made all sorts of faces through a contraction. I only had two contractions the entire drive to the hospital (I’d told your daddy I could do it in two contractions!), but your daddy forgot about the first one and made the comment right before we got to the hospital that this wasn’t good because I’d only had one contraction the entire time. I was rather quick to contradict him. I had another before we got into the hospital, and another at the admitting counter. The nurse kind of raised her eyebrows when I claimed to be having contractions at 38 weeks. But by the time I got into a beautiful hospital gown and in bed and they checked me out, I was six centimeters dilated (“I could stretch it to a seven” the nurse said). You were on your way! We called your grandparents, who had been helping at the potluck before they could leave and then got stuck in traffic, and they were still four or five hours away. The nurses assured me my parents would not make it in time. And at this point, I told Merritt to tell my mom, sorry, I’m not waiting!
With the lack of sleep in the previous 24 hours, your mommy was rather tired and stressed by the time I was in active labor. I had a hard time relaxing, and I had been a bad girl and hadn’t reviewed my breathing techniques very well. I missed the nurse who had breathed with me with your big sister! I’m sure I could have asked one of your nurses to please breathe with me, but I didn’t. They were racing around getting everything ready for your arrival. The doctor came in to find me smiling and talking. She commented on the smile and the nurses told her it was only until a contraction hit. In reality, I had relaxed a lot just knowing that I was actually in labor, and all those contractions had not been in vain. As soon as she examined me, the doctor concurred that you were well on your way. Soon she broke my water to speed things along. We’d arrived at the hospital at 6 p.m. At 7:35, I looked at the clock when I started pushing for real (after a few test pushes at 9 centimeters). You were born 8 minutes later. You didn’t come out with one big push like your sister did–I was exhausted and had to work at it a little more to get all of you out (though I only pushed for 8 minutes with your sister, as well). So Daddy got to see your sweet little face and watch the doctor clean out your mouth and nose…and then Mommy heard with sweet relief after a great big push the doctor say, “Another little girl!” I was honestly shocked. I’d been quite sure you were going to be a boy. But I was thrilled to have another little daughter…who was in many ways the spitting image of her sister. You were born with less hair than Ruth, but unlike Ru’s, your hair was definitely red in color! Your eyes were also a lighter blue–I’m thinking you’ll keep the blue eyes, and have more your mommy’s coloring.
I held you in sweet relief as they cut your umbilical cord and the doctor stitched up the tiny episiotomy she’d made. It took you a few moments for you to decide to latch on and nurse, but when you got started, you didn’t want to quit! When your daddy and I were alone for a few moments, we concurred that yes, you would be Mary Kate. We called your grandparents. Your Aunt Jessica didn’t think she wanted to know if you were a boy or girl, but everyone else in the car convinced her otherwise. Of course, she said just a few minutes before she’d decided you were going to be a girl after all. They were thrilled and couldn’t wait to meet you. Your daddy called his parents, and then Aunt Mouse. She was giving your big sister a bath, and told Ruth that she had a baby sister. Ruth acted happy about it but didn’t necessarily register what had happened yet!
Eventually the nurses weighed you: six pounds, thirteen and a half ounces! You measured twenty inches long. And then I got to hold you and nurse you some more. We moved across the hallway into our room for the night. And then your daddy realized he was still quite hungry, the hospital was long past serving dinner, and everything would soon be closing! The nurse was kind enough to wait to give you your bath or get your footprints until Daddy could go get some food. He was headed for Subway (that sounded good to Mommy), but he got there just as the girl was locking up the door, and with a couple police cars sitting nearby Daddy figured that he wouldn’t storm the doors asking for a sandwich. So he got Mommy a wrap at Safeway, and himself some chicken at McDonald’s (no, he couldn’t bring himself to get those Angus burgers they’re advertising–chicken seemed safer). He shared his French Fries and Ketchup with Mommy, too. Thanks to them, I was much fortified for the all-night-nursing-marathon you had planned!
I called your maternal great grandparents–we knew Daddy’s grandparents would be sleeping. And I called your Uncle Will. He was surprised to hear me say I was “lots better now”. He couldn’t believe it was all over. And when I told him girls were the thing lately, he was thrilled to realize that come December he would officially be the uncle of five nieces (though I think his soon-to-be nieces already claim him as Uncle Will)! He says he likes nieces. Daddy helped the nurse get your foot prints on your birth certificate, then took pictures while the nurse gave you a “sponge bath” in the sink.
And soon, your Grandpa and Grandma, Aunt Jessica, and Uncle Caleb arrived! They all got to hold you, ooh and awww over your precious face and long feet, and take pictures before they said goodnight. Then we settled in for our long night… Your daddy fell asleep in the hospital bed on the other side of the room (as soon as I stopped talking to him, sharing with him all the happy thoughts going through my head). And you nursed and nursed and nursed. You were helping mommy’s body do what it was supposed to–contracting the uterus–but you wouldn’t stop! The contractions after birth were almost worse than the ones when I knew you were coming. Plus, everyone had warned me that they would be worse with my second child–they were! The nurses had much earlier turned off the Pitocin they’d given me after you were born (“to help the uterus contract”)–they could tell from my facial contortions that you were helping with that a-plenty. Mommy spent most of the night awake, either nursing you, squirming from the contractions, or both. But you were so sweet and content to be held to your momma’s breast. At one point, the nurses tried to take you for a while, so Mommy could get a bit of sleep. But they brought you back within the hour saying they thought you were hungry again. (This was the beginning of your continual refusal to take a pacifier when you knew there was something better around!)
At one point near morning I had your daddy snuggle you a while so I could shut my eyes a few moments. Then, finally, as the light began to dawn outside, you settled down into a deep, contented sleep…with an obviously full tummy. By that time, I was wide awake–running on adrenaline–filling out the form for your birth certificate, organizing my bedside table, and going through the other papers in the folder they’d left me. We had breakfast. I called my friends Ashleigh and Lanier. Then you got your first “visitors” other than family–Pastor Dan and his wife Ginger came to say hi before they went to pick tomatoes (you were born in the thick of the garden harvest around here!). Ginger held you and Pastor prayed before they left. The doctor came in and pronounced you ready to go home that day. Then we just waited on the nurses to finish all their tasks–and for your big sister to arrive and meet you! Meanwhile, it was obvious you had your days and nights mixed up from the get-go. You had eaten last at 5 a.m. and as I recall you waited until near 11 to decide to eat again!
When your Grandma, Aunt Jessica, and Aunt Marlys arrived with your big sister Ruth Ann, it was pretty cute to watch. Ruth was absolutely overwhelmed and excited and everything all at the same time. She touched your ears and her ears, pointed to your eyes and her eyes. She was in awe that this was the baby that had been in Mommy’s tummy. We could tell she was completely overwhelmed, but she was happy. Then the nurse came to do your PKU test. We didn’t want your sister upset by you crying, so your daddy took her to look at the hospital gift shop. When they returned, you were still in your bassinet, instead of being in Mommy’s lap like you’d been when Ruth left. Ruth didn’t see you, and started crying at the sight of Mommy’s empty lap and tummy! When we realized she thought you’d disappeared, we quickly pointed out your location, and she was much reassured. However, the pink bandage on your foot concerned her, as all band aids and owies do, so we had to cover that up with the blanket!
Mommy got dressed in real clothes, we took our official family picture for the hospital wall, and got you all buckled up in your car seat to go home! We had to stop just outside of town and go back to get the nose suction bulb out of your grandma’s car–we’d mistakenly sent your diaper bag with her–because you had started spitting up all sorts of icky stuff. Mommy had been sitting beside you and quickly got you out of your car seat. Your car seat had you tipped back so far you were choking. Your grandma had stopped to get coffee for all of us, so we finished the drive home fortified with mochas–your daddy’s was hot and caffeinated, mine was cold and decaf!
We got home to a welcome crew of your Grandpa and Uncle Mason and Uncle Caleb busily working on a new bedroom for you and your sister! Soon, your Papa and Nanna got back from making a delivery, and got to meet you and hold you. They thought you were precious, even if you were a girl! Aunt Katie and Uncle Bill–the rest of the “family” here on the farm–thought you were adorable, as well.
Your big sister was so excited to have our baby home. But she was already getting awfully tired. After a few tears on her part, we let her go home with Aunt Mouse to take a nap there. She had a few meltdowns the next few days, mostly when she was tired in the evenings, but she adjusted very well, and very quickly became the proudest most doting sister ever (who is continually learning to temper her love with gentleness!). As long as she has Daddy, she lets you have Mommy. But if both her parents–or her Very Special Daddy–are distracted by you, then she makes sure to get their attention!
You got to go to church for your very first time at just one week old. Our church family was so very excited to meet you. And it was special for Daddy and Mommy because they opened the service with “Great is Thy Faithfulness”–which is the hymn that was sung at our wedding, and has been the theme for our lives as we’ve celebrated God’s faithfulness to us. Then Danny and Gretchen (the church pianist is another Gretchen in our small church!) changed the closing song to “Because He Lives.” Mommy’s face was wet with tears by the time we got through the verse that goes, “How sweet to hold a newborn baby and feel the pride and joy [s]he gives…” You may have been born during great economic unrest, under a leader we don’t trust, in a country that has abandoned the principles it was founded upon: but you and our family can face the uncertain days ahead because Christ lives!
So now we are settling into the busyness of life with two girls… And we are so thankful for every minute of it. Touching your tiny (though long!) fingers and toes, watching you sleep all swaddled up in your cradle (rare occurrence that it is), listening to your happy sighs and snorts while you eat, seeing your big sister with you… We love our little girl so very, very much! Welcome to our family, Mary Kate!
Lots of Love,
P.S. I must say, little one, you may have come well before your due date, but you arrived just in time. I had been worried you would wait to come until they were paving the road and we might have a very long drive to the hospital through the construction (there is really no way around it, except for on gravel roads!). Well, when we went to the doctor for your check-up three days after you were born, there were miles of grooved pavement between our house and the hospital. Mommy wouldn’t have made it to the hospital with just two contractions in ten minutes over all those bumps!