One month ago today, Alex and I welcomed Juniper Kate into the world. Besides our wedding day, this was the most memorable, beautiful day of my life so far. I wanted to share her birth story, mostly so I’ll always remember the day she came and changed our lives forever.
Disclaimer: I tried not to go into too much detail, but birthing a baby is kind of unglamorous. I am sharing the most memorable and important parts below. Feel free to skim or skip portions.
On Tuesday night, January 16th, I started feeling some contractions. It’d been like this for the three or so previous nights. I’d feel some pretty consistent contractions, go to sleep, and during the night they’d dissipate. So on this night I expected the same thing to happen. I was three days past my due date and tired of getting my hopes up, ha. I woke up shortly after 4 am to stronger contractions. In the minutes to follow, I started to really wonder if this was it! I woke Alex up, and we started timing them. The confusing part was it felt like I was experiencing two different kinds of contractions: One was the tightening of my uterus – the kind I expected – and the other was like a lower abdominal, heavy cramp. I couldn’t decide if one was the real thing and the other wasn’t, or if they were both contractions. It made a difference in figuring out how far apart they were, of course, and eventually I decided they must both be contractions at about 5 minutes apart!
Alex called our moms around 6:30 am to tell them we were pretty certain I was in labor. I ate a banana and part of a Cliff bar, not because I was hungry, but because I was scared of how long it would be until I ate again. Ha.
From there, the morning was a whirlwind. In between contractions, I brushed my teeth and checked the contents of my hospital bag. During contractions, I got in positions that helped me relax – either on my hands and knees or on the toilet. I reviewed my labor mantra of sorts, which was inspired by the encouraging words my dear friend Casie texted me a few days before. I trust you, God. My body already knows what to do. Alex is my perfect coach. I do already do long-distance discomfort. I have everything I need for an amazing delivery.
By around 9 am, contractions were around four minutes apart. When I’d talked with my doctor earlier in my pregnancy about wanting to labor at home as long as possible, she advised that we come to the hospital when contractions were consistently 3 minutes apart and I was in pretty heavy discomfort. With that in mind, we thought soon it’d be time to go. Alex put on my socks and shoes, scraped the ice off the car and heated it up. There was still ice on the roads from the day before, and Alex handled this extra challenge like a pro. It was the first of many, many times in the last month I’ve been amazed by Alex’s ability to stay calm and patient when I want to freak out.
At the Hospital
When we pulled up to the hospital’s main entrance, Alex retrieved a wheelchair and then wheeled me to the elevator and up to the second floor just like we had been coached to do on our hospital tour. We had preregistered but I still had to sign a couple of forms – not easy to do with that level of discomfort!
From there I was taken to the triage room to be checked. I changed into a hospital gown, breathed through another contraction in the bathroom, and then got in the bed. When the doctor came in, I prayed I was at least 6 centimeters dilated. She told me I was 7 to 8. Praise God!! That was a real confidence booster and the first time I thought, “Okay, I can do this. Can’t be too much longer until 10.” The doctor asked if I wanted an epidural. When I said no, she said, “We don’t award Purple Hearts here, you know.” Honestly – and I’m so thankful for this – it never crossed my mind at that point or throughout the rest of labor to request medicine. That’s not to say that it would have been wrong or bad whatsoever. The mindset I had going into labor was to try to go without one (mostly because I almost passed out while learning about epidurals and other medical interventions in our childbirth class, but that’s a story for another time), but to be open to one if I felt I needed it.
From there I was wheeled into the labor and delivery room, and once I got into bed, I did not want to leave. Before going into labor, I was sure I would want to continue moving around at the hospital. But now, I just couldn’t think about much else besides breathing through those contractions. I wanted to be still.
It’s funny to think back on all the “essentials” I’d packed in my labor bag and didn’t use like mouthwash, an adult coloring book, my beloved scripture cards, and my yoga ball. What I’m glad I packed: socks, a washcloth to help cool my face, some lavender essential oil, my Spotify playlist, and the watermelon water flavored ice chips I made ahead of time.
When I was 9 centimeters dilated, I was told that a large portion of my water hadn’t broken and that doing so would speed things up to the pushing stage. I said yes. Again, this was not something I would have thought I’d agree to beforehand; I wanted everything to happen naturally. But Alex and I agreed it seemed best in that moment. So, a doctor came in and broke my water. It didn’t hurt; I just felt a large gush of warm fluid.
The Final Stretch
As warned, contractions then became more intense, and I felt an urge to push. My incredible nurse Suzanne (seriously, I think she was an actual angel) said to call her when the urge was constant, not just during contractions, because that would mean Juniper’s head was low enough to start pushing.
Around 2 pm, I was fully dilated and ready to push. For me the pushing stage was the most intense part. I didn’t feel like I was making progress despite the encouragement of Suzanne, Alex, and my mom. Plus, pushing for an hour and a half was really hard work! When my OB arrived, little did I know I really was in the home stretch. I pushed through two more contractions, and on the third push of that last contraction, I felt not only Juniper’s head come out but the rest of her body too. It was the craziest feeling both physically and emotionally. At 3:23 pm, our baby girl was finally here!
My doctor and the nurses wondered where I’d been hiding an 8 lb. 8 oz., 21 inch long baby, and I couldn’t believe it either! I was just beyond grateful she was here and healthy.
I’m also so very grateful for Alex, who I’ve grown to love and respect more deeply. He really was the perfect coach, and he is the absolute perfect daddy for Juniper. As new parents, we’ve had super hard moments this last month and also the most joyful moments of my life so far. I am thankful for them all and for how God has shown me his grace and kindness.
This is a very long post, so if you’ve made it this far, you deserve a legit reward! Thank you, friends and family, for your amazing support and encouragement in this season. It is a beautiful thing to not only love my daughter but to know so many others love and pray for her too. Here are some photos to make you smile.