The last few weeks of pregnancy create the strangest circumstance. Your whole life is about to change, you are acutely aware of that, but there is no way to tell exactly when. A due date means almost nothing really, and you could go into labor at any time. Experts say there are signs that labor is imminent, but I didn’t really experience any of that until I was in it.
On the first day of winter I woke up remembering the contractions I had experienced the night before, and how they had teased me into thinking that maybe I was going to have my baby—finally! Until they stopped; and I had to go to sleep wondering when the day would really come, because this had happened before. While I sat and ate breakfast with my family that morning, I felt a couple of contractions about seven minutes apart. This was around 9:30am. I figured that they were just going to stop again so I continued to get ready for the day.
The first day of winter fell on a Sunday this year, and my cousin Connor was giving a talk in his ward because he is leaving on a two-year mission in a couple weeks. As I got ready to go to church I kept having contractions, but I didn’t bother to time them because I didn’t really believe that it was the real thing. As we made the hour drive to Highlands Ranch they kept getting closer together and more intense. By the time we got to the church they were every five and a half to six minutes apart. We sat and listened to the Christmas program their ward performed and to Connor’s sweet message. Afterwards we went to my aunt Alyson’s house for dinner and that is when the fun really began.
It was about 3:00pm when my contractions really started to hurt. They started coming every four and a half to five minutes and some of them brought me to my knees. I will never be able to explain how good it feels the moment a contraction stops. It’s like this wave of relief and almost euphoria because it hurts so badly, and then it just stops. And you can breathe easy again, and it feels. so. good. It is the weirdest thing.
By the time we finished dinner it was about 5:00pm. My contractions stayed about four and a half minutes apart while we made the trek home. Samuel was just getting home from work when my family and I pulled up and I was so happy to see him! I burst into tears as I wrapped my arms around him and buried my face in his neck. I have never been so happy to smell his tea tree oil beard balm and feel his strong embrace. I had wished so badly that he was with me that whole day, but since we didn’t know if the baby was really coming that day he decided to stay at work until things were clearly progressing. My mom and sisters were already in town so they were there to help me, but still, no one beats a husband’s presence.
At about 7:00pm I decided that I wanted to go for a walk to help things along. I had been having contractions all day and I was over it! I just wanted to hold my baby! So I put my hospital bag (that I had packed just two days before, hash tag procrastinator) in the truck and told my sisters that we would call them if I needed to go to the hospital and they could come pick us up, then we started walking. I decided I wanted to walk pretty far and we made a plan to walk the 3.1 miles from our house to Samuel’s sister Angela’s house. So we walked and walked and walked, across parking lots, and a bridge, through trees, and up gradual hills. And we ran at one point, across a street with cars coming at us, and I think the drivers were horrified. I was.
I will never forget that night. It was so beautiful outside. There was no wind, it was about 45 degrees, and at the end of our walk it started raining so gently. It was picture perfect in everyway and it did not feel like December 21st. The first day of winter is also called the winter solstice. The word solstice comes from the Latin words for “sun” and “to stand still.” Everything really was standing still for me that night. There were things going on all around me, but I didn’t notice any of it. It was just me; my mind, and my body trying to work together to bring a precious spirit into this world. It was painful and incredible, all at the same time.
When we got to Angela’s I tried to relax. My contractions were about every three and a half minutes now. They were lasting longer and they were more painful than they had been all day. I took a bath and called my sisters to come over so we could go to the hospital. I was so sure that I was about to have my baby! We drove through the rain in the dark, and the street lights glowed off the wet pavement creating what looked like little pieces of sacred ground. It was a magical drive for me, because I was so certain that I would be meeting my baby girl on the other side of it. When we got to the hospital I checked in downstairs, and then a nurse came and got me in a wheelchair and wheeled me up to the Labor and Delivery floor at about 9:30pm.
When Sam and I went to tour the birthplace at the hospital about a month before, it was a ghost town. There were no expecting mothers in the triage and only one or two rooms were being used for post partum care. Of course the night that I went into labor the triage was at capacity and there were five patients just from my doctor there! It was crazy. At the appointment I had on Tuesday the 16th my doctor had checked me and I wasn’t dilated at all, but he said my cervix was very thin. I had heard that if your cervix is thin then you can dilate really quickly, so I was hoping to be dilated enough to be admitted. When the nurse checked me in the triage she said I was fully effaced but I was only dilated half of a centimeter!!! It was such a let down. I cried through my next couple contractions, partially because they really hurt, but also because I was so disappointed that after 12 hours of contractions I had hardly dilated at all.
“I’ll come back and check on you in two hours, okay? I’m sorry; I know you’re in pain. You can get up and walk around, or just stay in the bed, it’s up to you,” she said.
I was so sure that this was it—that I was going to have my baby in the next couple of hours, but I wasn’t. It was frustrating because I was the only one in that room even having consistent contractions; everyone else was just hanging out and reading magazines, their contractions had stopped and they were just waiting to go home. I kept having contraction after contraction, but after two hours and a bunch of walking around the hospital, the nurse checked me again and I hadn’t progressed at all. I am pretty sure I cried and maybe yelled at the nurse when she told me I had to go home. I was in so much pain from being in labor all day, and I knew that my contractions weren’t going to stop. I just didn’t understand why they weren’t dilating my cervix.
“Just go home and try and get some rest,” the nurse told me. Only that was impossible since I was literally contracting every two and a half to three minutes. I was so tired. All I wanted to do was sleep. I really, really wanted to sleep. I just couldn’t. So then I just wanted someone to knock me out so that I didn’t have to feel any more contractions. Seriously. I kept day-dreaming about falling and hitting my head, or someone coming at me with a baseball bat. It’s funny now, but not then so much. I was just so frustrated because I wasn’t even progressing. Nothing like being in pain for what feels like no reason!
I hadn’t gotten very much sleep the night before either, and I remember thinking that I could have the baby “any day but today.” “Just don’t go into labor today,” I told myself, “any day but today.” Ha! That’s the way it always works out, isn’t it?
So we went home at about 1:00am on the 22nd. Sam had been working and been up since 2:00am on the 21st, so he went downstairs to sleep and I sat up in our room with my mom while she tried to help me relax and breathe through each contraction. I kept contracting for two more hours about two minutes apart and they never slowed down, and they were getting longer each time, so I told my mom that we needed to go back to the hospital.
We got back to the hospital around 3:30am and I checked into the triage again. I was certain that I had to be dilated more after all that, but the nurse (same nurse who I yelled at -_-) checked me and I had only dilated half a centimeter more. So I was at one centimeter—after an entire day of labor. I was so angry. I was so tired and in so much pain and I had nothing to show for it (I mean 1 centimeter is basically nothing). I literally felt like I could not endure one more contraction…but they just kept coming, like giant waves of pain crashing into me, knocking the wind out of me. My back ached so badly, and I felt like I was going to throw up. The nurse said she would come back and check me in a half hour, but if I wasn’t dilated any more then they would send me home again.
I was so mad; I can’t even explain the feeling of defeat that came over me. This was not how I pictured things. Actually, I had tried really hard not to picture what labor or delivery would be like because it freaked me out too bad. My whole pregnancy I just thought, “I’ll make decisions as I have to and just go with the flow.” I never thought about not having a choice. About being in pain and not being able to do anything but endure it.
When the nurse left, another contraction hit, but this one hurt a lot worse. I was writhing in my bed, I couldn’t even sit still, and my mom came to my bedside and told me that I needed to really focus on relaxing when I had each contraction. I realized then that every time I had a contraction I would tighten everything in my body and fight it, but I needed to just relax and let it come. I said a prayer, asking for strength because I literally didn’t have anymore left in me. And then had about 10 contractions before the nurse came back. This time I was totally ready for her to tell me that we had to go home again. Totally ready to have a major break down because I just couldn’t do it anymore.
“That didn’t even hurt, “I said.
“I would be worried if you thought that hurt after the contractions you’ve been having,” she joked.
Then the nurse came back and gave me some other pain medicine in my IV until the anesthesiologist got there. And that was nice. Verrrrry nice. It lead to me telling her that she looked like Kristen Wiig, and some other embarrassing comments.
When the anesthesiologist walked in I remember being really confused. Partially because of the pain medicine they had given me—it was making me blurry—and also because he was dressed like a farmer. He was seriously wearing a navy blue plaid flannel, and jeans. And boots! Like, who was this guy? I instantly trusted him and liked him, but wasn’t he supposed to be wearing scrubs? Was he really supposed to be sticking a giant needle in my back? But he did, and it didn’t hurt at all. I didn’t even feel it. Or maybe it only hurt so much less than the contractions I had been having that it felt like nothing. I don’t know. But it was fantastic.
If you’re pregnant and wondering about an epidural, get the freaking epidural. Do it. Seriously. It made the whole experience so much better. I know some people have really short and easy labors and maybe they don’t even really need one, but I don’t think I could have made it without one. Plus I was much nicer after I got it. My first nurse who had been in the triage with me all night left at 7:00am, and I wasn’t that nice to her before I got it, but by the time she left I was so sad to see her go. She checked me right before she left and I was almost dilated to a seven, so my doctor came in and broke my water, but then he had to leave to another delivery, so I just tried to sleep. And also took a bunch of selfies? (Pain meds, I blame the pain meds).
When my new nurse got there I fell in love with her instantly. She was the best. She was on top of her game, and she made me feel like a million bucks. She turned the monitor so I could watch my contractions, because after the epidural all I could feel was pressure, but I didn’t know how big they were unless I was looking at the monitor. I think I got my epidural around 5:00am or so, and after that until 8:30am I slept off and on as the nurse came in to check me and/or the monitor. After the epidural I was able to really relax so my contractions dilated me pretty quickly and I was at a 10 within a few hours. When the nurse checked me she was like, “Woah, you’re ready and so is that baby! Her head is right there!”
Buuuut my doctor was delivering another baby a couple rooms down and so I had to wait. And wait. His other delivery ended up taking so long that the nurse actually came back without him and had me start pushing until the baby was crowning. I’m telling you, I really loved that lady. She was so patient and the best cheerleader. It also helped that I had my husband holding one hand and my sisters holding the other hand. When my doctor came in to deliver, things went so fast. I ended up only pushing for 23 minutes total, including my time with the nurse. It was amazing. The whole experience was so perfect. I feel so blessed that everything went so well. My doctor and nurses were the best! I could not have asked for better care. And the room was filled with people I love. The love in that room, especially right when I had the baby, was almost tangible. I wish that I could have just scooped up that feeling in a jar and saved it.
I will never forget meeting my baby girl for the first time. When I sit and think about it I can still feel her warm, wet skin on my hands as I grabbed her and pulled her onto my chest for the first time. Remembering the sound of her first little cries still brings tears to my eyes. And all the feelings I had come back so quickly when I think of that morning, at 10:26am when my life changed forever. That morning I saw my whole world in one tiny baby girl’s eyes. Complete with a full head of black hair, just like I knew she would have. And she was mine. She was my daughter; God had allowed me to create her. She was mine in a way no one and nothing else had ever been before. She was glorious, all 8 pounds 7 ounces and 21.25 inches of her.
No one can prepare you for motherhood. Nothing anybody says will ever describe the kind of love that you have for your baby, and the experience that it is to birth a soul. I have never felt a more powerful emotion and I don’t believe I ever will. My heart felt like it exploded when Naomi came into this world to join our family. Having her here with us the last couple weeks has been the best time of our lives.
There is something that happens when you have a child, that you can’t physically feel, or see. It is a knowledge you acquire of all the mothers in the world and why they do what they do and love how they love. You become painfully aware of your ignorance and your naivety; and all the things you didn’t understand when you were living under your parents’ roof suddenly make sense. And your mom becomes your biggest hero, and your birthday holds so much more meaning, and you see your dad differently too. It changes you in a way only becoming a parent can change you, and it’s life altering.
It feels like yesterday that we met Naomi for the first time, but it also feels like she has been with us forever. Not a day goes by that I haven’t thanked my Heavenly Father for giving me this sweet little spirit to care for and raise in love. My heart is so full of gratitude for her presence in our home. Naomi has brought so much love into our lives, not just for her, but also for each other. I love Samuel in a way that I never would have known possible as I watch him love our daughter. It is fitting that she was born on December 22nd. After the darkest day of the year, every single day since, she and the sun have brought more and more light into our world.