Monday, March 13, 2017

Belle Millie [a birth story]

as always, this is formatted as a letter to my sweet babe. 
and i literally document every detail i can possibly remember. 
read at your own risk.

My Sweet Belle, 

You, my love, are adored. I’ve spent every second of the last 2 weeks watching your chest move up and down with each breath, smelling your sweet newborn scent, running my fingers over the fine dark hairs covering your head, kissing your cheeks, forehead, and tiny lips, and cuddling you as as close as I possibly can. My heart breaks watching you grow as I feel anxious to savor every second of every stage of your life. But also, I am so excited to watch you learn and grow, to see your personality develop, and to learn more about who you are. You are destined to do great things, Belle. I can already tell. You have a sweet, happy demeanor. You are almost always content and satisfied. Even when you are asleep, you have the faintest smile on your face.  I know that you are going to have great joy in this life and bring joy to many people around you. 

Two weeks ago, your Dad and I got to meet you for the very first time. It was such a special day. My doctor and I decided to induce labor 11 days before your due date because of the amount of pain I was in. The last three months had been tough on me, and in turn, all of us. Rae, Johnny, and especially your Daddy were my biggest helpers. They made my life as easy as possible as I tried my best to get you here happy and healthy. While it was discouraging to be in so much pain, I knew that you were worth it. I knew that the pain was a small price to pay to be able to have you in our family. 
^4 days before you were born^
The morning of your birth, we were still uncertain that we would get to be induced that day, so we went about the morning as usual. Daddy went to work, and I was up early with Rae, helping her get ready for school. My doctor, Dr. Nelson, called me at about 8am, and said that today was the day! I immediately called your Dad and when he answered, I shouted, “We’re having a baby today!!” We were so excited! He dropped everything at work and came right home while I finished getting Rae ready and took her to preschool. Before dropping her off, I told her that you would be born that day. She was SO excited. She literally couldn’t stop jumping up and down and dancing and squealing with excitement. Ever since she found out that there was a baby in my belly, her whole life has revolved around babies and your arrival. So the fact that you were coming TODAY was better than Christmas for her. I gave her the biggest hug and kiss before she ran off to preschool. I could hear her loudly tell everyone, “My mommy is going to have her baby today!” as she walked through the classroom door. I teared up in happiness imagining her and Johnny getting a brand new baby sister. 

I met Daddy at home after dropping Rae off, and we ran around getting everything ready. Just before heading out the door, I asked your dad to give me a blessing. I remember feeling slightly concerned and uneasy by the things he said in the blessing, but I tried not to read into it too much. I was blessed that I would be aware of my body and what it was doing, and that I would be able to articulate what I was feeling to the doctors and nurses so they could tend to me quickly and efficiently. I was blessed that my body would do what it was supposed to do. And at the end of the blessing, your dad kinda switched gears and offered a prayer for the doctors and nurses that would be working with me. He asked that they would be able to listen to me, and that they would do their jobs the best of their ability. Being aware of my own body and having the doctors and nurses trust me seemed to be a trend of the blessing. After dropping Johnny off at our friend’s house, I brought up my confusion about the blessing to Dad. I told him that some of the things he said made me slightly concerned and asked him if he felt uneasy about anything. He assured me that he felt good while giving the blessing, and that he wasn’t worried at all. We arrived at Dr. Nelson’s office at 10:30am and he came right in and broke my water. He then told us to head to the hospital and that he’d see us later on. 

We both laughed hysterically as we walked into the hospital, leaving a trail of my broken water behind us. They checked me into triage and we sat there for the next hour as they monitored contractions and prepared my room in Labor & Delivery. I was dilated to a 1 when my doctor broke my water, and in triage (about an hour later), I was a 3. That made us worry that you might be coming quickly, so as soon as we got to L&D I asked to get my epidural.
I had a nightmare of an epidural during Johnny’s birth, so I was pretty nervous to get one again. Luckily for me, the Anesthesiologist that happened to be working was the best one at the hospital. I didn’t know it at the time, but the fact that he was on call was one of the many little (and big) miracles that we would experience that day. When he came in, I had a tiny panic attack about the epidural, and your dad, my nurse, and the anesthesiologist were so sweet and helpful. Everything went flawlessly and I didn’t have any of the problems that I had during Johnny’s birth. I remember Garrett looking at me and saying, “You did it! The hardest part is over! Now it’s just smooth sailing from here on out.” We would later laugh at that statement. 

At one point, a resident and a medical student came in to go over my medical history and give me a checkup. They wheeled in a big, and SUPER old ultrasound machine to make sure you were head-down. I could tell that neither of them had a lot of experience, but I was pretty confident that you were head-down because multiple doctors had commented on how low your head was in my pelvis. When they had checked to see how dilated I was, they always mentioned that your head was right there, so I just assumed you were head down, just like your siblings had been. The resident tried to find your head in my pelvis, but the picture wasn’t super clear and I could tell he was unsure. He and the medical student kinda shrugged their shoulders at each other and said, “yeah…we’re pretty sure this is her head right here.” Once they left, I told Dad that I had no idea what they were showing me….but whatever. 
They next 6 or 7 hours were super slow and pretty uneventful. Since I didn’t go into labor naturally, my body wasn’t having constant contractions, so at one point I was started on Pitocin to speed things up. This was when I first noticed that my epidural had a ‘blind spot,’ and even though my stomach and legs were numb, I could feel almost everything in my lower pelvis. It wasn’t too painful yet, but enough that we were aware of it and trying to find a solution before things got more intense. 

I’ve always had pretty fast labors, so when I was only 4cm dilated by 6pm, I was pretty surprised and just the slightest bit concerned. I also started to feel super nauseous and was throwing up off and on. But my nurse was wonderful and listened to everything I said. And your Dad, he never stopped taking care of me. At one point the anesthesiologist came in to try to fix the blind spot, which was getting more and more painful. He was equally as concerned as I was about the problem. I can’t tell you how reassuring it was that everyone was so attentive, and that they all trusted everything I said. I was so relieved that I was being taken seriously and I couldn’t help but think about my blessing that morning.
About 30 minutes after my nurse informed me that I was dilated to a 4, the ultrasound resident came back in to check me and break my water further. By this point I was having really intense contractions, and I was in a lot of pain where the epidural wasn’t working. The resident went to check me and seemed really confused by what he was feeling. He took forever before he asked the nurse, “How sure are you that she was just a 4?” The nurse, who was clearly very experienced, was 100% confident. He then asked her to check again after saying, “I thiiiiink she’s a 10….and I think I’m feeling……baby’s mouth??” Garrett and I looked at each other, super confused. The nurse checked and immediately said, “Yes….she’s a 10. And that’s baby’s bum I’m feeling.” 

My heart sank and I started to cry. I even swore. I remember your dad putting his hand on my cheek and saying, “It’s okay. Everything will be okay.” The room was instantly buzzing with more people, and within seconds a more trained resident came in the room using that same, super old ultrasound machine. This time, instead of checking down by my pelvis, she did the ultrasound at the top of my belly. Sure enough, clear as day, there was your head. It was confirmed that you were breech. (No wonder my labor was progressing so slowly!)

She sat down on my bed and calmly but quickly, began explaining our options, all the while, nurses were running around grabbing things and unplugging me from all the machines. I was informed that basically I had two options. And neither would be a walk in the park. Trying to deliver you vaginally could either be way better than having a c-section, or way worse. And, if things didn’t go smoothly, I may end up having an emergency c-section anyways. Obviously, breech babies are very difficult to birth vaginally, so a c-section is usually the standard procedure. But, she informed me that Dr Nelson was extremely experienced and even talented at breech vaginal births, and that if that is what we decided to do, I was in the best possible hands. 

She also took the time to ask me tons of questions, which I really appreciated. She asked how big my previous babies had been, and I thought it would be a bad sign that Johnny was 10lbs….but it was actually the opposite. She said that birthing a 10 pound baby (with a huge head, mind you) means that I had “proven hips,” and that my chances for having a successful vaginal birth were much better! (I never thought I’d be grateful that Johnny was so big!)

After quickly chatting, she looked at me and said, “So, what do you want to do?” I said I wanted to make my decision after talking to Dr. Nelson, and she agreed. Regardless, they needed to move me to the OR, and before I knew it, I was being wheeled out of my comfortable L&D room, and being pushed down the hall. As they were pushing me, I remember hearing the residents saying the word “emergnecy” over and over, and I remember thinking, “I can’t believe they’re talking about me. I can’t believe this is happening.” 

To be honest, things were really scary at this point, but I was determined to stay calm and collected. Within 10 minutes we went from sitting comfortably, chatting and resting, to being wheeled to the OR for a potential emergency C-section. I remember your Dad holding my hand this whole time, and seeing tears in his eyes. We were both so scared, and we just wanted you to get here safe and sound. From the second we found out you were breech, both of us had a really strong feeling that we did not want a c-section. We understood that it might have to happen, but I think we were both on the same page in terms of avoiding it as best as possible.

Before going into the OR, the nurses stopped me and told your dad to kiss me goodbye. He would have to go dress down in sanitary clothes for the OR. I didn’t want him to leave me, but I could feel his love so strongly as he kissed me goodbye, and I knew things would be okay. 
In the OR, the first focus seemed to be on managing my pain. I was hoping to be able to delivery you vaginally, but having the blind-spot was making me really scared that it would hurt too bad, and by this point, my pain was nearly unbearable. My anesthesiologist was there and was doing everything he could to alleviate my pain. Everyone was asking me tons of questions and acting quickly based on my answers, which was exactly what your Dad had said would happen. I kept thinking back to that blessing, and I felt so much peace knowing that Heavenly Father was aware of what we would be facing that day. I am so grateful for your Dads blessing, and so grateful for a loving Heavenly Father who strengthened me through all the chaos. 

While everyone was rushing around in the OR, and I was still waiting for Dad and Dr. Nelson to arrive, I remember telling myself over and over, “It’s okay. It’s okay. This is going to be okay.” I probably said that out loud 30 times. Tiny excerpts of birth stories that I had previously read kept coming to mind, and I felt like almost all the stories that contained emergency c-sections talked about how traumatizing it was. The bright lights, doctors and nurses racing around, everyone being covered head-to-toe, with only their eyes peeking out. I made the decision that I refused to be traumatized by this. I remember thinking, “I don’t care about the bright lights, I don’t care about  all these strangers, I don’t care about any of this. None of that matters. All that matters right now is me, Garrett, and this baby girl. I am going to push this baby out. And it is going to be a wonderful experience. I am going to do this. And it is going to be okay. I refuse to be traumatized. This IS going to be a good experience.” I told myself that over and over.

After what felt like forever, your Dad came in, immediately grabbed my hand and then kissed my forehead. I looked at him and asked him to pray that we could fix my pain. He said, “I haven’t stopped praying. It will be okay.” 

When Dr. Nelson got there, he went over both options with me again, and told me that our biggest risk was your head getting stuck in the birth canal. But he assured me that he was experienced in breech deliveries and that we could do whatever I wanted. By this point I was certain that I wanted to deliver you vaginally. And I was determined to make it happen, no matter what. It felt like mere seconds before I started pushing that my epidural finally started working and my pain went away. I could still feel a really intense tingling in my thigh during each contraction, but that was useful because I needed to know when to push. 

One of the coolest parts about this whole experience was how the medical team responded to me in the OR. There were at least 15 people in the OR, including a guy scrubbed down with all the c-section tools in hand, NICU nurses, and many students and residents who just came to watch/learn. All of them listened to my EVERY WORD. Shockingly, I was completely in charge, and the whole experience revolved around what I felt and wanted to do, on my timing. I felt confident in what I was saying and doing, and I am grateful for doctors and nurses who trusted me instead of second-guessing me and making me second-guess myself. 

It felt like so much was happening, but really, it had only been 20 or 30 minutes since we found out that you were breech. And now it was time to push. I knew that I would have to give my all to pushing, that I would have to find serious strength to push you out quickly and safely. My first contraction consisted of 3, 10-second pushes. I pushed with everything I had, and I never let up until my nurse finished counting 10. At the end of that contraction, Dr Nelson made a circle about the size of a silver dollar with his hands to show me how much they could see of you. He was saying this as encouragement, but I was really bummed…I had imagined you a little closer to being born. Defeated, I said, “What?! That’s not very much at all!” Everyone laughed and assured me that my pushing was phenomenal. My second contraction came quickly, and again, I gave it all I had for three counts of 10. I was so exhausted by the time the nurse got to 7 each time, but I refused to let up. After this contraction, my doctor made a circle 3 or 4 inches in diameter with his hand to show much how much they could see of you this time. I was much more satisfied with that progress. Again, everyone commented that my pushing couldn’t be better, which was great to hear, because I was putting every ounce of strength I had into each push. Very quickly, another contraction came. I took a deep breath, and began to push. While pushing, I could feel your body moving down and out. It was so much harder than pushing your siblings out, obviously, because your folded little body was so much bigger. As I pushed as hard as I could, your teeny little bum and back began to show. Watching you be born, I was even more motivated to push with everything in me. I found a strength that I never knew I had.

We knew that the riskiest part would be when it was time for your head to come out. The worst thing to happen would be your head getting stuck, which could potentially be very dangerous. Dr. Nelson was teaching a resident how to deliver breech, and I remember him telling her over and over as your bum came out, not to touch you. She kept reaching for you, and honestly, I just wanted her to grab you and pull you out. But he wouldn’t let her. We later learned that this is to protect your head from changing positions and lifting your chin up, which causes it to get stuck. At the end of my third contraction, you were almost completely out. Everyone in the room held their breath as your shoulders came out and they waited to see what happened next. I pushed one more time, somehow finding even more strength. Smoothly and seamlessly, your head came right out.
Now, I know that no one really clapped, but the energy that erupted in the room felt like the biggest applause I’ve ever received. There was an audible sigh of relief in the room. It was the greatest success, and my body was flooded with relief and happiness and gratitude. The resident immediately placed you on my chest and your dad and I cried the happiest tears. I kept saying, “We did it! We did it!” And everyone kept responding, “No, YOU did it! YOU did it!” Everyone in the room was smiling and you just laid on my lap, looking around with calm, wide eyes. You would cry out occasionally, but mostly you just looked around. You had the sweetest demeanor from the start. Dad cut your umbilical cord, and I cuddled you into me, so exhausted but so happy. 

I think I must have had the biggest adrenaline rush while pushing, because afterwards I crashed hard. I could hardly move. I remember asking your dad to lift up my head so that I could look at you. My body had no energy left. 
the way Garrett is tending to me in these heart explodes.
The operating room quieted down and the nurses took you to the check up station. Your dad followed you everywhere, always making sure you were okay. Your little legs stuck straight out, your tiny toes were pointed perfectly, and we all laughed as we realized that that’s how your little legs had been inside me (toes to nose). Every time I see those straight little legs, I always remember what a miracle your birth was. You measured 7lb 2oz, and 20.5 inches long. The nurses wrapped you up and handed you to your Dad for the first time. He held you so tight and smiled so big. Seeing him hold you for the first time is an image I will forever treasure. He was filled with so much love. And he whispered that love to you over and over.
We spent that night recovering and watching your every move. We were in awe at the events of the day, and so were all the doctors and nurses. Only 3-4% of babies are breech, and the vast majority of those are delivered via c-section. The reason my OR was so packed was because everyone wanted a chance to see and learn, since it was so rare. My nurse had only seen 5 successful breech deliveries in her career, and she told me that ours was the smoothest one of the 5. I still feel so much pride and gratitude for how everything worked out. I know that from the time your Dad gave me a blessing, through all the events of the day, that Heavenly Father was aware of us. There were so many miracles, more than we even realize, I’m sure. I’m grateful that the best anesthesiologist happened to be working that day, and that he listened and relieved my pain in time to push. I’m grateful for the nurses who worked so well with me, and prioritized our needs. I’m so grateful for my doctor. When I picked him, I had no idea that he was so skilled with breech births….nor did I think I would ever have a breech baby. The fact that he was so experienced and confident is the reason I didn’t have to have a c-section. I’m grateful that we decided to have you 11 days early, because I don’t think I could have pushed a bigger baby out of me. I know Heavenly Father has had his hand in your life from the beginning, and I am so grateful. 

Most of all, I am grateful for your Dad. He is the love of my life. I am certain that there has never been a better husband or father. Belle, we are so lucky to have him. I will never forget the fear that I saw in his eyes as things started to unravel, but he gave me so much strength and confidence. It was scary, but I felt so much love from him. I don’t know that things would have gone the way they did without his support and strength. He loves you so much Belle, and so do I.
The next morning Grandma brought Rae and John to see you. Oh my gosh, that was one of the happiest moments of my life. They could not contain their excitement. Rae walked in first, and immediately scanned the room to find you. I pulled her up on my lap and gave her a big kiss, but all she was interested in was catching a glimpse of her new baby sister. Dad put Johnny on my bed and lifted you from your little bassinet. Both kids gasped and smiled when you came into view. Rae immediately put her arms out to hold you. Dad placed you on her lap, and she pulled you in close, holding you like a pro. Johnny loudly exclaimed, “Hi Baby!!!!” and patted your swaddled tummy. Rae spent the next 10 minutes staring at you and occasionally whispering things like, “Hi, girl.” and, “It’s alright, girl. I’ve got you!” The love in the room was tangible, and it was all directed at you, sweet Belle. 

We had narrowed possible name choices down to Ruby, Norah, Lilah, and Belle. Your dad’s favorites were Ruby and Lilah, and my favorites were Norah and Belle. Once we saw you, we eliminated Lilah, and shortly after Norah was nixed too. So it was between Ruby and Belle. Rae had been hoping for Belle, and once I saw you, that’s what I was hoping for too. Your Dad held on to Ruby for a little bit (he liked Ruby Belle Frame), but it didn’t take long for him to see that Belle was very fitting for your sweet, tender spirit. Your middle name is Millie, after your Mimi. Mildred (Millie for short) is her name, her mother’s name (my lovely Grams), and her grandmother’s name, all of whom I love deeply. I love that you are named after such wonderful, strong, kind, nurturing, loving women. I hope that you can follow in their bright footsteps and learn from all the good they did in the world. 

All in all, we were only in the hospital for about 36 hours. And aside from a scary 45 minutes, every second of it was perfect. Your birth was one of the very hardest things I’ve ever done in my life, and I can’t think of many things I am more proud of. I learned so much about myself through this experience. I was shocked at the strength I found. I know that strength came from three things. 

  1. I know that Heavenly Father blessed me with strength. I know he sustained me. I know that after I gave all that I had, that He made up for the rest. I know this with all of my heart. I know that Heavenly Father was watching over us on this special day (and always). And I know that He heard our prayers and our pleas for strength. I believe with all of my heart that He filled me with a power beyond my own. 
  2. Your dad. Even amongst the initial shock and chaos, I felt so much peace and confidence. I am certain that that peace and confidence came from him. With him by my side, I knew that everything will be okay. His gentle touch on my face when we first heard the news radiated love and confidence like a ripple in a pond, spreading over me and eliminating any fear I felt. When I was pushing, your Dad stood beside me, kept his face close to mine, and completely supported my neck and shoulders so I could focus all my efforts on pushing. I felt like he was pushing with me. I attribute my calm confidence to his never-ending love and support. 
  3. My love for you. Belle, all I could think of throughout the whole day, was how much I love you. It is an all-encompassing love. It was completely overwhelming. All I wanted was your safe arrival. And I was determined to make that sure that happened.
We are so in love with you, Belle. You fit into our family perfectly. 

You have a big sister who loves you fiercely. She doesn’t want you to experience even a second of unhappiness. At the tiniest whimper from you, she can be found running around the house grabbing binkies, blankets, toys, and anything else she sees along the way, to give to you. When she holds you she is gentle and tender, and filled with so much love. She kisses your head nonstop and constantly reassures you that she’s there for you. My sisters are some of my greatest blessings in my life, and it brings me the greatest joy that you and Rae have each other. Cherish your relationship with her, Belle. Learn from her, talk to her, share your thoughts and feelings with her, and listen to what she has to say. Be there for her, just as I’m sure she’ll continue to be there for you. Life can be so much smoother when conquered hand in hand with your sister. 

Johnny is completely smitten with you too. He asks to look at you about a hundred times each day and always insists that he kiss you at least twice before bedtime each night. He has had the phrase “Ohhhh, she’s so cute.” on repeat since you were born. That, or, “I just love her!” He calls you “Baby Belle” and I find him laying face-to-face with you multiple times a day, just adoring you. Having a big brother is such a privilege, something I have been grateful for countless times in my life. I pray that you two will have a special bond. That he will take care of you, and that you can rely on him to be on your team always. I pray that you will turn to him for help, for advice, and for fun. Always know that your big brother loves you, Belle.
You will learn very quickly how lucky you are to have the Dad you do. He is literally, not exaggerating, 100%, the best person I have ever known. And he loves you with everything in him. You are so important to him. And he will always be proud of you. One of the things that I first loved about your Dad is the way he talks and listens….we literally fell in love talking on the phone. Please talk to him always. He will listen to you and he will give you the very best advice. Truly. Allow him to be your friend as well as your father, because he is truly the best friend (and father) a gal can have. I pray that you inherit his wisdom, confidence, kindness, and perspective. Learn from him. He’s got this whole life thing down, Belle. And I know he will spend his life making sure your life is the best it can possibly be. 
I feel so privileged to be your Mom, Belle. Even now, I feel overwhelmed with gratitude I as hear your sleepy squeaks while I write. Please know that I will always be your number 1 fan. Throughout all the stages of your life, I will be cheering you on. I will always support you. And love you. And care for you. I promise to mother you with love, first and foremost. I am certain that I will make mistakes as your mom, but always know that I love you. So much. And there is nothing I wont do for you. This life has great things in store for you, Belle, and I can't wait to see all that you accomplish. I am humbled and grateful that I get to witness your time on earth. I know that it will be filled with light and joy and beauty. 

Thank you for choosing us.

With all the love I have,

sibling crashing the photoshoot
Born 1/13/17, at 7:40pm.
7lbs 2oz.
20.5 inches. 

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