Nothing sends a pregnant lady into a frenzy quite like hearing, "I have no clue how or why you are still pregnant." Those were the words of Mrs. Punch, my midwife, on January 18, 2017 at my 39 week check up. I was already 6-7 cm dilated, but the active labor contractions I needed to get you here just were not coming. She bet you would be with us by the end of the day, but she gave me the option to induce early the next morning if not.
Your big sister's birth included an induction, an epidural, and one entirely healthy baby girl. The experience was, and still is, perfection to me. I would not change a single thing about it. This time around, with your Daddy safe on American soil and my mind in a bit of a better place, I was very curious to see if I could handle a natural birth. The induction option was so tempting, but I was still fixated on possibly finding out what it felt like to let my body do 100% of the work this time.
It was a beautiful, sunny day. I came home to share the exciting but frustrating news with Grandma Sue and Eloise. Prior to this point, I had already spent an evening trying to start labor by eating an entire pineapple and bouncing on my exercise ball while watching the movie Bad Moms. It was a comical night with Grandma and Daddy that I will remember fondly thinking back to the days before you arrived. The only outcome was a few false alarm contractions and a completely numb mouth. Silly! We had not been able to get out and walk much due to a big ice storm that hit Missouri the weekend before, so Grandma, Eloise, Ruby and I set out in the sun that afternoon with a plan to get you here. Our route included a steep uphill climb that we now lovingly call labor hill. I think it was what did the trick. Contractions began as soon as we started to prepare dinner. They got consistently closer in frequency while we ate but were not getting any stronger. After enjoying Nana's chicken enchiladas recipe with a side of spicy salsa and black bean jalapeno hummus (also what may have helped you decide to come out), I called labor and delivery to explain what I was feeling. The nurse told us to come immediately and have a baby!
The last big sister hugs and kisses (note slobber stain) with the bump
The next few hours my contractions got much stronger. Daddy got a card game out to play to pass the time, but we did not even get through the first round before I wasn't able to focus on anything but surviving each contraction. I enjoyed moving around the room and trying different positions for pain relief. Standing facing Daddy with my forehead resting on his chest and my thumbs hooked through the belt loops of his jeans brought me the most comfort. He held me close and we rocked back and forth until each contraction subsided. I cannot tell you how special it was to have his physical support this time. He was truly an incredible coach.
It was probably around midnight when Dana came in and asked if I wanted an epidural. In that moment, I was feeling really proud of how well we had been working as a team. I felt strong and determined, so I said no to the epidural. I hadn't necessarily ruled it out, and I was blissfully unaware of what was right around the corner. All at once you decided it was time to come out. At 1 am I was 8 cm dilated. Dana cheerfully and casually walked out of the room as she said, "I bet we'll have a baby in a few hours!" But I knew you were in much more of a rush than that. Within minutes of her departure I was begging Daddy to run into the hallway and bring back help immediately. I was literally crossing my legs to keep from pushing! I was honestly afraid you were going to be born with just Daddy in the room. My instincts were validated after I was checked. Dana went running and shouting for help.
A flood of medical staff came swarming in, very quickly setting up for delivery. The doctor who delivered you, MAJ Grant, introduced herself to us quickly. I did not have any time to feel disappointed that my beloved midwife, who would be on call for deliveries in just a few hours, would not get to be there. I never, ever imagined any of my deliveries would resemble one of those classic movie scenes full of over the top drama. No way would I be one of those women who screams at the top of her lungs and seems completely out of control. But Harvey, Mommy was out of control! My legs were flailing uncontrollably and unconsciously as I was screaming and crying out in pain. I was a total mess. One of our favorite memories that we laugh about now was how many times I looked at Daddy and cried, "I made a terrible mistake!" regarding turning down the epidural. The pain was unlike anything words could ever portray. Luckily for me, MAJ Grant jumped into Army mode as Daddy called it afterwards. She quite literally yelled at me and told me I needed to regain my composure and focus on what I needed to accomplish. It might sound harsh, but it was exactly what I needed to hear at exactly the moment I needed to hear it. I slowed my thoughts and my breathing and focused on two things: Daddy's eyes just a few inches away, locked in on mine and the music playing in the background. I had built a birth playlist earlier that week, and as the chaos of the moment rushed around me, I was soothed by the Beatles singing "Here Comes the Sun." Once I had achieved the calm MAJ Grant required of me, she told me to push hard with the next contraction. One push later, at 1:15 am your beautiful life with us began. I kid you not, Ray LaMontagne's "Hold You in my Arms" played as all 8 pounds 1 ounce and 20.5 inches of you were placed on my belly. You cried your first tears as I watched Daddy cry tears of joy. It was such a rush of relief and an ideal moment.
I wish I could say the next span of time was just as beautiful, but if I am being honest, it was difficult. My body went into shock from such an intense and fast labor. My blood pressure dropped and I was very dizzy. You had an abnormally short umbilical cord that actually prevented you from being placed on my chest. You only reached to my stomach, which felt awkward and uncomfortable to me. I was shaking and shivering and just felt really out of it. The only bright moment that I can recall during this initial recovery was watching your Daddy. He cries very rarely. I always give him a hard time because I thought for sure he would cry happy tears at our wedding. He did not cry when your sister was born either, probably because he felt so removed from the experience watching it unfold from half a world away. Even he wasn't sure if he would cry meeting you. But he did! It seems like such a silly thing to celebrate, but seeing his eyes fill with tears and the smile spread across his entire face as he first saw you will probably be one of the highlights of my life forever. Enduring Eloise's birth and first six months without him was almost unbearable, but seeing him take you into his arms for the first time made it all worth the wait. It truly wiped away so much of the anger I had been holding onto. That deployment was no longer allowed to steal any more joy from our family!
Harvey Preston, you are the perfect addition to our family. We cannot wait to see what big things you will do. Wherever you go and whatever you do, I know you will do it with a bold spirit, strength and gusto as exhibited by your memorable birth! You are so loved.