Monday, July 4, 2011

Anna's Arrival

Our Anna is here, and there are not words to describe what a joy-bringer she is or how beautifully she has been healing our hearts or how utterly enamored with her we are.  She is perfect in every way, and none of us can get enough of her.  We're always trying to steal her away from someone or get in another kiss or scoop her up from her crib while she's sleeping so we can snuggle her.  She is perfection itself, and we are completely in love with her.

Newborns are my favorite.  I have always loved babies, and Anna I have loved with a new vigor and tenderness and unflappable steadiness.  I love when she cries, I love when she nurses, I love when she sleeps, I love when she has a dirty diaper, I love getting her dressed, I love feeding her in the middle of the night, I love her stretches, her fusses, her grumpy face, her "I'm on the verge of screaming" noises.  I love it all, and I can't stop myself from soaking up every second of her life.  This is what I was made to do -- care for a newborn baby.  It taps into the things I love most about motherhood, and it's a place where I am the most content, the most settled, the most peaceful.

As I treasure every second with Anna, I often find myself wondering how I ever survived Samuel's month of life when I couldn't do any of the things for him that I love to do for Anna.  I didn't get to hold, feed, cuddle, or soothe Samuel.  Instead I had to watch him hooked up to countless machines and find the few places on his body I could touch.  I am in awe at how the Lord enabled me to enjoy Samuel's life so much when I was prevented from being his mommy in the way I love to be my newborns' mom.  Only by the grace of God was Samuel's short life so blessed in our eyes.  Only by His power and strength and goodness were we able to laugh at Samuel's side, bond with him, and find those days holy.

As Bryan mentioned, Anna came into the world on Saturday, June 25.  I was actually induced, which I had never experienced before.  It was comical to me that none of my babies were late until the fourth one!  Bryan and I went round and round about induction, but in the end we realized it was the best choice for us.  My OB, Dr. Siegel, was out of town all this past week, and if we didn't induce, a stranger would have delivered Anna.  Normally I wouldn't be too concerned about that, but when I started to think about what bringing Anna into the world would be for us, I realized that Dr. Siegel's presence was very important to me.  He has been my OB through all of my children, and he delivered Samuel.  He knows us, cares about us, is intimately familiar with Samuel's story, and feels like a safe place.  When I considered the swirl of emotions Bryan and I were likely to experience when Anna made her first appearance, I decided Dr. Siegel's presence was paramount.  So though we would never have considered an induction in the past, we agreed to it this time.  Once induction was on the table, I started to consider an epidural for the first time as well.  Though at heart Bryan and I are all-natural people, after Samuel my perspective shifted.  In the end all that matters is a healthy baby.  My "ideal birthing experience" seemed a little trite and rather insignificant.  So I opened the door to a totally different beginning of Anna's life.

And totally different it was!  At 12:35 pm, I was hooked up to pitocin, measuring 2 1/2 cm, and Bryan and I were watching Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1.  An hour later, contractions started at 2 minutes apart, and they were completely manageable -- no big deal at all.  Almost two hours later I was 4-5 centimeters, and contractions continued to be manageable.  We turned off pitocin, and Dr. Siegel broke my water.  I made a mental note-to-self minutes later: Don't break your water before you're already in significant pain!  My contractions went from no big deal to mighty intense immediately.  It was a rude and abrupt shift.  About 30 minutes later, I got an epidural just because I could -- though I could tell my window for getting one was fast closing.  I didn't love the process of getting an epidural, and Bryan and I had a tense 20 or so minutes when we weren't sure if it was going to work because of my scoliosis surgery when I was 15.  I was stuck laying down (the very worst position for my back labor), and Bryan couldn't provide me with the only relief I know -- counter pressure on my back.  We just had to wait it out through about 10 really bad contractions with no relief.  Thankfully, the epidural kicked in, or it might have been my worst ever labor, stuck on a table with useless legs and no real way to cope with the pain.

Once the epidural was in effect, I could still feel pain, but it was manageable again, and we resumed watching our movie.  Forty minutes later, Dr. Siegel came in and announced I was 10 cm and ready to push.  (REALLY?!?  I watched a movie through transition!!!  That still blows my mind.)  He and the nurse set up the table for about 15 minutes while I marveled that I was just hanging out, waiting to push my baby out, amused at watching them struggle with the new fandangled contraption.  Without meds, I would never have waited for them to get things "just right."  I pushed once very gently, and out came Anna's head.  We paused while Dr. Siegel set up a tasteful picture for Bryan to take, and then I pushed gently again, and Anna was out.  It was the most shockingly calm, uneventful birth.  I still can't believe it.  And though I don't know if I would do it again, it was the right birth for Anna, our baby after Samuel.  It was full of peace and calm and joy.  When I look back, I realize we never could have had this birth without being induced, and though I begged God to let her come on her own, I am glad He didn't.  Instead He gave us what we were asking for all along: a healing, calm, peaceful birth to bring healing to Samuel's frantic, frightening arrival.

At 5:13 pm Anna was in our arms, and we were holding her, and she was screaming her head off -- hooray for healthy lungs!  And we were overwhelmed with emotion but also with adrenaline and the surreal fact that she was here.  I cried silently while I held her, and I was deeply moved when I saw Bryan cradling her in his arms.  What a gift!  What a joy!  What a blessing!  How long we had waited for a baby in our arms.  In fact, June 25, 2008 is when I found out I was pregnant with my first miscarried baby.  Three years to the day of waiting for a little one to hold again.  And Anna fulfilled our longing.

I can't put into words what Anna has done for our hearts already.  She has been the healing balm we prayed for.  She has brought beaming smiles to Caleb and Joel.  She has mended our wounds in ways I didn't know were possible.  She has showered us with grace and hope and peace and joy and mercy.  She is the gift we've beseeched God to grant us.  And we are grateful beyond what we can express.
Final profile picture -- 40 weeks and 2 days.  About to head to the hospital to be induced

Feeling a little anxious; let's deliver this girl and get her here already!
Final family photo before Beauty's arrival
Next time we'll have five people in our family photo
The boys seeing us off to the hospital to deliver Beauty
Our First Family Picture with Anna-girl
A Kiss from the Love of my Life

Anna with Dr. Siegel

Anna through the Bassinet

Bryan looking at his daughter

Mommy and Anna

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