My baby girl is four weeks old as of 6:22 a.m. this morning. Amazing how fast the weeks pass once they are born, but how slow they go while you are still pregnant.
Her birth story really starts about a week before she was born. I had been having contractions for weeks, and was already 4 cm dilated at 38 weeks. If you have read Jaden's birth story, you know I took castor oil with him, and that it couldn't have gone any better. Hoping for the same experience this time around, I had been planning on taking castor oil at 39 weeks (on January 15th) for quite a long time. The week leading up to that date though sickness hit our house hard, Shaun missed work and was in bed with a fever, and then Isaiah caught the same thing. I remember while Shaun was sick being so scared I was going into labor and he wouldn't be able to take me to the hospital. I was drained completely by the time Thursday the 14th rolled around, and I was unsure whether to take the castor oil the next day or not. I prayed about it and felt like if Isaiah woke up without a fever I would go ahead and take it. When we woke up Friday Isaiah's fever was gone, so I started hydrating and had drank a half gallon of water by 12:30. I took the castor oil shortly after, and just as I took it I felt like God said to me "Her birth story is going to be uniquely her own." Within two hrs I was showing signs that the castor oil was taking effect, so I called Shaun and asked him to come home from work. My contractions started out about 6 minutes apart, and gradually went to about 3 minutes apart. Shaun's mom was in the area anyway so she came over to play with my boys while I labored. I didn't feel like the contractions were quite as strong as they were with Jaden, but they were so close, and I was delivering with a family dr who would have to drive to the hospital to meet me whenever I came in, so I called the dr's office just to give them a head's up that this could be the beginning. I didn't expect them to tell me to come in right away, and I didn't want to go yet. But the communication between the dr. and I was all done through a nurse, and the dr was already on her way in under the impression that I was too. Very reluctantly, we left to go into triage. By that time my father in law was at our house, and my mom had come too, since the plan was to have her spend the night with our boys. I knew they were in good hands but I just wasn't ready to go in. The closer we got to the hospital though the stronger the contractions were getting. We had to pull over at a Wendy's for me to pee because I was in so much pain each time a contraction came and a full bladder was making it even more unbearable. When we were checked into triage and they finally checked me around quarter of seven I hadn't progressed at all past 4 cm. I knew right then that the castor oil wasn't going to work this time and all I wanted was to go home and get in my own bed. They told me that she hadn't dropped yet, and because her head wasn't putting any pressure on my cervix the contractions weren't doing anything. (So many people had told me I had "definitely dropped" in the weeks leading up to this.... I tried to politely smile, but if I heard it one more time I might have had a totally un-called for screaming breakdown, because I knew she hadn't, and you know how it is... the last stretch of pregnancy you could lose it over any little thing someone comments on your body/baby/weight/size/posture/how high/low your belly looks/why haven't you had the baby yet?/are you sure it's not twins/i was never as large as you when I was pregnant/but she's due before you, and I'm pretty sure your belly is bigger than hers, etc etc.....) Anyway, I digress. To look at the positive side, when they finally discharged me from triage I was starving, and on the way home we stopped at Wasabi, at 9:30 p.m., and I finally got the red curry I had been craving for weeks and weeks. Last craving satisfied = always a good thing. By 10:00 we were home and I was eating red curry over rice and my contractions had spaced out to 10 to 15 minutes apart, and my mom went back home for the night. The next morning waking up was the strangest feeling... I cooked the bacon and toasted the english muffins and poured the orange juice my mom had brought to feed my boys for breakfast assuming I would be in the hospital with a new baby girl in my arms... but here I was at home and baby girl was still in my belly. As each day passed it felt like I was getting farther away from my due date instead of closer. I knew I couldn't stay pregnant forever, but I just wondered what was ever going to happen or change to suddenly be "the time" and for her to come. There was so much grace though, and I chose to look at each day still pregnant as a gift. I went to get a pedicure and out to lunch with the girls on Shaun's side of the family monday. Tuesday I went out to lunch with my mom. Wednesday I rested as much as I could and I can't remember what else I did. Thursday I went grocery shopping just me and my mom, and I think I seriously hobbled around the store hanging on to the cart to try to walk normal. And to add to the drama, as each day passed a forecasted blizzard got closer and closer, predicted to begin the evening of my actual due date, January 22nd. As you can imagine, almost everyone that saw me either predicted I would go into labor during the blizzard, or talked about how scared I must be of that happening... While at the store thursday morning we were trying to order a cake for my sister's baby shower, and even the cake lady looked at me with wide eyes and asked when I was due... I said "Tomorrow," and tried to smile and brush it off. She kept persisting with "well what are you going to do if it happens during the storm?" and I said we'd call an ambulance to which she implied that they probably wouldn't be able to get to me... and I began to wonder what the point of this conversation with a complete stranger was... In reality we had researched and printed information on what to do if your baby comes at home, and there was a couple in our neighborhood who had their last baby at home and we would call them, and obviously would call 911 for an ambulance if they could get to us... I have more anxiety looking back now at what it would have been like if any of that had happened than I did in the actual midst of it. God protected my mind with such peace... I knew the timing was in His hands for when our baby girl would come.
Going to bed Thursday night, with my due date and the snow both the next day-almost like they were competing to see which would come first-felt pretty surreal. We talked about the option of taking castor oil again in the morning and hoping it would put me into labor before the snow started. But I just couldn't commit to it... I had sealed in my mind pretty hard that she was going to surprise us and come when she was ready at that point. But I just remember praying... "God, please do something" as I fell asleep... and the way Shaun said goodnight to me, with this excited anticipation, like he knew we were about to meet her. I fell asleep at 11:00. After one hour of sleep, and just after midnight, on her due date, I woke up with a REALLY hard contraction. The intensity that had been lacking the week before was certainly not lacking now. I fell back asleep. A little bit went by and I woke up with another one. After breathing through, I fell asleep again. A fourth one started. At that point I knew I should start timing them. After two or three more I could see the pattern... 5 to 6 minutes apart. I tried to wake Shaun up, and at first couldn't get him awake. I tried to go back to sleep. After another contraction I knew I needed to wake him up. I finally got him awake enough to tell him I thought I was in labor. He was still pretty drowsy, and didn't respond much... until the next contraction started and he heard me breathing through it, at which point he jumped out of bed like a firefighter, turned on all the lights and started throwing his clothes on. I told him to turn the lights off and get back in bed until I was ready to go. Thankfully he didn't listen to me. I debated on whether to call my mom until the next contraction started, at which point I knew things were going fast because of the intensity. I called her and said "Mom, I think I'm in labor." And she hung up on me. I said to Shaun that she hung up on me, but I guessed that meant she was coming. By this point it was about 2:00 in the morning. I managed to get clothes on, the pants were almost impossible, and went to the bathroom to try to get my contacts in before another contraction started. (By that point when they started I would drop down on my knees to try to get through it) In the middle of putting my second contact in another started, and I tried to hold onto the sink to stay standing... In the middle of it my water broke, all over those pants I had just worked so hard to put on.
I got my second contact in, and went down the stairs as fast as I could before another one started, because my next thought was food. I was exhausted and hungry already and knew I should eat something on the way in. I also knew that Shaun has almost passed out during my past labors/deliveries multiple times, so I thought I should get something for him too. With my eyes on the prize of the clementines in the fruit bowl in the far corner of the kitchen, I managed to grab two and had come almost all the way back around the counter when the next contraction hit. I dropped down on my knees and the clementines rolled out of my hands while my focus went to breathing. My mom came in just then, and I whispered, "I can't walk," then started my breathing. Shaun came in from starting the truck to warm up, came around the corner, saw me on the floor and said "WHAT'S HAPPENING??" My mom said "She can't walk." Shaun said "WHY CAN'T SHE WALK?!???!!!" All the while I'm thinking "I'm in labor you idiots of course I can't walk.... SOMEBODY RESCUE THE CLEMENTINES!!" Like reading my mind, I saw my mom hand Shaun the clementines, and I breathed a mental sigh of relief.... The clementines were safe. When that contraction ended I got out to the truck as fast as I could. On the way to the hospital the contractions were still just as intense and regular, but I was able to stay in control. I never did remember that clementine though...
Once we pulled up outside the hospital I hung onto Shaun's arm and felt like I didn't know if I could make it across the parking lot... Then hung onto the receptionist desk breathing through contractions and wondering if I could make it to triage.... finally in triage... once they checked me I found out I was 8 cm. That was around 3 a.m. They took my straight to labor and delivery. Then they started my I.V. Curse that darn I.V.... whenever they start one in the midst of my labor my contractions space way out and get much less intense and it all takes way longer. When the I.V. was finally done I used the birthing ball for awhile, then I got in the jacuzzi tub and kept laboring on my knees as much as I could. I kept waiting for that moment when she would all the sudden drop completely and I would know it was time to push. She felt SO SO low and the contractions were even harder than before, but that moment just wasn't coming... The hours were going by and I was so, so, so tired... absolutely exhausted. I got back in bed around 5:00 a.m. and remembered a conversation Shaun and I had about her coming at 6:30... (our boys were born approx (9:30, 12:30 and 3:30, and we had joked that we just needed a 6:30 baby) I wondered why we had said that and thought I surely couldn't make it like this until 6:30. All during this time Shaun kept feeling faint and having to step out of the room and come back in... I kept telling him to eat the clementine we brought... I vaguely remember seeing him searching for it in the hospital bag and asking me where it was... I never could communicate to him that HE had brought it with us so HE should know where it was... you know, being in labor and all communication is not necessarily at it's strongest. Finally the dr checked me and I was just stuck at 9 cm. She checked again later and realized that I had a second membrane... Basically two water sacs, the first had broken on its own and the second was still intact. Apparently rare but not abnormal. Once she broke the second membrane I finally finished dilating. But that didn't go quite textbook either, as I dilated to 10 everywhere except one edge of my cervix. By that point I felt baby girl SOOOOO low and felt like I needed to push but couldn't, and she wasn't able to get past that point that hadn't dilated yet. I didn't know how much longer I could take it. I could feel myself going in and out of being in control and being out of control of my pain, and the more tired I got the more out of control I felt. Finally the dr said she could try to hold that one edge over during my next contraction and I could try to push her head past. Holy craziest-pain-I-think-I-have-ever-felt. Somehow I did it, and then proceeded to work harder than I had ever had to in the past for every millimeter she budged. They kept telling me to put my chin to my chest while I pushed, but I couldn't hold my head up so Shaun was holding it up for me. My contractions at that point were lasting twice as long as normal, a full two minutes, so instead of pushing 3-4 times with each contraction I was pushing 8 or more times, holding my breath for 10 seconds at a time, and feeling like I was going to pass out, sometimes just hearing myself screaming land feeling like I was listening to someone else. I remember getting to this point where I thought I might die. I mean, I knew I wouldn't, but I just felt like I couldn't get her out, but I knew I had to, and we were just stuck in this place of horrible pain that I couldn't get us out of. Praise the Lord I somehow found that place of control again just at the end and was able to give it everything I had to finally get her all the way out. It was 6:22 a.m. Total pushing time was 17 minutes, but after no sleep and no food and no pain meds it felt so much longer.
They put her on my chest and the weight of her on me and the realization that it was over were the best feeling in the WHOLE. WORLD. Our sweet Havilah Grace was here. Our family felt complete.
After a full hour of skin to skin with her, letting her nurse right away, and getting to look into her beautiful eyes that I had been dreaming of for so long, they took her to weigh her. ( 9 lbs, 8 oz, 21 inches long.) Then Shaun got to hold her for the first time. What a beautiful moment. Once we were all cleaned up and settled in our couplet care room, and once the ability to communicate had again come back to me, I asked Shaun if he was feeling ok now and why he'd never just eaten the clementine. He asked me what clementine I was talking about and I said "the ones that had rolled out of my hands in the kitchen that my mom picked up and handed you and you brought with us." He said "Those? I put them back in the fruit bowl before we left..." Wow....
By about 10:30 or 11:00 Shaun's parents brought the boys up and I will never forget their faces as they came into the room to meet their baby sister. Drew had on his shy face trying not to smile, Isaiah had wide eyes trying to catch his first glimpse of her, and Jaden was just smiling so cutely :) That afternoon was such a sweet time... All four of them were in bed with me at one point, and I was just loving our first interactions as a family of six. The snow started around 5:30 that evening and Shaun left to take Drew Isaiah and Jaden home before it got bad. After hugs and kisses goodbye, knowing I wouldn't see them again until the roads were clear enough for Shaun to come back and get us to take us home, I listened to their little voices fading down the hallway and I sobbed. The room was so quiet. When I got it together again I turned on worship music and snuggled Havilah close, and we watched the snow come down. The whole next day was such precious time soaking in all the time with her. Just us two girls. All their was to do was cuddle and nurse and nap, repeat. She was so beautiful. So perfect. I couldn't get enough of her. Sunday Shaun was able to dig out enough to get to the hospital by the afternoon to take us home. I could not believe all the snow on our drive. Our boys were ECSTATIC to have their baby sister here. And it has been a beautiful chaos of sleep deprived LOVE these last four weeks. I don't quite know how to describe it other than that. It has been so good, and so hard, and so stretching, and so wonderful that I'd never leave this stage if I didn't have to. Even in the hardness... I don't want to just get through it, I want to learn to do this season well. I just love them all so much, and having four babies has filled my heart more full than I knew it could be.