As many of you have probably heard from email, facebook, or excited friends and family, our newest little family member has arrived!
Juliana (ju-li-ah-na) Grace
Born Sunday, September 19
6lb 13oz, 19.75in
She is absolutely beautiful. Of course I would think that because she is my baby, but really, she is surprisingly beautiful. I would think she was beautiful even if I didn't know her. Everyone says she's beautiful (of course they would say that anyway, but they're actually telling the truth). We're not sure if she looks more like mommy or daddy (One friend said, "I'm not sure who she looks like. Would you mind putting a beard on her and taking a few more shots?"). She seems to have Kevin's nose, a little cleft chin, and lots of hair. Other than the cleft, her chin looks more like mine, and she definitely has my super long fingers (she has already shown some interest in the harp, so maybe she's got a musical future). All in all, she seems to have gotten a combination of our best characteristics, because while I'm not saying we don't look incredibly attractive ourselves, she has definitely got us beat.
The labor ended up being pretty difficult. It was about 15.5 hours, which I guess is about average for the first time. The first part wasn't bad. I mean, I wouldn't want to do it every day, but it was definitely manageable. The breathing and relaxation practice from our childbirth classes really came in handy. Things got substantially more difficult though because the baby turned to the face up position, putting her full force on my back (ouch!) and got stuck. Then she turned and got stuck with her head twisted around to the side. The general gist is lots of pain and no progress. I hadn't wanted an epidural, but at this point I was feeling like I couldn't keep it up. I was on a preparatory IV with the anesthesiologist on the way when the midwife checked me once more and said, "I don't think you want this epidural - you're ready to push!" After just about 40 minutes of pushing, Juliana was born and immediately started yelling at the world. A bunch of doctors and nurses were waiting to check her out, since they had a few concerns, but she was perfectly healthy.
In the middle of the worst part, I just wanted to get this baby out, however it ended up happening. It would have been fine if I had had a epidural - I wouldn't feel like any less of a person, or whatever. But I'm glad I was able to do it without one. It's kind of neat to look back and see that I was able to survive and go on for much longer than I thought I could. It was terrible in some ways...but at the same time I'm really glad I experienced it. And of course, it was worth it!
I definitely wouldn't have been able to do it without a lot of awesome support. Kevin was really actively involved in the whole thing. He spent hours in all manner of incredibly uncomfortable positions so he could be there to put pressure on my back, help me to relax, guide me in breathing through contractions, and tell me I was doing great. It's strange how an experience that was so difficult (and not exactly something I'd like to repeat anytime soon) was also so meaningful. I thought (not at the time -when I wasn't thinking much of anything- but later), surely this is the essence of marriage. Connected, laboring together (literally), breathing together even, profound pain matched with unbelievable reward.
My cousin, who gave birth almost exactly a year ago, was also the most incredible support a person could get. I don't think she woke up that morning thinking, "Maybe I'll help bring a baby into the world," but that's what she did. She stayed right beside me during all the difficult hours, holding my hand, feeding me ice chips, reminding me to breathe, assuring me I could do it. I know that without having her and Kevin there as such constant support, I would have given out long beforehand. I told her she should consider an alternate career as a doula because I think it would be hard to find a better one.
My midwife, who I really loved, was out of town, but a different midwife was there, and she was also great. She was very supportive and knew what she was doing. She kept trying different things to get the baby to turn and for the labor to progress, rather than just insisting on a c-section. She quasi-tricked me into persevering (a lot of "Just five more minutes, you can do it for five more minutes"...with each 5 minutes turning into 20) and tried to postpone the epidural as much as possible - but she also didn't try to prevent me from getting it. She gave the firm encouragement that I needed, completely confident that I could make it when I was just about sure that I couldn't.
Juliana had to spend an extra night in the hospital because of elevated bilirubin levels. She had to be on a little 'grow light' all the time except when feeding. She wasn't a big fan, and it was hard to not be able to hold her at all, but now her levels have dropped, her coloring is improving a lot, and she is getting all the holding and snuggling that she first missed out on. The jaundice just makes her super sleepy. She sleeps all the time (which might make many people with new babies quite jealous!), so she's had a hard time with nursing, but that's been getting better as well.
I look at her sometimes and just can't believe she's really mine. She's so perfect! I love those few times a day when she actually opens her eyes and looks around. I always think she can't get any cuter and then she does. I love when she snuggles up next to me and gets all calm because she knows who I am. I don't really love the lack of sleep, but I'm surprised by how how happy I can still be (with the possible exception of 2am when she's screaming bloody murder) even when I'm too tired to quite see straight. When I get worn down by the tiredness and discomfort and what feels like constant feedings, she opens her eyes or yawns a huge yawn or makes her little squeaky noises, and I remember that my life is simply amazing!