You can find part one of this story here.
I was disappointed and mentally exhausted. The idea of being sent home brought me to tears. It was a 40 minute drive back to our house. I was already in so much pain from the contractions that were coming every few minutes. I couldn't imagine laboring like this in the car. I begged them to let me stay.
I really have to credit how the nurses and midwives helped me work through the ‘loopholes’ to help me have the birth I wanted. As I wasn’t dilated very far, they didn’t want to officially admit me yet because then I’d sort of be on the hospital's timeline for delivery. But at the same time, they wanted to honor my request to let me try to see if I actually could progress soon enough to be able to stay.
I kept telling Jonathan at this point--through many more tears--how tired I was. “I just want to go to sleep!” I said it over and over. I wasn't just worn out, it felt like some sort of primal nudging. You. need. to. sleep. I realize now that it was my body screaming at me to just relax. I was tensing up against the labor process and that’s why I wasn’t dilating like I needed to. Eventually, my knowledgable midwives suggested I take a sleeping pill. I resisted the idea at first because I have a history of weird reactions to medication. The last thing I wanted was to be extra sick during my daughter’s delivery. But after some convincing, I agreed to take the sleeping pill. It was exactly what I needed. I miraculously was able to get semi comfortable and not exactly sleep but definitely rest. I asked Jonathan to text everyone asking them pray that I would progress soon.
After an hour had passed the contractions had gotten much more intense. It was unfortunately, all back labor. The only thing that remotely relieved it was for Jonathan or a nurse to apply pressure to my back while the contraction worked through my body. I was now getting vocal and very restless. Letting out lots of low groaning sounds somehow helped get my mind off how intense the pain was becoming.
A nurse finally came in to check me and with great excitement told me that, “Oh, you get to stay! You’re at five centimeters!” I was so thankful to Jesus and proud of how far I'd come in such a short amount of time. More tears and a few “this is happening” moments. And really, all I could think about was the epidural I’d been holding out for.
My birth plan from the beginning was exactly what it had been with Behr: Go as long as I possibly could without any pain medication and get the epidural if I felt like I needed it. I’ll probably share more about this later but, I’m so happy and thankful that I got an epidural both times I gave birth. Receiving the epidural allowed me to be calm and fully present the moment my babies were born. Which is exactly what my heart yearned for all along.
And so I was admitted and wheeled into a bright room on the labor and delivery floor. With Behr, I labored through the night and with Scout I labored in the day. I love how different their birth stories are. And, being a photographer, I was not-so-secretly excited to be in a room full of natural light when we met our daughter.
At this point I felt the same way I had when birthing Behr: as if I were trapped behind a clear, solid wall of pain. I could see Jonathan but I couldn’t connect with him or the birthing experience like I'd was hoping I would. The contractions were too strong and too close together for me to think about anything else. The pain in my lower back was magnificently intense. I couldn't believe my body was capable of producing that strong of a sensation. It started at the base of my spine and cascaded over my hips with the pressure of a thundering waterfall. I was very vocal now, lots of loud, low moaning. The only thing that got me through was squeezing Jonathan’s hand like it was my life line (it was) and the wonderful labor and delivery nurses applying constant counter pressure to my lower back.
After an agonizing wait which included a poor nurse blowing out a vein in my right arm and waiting for blood work results, they administered the epidural. That in itself was an ordeal. Being in that much pain and having to sit upright and hold completely still was so hard. But once the epidural began to take effect I was able to catch my breath and wrap my mind around what was happening. Our girl is coming! This is her Birth Day!
I could still feel the contractions but, of course, now they had lost their intensity. I wanted to keep it that way because of the way it had been with Behr. With him, I had virtually no feeling below my waist and I believe that's some of the reason I ended up pushing for two hours (that, and his head was huge. Sorry, bud). This time around I asked them to not completely numb me and it helped in the long run.
By this time our friend and incredible photographer, Lauren, had arrived and we were all settling in to wait for Scout to make her debut.
They had me try a few different positions to see if it would help Scout move into a more engaging position but mostly I rested during this time and allowed my body to do what it needed to do.
This is birth. A marathon of big emotions and hard work. I love how beautifully and accurately Lauren captured it all.
Eventually they came in to sit me upright to try and get Scout to drop further into the birth canal. I only stayed like that for a short amount of time. And apparently she didn't like it too much because her heart rate dipped a little. They immediately caught that and helped me change positions again.
This is when everything sped up. My midwives came back in for a pep talk and another cervix check. I was fully dilated and my waters broke during that final check. The room suddenly flurried with activity. Two midwives in birthing gear, more nurses, blankets being laid out and "here we go, mama!" being said in various ways.
Looking back, I see that everyone knew she was coming soon, except me. I felt a bit weird and distant. I think because I was expecting it to go exactly like Behr's birth. At this point with him, it was another long, excruciating, energy-depleting two hours before he was born. So mentally with Scout's birth I was preparing for the hardest part of the delivery. In my head I was saying things like, "Ok, I know you're tired but you've got to muster enough strength to get through the hardest part. You'll probably see your baby in about two hours from now."
So, you see, I wasn't in the "I'm about to hold my baby!" headspace. I was actually trying to check out from that feeling so I wouldn't get discouraged about how long I knew this was going to take.
They told me it was ok to push, so I did (two times, maybe?) It wasn't painful and I wasn't sure I was doing it right but I could feel what I was doing "down there", which is what I wanted. After those pushes, Kelly, the midwife who was my biggest cheerleader and encourager throughout my pregnancy, was ecstatic. She had the biggest grin on her face because she knew I was almost done. Jonathan was smiling and happy crying and I felt like saying, "No. Stop being excited, guys. We've still got a long ways to go."
That's when they told me to reach down and feel her head.
Instant tears of relief. I could feel her! Her tiny, soft head was right there just waiting to be pushed out. I could not believe that I was so close to this all being over so quickly. I asked them to help me count down my breaths through the next two pushes. I knew what I was doing now.
And then the final contraction. Deep breath. Hold it. Push out. Gently, gently, gently.
Nine months of physical, mental, and emotional suffering. Nine months of begging God to just get us through. Nine of the hardest months I'd ever gone through in my life that brought me to this.
The moment we met our girl.
The second she slipped from my body and I wrapped my hands around her, I broke into happy, gulping, relieved sobs. It was over! Hallelujah! Praise You God! It was glorius and holy; woven all about with Jesus-sent heavenly joy.
I've never been more sharply aware or present for something than when my babies were placed in my arms. At any moment, I can recall it both times with perfect clarity. The warmth of their slippery, wrinkled skin. Their pitiful, full-of-life cries. The proud, in-love shimmer in Jonathan's eyes.
I imagine it's what entering Heaven will be like. When every hardship dissolves into a distant, foggy recalling and is replaced by the one thing you've been yearning and hoping for from before you even knew what it could possibly feel like.
They took her to the warming station to my left to clean her up and so Jonathan could put on her first diaper. I don't remember much from this time. I was kind of in an exhausted, euphoric mental haze. I just remember a bright sort of happiness permeating the room. She's here! She's here!
I can recall when they brought her back to try breastfeeding for the first time vividly. The weight of her tiny body in the crook of my arm. Both of us nestling in. She latched on my left side and I finally, really exhaled for the first time in what felt like a year.
We were all ok. We were all together. At last.
"And all I feel in my stomach is butterflies the beautiful kind
Making up for lost time, taking flight, making me feel like...I just want to know you better now".
Everything Has Changed, Taylor Swift
Each time our babies were born, we only wanted ourselves and medical staff in the room. Everyone feels differently about this but, for us, it's important to experience those first moments with our new baby alone. I'm so grateful for family on both sides that respect and support this.
After awhile, Jonathan's parents arrived with Behr. I wasn't sure how he'd react, but it was sweeter than I could have imagined. Once again, Lauren captured it all perfectly with these images.
When Behr met Scout. I'll let the pictures tell the story.
How can I sum up the glory of her birth in words? I'll never be able to convey it in a way that does it full justice. But I'm honored to 'treasure it all up in my heart'. I think that's one of the sweetest joys of motherhood. There are things--big and small--that I've experienced with my babies that no one else can fully understand. Birth is one of those things. All I can say that each time I recall that day in June, I will remain forever grateful for how it all unfolded.
(side note: the baby stork is the same one my Uncle Jeff sent to the hospital the day I was born. I brought it with us when both Behr and Scout were born. I can't get over how precious of an heirloom it is.)
Isn't she beautiful?
And so at 4:20pm on June 26th, 2017 we brought Scout Lucy Arrow into the world. She was the light waiting for us at the end of a long, dark road. The heaven-writ purpose for all the suffering we endured. I can't wait to tell her--to look in her eyes--and say, "You were worth every bit of it, sweet girl."
We love you so, little one.
All images in this post are from the amazing Lauren Smith who we can't recommend enough to document your story. You won't regret working with her!