WOW it's been an amazing time. We just adore our precious, beautiful baby girl. I could write for hours about everything, and I would like to eventually, but right now I have to do it in chunks. (Keep in mind I'm writing this for my family's sake so you can slog through the details if it gets too dense, but I want us to remember everything about these perfect moments.)
Well, we wouldn't have a baby without labor and delivery, so I'll start there. It might get graphic!
At my 38-week appointment, my doctor started suggesting that we induce because this baby was looking like a big one. I was iffy about it and turned her down, but we thought it over for the next week and decided that if Natalie didn't come on her own by the 1st, we would get her out. Sure enough, she was content to stay inside, so Wednesday morning Austin and I showed up to the hospital at 7:30 AM for the induction. This is the only part of the whole day that I was nervous - as soon as I got into the gown and started medicines, I felt so relaxed. It was like my body knew what was coming and just settled right in, and I've felt that way ever since. It's like a peaceful calm instead of loud excitement.
They broke my water at 9 AM and noticed that I had already started contracting previously, and that I was at 2 cm. The nurse wanted to wait an hour or two to see if the contractions would pick up on their own, but the doctor said, "Nope, we are ready to get this baby out, no wussing around." I started Pitocin (a synthetic version of the hormone that starts and progresses labor) some time before 10 AM, and still felt very calm. I realized that contractions felt like period cramps, which was not what I was expecting. They gradually got stronger and longer, and the breaks in between weren't as relieving because they didn't get down to the same ease where they had started. I still felt like I could handle everything and was actually wondering what all the fuss was about, this wasn't so bad, and then my nurse came in and turned up the dosage by two instead of just one as she had been doing, and all of a sudden I was like yup, this is what they mean by "labor." It was a game of breathing, squeezing eyes shut, wiggling toes until the peak subsided, and drinking water in between contractions.
At around 1:45 I asked the nurse how I was progressing, and she said that I had been contracting every 1-3 minutes for a few hours and everything looked good. I asked her to check my cervix, because if we were getting close to having the baby then I would forego the epidural, but otherwise I needed to have it. I was only at 4-5 cm, so I said bring on the meds, and not one minute too soon. My body was losing focus after 5 hours of strong contractions, and I wasn't enjoying the experience anymore. I had to wait til almost 3 to have the medicine, but I dilated more during that time so it was at least productive. The anesthesiologist who did my epidural was a pro - I didn't experience any of the negative things I've heard about epidurals, and got all the positives. My legs never got close to fully numb, so I could still move; I couldn't feel the pain of the contractions; I was able to sleep; and when it came time I was starting to feel the contractions again a little bit which let me know when to push. It was perfect, and I am totally pro-epidural (at least by this doctor!).
We watched the Olympics all day (GREAT timing to have a baby) and napping on and off. I was progressing regularly but pretty slowly, and then all of a sudden I moved from 7 cm to almost 10 within an hour, and everyone made preparations to have this baby (this was around 7:30). It was a little overwhelming because everything had been so slow up to this point and now it was fast-paced and exciting. I still felt that peaceful calm though, and I wasn't nervous. They had me start pushing around 8PM, and they said I was doing everything the right way. Austin and I both felt the baby's head and couldn't believe she was so close - it was a really special moment. I put my head down and attacked the pushing, and by 9:06 our sweet baby was born.
When I first saw our daughter, I think my first thought was "oh my gosh, she's so big!" and then "holy cow, she's here, and she's ours." Tears started pouring down my face as I realized how amazing it was that this little child was now a part of our family, and we were responsible for such a perfect, lovely being. Indescribable. She was 21 inches long and weighed 8 pounds, 8.8 ounces...too bad she wasn't born on the 8th of August! She had beautiful red skin and sweetheart lips and dark dark hair. We were in love.
Natalie had some trouble breathing initially, so they assessed her in the delivery room while I got cleaned (and stitched...her cheeks were too big!) up. Austin watched over her but came over every once in a while to kiss me and share smiles. We didn't really need to talk - we were just soaking up the moment. Her breathing was still not where they wanted it to be, so they let me hold her for a few minutes and then took her to the nursery to have some oxygen. I wasn't worried - no one was frantic and the spirit was so strong and I knew we were being watched over.
Then, all of a sudden, everything was over. I was sitting up in a hospital bed with a full moon peeking in the windows and no one else in the room. Austin went with Natalie and I guess the nurses and doctors figured I was fine by myself. It was a good time to ponder and process and just be. I wasn't exhausted, in pain, or worried; I still had that calm demeanor that hasn't gone away even now.
Eventually they transferred me to the recovery room and then wheeled me over to see my baby and my husband in the nursery. She was lying under an oxygen hood and looked full and beautiful and content. We were just so enamored, even though we couldn't hold her. Her blood oxygen level never plummeted, but when they took her off the oxygen it just slowly crept down to levels that they were a little worried about, but she got the okay to come back to our room to have her first feeding and spend some time with us.
Natalie Jane is just so wonderful. She's bright-eyed and curious and vigorous and sweet. She loves having her hands up by her face and being cozy on our chests. She doesn't cry very much and sleeps well, and is eating enough to feed Morocco! (She gained 3 ounces in one day, haha.) We are so so so grateful for her and for our family and for Heavenly Father who sent this daughter to us.
(Stay tuned for what happens next...)