Monday, January 04, 2016

Hattie's Birth Day.

On Monday, December 14th, I went to see my lovely OB for my 38 week check.  After weeks of some serious Braxton Hicks contractions, I was sure I'd be at least a 14 by now.  ;)  Alas, at only 1ish centimeters of dilation and 50% effacement, I was about to be on my way for another week or two of waiting.  Because I planned to try for a second VBAC, I knew inducing was out of the picture, but, with three other littles at home to care for, I was SO DONE being pregnant.  Before we finished up, I asked my doctor if she would strip the membranes down yonder.  This quick, albeit painful, little motion had previously sent me into labor and produced a baby within 12-24 hours after having it done while pregnant with Emery and Nora, so I was hopeful it would help a third time.  I'm pretty sure you have to be at least headed toward labor on your own for this procedure to produce results, but WOW it sure worked for me!

(Side note: because of scheduling conflicts, I had two of my kiddos with me at this appointment.  Try explaining why Mommy is taking off her pants and laying on a table spread eagle to your four year old.  Special moments, indeed.  Oh my.)

After this appointment, we headed home to continue our day, but I noticed that my irregular, infrequent contractions were starting to come every 15-20 minutes or so with quite a bit more pain.  I had to stop and breathe through them, although they only lasted about 30 seconds at a time.  Other, ahem, things were going on to indicate that perhaps labor was really getting started, but I wanted to give it a bit of time before getting excited.  That evening was Emery's school Christmas program, and she was SO excited to have us come watch her sing with her sweet little class.  All along, I really hoped to stay pregnant long enough to make it to this special night.  We headed out as a family to watch the school program, and I remember trying to walk Emery into the building but having to stop and breathe through a contraction or two on the way inside.  Her teacher and teacher's aide were watching from inside the building, and they were quite concerned for me after seeing my face--ha!  Later, I found out a handful of other people we knew from the school had texted Russell after the fact to say they wondered if something was happening during the program.  I tried to be discreet during contractions, but I guess I didn't hide it as well as I'd thought!  

We came home, got the girls in bed, and started timing.  Still at about 12-15 minutes apart, we decided around 11pm to try and get some sleep in case this was the real deal.  At this point, I'm pretty sure we knew it was the start of true labor, but neither of us wanted to make that call quite yet.  ;)  We put the rest of our things into our hospital bag, let our family and close pals know to keep their phones on overnight, and tucked in for the night.  I remember being so anxious and having a hard time falling asleep for obvious reasons.  Russell and I are not cuddly sleepers, but that night, I needed his comforting arms as reassurance in order to allow myself to drift off sleep.  Somehow and thankfully, I was able to get a full night's rest even while undoubtedly contracting all the while.

The next morning, Tuesday, December 15th, Russell had to be at work for the early shift, so I was on my own to get everyone up, ready and out the door for school drop off (with strict orders to text him every two minutes with updates).  :)  It was all I could do to heave my contracting body around to help the girls, so when a sweet friend asked if she could take Ems to school for me, I was so very grateful.  After a whirlwind morning, things finally slowed down enough for me to try the ol' standby to test if labor has truly begun: gulp down a huge glass of water and lay down on my side for an hour.  At 8am, I turned on a movie for me and the littles, and the timing began again.  I was truly shocked that the contractions were now only 6-8 minutes apart, and around 9am, I decided it was time for two things: one last shower and to call Russell home from work.  Things were picking up!

While I quickly finished up getting ready, Russell started the phone calls to our family and friends to let them know we were headed to the hospital just to see if it was go time.  Russell's mom was able to come up to stay with the girls right away, bless her, and at 11am, we headed to the hospital which was about 20 minutes away.  The contractions had picked up just a bit to a steady 5-6 minutes apart, and the pain was enough that I was unable to talk through them any longer.  Even though all of that was happening, Russell and I were able to laugh as we remembered our very first trip to the hospital with Emery.  At one point, he had told me, "Relax"....but he never said that again on any subsequent trips to the hospital!  ;)  

We arrived at the hospital at 11:30am, and I decided to make the long walk back to labor and delivery  instead of calling for a wheel chair as that might be the last time I'd get to do much to keep labor going.  With the VBAC, one of the stipulations is that an epidural is in place just in case an emergency C-section should be needed, so I knew my activity level was going to stop soon.  (Which I was TOTALLY fine with...Erin hearts epidural.  After making it to a 9 with two babies before getting any pain relief, I have experienced all I want to experience in that department.  Plug me in, Mr. Anesthesiologist!!)

During check-in, I had another big contraction during which I needed to lay my head on the desk and just breathe and hang on.  As luck would have it, the hospitalist delivery doctor that would eventually be assigned to me was there watching.  (I so wished my sweet OB could have delivered, but VBAC rules said I had to be at a hospital with a NICU.  I missed her!)  Russell and I walked away to be put into triage to see if we would be staying, and I heard the doctor say under her breath, "That's going to be an admission right there.  She's not going home."  Woo hoo!  However, she and I were both surprised to find that I was only dilated to a 3 at that point and still not fully effaced.  Hmm.  Just to be sure, she wanted me to labor in triage for about an hour while being closely monitored to see if I made any cervical progress.  My labor with the other three girls was very similar to this: super painful contractions but not dilated much at check-in.  Once I reached about 5 with the other labors, things picked up extremely fast, so I was hopeful.  

During triage, my contractions increased in frequency to 3 minutes, and I was moaning and crying out through them quite a bit.  I felt sorry for the other two ladies in triage who were checking in for an induction and a scheduled C-section.  I was loud.  ;)  Finally, the doctor came to check me at the end of the hour, found that I'd dilated to a 3.5 and was fully effaced, and I was admitted and moved to a labor and delivery room at 1pm...all the while chanting to the nurses and anyone that would listen to me, "Epidural...epidural...plug me in...epidural..."  They got the hint, and only 30 minutes later at 1:30pm, in came the anesthesiologist to get started.  Bless the man, he waited till a contraction had passed to have me lean forward, and he finished up his business before the next one began.  Best experience with an epidural so far.  After that, the pain went down significantly, although I still felt a lot of uncomfortable, breathe-through-it pressure during most of the contractions.  By 2:30pm, I was dilated to a 4 and our family started to arrive to check in on us.  My mom and sister were able to make it in time, and Russell's parents were relieved from big kid duty by his sister and a sweet friend.  So grateful for all of their help.  I was so glad to see everyone and so thankful they were able to be there with us at the hospital.  

After a couple hours of chatting with family, monitoring contractions (now at 2 minutes apart), Dr. Gibbens checked me, and at 4:30pm I had only progressed to a 5.  My sweet nurse, Karen, suggested that I flip over to one side to keep Baby moving along it's way.  I turned over to my left side, and, after a few minutes, I started to feel some pretty sharp pains around my C-section incision area on the right side.  During a VBAC, everyone is very aware of the importance of monitoring for a uterine rupture, so when I mentioned this continued pain, my nurse and doctor called the anesthesiologist again for an adjustment of my epidural in case of an emergency C-section.  My doctor and nurse also began to prep for the placement of an internal fetal monitor for Baby, just to make sure things were okay to keep laboring.  Before the anesthesiologist began, my nurse had me switch over to lay on my right side to see if that would assuage the pressure around the incision.  While the anesthesiologist was working on my epidural, I looked at Russell with wide eyes and said, "Um, I feel"  Suddenly, there was so much pressure down there, and it felt like a pool ball was stuck between my legs.  I decided to wait one more contraction before calling my nurse back over from prepping the internal monitor, and, after that next contraction, I was sure something was up.  

The anesthesiologist finished within the next few moments, and Russell asked my nurse to see what we should do.  I told her I felt something "new" going on down there, so she called for the doctor to come back.  It had only been about 20 minutes since she'd checked me and found me dilated to a 5, so she didn't seem too concerned.  She did check me, however, and...there was a head!!!  Things had gone from a 5 to complete in about 20 minutes, and after that, everything was a blur.  My doctor and nurse started flying around the room prepping for delivery, and the NICU team was called in asap because of the risks involved with VBAC.  Everything moved so quickly that I almost didn't have time to absorb what was about to happen!  After about 3-4 minutes of insane swirling around the room, the nurses and doctor had everything ready.  Russell kissed me and the helped hold my leg along with my nurse, and Dr. Gibbens calmly said it was time.  

They had me start pushing, but we were at the tail end of a contraction, so everyone waited in silence for the next one to start.  Once it began, I bore down and pushed once.  With all of the excitement, I forgot to ask for a mirror to be brought in until then, and there just wasn't time for it now.  Between pushes during that first contraction, my doctor told me to reach down, and I could feel Baby's sweet little head!  Such reassurance!  I was able to lean up and look for a brief moment as my precious little one made it's way out.  I finished out the contraction with two more pushes, and the baby was delivered at 5:05pm!  In what felt like slow motion, we waited for the doctor to announce the gender, and my heart almost burst when she said, "You have a beautiful, chubby little baby GIRL!!!!!!"  She weighed 8.8lbs and was 20.5 inches long.  Everything was perfect.

(Later, Russell and I both admitted that we were so relieved when the Dr. announced that our baby was a little girl.  Of course, we would have been so excited to have a son, but to be honest, we were both hoping for a complete set of little daughters.  It was pretty funny that we were both too afraid to be the first to say out loud how relieved we were!  Ha!  ;)  God knew just what our family needed.  Plus,'s what we do around here!)  :)

They placed beautiful Hattie Lane on my chest, and we met our daughter for the first time.  She was pink and chubby-cheeked with a full head of dark hair with blond tips.  She laid on my chest softly crying for a few moments, and her breath slowed a bit as I spoke to her with tears trickling down my face and falling onto hers.  Her little eyes and face turned up to mine as she heard my voice, and she tucked into my neck with a sigh.  I honestly believe that is the closest one can come to heaven on earth right there.  That moment.  That snuggle.  That sigh.  Priceless blessing.


The next few minutes were spent cleaning things up and doing a few basic checks on Hattie.  Our hospital adopted a new policy of allowing Moms and Dads the first hour of the baby's life to have total privacy as long as everything looks ok.  They even wait to weigh, measure, etc. during that first hour.  The room went from complete chaos to utter calm and quiet within a few short moments, and we were left alone to snuggle our new little lady.  She took to nursing quickly within the first moments of her little life, and Russell and I were able to process what had just happened!  We thanked God for so many big and small things: the gift of sleep the night before, available friends and family to watch over our big kids, making it to the hospital in time, and, most importantly, a safe delivery for me and sweet Hattie girl.

The next two days, we tucked into our last Hospital Cocoon time, and we soaked up every single minute we had alone with Hattie.  We nursed, snuggled, cried, laughed, took advantage of the awesome nurses in the hospital nursery ;), and just SAW Hattie for those sweet days alone in the hospital.  By request, we had minimal visitors in order to spend those precious days just being with our new daughter.  The big girls came up to meet their sister, and it was just so precious to us.  They loved on her, Emery burst into tears saying, "She's just so cute, I can't help it!", and Delia was especially smitten with her new little sister.  It was precious and priceless, and I cried some serious tears at the thought of this being our last time in the Hospital Cocoon before the real world reclaimed us once again.  I'll never forget those moments.  

When we came home from the hospital, our big girls unfortunately came down with a stomach bug.  My gracious in-laws came to our rescue and swooped in to take the sickies home with them.  Unexpectedly, Russell and I were given the best gift of all: five days all alone in our own home with only our new little one to care for and snuggle and learn.  I can't even express how grateful I am for those days of rest, of quiet, of checking out of responsibilities and the real world, of tucking in and figuring out our newest little lady.  While I missed my other girls so very much and was ready to start finding our new normal all together, those sweet, priceless, unexpected days spent with just Russell and Hattie were some of my favorite moments of all.  What a gift.  Makes me cry to think about it.  What a special time that will never be replicated but will always be remembered.  Priceless.

Almost three weeks in, Russell and I and our four little women are figuring out life all together as a family of six.  Nora is warming up to the idea of having a younger sister, Emery is doing such a great job as the Little Mommy helping me with so many tasks around the house, and Delia has made a very special bond with Hattie, whispering sweet words into her ears and singing to her all throughout the day.  Any time they hear Hattie cry, they all gasp and come running to shower her with kisses and "help" me comfort her.  It's pretty sweet.  Watching our girls all together feels so right.  I know there will be chaos and tired days and hard moments, but I don't care.  We have our four little women, and our family feels complete.  Hattie Lane is the final piece of our family puzzle.  :)

Thank you to all who checked in, helped with our kids, brought meals and supplies and gifts, delivered coffee and hugs, and sent prayers of support.  We are blessed by our people, and we wouldn't be brave enough to do this life without you.  God has blessed us beyond what we are possibly capable of deserving with these sweet daughters and the precious village that helps us raise them, and we are grateful.  Truly grateful.

Welcome to the world, Hattie Lane.  We've been waiting for you.  And I'll love you forever, like you for always.


Here we go...!

Welcome Hattie!!!

Sweet Daddy.  Best man I know and the perfect person to be the dad of four little daughters.

Meeting their newest buddy for the first time.  Melt me.

Our four sweet girlies!

Chubby love.

Family of six...SIX!!

Precious snuggles with little Hattie.  One grateful Mommy right here.  Love.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Twelve Months: A Letter.

Sweet Nora Cait,

You are ONE YEAR OLD today!!!  Happy birthday, littlest love!!
Here are some highlights of the past three months that lead up to your first birthday:

-You now have four teeth with another two poking through!  Teething hasn't been as hard on you as we thought it would be, thank goodness.
-Pulling up on furniture and cruising around the room are your new skills learned over the past few months, and you have even started pushing around your walker!  You are soooo proud of your new talents.  ;)
-You have learned to clap, wave bye-bye, say "Uh oh, Mama, and Dadda," and you picked up the funniest little scowl that you'll whip out at any moment, because you know it'll get you a laugh.
-Juicy Penningtons is still one of your favorite ways to get a smile from us, and you and your sisters Juicy back and forth in the van all the time.  Hilarious!
-You are so very tender-hearted.  Only a few times have you been scolded (for pinching my lip with your tiny fingers, slapping away food, etc), but OH MY.  If we have to get onto you, it's like your heart is truly broken.  You don't freak out or even audibly cry.  Your eyes just well with tears, your mouth turns into a frown, and your chin starts to tremble.  You immediately want to be picked up, and you tuck your head down under my chin and just stay there quietly crying.  You'll peek up at me every so often, lean in for a teary kiss, and then you'll tuck back in for some making up.  It is heartbreaking and precious.
-Your hemangioma is still the same size, but it is slowly changing from bright red to a faded fleshy pink.  Doesn't seem to bother you one bit!
-Probably my favorite thing you learned to do recently: give kisses.  Unprompted, open-mouthed, drooly, smiley, precious to my heart kisses.  I love this.

-You weaned from nursing all on your own around 10 months over the course of a few weeks...which sent us into a bit of a panic as you had not at all mastered the sippy cup!  A few weeks of practice (and some very sweetened milk...) and you got it down.  You now drink whole milk and watered down juice during the day.
-Baby food is becoming a thing of the past as you are way more interested in feeding yourself soft, solid foods now.  You love cheese, crackers, cereal, bananas, apples, turkey, chicken, carrots, peas, and the list goes on.  Still not a fan of blueberries.  ;)

-Over the past three months, your sleeping patterns haven't changed all that much with the exception of the evening catnap.  That went away around 10 months.
-You wake for the day around 6:30-7am, take an hour-ish nap around 9am, an afternoon nap of 1-2 hours around 1pm, and you go to bed for the night at 6pm-ish.
-You still love a good paci or two for sleepy times, and you've started snuggling with a little baby doll for naps.  So cute.

-You had your first Halloween for which you dressed up as the cutest little strawberry ever.
-This year also marked your first Thanksgiving, and we spent time with Daddy's family at Aunt Rachel's house.
-We took our first trip as just a family of five and went to Branson to spend a long weekend.  We went to Silver Dollar City to experience all the Christmas-y goodness, to Sight and Sound's "Jonah" and just relaxed together as a family.  You were awesome on this trip, and I loved making memories with you, little lady!
-You experienced your very first snow!
-For your first Christmas, we were with Mommy's family, and you got to know your cousin Charly a lot better.  You two are so cute trying to interact with each other, and I know it'll be so fun to watch you grow up to be little friends.  :)

Little Lovey, you made this past year sweeter than you'll ever know, and I simply can't thank God enough for trusting me with you.  Your personality is so quiet, sweet, easy going, tender-hearted, and you always want to be with us, any of us.  You are a people person, a snuggler, a smiley lovey.  I love you so.  You are precious to me.

Love you forever,