It was surreal for me. The whole pregnancy was a joyful time from the very start. I had so wanted a third baby, but as a couple, Stefan and I were not on the same page. I can very much understand, and even agree, with his point of view. Babies, who turn into kids, require a lot of money, time, emotional, spiritual, and physical energy, and our life was already very full with our two wonderful sons. We were really very happy and as a family, we were in love. My pregnancy was a total surprise, as we weren't trying to have a baby (in fact, we have never tried to have a baby, and I count that as a blessing).
I can vividly remember the day I found out I was pregnant for the third time, July 18, 2007. I had been at the beach with the boys that morning, the kind of day that was just baking. I remember coming home late morning, all gritty with sand and chapped lips and squinty eyes, and getting the boys to lay down for a quick nap. I was planning on a long afternoon because we were going to the Ann Arbor Art Fair with my family. For the few weeks prior, I had really been trying to lose weight, and I had joined Weight Watchers. It wasn't going well. Although I was following the program religiously, I would either just be the same weight each week or even had gained some! I was so frustrated, and it really never occurred to me in those early days of summertime that I could be pregnant.
The day I got home from the beach, I had one pregnancy test left out of a pack of two. I bought the tests on a whim, thinking that I didn't feel "right" over the weekend, but when I took the test, it was negative, so I put it out of my head and went on with my week. I mostly decided to take the second test to quit wondering about it. It had been three of four days since I took the first one, and I didn't really expect the test to show up with two lines. So much so that I had never even shared with Stefan my recent suspect about the possibility of a baby, or that I was feeling "off". When those two lines appeared on the little stick, my whole body just kind of jolted, and I don't know that I can really convey the heart-stopping thrill of seeing a pregnancy test turn positive.
My first thought was that Stefan was at work, and I had to call him because when he got home we would still be in Ann Arbor...and I wouldn't be able to tell anyone until I told Stefan. Soon after, I was also thinking that he might just have a heart attack. When I called, the poor man was trying to enjoy lunch, and all he could say was, "Excuse me?"
It was a pretty great feeling to show up at my parent's house and say nothing but hand over the pregnancy test to see for themselves. The boys were excited, and most of all, it was thrilling because Allison, my sister, had found out about her pregnancy exactly a month (to the day) before.
The following seven and half months were wonderful. It was my healthiest pregnancy, to date, I didn't gain much weight at all, and I tried to relish every moment because I knew it was to be my last. It was also the only one in which I experienced some nausea, though. It was fun to be pregnant with my sister, and to imagine the new joys that a baby girl would bring to our family. And EVERYONE who found out we were having a girl had the same comment, "You finally get a girl." To be honest, that was really the most annoying thing, and a little rude. It's my personal opinion that you don't have babies to get the "one" that you want. And I would have been completely thrilled with a third boy; in fact, we only could come to terms with a boy's name, and I found it very hard to believe that we could and would have a girl. You may not believe me, but it made no difference to me or Stefan what gender the baby might be.
Fast forward to February 27th, 2008. My doctor had planned an induction for me that day to avoid having a baby on leap day. And while it was still two and half weeks until my due date, the baby needed to come out; she was enjoying all the wonderful holiday food I had been eating and was gaining weight at a steady pace. Having had a 9+ pound baby the first time around, I was all too happy to oblige so that I could have an 8-pounder.
I worked that day, and it was really strange to know that one day I would be at work and then the next day, I would be a new mom again. My sister, Emily, had graciously agreed to stay with our boys through the night and bring them to the hospital the next morning or the next day, whenever the baby arrived. So at 6:30 that evening when we left, it was just me and Stefan. It felt momentous, that drive to the hospital. I wasn't worried or scared; I was happy, and it seems strange to say, but at 31, I felt like a grown up. I was driving to the hospital with my husband, the person I love so much, and we were going to be welcoming our daughter into the world. It was an awesome feeling.
When we arrived, it was quiet at the hospital, and Stefan and I were experienced at this kind of thing by the third time around so we didn't have many questions. The night was quiet and dark with swirls of snowflakes gently falling around us as we walked through the main entrance and made our way up to Labor and Delivery.
As we idly watched our way through Wheel of Fortune and American Idol with our daughter's heartbeat thumping through the monitor's speakers in the background, I couldn't help but wonder what the night would bring. The waiting was mundane, but the coming event was so not. Would it be long? Would it be painful, or would my epidural take care of that? What would she look like, our little Scarlet Grace? Would she be healthy (our biggest concern)? It was well after 9 P.M. before the ball really started rolling, and I was given the drug to induce my labor. Sometime around 10 P.M., just our parents arrived and did some talking and praying and retreated to the waiting room. Soon after, my wonderful doctor arrived to assess "the situation". It was just about midnight, when the new day was arriving, that she decided to break my water. I'll spare you, Internet, the gory and glorious details of delivering a baby naturally. I say naturally because that darn epidural failed me. Oh, my right leg was number than doornail, but that was about it. I felt every movement that tiny baby was making. But the process of labor isn't what makes you mother. Certainly, it's a rite of passage, and I think that I would be sad about missing out on it, actually, but like walking through a firestorm, literally or figuratively, it's how you come out on the other side.
Scarlet Grace arrived both fiery and gently, like her name. She came into this world boldly, yet it was so peaceful and quiet in that room, just the four of us, doctor, nurse, mom, and dad, waiting with our hearts open. The elation I felt as the adrenaline rushed through me while birthing her was incredible. As the mom, ironically, you take a back seat in the process. Everything is about the baby, and it's so gratifying and almost haughty to know that you are creating a family. One of the best parts of it all is being able to watch your husband watch you have a baby. Every emotion plays out on the face, and while I was of course the one feeling her birth, I was also watching it by watching Stefan's face and eyes. She was born at 2:46 A.M., just two hours after active labor really began. Having never had a baby in the middle of the night, it was a totally different experience than my first two children who were labored throughout the length of the day(s). The busy humming of the labor and delivery ward is eerily quiet, lights are off, interruptions are minimal, and there was no big waiting crowd in the lounge. In fact, Stefan rarely left my side to give updates because they were all sleeping, and when he eventually went out with the camera to show pictures, only his mom was awake and the others awoke to the sight of a beautiful baby girl.
In my mind, that night is recorded in memory snapshots, like the ones they take at Christmas time that have that glowy effect all around the edges, and my mental movie is on permanent slow motion. I can savor every sound, sight, and detail of the delivery room, the cadence of the nurse's speech, the doctor's progress reports that energized my efforts, the smell of the handsoap, and the awkward feeling of the bed. The moment I became her mother and her little squirmy body was placed upon my chest was among the four greatest moments in my life.
The early apprehension we felt about adding a third child to our brood melted away so quickly. On paper I still see the financial implications of my maternity leave and baby supplies, and another nursery to decorate, and baby food, and everything else "baby". But in our heart of hearts, we know that our strong, graceful baby girl was intended for great purpose within our family.