At 7:26 am on January 20th, 2017, my life changed forever. Annie Kathleen Kerley, my little girl, entered the world with one big loud cry & arms flailing in the air. Our hearts haven’t been the same since!
Today marks 7-weeks with our little Annie. SO much has happened in these past seven weeks. They have been the hardest and the most wonderful at the same time. This (now 11 pounds) blue-eyed brunette has become my little bestie and spending all of my days with her is literally the greatest gift.
Today I’m sharing a bit about how Annie made her debut (aka a condensed version of her birth story) and some highlights of the past 7-weeks. I’m also giving y’all a glimpse into her newborn photo session with Lulu Lopez Photography. I’m obsessed with how these photos turned out and I can’t believe Annie was so itty bitty at the time!! Head on down to the bottom of the post for more!
This is probably the most personal I’ve ever gotten on the blog, but in a way, I felt a need to share this experience with whoever wanted to read it. Prior to delivering Annie, I read so many blog posts on other women’s birth stories and they were all so incredibly different. No two stories were even remotely similar. I took comfort in the fact that I knew mine wouldn’t be either. I remember thinking, I’m just going to show up to the hospital and whatever happens, happens. At the end of the day, I just want a healthy baby. While nothing went how I probably would have planned it, the end result included a healthy and happy baby in my arms and I couldn’t be more thankful for that!
Where to even begin? This question is why it has taken me 7 whole weeks to write this post!
I guess I’ll start with January 19th. Er… January 16th actually. Okay, so 1/16/17 was my due date! I was starting to get overly anxious awaiting Annie’s arrival. I would be sitting on the couch and talk to my belly and say, “Okay … you can come out now!!” … & then nothing would happen. 😉
My parents were on standby, awaiting my phone call to rush down from Memphis as soon as I went into labor. I called my mom that day and pretty much just begged her to come down anyway and hang out with me until Annie arrived. Plus, my birthday was the next day and I thought it would be fun to spend the day with her my mom if Annie still hadn’t made her debut.
My wish was granted and my parents came down early. I had taken the week of Annie’s due date off work, expecting her to have arrived by then, so I had no idea how to fill all of those extra days. Thankfully my mom came to the rescue & we filled our days by going out to restaurants, watching movies, organizing the nursery, my bedroom & the rest of the house. We went shopping and went on quite a few walks around the neighborhood too. So it was no surprise that my contractions started when I least expected it, one afternoon while I was out to lunch with my mom!
Not 100% convinced that they were actual contractions, we still went about our afternoon as we probably would have normally. Lunch at Barnaby’s. Dessert at Crave. Um .. second desserts at Tiny’s Milk & Cookies? Yeah, I was definitely about to have a baby. 😉 Patrick came home from work & my mom left to go meet my dad (who was conveniently in Houston for work that week too.) Patrick & I sat on the couch trying to watch a TV show to distract ourselves while we timed my contractions. I don’t think I paid attention to the show we were watching for a second!
We called my nurse (who also happens to be my really good friend) and she thought my contractions might not be 5-minutes apart until early the next morning. (Which is when you’re admitted to the hospital.) So off Patrick & I went to “try” to sleep! Which obviously didn’t happen. Thirty minutes later I got up to get a glass of water and *ta-da* my water broke! When your water breaks, you get a golden ticket to the hospital, no matter how far apart your contractions are. We threw our hospital bags in the car, said goodbye to the pups and left the house for the last time as a family of two!
Once my water broke, the contractions went from “okay I can handle this” to “oh my goodness ouch ouch ouch ouch!!” We got into our room at 10:30 and I finally got my epidural closer to 1 am. Ahhh immediate relief!! Patrick and I stayed awake for the majority of the night, chatting & watching the screensaver TV show. (Which I can’t lie, I was obsessed with! It was the best distraction. I could watch footage of the beach & the rainforest on TV all night!)
It wasn’t until maybe 5:30-am ish that Patrick woke up and saw something odd on Annie’s heart monitor screen. Out of nowhere it quickly dropped and two seconds later in came our nurse, followed by a few others. With my epidural, I was pretty much paralyzed, and they had to move me/change my position on the bed stat to make Annie more comfortable. It took what felt like forever for them to find a sweet spot to calm Annie down. And as all of this was happening, I was contracting & a big loud buzzer was going off to remind us all of Annie’s low low heart rate. It’s safe to say that those seven minutes or so were the scariest I’ve ever experienced!
Apparently every time I would turn to the right, Annie’s heart rate would plummet. (They thought I might have been pressing on her umbilical cord?) And every time I would have a contraction, it would drop too. Needless to say, I was a petrified hot mess at this point! But somehow I was still calm & smiling … while in labor … who does that?! The nurses couldn’t get over it ha. So for those of you who don’t know, when you have an epidural, the nurses have to turn you/move you around a bunch to get you to dilate so you can actually deliver your baby. They were having a hard time getting me in the right position to do so because poor Annie just wasn’t having it. She hated my contractions too. (Girl, same!) So the team decided to stop or slow down my contractions with medicine. After technically being in labor for over 15 hours at this point I was like “say what!?!?”
And then … the medicine didn’t really stop anything. I’m thinking the contractions were too strong for the drugs … I’m not really sure, it kind of all became a blur at this point. After a few more rounds of Annie’s heart rate dropping low low low low and no progress at all on the dilation front, I was scared out of my mind for Annie and over this whole labor thing! We all made the decision we would go ahead and deliver via c-section.
Once the decision was made I just burst into tears. I think I was so happy & relieved to know that we were finished with labor and Annie wouldn’t have to go through any more terrifying drops in heart rate again. I was also crying because I knew I would get to meet my daughter in less than half an hour. The wonderful team of doctors and nurses made preparations for surgery and we were then whisked away to the operating room. I was so so so so so relieved at that point, I can’t even tell y’all!
In his scrubs and surgery hat, Patrick was able to stand next to me during the entire procedure. After only a few minutes into things, I felt a tug in my abdomen and then heard Annie’s cry fill the room. It was the most wonderful sound! Patrick went with Annie to get cleaned up, measured & weighed while I laid on the operating table anxiously waiting to meet her.
It took a lot longer than I expected for them to come back to see me. And when I looked up expecting to see Patrick I saw a pediatrics nurse instead. She delicately told me that Annie had swallowed too much fluid and they can’t get it out on their own so she would have to be admitted to the NICU asap. Drugged up and confused I was surprisingly SUPER calm about the whole thing and just nodded my head, saying okay whatever’s best is good with me! On their way to the NICU, they did let me hold her for about a minute or two and oh my goshhhhhh it was the most amazing moment of my ENTIRE LIFE!
Thanks to the anesthesiologist for snapping the photo above! Annie locked eyes with mine and I just said “I’m your mommy! I love you! I love you! I love you!” over & over. I could not believe I was looking into the eyes of my daughter!
Patrick went off with Annie and I went to a recovery room where I waited alone for about half an hour just thinking “what just happeneddddddddd!?!?!” It was so confusing to have just given birth and then have to go sit in a dark little room alone. I’m pretty sure I was in a state of complete shock at this point, which is why I was so calm at the time. Later Patrick came in and we both just couldn’t believe we were Parents but yet we were so distraught because our daughter wasn’t with us.
The NICU team explained that Annie’s lungs were filled with quite a bit of amniotic fluid & she kept grunting because of it. They didn’t want to release her to us until they were sure all of the fluid was gone and her little grunt went away. They expected that to happen within 8 hours, which I thought “okay, I can handle that.” On my way from the recovery room to my post partum room, they wheeled my bed by the NICU and I got to see Annie again. At this point, Annie had graced the world with her presence for several hours now and I’d only seen her for about 2 minutes, so I was on pins & needles to finally get to know her!
I could hear her cry as soon as we entered the NICU. And once I saw her my heart ached that I couldn’t pick her up and console her tears. With her little monitors attached to her chest, all I could do was “pet her,” so to speak. As soon as I started talking to her and stroking her arm, her piercing cry completely went away, like magic. She knew I was her mom and recognized my voice. That special moment came in second place (of all lifetime moments) to seeing her for the very first time.
For the next 36 hours, Annie was kept in the NICU. It took much longer for the fluid to dissolve & the grunting to go away than they expected. Every three hours Patrick would wheel me down the hall in my wheelchair and we would go see her, hold her and feed her. I was in a lot of pain from surgery and as traumatic as all of this was, I was so calm the entire time. The NICU nurses were incredibly nice and reassuring. The whole experience we were going through was just so huge, new, crazy & insane that I just let it take me along for the ride. Looking back I still can’t believe I wasn’t a complete basket case about everything!
Finally, on the evening of January 21st, Annie was allowed to go “home” (aka back to our hospital room) with us. We were ecstatic! (And so were the grandparents who hadn’t met her yet!) Baby girl and I got to do skin to skin and I didn’t want to put her down ever again. And to be honest, I pretty much haven’t done so ever since!
Wow, so that was supposed to be a condensed version of Annie’s birth story. And then it quickly escalated into a novel. If you’re still reading, hello there!
The recovery from my c-section was rough, to say the least. I ended up having to go back to the hospital a second time due to an infection under the incision. Let’s just say that totally SUCKED & was incredibly painful. I had moments where I questioned whether or not we really even needed a c-section in the first place and was pretty torn up about it. But every time I would look down and see Annie in my arms, at home, healthy & happy, it was much easier to put my doubts behind me.
In the end, it doesn’t matter HOW you birthed your baby. What matters is that you safely delivered a healthy and happy baby. And that we did!
The past 7-weeks have been filled with cuddles, kisses, dirty diapers, spit up, swaddles, tiny bows, tiny onesies, even tinier socks, stroller walks, mamaroos, boppys, tears, tantrums, smiles, laughs, coos & more. My incision has completely healed and I’m 100% back to my old self. It took almost 5-6 weeks but in the grand scheme of things, that was nothing. (And it’s true what they say, you forget what childbirth is like and all of the pain that comes with it. It’s already a blur!) My heart is so incredibly full and I’m so thankful for this little girl of mine! We have so many adventures ahead of us and I’m already loving every moment of it. Thanks for letting me share this special story of how she came into the world with y’all!
photos by Lulu Lopez Photography