Monday, June 11, 2018

We went camping!

The first official Brown Family campout is officially recorded in the official record of Brown Family outings. We left after work on Friday and drove up to the Navajo Lake campgrounds. We snagged a pretty good location located comfortably close to both the bathroom and the lake. I used to be really uncomfortable with the idea of camping near water with kids, but for some reason that anxiety has lifted. Thankfully the water was too cold to be much of a temptation haha. We did play in it a little, but the cold temps combined with the wind soon became more than we could handle. And by "we" I mean, the kids and I. Darren is apparently impervious to the cold. He loves cold water.

Darren brought the kayak along and gave the kids each a ride on the water. Lillie loved it the most. She was so relaxed in his lap and super angry to lose her turn.

For dinner we attempted tortilla pizzas (pizza sauce, pepperoni, and cheese folded into tortilla and warmed up over fire). We let them cook too long though, so most were burnt and nasty. Thank goodness for dessert!

The temperature cooled down pretty quickly, so we got settled in for the night and played with flashlights for a little while. Lillie settled in with Darren for the first part of the night, and the other two settled down to me reading "The Witch of Blackbird Pond" aloud. They fell asleep within about 10 minutes.

I barely slept. The ground was so hard. It was cold (but I overpacked, so we were warm enough!). Lillie was restless, which did nothing for me. I was so happy to see the sunshine in the morning. My phone had no reception of course, but it was a useful camera. I spent my awake times looking at the pictures I had taken and also making a list of camping lessons learned in my notepad app.

We ate a breakfast of french toast sausage roll thingies and then packed up our camp. We drove over to the beginning of the trail for the hike to Cascade Falls and made the trek (about a half mile one way). We hoped it was be a water fall we could splash around in, but it definitely is NOT. After that, we headed back to town and went to the local swimming hole for some actual swimming. Yes, the water was still too cold for me. I forced myself into it for a while, but eventually joined Lillie on the shore. She's not interested in cold water either. She just sat in a camp chair and watched us. Darren took Emma out on the kayak for a long time so that she could paddle around. She thinks she's stronger than the wind. One day she will be. ;)

Navajo Lake

Cascade Falls

The lake in town

Friday, June 8, 2018

My Three

Emma is starting Kindergarten this fall! How and when did this happen?!? She's more and more beautiful every time I look at her, and it has been so fun to watch her personality develop and mature. Sometimes I am stunned by her wisdom. Other times I wonder if she's actually 5 and not, say, 2... She is always singing and always dancing. When she shares her creative insights, I am blown away. She excels at applying personification to even the most boring inanimate object, and she likes to do silly voices. I adore my little sidekick!

Milton is adventurous, clueless, curious, industrious, and whiny. He's a sweetheart with a strong sensitivity streak, but he's also super bullheaded and ruthless. He makes me laugh and scream with incredible consistency. His speech has improved so much this year, and conversations with him are hilarious. I've always wondered what goes on in his head!

Lillie is beauty in every sense of the word. She's affectionate, cuddly, and smart as a whip. So smart. She figures things out very quickly. She is also a stubborn one though, and is so obnoxious about it. She won't say "Mama" on command at all---instead, she closes her eyes, smiles really big, and shakes her head "no" like she's embarrassed. Other times, when she doesn't want to be obedient about something, she stares us down and dares us to stop her. Then she's offended that we dared to get her in trouble. She has recently started experimenting with new little words and her sign language is improving. She melts Darren's heart every five seconds with her incessant, "Dada!" babbles and cuddle demands. He can't resist her for anything. We are so happy she joined our family when she did!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

5 thoughts

I have a lot of thoughts running through my head right now. So, in no particular order, welcome to my brain:

1. I took my 3 kids and nephew to the splash park today. It is so close to our house, but we rarely drive past it. However, we happened to drive by today and notice that the gate was open! We gathered some supplies at home and returned shortly. I learned something. My nephew is 7, going on 8 here in a few months. In my head, he's just a child....because he is just a child. But do you know what a 7 year old can do? He can *mostly* buckle children into their carseat. (*insert heavenly choir right here*). I hate buckling kids into car seat. And I have 3 of them. So while I was buckling the baby, I noticed that he was pulling straps onto the other two and attempting to secure all buckles. PRAISE BE. All I had to do was some final clicking and clip adjusting, and we were on our way. He might really come in handy this summer...

2. I've been taking an antidepressant for about a month now, and every time I stop to pause, I am so grateful. I've spent so many months during my pregnancy and post partum period feeling so stunted and unable to emotionally connect with much of anything. Sometimes I catch myself feeling free, and I honestly can't get enough of it. I still struggle and cope some days, but as with a lot of life, it's the little things. Delaying bedtime for a few minutes because I'M enjoying tickling my son. Staying at the splash park for more than a half hour because I'M enjoying watching the kids have a blast. Enjoying the sunshine on my skin while herding 3 and 4 year-olds around a soccer field for an hour because I'M enjoying being a part of something that goes beyond my comfort zone. It's truly amazing, and I'm enjoying the change.

3. To kick off my PPD treatment, the midwife asked me to set some goals. I had already decided to start the soccer group, but since she insisted on me establishing goals on paper, I went ahead and made it official. Since I missed the deadlines to sign Emma up for soccer and didn't have any money for it anyway, I used Facebook and got a group going. Our season is 6 weeks, and our little group of players is too adorable for words. Next week is our last week, and even though I'm ready for the break, it makes me kind of sad. The kids have actually improved since the first week, and I feel a lot of pride for that. It's hard to work on skills with such young kiddos, so my main goal has been to just keep them moving and spend a few minutes each week letting them take turns kicking the ball into the goal. At yesterday's game, they were actually stealing the ball from each other. I was/am SO thrilled to see them being more assertive on the field. So proud. 

4. I'm in the process of removing a hundred billion kajillion pictures from my phone. It's taking a while. 

5. Lillie wore a swimsuit today for the first time ever. Her fluffy baby rolls were out of control and deliciously squeezy. 

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Today, I Win

Today has been a good day. I love days like this, when the weight of my PPD issues don't smother me with discouragement or despair.  I spent the day with my family (which isn't exactly different from every other day of the week 😏). The day began with a 5K race for husband. It was a lot of work, but a lot of fun, to wait for Daddy to run by and then trek to the finish line with the kids. Darren beat us to the finish line... By my calculations, he totally shouldn't have, buuuuuut....walking/running with kids and whatnot... We watched him cross the line from the top of an overhead crosswalk. The rest of the day saw a home-teaching visit, NAPS ALL AROUND, and Emma's first official play date. She's been to play dates without me before, but it's usually a babysitting/my convenience situation. Today her friend invited her over. ❤ While she was gone I got some food prep done (!!!)(I'm terrible at food prep)(breakfast for the next few days is in the bag)(literally). I love that girl, but I'm looking forward to pre-k next fall. It's nice to only have one "helper" underfoot for a couple of hours. While she was gone, Darren took Milton on an errand, which meant blissful one-on-one time with my pretty little baby.

Now the house is going to sleep. All three kids are freshly bathed (my favorite!). Darren passed out before dinner, Lillie and I are snuggled up and nursing on the couch, and the kids are in bed one kid is in bed. The other one just snuck out to snuggle with my butt.

I'm not a thousand percent certain that I'm prepared for primary tomorrow (need to check on that), but I feel peaceful. I feel very content.

And I looooove this feeling. Very grateful for days like this.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Sunday night's list

1. I'm sick. I don't like being sick, but I guess there are worse things. It started as a faint buzzing in my head and tingle in my throat this morning and has progressed throughout the day. I currently feel very flu-ish, but I've never had the flu (that I know of), so I could just be dramatic.

2. I led part of the primary in Sacram ent Meeting this morning for ward conference. They nailed it. A group of kids will never do it perfectly, but they did SUCH a good job singing "I Love to See the Temple" and "In That Holy Place" (Sally DeFord). They sat up in the choir seats and everything. It was fun to be part of that group, and I am extremely proud of them, but OH MY GOODNESS, it is terrifying to lead kids in front of everyone. The only awesome part was that my back was turned to the congregation, so I was looking at the kids the entire time. That's a muuuuuch better view. It took me a good 45 minutes or so to decompress and stop shaking. Haha

3. Speaking of primary, I have been called as the music leader. Obviously, per #2. It's intimidating, but I'm having fun reviving the old school music posters my mom used when I was in primary. I have a couple of her originals that have survived and am making more of my own in a similar style. It was my favorite way to learn the music as a kid, and the easiest way (for me) to teach it. Some people like using notebooks, but I can't keep up with the page flipping, and I don't think kids need every single word in front of them. I have a lot to learn and have also learned quite a bit already.

4. Amanda and her crew came over tonight and cleaned my kitchen and made us dinner. It was perfectly delicious, and now my belly is full and kitchen is cleaned. She gets an A+ for awesomeness!

5. I feel like poop.


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The war in my head

Credit: Darilyn Jeter Photography
Dear Friends,

I feel like I should be super grossed out by how I'm looking in this picture (and honestly, I kind of am...but that's just because #vanity). It was really humid that day, and post partum hormones have NOT been kind to my hairs. Not even a little bit. My hair and I aren't really getting along these days, and most of the time I hate how it looks.

However, I think this picture is positively dreamy.

When I look at it, I see my struggles. They are written in every single detail of my appearance. I see how hard I tried to make my hair look like "me". I see that I took the time to put on some make-up, despite my current lack of enthusiasm for putting forth that kind of effort. I see my puffy cheeks and my sad and tired eyes. Honestly, I see pain, and it hurts my heart that the woman in this picture doesn't even know that she is hurting. She hasn't yet realized that she has lost control. She feels every emotion a hundred times deeper and harder than ever before, but she isn't really noticing. She doesn't even know that I'm looking at her and feeling sorry for her.

But I also see my baby curled up against my body, like she was made for that spot. Like that spot was made for her. I see a soft smile on my face. I see that I'm trying. I see a love that radiates from me and back from the baby. I see a baby that needs me. That baby loves me. I need that baby. I literally need that baby. She has been my constant link to unconditional love and sanity since she was born. She literally could not care less what kind of shortcomings I have--she always hugs me like this. Objectively, I know my other kids and husband feel the same way, but it isn't always as obvious because they are old enough to make the kind of choices that sometimes leave a person as vulnerable as myself questioning everything. She has honestly only been inconsolable once or twice EVER, and it was due to tummy pains. She cries when she needs to be held, when she's sick of the car seat, or when her brother mauls her, and that's pretty much it. She loves to be held and played with. She loves to snuggle.
I have post partum depression, and it. has. been. a. struggle.
Like, I can't even deal. And I mean that with all the sincerity that current millennials usually lack whenever they use that phrase. Except I have to deal. I have children to care for and a husband to serve. I have a future to plan for, and a future me who wants to be able to look back. Though getting my hands on a solid treatment plan from the medical community has been a circus, I am doing everything I can to learn what I need from the other corners of my life. I am learning what I need from my husband and family. I am learning how to communicate my feelings. I am learning how to rearrange my priorities every other hour so that I can stay afloat. And by "stay afloat", I mean, keep my emotions topside. It takes very little to send them sliding down, so I do everything in my power to manipulate my circumstances and emotions. As you might imagine, success is spotty, but I'll take whatever I can get.

When the world turns dark, it's as though I am under water. I lose orientation and am frantically slapping my arms around, hoping to make contact with the one thing that will bring relief. My "air" is hard to identify, and sometimes I just have to cry. It doesn't actually make me feel better, but that doesn't make it any less compelling. Sometimes, it's all I can do to just keep the tears in my eyelids. And sometimes, the trigger is nothing more aggressive than a person at Wal-Mart not smiling and acknowledging my apology after my kid ran in front of her basket. Nobody owes that to me, but that extra kindness would be so appreciated on those days. Other days, I don't care. But that just makes me hard to please, doesn't it? Being under water brings a heavy darkness that overwhelms me. It's a darkness that completely disorients me. A darkness that is always nearby, even when I'm not actually feeling it. It is ready to be involved at a moment's notice, and it manages to suck the fun out of nearly everything. That isn't to say that I don't enjoy life. Some days are good, and some days are bad. The bad days are usually terrible, but I'm learning more how to cherish the good days, especially since I never know when things will become dark again. I never know when I'll need to return to full-fledged Survival Mode. Anyway. I've always wanted newborn pictures of my babies. I was so unbelievably thrilled when my talented sister-in-law said that she would take these pictures when she was in town. I wanted to catch the wonder that is a new baby. I had no idea that she could capture so much more. I want to hate this picture, but the truth is that I love it. I love it so much. This trial will be a defining experience in my life, I can guarantee it. I'm certain that I will never forget these trenches that I am so eager to leave behind. One day I will look back at this picture, and I promise that I will be able to identify every scrap of strength in my image. I will see my fight, and I will know my strength, because by then, I will have completely overcome the challenge. I love this picture because I am trying so hard to love myself. Like no other time in my life (except, perhaps, 7th grade) I struggle to accept who I am and what I am worth. Since today is Valentine's Day, I am trying to be mindful of myself. I hope my meager offering to my husband and children were and are acceptable to them. I know I sincerely appreciated the opportunity to sleep in this morning (thank you, Darren!). I think negative self-talk is something a lot of people struggle with, but right now it is one of my greatest enemies. In the spirit of Valentine's Day, I am recommitting to loving myself by not speaking ugly to myself or about myself.

Also, feel free to discuss it with me. The truth about trying to end the stigma around PPD is that when you have it (in my case anyway), the fear of drawing attention to myself and appearing dramatic is crippling. I want it to be talked about, because no mother should be afraid to reach out for help. And no friend should be afraid to offer it. But I don't want anybody to think I am a helpless victim. In some ways I believe that I am a victim, but that's where the challenge lies. There are legitimate struggles that, to an outsider, might look pathetic. Some weeks, it is all I can do to keep the hotdogs thawed out so that my kids don't starve. The strength I have today isn't up for debate with anyone, but once I've turned those tables, I'll no longer be a victim. Thanks for your support. XOXOXOXOXO

Love, Emily P.S. This song has been one of my personal anthems through these past few months. If you can tolerate contemporary Christian rock (13 year old me would so roll her eyes if she knew I listened to that stuff now...), give it a listen. P.S.S. This song too.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Part Where Lillie Was Born

Lillie Mae Brown’s Birth Story
November 8, 2016
9:16 AM
7 lbs 14.5 oz
20 inches

I prepared for this labor unlike I have ever before prepared. Having previously run long distance races, the correlation between the 3 Emotional Signposts of Labor and a marathon was key for me, and I read as much as I could to learn about it. In short, the first Emotional Signpost can be described as fairly laid-back and fun. The second could be called hard work. The third describes a feeling of defeat as the runner/laborer feels as though she can't possibly keep going, though in actuality, the end is closer than ever. I studied labor with this imagery in mind, hoping that it would prove helpful when the time came. And it did! So yahoo!

Also: This is my obligatory warning that this is an uncensored record of events. There's almost nothing about childbirth that isn't disgusting. 

The Part Where Labor Begins

Let me begin by saying that up until closer to the end, anticipation for Lillie’s labor, and the actual labor itself, was probably a trillion times more relaxed than either of my previous labors. In and of itself, that fact makes me feel like I’ve arrived. I’ve made it. I know how to handle waiting for baby to arrive. It helps that having two other little kids under foot keep a mama SUPER busy. There was not a lot of time for sitting around and wishing labor would begin. I was usually wishing that labor would wait for a convenient moment.

Looking gigantic and cute about a week before birth

I also felt a lot of pressure to NOT go into labor before all the members of my contingency plans were ready. The week before she was due, Darren had two work meetings on the calendar—one of them being in Houston. Mom (Louise Jeter…my mom…in case you were wondering) had a HUGE church event scheduled for Saturday of that week (the 12th) for which she had been planning and preparing for an entire year (a family history Discovery Day). She was also committed to work the presidential election, which is literally an all-day event--she arrives before sunrise and leaves well after it has gone to sleep. She doesn't have time to help me that day.

I was at peace with this because I was also hoping to get to watch the Primary Presentation at church that Sunday, November 13, and I had a lot of Christmas decorating to accomplish since I had lost the whole first week of November to a stupid cold.

So, naturally, pre-labor began during the wee hours of the morning on Monday, November 7. I was wakened by slow and sharp menstrual-type pains that definitely caught my attention. I was able to sleep well enough, but they were definitely more convincing than my pre-pre-labor pains*.


*my pregnancies involve a lot of contractions that have no direct effect on labor
*the progression of these stages of pain is something I can't really describe...just know there are differences along the way, and by the 3rd time around I had a decent idea of what the pains meant, for the most part. Pre-pre-labor pains is a perfectly legitimate description.

Understanding that it was an incredibly inconvenient week for childbirth, I exercised a calculated level of denial and went about my morning. The only piece of information I was really willing to acknowledge was that in the hours since they had begun, the intensity of the contractions had not subsided.

It was during my warm morning bath that I remembered the pains from Emma's labor. Sensory memory is a thing, right? I had taken a warm bath when similar contractions were happening in 2013. I realized that IF my body was taking the same route as it had then, we would be in the hospital in less than 24 hours.

I spoke with Darren. I told him that I didn't want to alarm him or sound dramatic, but I had a really strong feeling that there was a good chance I would be going into labor within a day. I asked him what kind of ramifications there would be if he missed his meeting the next day. The career prospects weren't great with that scenario, but he gave the powers-that-be a call and explained the situation. They weren't sympathetic, but did let him know that the chances of actual repercussions were minimal and to reschedule his meeting. He did so, and I felt a little more at ease knowing that it was no longer on the calendar.

Snuggling with my babies at nap time
I went throughout the day quietly acknowledging each menial task as a “last time” event, and took many pictures with my heart. When I laid the kids down for naps, I snuggled a bit longer. I held Milton in particular. It's never easy when your baby is promoted and doesn't get to be the baby anymore. I laid in his bed and held him close, kissing his warm and sticky face every now and then as he breathed on me. One day I won't get to hold him while he sleeps, and that honestly makes me sad. There's something about my baby boy.

As the evening drew near, I caught a second wind and finished decorating for Christmas. I spoke with my sister, Anne-Marie, on the phone for a little while and shared my anticipations. I finished packing my hospital suitcase. Darren made a dinner of spaghetti and sausage. It was an interesting combination, but Mama doesn't complain when Mama doesn't have to do the cooking or cleaning!

I spent the calm parts of the evening sitting on the couch, basking in the soft glow of Christmas lights and decorations while watching Cinderella. The kids joined me for a while, but eventually we put them to bed. Darren and I watched TV until late. We discussed the what-ifs ahead of us. I went to bed before he was ready, and he decided to sleep on the couch. I wanted to get a good night of sleep so that I could hopefully have a little energy for the following day, should things become exciting.

I nervously gave Mom a call and informed her of the day's events. I hadn't wanted to tell her too soon without being reasonably sure, but by that point I had been contracting for nearly 20 hours. It was time to tell our Plan A babysitter what was happening! I told her that I might be calling during the night, but hopefully not. Hopefully the baby would stay put for a while longer. As I laid in bed to sleep, I took the opportunity to check with a couple of friends about possibly babysitting the next day if the need arose. By the time I was ready to close my eyes, I was feeling prepared and supported, but mostly I felt TIRED. So I went to sleep at 10:30.

The contractions continued. I felt like I was sleeping hard between contractions. I would drift toward consciousness with the pain, but then it would subside, and I would relax into oblivion again. Around 2 o'clock in the morning, I felt a contraction beginning. It hurt, and I rolled onto my left side, burying my face in the mattress as I focused on relaxing through the pain until it was over. I was barely awake.

That is when it happened.

In my semi-conscious state, I was very confused when I heard and felt a disctinct popping sound. It sounded like someone with very large fingers had just cracked a knuckle. In fact, it felt like my pelvis had just cracked a knuckle. In any case, I was suddenly VERY awake. I considered the possibilities: I'm either dying, imagining things, or maybe my water broke? I laid there and waited for a gush of fluids. It did not happen. A moment of clarity later, I realized that if a gush of fluids were to commence, I should probably move myself to the toilet. I'm an excellent decision maker. The moment I sat, I felt the gush.

It was in that moment of definitive evidence that my mind ceased to function. All the reading and talking and preparing never seems to sufficiently prepare me for the real thing. I suddenly had no idea what to do with myself. Do we go to the hospital? Do we wait? Should I call mom? Should I call the hospital? HOW DO I REACH DARREN?!

Since he was on the other side of the house, I was at a loss. I tried to holler for him, but no luck. I tried to call him on my phone, but that did not work either. By this time, it had been 10 minutes since my water had broken, and contractions we becoming decidedly more intense. I put in a call to Labor and Delivery. The nurse I spoke with encouraged me to go ahead and come to the hospital. I wanted to speak to Darren before making any real decisions, but after a minute realized that he would be deferring me anyway since I was the one in pain, so I called Mom around 2:15 and asked her to come and be with the kids. Then I dressed myself and woke a sleeping Darren on the couch, informing him that he needed to get up and get packed because Mom was on her way, and we needed to get going.

Will Baby be a He or a She?
Mom arrived at 2:30. We finished gathering our things, and I snuck into the kids' room to take a quick picture of them. "Last pictures" are very important to me. I need to remember that last moment before I leave to bring home a new baby. Darren took a last baby bump picture of me also. It is pretty awful, but it was the middle of the night. I reserve the right to not be super fresh and beautiful. I hugged Mom, thanked her (I hope), and we left.

As we pulled from the driveway, Darren told me that he was hungry and asked if he could get a quick bite on the way. I said that was fine. It's the middle of the night, I thought. There is no way any place is so busy that it won't be a quick stop, and there's no telling when he'll have a good opportunity to eat again.

Turns out I was  only half right. Jack-in-the-Box wasn't even remotely busy, but they took FOREVER. We waited forever to order. We waited forever to pay. And then we waited forever to get the food. And then when they brought us the food, the employee said that someone had goofed up with the money and asked us to sit tight while he went inside to figure out if we had been given too much change. We hadn't been given a recipt so it was their word against ours. Not amused. By this time, I was having some pretty intense contractions. The verdict was that we had the right amount of change. Darren chose at this point to demand a receipt upon principle (and because he wanted to call and leave a poor review on their servey). We never did get that receipt. We mocked them the whole way to the hospital. We are very compassionate and mature like that. I'm going to defend myself by claiming that the pain was making me irritable, because it was.

The Part Where We Go to the Hospital

Last Look. This was their last night as a kid crew of only two.
When we arrived at the hospital, we were blessed with a prime parking spot. We entered through the ER and were ferried up to the third floor to Labor and Delivery triage.

I'm not sure if it had been a rough night or if she was just tired, but my admitting nurse didn't seem to have much humor left in her. She questioned whether or not my water had actually broken because the test came back negative the first time. Um, no. If that isn't amniotic fluid flowing out, then something is terribly wrong with me. When she checked my dilation, she contributed to the tear in the sack by accidentally ripping it wide open. No second test necessary, it turns out. We all knew what was happening, and I was moved to a room. It was 3:23 AM, according to the post I made in the Jeter Facebook page.

For the first time ever, I was finally brave enough to ask the nurse if we could skip the IV. I was okay with the needle part being inserted into my arm, but didn't want to be hooked up to saline unless I needed it: less trips to the bathroom, less feeling cold (IVs make me cold...don't ask me why), and one less thing to be tethered to. She granted my wish, and I continued to labor "comfortably".

At this point, everything is someone what of a blur. Time passes differently in a hospital. Time passes differently when you're hurting. But time still passes.

For the part of labor that correlates with the "Second Emotional Signpost" discussed in the Bradley Method book that I read, I worked my way through each contraction by groaning while Darren rubbed my back. The TV was off. We were alone. I asked that the lights be dimmed. It was a perfect as it could be. The contractions continued to increase in their intensity, but I honestly can't say anything about how fast they came. I never once timed them officially, not even while at home. At home I had just kept an eye on the clock, but had no intention of putting forth extra effort if they didn't start hurting more. After a time, I needed Darren to stop rubbing my back. His touching me was a distraction, and physically very annoying. I went to the bathroom a few times here and there, including one toilet-destroying trip, if you know what I mean. Nothing like a little bit of labor with a side of explosive...toilet-destroying.

More than once I became concerned that the baby was coming faster than anyone was ready for. I asked to be checked several times, and was pretty disappointed each time to learn that I wasn't dilated to 10 centimeters yet. It sure hurt like I was! (so naive about how bad the pain was going to become...). And yes, I know that each dilation check is a new opportunity to introduce bacteria to the birth canal. But I don't have to justify my decisions to you. YOU DON'T KNOW MY LIFE.

Labor makes me dramatic.

During each contraction, I focused on breathing and groaning in rhythm with the pain. I focused my mind on the pain and its journey through my body. It felt like each wave began near my chest and ended in my pelvis. This was effective for me, and got me through several hours of increasingly intense contractions. At some point, a new sensation of pain joined at the end of each contraction. As the contraction waned, and I expected the pain to dissipate, a tugging sensation deep in my pelvis started to catch my attention. With every new contraction the tugging progressed to painful pulling until it felt like my insides were stretching apart. I asked Darren if it was possible to feel my cervix dilate. Weirdly enough, he had no idea. I think he said something about not having a cervix. Like that matters. ;)

The Part Where Darren Makes Me Cry

I eventually hit the 3rd Emotional Signpost of labor (per my Bradley method book). I was still handling my contractions, but it was starting to feel endless. I lost my ability to control my breathing for a few minutes, and was afraid that I wouldn't be able to get that back. I confessed whined to Darren how I was feeling, and told him that I needed a pep talk. I was pretty specific about what I needed him to say to me. I needed him to be sweet and kind and tell me I was beautiful and amazing. Most of all, I needed him to express pride in how far I had come.

If you know Darren, you know he doesn't say garbage like that.

Instead, he spoke to me like a little league coach and made me cry.

It wasn't his finest moment, but again, if you know Darren, you know that's his recipe for support.

I've forgiven him, but FYI, don't go crawling to him for a pat on the back.

I managed to pull myself together and give him a small piece of my mind. In hindsight, that might have been his plan all along: making me mad enough to yell at him would pull me out of a slump.

I disagree with his methods, but I guess that point is moot by now. He was an alright Coach.

Let it be understood that I didn't cry at any other point in labor, so I'm basically awesome. It takes very little pain to make me cry!

After weeping like a small child and then yelling like a wench, I needed to pee. Darren helped me out of bed and disconnected all my wires. Before I could walk away from the bed, a contraction hit. I was standing at the end of the bed, holding onto the footboard,  when the nurse walked in carrying all the equipment she needed to hook me up to a Pitocin drip.

Come again?

I asked her what "all that" was. She replied that the doctor had put in orders for me to receive Pitocin. Feeling offended, I asked her why. She said that Dr. L wanted to be sure that she was the one who delivered the baby.

Now don't get me wrong: I love Dr. L. She is an excellent doctor with impeccable bedside manner. She listens and is attentive. She respects wishes and accomodates them as well as she can within the parameters of her professional and hospital policy. As far as physician care goes, she's hard to beat, especially for this area. However, I was genuinely insulted that she thought I needed Pitocin to progress and that she felt entitled to the baby's delivery. I wanted her to deliver the baby, but I wasn't committed enough to the idea that I was willing to take unnecessary medicine to make it happen.

I boldy (see: with a shaky voice, afraid to cause a scene) told the nurse that I did not want the Pitocin since I was progressing just fine without it. She didn't look super happy, but she said that she would give the doctor a call. After peeing and settling back into bed, she returned to let me know that Dr. L would be by soon to visit me.

A few minutes later, Dr. L entered the room with a huge smile on her face. One second later, her smile dropped and a sympathetic expression took over. She declared, "You're really hurting; I didn't realize you were in so much pain."

You think?

Before you take my sarcasm and run with it, I understood and understand what she meant perfectly. For a decent portion of labor, it's basically fun and games with a side of pain. Eventually it turns into just pain. I had only been in true labor for a few hours by this time, so I assume she was expecting me to still be in the "fun and games" part. Alas, I was not.

She instructed me to lay down so that she could check my dilation. I let her know that laying down was excruciating, so I wanted to get it over with very quickly so that I could return my bed to an upright position. She told me I was 4 centimeters. I asked if it was possible to feel the cervix dilate, and she said she had never heard that before but assumed it could be possible. 

I submit that it is possible.

Dr. L let me know that I could do whatever I wanted at that point and that there was even a yoga ball in the closet I could use if I wanted to. I do not like to move around in labor, so I declined the offer and continued to forge ahead from the comfort of my bed, sitting up, with my diamond-making frog legs supported by a million pillows.

The rest of labor is a blur of contractions. I was no longer groaning or growling. I was sitting up and felt every single body-shredding pain as the baby barrelled its way through my pelvis.

I frequently thought each contraction was "the" contraction. It felt like the baby was going to slam through at any moment, and that if we weren't careful, nobody would be prepared to catch it.

Dr. L came by at another time to check on me and ask how I was doing. I was sweaty and hurting, but things were going as well as possible. I asked her to check me again since I was so sure, this time, that I had to be dilated to 20 centimeters. That's how I felt, anyway. We decided, per her check, that the baby was on its way out soon. I was at 8 centimeters, and progressing quickly. She said she was going to gather supplies and nurses and return.

The Part Where I Scream

THIRTY-FOUR HOURS LATER Two contractions and a few minutes later, I demanded that Darren find out where the cavalry was at because my body was possessed by a pelvis-pulverizing demon. I was starting to quietly scream every time it hit. I was holding Darren's hand and squeezing steady support from his finger tips when it hurt the worst. He asked me if I would be alright without him. I honestly wasn't sure since holdling his hand made me feel better for some reason, but I needed some medical professionals STAT. I wasn't interested in delivering this baby alone. I endured one more contraction with his hand handy, and then told him to get to steppin'. Twenty seconds (or so) later, I could feel another pain rushing on.

This is the part of the story where my dignity takes a swift exit and trips down a flight of stairs on her way out.

This pain that hit... How do I describe it?

Imagine, for a moment, that you have four foot blade stabbing up the hole of your hiney. Seems like it might be excruciating, right? Now try to imagine the opposite. Imagine that blade originates somewhere inside of your body and is trying to find its way out without slicing any vital tissues.

There I was, sitting upright in bed, on my fists. My butt was no longer touching the bed as the pain caused me to levitate with little more than my wimpy fists to support me. The pillows that had been so carefully placed underneath my legs and knees were being pummeled all about as my legs writhed with the rhythm of the pain. Is there another word for pain? We'll go with agony.

The next thing I did was embarrassing.

I felt the urge coming over me, and I wanted to stop it. Really, I did. But it just kind of... came out...

I screamed. I screamed out loud. I screamed really loud, and I didn't care who heard me.

That isn't completely true... I wanted Darren to hear me. I wanted him to know it was me and come running back to assure me that I wouldn't die on that bed. He later shared that in his quest to find a nurse and/or my doctor, he was finally speaking with a nurse when he heard me scream. He knew it was me, and he told the nurse it was me. They came to me shortly after.

Dr. L checked me one last time. I felt her hand inside of me playing a twisted game of Rock-Paper-Scissors. I jerked my head up toward her and loudly demanded to know what she was doing since, as far as I was concerned, she had gone offscript. She said she was making sure I was completely effaced before encouraging me to push.

Don't care. Effaced or not, this baby is coming. When it is out of me, we'll know how effaced I am. In the meantime, get your hand out of my vagina!

**Didn't say any of that out loud, but I thought it really loud.**

It only got more blurry from there. The rest of my transition memory is a blob of, of course, PAIN, screaming, sarcasm, and embarrassment. I was laid down in bed as my legs were hoisted into stirrups. Whose idea were those?! Like, seriously. They are the last great pillar of broken dignity on the road to hospital delivery.

So my legs are in the stirrups and I am laying on my back. I am convinced at this point that the pain is worse on my back, but in reality, the list of comfortable positions for managing contractions was shrunk down to zero.

It was go time.

The Part Where I Poop

"Push! Push, Emily! Push! You can do it!"

It's hard to put into words how my body physically felt in those moments. I wanted the pain to end, but I did not want to do what it took to make that pain end because it would cause me short-term pain that hurt even worse. Also, the urge to poo was getting stronger by the second. I'm not sure why those physiological features and functions have to be in such close geographic range. The chorus of people telling me to push was unwelcome, as I had no desire to do so. I attempted a few half-hearted pushes, hoping that they would be enough. They weren't enough. During the moments I wasn't screaming in agony, I kept yelling that I didn't want to push.

There was a brief rest between contractions. I knew I had to push. I knew I was the only one who could end this. And I knew that I had to do it, no matter the consequences. So I did the only thing I knew to instill a little bravery into my heart. I bellowed a battle cry:


I pushed and pushed and pushed, and pushed some more. Two-ish contractions later, I felt the baby's body burst out of me with all the gentle grace of a linebacker. I felt like I had been ripped in two. (I also felt other things leave my body, but in that moment I had decided not to care.)

The debilitating pain was over. I flopped my head back onto my pillow, closed my eyes, and laid my hand across my face. I needed to breathe. I needed to rest.

"Y'all, I'm just going to hold the baby up so you can see for yourself what you have," said the excited doctor.

The exhausted mama didn't move.

I simply said, "I'm gonna need a minute," and remained with my head on the pillow, arm across my face, eyes closed.

I think Darren snickered.

I continued to lay still.

I realized I was going to have to look sooner or later.

I gathered my strength, and forced myself to look.

I saw Dr. L through my legs, sitting there, holding a goop-covered baby girl in the air to meet her parents.

That baby was beautiful.

Darren's face was elated. He loves his baby girls.

We had our Lillie Mae.


Louise Jeter's (my mom, Lillie's grandma) perspective, as stated in a family e-mail:

"The night before election day, Emily called to tell me she had kind-of been uncomfortable all day and had cleaned her house and put-up her Christmas tree and decorations.  She called again at 2:15 a.m. to tell me her water had broken. So I went to take care of Emma and Milton while she and Darren went to deliver sweet Lillie Mae.  Amanda stepped-up, took the day off, did a little running around and then took the kiddos so I could go to my post. Got there about noon.  Emma and Milton spent the night with me for two or three nights/days and then returned home. The family history discovery day was that Saturday [I told Emily six months ago NOT to have the baby that week!]; it was done before noon so really not too much of an interruption."

Random tidbits and facts, for the record:

  • I had a 1st degree tear. Heals a lot faster than a 3rd degree tear, I'll tell you that.
  • I could not have done it without Darren. Despite our differing motivational approaches, he was a rock--my rock, and his involvement with this labor was his best performance yet. We truly brought this baby into the world as a team. I love him. 
  • My post partum nurses weren't my favorite. They didn't have much bedside manner, and I felt like an annoying burden every time I needed to speak with them. And they made me take almost the two full bags of Pitocin...ugh. I never had to do that before.
  • Post partum was really hard because I declined Motrin. It disagrees with my Ulcerative Colitis, so I took the best Tylenol products they had to offer. Let's just say that Motrin works better. But I didn't have any UC flare-ups, so the extra pain I felt was worth it.
  • Nothing in the world can replace the feelings I felt watching Emma and Milton meet their baby sister. Nothing. 

The proud papa shared our happy news with the world.