Anna Catherine

She's here! Anna Catherine LaValley was born on Wednesday, March 4th at 8:58am. She weighed 6 pounds 13 ounces, 20.5 long, and came like a force of nature. She's beautiful and dainty and one hundred times more perfect than I could have ever imagined.

I've been having contractions on and off for weeks, so when I got a few really intense ones Tuesday night, I didn't think anything about it. I knew things were going to happen soon, but I was guessing I'd go into real labor on Thursday night, since it was a full moon. I was mostly just uncomfortable and feeling really crampy. I laid down on the bed and Zach came and sat next to me and played a few Bethel worship songs (the new album -- SO GOOD) until I fell asleep for an hour or so. I woke up a little disappointed that the contractions hadn't picked up. Totally stopped again. Of course. So I got myself a snack and sat down with my birthing ball and turned on that new Lifetime show "Born in the Wild". Zach was all "Why the hec are you watching this?? This is not helpful!" And it really wasn't. I mean. Childbirth. I drank some pineapple juice, crossed my fingers and went to bed.

I woke up once during the night because Jonah was climbing into our bed. After I sent him off to bed I thought, "Dangit. I was really hoping to wake up because of labor, not because of a pee soaked four year old." And then I fell asleep.

A few hours later (around 6:30am), I woke up at the end of a really bad contraction and heard a pop echoing against the mattress. I wasn't sure if it was my water breaking or the baby kicking. They sound/feel oddly similar. Or maybe I was just out of it? I don't know. Almost as soon as the "pop" happened, Emery woke up and started yelling his typical "DADDY! DADDY!" morning chant, Jonah shuffled out his room to get us out of bed, and then the damn broke and the water came. I shoved Zach a couple times (he's impossible to wake up most days) and said, "My water broke. Wake up. Let's go." He sat up and said, "Nuh huh."

Every time. Every time I tell him I'm pregnant, that I'm in labor, or that my water broke, his response is, "Nuh huh." Have I lied to you yet, babe?! Don't answer that.

So we jumped out of bed, I went and took care of things in the bathroom and Zach ran upstairs and woke up my family to tell them what was going on. When I came out of the bathroom, Zach was telling Jonah that we were going to the hospital to get the baby out. Jonah said, "The doctor's going to take the baby out today?" and Zach said, "Yep! We're going right now!" Jonah said, "Oh. I'll go get the carseat for you!" So he ran over to our little baby gear corner and got the carseat and brought it over and Zach said, "That's so nice, Jonah! Thank you!" And Jonah said all sweetly, "I just want to help." Sweetest. Kid. Ever.

We were out of the door and on our way to the hospital about 10 minutes after my water broke. The contractions hadn't started yet. I had two intense ones during the 2o minute drive and in between I was just super focused trying to get in the zone and prepare myself for what was about to happen. It didn't feel as rushed or panicked as Emery's birth.  This felt likeit could take a while and I didn't know what to expect.

We made our way to labor and delivery and were greeted with papers and forms to fill out. I don't remember much about that interaction because pain. Then came the best sentence a woman in labor can ever hear : "We're skipping triage. Let's get you right to a room." holla. I hate triage.

When we got to my room, the nurse gave me a gown to put on and for whatever reason, as much as I hate hospital gowns, I started putting it on. I called Zach into the bathroom to help me tie it up and he was like, "Why are you wearing this? You said you didn't want to wear this." I said, "It's fine. Whatever. I just want to be done." He kept trying to tie it, but couldn't figure it out, and he said, "I'm gonna ask you one more time. Are you sure you want to wear this?" No, I really didn't. I took it off and he got my dress for me and I instantly felt so much more relaxed and ready to go.

The midwife showed up shortly after they hooked me up to the baby monitor thing and she checked to see how far along I was. At that point, I'd had about 20 minutes of 5 minute apart contractions, so when she said I was only 4cm and fully effaced, I wanted to cry. I thought for sure this was going to be a long labor and delivery and so I think I kind of just gave up in my mind. I knew I wanted an epidural but I didn't ask for one yet. I got off the bed and got in the shower and spent about 20 minutes in there letting the hot water work my contractions. It was really nice. Glorious, even.

I got out of the shower and went straight to the birthing ball. Zach sat on the edge of the bed and I just leaned and relaxed into him with every contraction. They were getting more and more intense, but were still a few minutes apart. The midwife sat behind me and kept saying sweet and encouraging things like, "You can do this. You're doing great." Blah blah blah. During one really bad, almost losing it contraction, she said, "You're doing amazing, Kristen!" and I said, "I bet you say that to all the ladies." Thus began the episode 3 of the "Hilarious Things Kristen Says While in Labor" saga.

"I'm going to bi***h slap eve." "Sometimes the f word feels as good as a deep breath." (I never actually dropped the F bomb. It was just a theory.) I mumbled an answer to the nurse about something (can't remember what) and she kept asking me to repeat myself because she couldn't understand me. Finally she heard what I was saying and then I said, "Sorry. I was speaking woman-in-labor." I guess I get kind of sassy when I'm in pain?

The contractions quickly got to the point where I started freaking out. Yelling into Zach's chest. Demanding an epidural. STAT. Everyone was ignoring my requests. I was dead serious. I wanted an epidural and I wanted it right away. No one was even acknowledging it. Which I guess is a good thing. But it started making me mad. I grabbed onto Zach's shirt during a contraction and said (through gritted, angry, laboring woman teeth) "Who do I have to pay to get an epidural? Pay them. NOW." And then began my monologue about things that are wrong in our society with pain relief.

"Please tell me why with every other pain in life, we rush to give aid. Got a headache? Take some Tylenol! Scraped knee? Here's some neosporin! Pushing a HUMAN through your vagina? You don't need anything! You can do this! You're a woman!!" Zach told me later they were all laughing behind my back pretty much every time I opened my mouth.

At one point, the nurse came over to put my IV port in, but she couldn't get the needle in. She kept stabbing and stabbing and saying, "it's not going in! Why isn't it going in? I can't break the skin!" And then she shoved it in and I jumped and blood squirted everywhere and she said, "Oh no. I don't think I got the vein. I think I need to get another needle." I looked at her and said, "Don't you dare do that to me again, woman." Luckily, she didn't need to, but then she looked up at Zach and was all, "Are you ok, Zach? I got blood everywhere." I didn't let him answer, I just looked up and said, "Yea? Are you ok? Are you in pain? Do you need some neosporin? Some tylenol? Let me know, babe. I got your back." (more laughter. I think.)

Finally the midwife acknowledged my request for pain relief and her first attempt to thwart my epidural cries was a bit weak. She sat in front of me and said, "How long did you push with Emery?" I laughed and said, "10 minutes. Maybe." She said, "Ok. Do you think you can do that again?" I side eyed her and said, "Yea...but that doesn't mean I want to." She said something about how the pain is awful, but then I get to have a baby in my arms and it's all over. I said, "Yep. And then a new set of pain starts. I know how this goes. You can't trick me." We laughed, but then she got practical. "Look at that bag of IV fluid. We have to get that entire thing into you before you can have an epidural." I said, "WHY." (not a question. a demand.) and she explained it to me, but all I heard was, "Blah blah. I'm trying to distract you because I believe in you and you can do this and all the women power and I'm not getting you an epidural so I'm just gonna keep talking to you to make you think I'm going to get you what you want, but really I'm going to make you do this thing on your own." And that did not empower me, my friends. It ticked me off. I think she could tell I was getting angry so she said, "Look I'm not going to force you either way, but I know you can do this. At least let me check you to see if we even have time for one. My guess is that by the time we get the epidural in here, you'll be ready to push."

That was not an encouraging thing to hear. Neither was "You're a solid 7 centimeters."

SEVEN?? Shoot me. Just shoot me. Put me out of my misery and leave me here to die.

My demands for an epidural became more frequent (every contraction) and more insistent. I said "I can't believe I'm having to advocate to get myself some pain relief! Don't you guys just hand that stuff out here?" Zach finally said something to the nurse about how I actually really did want one and I told her to put the IV in me and to put it on fast drip. After every contraction, I'd look up at that thing to see how far I had to go before I could get the magic pain relief and I swear ... that nurse did not put it on fast drip.

I'll stop here and say that I really do appreciate that my nurses and midwives fought me on this. I really do. I knew from the beginning I wouldn't have time to get an epidural. I really had no hope of getting one, but focusing on the possibility and arguing with them about it was actually really helpful. Probably super annoying to them, but it gave me something other than the pain to think about. Once the IV drip was in, the only thing I could think about when I was mid excruciating contraction was how good the epidural would feel. Zach told me to focus on how good it would feel to have the baby in my arms, but that just felt so distant and unreal. I couldn't relate to it for some reason. But pain relief? That was a hope I could hold on to.

Once the midwife told me I was at 7 (about an hour and a half after getting to the hospital), the nurse suggested that I kneel on the bed and hold on to the back of the headboard. Once I got into that position, I couldn't move. I was stuck there. This is the position where things started getting crazy. Where I knew I was going to have to finish this thing out on my own. A new midwife came in and took over and she was just as empowering and encouraging as the last one. (I say that as if it's a bad thing. HA!) She was like, "Kristen. No one can do this except for you. And you CAN do this." I said, "I know I CAN. But I don't WANT to." That was my mantra the whole time. "I don't want to. I don't want to. I don't want to." Like a two year old.

I'm a screamer and one who is prone to panic during labor and that is exactly what I was doing during the transition period. I'm not sure how long it lasted, but the poor nurses and midwives were trying so hard to calm me down and it just wasn't working. Right before I started pushing, in between contractions, I heard someone praying over the loud speaker in the hallway. I immediately stopped whining and grunting and just shut up and focused on the prayer. Our hospital is a private Catholic hospital, so I'm sure it was a liturgical prayer and I honestly couldn't tell you what it was or what they said, but it gave me so much peace. It was just a small reminder that God was with me, that I was in good hands, and that it would all be over soon.

The midwife checked me one more time and said, "Look, you've got some cervix left, but I can move it out of the way and you can start pushing." That sounds good, right, Kristen? Oh no. Not to me. That sounds terrifying. "I don't want to push! That's the part that sucks!" Cue more "I don't want to" rants into Zach's chest. She told me to bear down and push just so she could move the cervical lip out of the way and that's when I felt the baby start to move.

The next few minutes are a blur, but from my first push to baby in my arms, only 8 minutes went by. I think I pushed 4 times. Which doesn't sound like a lot, in retrospect, BUT. Baby girl came out with her hand by her face, and that was some pain for real. I was still in the kneeling position with my face towards the wall, so I couldn't see anything that was happening, but when I felt her head come out, I thought it was over. "Boy or girl? Boy or girl?!!" I couldn't see anything that was happening behind me. The midwife said, "We don't know, she's still in there. Her umbilical chord is wrapped all around her. How did you get your chord like that, baby? Don't push, Kristen! Don't push!" The chord was wrapped around her chest and shoulder and neck, so it took a minute to get her free. And then I heard her cry. She was still halfway inside of me, yet I could hear her crying. Weirdest sensation ever. Finally the midwife said, "Ok push! One more and you're done!" I gave it all I got, pushed that sucker out and heard Zach yell from behind me, "I CALLED IT!! I CALLED IT! IT'S A GIRL!"

I yelled, "A GIRL?? It's a GIRL??" and then I screamed this crazy Xena-like womanly roar of relief and excitement and looked down and they were passing what looked to be a small alien in-between my legs. I turned around and collapsed on the bed and it was all over. Less than three hours after my water broke.

We still hadn't officially decided on a name, but as soon as her body touched my hands and I looked at her face, I said, "Hiii Anna!" And that was it. That easy. She was just Anna. She was always Anna. Zach and I have been talking about having a daughter named Anna since we were 19 years old and now she's here. Little Anna Catherine. Perfect and petite and dainty and so, so, loved.

Thank you all so much, from the bottom of our hearts, for all of your comments, messages and e-mails. We feel so overwhelmed and blessed by love this community has shown our family. I can't keep up with the comments and questions and that's just amazing to me. We love you all!