On Sunday morning just after the clocks jumped forward an hour on March 13th, I woke up with a strong contraction.
As I tried to go back to sleep another one came on quickly. I sat up and wondered if this was really it. I had been having contractions for over a week now, but they were never this strong.
One week early, could we really be so fortunate?
I lay back down.
Better to wait and see.
But there was no time for waiting. They were coming about four minutes apart.
My best friend, Betsy, had flown into town the night before. We were supposed to be staying in a hotel downtown, but I decided maybe that wasn’t a good call and we returned to my house for the evening after a wonderful meal and hours of conversation. Now I was grateful we chose the side of caution. She and Ezra were asleep upstairs. I decided to let her sleep and wake up to the surprise that we were already at the hospital.
I called Michael’s brother at 4 am to come take care of Ezra. He knows his routine and this had always been the plan since he lives just 20 minutes away. Thankfully he is a night owl and was at our house quickly.
We checked into the hospital around 5:30.
The contractions were getting stronger and I was feeling ready for my epidural. I was between four and five centimeters, which I felt was great progress since I was at a three a few days earlier. I kept thinking that morning how grateful I was that labor had come swiftly. With Ezra we waited around for two weeks as contractions geared up and my body stalled out—my cervix at three centimeters. It was a painfully long wait. But thank God things progressed much quicker this time.
There were a few things Michael and I had decided to do differently with this birth.
One of them was in choosing our hospital. We had a less than ideal hospital experience with Ezra’s birth. We knew I would have a strong reaction to the dosage of the epidural so we had several conversations with our healthcare providers about that. We knew we only wanted to stay one night in the hospital. And this time we knew we could control who was giving us care. Side note: If you do not like your nurses, you can ask for different ones. This was something I didn’t know the first time around so I put up with rude and unattentive nurses because I didn’t know I had a choice. As my nurse friend, Tiffany, says, “This is not Shoney’s. You deserve good care.”
We chose to deliver at TriStar Centennial in Nashville because we felt confident after our tour that they would do whatever it took to make our birth experience wonderful. And they delivered on that promise!
Still nothing prepares you for the hospital: the many questions, the massive amounts of information, and the overwhelming feeling of not being in your comfort zone during such a crucial time. But a good hospital with quality nurses makes all the difference. We were fortunate to say the least. Our nurse in the delivery room was absolutely incredible. She was attentive, personal, and knowledgeable. On top of all that, you could tell she enjoyed her job and it made all the difference.
After my epidural around 8 am, we coasted through the rest of the day—the anticipation building naturally the way it does in a good movie with a grand finale. By 2 pm we were getting ready to push. My mother was literally pulling into the hospital parking lot as the doctor was prepping. Her seven-hour trip was perfectly timed. She was in the room when Ezra was born and I wanted her there for Vea’s birth as well.
Delivery was quick. With only four contractions, Vea arrived! I was definitely surprised at her swift entrance into the world!
Her name is pronounced Vay-ah La-Ren. Vea is from the pulp fiction novel Mildred Pierce, but it’s also Polynesian word that means “chief” and in Spanish it translates to “seen.” Her middle name was a difficult one for us. Michael came up with Laren, and the moment he said it, I knew it was perfect.
This birthing experience was been different in so many ways.
With Ezra’s birth I distinctly remember feeling a sort of shock—I struggle to use that word because it sounds so dramatic. But I really did feel stunned as they wheeled us to our postpartum room the first time with a new baby in my arms. What had just happened? What would happen next? What is going on with my body right now?
I was also shocked at the startling moment of Ezra’s birth. Shocked by the love we felt for this tiny person we made. Utterly stunned by the way I felt so … different—just moments after giving birth. I was undeniably changed. Everything had changed in an instant.
This time I was not surprised by my body’s response to labor and delivery.
I had met this body and this woman before and it was good to see her again. A woman in that state is primal in a lot of ways. She is awakened by her instincts to protect her new baby and everything else is stripped away. Last time when I met that woman I did not know her. But now I knew her. I had been waiting for her. Part of me missed her.
We were able to leave the hospital after only one night. Thank God for our wonderful doctor who listened to us and allowed us to go home quickly! Michael and I are not hospital people. Some moms and dads love it, but we would rather be home, eating what we want, sleeping where and when we want, and wearing what we want.
We lulled around in Baby La-La Land for the first few days at home.
Eating and sleeping and doting. That’s all we did. We were surrounded by family and lots of friends who came and kissed her soft head and loved her sweet spirit. She is a petite girl and so far seems easy-going and laid-back in a way that makes me wonder where she gets it from. She sleeps and eats well and watches us with her big, beautiful eyes.
Her brother has adjusted well. He loves that there is always something to do for the baby. Fortunately, he hasn’t shown any signs of jealousy or boredom with her. Plus in the days after her birth, he was flooded with toys and candy and more attention than he knew what to do with.
He asked me the other morning as we were changing her diaper, “Do we get to keep Vea?”
I was relieved. I worried like any mom how he would adjust. He was going to be just fine, I felt certain in that moment.
On Easter we celebrated a milestone in a newborn’s life—the first two weeks. This newborn phase can be wonderful and difficult, but this time around things are just so different. I am different.
I know now that this time in her life and ours as a family is so very brief.
The sleepless nights, the endless nursing sessions, the many many dirty diapers—it passes so quickly. The mornings when all you want is a shower and a nap–they don’t last long. And neither does the good stuff—the first bath, the spontaneous smiles, the sleepy cuddles. So I am much more flexible. We will sleep eventually, I know that now. We will get out of the house eventually. We will find a comfortable routine eventually. It will all fall into place.
It’s pretty simple really. This time around I have one thing I did not have before—perspective. And it has made all the difference.
I still can’t believe we have two children. Two healthy, beautiful children to make us a family of four. Our hearts are full to the tippy top. I feel a sort of accomplishment at having given Ezra a sibling. It’s like that scene from the last season of Downton Abbey (spoiler alert!) where Edith and Mary finally come to a peaceful resolution. Edith tells Mary that one day they will be the only ones who remember Carson and Mrs. Hughes and their parents.
Ezra and Vea will both know us as parents and it will be a bond they alone share. It will tie them together uniquely and exclusively.
And for that, I’m forever grateful.