our baby valentine

I wanted to write about our experience of miscarriage because it was helpful for me to read stories from other women, like this post a friend sent me. So I share some of how I processed it in the hope it could help someone else feel less alone. 

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At the end of June, I lost a baby at five weeks. I wrote about how that baby is part of our story now, and this post is more about the experience of miscarriage and the ways we have grieved and found closure. He or she would have been born sometime this week, so it’s been on our hearts.

It was my first miscarriage, so at Chris’s urging I went to immediate care, where it was confirmed a miscarriage and I was sent home. There was heavy bleeding for several days, and painful cramps. And now I know that this experience of passing the baby varies widely for different women. But I was grateful, in a way, that the pain lasted for a while, because it felt like a mini mini labor, and a way that only I got to experience a little more of this baby we would never get to know.

Chris’s reaction to the news was to cry a little with me and then figure out how we should do this well. He did some research and found that we could give the remains to a local funeral parlor, who would bury the baby for free in a designated section of the cemetery. They would hold a memorial service for all the babies who died before 20 weeks from March-June in 2018. We named the baby Valentine, since he or she (I usually say she) would have been born around Valentine’s Day, and it was a name I liked but probably would never use for a living child. The memorial service was held on a sweltering day in August. I was glad we went, but I’m more grateful that we have a physical place to visit her whenever we want. (Evangeline has now asked if we’ll all be buried under the same stone as Baby Valen when we die. Chris and I made a mental note to make a will.)

 

 

 

 

When Chris did the funeral parlor research, he also asked if I wanted to invite a priest friend over to pray for us. I felt awkward about this. But I knew that later on I would wish for something – some way to find closure – so I said sure, let’s have him over for dinner.

Chris had just gotten to know this priest on a trip to Israel. He’s a Franciscan, newly ordained, also studying theology at Notre Dame, and a Catholic convert. I always love meeting other converts. As Chris put the girls to bed, I told Fr. Andrew more about the miscarriage, and how I’d been feeling. When Chris returned, we sat in the backyard and Fr. Andrew prayed for us, using a prayer specifically for parents after a miscarriage from The Catholic Book of Blessings (which also has the prayer we used to bless our garden seeds). It was so beautiful, and I just let the liturgy wash over me. I felt deeply at peace, and was grateful to Chris for suggesting we do this. We sat in silence for a few moments and then Fr. Andrew asked, Would you guys want to sing some songs together?  

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I miss you, summer backyard.

I was surprised but said sure, I like to sing. Fr. Andrew started singing, “Open the Eyes of My Heart, Lord,” Chris joined in, and I started bawling. I leaned back in my chair, letting them sing, feeling waves of sadness, and also, still, peace. It felt so right, to be there in our backyard, singing songs that I had grown up with in church, with a Franciscan priest. I hadn’t realized how much I missed singing casually with other people. As they sang, I asked God, What role will this baby’s life and death play in our family’s story? And as I asked, I was surprised to feel confirmation in my desire to have more kids, to have a large family, like this baby was already praying for courage for me. I also felt God pointing out to me the consolation of that moment and saying, It doesn’t help anyone for you to leave behind all the ways you knew me before you were Catholic. There was something so healing for me in Fr. Andrew singing those songs I had almost forgotten. It brought together two worlds; the old that I had begun to reject as I was learning to navigate the new.

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flowers sent by a friend

This was an unexpected gift I received as I processed the miscarriage. A reminder of how I used to connect with God and with others, and the courage to more vulnerable. I had time in those summer weeks to think about how, after a year in South Bend, I was fairly happy with the community I’d found, but still wanted to know others more and be better known. When I voiced this, I found that my friends were also hungry for deeper friendships and wanted to pray together more openly. Since then, our moms group that meets for play time and prayer has grown more vulnerable in ways I was craving, and I didn’t have to force anything to happen. I just started being a little more honest.

This baby’s life and death has already taught me so much more about trusting God. My hope is that I’ll remember and remain open to what He brings, open to lessons from grief and from joy. Thanks, Baby Valen. We love you.

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this picture was actually taken on the day of miscarriage, I realized later. We were showing The Village to a visiting friend.

january thoughts on art and motherhood

A new mom friend from Evangeline’s preschool shared this essay with me (thanks, Rose!) and I loved this part especially.

“But at my most hopeful I think that writing and art are essential to motherhood and vice versa. Each accesses the most ancient, the most universal, the most complex emotions. Each requires the nurturing of a new consciousness, a new being, a new way of seeing. Each is endlessly different and endlessly dull, endlessly challenging and spiked with constant disappointment and beauty.” 

I need this reminder in the monotony of winter. As the newness of the new year lessens and January presses on with long dark mornings and gray skies. Each day is spiked with beauty, and each moment with my girls is endlessly different and endlessly dull. I marvel over the little sentences Zelie is putting together and how she plays independently with her toys when Evangeline is at school. I find myself surprised at the pictures Evangeline is drawing these days, the shapes she now makes, the colors she puts together. And I die with frustration when Zelie wakes up in the middle of the night and then naps through the morning spin class I have come to count on with near-obsession. Or when Evangeline needs to be dragged to the potty before she pees her pants. And something about the gray and the cold makes it harder for me to recover from these attacks of extreme grumpiness.

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creativity, but not where I  appreciate it.

All the while, I am looking for ways to create. To write, to share my thoughts. To add beauty to our home. To try a new craft or baking project. Winter lends itself to this, with all the time spent inside and inside my own head. And most of the time I’m not even thinking about my biggest winter project, which is constantly growing, without any conscious effort on my part. Week after week I am surprised to see how big she is and how my belly is growing. It’s just happening. Ordinary, ancient, and amazing.

books of 2018

2018 Reading List

I keep track of the books I’m reading each month. Some take me a few months to finish! The asterisk means started but didn’t finish. I’m a big believer in books having a right time. So, maybe I’ll finish those books someday, or maybe life’s too short to keep reading a book I don’t want to read. YOLO.

Before we get too far into 2019, I wanted to record my books from last year. This is really only for me to look back at. I’m not even writing out thoughts about each book. Just some observations from this year – I found a couple new authors (Sigrid Undset, Alice McDermott, Elizabeth Strout) and read several books by them. Kristin Lavransdatter was my whole July and it was glorious. I also spent six months listening to Harry Potter in the car (a great life choice). I trailed off in December and haven’t been reading at all lately, which is weird, but oh well. I cracked open Middlemarch and have read half of the intro – does that count?

January

  • The Tech-Wise Family – Andy Crouch (audio)
  • *Animal, Vegetable, Miracle – Barbara Kingsolver
  • *A Severe Mercy – Sheldon Vanauken

February

  • *Animal, Vegetable, Miracle – Barbara Kingsolver
  • *A Severe Mercy – Sheldon Vanauken
  • The Ninth Hour – Alice McDermott

March

  • Anything is Possible – Elizabeth Strout
  • A Wrinkle in Time – Madeleine L’Engle
  • Zeitoun – Dave Eggers
  • *Jesus of Nazareth – Pope Benedict

April

  • The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas
  • Housekeeping – Marilynne Robinson
  • *Jesus of Nazareth – Pope Benedict
  • *An Immovable Feast – Tyler Blanksi

May

  • Someone – Alice McDermott
  • One Beautiful Dream – Jennifer Fulwiler
  • An Immovable Feast – Tyler Blanksi
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – J.K. Rowling (audio)
  • *Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – J.K. Rowling (audio)

June

  • Hannah Coulter – Wendell Berry
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – J.K. Rowling (audio)
  • Anne of the Island – L.M. Montgomery
  • Anne’s House of Dreams – L.M. Montgomery
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – J.K. Rowling (audio)

July

  • Kristin Lavransdatter – Sigrid Undset
  • Harry Potter and the Triwizard Tournament – J.K. Rowling (audio)

August

  • Olive Kitteridge – Elizabeth Strout
  • The Price to Pay – Joseph Fadelle
  • Gunnar’s Daughter – Sigrid Undset
  • *Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – J.K. Rowling (audio)

September

  • Crazy Rich Asians – Kevin Kwan
  • *No Drama Discipline – Daniel Siegel and Tina Bryson
  • *Mystery and Manners – Flannery O’Connor
  • *Catherine of Siena – Sigrid Undset
  • *Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – J.K. Rowling (audio)

October

  • *Catherine of Siena – Sigrid Undset
  • The Grace of Enough: Pursuing Less and Living More in a Throwaway Culture – Haley Stewart
  • Pachinko – Min Jin Lee
  • *The Lowland – Jhumpa Lahiri
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – J.K. Rowling (audio)

November

  • The Lowland – Jhumpa Lahiri
  • The Burgess Boys – Elizabeth Strout
  • *Catherine of Siena – Sigrid Undset
  • *Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – J.K. Rowling (audio)

December

  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – J.K. Rowling (audio)
  • *Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – J.K. Rowling (audio)
  • *Anne of Ingleside – L.M. Montgomery
  • *Interior Freedom – Jacques Philippe

part of our story

As I’ve entered the second trimester of this pregnancy, I’ve been thinking about how this baby’s life has already changed our family’s story. About how this baby comes to us after losing another.

At the end of June, I had a miscarriage. I’d only known I was pregnant for ten days and had only told one friend. It was still so new, and then, it was over.

So this is my fourth pregnancy, my fourth baby. But I won’t explain that to strangers in the grocery store; I probably will hardly ever talk about it. For all outward appearances, this is Baby #3. But we know that there was a little soul who would have come to us in February, and we named him or her Valentine. It’s made me think about how many other families share this experience, how the question, How many kids do you have? becomes a bit more complicated to fully explain.

I may share more about the miscarriage and how we grieved and found closure, because I found it helpful to read about other women’s stories when it happened. But for now, we talk about Baby Valen with the girls, and we go and visit the cemetery where he or she (I’ll call her she), is buried. We’ve been looking for a way to volunteer time as a family, a way to engage in social justice in some way with the girls, but everything we’ve thought of has been too late in the evening for our current early dinner/bedtime schedule. So for now, in this season, we’ve landed on the spiritual work of mercy – pray for the living and the dead. We take the girls and pray a decade of the rosary  and the prayer for the dead for the soul of Baby Valen and all the departed.

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I wish it wouldn’t have happened, of course. I wish I could have felt her move, held her, seen her, been able to get to know her. But I’ve been comforted by the reactions I’ve received from friends, and even the (free!) services offered by the local funeral parlor and cemetery. Overwhelmingly, it’s been – This is a person to bury, this is a person to grieve. Despite how common early miscarriages are, and the various factors that can cause them, I was never made to feel that this was something to just get over and forget about. And that’s been a good lesson and reminder for me, as we’ve talked about her with Evangeline. Baby Valen was still a baby, even though she was so little, and she will always be a part of our family. We can ask her to pray for us because we trust that she is with Jesus. It’s brought up good conversations about the communion of saints, the dignity of life, and death. And it just feels good to talk about her, this little person God sent to us for such a brief time.

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Baby Valen, pray for us.

that time I ugly cried at a poetry open mic

I recently had an experience that I think could be described as mystical, in that it felt like a sudden and unexpected outpouring of grace. I’ve been trying to process what happened and why it happened ever since, because although I am very grateful, it was also extremely embarrassing.

On Wednesday night last month, Chris told me that the after-party for the Thursday night prayer service led by the seminarians would be a poetry open mic, and asked if I would want to read one of my poems. I immediately said no. But then, the next day when his classmate texted me asking if I would read a poem if she did, I reconsidered. Two invitations? I decided I would read my villanelle, but I would also read a very good villanelle.

This prayer service is held in the chapel of the seminary on campus, which has the acoustics of a huge bathroom. The seminarian leading the singing doesn’t need a microphone, his voice carries easily. And the response from the pews is thunderous. It is a beautiful time of candle-lit prayer, most of it sung, with a couple short readings and a homily. The last line that closes the evening is the seminarian singing, Let grace come and this world pass away. And the response is, Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. 

This last line, the chorus of voices echoing around me, got me. I had this sudden, deep longing for everything to be made right, a strong desire for Jesus. And the way I experience this kind of longing is through crying. (I’ve mentioned I refer to it somewhat jokingly as having the gift of tears, which is a thing, I just don’t know if I really have it). I teared up but quickly pulled it together because everyone was starting to leave and head downstairs for the open mic part of the evening.

After grabbing tea and scones, Chris and I found seats right in front and sat chatting with his classmates, waiting for the poetry part to begin. I was nervous because as it started, it seemed most people were reciting poems they had memorized, or doing original spoken word poems. I firmly planned to just read the two poems I had brought. Some were funny, some were funny and high energy, and mine were neither. But when it was my turn, I stood up, put on the designated “poetry scarf,” and began.

The first poem went fine. I did a little introduction about villanelles, said I’d be reading a really good one for them first, and read it. Then I turned to mine and felt it deserved a little introduction, too. I think I made the mistake of being rather vulnerable. I shared that this poem was about the Visitation, and that as I was a fairly new convert to Catholicism, I was still getting to know Mary. I like this part of scripture because it shows us Mary from Elizabeth’s perspective, and gives us another glimpse into her life. By this time, my voice had started shaking. I realized that I had just opened up a lot of myself in front of about forty people, most of whom I didn’t know. But I took a deep breath and started reading my poem.

As I was reading, it was the strangest thing, it was like I was surprised by the poem. It’s about two women, two mothers with babies in their wombs, and I suddenly thought, I’m probably the only mother in this room. I read, “Already she faced her share of the sword,” and thought, who am I to be writing this about this woman? By the time I got to the line, “Blessed one! With your yes you moved us toward/the home we long for, and all things made right,” I had totally lost it. I was full on ugly crying in the middle of my own poem.

I garbled out the last two lines, muttered, “Sorry,” and tried to sink as quickly back into my seat as I could. I could not stop crying.

I was so embarrassed and I had no way to explain to all these strangers why I was crying. I wasn’t really sure why either. I tried to dismiss it – it’s just because I’m really tired. But as I tried to block out everyone around me and how ridiculous the situation was, I remembered that God usually does speak to me in deep ways through tears. And this had felt like grace – just much more publicly humiliating and therefore bewildering than I would have chosen.

Two days later I went to a lecture on campus about Chiara Lubich, who founded the lay movement, Focolare. I had no idea who she was but for whatever reason I wanted to go hear this talk. The professor spoke about Chiara’s focus on Maria Desolata  – Mary desolate.

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He said that Mary, at the foot of the cross, sees all of the misery and suffering of the world, and holds it all. That Maria Desolata was an icon for Chiara for looking unflinchingly and lovingly at a world in pain. Chiara wrote, “If Jesus forsaken seemed to us to be the pupil of God’s eye open onto the world, we can say that Mary desolate seems to us a kind of camera obscura taking in all that is negative in the world (Essential Writings: Spirituality, Dialogue, Culture, p. 299). And the professor commented, “The Mary who holds the disfigured Christ is also the one who can gaze objectively at the world in all of its disfigurement. Just as a photographic image is developed from a negative, Mary can hope for redemption of a fallen world in the midst of her and the world’s most complete agony (“Chiara Lubich: A Saint for a New Global Unity,” Casarella).” 

And I started to cry again. Was that what I had experienced, a tiny glimpse of this? Was that the grace?

Professor Casarella went on to say that Mary desolate also offers “an icon of knowing how to lose.” He summarized Chiara’s thoughts on this, saying, “Apart from her Son, Mary had very little. When she lost him in his Passion, the loss was total and decisive. But she saw this loss for what it really was. The one who prepared all her life to be alone, became Mother to each of us, to the whole of the world (Essential Writings p.302)… Her love, her capacity for giving is human, real, and maternal. It consists of a unique capacity to bear the sorrow of the world in one’s heart. According to Chiara, when a mother hopes all things for her child and puts up with all the troubles involved, she sees further than others. (“Chiara Lubich: A Saint for a New Global Unity,” Casarella). 

I was sitting next to one of Chris’s classmates and when she turned to me at this point to whisper something, she saw that I was crying. She looked concerned and asked,”Are you okay?” I nodded and whispered, “Yeah, I’m fine, I just had this mystical experience the other night and I think it’s making more sense to me right now.” She accepted this as a reasonable explanation (you’re the best, Jackie).

I’m still reflecting on all this and will be for a long time. But in the meantime, St. Therese of Lisieux said, “Everything is grace.” It took ugly crying in front of strangers but now I think I have some idea of what she meant.

end of september quick takes

Well, it’s fall now and if I seem obsessed with seasons it’s because summer in South Bend is HOT, fall is crisp and gorgeous but FLEETING, and winter is grey and freezing and ETERNAL. And I don’t do well with change. But before September is gone I wanted to reflect on how back to school went and other random thoughts/things.

1)  Evangeline starts her fifth week of school this week and it’s going really well. She’s made friends, likes her teachers, and loves the playground and snack time (of course). I spend the five minute drive home peppering her with questions about the “works” she did, but she rarely is able to tell me much about those. Understandable. She was exhausted after school for the first week or so but has adjusted and now she’s her normal three year old self the rest of the day. I try to make sure she gets a car nap once or twice a week because she needs it every so often, but girlfriend will not nap in her bed anymore.

2) Evange in school means mornings look different for me now. If she’s not up, I get her up by 7:20 and get her dressed and do her hair so we’re eating breakfast by 7:30 and she has plenty of time to eat before hopping in the car at 8, to get to school before 8:15. We have not been late yet! Woot! Zelie is along for the ride but by the time we get back she’s nearly ready for her morning nap. (She’s been waking up at 5am… blerg.) But I’m so glad she still takes two naps, because I get to finish my tea with a book on the deck and it has been glorious. I usually have time to shower, too, and get some things done around the house. I sometimes feel like I should do more with that time, but I got a part time job that will start soon, so I’m just enjoying the freedom for now.

3) Which leads me to books! I finished Crazy Rich Asians (I dropped my library copy in the bathtub – oops), read six or so essays from Flannery O’Connor’s Mystery and Manners (highly enjoyable), and now I find myself working through three non-fiction books, which never happens. Catherine of Siena by Sigrid Undset (really enjoying as spiritual reading), The Grace of Enough by Haley Stewart (reminding me I want to go further with gardening next summer, and also maybe be open to backyard chickens again), and No- Drama Discipline (which I’m reading v v slowly but is good). Oh and I’m on Harry Potter #5 audiobook for those car naps.

4) Fall! We went apple picking, the weather was perfect, I was so happy.

5) We’ve lived in our house for six months now and I feel pretty settled here. I found this bench at a rummage sale and decided to give it a chance and I’m pleased with the results. My favorite part of the house is the backyard, though, so I want to get more use out of the fire pit and just soak it all up before it’s covered in snow (gahhhh). I had the chance to host a group of mom friends for a prayer and playdate time twice this month and both mornings were warm so we were outside. I really enjoy being able to practice hospitality and get more use out of all this space. Different note – we’re renting out the house for a few football weekends and that made us decide to buy a TV. I am equal parts horrified that we own one, proud of myself for navigating Best Buy and setting up Chrome Cast, and guilty that our house feels too luxurious now. But it has been nice for college football viewing. (And Evange got some Silly Songs With Larry when she succumbed to the miserable cold we’ve all been fighting this week).

6) Speaking of the house, life with a housemate has been swell. He’s super busy so he’s not around often, but when he’s home he is great with the girls and they love him. And if he’s around for dinner and Chris is still at class, he does the dishes while I put the girls to bed and it is the best thing ever. Highly recommend.

7) I’ll end with a little pat on my back because this month marked one year of cloth diapering, and I’m still going strong. Well, actually, several of the hand-me-down diapers with velcro fastens need the velcro replaced, which has made me use more disposables in between washings, but once I get that sorted it’ll be smooth sailing. I even took them traveling – to NJ for Christmas and to RI this summer – because we drove and would be in a house with washer/dryer so why not? I’m still finding satisfaction in the re-usable-ness of them and I don’t mind the work involved, so we’ll see how long it goes.

Anyway, Happy Monday! Any good fiction recs? I’ll take em!

 

first born out of my womb (a birth story three years late)

First born out of my womb, love of my life. That’s something my mom would say to me growing up, or at least how I remember it. Kinda weird but also great, like my mom (love you!). Chris and I are both oldest children and, let’s be real, there’s just something special about that first baby. Evangeline Marit made us parents for the first time. And, as I’m realizing, everything new about parenting, we’ll hit first with her. At least the basic developmental things in these early years. So, as we celebrated her third birthday last week and I reminisce about these last three years, I thought I’d finally typity type out a birth story. If that’s your kind of thing, read on.

I went into labor three days before my due date, on a Tuesday night. I was lying in bed when I felt some cramping start and I was like, OMG IS THIS IT?? It died away and came back and so I was like, THIS IS HAPPENING! THESE ARE CONTRACTIONS, THIS IS LABOR! I made Chris get out the contraction timing app we had found and start timing me and had all this adrenaline going. We were both so excited. Labor is exciting! I was also so curious what contractions would actually feel like, because talking to moms and reading about labor, it seemed like no one could describe the pain very well. I had in my head that labor would be like running a marathon. It would be hard, I’d need endurance, and perseverance, but I could trust my body, it was made to do this, and I could do this. I would be smart about it, I would breathe my way through the pain, it would be awesome. So, it’s Tuesday night, contractions start and I am SO PUMPED.

LOL.

Those contractions (which I know now were very early pre-labor contractions) kept me up most of the night and were still far apart and I could talk through them (which I felt great about, because I had nothing to compare them to). Wednesday morning Chris didn’t go to work and we tried to figure out what do to. We went to daily Mass, came home and I managed to nap a bit, and then we got fro-yo and went for a walk on West Cliff. Oh Santa Cruz, I miss you.

Wednesday night – after 24 hours of this early labor business – I tried going to sleep because I was exhausted. But there was still so much excitement and adrenaline, so not much sleep. By 10 or 11pm the contractions seemed to be getting a bit more intense, so we called my mom and she drove over from San Jose. We called the birth center to ask when to come in and to see if they had room for me. They said to wait until contractions were closer together, but that we could come later. My mom arrived and relieved Chris, who had been putting pressure on my back during contractions, so he could nap. Then, around 5am, we headed to the birth center. And I was still so pumped. Like, I appeared calm, and I was focusing on breathing, but I was just so excited that it was actually happening. And that I was handling it well, so far.

We checked in and I was only at 3 cm. I was a bit disappointed, but I shook it off. We got into my room, and it was super nice. I ate breakfast, walked around, sat on a yoga ball, took a shower, and walked some more. At this point, I hadn’t really slept for two nights, but I was still riding the adrenaline high. The contractions got more intense throughout the morning but I had my head in the game. I was breathing through the contractions and kept thinking, My body knows what to do. I kept imagining that the more painful the contractions got, the more effective they were, and surely this was going somewhere.

The midwife checked my progress around 11am and I was at 5 cm. Okay! And then, around 1pm, 7cm! Woot! Things were getting more intense, and this was slower than I’d liked, but there was progress! And then … still 7cm. An hour later they broke my water to try to speed things up, and checked again an hour after that, and said, “Oh, looks like it’s 6cm.”

WHAT! I’M GOING BACKWARD?? That’s when I realized, This is nothing like a marathon. I have no idea how long this race is. There are no mile markers, there is no way to tell when the end will be. And with that, I was crushed. I was so discouraged that Chris got really worried. Without telling me, he sent texts to family and friends asking them to pray for me. I think it was probably around this point, I remember asking, Can they just cut the baby out of me? I’d really be okay with that. 

The midwife suggested getting in the tub to try to help me relax and get some rest. Chris got in with me to keep putting pressure on my back, and I tried to lean on him and sleep a bit in between contractions. After the tub time, I rallied a bit and decided to ask for some intervention. They gave me fentanyl, which takes the edge off the contractions, but only lasts for an hour. Once I got the IV in, I had to stay in bed, which was super uncomfortable. I have memories of lying on my back, staring out the window at the sun setting, and crushing Chris or my mom’s hands every contraction while making the weirdest, terrible moaning sounds. Part of me was amused at how weird I sounded, part of me felt bad for Chris and my mom having to sit there and listen to it for so long, and part of me just wanted to black out and wake up with a baby outside of my body.

Finally, around 8:30 or 9pm, I got an epidural. Sitting still on the edge of the bed for the needle shot was hellish, but at this point I didn’t care, because relief was finally coming. It had been 48 hours at this point. Once the epidural took effect, I was able to relax. The plan was for me to sleep a bit, but things started moving quickly. Soon, I was being told to push, and right after that, we met Evangeline!

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We didn’t know if she was a boy or a girl, so that was a sweet surprise. We’d come with two boys names and three girls names, and right away I knew she was Evangeline Marit. With the epidural, I didn’t feel the pushing or her coming out, so I didn’t have as strong of a feeling of relief/giddiness as I did with Zelie, but man, when they held her up and said she was a girl and put her on my chest, it was amazing. And they left her there for over an hour, just letting us do skin to skin. And Chris pulled off his shirt so he could get some skin to skin time too. So cute.

It was a crazy long labor, and not what I expected, but I’m glad it was what it was. I wanted to have a natural birth, but I was open to whatever came up and open to interventions if needed, and it was definitely needed. There’s so much weird guilt, in some circles, about epidurals, so I’m glad I’ve had the experience of using one so I can say, You do what you have to do to have a good birth experience. Every woman is different, every baby is different, every birth is different. It wasn’t anything like running a marathon, it had some crazy emotional ups and downs, and we got this baby girl at the end. Now we’ll see if I get around to sharing Zelie’s birth story before she turns 3.

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