Clara's Birth Story

From the very beginning, my due date was a thing of mystery. At my first OB appointment, I went in thinking that I should be due January 9th. But they took one look at my ultrasound and said, “Nope, you’re due the 18th.” I was pretty confused at how I could be so off, and I immediately told myself they were wrong (because I’m just a know it all like that).

As the months continued though, they consistently said she was measuring right on track for the date they had first given me. Maybe a few days ahead of their schedule, but they dismissed that and stuck to their date.

I could just tell that she wasn’t going to wait til the 18th. So as January approached, I made sure that I would be ready whether she came two weeks late at the end of the month, or two weeks early at the beginning of the month.

On Sunday the 7th we had been invited to my parents’ house for dinner because my Texan Uncle and his new bride were in town to celebrate my Grandma’s birthday. As we started the short drive towards their house, we stopped at the newest reno home Christian’s parents had just purchased. I walked around the dark, musty dump-of-a-house having flashbacks to being super pregnant with Peter while first walking through our own fixer upper. I can’t tell you how grateful I was that we were going to be able to take our baby girl home to that same house - now completed - and be a family in our own place. I can’t tell you how glad I was that we wouldn’t have the stress of a year’s worth of work hanging over our heads this time. I can’t tell you how moving it was to me that Christian would actually get to be there in the early months of this little girl’s life.

With those thoughts still swimming around my head, we loaded back into our car and continued towards my parents’ house.

I felt a contraction. Before we could reach the next major intersection, I felt another. And then another. I glanced at Christian, “This could be it.”

It was only 4 o’ clock in the afternoon, and after saying our hello’s, I told my mom about the contractions that were still coming.

“We better order that pizza!” my Grandma said nervously, “You might have to go have a baby tonight!”

This amused me because the night I went into labor with Peter, Christian’s Grammy had told me to hurry up and finish making the pizza I was cooking for dinner because she didn’t want me to “have a baby in the kitchen!” Pizza and babies were becoming a thing.

“No,” I laughed as I returned to the present, “I want to have her tomorrow! Then her birthday would be one eight one eight! (1-8-18).”

But the contractions didn’t let up, and my mom handed me a piece of paper and a pen. “So you can keep track,” she explained.

Every four minutes they came. The pizza was ordered and while my dad was off getting it, I bounced on my mom’s exercise ball. Or at least, I attempted to. I ended up having to take turns with my four-year-old sister and Peter.

We ate and celebrated my Grandma’s birthday, and all the while my mom and Christian were studying my face. Finally, I looked at them; “STOP TRYING TO READ ME.” I knew that out of all the people in the world, they were the ones who would be able to see my pain the easiest, and I just wasn’t ready to have this baby yet. They laughed with guilty faces, but continued monitoring me and communicating with each other with silent nods and pointing at invisible watches… at least, that’s how it seemed to me in my state of paranoia.

By the time we got home from the celebration, it was about 8pm and I told Christian we should probably finish packing. “JUST in case,” I said. I hurried around the house throwing last minute things into our bags and packing Peter’s backpack and making sure I hadn’t forgot anything.Christian hurried around the house doing nothing and looking concerned. Suddenly, a contraction came that I couldn’t talk through. I was doubled over and breathing hard. Another one followed. And another one.

“Call… your… mom!” I panted.

Peter was still up, and I wanted to get him in bed before my mother-in-law got here or he would be too excited to go to sleep. 

I carried him into his room and paused at the side of the crib. The tears were coming in hot as I held him close to me. The last time he would be my only baby. The last time it would be just him and I. His world was about to change. I worried that it would be hard for him. I worried about him missing me while I was at the hospital. But I kissed him and blessed him and cried a little bit more and laid him down to sleep.

Christian’s mom was in the kitchen when I finally came out. I stood at the kitchen island doing squats between contractions and explained to her how I was hesitant to go in right away. I knew what heavy labor felt like, and I just didn’t think I was there QUITE yet. Basically, I was second guessing myself.

“Why don’t we try to get a little sleep?” I said to Christian. I made sure his mom was set up for the night before crawling into bed myself. I was still fully dressed because I doubted we would make it the whole night. As I started to get comfortable, the contractions that had lasted for six hours now ceased. Stopped. They were gone.

I moaned and tears filled my eyes. Christian had already told his boss he wouldn’t be able to go work in Indiana the next day because I was going into labor. My mother-in-law was already here on our couch. I had said my goodbyes to Peter boy. And ta-da, the contractions were vanished. I told Christian and said that he might as well tell his mom to go home and sleep in her bed.

I cried myself to sleep that night, woke with a contraction or two, and cried myself awake the next morning.

“Don’t cry,” my practical and kind husband encouraged, “They’ll probably start again the moment you get up.”

And they did. Every few minutes they came. The whole morning. I kept bouncing on the exercise ball and doing squats and walking up and down the stairs. If today was the day, I was going to make my body as ready as it could be.

Christian had stayed home from work because he was convinced our little girl was coming soon, and he busied himself with last minute projects and playing with Peter and keeping a suspicious eye on me.

My weekly appointment was scheduled for 4:45 that afternoon and my goal was to keep walking and exercising until that point, and then see what my OB thought about the continual contractions. By 3 in the afternoon, they were getting more intense and I could feel myself bending over, out of breath with each one. At 3:30 we decided I should call the office and see if they wanted me to come in sooner or wait until 4:45.

“You’ve been having contractions for about 24 hours now?”

“Well, yes.”

“You should come in.”

I arrived at the office at 4, signed my name in, and sat down for a moment. The contractions were strong. I heard whispers behind the secretary’s window. They were whispering about me in disbelief that I waited so long to call.

I got called back to the room and the nurse looked at me like I had lost my mind. “When exactly were you planning on coming in?!” she asked. I shrugged sheepishly. “I knew I had an appointment today so I figured I might as well wait until then.”

My OB came in, took one look at me, and told me this baby was coming soon. He was also practically rolling his eyes out of his head at me, but he knew from Peter’s birth that I have a pretty high pain tolerance linked with a stubborn desire to wait til the last second before admitting I’m in labor.

“Go to the hospital. Don’t go home and hang out for four hours. Go to the hospital. I’m telling them you’ll be there in 30 minutes.

“Can you make it an hour?” I asked and laughed at the sour look on his face. “No, I know what you’re thinking, but we have to get our stuff and take our son to my in-laws.”

“Fine, but then go to the hospital! I’ll see you soon!

I was dilated to a 4 and 70% effaced and super ecstatic about it. This was it. This was the moment I knew I was really in labor.

I called Christian and then called my mom on speakerphone as I drove the short drive back to our house. We gathered up the things we had packed the night before, I insisted on bouncing on the yoga ball a little longer, and then we paused to take a selfie on our back steps – the last picture we have as a family of three.

We got to the hospital around 6 I think, spent the first two hours getting admitted and monitored, and finally were wheeled to the same room I had had Peter in two years before.

I had an IV put in, but immediately asked if I could not be hooked up to any fluids or anything at the moment. The nurse looked surprised and I explained that I wanted to walk the halls. I had had an epidural with Peter, but it had been a failed epidural and this time I planned to do it without one. I knew that moving would help me through the contractions and prepare my body for pushing. She said they’d have to check with my OB.

I sat there bouncing on the yoga ball still hooked up to a bag of fluids when my mom walked in with the now traditional Oberweis shake Christian loved. She had brought him one at Peter’s birth too.

I’ve heard of women having a ton of friends and family at their births and I’ve heard of women only having their husbands at their births, but for me, I just wanted my mom and husband. It had worked out so well with Peter’s labor because my mom was able to act more as a doula while Christian could focus on being my emotional support. Plus, they were able to switch off and get some rest in the small hours of the morning. I was so glad for both of them – the two people who knew me best and loved me best. What more could one ask for?

Despite my doctor telling me to hurry to the hospital, it seemed that baby girl was in no hurry to come. In fact, my contractions were slowing down again. Just then, my OB came in, checked me, and said, “We have a few options. One, I can send you home… but I don’t like that option.” (He knew that if he sent me home, I’d be back soon or that I was hesitate to come back and end up having the baby in the car, haha). “Two, I can break your water and that will really get things going. Or three, you can stay here and just keep doing what you’re doing.” (Meaning walking and bouncing.) I looked at Christian and we both knew what we wanted to do. “Break my water,” I said, “I want to have this baby on one eight one eight.” He thought that was amusing and it became a bit of a joke over the next few hours, each time I would pass by the nurse’s station on my walks, they would say “Running out of time for one eight one eight!”

Just as it had with Peter, my water didn’t break dramatically like it does in the movies. It just kept leaking out. And as it grew later into the evening, the funnier the leaking became. At one point, my mom and I were almost on the floor laughing at Christian’s face in response to my description of the leaking. It was hilarious. And the more I laughed, the more it gushed.

Laughing became a theme throughout the night and early morning. At one point, Christian sat down in a lonely wheelchair and I pushed him down the halls, laughing hysterically as we went. My mom came up with the brilliant idea of doing a different type of walk each time we passed the nurse’s station and said the final walk should be her dragging me down the hall. The nurse’s kept saying that they wished they could laugh their way through their own labors.

But lap after lap, laugh after laugh added up and pretty soon I was only making it a few steps before having to lean against the wall while moaning out a contraction as Christian or my mom pushed on my lower back. They checked me and I was at a 7. By this time it was about 5 or 6 in the morning. I wasn't exactly laughing now. I had been walking or exercising for almost 24 hours now and having contractions for almost 36. And I was beginning to feel it. I decided to sit down for a little bit. I still hadn’t had any medication, was now past the point of epidural, and was surprised that that didn’t scare me more than it did.

At that moment, I was proud of my body and proud of myself for being strong… if I had known I would be stuck at an 8 for two more hours, I probably would have said, “Just you wait, you idiot.”

Being stuck at an 8 for two hours was hell. I can’t put it any nicer than that. I couldn’t lay down because that made the contractions feel worse. I watched the little lines on my chart rise and fall with each contraction and dreaded when the next one would start to rise. Finally I asked if there was something I could take to just take the edge off and help me relax through the contractions. The new 7 am nurse was just getting there and as I asked, I cried through my contraction and wept to my mom and Christian that maybe I wasn’t strong enough after all. I finally opted for a half dose of stadal… basically a very strong Tylenol. And you know what? It was just what I needed for my body to relax and for me to make it past being stuck at an 8.

During this time, I kept looking into Christian’s face, shaking my head, telling him over and over that I couldn’t do it. He stared back into my terrified face with strength and compassion in his eyes telling me that I could. At a point when I was yelling through a contraction, I heard him whispering a prayer in my ear. Tears filling his own eyes. “Please Jesus” filling his breath.

By 9 am, I was at a 9 and I could feel my body bearing down. “Get the doctor!!!” I said at about 9:35. “You’re not ready yet,” the nurse said. “Yes I am!!!” I argued. (I’m such a good patient, can’t you tell? Haha) Fortunately, somebody told him I thought I was ready and he RUSHED in. He knew from my labor with Peter that when I’m ready, I’m ready. Almost before he could get in position, I pushed three times and suddenly my baby girl was here. She was here. They whisked her over to the weighing table and the nurses kept exclaiming over her hair. There was so much of it and it was dark. Just like her daddy’s.

Because I hadn’t had the epidural, I was so much more with it this time. I held her. I nursed her. My Clara. All 7 lbs 4 oz, 21 ½ inches of her.

Christian held her and I melted at the sight of them together, knowing how much I valued my own father-daughter relationship with my daddy, dreaming of what their relationship would be.

My mom came back in and held her first grand-daughter. Her namesake. Her middle name is Jo. Just like your middle name, mom.

Clara Jo. Meaning, “it is clear the Lord is gracious.” And He had been and He was and He is.

My mom had to hurry home, and it was just the three of us. I asked if I could get up and get dressed and get some food. The nurse looked surprised, but honestly, I felt SO good. Almost 40 hours of contractions was finally over. I hadn’t eaten in almost 24 hours.

The cafeteria lady rolled in a tray of food and I sat by the heat lamp Clara was under watching her while eating my quesadilla. Again, the nurse looked surprised followed by almost misty-eyed. “In all my years here, I’ve never seen this,” she said. “I’ve never seen the mother get out of bed and roll her food tray over to be closer to her baby. What a picture.

I ate and stared at my baby. And thought about my other baby. And thought about how much I loved them. And how much I loved their daddy who was head over heels for all of us.

When Peter visited that afternoon, he immediately fell in love with her. And I’m not just saying that to sound romantic or braggy or whimsical. He has loved her so sweetly from the very start.

And now, here we are. The four of us. What a blessing.

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