Monday, April 30, 2012

Caroline's Birth Story

I love Birth stories. I read a bunch of them while pregnant and it got me more and more excited for Baby Caroline to have her own birth story. Our story is my favorite because, well, its ours! And it brought us our precious girl. 

A little up front note: Jay and I were pretty committed to a natural birth. Now I am not opposed to epidurals or medication or c-sections or any of the above. It is a personal decision and we made our decision for a natural birth based on what we thought was best for our baby, and my body. It is not the best decision for every family and that is okay. Also, we were extremely blessed that our baby, and my body cooperated with our decision, because we also know that is not the case with every birth. Natural birth was something we planned for, and prepared for (mentally and physically) from the beginning... it was by no means a last minute decision. In the end, the best part of our birth was our healthy, beautiful baby girl... and praise God that she is here with us now! 
I woke up on Easter sunday and was having very mild cramps. I knew this was early labor, but wasn't too excited yet. My mom was in town for the weekend and we went to church and my sweet Mama made us lunch when we came home. Then we all hit the neighborhood walking. I think we probably walked about 3 miles over the course of the afternoon and evening (our friends Dave and Alison walked with us for awhile too - thanks!) but it felt good to walk and I was wanting to speed things up! At this point my contractions were irregular and very mild. I was able to go to sleep that night just fine and slept until about 3 in the morning before waking up feeling contractions more like really bad period cramps. I was still able to doze in and out of sleep until around 7 am. By this point I new the "cramps" were getting closer together and slightly more intense and it was time to wake Jay up to time these things and figure out where we were. The contractions were about 5 minutes apart. 
Easter Sunday - My last pregnancy photo with the 40 week + 4 Day Baby Belly!
I was still able to eat breakfast (and wanted to eat!) Then we started walking again. It felt SO much better to walk, walk, walk and walk through the contractions. They continued to get more and more painful, and I definitely felt everything in my lower back (The heating pad on my lower back was my best friend!) For most of the morning my contractions were anywhere from 4 - 7 minutes apart. We alternated between laying on the sofa and walking. Jay and I joke now that our neighbors officially decided we were crazy people, because we seriously just paced up and down our street walking through the contractions. Also, our sweet Bella girl walked with us and was quite confused as to why we kept turning around and didn't actually make it around the whole block to see her dog friends. Poor girl.  

Around two in the afternoon Jay decided it was time to call the Doctors office. They said they wanted to see me in the office and to check our progression. I was hesitant to leave home, but felt confident knowing that at-least they could check me before the office closed and then we could decide whether or not to come back home as opposed to going to labor and delivery after hours and feeling a little more "stuck" if I wasn't progressing as quickly as we were hoping. Also at this point I was having contractions about 3 minutes apart. They were increasingly more painful but still manageable (I now had to stop and focus to get through them, but I still was anxious that we were possibly a long ways from actually meeting our girl). 

We had made a play list of music but never even turned it on. The biggest "help" to me (aside from my sweet, and amazing husband) was just focusing every single contraction on meeting our baby and on Jay and just on praying for strength and for safety for our little girl. It truly became much more of a mental thing for me. I think my stubbornness helped some too, because I refused to let myself give in to the pain, but instead I was absolutely determined to remain in control of how I was feeling and involved in any decision making. 

Anyway, we got to the Doctor around 3 PM and the nurse practitioner checked me and told us I was already dilated to 6 and 80% effaced, zero station, and she could feel my bag of waters bulging.  Whew! I was thrilled that we had made such good progress at home and that I still felt fairly in control of the pain. The only negative at this point was that of the 5 doctors in the practice, they told me that my least favorite was on call. Jay looked at me and said "Katherine, there must be a reason. Don't loose your focus." They wanted us to go on to Labor and Delivery, which we agreed with, but first Jay and I decided we were going to get him a late lunch (I was definitely not interested in eating by this point!) So he ran into subway and I paced around the car (again probably made some on-lookers feel a little weird but it felt good to be moving). 

We got to Labor and Delivery at the hospital about 4 PM. They had to do thirty minutes of fetal monitoring to get a baseline and I also had to get an IV and penicillin because I was group B positive. The penicillin burned like crazy and I hated being stuck in the bed. After thirty minutes of monitoring, they left the fetal monitors on my belly, but just disconnected them from the main monitor so that I could walk around the room and up and down the halls. My contractions were at the very, very painful stage by this point, but still about 2 -3 minutes apart - just intense! My nurse said that even though they were not getting closer together they were intense enough to still be causing dilation. My two nurses were amazing. The Lord definitely had them in the right place at the right time for me because they were both exactly what I needed. Encouraging, informative, and so supportive. 
They brought in a birth ball and it felt good to sit on the ball and lean over the bed. They also continued to microwave our heat pack for us and really were completely supportive of anything we asked. They only hooked me up to the monitor once every 30 minutes and only had to monitor Baby's heart rate before, during, and after 1 contraction. They also didn't make me get back into the bed but I would stand and sway while monitoring which was great. They asked for my birth plan when we first arrived and said that everything seemed very reasonable. They never once offered any medication and were nothing but encouraging about our decision for natural labor. They also only did 2 vaginal exams - when I first arrived and later when I felt like I was ready to push. They supported completely the idea that lots of checks can slow things down. 

Our Doctor was fairly adamant about wanting me to get an epidural, but finally trusted us that I truly did want to try for a natural delivery and was for the most part supportive of decisions. Honestly, I guess this sounds crazy, but even through the pain I never really considered medication. It hurt (bad!), and I wanted the pain to stop, but I never thought that just getting an epidural or having IV pain medication would suddenly make the pain disappear. I still had (and very much wanted to) get this baby out, and so that was my total focus. What could speed labor up and what ensured that our sweet girl was the healthiest she could be. I also still felt in control of my body. Contractions were excruciating, but I knew they would end and I could catch my breath and refocus. 
By around 6:30 (based on what Jay tells me) I started saying "Jay this can't go on any longer".  Jay and one of our incredible nurses encouraged me to get into the bathtub. The water felt great, especially for my lower back, but I told Jay this has got to stop soon. Jay was wonderful and asked me, how many more contractions do you think you can handle. For whatever reason I told him 20. He said then focus like you have been and lets get through twenty more. We both like a little challenge or a goal and it was the motivation I needed to try and break my own goal. 

Luckily, I only had about 8 more contractions and my water broke while in the bathtub. Even though I was in the water, I felt a huge pop and knew instantly it was my water breaking. It didn't hurt, but felt like a water balloon pop inside. Weird! It was kinda scary because we knew we had to get out of right away. Jay went to get the nurses and when I stood up I felt cold, and nauseated, and dizzy, and pain all at the same time. I some how got dried off and back in the bed. The pain was unbearable and I couldn't seem to catch my breath or get any kind of focus back. It was scary. It was the first time I truly felt as though I had absolutely no control of my body. My back hurt so, so bad too. I kept saying "Can't I get a break for a second to just breathe." 

I remember sorta feeling like I needed to push, but never a strong overwhelming desire like I had imagined. Our Doctor came in and checked me and said I was dilated to 10 and it was time to push when I felt ready. By this time it was about 7:30 PM. Pushing was hard. It was by far the worst part for me. I couldn't seem to "get it right" either and kept pushing with my legs. I wanted to sit up, but my back hurt so bad I couldn't hold myself up and push. Our Doctor ended up being exactly what I needed though because she sorta made me mad, and I think gave me more incentive to push harder. I kept saying "This is SO terrible!" and "This is NOT fun." Our Doctor said, "Honey, this is what you asked for. They don't call it Labor for nothing. Get to work." Jay was incredible and so encouraging. He reminded me of how to push with each contraction and was right there holding one of my legs (our nurse had the other) and reminding me of how close we really were to our daughter. 

Honestly the whole pushing phase is a blur. I remember telling my mom to pull my hair back several times because it was so hot on my neck and I remember asking Jay if our baby had hair and the Doctor telling him he couldn't tell me until I pushed harder. She really was kind of mean, but I honestly believe that it gave me enough determination to get through the pain, because I was on the verge of just giving in to exhaustion and my lower back hurting. 

Side Note: I am SO thankful my mom was in the delivery room with us. She was able to see miss caroline being born and just knowing she was there somewhere in the room was reassuring. 

I remember them telling me that the baby's heart rate was dropping and I had to start pushing harder. That also gave me motivation, mixed with some fear, to keep pushing. When her head finally did come out the cord was wrapped around her neck and she was blue. Our Doctor cut the cord immediately before I pushed again. I only had to push once after that and she was on my chest. THE MOST AMAZING FEELING EVER. 
She was very blue and they had to give her oxygen, but they did everything with her on my chest and her color returned pretty quick. Apparently I only had about 35 minutes of pushing but it felt like two hours! 
And I saw that she did indeed have LOTS of hair :) 
Thankful my mom was in the room to take some of these great shots immediately after birth 
Jay kept saying how incredibly beautiful she was, and we were were both instantly in love.  
LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this photo! 
So our daughter Caroline Bennett Hawkins was born at 8:11 PM weighing 7 lbs 11 oz and 19 1/2 in long and we think she is perfect! I Love every minute of this story and Jay and I have spent time going back over all the details. It is ingrained in our minds forever. There are absolutely no words to describe the feeling of meeting your child for the first time - and becoming parents together! Wow. Love! 
 A few of our wonderful nurses! 
 Jay and I feel an overwhelming sense of joy in being called by the Lord to be Caroline's parents. What a task we have ahead of us! But He is faithful to meet us on this journey, but like he has throughout our lives, and throughout this pregnancy, and throughout our delivery. He has special plans for our sweet daughter, and I am excited to be her Mama! Blessed is the only word I know, but it doesn't even seem to do the feelings justice :) 
As far as next time - I would definitely plan to do natural labor again and pray that my body and our next baby cooperate with us again. And this next time is a ways down the road folks. We have lots, and lots we want to do as a family or three first! (well four with miss Bella dog!)

Thanks for reading and sharing in Caroline's story with us! 

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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Caroline Bennett Hawkins

Our sweet girl has arrived! She is actually 17 days old today, but it has taken this Momma that long to get photos off the camera and onto the computer. There is just something about curling up on the sofa with a new baby that is so tempting. I am LOVING these sweet days with my girl :) 

Baby Caroline, this is what we know about you so far - you love sleeping like a frog on Mommy or Daddy or a Grandma's chest. You also love your Boppy Lounger pillow. Greatest pillow ever. Caroline, you also sleep like a champ at night when you are swaddled. The Adin & Anais Swaddle blankets are a life saver. Your Daddy tells you almost everytime he sees you how beautiful you are (and you really are so pretty!). Bella loves to smell you, but hasn't licked you yet. She has been such a gentle dog sister. She is a little confused as to why you need to eat in the middle of the night though. You don't mind riding in the car or your car-seat so far and walks around the block in your stroller have put you right to sleep. We can't wait to get to know you more and more!

Here are a few of our favorite photos from Baby Caroline's first 2 weeks: 
Caroline - Mommy & Daddy LOVE your hair! Well, in reality we love everything about you! 
 Our first Family of 3 photo! Such an amazing feeling to have a growing family :)
 Love those feet snuggled up against momma - and by the way check out how long her little toes are... Caroline, you have uncle benny feet!
 Getting dressed to head home from the hospital
 Wearing the same dress mama wore home from the hospital. So sweet :) 

 Meeting Big Sister Bella! 

 One exhausted daddy! I found him passed out on the nursery floor while attempting to put away Caroline's things when we got home from the hospital. This is what 2 nights of sleeping on the awful hospital pull-out sofa does to a new dad! Y'all my husband is seriously the best. The whole labor and delivery and recovery process has made me fall more in love with Jay. He has taken care of his girls in an unbelievable way. I am blessed... we are blessed by this amazing man! 

 Our little cow in training
 Mama's girls!

 Caroline's first sink bath! 

 We love our sling from Shannon! Mom can get a few things done, and Caroline, you always take a good nap!

Caroline's birth story and pictures of visits from family and friends coming soon! Now for more napping with my favorite girl :) 

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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A Few Updates in Instagram Photos & the Lemon Drop Cupcakes

Hello "Due" Date! We're still waiting on Baby Girl's "Birth" Date, but we are officially at 40 weeks...

Here is a little of what has kept us busy over the past few days:
Jay is teaching himself to play the keyboard. He really is pretty talented! First he mastered Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star and then Mary had a Little Lamb {i think the nursery rhymes are making Baby Girl sleepy and content to stay in the womb forever} He has moved on to playing some Need to Breathe... He likes a quick challenge! 
These beautiful trees are blooming in our back yard. LOVE THEM! They are in full color to welcome our sweet girl home soon! 
Meet Bella: "Queen of the Mulch"
Jay and I pulled weeds and spread some mulch on Sunday afternoon. Bella decided it was the absolute greatest event ever. I mean seriously, what dog wouldn't love hanging out on top of a huge mound of fresh, ready to chew sticks. So cute, isn't she!?!
Rainbow over our house on Baby Girl's Due Date... Made me smile :)
 In celebration of our Due Date Jay and I went to Charlottesville tonight for dinner and to get one of the Famous Lemon Drop Cupcakes from Cappellinos Crazy Cakes Bakery. They are infamous for making women going into Labor within 12 hours of eating one. Crazy huh? Check out the story here
Who knows if it will work, but hey I love cupcakes so it was a fun little, yummy adventure!
As of today there are been 103 "Lemon Drop Babies" in 3 years according to the the Bakery owner. Could Baby Girl Hawkins be #104? 

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