Hey everyone! We have a first here at the blog: a guest. With Mother’s Day not too far in the rear-view, my sister agreed to share her daughter’s birth story. As many of you know, I adore little miss Avery. In real life, away from the blog, it also happens that I adore my sister—we talk almost every day—and when I’m not talking *to* her, I’m talking *about* her (always in a good way). Rachel is one of those rare creatures whose birth plan went about 98% as planned and she handled every single struggle like a boss. For real. So please, sit back and enjoy this written in my sister’s voice.
That’s not normally how someone would describe their labor and delivery. I am sure you have read a lot of blogs about horrible experiences in the delivery room and ‘things no one tells you about after you have your baby’. I read them too. And if you’re looking for that, it’s not here. I will be honest but the truth is that birthing Avery was the most amazing thing I have ever done. Because I’m an ‘over-sharer’ let’s get started with some backstory and way too many details.
I was married when I was 21. I met Adam at 20 and just recently celebrated my 30th birthday – so doing the math, I’ve been with him all throughout my 20’s – that’s not said to be a bad thing. I share it because our first couple years were rocky. We were just really getting to know one another. I would leave lights on around our house, which he hated, it would leave him saying stupid things and lead to fights (about something pretty trivial). Lesson: all marriages have hot buttons. We just made it a priority to work on ours so that we could have a happy marriage. Of course, we failed time and again but continued to work together. Making a marriage work takes a lot of *hard* work. In fact, most people tell you it’s not easy but it’s truly hard to understand what they mean until you are knee-deep in it.
Babies were not something on my radar. Throughout most of our marriage, Adam and I would joke that we might never have children. Then there are the people that tell you “You have to have kids” and my typical response was “uh, no we don’t.” I fully felt that it was our decision to make. Right before I turned 29, I watched a riveting documentary called ‘The Business of Being Born’ and safe to say it changed my outlook on having children. Not only did I want to have a baby, but I wanted to bring it into this world in a beautiful way; surrounded by my loving family. I have such a wonderful family and I’m so blessed to have such amazing people in my life. I also wanted to bring a child into the world in a very natural, unmedicated way as well – which is what most of the documentary is about. You really feel that sense of empowerment when you realize what our female bodies are made to do. Needless to say, it blew my mind. I am pretty sure I was crying with Ricky Lake at the end. After watching the documentary, it prompted Adam and I to have the discussion about children. I shared my deepest desire for truly wanting a child with my amazing husband. The conversation was a little shocking to him but I’m pretty sure estrogen made me do it.
In 2013 I had been working at Target for almost four years. I was in a pivotal place in my career. I was asked to take on a new task working overnights as the stores in my district were being remodeled in order to offer produce to our guests. It was a huge change for me. I wanted the career but I also wanted a family. I was ready to put 110% into my new work assignment but at the same time, I was also ready to get pregnant. Whatever happened, I was prepared to work through it all. I got off birth control in February and to my surprise, we were pregnant by June.
I had just gotten over some fluke flu, which is what prompted me to take the pregnancy test in the first place. After taking the first test, I took two more just to be sure. I wanted to tell Adam we were pregnant in a very special way. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m very into Pandora bracelets. I carefully chose the baby binky pendant as a present to him to show him we’re having a baby! My timing probably wasn’t the best; he was gone for work for two full days, and I’d just gotten over the aforementioned flu. We went to have dinner at Sixth and Pine, which is the restaurant in Nordstrom. I had a couple bags in hand from my pre-dinner shopping excursion, and as soon as he saw the Pandora bag, he asked what I bought (you can’t plan this, people). I confessed to the cutest pair of earrings and then told him I had a surprise for him. He slowly opened the perfect little bag and as he pulled the tissue out and saw the pendant, he had no idea what it was. He kept asking me what it was and after about 5 minutes or so of prodding him to guess, I told him we were expecting. He was in shock but really happy because we had been trying. I think the realization set in that holy cow, we’re pregnant!
At first it didn’t really seem like I was pregnant other than the minor lifestyle changes (goodbye booze, goodbye bologna, goodbye Cedar Point, see ya beef carpaccio). These changes become very real when it’s time for that first ultrasound. I didn’t cry then but thinking about it now makes me tear up. The little life that grows inside you is simply breathtaking. I thought in that moment that people have to be crazy to think that life isn’t human. It’s a life that grows and breathes and develops and moves inside you. Avery looked like a turtle at first but with each ultrasound got progressively better. We didn’t know the sex at the time so the baby was known as ‘Baby Roy’. I looked forward to each ultrasound visit. I would talk to Baby Roy, play the baby music and read out loud. It was amazing to connect. It also made me take precious time for myself to relax. Every mommy knows that changes once the little bundle arrives.
For the most part, I was very healthy throughout my pregnancy. I would read and do research, LOTS of research. I was a research junkie. I did so much work to prepare however there are some thing you cannot prepare for. I felt pretty confident but I had some rough patches. Around six months in, I developed pregnancy induced carpal tunnel, which, by the way, totally stinks. You lose feeling in your hands because of the extra blood and swelling. My left hand went numb and then my right hand. I couldn’t feel my fingers. I kept hurting my hands because I couldn’t feel anything. It’s a very odd sensation, or lack thereof. Even with those issues, I felt very blessed to have an overall wonderful experience being pregnant. I had a birth plan and I was one of the lucky people whose birth plan goes exactly as I wanted it to. I found a Doula and a birthing class and I recommend both. Birthworks is an awesome birthing class and find a Doula on D.O.N.A. You’ll be so happy you did.
Even though we shared that she’d be a girl, we were keeping the name a secret from our friends and family. We gathered to celebrate our little girl at her shower. I loved every minute of Baby Roy’s baby shower. I love being around my friends and family so that was a very special time for me. My motto is ‘go big or go home’ and I had a very big shower. It was like a wedding reception and everything was wonderful – from the guests to the food and the support and love I felt. Her room was done and everything was organized. I was ready for the baby to come.
The one fear I had was that my sister wouldn’t be there. I’m not a huge fan of of her being so far away but I know she’s loving her new surroundings and that makes me happy. But having Ryan be a part of this experience was something that was very important to me. We made a plan early on that once I knew it was go-time (for real), she’d get on a plane and bust-it back to Cleveland. The day before Avery was born, my contractions started around midnight, then became more consistent around 2 a.m. I made sure to contact Ryan early.
A lot of people ask what contractions feel like and I’d say really bad period cramps – like 100x worse. Thankfully our bodies can handle those. At first, they weren’t so bad. I had time to pack, shower, put a full-face makeup on, do my hair and get ready to go. My plan was to wait as long as possible before heading to the hospital. This is where having family support and a doula was helpful. I knew I had to wait and they kept me calm. We had good conversation, they helped me breathe through the contractions and I even tried to eat. That turned out to be an epic fail as it all came back up. This is real, people. I knew I had to wait till Ryan arrived (which is about a 4 hour trip, airport to airport) so I just kept working through the contractions. Just days before going into labor, I was reading a chapter out of ‘Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way’ and they mention just when you think you are ready to go to the hospital, you’re not ready and continue laboring a little bit longer. (This book is an enlightening and educating read and I totally suggest it.) There was a point after laboring at home four hours, just before Ryan arrived, that I asked Adam how I’d make it to the car. I laugh in my own face thinking my contractions were that bad then. No matter what, I had to reach a point where I knew I’d be ready to go to the hospital and that was as soon as Ryan arrived.
I safely made the car ride to the hospital with no issues. After arriving, Ryan and I made our way upstairs and even though I called the nurses before arriving, they weren’t ready. Even so, they made me feel at home fast. When the nurses checked me out, I was 8 cm dilated (not too bad if I do say so myself). Things did slow down a bit and even though I was fully dilated two hours later, my water hadn’t broken. I pushed but didn’t have that urge to. Truth: I was very calm and pleasant to be around during my entire labor and delivery. The last thing I wanted was to be mean to everyone, especially my husband. No way did I want to be mean to the man who gave me such a precious gift, no matter how hard this experience was. I wanted love to carry me through and it did. A couple times I was praying to God and He gave me the strength to fight a little harder. I had been having contractions without the urge to push for five hours. I was safe and healthy and the baby was too so the doctors were supporting my decision to have my water break naturally. I was so tired at one point, I considered having them break my water but I waited. Finally, I was sitting on the toilet, and my water broke (kind of like a ‘whoosh’). Adam kept me calm and encouraged me throughout. I had a second wind, which I totally needed. My only thought was: ‘yay! Baby Roy is making her way into the world.’
As the doctor continued to check me out and stretch me (yes, I said “stretch”) I got an indication that Baby Roy was sideways and every time I pushed, she kept slipping back. I kept pushing harder and harder with no results. Baby Roy was moving but it wasn’t enough. At that point, the doctor handed me a towel and said to pull – almost instantly that made a difference. She started moving and not slipping back. My contractions felt like they were on top of each other. Seriously, I didn’t have time to rest between them. I must have looked pitiful when I would tell everyone I needed to push but I just desperately wanted 10 minutes of rest. Everyone was getting so excited that they could see her head, then she was crowning and the whole family got really excited. Adam said “I can see her head!” and I knew I had to get my game face on. I don’t know where it came from but suddenly I had a burst of energy. I was entirely exhausted by this point but I wanted to meet our baby so I just kept trying. At one point in the labor, I looked over at my mom and I told her I was so exhausted and I had no clue how I’d have the energy to breastfeed immediately. She looked at me and told me that I would be so excited once the baby arrives that I wouldn’t even worry about being tired anymore. She continued to encourage me to keep on pushing and I felt relieved I’d have the energy to breast feed after delivery.
When the baby started crowning the doctor gave one end of the towel to Adam and I held the other. After a few short pushes, Baby Roy entered the world. My heart melted as I looked at this little life. A life that needed me. Baby Roy was placed right on me and we began our bonding, Vernix and all. She wasn’t breathing so the nurse took her for a second (and it was really a second) to remove fluid from her throat to enable breathing. After the nurse put the baby back on my chest, Adam and I looked at each other and he said “do you want to share her name now?” We both knew she was an Avery. Avery Jo Roy, sweet baby, little life, gift from God and she was ours.
Getting home with our baby was a truly odd experience; there’s a new being in the house. Our furry baby, Mera the cat, had no interest in Avery. Life truly did turn upside down for all of us. The house was filled with love. My mom, sister and friends were here to support and help us. Our first night with Avery, Ryan took the night shift so I could sleep a little and that’s about all I did. I was tired but my body was in mom-mode. I’d have to say that I really wanted to be the perfect mom but that doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time to get into a schedule, for you to feel like yourself again and somewhere in there you’re a new person. Avery has made me crazy, happy, sad and whole. Bringing a child into the world is unlike anything I have ever done. So “thank you” to everyone who ever tried to give me wise advice before I was ready because now I hear you. All the stories and jokes people make about having kids aren’t as funny until you have one of your own. I am now the proud wearer of that badge of Mommy honor.
Rachel & Avery