When I started this post, I did not intend for it to turn into a birth story but as I began typing, the words just began "flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup." (Kudos to the person who catches that reference!)
It may sound cliche, but this first year with my little Emma-bean just flew by.
It seems like just yesterday that Paul and I were heading into the hospital, excited that I was finally in active labor nearly two weeks after my due date. Of course, we made a "pit stop" at the Panera to eat something before checking in - labor and delivery takes a lot of energy and I knew that ice chips just wasn't going to cut it for me, especially if everything ended up taking as long as it did with Matthew.
A smoothie and a sandwich later, we were soon all set up in our hospital bedroom and the contractions were quickly progressing from being about five minutes to three minutes apart. I had been experiencing horrible back labor, and that seemed to only build and intensify as labor progressed. The nurse suggested that I try using a "birthing ball" for a while because some women found relief from back labor if they sat on one of those while their spouse gently rubbed on their lower back. Well, Paul and I gave that a try and his idea of a lower back massage felt to me like he was scraping a brick up and down my spine. I think that was one of the only times that I snapped at him during the whole process: "Ok, ok, STOP! You are NOT helping!!!" His massages have always been a bit of an ordeal for me - I don't know why we thought that would suddenly change.
One of the midwives came in and asked if I was interested in an epidural. Even with the horrible back labor, I am terrified of having a needle in my spine, so I declined. It was a little unnerving when my attending nurse asked me: "Are you sure? Because now is the time to get one." I declined again, but that honestly made me question my decision just a bit - especially since the nurse's "okey dokey" response to my wishes was dripping with the underlying message: "You're going to regret that!"
Anyway, I ended up just getting into my zen mode by sitting cross-legged in the bed, eyes closed, a pillow behind my back, and focusing on breathing and relaxing. I actually really enjoyed Emma's labor from this point on because I was totally able to mentally disconnect myself from everything else that was happening in the room and simply focus on breathing, praying, and thinking of holding my baby girl for the first time. Paul was amazed by how peaceful I was acting (very different from our labor with Matthew). He was even able to take a short nap. The time flew by and about three hours after sitting down in that Panera, it was time for Emma to make her appearance!
As much as I enjoyed her labor, when it came time for transition and actually pushing, I felt as if something was very, very wrong. The pain was exponentially greater and I did not feel that "urge" to push as I had with Matthew. My midwife told me that I was fully dilated and asked me to try pushing on the next contraction. I was shocked by how painful it was to push - it completely took me by surprise. With Matthew, the pain was alleviated by pushing and I could feel the progress being made as I did so. However, with Emma, no such relief came and the stabbing pains in my back, torso, and hips were excruciating. The midwife then informed me that Emma was "orientated improperly" and must have flipped during labor. She gave me a little pep talk: "You can do this, sweetie. She's going to make you work for this and it's really going to hurt, but you can do this!"
And hurt it did. Holy cow. Paul actually thought it was a bit funny how pissed off I was by the whole situation. At one point, they put an oxygen mask on me and he could just see how angry that made me by the ferocity in my eyes. The whole process felt like hours, but in reality I think I only pushed for 45 minutes before Emma finally arrived, screaming loudly! They placed her on my chest, and I will never forget the relief that instantly poured over me. My entire body was shaking and I felt incredibly weak, but I lifted my crying baby girl up and cradled her close to me, telling her: "Oh my baby...I'm your Mommy. I'm your Mommy."
And then the best thing happened.
She stopped crying and slowly, her eyes squinting and blinking, unadjusted to the light, looked up at me. Paul and I both were astonished - she clearly recognized my voice and it comforted her! It was the most amazing moment. Paul then began to speak to her and she slowly turned her head to look at him. She knew us. And we instantly fell in love with her - she was our daughter, our little Emma Rose.
Now, she is a stubborn, determined, active 1-year-old. She does not let her older brother (or anyone else for that matter) push her around. She is a tough little cookie with an appetite unmatched by pretty much everyone else in this family. We love her spunk, her sweet personality, and how much she enjoys showing off to everyone. She has been such a blessing to our family.
We celebrated her birthday in a small, intimate fashion with pancakes for dinner (her favorite) and strawberry cake for dessert. It was a pretty, pink cake - perfectly fitting of such a pretty little gal! She slowly (very slowly - so slowly Paul jumped in to help her because he "couldn't take it any longer") opened her gifts - a Maui shirt and sweet little apron from Grandma and Grandpa Nistler, a cat keyboard from Paul and me, and a pair of fashionable sunglasses from Matthew. She loved each and every gift.
She was so excited to see Paul light the candle and then bring it towards her. We had to hold the cake at a distance for her while we sang or else I think she would have tried to pick up the flame. That would not have ended well.
She dove right into her piece of cake. I think she enjoyed it. She certainly loves strawberries! And cake. She'll be happy when we have her big birthday fiesta in a little over a week. More cake!
Yes, this year has certainly flown by but simultaneously I find it odd to think about a time "before Emma." Perhaps it is because she has always been in my heart, long before her birth. As much as I will miss the tiny baby I used to snuggle and rock to sleep, I am looking forward to seeing what God has in store for my little girl. She is a gift - not only to my husband and me - but also the world!
Happy Birthday, dearest Emma!