{The first photo Erik and I each have with our baby girl, just moments after she was born}

My sweet baby girl turns one today and in honor of her and this special day, I am posting her birth story.

I actually started writing Juliet’s birth story when she was just 7 weeks old.  I would free write for 10 minutes or so…get distracted with the baby and then come back to the story every so often. I did this for the next 9 months until I almost had the whole story documented.  I loved that I had started writing it fairly early on, when I still remembered those smaller details that so importantly help tell the story.

Unfortunately, I was writing the birth story in a draft email in my gmail.  In November, I went to add to it and realized it was gone.  Completely gone.  Lost forever.  I must have searched for over an hour for that draft but never found it.  I never should have been saving it as a draft, but alas, it was gone.
And so I started over.  From the beginning.  It’s still taken me since November to finish her story.  But I’m finally done, and here it is.
First let me say, please forgive the photos.  They aren’t great.  I am the one in the family who does the picture taking.  Erik is…let’s just say, less than great with a camera.  So the photos are what they are.  I’m glad I got a few good ones with my phone/instagram.
Juliet arrived 4 weeks early.  To say I was shocked when I realized I was really in labor is an understatement.  I was shocked and in complete denial.  I was expecting to go over my due date, as I knew a lot of first time moms do.  Projects were unfinished at work.  My office was a disaster.  Work was the only thing I could think of when my water broke at midnight the night of February 15.  I had been getting up to go to the bathroom at least 3 times a night in my final trimester and this one particular time ended with a huge gush all over the bathroom floor.  I knew immediately that it was my water breaking.  But I negotiated with myself in the weirdest way.  I told myself that I would get back into bed, try to sleep until the morning and then head into the office and also make a quick dr. appointment to get checked out.  I don’t know what I was thinking.  But I guess I thought I could buy more time to tie up loose ends at work.  It was irrational, I know.  I never once felt worried about the baby being so early.  I had a growth ultrasound just a couple days earlier and knew that Juliet was at least 6 pounds and healthy.  Somehow, I just knew she would be fine.
And so I got back into bed.  But of course my mind was racing.  Was I really having a baby today?  I knew all the right information.  I knew that I should deliver the baby within 24 hours of my water breaking due to risk of infection.  I got up a couple more times in the next 15 minutes and felt more gushing.  At this point I snapped myself out of the denial and faced reality.  It was time to wake up Erik, and call the dr.  I shook his arm and said, “honey, I think my water broke”.  He literally jumped out of bed and yelled “WHAT?!”  I think he was in more shock than I was.  I told him not to worry, everything was fine.  I called the after hours nurse line and left a message.  The on-call dr. returned my call immediately.  She told me to head to the hospital.  This was all really happening.
Luckily, I was prepared and had my hospital bag nearly packed.  The only thing I hadn’t done yet was wash Juliet’s coming home outfit and blankets.  For a brief moment I felt sad that she wouldn’t come home in the adorable rose outfit I so thoughtfully picked out for her.  But it was fleeting.  Such a small detail in the scheme of things, this I knew.  I added a few pieces of comfy clothing for me to the hospital bag, told Erik to pack his own bag and then decided I wanted to take a shower.  Erik looked at me like I was crazy.  I think he expected the baby to be born that very minute.  He had a major sense of urgency, while I was moving slowly, deliberately.  I knew it could easily be another day before she was here.  I wanted to take a hot shower and breathe in and be present in this moment.  Such a huge moment.  I’m really glad I did that.
We got into the car, and I had to sit on a towel.  When you think of your water breaking, I guess I just assumed it would break and that would be the end of it.  Instead, there are constant, small gushes.  A lot of fluid.  It’s weird and every time it happened I said, “oh. my. god.”  We pulled out of the driveway and started heading to the hospital, it was around 1 in the morning.  I remember driving down the street in the middle of the night, thinking the tall trees looked lonely in the dark.  I remember looking at Erik and thinking that this was the last time our family would be just him and I.  I remember being super present and trying to take in every second of what was happening.  I remember feeling very peaceful.  I wasn’t scared or nervous at all.
Because it was in the middle of the night, we had to use the emergency room entrance (we learned this at our birth class) but we accidentally parked in the ramp furthest away.  So we had a couple blocks to walk and I can still hear the sound of my boots shuffling on the icy sidewalks while I clung to Erik’s arm.  We arrived in the birthing center and I was happy to see that the on-call dr had already called and told them we were coming.  The hospital had all my information because I pre-registered and we were put in a labor and delivery room immediately, no waiting, no signing papers.
I put on a hospital gown and met our first nurse.  I don’t remember her name but she was nice, made me feel at ease and told me she was going to test and confirm that my water did break.  A few minutes later it was confirmed.  I would be having a baby that day.  She said that they would want to deliver the baby by midnight the following night and encouraged Erik and I to lie down and get some sleep.  The dr. would be coming in to talk to me in the morning (it was around 2:30am at this point).
Erik laid down in what seemed like the most uncomfortable chair in the world and fell right asleep.  I couldn’t sleep. I just lay there thinking of the baby, thinking of work, thinking of telling my family and my friends.  I was in a bit of disbelief that this was happening.  The nurse continued coming in each hour to check on me (I was hooked up to the monitor, but could easily move around).  At 7:30am a new nurse came on duty.  Her name was Barb and she was amazing.  Barb helped make my birthing experience awesome and peaceful.
Around this time, Erik called his mom who lives in North Dakota and would be driving down to meet her first grandchild.  Erik made her a hotel reservation down the street and we both crossed our fingers that she would easily find the hospital despite the fact that it is in the middle of the city and she is from a very small town and gets nervous driving in Minneapolis (she made it just fine!).  I started texting and calling family and friends.  Everyone was super surprised and as I talked to each friend and family member,  I started getting more and more excited.
Barb confirmed that I was having contractions, but they were mild and I couldn’t feel them.  She thought the doctor would most likely recommend Pitocin to get things moving along.  She said the doctor would be coming in to chat with me soon.  She also checked my progress and said I was 100% effaced and almost a centimeter dilated.  I wasn’t disappointed about this, but assumed it meant a long day ahead and a good chance of needing Pitocin.  I texted with my friend Mel whose water broke and received Pitocin and she said “I hope you don’t have to get Pitocin.  Pitocin contractions suck.”  This was the first time I felt a bit nervous all day.  I read about inductions and that they sometimes lead to C-sections.  I knew my chance of a C-section at this hospital was about 25%, based on statistics and I was very realistic about that was happening.  I didn’t have a firm birth plan by any means going into this.  I knew I was open (and pretty much certain) to having an epidural.  I wanted skin-to-skin right away.  I didn’t want to be pushed into interventions unless it was necessary.  But overall, my only plan in the birth plan was to keep an open mind.
I’d read enough birth stories to know all the different scenarios.  At this point it had been about 8 hours after my water breaking, and I thought Pitocen might be a good idea to get things moving.  When the dr. arrived she recommended Pitocin and I agreed to the lowest dose of 2 units (at least I think this was the lowest dose?? Now I’m not certain).  I was given Pitocin and then I expected to just hang out while waiting to start having contractions.  Erik and I subscribed to Netflix (we had brought our laptop) and I assumed we would have hours to hang out, watching movies or TV shows.  Erik started watching How I Met Your Mother while I emailed my bosses and checked texts on my phone.

{Taken at about 8:30am, I am emailing my bosses to let them know I was in labor}

Well, contractions started building very quickly after receiving Pitocin.  I started feeling them almost right away.  They weren’t bad, at first.  They made me stop and focus a bit but they were very bearable.  The last thing I wanted to do was watch How I Met Your Mother though.  So I walked around the room, rolled on the birthing ball, paced, went to the bathroom, etc.  The contractions started getting painful pretty fast.  And they weren’t on any sort of pattern.  Some came on top of one another, some came minutes apart.  Erik tried to be encouraging.  He would say things like “breathe honey”, “you’re doing great”…but it was really distracting for me and I just needed him to be quiet.  He was trying to help, but it wasn’t what I needed.  So he continued to sit quietly in the corner and watch “How I Met Your Mother”.  The contractions built and got worse.  I found the most comfortable position on the rocking chair, my chin lowered to my chest and breathing as deeply as I could as the contraction built.  As the contraction rescinded, I breathed out.  I had searched on YouTube for breathing labor techniques a few weeks earlier and found a few videos that were helpful for me.  The super deep breathing helped work through the painful contractions.  These went on from about 9am until noon.  About an hour into it, I got pissed at Erik watching How I Met Your Mother and shot him a dirty look and instructed him to “TURN. IT. OFF.” Poor Erik.  But it was just something about being in pain and him watching a TV show that seemed so wrong in that moment.  He would have helped if he could, but I didn’t want coaching from him or really anything.  So he basically sat in the corner quietly, just watching me.

My awesome nurse Barb said she would check my progress if I wanted but didn’t encourage it frequently.  I didn’t want to get discouraged so I didn’t ask to get checked very often.  Then at around noon I needed a distraction and asked her to check.  I was at a 3.  Not bad.  There was some progress.

For the next 30 minutes the contractions hurt like hell.  I was starting to feel a little panicky with the pain but wanted to hold off on the epidural for as long as I could as I felt that laboring this way would be the best bet for progress.  Then a couple hard contractions hit and I yelled to Erik “PLEASE CALL THE NURSE AND TELL HER I NEED AN EPIDURAL”.  He pushed the button and let them know. Barb stopped in shortly and I think she could see it in my eyes that I was ready.  I needed the epidural.  She said the anesthesiologist was finishing up and would be in about 15 minutes.  Oh god.  15 minutes seemed like an eternity with these painful contractions but I got back on my rocking chair and breathed.

As I waited for the epidural I continued having super painful contractions.  By now I was standing on the side of the bed, swaying and breathing loudly, willing the anesthesiologist to get into the room quicker.  The two nurse anesthetists arrived and well…I can’t remember what exactly they did, set up for the epidural maybe?  All I know is that I felt kind of exposed with these two new people in the room and maybe they felt my discomfort because as I had painful contractions they kept on saying “you’re doing a great job” and “good job”.  I knew they probably told everyone the same thing but at that moment it made me feel better.

The anesthesiologist came in and I signed a waiver.  I was sitting on the side of the bed looking out the window and never turned around to look at him, I never saw the guy that gave me my epidural.  As he was there and I waited for the epidural I had 2-3 more super painful contractions.  I was so nervous I wouldn’t be able to hold still but he moved quickly and gave me the epidural right after a contraction passed.  It didn’t hurt at all.  I lay down in bed and waited for relief.  It came almost immediately.  I felt amazing and calm and no pain.  I felt pressure and I was a little shaky, but overall I felt pretty good.

My progress hadn’t been checked in a while and the nurse wanted to see where things were at and I agreed.  She checked about 30 minutes after the epidural was administered and I was at 7.5!! This was awesome news.  It was about 1pm and her shift ended at 3:30pm.  She told me she believed she would still be there to help deliver the baby.  This made me super happy.  I didn’t want another nurse coming in.
The next hour went by fast.  I continued feeling the pressure of the contractions but no pain at all.  I listened to music on my phone and tried to relax.  The room was bright and airy and the feeling was very calm and peaceful.  By about 1:45pm, Barb checked progress again and I was fully dilated and she could feel Juliet’s head.  She said she was going to find the doctor and we would start pushing very soon.
About 20 minutes prior to that, Erik ran downstairs to the cafeteria to get a sandwich, he was hungry and hadn’t eaten since dinner the night before.  I hadn’t either but food was the last thing on my mind and after the epidural I don’t think I was allowed to have food anyway.  He came back just as Barb was saying we should start pushing soon.  She also emptied my bladder through the catheter, all while Erik was finishing his roast beef sandwich.  He kind of looked like he was going to be sick and I worried for a moment about him getting through this ok.
Barb came back shortly and said the doctor was finishing up with another patient and would be in the room in about 10 minutes.  So Barb said “let’s get started with some practice pushing, grab a leg Erik”.  This whole “let’s get started grab a leg and let’s go” kind of freaked me out because it happened so fast and I thought labor would take soo much longer (don’t get me wrong, I know I’m lucky it didn’t) and everything was so calm.  I was expecting clanking metal, tables being rushed in, sounds of medical equipment…you know…like the movies or TV shows.  My expectations of that moment were so different then what really happened.  But in a good way.
Erik did as he was told and grabbed a leg.  Barb grabbed the other leg and told me how to push.  I looked back and forth at Erik and Barb and noticed Erik’s facial expression was a mixture of “I’m about to vomit” and just completely freaked out sort of like he wanted to run fast as hell out the door.  I asked him “are you going to be alright?” and he mustered a smile and said “yeah”.  I knew what was bothering him.  He really didn’t want to look “down there” and always had the plan to stay up near my head and avoid all “goings on down there”.  I think he was a bit freaked out to realize how close everything is and maybe it was harder to avoid then he thought.  He did manage to make it through the birth without seeing much of the action “down there”.
So we practice pushed 3 times while we waited for the doctor and Barb said I was doing great.  She told me I had the right technique and I felt confident at that moment that I would be very soon pushing my baby girl into the world.  I was excited, a bit terrified but overall pretty calm.
The dr. arrived, sat down and we started “real” pushing.  It took about 3-4 big contractions/pushes and out Juliet came, the whole pushing part was over in about 10 minutes, maybe less.  All I felt was pressure, but it was sort of intense pressure and I didn’t need to be told when to push, my body knew when it was time. So I feel like I had the most perfect epidural I could have ever asked for.  It still allowed my body to feel some natural tendencies for labor and I could also feel and move my legs and my whole body.  But I had no real pain.
I breathed and pushed and the dr asked “do you want to touch her head” and I didn’t know if I did or didn’t but I yelled “no!” and then “I mean no thank you”.  I later remembered saying that and thought it was funny that I felt it was important to have good manners as I was pushing a baby out.  As she came out I just breathed and said “ohmygodohmygodohmygod” and cried, feeling the hugeness of that moment.
Juliet arrived a little after 2pm, crying a sweet little cry.  I’m not sure what the protocol at the hospital is but Barb knew I wanted Juliet immediately on my chest and as soon as she came out I heard Barb say sternly to the dr. “She wants her!” and the next thing I knew I was staring down at this tiny baby girl who I immediately could see had my nose and lots of beautiful black hair.  She was covered in vernix, which is totally normal for an early baby and as I began talking to her she calmed down, as though recognizing my voice and knowing who I was.  That is the moment I think I truly became a momma.  Holding my baby on my chest and talking to her while she calmed down, knowing me, having this instinctive, natural bond already.
I don’t know how much time passed, maybe just a few minutes but the nurse took Juliet briefly, to wipe her face/head up a bit, weigh her, wrap her in a blanket and a hat and let Erik hold her.  She was then handed back to me and we did skin to skin on my chest for the next two hours.
The next couple hours are sort of a blur, a beautiful blur.  I was running on adrenaline and love.  The doctor had to stich me up because I had a level two tear (I didn’t feel the tear or getting stitches thanks to the epidural).
I stared at my baby girl on my chest, her eyes wide open and very calm.  We tried breastfeeding a couple times and she did latch, though I had no idea what I was doing and if she was actually feeding or just sucking or what was going on.
Erik was very sweet during this time, holding his little girl, calling and texting all his friends.  He was very proud and that made me so happy.  I sent a photo to all my friends and family and talked to my best friend Kristin, who was going to stop in for a visit soon. 
Those two hours when it was just Erik, Juliet and I alone in the hospital room is one of my favorite moments of her birthday.  It was so calm and peaceful.  It was the perfect amount of time to have to ourselves before we had visitors come.  Even the nurses and doctors weren’t around.  Just us.  Our new little family.  My beautiful, sweet, small baby girl.  I was very much in love with her.
{Our first photo as a family of three}

{Juliet’s first bath, about 6 hours after she was born}

{Getting ready to head home from the hospital, I found out soon after that those car seat inserts shouldn’t be used, and removed it}

The next couple of days were also a blur.  Even though I had this tiny newborn, and didn’t exactly know what I was doing, I really felt I was operating on my momma instinct and felt pretty confident and also very calm.  We dealt with low blood sugar, 10% weight loss, having to supplement with formula for a couple days, jaundice and bili-lights.

I’m going to be honest and tell you that when the nurses recommended that Juliet be fed formula, I was upset.  I was very set on breastfeeding and my perspective was too skewed by all the blogs I was reading at the time that were very pro-breastfeeding, and sort of anti-formula feeding.  Those bloggers were not experts, which I knew, but still took their opinion seriously.  Soon after, and thinking on it now, I realized I should have never thought twice about giving Juliet formula or let it upset me.  It helped her blood sugar levels and prevented her from losing more weight than she already was.  Giving her formula was no big deal and was absolutely necessary for her in those early days. We continued to supplement unti she was about 3-4 days old and my milk came in.

We saw the pediatrician every day for a week after she was born to monitor weight, blood sugar levels and jaundice.  I rented a hospital grade breast pump and was a breast pumping fool (based on advice from the lactation consultants).  Erik helped with every feeding the first 5 days, which included breastfeeding, finger feeding with a dropper and pumping every two hours.  Welcome to parenthood!

The first couple weeks were definitely not easy, but thinking back on it I believe we got through those weeks as new parents pretty gracefully.  It helped that Juliet was a dream baby, rarely cried…she was just a little love.  She enjoyed lying on our chest and breastfeeding.  She wasn’t a great sleeper, but what newborn is?  The meals made by friends and family and support from them was so very appreciated in those early weeks.
And that is our story.  The day our sweet Juliet came into the world.  I loved our birth experience and am very grateful to the hospital and nurses that helped make our experience so wonderful.
And now that teeny baby is one year old!!  My darling Juliet, a year has gone by since that amazing day.  You have been our little sweetie, our everything each moment of every day since your birthday.
Thank you for reading Juliet’s birth story.  When I was pregnant reading other birth stories was one of my favorite things.  Each one is so unique and special.  Such a wonderful thing, to read how a new little person is brought into this world.
I will be doing a 12 month post to reflect more on the year and update on Juliet’s milestones.