Our little “she” is here!
She’s nearly twelve weeks old now, so she’s been here for two months, and what a ride it’s been already.
We had a tidy little C-section scheduled for Feb 5, just like we did when we had Jameson.
Was she born on that date? She was not!
The morning of January 30 held an intense itinerary. Hunter was to be “Star of the Day” in his preschool class, which means he gets all sorts of special attention and gets to do all the jobs of the day (his favorite part).
He’d waited two years for this day, ever since he witnessed the twins each having their Stars of the Day. Parents attend these days, but siblings are not invited, so we asked my mama-in-love to watch the twins (who don’t have kindergarten on Thursdays), and Jameson (who doesn’t have school on any days).
Preschool begins at 8:30am, and the morning was compounded by my 10:50am OB appointment, and picking Hunter back up at 11:30. This meant Mike and I had to leave the preschool together, get my car back at the house, he race to work and me race to the appointment, and then race back to preschool to get Hunter. It was a headache to arrange and a hassle to execute.
But the effort paid off. Hunter glowed the entire morning as his teacher and classmates celebrated him. We were delighted to be there and beamed with pride at the little man he’s becoming.
When I got to my OB appointment, I told my doctor that all was well. I was having contractions but they’d changed just in the last day. They’d gone from the standard Braxton-Hicks “tightening” contractions, into the kind where I’m certain my cervix is widening because it’s a “tearing” sensation in the netherparts. He said only to be concerned if they became ten minutes apart. We were both sure they wouldn’t so I bounced out of that appointment as we called to each other, “See you in a week!”
La di da!
When I got home I spontaneously snapped a picture of my belly, which was unusual because I had only done this a handful of times this pregnancy.
I picked up Hunter and fed the kids lunch, got Jameson down for a nap, and then the next portion is a little graphic if you’d like to jump ahead.
(the sound you hear is all the men speed-scrolling past)
At 2:30pm I was in the bathroom and my mucus plug came out. I know! I know! I can barely type it. But it’s an important part of the tale because it was the kickoff to the big show. I called my mom and texted several people who’ve had babies to see if this gnarly occurrence proved labor was imminent, or meant nothing.
Each reply was a variation of “I never even had that happen” to “It was ten days from mucus plug to delivery.” Well okay then! We’re fine!
Except my mom, the Oracle. “You’re having this baby. Didn’t you say the contractions were different yesterday? It’s happening.”
My response included every denial possible since the dawn of time.
I opened my contraction-counting app and began timing them. They were 20 minutes apart, so I wasn’t alarmed. I looked at the clock and decided that I wouldn’t eat again until this had all passed, just in case it did result in a C-section (you’re not supposed to eat before surgery).
The kids were being fine, but after about a half hour of managing them, a primal instinct kicked in and I couldn’t be around them. Shoving them into the backyard and closing the door isn’t an unusual thing for me to do, but in this case it wasn’t annoyance, it was essential. I knew something was happening, but I was still convincing myself that I was overreacting and this would pass.
I called the doctor and left a message with his nurse. I sat on the couch watching the kids outside until the guilt of denying them their preferred front yard play overwhelmed me (I have to be with them in the front yard because Jameson is too young to be near the road).
When we got out there I stood watching them play from the driveway, but I was very much in my head; I took long, deep breaths when a contraction would hit, and even between them had to breathe to steady myself.
I heard a drum beat in my head saying, “sit down, sit down, sit down” and I kept answering back “I never sit out here, I don’t do that, where would I sit?” until my body was so uncomfortable I went and got a camping chair from the garage. I positioned it behind our van so people driving by wouldn’t see me in a camping chair on my driveway.
Why did I care? There are no excuses for my vanity.
I hadn’t been seated two minutes when a car rolled up driven by Cathy, my beloved across-the-street neighbor. I instantly had a distinct feeling that God brought her at that exact moment to help. She got out of the car, took one look at me, and knew. It was a testimony to the friendship we’ve built that she knew.
That, and she knows I wouldn’t be caught dead in a driveway-camping-chair scenario.
“What’s with you?” she said, giving me the classic mom look, meaning, “I know exactly what’s with you, but I will wait for you to tell me.”
This not being a shout-across-the-road conversation, I pushed myself out of my chair so I could go talk to her without alarming the kids. She crossed the street, I gave her the rundown and she promptly called each of my kids to her yard. She told me to go lay down on the couch and she would handle the kids. Normally I’d say, “No, it’s okay, I’ll be fine,” but I knew this was necessary and it was the answer I needed.
I hadn’t called Mike yet because I was still in denial, so I laid on the couch and prayed and waited for the call back from the doctor. When the nurse finally called back, she said the doctor wanted an update on contractions and I said they were 20 minutes apart. She said she’d tell him and call me back.
This felt unhelpful.
Around 4PM, Cathy texted me a picture of the kids doing art and told me all was well. My mom asked for contraction updates. I played song after song on Alexa to keep calm and try to consider what was potentially happening.
The contractions started to arrive closer together, so at 4:30 I finally called Mike and told him to come home. I told Cathy Mike was on his way so she could send the kids home and she said, “I won’t leave you alone with them. When he knocks on this door then you can have them, they are perfect.” You don’t mess around with Cathy, God love her.
Once they were all home, Mike started making tacos while I laid on the couch and timed contractions. My doctor called at 5:30, and by then the contractions were ten minutes apart. He said to go to the hospital if they were still ten minutes apart by 6pm.
Of course they were, so naturally I chose to keep swimming in the river of denial and said to Mike, “Let’s give it another 30 minutes.”
I texted my friends to pray with me that the Lord would make it abundantly clear whether this was labor or not. When I checked another message, my friend and neighbor Kelsie had already texted this prayer to me ten minutes before: “Dear Lord God, make your presence KNOWN to Abby right now. Cover her with peace and calm in the midst of what feels like chaos. Make the next steps clear beyond the shadow of a doubt. We trust your hand in this. AMEN!”
At 6:15, a contraction hit that was a full two minutes long and so intense that when I exhaled, I looked at Mike and said, “We have to go.”
I asked Kelsie to come watch the kids until my sister, Sam, could arrive, and she took a last picture with just four kiddos.
Mike is out of frame because he’s standing by the door, wide-eyed, keys in hand, saying, “LET’S GO.”
On the drive over, we realized we hadn’t commited to a boy name. We’d had our girl name for years, but we’d already named our boys every boy name we liked, so this selection was eluding us. We tried to finalize as we drove, and we hoped our struggle meant we wouldn’t need one.
By the time I was in triage, the monitor said my contractions were two and three minutes apart. Even then, a big part of me thought, “They’re going to see that I’m overreacting and send me home.” I voiced this by saying to Mike, “When this is over I can’t wait to get home and eat dinner,” because I hadn’t eaten since 2:30 and it was now almost 7, eternity in the life of a pregnant woman.
The nurse looked over at me and delivered the verdict with an amused smile, “You’re not going home.”
I looked at Mike in bewilderment.
“Are you sure?” I asked, frantically looking back and forth between them. “But my doctor isn’t here. I know he will come if you call him, will you call him?”
“We don’t do that. We just call the on-call doctor.”
Mike was all placid waters.
“Babe, this is great! We’re going to meet our baby today! It’s happening!”
No, no and no.
He was beaming with excitement. “Babe, you need to get over this. It’s happening. You need to move past the shock.”
I couldn’t move past the shock. We were a week away from my C-section date! I was only 38 weeks! I never go into labor early! I was induced with the twins at 39 weeks, I went into labor with Hunter two days before my due date, and Jameson was delivered at 39 weeks scheduled!
I listened as the nurse described my history to the on-call doctor on the phone.
“…four previous live births, three previous c-sections, contractions are two to three minutes apart, she’s 38 weeks 2 days…”
I knew he would say we had to have the baby. I knew the risks that if I kept contracting my uterus could rupture due to the C-section scar that had already been opened three times. I knew, but I wasn’t ready.
Then I thought of our baby. I thought of actually seeing this baby, knowing who he or she would be, holding him or her, and a bright spark of excitement lit inside.
But then the rush of thoughts —
I’m going into surgery now!? With no warning?! Like when? Give it to me in minutes. What about the kids? It’s already their bedtime! They won’t be able to come!
There was an arrival schedule! A visitation plan of all our family. Now it’s not happening!
What is happening?
Is my mom here? Is Colleen on her way?
My dad is golfing in Vegas! I can’t have a baby he won’t even meet!
WHAT IS HAPPENING!?
One might think a mother of four would not have such new-mom thoughts, but one would be wrong.
Contraction — breathe, stop all movement, get through it. Remember why you’re here and why this is necessary.
The OB came to triage to meet us before the surgery, and I could only think of him as “Dr. Not My Doctor.” I hate to admit to quick judgments, but intense contraction pain erases the abiltiy to think generously.
Dr. Not My Doctor and Mike swapped kid stats, but he made no attempt to connect with me. I found this off-putting, as it was my insides into which he was about to be elbow-deep.
They helped me into a wheelchair to head to surgery, but all those contractions made it clear I had to pee. I almost didn’t ask to go because of my “open concept” hospital gown, but the thought of being splayed on the surgical table with a full bladder and a full-term baby on top of it made me reject my dignity and ask for a restroom break. The nurse followed me in and my husband and mother stood at the door. Faster than you can say Jack Nicholson in Something’s Gotta Give, I had a full audience.
I looked at the nurse and announced, “I don’t care even a little,” before realizing I was explaining my nudity to the person who gave birth to me and the one who sees me naked all the time.
When we arrived in the surgical wing, Dr. Not My Doctor was down the hallway scrolling on his phone. This did not win points with me, his vulnerable little patient. Couldn’t he pace the floor with his finger on his chin like he was rehearsing the exact slices he planned to make? Could he at least pretend to?
My mom looked up and said, incredibly loudly, “THAT’S your doctor?? He’s a toddler!”
While they prepared to numb me, Mike and my mom put on the full surgical protective regalia. One would think they were carrying a bomb with the hollering and commotion that ensued when they walked into the room and the surgical team saw Mike had put his baseball cap back on his head — on top of his scrubs. It was like he’d carried an AK-47 into an airport, so he bolted back out of the room to remove the germ-carrier.
Once they got me numb on the surgical table, they began the surgery and tried to talk to me to distract me. We talked about our other kids and I asked questions and Mike held my hand. We told everyone we didn’t know if it was a boy or a girl, and the whole room cheered with excitement because they said that never happens anymore.
And then they said, the head is out! I couldn’t believe it was already time.
I looked at Mike’s eyes and he looked over the curtain as the baby was lifted high. His eyes grew wide and he froze from surprise as he took his first look at our baby.
“It’s a GIRL!” he shouted. “IT’S A GIRL!!”
Then, in stunned disbelief, “IT REALLY IS! IT REALLY IS! IT’S A GIRL!!”
Radiating joy exploded from my heart, an unstoppable force of excitement so powerful I still think I’ll never get over it.
A baby girl. A sister for Arden. A daughter to cherish for the rest of our lives. Here was a gift to our family, one I’d prayed for more earnestly than I can describe.
And they cleaned her up, weighed her, and placed her in her father’s arms.
When Mike brought her to me, he laid her across the top of my chest, right up under my chin, so her little body was right next to my face and I could fall in love with her, head to toe. I spoke into her tiny ears and felt the ocean of love envelop me, as it never fails to do. My elation was matchless.
She would pause her cries to hear the two voices she knew best in the world, and we relished finally meeting the little someone we’d longed to meet.
I called to the nurse nearby, asking if she could get right on the making of her little bow hat. I was kidding, clearly, as she had important medical work in front of her, but STILL. The BOW HAT. Where IS it?
My mom was bursting, “I knew it! I just knew it!” because she’d been convinced it was a girl all along.
As she came over with her camera we said, “This is Claire Colleen,” and she squeezed her eyes tight with happiness for my mama-in-love, saying, “She deserves it.”
When we’d been settled in the maternity room, I had a complete change of heart about her arrival. Here we were, just the three of us, as if she were our first baby and not our last. Here were our two precious moms, the two who gave birth to us, here to welcome Claire.
One of the finest moments was introducing her to her namesake, Mike’s mother. We’d wanted to honor her in this way for years and were so thrilled we could now. Telling her Claire’s name was one of our happiest moments of the day.
Aren’t they a pair?
What a gift of time, of closeness, of zero hurry and savoring every second. God knew I didn’t need a clipboard of a dozen timed arrivals. He knew I needed a full night of just mama and dada and baby makes three, to get to know this little ember of light who’d joined our family.
You would think the novelty and wonder of a new baby would diminish when it’s your fifth. For us, it magnified. We had eyes wide open, taking in her every detail, searing into our memories her fresh baby scent, the cupping of her weight in the crooks of our arms, the impossibly tiny blonde hairs along the ridge of her ears, the chubby dimples on the knuckles of her hands.
My memory of that night will always be the glow of joy we felt for her, for our entire tribe of kiddos we’d been given, by God’s grace.
By the time the kids arrived the next morning to meet her, we were trembling with excitement. We removed her pink blanket so it wouldn’t give it away the moment they saw her.
When our four favorite people walked up to the bed, their faces eager with anticipation, we said, “It’s a girl!” and the glow that came over Arden was indescribable. Hunter smiled his most endearing smile, Jameson reached for her, and Henry almost collapsed on the floor in disappointment. It was classic.
While the other three cooed at her and tried out her name, Henry came to the other side of the bed and leaned in close to make his point clear.
“Mom,” he said, deadly serious, “you need to have more brothers.”
Guess who was a puddle of mush in front of her within the next five minutes? Same guy. He hasn’t mentioned more brothers since.
This picture is proof of the goodness of God. Nothing in this photo is credited to our account; it’s by His generosity that these five little souls are in our care.
She was born on a Thursday night; we went home that Sunday. As we left, the nurse told me to beware the recovery red flags: a headache that won’t go away, heavy bleeding, fever above 100.4, changes in the incision. I told her I had a slight headache but I’d see how it went; neither of us were concerned.
Three days later I was in triage for a headache so severe I could barely sit upright.
(Part two coming soon)