September 4, 2018

Etta's Birth Story

You know those memories from life where if you stop to ponder them for even a second they leave you with you chest feeling tight and tears pooling in your eyes?  The birth stories for each of my children leave me that way. Just a thought leaves me longing to be in that moment again, it feels so long ago, but the emotion still so raw.  Each story varies in its own way and as each child has come different moments have stuck out to me. 

One thing has struck me hard in each story. As my children have entered this world I have never been so sure of the love that our Heavenly Father has for his children. Those freshly from Heaven and those who have been on Earth for some time. That love is strong and palpable. The love of a Mother (and I’m sure a Father, but I’m speaking here for me) grows so strong with each child. You wonder how you have the capacity to love more, my heart expands and grabs that baby never to let go. Childbirth is amazing. Bodies are amazing. And I can do hard things. With each birth the hard thing has been different. I have been pushed in different ways. 

Etta’s birth story is no different. 
You may need some background information from each birth.
Read them if you so choose.  Max is here.  Leo here.   
For weeks I had been wondering when this baby girl would make her way to this world. At 38 weeks I was ready for her. And trying to accommodate traveling doctors and photographers left me trying to will her out on what I decided would be the perfect days. I tried Chinese food and working out, my magic combo for the boys. But this baby girl came at her time. It wasn’t until the day before she arrived that I found peace and completely handed my will to The Lord. Honestly I didn’t think she’d come the day she did. I’m sure we will one day be able to add this to the list of things she surprised me with. 

September 3. My mom came into town. I spent the day at church and cleaning. Who am I kidding. I spent the last 2 weeks cleaning thinking “any day”! I picked my mom up from the airport in my oversized maxi dress (basically a mumu) and we stopped at the gas station for ice cream before heading home. The silver lining about not having my baby early was that now my mom would be here when she was born. I went to bed that night feeling fine. I was sure I had a pass for the next day. September 4. It was her due date, my birthday and LABOR Day. There was NO WAY she would actually come that day. It’s just too big of a coincidence. I fell asleep wondering how we should celebrate my big day. I’d assumed I’d have a baby by now, I assumed I’d be locked in my room snuggling her on my birthday. “Maybe” I thought, “I’ll hike this baby out.”

September 4. I woke up around 8am. My stomach hurt. “Oh I really have to go to the bathroom”, I thought. And I did. I crawled back in bed. My stomach still hurt. Did I need to go again? 
My phone buzzed. It was my birthday!!! Texts and sweet calls were coming in. My girlfriend Sara asked if she could drop a treat by. I rolled out of bed and got dressed. My boys were happily playing downstairs with Grandma. I went to find Ben. My stomach really hurt. Oh wait. Crap. These are contractions. Ben had somehow found his way into Max’s bed. I laid down. “I think we are going to have a baby today”, I said. “Are you serious?” “yeah”, I replied, “I think so!” 
The doorbell rang, Sara was here. I ran downstairs and met her in the kitchen. She had doughnuts. She sat and chatted with us for a bit. I stood at the end of the counter. Squatting and bending, trying to get comfortable. “Man, I think I’m having contractions”, I said casually. I downplayed it. Gosh, what if I was wrong? I knew I wasn’t. I wiggled and moved every few minutes to get comfortable. 
When Sara left I went to make the beds. I chatted on the phone with Shannon while I made Max’s bed and had to stop every few minutes to take a break. Man! It really was happening. I walked downstairs to find my Mom and ask if she wanted to be there when I delivered. She did, she was excited. I told her she should probably shower. “Now??” Now. 
Ben called his Mom and Emily and asked if they would come stay with the boys. They would leave in a few minutes. Ben and I went to shower. 
Now listen. I debated for a great while whether or not I should wash my hair when I showered. I knew if I did i would have to spend time drying and curling it. I knew if I didn’t I would have to spend time in the hospital with dirty hair. I was in no position to make sane decisions. I washed it. The moment I got out of the shower I immediatly regretted my decision. It was then, like RIGHT THEN, that contractions got bad. Every 2-4 mins. 30 seconds long. Sometimes 60 seconds. They were long and close. A normal person would go to the hospital now. 

Ben asked if we should just go. “No. We can wait for your mom. They’re only 45 mins away. I’m ok.” 

I paced my bathroom. Silent. I fell to the ground when I contraction came and I would breath. And shake. And pray that it wasn’t as close as it felt. When it was over I would stand and dry my hair a little, pace the bathroom more and fall to the ground all over again. Ben loaded the car then sat down on the bed begged me to leave, now. I can see him now, sitting on the edge of the bed, staring at me. Watching me pace and drop to the ground in my long maxi dress. Calmly pleading to leave. Now. 
Sometimes when a contraction would come I would fall into his lap and breathe. They were intense. The literal squeezing of your uterus trying to push a human out is amazing. Powerful. And painful. The pain radiates your entire body. Mine would start in my low back, shoot up and around my stomach. Like a band of fire that was squeezing while it burned. 
My boys would walk in. Sometimes I would be laying on the floor. I couldn’t talk. They would ask if I was ok and I would nod. I was fine. Their sister was coming!! I had time. 

My mom, showered, walked in and saw this playing out. She hadn’t seen the full scale yet. I mean, it had only been an hour!  “Amber”, she said. “Go to the hospital. I’ll stay with the boys. When Jody is here I’ll come over. You should go. You should go.” 
My hair was curled. I didn’t bother with makeup. I put on my black stretchy dress and birkenstocks. Ben had already loaded all our bags into the car. 

It was 11am. We should go. I said goodbye to the boys. They cried. They wanted to come. I promised they could come meet their sister later. Normally, I would console and try to talk them through what’s happening. But, I couldn’t. Panic started to set it. They’ll be fine I told myself. They’re ok. I have to go. 

I texted Bethany to tell her we were headed out. She would meet us there to take pictures. 

I got in the car. At the time Ben was driving a Honda Accord. I wasn’t used to ducking into a car. When I sat in the seat, pain shot up my back. I tried to lay the seat back a bit. The seat jolted a little too fast and bounced backward. I screamed in agony, it hurt and I cried. It was here. Right here when I realized IT WAS HAPPENING. I was having a baby. And very soon. Possibly in the car. Possibly in the hallway at the hospital. It was TIME. We were 14 mins away. She was coming soon and I was terrified. What was I doing? Why did I wait? Why did my body progress so quickly? Zero to hero, man, I was getting efficient! I was strep B positive. There would be no time for antibiotics. There would be no time for an epidural. In this moment I knew it was time and I prayed we would just make it to the hospital. I took deep breaths. I cried. And I gripped the arm rest the whole way. When we got to the hospital Ben asked if he should take me to emergency. “No way,” I said. There was no way I was going at this alone. I knew at this point I wouldn’t be able to form a sentence. Looking back now I realize he could have probably just left the car at emergency and went with me. But no. At the time. No. 

He parked in the garage. Gah! Parking is the worst there. It felt like an eternity to find a spot. We got out. I asked him to grab our bags. He told me he would come back. “Let’s just go,” he said. 

I stopped and contracted at the back of the car. I contracted at the next car. In the middle of the road, I contracted. We got to the door of the breezeway. I contracted. We got 5 more steps I contracted. I cried. I wasn’t going to make it!!!  I just need to make it. I composed. We walked. People passing looked at me with empathetic eyes. Can you imagine what Ben is feeling right now?? He probably wants to sling me over his shoulder and run to labor and delivery. He probably wants to scream, “why don’t you listen to me!!?” But he didn’t. He took my hand and we shuffled down the breezeway to the elevator.  Stopping every minute. Stopping because I made him take a picture. Because even through the tears, I needed a picture of each of the moment I walked each of my babies into the hospital to be born. He took the picture. 

We got in the elevator. He buzzed us into labor and delivery. 
We made it. It was 11:21.  
20 steps through the entrance of L&D we were at the admittance desk. I fell to the floor. Breathing. Holding back pushing. Holding back a baby! “Ahhhhhh” (imagine more of a deep hum)
Ben asked for a room. Now please. They took my social. My signature. They put me in a wheelchair and into too a room. 

I laid down on the bed. Ben helped me get my dress off, the beautiful hospital gown on. The sweet nurse checked me bedside. Here I let out a sigh of relief. At least we made it.  I mumbled something about strep b positive. She asked if I want an epidural. I’m pretty sure I didn’t respond except with a half laugh. In my head I knew it would be impossible to sit still for an epidural at this point. In my mind, picturing the anesthesiologist even getting to the floor on time felt unlikely. I knew even if I wanted one it wouldn’t happen. I didn’t think I even had time to think through all the logistical steps of an epidural OR getting antibiotics before this baby came. So with my half laugh was me saying, “I know I’m knee deep in it now.”
It was a holiday. Labor Day, remember.  She called the oncall doctor at my dr’s office. I was so scared because Dr Dunnam wasn’t there with me. She’s been with me with all my births. She knows my body. She helped me prevent tearing with Leo. She knows how to talk to me. She was on vacation and I was scared. 

The nurse wrapped up her paperwork and checked my progress. 
“OH!” said the nurse. “OH yeah. Honey. You’re at a 9. I feel the head. OH!” 

“Ohhhhhh no!!!” 
I turn to my left side. The nurse sits at my face. 
“It hurts,” I said. “It hurts so bad. I need to push” 
“Don’t push yet.” She said. “Blow it away. Blow away the contraction.” And for a couple I did.   She sat, holding my hand and we blew away contractions together. I shook and held in my urge to push. Can we talk about that urge to push. Have you ever had your body want something so badly and you have to stop it? I felt the same way with Max. That urge. The fight that your body is making to get this baby out. Your brain knows it will feel better once this is over. And the pressure is fierce. 
My mom walked in. Ben helped find Bethany. Bethany walked in.  I see them. I smile. It hurts so bad.  The pressure is mounting, I sense chaos and a bit of panic in the room. They hang my IV bag. Get the IV port ready. 
Ben sat at my face. Holding my hand. I would squeeze him when it hurt too bad. 

“I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do.” I said this over and over. Laying on my left side. “I don’t know what to do.” 
“What don’t you know?” Probably everyone in the room asked at least once. 
I didn’t answer. 
In my head I’m thinking. “I don’t know how to do this without my doctor. I don’t know when to push. I don’t know how not to tear my body in half. I don’t want to tear. I don’t want to hurt myself. I don’t want to hurt the baby. The only thing I know is that there is only one way to get out of this excruciating pain.” But I couldn’t form those sentences. I left a lot of things unsaid. 

My body was shaking as I lay on my side hugging the the bed. My mom stood on my right, Ben on my left. Everyone begging me to scoot away from the edge. I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to fall off though. I had a tight grip on the side, squeezing tighter with every fiery contraction. 

“Where is the doctor?” I ask. “He’s on his way, he’s coming from Ridgefield”. 

“Ahhhh” another contraction and a gush. 
“Ohhhhh no!!” 
“What?! What’s wrong?” Asked the nurse. Asked Ben. Asked Bethany. 

“My water just broke.” 
“It’s ok!” Said the nurse. “That’s what is supposed to happen.” 

And I knew that. But here is what I also knew. Both of my boys were born within 5 mins of my water being broke. Quick. I knew was was next. “How am I going to do this?? There isn’t even a doctor!”  I looked at Ben, and Bethany, and my Mom. I gave them the eyes that said, “buckle up!” But I don’t think anyone saw what I was saying with my eyes. I think it read more as desperation. 

And just like that. Contraction. 
Laying on my left side remember. 
“Uhhhhh the head is coming OUT!!!!”

It felt as though her head slowly slipped out. Careful and controlled. 
The nurses laid me on my back, bent my knees and put my feet on the table. 

One nurse ran to the hall. Yelled for a doctor. Luckily, one was passing by. 
With one more contraction my body pushed out the rest of the baby. Controlled and slow. She slipped onto the table. A nurse grabbed her and the doctor walked in, put on gloves and clamped the cord. They cleaned her up real quick. She pooped right as she hit the table. It must have been cold!! 

It was 11:59. My face said it all. 
“Whhhhat just happened??” I was stunned and confused. 
Thoughts. So many thoughts ran through my head in seconds. 
What in the heck just happened. 
That was fast. That was crazy. That was easy. I just had a baby and it felt like she slipped out of me. What the heck. How is this over. She just came out!!! I didn’t push. I did not just push this baby out. My body did. I stopped fighting back and my body pushed a baby out. Wow. That was amazing. Let’s do it again. There was no doctor. She fell on a table! Nurses are amazing. Childbirth is the best high. 

I went from stunned to complete overjoy. They handed me my sweet baby and I held her tight. My sweet baby with her grand entrance in her own time. On perfect time. She was perfect. 

Wait! “Did I tear?” Nope! Just one little stitch and I was good to go. 

I laughed. My mom and Bethany laughed. What a crazy morning. The nurse laughed and told me I had timed it all perfectly. No wasted time, that’s for sure. Ben didn’t laugh. I think I pushed it a little too close for his comfort. It was a whirlwind. A perfect whirlwind. 

As I stopped to remember how scared I was to do this without MY doctor and how scared I was after previous births I came to this realization.  The past does not define me.  I have had beautiful experiences, that I have learned and grown from. I can do hard things and allowing God to direct the timing in my life is hard for me.  But He does such a beautiful job.  

We called the boys and promised to see them once we moved to a new room. 

I sat for three hours on IVs. AFTER I gave birth. Goodness. Do you know how much I hate IVs. And hospital cords. It’s a lot. This, the 3 hour IV, was supposed to help contract my uterus back. 

But I had three hours with my mom, Ben, Bethany and my sweet new baby.  Time to go over what just happened a million times. In 4 hours, I had woken up, considered I might be in labor, decided I was in labor, showered, curled my now sweaty and straight hair, arrived at the hospital and birthed a baby!! It was so quick, I couldn’t get over it. I spent hours is shock that it had happened so fast. She was here! Just hours ago I was contemplating going to the hospital and she was here!! Happy birthday to us! 

After the IV they moved us to a new room. We settled in and showered, ate and rested. And my rested I mean I dressed my baby up in bows and flower blankets and smothered her in kisses. 
But she had no name. 

I tried for months to convince Ben to name her Ivy. He wouldn’t agree. Once I saw her, I knew Ivy wasn’t it. We had a few names on our list. We went through each. Emmy, Elsie, Penny. No. Sophie, Vera, Zoe. No. Name after name. They were all No’s. Except Etta. Etta we liked, it felt right. We put it to a vote. I was gobbling Hershey’s chocolates (naturally) and gave Ben, my Mom and Bethany a wrapper. “Cast your vote!” 

Etta Lee.  Perfect. 
Lee after me, Amber Lee. My mom Coralee. And my grandma Leila, known as Lee. My favorite ladies. 
Ettie gives a little nod to Ben’s Dad Edward. Who told me he would love a granddaughter named Eddie. 

And so she was. Etta Lee. Born on September 4th. Labor Day. Her due date. Her Mama’s birthday. There isn’t anything that could have made me happier, the perfect birthday. 
When her brothers came it was complete love. They couldn’t get enough. Max wanted to hold her close.  Leo wanted to see every part of her. As I watched them interact with her. I had the distinct impression they knew each other. It was a sweet reunion, the three of them together. They loved each other in heaven and love each other now. It wasn’t instant love, it was old love coming back again. And just like that, we were a family of 5.

More baby goodness::  And of course, the slideshow at the end.  We sure love our Baby Etta.  

Etta's Birth Slideshow