Birth was always something that scared the crap out of me, but having gone through it three times, it’s one of the only things in life that has made me feel strong and superhero-like, and has given me a newfound respect for the human body. Just as each of my three pregnancies were unique to each child, each of my three children came into this world on their own terms and in completely different ways. I have no doubt that I’ll grow old one day and my memory will fade, but ask me about any of my births, and I bet money that I will be able to recall each of them with such detail as if it were yesterday. Some experiences are so riveting that they just stay with you.
As I sit across from my tiny sleeping 10-week old baby, I’m still marveling over the details of her birth over two months ago, still fresh in my mind like yesterday. Stella James is such a beautiful, happy soul. As my third daughter, she’s extremely content and very much loved by her sisters, her parents, and everyone that meets her. She is showered with plenty of attention in our home, she’s got her dad’s heart in the palm of her tiny hand, and the big kids just love her so much. She is our sweet, miracle baby, and we truly can’t imagine life without her. This is her story.
I woke up on February 23rd just as I had been waking up everyday that week: sore, achy, exhausted from my multiple late-night bathroom trips, and with no signs that labor was anywhere near happening. I was 10 days past my “due date,”and I was starting to get nervous about being getting more pressure to schedule an induction.
Two days prior, I had visited Labor and Delivery for a routine non-stress test to ensure that it was safe for baby to stay in put for a while since I had passed on being induced at 41 weeks. Just as I thought, the house doc and nurses were pleased with how good everything looked – amniotic fluid looked great, baby’s heart rate was normal, and she seemed to be thriving.
“You have a very happy baby and she’s definitely going to be a swimmer – you guys better invest in a pool,” the doctor told us. (Hint hint, Marty). We all had a laugh as I walked out of Labor and Delivery, at 41 weeks and 1 day pregnant – the longest I had ever gone with any of my three pregnancies.
At this point, I had been home from work for over a month, and instead of heading out to do some shopping that Monday morning, I decided to take it easy and relax before my acupuncture appointment later that day. I also had an appointment to see my OB, and I was mentally preparing to have the dreaded induction talk again. So I parked it on the couch and turned on some bad reality TV (Confession: It was Teen Mom. Please don’t judge me.)
I’ll spare the details on the next part, but basically when I got up a little later to grab a bite to eat, I noticed some signs that my water had broken. I called Marty, then called my doctor to let her know what was going on. Apparently there was high-five-ing at my OB’s office when I let them know the news, and they advised me to pack up and head to Labor and Delivery. It was finally happening!
It felt so strange packing a bag and thinking I was having a baby that day when I wasn’t in any sort of pain whatsoever. When I had Everly and Milly, I had hours of intense contractions at home before we even thought about going to the hospital so I had a feeling that this was definitely going to be a different experience.
Marty sped home in frantic-mode -as if we hadn’t ever done this before – and I totally gave him the side-eye while he paced the house mumbling about “Stuff to bring..” Duh, it’s packed and by the door, dummy. Yes, I have a clean shirt for you and deodorant. Hello.
We were checked into Labor and Delivery and admitted to our labor room immediately. We relaxed and chatted with our labor nurse as she got everything set up and touched base with my OB over the phone. Since my contractions weren’t really progressing as fast as she was hoping for , we started a low-level pitocin drip to kickstart things. After a few hours of not-so-fun, intense contractions, my OB showed up and checked me. I was 3 cm and it was close to 6 o’clock in the evening. She suggested I get my epidural and said she thought I’d probably deliver around 10 pm.
By the time my pain relief kicked in (Hallelujah!), my family arrived with the girls. As soon as I heard their tiny voices as they entered the quiet room, my emotions got the best of me and things finally became very real. I was going to give them their sister today. As much as I didn’t want them to see me upset, the tears flowed and I couldn’t stop them.
They climbed up on my hospital bed and hugged me, touched my face, wiped my tears away, rubbed my hair. Everly looked around and inspected all of the IVs, the wires, the medical equipment. She was very curious about what was going to happen but we assured her I was in good hands and going to be OK.
I’ll never forget Milly putting her arm around me and telling me, “It’s OK Mommy, don’t worry, you’re gonna be OK.” Her sweet little face in that moment was everything and something forever engrained in mind. Their being by my side was everything to me; they were my angels that day, my light.
As it got closer to the kids’ bedtime, we decided it would be best for them to go get rest and come back first thing in the morning. It was sad to see them and my parents go, but I knew it was for the best, and I didn’t want to keep them out and awake when they were sleepy and starting to get worried about their mom.
Around 9, I called my nurse to check me since I was starting to feel a lot of pressure. When she realized I was 10 cm dilated and fully effaced, she left in a hurry to call my Dr. When she returned shortly afterward, she immediately turned off my Pitocin.
“Dr. K is down the street at St. John’s and just started a C-section, so she told me to have you sit tight and she’ll try to be here in 30 minutes, OK?” Um, OK. Not what I was expecting. I could tell that I was ready to go, but did my best to just try and relax. I was ready to push and my doctor was with another patient, at another hospital?
After about 25 minutes, I was sure my Dr. was not going to make it, but before I could call for the house doc, in she walked with two nurses behind her who immediately started prepping the room for delivery.
“Well alright,” she said with a smirk. “Let’s get this baby out, ok? 10 minutes, how does that sound?” Sounded like a sweet deal to me. (Note: Last time a nurse challenged me to pushing a baby out in 6 minutes, I did in 4 minutes. Refer to Milly’s birth story if you don’t believe it).
Before I could answer her, the nurses and Marty grabbed my legs and that’s when things started to happen very quickly. I gave it everything with that first push. The next part was such a furious, electric blur. I remember being coached to push, then to breathe, breathe, breathe, then “Look at that! She’s got her eyes wide open, Erin! Those eyelashes!” I swear, the room was buzzing, pulsating; all my senses in the moment were so in tune with the fact that there was suddenly new life in the room, one that hadn’t been there a moment before.
I heard Marty’s voice calling me from afar, even though he was right next to me. “Evee, look down! Look down! Look what you just did!” I listened and leaned up and there was the tiniest little head with a full head of hair right within my reach. We all started laughing, and one more push and she was with with us, Earthside at last, at 9:33 pm – just five short minutes since the Dr. arrived.
Before I could ask, she was placed on my chest and once again that familiar weight, the perfect heaviness of one of my own, was imprinted on my soul. It’s one of those unexplainable, magical moments that no words can really describe. She looked right into my eyes and I was so thankful to have her and just so proud. Stella James, I told her, was her name. She was perfect in every way.
We held her there, skin-to-skin, for the longest time. Her eyes were glued to mine as I snuggled her and told her all about her two big sisters that were so excited to meet her. It was so peaceful and calm in the room, just Marty and I, soaking in her sweetness in the dim light.
I’m so grateful that I was able to keep her so close during those first moments, and I’m so grateful that the nurse grabbed Marty’s phone and captured the images in the whirlwind of her being born. Despite it being so late, and our Labor and Delivery nurse working overtime that night, she was in no rush to take her from us and let us enjoy her and soak in her newness. We had no idea what she weighed, how tall she was – we just knew she was healthy and she was ours, here at last.
Hours later, we finally gave her to our labor nurse to be weighed and for her first bath. She was 7 lbs, 15 oz, and 21 inches long. She came into the world with a full head of thick dark hair and piercing blue eyes. At first, we thought she looked just like Milly, but now we see a lot of resemblance to Everly too.
She was born on February 23rd, 10 days past her due date, 2 days after my Mom’s birthday and just 2 1/2 hours shy of being born on my Dad and sister’s birthday. I truly do not believe I was “overdue” and am so happy that she was able to choose her own birthday, just as my other two daughters did.
As we drove home from the hospital two days later to start our life as a family of five, Marty decided to turn on some music. I immediately recognized the song that was playing; it was the same song that was playing in our house when I found out I was pregnant with Stella. Ever since that day, I’ve always known that was Stella’s song, and trust me, I can’t listen to it without tears flowing (thanks postpartum hormones).
I never really knew what my purpose was supposed to be in life until I had children. Although there were plenty of tough times during my three pregnancies, I believe that being able to carry life is a privilege, and I am so incredibly grateful for my three babies and for every moment that I was able to feel them kick and roll in my pregnant belly, as well as every ounce of pain it took to push their perfect little bodies into this world . I feel so lucky that these three special girls chose me to be their Mom and as crazy as things can get sometimes, I love it and wouldn’t trade it for the world. I’m certainly not the best mom in the world and most definitely far from perfect, but I’m their mom and that’s the most important job I’ll ever have.
We love you so much, Stella. You are the perfect addition to our colorful, happy, and sometimes (who am I kidding, most of the time) crazy family. Our three girls’ smiles and shining light make Marty and I better versions of ourselves, and we can’t wait to experience the world and “do life” with them. We hit the jackpot in the awesome kid department, why yes we did. God is pretty amazing.
Stella’s Song – ALO: I Wanna Feel It