She was always meant to be our Summer girl.
While Matt and I enjoyed our long engagement, we dreamt of our future family and planned to start it soon after the wedding. After about a year and a half of trying and praying, we were a couple appointments into the infertility process when we found out we were pregnant with Jake. He changed our world and we were so grateful to have him join our family. We decided we would start trying for number two in December so they would hopefully be about 2-3 years apart.
Then October came and brought with it an undeniable feeling from God that we were supposed to get pregnant right then. It caught me a bit off guard, but I listened. When the pregnancy test showed a positive the next month, I was completely shocked because wasn't I supposed to get at least a dozen no's first? And at the same time, I wasn't surprised at all, because I had felt so strongly that God wanted that for us right then, and who am I to doubt Him? Those two completely different reactions existing together made the pregnancy feel so surreal from the very beginning.
That dreamlike quality never quite went away...
All photos by the amazing Kirstin Roper.
July brought with it the most impressive kinds of summer rainstorms, but Monday, July 8th was a beautiful, clear, sunny day. I'd woken up with a Braxton Hicks contraction every morning for a couple weeks, and this day was no different. So I went about my morning just like any other, including my most favorite part-- Jake's morning routine. When Jake woke up, I greeted his happy little face with a smile and a sippy cup. He made sure his bear and blanky came out of the crib with him, and we went back to my bed to cuddle as he drank his sippy. We then read Dr. Seuss's Foot Book and watched a little clip of ducklings and puppies on YouTube before heading downstairs to eat breakfast. A completely normal morning.
I was still having some Braxton Hicks every ten minutes or so, but again, that was normal. What wasn't normal was the back pain that was suddenly accompanying said "fake" contractions. So just after 9 a.m., I sent Matt a little heads-up that I was having some Braxton Hicks so no big deal, but hey! My back hurts, so it could turn into something later. Matt immediately texted back asking if he should come home. "No," I responded, explaining that on a regular pain scale my back was about a 6.5, but on a labor pain scale it was probably just a 3. Plus, the contractions may have been lasting 45+ seconds, but ten minutes apart means virtually nothing and they could stop any second. "I am definitely NOT in labor." But just keep your phone near in case something changes, eh, Handsome?
French toast sticks were on the menu for Jake that morning, but when I started to put the plate on the highchair, he cutely said, "No, my widdle cah!" So breakfast was served in the Little Tykes car. Liz called to chat for a minute and I made myself a couple pieces of toast and wished we weren't fresh out of eggs. After breakfast, Jake and I headed up to the playroom for awhile. I cheered for him as he shot the basketball and made car noises with him as he drove a car on my belly and chatted with him about all of his toys. A normal morning. Except for the back pain.
Earlier, I had planned on going for a run but now decided a walk was probably smarter until those pesky Braxton Hicks went away. Just as I was getting Jake dressed to go on said walk, a couple five-year-old neighborhood boys knocked on the door. They were out for a bike ride and Jake was excited to see them, so I told them to wait just a minute and we would be right out. Next thing I knew, Jake and I were on a walk with Jack and Hayden and their two three-year-old sisters. Since they were all on bikes, our stroller was on water bottle duty for our little gang.
We leisurely walked up and down the street a couple times, totaling a mile. The kids would race ahead on their bikes and then ride back to let us catch up with them. Around 11:30, I had one of the boys take a quick picture of me and Jake since it was likely our last walk before baby. About thirty seconds later, I noticed that the other little guy was a little somber so I asked him what was wrong. "I just wanted to be in the picture, too," he said glumly. So I offered to take a picture of the boys on their bikes, and they lit right up for the camera. Just out on a walk, taking pictures of the neighborhood kids... A normal morning. Except for the back pain, which was getting worse.
I had to pause every few minutes during the walk to wait out a contraction because it was just too uncomfortable to walk through the feeling of having my back stabbed. Built-in water breaks for the kids. We took a longer break at one of their houses while I talked to a neighbor friend of mine. She asked if I'd noticed any contractions over the weekend and I responded nonchalantly, "Oh yeah, I'm having some right now." Haha. The follow-up question was naturally how often and how long, so I checked the app I'd been using to track them. They were coming more often -- about every five minutes -- but they were only lasting 20-30 seconds. So, not really labor just yet. "You're making me nervous," she laughed, and told me to call her if I needed any help. I said thanks but that we were really okay, because my mom was heading up in a few hours so by the time anything got serious, we'd be covered.
We got home from our walk sometime after 11:40. Jake noticed the open mud closet door and insisted we vacuum. The child is obsessed with the vacuum and I didn't have any better plans for that moment, so next thing I knew, we were vacuuming the house together. Jake hates it when we stop vacuuming prematurely, and got upset when I had to drop the vacuum and brace myself for each contraction. My back felt like it was slowly, forcefully being broken in two. And yet, though the pain was intense and getting closer and stronger, the contractions were still only lasting around 30 seconds. My labor with Jake had been perfectly textbook. And according to the textbook, I wasn't even in active labor yet.
By then, I'd at least realized that this kind of back pain was obviously going to turn into the real deal later on that day, so Matt decided to come home for lunch instead of swimming. We still had plenty of time, though, since the contractions were so short, albeit frequent. The plan was to be obedient to doctor's orders and head for the hospital when the contractions had lasted 45-60 seconds every five minutes for an hour. (I had tested positive for Group B Strep, so that was the marker the doctor set for us to get there in time for at least one dose of penicillin.) I figured it'd be a good while before the contractions would last twice as long for an entire hour.
Matt walked in the door around noon and I gave him Jake, the vacuum, and instructions to finish vacuuming to Jake's standards and then feed him lunch so we could put him down for a nap. I texted our birth photographer and told her no rush, that we'd probably be leaving for the hospital in a few hours. Next I called my mom, who was presently at a water park in Provo with my brothers -- 1.5 hours away, at least 2 hours by the time she dropped off the boys -- and told her she should probably head up as soon as they were done playing. Then I hopped in the shower.
Last time, when I was in labor with Jake, I took a long bath and didn't shower until later. Next thing I knew, it was past time to leave for the hospital but I couldn't leave because I was in transition, in a robe on my bed. That was certainly not going to happen this time. This time, I was smarter. I had a plan. I would shower, dry my hair, get my clothes all ready to go, and then I could take a bath if I still wanted to. So I walked past the oh-so-inviting bath tub, hopped in the shower, let the warm water soak over me... and then a contraction hit. And this time, it didn't go away after twenty seconds or thirty seconds. Or sixty for that matter. This one came out of nowhere and dropped me to my knees for probably ninety seconds. I had maybe twenty seconds to recover before another long, hard contraction hit. And then another. And another. "Oh no," I thought.
The shower took infinitely longer than it should have. All the while, Matt and Jake were enjoying lunch in the kitchen, entirely unaware of what was transpiring upstairs. After all, we had thought we'd have at least a couple more hours before my contractions made it to the five minutes apart, lasting 60 seconds mark at which we'd decided we'd leave for the hospital. But my labor had completely skipped that milestone and I knew my body was getting close. It was sometime after 12:30 that I got out of the shower and started calling for Matt. The contractions were coming quickly, lasting long, and killing my back, and I desperately needed Matt to provide some relief.
Matt came up the stairs with Jake in tow to see what was up. He was taken off guard to see me in a much different place than I was in just a half hour before, and the concern was instantly evident in his face. I asked him to get Jake's bear so our little guy could go to sleep. A couple minutes later, Matt was back without Jake. He had sweetly put Jake down for his nap, not knowing I'd wanted to say goodbye. So I went into Jake's room, picked him up from his crib, and rocked him through a contraction.
It was the sweetest little moment. All along, we hadn't tried to tell Jake that there was a baby in mom's belly because we thought that could be confusing at his age. Instead, we talked about babies and how cute they are and asked if we should bring a baby girl to Jakey's house to be his friend (he'd say "yes"). As I rocked my baby boy for the last time as "my baby," I held him tight and had that familiar little conversation. I told Jake that Mommy and Daddy were going to go get a baby sister for him now, and that we'd bring the baby girl home to be his best friend. "Okay?," I asked. "Oh hey," he whispered sweetly. Then I kissed him goodbye and Matt put our Jakey back in his crib as I made my way back to my bedroom.
And suddenly, it was past time to leave for the hospital, but I couldn't leave because I was in transition, in a robe on my bed. How did this even happen again? Except this time, I really couldn't leave because I had a sleeping baby in the other room and no one there to watch him.
Matt had been sprinting up and down the stairs between contractions, trying to juggle rubbing my back with the last-second tasks like switching out Jake's car seat, rounding up the final few items like cameras and wallets, and loading the hospital bags into the car. He called my mom and we realized we couldn't wait for her to arrive. I told Matt to call our neighbor I'd chatted with earlier, but she didn't answer. We tried to think of someone who could be there quickly, but my mind ran out of options fast. Matt's sister who lives nearby was out of town, I'd seen one neighbor drive away with her kids and knew she wasn't home, another neighbor had mentioned they wouldn't be home that afternoon, this neighbor was at work, and so was that one and that one ... And I cried for a few seconds at the reality of our situation -- with a sleeping little boy who we couldn't just leave behind, and a baby girl who wouldn't be waiting much longer to arrive.
Then I remembered seeing that my church friend Stacy had sent me a text that morning. I don't know if I'd even had a chance to read it yet, but I had seen her name on my phone and hoped that meant she was around. So Matt called Stacy at 12:59. Miraculously, she answered and was at our house in minutes. We left for the hospital at 1:10 p.m.
Car rides in late labor are not particularly enjoyable. Matt did his best to drive fast and smooth with his left hand and apply counter pressure to my back with his right. He did really well, but we hit almost every red light, and really, universe? Still, we made it to McKay Dee in record time, pulling up to the hospital at about 1:35 p.m. My mom had called the hospital for us, and the instructions were to head to the ER, where there would be a wheelchair and an elevator waiting to take us straight up to Labor & Delivery. We knew that McKay Dee had valet parking and were definitely looking forward to that... Until we pulled up to the ER and were politely informed that the valet parking was actually on the opposite end of the hospital in the visitor's parking lot, and that Matt would need to park the car or be towed. (The Brian Regan skit came to mind: "Well, if that's not the biggest oversight in the solar system...") So Matt sped away while a nurse wheeled me inside.
I entered the delivery room around 1:40 and told the nurse I needed penicillin right away. "I know," she responded with a smile, and then instructed me to put on a hospital gown so she could check me. No paperwork or peeing in a cup between contractions or other ridiculousness I had to do while I was at a 10 with Jake? I liked this nurse already. Another nurse asked what my plans were for pain; if I wanted to hurry and get an epidural. I told her no, the plan was always for this to be natural. Matt made it to the room just as the first nurse was checking me. ""You're at a 10," she said. "You're complete!" But we knew that already.
My doctor was attending another delivery, so a resident walked in and started asking me a long list of questions as the first nurse set up the fetal monitor and another nurse hooked up the penicillin. Matt was right there with me, rubbing my back and encouraging me. I was feeling the pushing pressure but not too intensely just yet, and the bag of waters was leaking but not quite broken yet, so I decided to try to hold out for Dr. Davis. Luckily, he walked in just a couple minutes later. Have I mentioned how much I like my OB? He's a laid-back skiing enthusiast with a Southern accent, friendly personality and total professionalism at the same time. Supportive of exercise during pregnancy and natural births, honest but not overbearing in his opinions -- basically, he's my kind of OB/GYN, and I was happy to see him.
As he was putting on his gloves, Dr. Davis told the resident that the last baby came out in just one push. "Don't say that," I piped up with a little laugh. And then I thought, how odd to be laughing when I feel like dying? In fact, I'd been smiling and joking while answering questions between contractions the entire time. Apparently that was my new pain coping mechanism? Dr. Davis responded cheerily, "You'll go fast, too." Another contraction hit, and I said I needed to push. Everyone got into position, and Matt held my hand as Dr. Davis finished breaking my water between contractions at about 2 p.m.. Dr. Davis then told me to just go ahead and push whenever I felt the urge.
I felt a contraction coming on and looked up at Matt. "I need you to help me." He gave my hand a squeeze, stroked my face, and assured me he was right there with me. With that encouragement, I took a deep breath and then let it out. One more deep breath, and then I pushed.
With all the craziness of how fast the labor had progressed and getting someone for Jake so we could get to the hospital, my mind wasn't quite wrapped around everything just yet and I wasn't feeling entirely confident in my abilities to actually give birth to a baby right then. So I just tried to focus on breathing right and pushing in the right place. "That's it," Dr. Davis said. I pushed twice with that first contraction, and after the second push, Matt turned to me: "I can see her head!"
"Are you lying?," I asked him. He and the nurse on my left insisted he was telling the truth, and I smiled through the pain. Dr. Davis told me to go ahead and wait for the next contraction to push again. So I waited and waited and waited... They say contractions slow down when you are pushing, and they are not lying. It was a good, painful five minutes before I felt another contraction coming on. "Okay," I said, and then got to work. Matt told me again that he could see her head and a nurse readily informed me that he wasn't lying. I believed him this time though. I could feel her crowning.
The contraction ended and Matt turned to me. "You're doing great! She's right there! You're amazing." He said I could have her out with the next contraction. "Really?," I asked, doubting. Really, the doctor and nurses confirmed. The break between contractions was shorter this time, and I could feel the next one coming on. I wanted this to be it. I wanted the pain to end. But mostly, I wanted to meet my baby girl. And this could be it!
Please help me, I prayed silently. It was just the latest of many silent pleas to the One who was giving me this sweet miracle. Help me to get her here.
Deep breath, exhale, deep breath, and push. The pain was intense; she was coming. Another deep breath, and I pushed with everything I had in me. It was enough. Her head was out! One last push and, at 2:17 p.m., our baby girl was born.
A convincing cry filled the room as Dr. Davis lifted her up for me to see. There's no better sound or sight in the world. She was perfect. I reached for my baby girl and a nurse laid her on my chest. The room was alive with movement, but my world stood still. In those first few moments, nothing existed but my little girl and her big blue eyes.
She was the most beautiful dream. And even better, she was real -- and she was ours. Tears of gratitude and overwhelming love filled my eyes and flowed down my cheeks as I kissed her sweet face. Her daddy kissed me in turn, and we both stared in amazement at our baby girl. She was a piece of heaven in my arms.
Matt leaned in as I held our precious daughter close.