Tender Mercies in our Birth Story
Timing was perfect. It was honestly miraculous. I had gone to a doctor's appointment and non-stress test earlier on Tuesday, Sept. 20. This entire pregnancy I have been less than thrilled with my medical experiences with Kaiser. Luckily, towards the end, I did eventually find a doctor I kinda liked, but even she had differing opinions at times and would say things that would make me feel judged. I left that appointment that day with an unpleasant feeling, and I told Andrew when I returned home, "I really don't want to go back to another doctor's appointment next week. I think we should have this baby this week."
And heaven must have heard my plea because that night at 11:35pm contractions started. They were about an hour apart and I was able to sleep between them. Then at around 2am they started getting closer. By 3am, I was sure we were having a baby that day, so I woke up Andrew.
Another timing miracle happened when I then called my parents to tell them to come over. I called my mom and she didn't answer, and a pit grew in my stomach as I imagined her sleeping beside her silent phone and not receiving the notification in time. I then proceeded to call my dad, and he answered! HALLELUJA! He often wakes up in the middle of the night, and luckily he was just trying to get back to sleep when he heard the buzz of my phone call. Honestly, it was a miracle. Notified of my labor pains, my parents quickly dressed and started driving over to my house. They arrived a little after 4am and my mom was able to witness Harper's birth (the first time she has been able to make it to the delivery of one of my babies).
Heaven was clearly aware of my hopes, and God planned a way to make them happen.
News Flash: Labor is not easy.
I had learned about relaxation techniques and pain management ideas from a class I took (see Resources below for more details). I had practiced breath work, meditation, calming visualizations, and positive affirmations. Even so, it was difficult to put it all into practice in the moment.
But heaven sent a few other tender mercies to help me deal with labor:
- When we first got into the car to drive to the hospital, a Christian station was playing the song "I Can Only Imagine". I love this song, but it took on a new meaning as I started to imagine meeting my new little baby so soon. It was a beautiful thing to visualize.
- Then, as the car ride continued, my foot started cramping. Now this may seem like a cruel joke to have a foot cramp on top of contractions, but surprisingly the discomfort in my foot was an effective distraction to split my attention.
- Speaking of music, I had made two playlists for labor: a birth party mix to dance to if labor stalled and I needed to move my body, and a relaxation mix. Once I was admitted and Andrew and my mom were allowed to come to the room, Andrew put on music. I was expecting him to put the relaxation mix, but I guess he didn't see it, so he put on the birth party mix. At first I thought I'd be annoyed with the upbeat music, but I actually found the beat and lyrics to be a nice distraction in between contractions. It was a surprising blessing.
- I have had terrible luck finding a provider that I like through Kaiser. I've finally found a decent doctor in my third trimester, but it all made me feel really anxious that hospital staff would be pushy about their policies and that I would have to fight for the birth story I wanted. Miraculously, the labor/delivery hospital staff were (for the most part) very respectful of my wishes (there were still some yucky moments, but I will have to give details about those in a different post). The room was quiet as I listened to my body and labored mostly on my own (up until the last 2 pushes when Harper's shoulder got a little stuck).
- And when Harper did get stuck, I am grateful for a skilled midwife who helped rotate her and get her out.
- During labor, a wet washcloth was my best friend. I had packed a ton of supplies (rice packs, a fan, affirmation cards, etc), not knowing what tool I would want to use. Cold water on my head and back of my neck was the one thing I really wanted. Oh, and gripping tightly onto Andrew's hand.
- Speaking of Andrew, he was an amazing support to me: a rock of calm and encouragement through the contractions. Once again I am so glad I married such an amazing man who stands right by my side through it all.
- And then meeting Harper for the first time filled me with so many sweet emotions. It was truly love at first sight. I loved holding her and relishing in the calm after the craziness of labor.
The preparation for this birth was really empowering. I learned so much: about my my body, about baby's experience in labor, about God's perfect planning, about my mental ability.
I bought a course: Pain Free Birth- can't say enough good things about it! It's a Christian-based natural birth course that taught me so much!
I also listened to a podcast: My Essential Birth. This podcast is AMAZING! So many great topics that help moms be informed and prepared. From labor positions to informed vaccine choices, from the importance of the golden hour to how to find breastfeeding support. Even after having had a baby, I still enjoy listening and learning from this podcast.
Third baby is different.
You're not so obsessed with weekly updates on how big baby is compared to an obscure vegetable. You don't have to spend hours researching the best car seat, stroller, bottles, or myriad of other baby gadgets, and that also means you don't create an elaborate baby registry. You're time with your other two "babies" (who happen to be 3 and 4 years old now) fills your day as you cart them around to the beach, museums, parks, grocery stores, and Grammy's house, so you hardly have time to think about all the baby prep you should probably be doing.
So here we are at 37 weeks gestation (full term!), and I am finally writing down some thoughts about this pregnancy. With Grace, my first baby, I wrote weekly blurbs and posted them by trimester. I wasn't nearly as diligent in my second pregnancy with Madelyn, but I do think I wrote a few updates throughout the 9 months. But Baby Macey #3 has gotten the short end of the stick when it comes to recording the ups and downs, dreams and fears, and crazy moments of this pregnancy. I think that is just what comes of being my third rodeo.
The first people I told were actually my daughters, Grace and Madelyn. I went straight from the positive pregnancy test in the bathroom to the living room couch where I brought my girls close to me and told them, "Mommy has a baby in her tummy!" Grace's eyes got all big and she squealed with delight. I'm pretty sure Maddy was like ,"Cool," and then went back to playing. So when Andrew came home, I had to restrain Grace from screaming it as he ascended the stairs. He sat down and I gave her permission to tell him the news. He was so excited! And Grace continued to love telling everyone she met that Mommy was expecting a baby. The news got out quick (but I don't really believe in waiting for a later date to tell anyway).
First trimester was ROUGH. I was sick a lot, even more than my other two pregnancies. It felt different, so Andrew and I were sure we were pregnant with a baby boy. Surprise, surprise, around week 16 we went to a gender reveal ultrasound and found out that baby would be another girl! We were honestly shocked. But Grace and Madelyn are thrilled to welcome a little sister to the family. They touch my belly daily and tell the baby how much they already love her. It is really tender.
Baby is a wiggly worm. When she is awake, I sometimes rub some peppermint oil on my tummy (to help with heartburn) and she will go crazy! It's like she is on a roller coaster in my belly. Grace has been able to see and feel her move a few times, and her eyes get all big as she realizes that Mommy really does have a baby in her tummy! I think it has helped make it even more real for her.
Unmedicated Labor Prep
So another way this pregnancy has been different has been in my preparation for actual delivery. I may not have spent hours researching baby products, but I have definitely spent even more hours researching and reading about natural birth.
I feel so empowered and knowledgeable. I took an online class (its called Pain Free Birth), which happened to be gears towards Christians. It was really cool to learn about how women's bodies work in pregnancy and labor to help get out babies earthbound, and it was even more meaningful to see all of that through the lens of God's perfect creation and plan for us. I have also learned a ton about different birth options, and I even had a few weeks where I looked seriously into home births with a midwife (unfortunately, it wasn't a good fit for us this pregnancy for a few reasons, but if we get pregnant again Andrew and I would highly consider it). I've learned about popular hospital policies, informed consent, vaccines, breathing and relaxation techniques, birthing positions, the changes in my body during each stage of labor, and so much more. Am I still nervous about facing an unmedicated birth? Yep. But am I also full of faith and excitement and power from all the things I have learned in the past few months. HECK YES!
I asked some of my family members to pray and fast for my upcoming labor and delivery: that my and my baby's bodies would work properly, that the medical staff could be supportive and helpful, that my birth team could feel guided as they help me navigate through the experience. My mom commented, "You seem more anxious about this birth. You have never asked me to fast for your birth before." I thought about it and replied, "I'm not more anxious. I think I am more aware of how much I need heaven's help in this process. In my studying, I know there is a point in labor close to when baby will be born where it will be really intense. I might feel like I want to give up or that I can't do it. I know that that is the moment where I need to give it all to Heavenly Father and rely on Him to pull me through. I can only do so much to prepare, but in the end I will need to put it all in His hands. That is a powerful and humbling thought. So this pregnancy I am trying to be more prayerful and in tune with the Spirit's guidance as I prepare for labor."
So here I am at 37 weeks. I had barely started packing my hospital bag, but today I felt some contractions and it pushed my butt in gear. I spent the whole day prepping freezer meals and throwing needed supplies for the hospital into a suitcase. I still have a ton I could do (and should do) before baby arrives, but honestly she can come any time and I'd be fine.
Although, Andrew and I are supposed to go the the Imagine Dragons concert next week, and a baby coming before that would definitely create a snag in that plan. haha.
Weebly (my blog host site) is on my shiz list right now. There are multiple posts I have written almost to completion and then they suddenly disappear. I've also had problems with pictures not pulling up on the correct posts. Unfortunately, this post about our trip to Big Bear is one that was erased...so now, a few weeks after the fact, I am going to try and recreate memory to the best of my abilities.
Old Memories and New
My parents are super generous and rented a cabin in the mountains this year for a family vacation. It was Andrew's first time visiting Big Bear, but for me and my brothers it was a nostalgic trip. Growing up, my Nama and Granddaddy owned a cabin in Big Bear. I have memories of driving up the windy roads, getting carsick almost every time, and feeling the relief of seeing the driveway and finally escaping the car. Then our time would be spent skiing, playing in the snow, and drinking hot chocolate in the winter. During the summer, we'd take walks around the neighborhood, float in a canoe on the lake, and laze around outside. Big Bear trips always included a visit to the Bowling Barn, the local zoo, and some attempts at hitting golf balls at the driving range.
So it was fun to bring my little family up to Big Bear and mix the old memories with a new generation. I loved seeing the kids playing together as cousins.
Some of our adventures included:
It has been an eventful 2 weeks.
Ben and Olivia and their 3 kids came to visit us for a week. The day after they left, Matt and April and their 4 kids came to visit for the next week. It has been 2 full weeks of a full house, fun adventures, late-night chats, and bonding- time with cousins.
The biggest take-away is that my kids LOVE their cousins and they LOVE the beach.
First, Ben and Liv came. We had a great few days at the beach, and then they spent a few days as a family at Disneyland. Our passes dont work during the summer (plus the hot weather does not make amusement parks look very tempting to me), so we weren't able to join them. But we still had some great bonding time. One night after the kids were in bed, we asked Amazon Alexa to play top hits from random years (birth years, teenage years, year we got married, etc) and rated who had the best year. It was silly but fun. I enjoy those random conversations that really only happen when you spend late nights together.
Then the following week, Matt and April and their 4 kids came to visit. This is the second time they have come, and it was just as fun.
We went to the beach one day. The big take-away from that beach day: Matt and April's kids hate the sand. hahaha. Oh my goodness, you would not believe the drama and belly aching just because of a little sand in their bathing suits. I guess the beach is sometimes an acquired taste.
We celebrated the 4th of July with a pancake breakfast at church and then a pool day at my parent's house. On another day, we explored the Natural History Museum. Matt and April and their kids went to the Funko Pop store and loved it (a phenomenon that I just don't understand, but whatever).
We are so grateful that we have had almost all of Andrew's family come visit us in California. It is a unique time in our lives, so I am glad everyone put the effort to visit and glimpse our current home/situation. I know it means a lot to Andrew too.
We love having family come stay with us. It is stressful (mostly because we don't have a ton of room and I always feel bad offering an air mattress crammed into our office space as their lodging), but the time is also always full of fun and new memories.
This last week, Andrew's brother, Jeremy; his wife, Stacey; and their two kids, Clara and Truman, stayed with us. It was so fun! Even now, just 24 hours after they have left, Grace tells me that she wishes she could play with her cousins again. She says that her favorite part was playing make believe princesses with Clara.
We started the visit off with a sketchy experience in downtown Los Angeles. We went to Milk Bar (spoiler: don't waste your time; it's not good). Then we went to Olvera Street. While there, Jeremy and Stacey noticed this sketchy guy totally following us. I noticed him a little while later. He was clearly following us, and would especially get close when the kids were out of the strollers and walking on their own. This guy definitely gave us all the creeps. Stacey saw a security guard and told him about her suspicion. The guards and we were able to eat some dinner, but the mood was already tense and we were all just ready to go back to the safety of our home.
The next day called for a bit of relaxation. Stacey and I went to a Mother's Brunch hosted by one of my friends. It was a fun few hours to sit with new friends, eat delicious food, and chat and laugh the morning away. When we returned, it was time to go to my parents' house to use their pool. The beautiful 82 degree weather and my parents' gorgeous backyard was the perfect setting for some relaxation. I was especially happy to see my kids practicing the swim skills they have mastered after a year of swim classes. After enjoying the pool, the kids played on the trampoline and ran through the grass as the adults sat on the swing and chatted. It was a truly lovely evening.
On Sunday we went to church and then took a trip to the beach.
And then the sickness hit...throw up, diarrhea, and lots of interrupted sleep. We had been planning on visiting the Natural History Museum, but instead we just stayed home and remained close to the toilets. Luckily, Andrew, Jeremy, and I remained untouched by whatever plagued the rest of the house. Definitely not an experience you plan on for vacation.
We celebrated Jeremy's 40th birthday by going to Disneyland for the day. After the germs of the day before, I wasn't sure we would make it. But we packed up extra clothes and went with high hopes. And surprisingly, the day went smoothly. One of my favorite parts was meeting Tinkerbell. We waited about 20 minutes (which I am usually not a huge fan of character meet and greets), and then entered Pixie Hollow. Tink was so fun and engaging to talk to. Grace even asked Tinkerbell if she had recently see her sister, Periwinkle. Since Grace went through a fairy stage, this meet and greet was truly magical. We then went on a few rides and then had a lunch fiasco (long story short, what was supposed to be an easy lunch turned into an almost 3-hour ordeal). We finally ate our food and were gifted a few Lighting Lanes/Fast Passes for our troubles. Then some good karma helped us get through a couple of other lines much quicker than expected. We ended the day eating ice cream on Disney's Main Street and leaving with some great (and not-so-great memories). An eventful day at Disneyland.
I am so glad Jeremy and Stacey and their family came down to visit us. I miss my Utah family soooo much, so I truly do cherish the moments I do get to spend with them. This was a week to remember.
Andrew and Maichael
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