“So it’s a plan.” I noted the sense of calm on Jeremy’s face. It always helps to have a plan.
“Yup.” He gave me a half smile. I had to tell my mom. I made a mental note of putting that on the list….tell mom. Double check list. These days it was all about the list. The list controlled the life. The plan was everything. I gathered my things to head to the doctor for one last check. I hated being checked when overdue but it was the price you pay for making sure there was a healthy baby safe and sound in there. Ella wasn’t especially active (she was never a rough n tumble Weston that was to be sure) and I could tell that she had dropped even if the fundal measurement said otherwise. I could breathe again so I knew. Now if only I could walk. Or sit. Or sleep.
I said a little prayer that maybe this one last check would motivate my little one to evacuate. No luck. She was happy just where she was. I closed my eyes and made a mental note….this is what it is like to be pregnant. This is what it is like to have a baby in there. Safe. Warm. Pressing on my bladder. I tried to push the impression onto my memory….hold onto the feeling….the last pregnancy. The last time I would be ‘glowing’. The last baby. It was still something I was working out.
The plan was simple….make this final delivery as pain free as possible. I felt like I had done it all the ways. I felt like there wasn’t anything else I really wanted to feel or experience. I had done the no-epidural thing. I had done the c-section. I had done the VBAC. I had felt the water break naturally. I had the inductions. Now I just wanted to celebrate modern medicine and make this thing easy like a Sunday morning. We kept on calling it ‘date night at the hospital’. We figured that if history repeated itself, I would probably be overdue and need an induction. I knew that I would just need to get to 4 cm before getting the epidural. And that it would take probably about 6-8 hours after that to get the baby delivered. That the epidural would be most uncomfortable…but if I could endure to that point, it would be smooth sailing. We would order uber eats right after giving birth. We had saved Wonder Woman for the date night movie. It would be perfect. As comfortable and uneventful as humanly possible.
The next night we went to the ball field for two last games. One was at one field, one at the other. Afterward we met up and snagged a family photo. The last baseball picture of us as a family of boys. It would no longer be “Bower BOYS let’s go!” – now we had to sneak in an Ella in there. How would we do this? How do we even yell for the kids? Is it “Bower kids?” or “Ella & Bower Boys?”…..it’s little things that make you realize how life would change. The dynamic would change. A girl with four older brothers. That would be sure to change the Bower lifestyle….but we were open to it….thrilled that we were having this sweet baby join us. We always wanted the boys to have a sister….we just didn’t think it would happen. We figured….we make boys….that’s what we do. So we were still in shock when we thought about having a little girl. I glanced over at the softball field….I don’t know about those big ole bows….but the parents over there seem nice enough.
The drive to the hospital was a blur. It happened really quickly. Snellville was hosting an outdoor concert. I rolled down the window to hear the music. The hot air blowing into the car made me shift in my seat. It was still so hot out. The sun was setting as we pulled onto Peachtree Street. It was the perfect night. The kind of night you sit outside and drink ice tea. The plan was in motion and I exhaled as it seemed to be as perfectly perfect as possible.
Everything was familiar. The parking garage felt like home. It was where we go every couple years. My back was starting to hurt on the walk….I breathed in the pain. It would be the last time to feel this….this baby’s head against my hips. I pulled out my pre-filled-out paperwork, insurance info and license. I knew the drill. And that’s when it happened. Sometimes it just takes one little hiccup to throw the entire night off. That’s when it started for me.
“I’m sorry. It says your insurance is invalid.” The nurse checking me in handed me the card.
“Um…what? No. That can’t be right.” I frantically looked over at Jeremy. I could feel the blood pumping faster in my veins. Could my head explode from blood pressure? I felt like mine was on it’s way.
“Jeremy – that’s not right. I just went to the doctor yesterday and they would have said something if something wasn’t right? Why is this happening? I’m here to have this baby. I can not wait. Dr. Tate will not let me reschedule. I can’t redo the plan….” I could feel myself talking out loud faster and faster but it was all on repeat. Call Carrie. Call her….she will fix this.
Jeremy dialed the phone to our insurance agent. It was 9 pm but she answered. She told us to give her a minute and she would call back. We sat in the waiting room. There was no way to do this without insurance. I went over the plans in my mind. Blue Cross better have a hotline. The phone rang. I almost fell out of my seat. Jeremy turned to me….it was a billing glitch. They had suspended coverage until our card was confirmed. Tears started falling. It felt out of control. The whole thing. I thought I had this whole thing planned….all these expectations….my house of cards was perfect. But the reality was, I felt scared. I felt scared of having a daughter. I felt scared of giving birth. I felt scared of being a good enough woman. I would be her example. I would be primarily responsible in teaching this little human how to be a grown version of who she is….would I be strong enough? Smart enough? kind enough? The pressure of the situation didn’t take much to make my house of cards fall. The plans already failed. The seamless easy hospital visit was already a mess.
I tried to brush it off….Jeremy tried to make me feel extra comfortable. I got my gown. The IV went in. The pitocin drip began. I cried a little in the bathroom. We browsed Instagram. We walked the halls. We joked with the nurses at the station. Everything seemed to be a little more calm. Maybe things were going to be perfect. Maybe the plans will work out. Maybe I should just stop stressing. Being silly and laughing are my go to coping method for uncomfortable situations. This was one of those.
The contractions were a familiar frenemy. I knew that they had happen. They were part of the plan and we did all the techniques to breathe through them. The wave of pain would wash over me….each time stronger than the one before. I could feel them getting closer together. Everything felt the same as with my other pregnancies…my other labors….it eased my fears. It would work. This plan I had would work. Just get back on track.
My nurse walked in to do her rounds…I found out that I was lucky to get checked in when I did. Apparently there were an abundance of pregnant women checking in after me….some were waiting in the hall…some not even going to get rooms in the delivery ward. I couldn’t have imagined what a wrench that would have thrown into my pre-determined plans. I would have probably lost it completely. I felt fragile even though I knew it was all in my head.
I looked over at Jeremy as he held my hand. He was tired. He didn’t get the adrenaline rush like I did. The contractions didn’t keep him up. He needed sleep. I turned to the nurse…
“If there is a lot of people here, how long would I need to wait for an epidural?”
“I imagine that it would be at least 45 minutes. You want me to call it in?” She had kind eyes.
“Yes. Yes, I definitely want it.”
“Are they bearable honey?” She looked at me with a little surprise that I asked for the medication.
“Oh yes….right now….but I have done it before….and in about an hour, I will have a hard time holding still for the doctor. I hate having to bend over when the contractions get unbearable.”
She smiled. “Sounds good!”
I was shocked that the time passed as quickly as it did. Everything was on track. My contractions were regular. I knew that once I got that epidural, I could rest and so could Jeremy. I also knew that I would progress without worry. It would be like being on a moving sidewalk….all the forward movement without any effort. It would be awesome. I felt like I was almost done with the hard part.
“Bend over. Feet up.” I couldn’t understand why I had to put my feet up. This was strange. I could barely get my legs pulled up high enough to rest my feet on the box. Jeremy was allowed to stay. It felt off. I hadn’t had him in the room for this part since Will. Why was he in the room? Why did they change the rule? I could feel my brain spiraling. Things were different. I felt out of control. Why was it so incredibly easy to be nudged off track? Why did I have so much anxiety this time? I kept trying to check myself.
Pain shot down my leg. WHAT THE CRAP?! I didn’t understand what was happening. The lightning bolt went from my hip down to my shin. It burned like a hot poker. I gasped. Tears immediately welled up in my eyes.
“That’s not right!” the words urgently escaped my lips. The doctor adjusted something in my back and instantly the pain subsided. But the damage was done. I was already on the edge. The expectation of a smooth epidural wasn’t even something I had registered. It was just always something that was. It never wasn’t. But the trust was gone as my legs started tingling and the dripping feeling was going down my lower back. It wasn’t that the plans were failing…my trust in myself was evaporating. It wasn’t going to be a date night now. It was just a night I couldn’t control. I waited to burst into tears after the doctor left.
Jeremy didn’t even know what was happening. He thought I was in pain. I was but I couldn’t even verbalize that it wasn’t physical as emotional. I had built this night up in my mind. It would go a certain way. And when it didn’t, it felt like getting a punch in the gut. I couldn’t even control the need to be in control. It was all so foreign. I didn’t feel like myself.
In that moment – it all flowed….the tears….the worry…the fears…the words were slowing down. He reassured me that everything would be ok. I could see he was there but he just wanted this part to be over. He made me laugh. He talked about light things. It was a moment of floating in my sinking mind. It reminded me why I loved him. He didn’t even know what was going on….but that didn’t matter….he was still there….still trying….and so could I. I had to try to keep it together. The idea of letting the anxiety take over was like drowning and I couldn’t let myself lose this experience to it. My body was tired and my brain started to catch up. Without the contractions, sleepiness took the wheel. Jeremy held my hand until I rolled over. It was 3 am….
7:20 am….I hear the door open and the lights flick on. Dr. Tate walked in looking energetic as always. He walked over to the monitor. I called over to Jeremy to wake up. He was so tired but Dr. Tate wasn’t one to mess around and I needed Jeremy to hold my hand if Tate wanted to break my water. Jeremy did a little growl under his breath, trying to stretch and appear like he was aware of the situation.
“How are things?” Tate asked with a straight face….always right to business. “Any progress? When is the last time someone checked you?” He was flipping papers on a clipboard and simultaneously checking the monitor.
I shifted my weight….pressed the button to make me sit up. The whirring of the bed coincided with the slow action.
“Good I think. I slept.” I could see him not caring about my sleep schedule. He was there to get that baby out. That was his job and he was fantastic at it. If the hospital was as busy as the nurse said, he probably had a lot of other patients to see.
Dr. Tate looked at me and said “well, let’s check you and see if we need to break your water.” He flipped the blankets up off my feet to expose my lower half. “Whoa. We are gonna say that your bags ruptured. What time is it? Nurse?” He grabbed the gloves and within seconds, they were snapped on and he was carrying a soiled sheet to the basket.
The nurse called out a time….”7:22 am.”
Tate walked back over and pushed my completely numb leg up “Dad!” – he was calling for Jeremy.
“She’s got lots of hair!” the nurse exclaimed.
My brain felt like I missed something. WHAT?! Hair? Why the heck do they see hair? Where is this baby exactly? Was she coming while I slept?! How far out is she exactly? My brain felt like it was exploding with questions….
“Are you ready to push?” one voice said….
“C’mon girl you got this.” the nurse next to me smiled…
I had a whole team of hands shifting things into place….legs were bending, my lungs struggled to get air being squished into my throat, the weight of me being shifted up and my lower half was still completely numb. I took a small breath and looked at Jeremy with a half smile, half shocked look on my face. I didn’t even know how to register what was happening. I started focusing….I needed air….get air Katie….get air so you can push……breathe in….out…..and PUSH DOWN…..
“Alright Mama! Now THIS is how you have a baby right here!!!”
The cry was immediate. All I could do was breathe out a mixture of relief and laughter….
“She is a beautiful one!!!” The nurses did their flurry of activity and Tate laid the weight of this little bundle on my belly. I couldn’t stop laughing…it was a moment of such release….so much tension in my head escaping with each baby cry. And I knew exactly why.
This night…this moment….it was all organized….it took care of everyone…but the fear of being a mother to a daughter…it was the one thing I didn’t know how to plan for. I didn’t know how to prepare. I thought it meant that I would need to get the details right or I would fail. I kept thinking I have to be perfect somehow. The most well behaved. The most polite. The most hardworking. The most forgiving. The strongest. The best. That I would need to be the ultimate woman….the perfect mom so that I could show her, teach her how to be the best version of herself. But the truth was….Ella, in the very moment of her birth, would teach me that she just needed me to BE THERE. That I wouldn’t be always able to control her or the situation or much of anything….but that just being present would be enough. That she would choose to do things her way sometimes and that I would be there (probably freaking out in the background) but that is okay. That is enough.
I looked down at her. In awe of all that just happened. Thankful that it didn’t happen without me. Or without Jeremy. Grateful that I had her with a doctor present. She cried. She was already showing her strong opinion of the situation. I could tell already that she was opinionated. Just like her mother 🙂
She had just a smidge of light colored hair and the nurse noticed a bruise near her belly button…she said it might have been from her foot position in the womb. She had light blue eyes like Weston and looked like Max’s nose and mouth but with lighter complexion and pink cheeks that reminded me of LJ. Her face was round with a jaw that was the spitting image of Wills. It was like someone took all my boys features and blended them up to be this new little creature. But strongest of all – she looked like Jeremy. A true Daddy’s girl.
I searched for something that was me…and I kept searching. Why doesn’t she look like me? Was I not good enough? The insecurity surrounding my worth didn’t always make sense. I struggled with that later and for a long time. I always had assumed that if I ever had a girl, she would be my spitting image. My mini-me. That maybe one little thing would be different. But surely I wouldn’t have a blonde, blue eyed daughter. But the fact is – this little one would be always keeping me on my toes. Pushing her into my expectations is not what I’m called to do as a parent. I’m called to love her….teach her empathy and love and kindness. And to prepare her to survive this cruel and beautiful world. I am called to protect her and to remind her that she is the daughter of a KING. And that above all else, that she is loved….not because of how she looks or based on what she does….but because she is just simply her.
And she looked big. She was short but so squishy with the thickest little newborn legs. About an hour after birth, they did all the measurements – 10 lbs 5 ounces. Bigger than all her brothers. They are still jealous. Every moment that passed, she looked a little different and still a little the same. Ella really did resemble her brothers.
That first day we called her a “him” and a “he” probably fifty times. The bows really did help. They made her look more like her own person than a mashed up version of her brothers. She cried a lot. She was already more emotional than her brothers were….but OH so calm at times. It was like she already knew her personality and we were the ones playing catchup. She had a tongue tie so we had that taken care of right away. She didn’t like that. Obviously. And it was funny because even at a day old, she seemed like it was just the discomfort that she didn’t like….but that her feelings were hurt that we were poking and proding.
She failed her hearing test which gave us a little moment of fear but honestly, it didn’t matter. The plan was already out the window and at that point, we were making a new plan. We ordered Jeremy’s favorite – Firehouse Subs and had it delivered. He was thrilled that he didn’t have to eat hospital food. We listened to music instead of watching a movie. We took lots of photos and decided to go home a day early. The plan was different but it was good…even better than what we expected. And the fact was….that sums up our entire experience in the world of having children. We can plan and make lists and have huge expectations and dreams. But the truth is – when you have babies…what you actually experience is so different than what you expect….it is different and good and even better.
Ella darling – I love you. You will always be my little cupcake….my snickerdoodle…my honey bunny….my sweet Evie baby. Keep surprising us. Do things your way. We will make mistakes sweet girl…all of us…but there is strength in saying sorry. Forgive…even when you don’t want to. Anger and hate can eat you from the inside out. LOVE. Love deeply. Love freely and without shame. Don’t let people tell you that you can’t in life. Or won’t. Or belittle your strength or capabilities. Have opinions. Be brave. And feel all those feels. Listen to your heart….don’t shut out others. You are beautiful. Truly the most breathtaking girl I have ever seen. Your smile lights up the room and can change lives. Love your family….we will always have your back. Say thank you and stand up for what is right even if its hard. I love that when I look at you, I see your daddy. He always wanted to have a little girl. And you are a dream come true for him. And baby…I know it is hard to remember this….it will be especially difficult in those teen years….but I love you. I would do anything for you. I will always be here. I will always love you…no matter what. You are our special and wonderful and PERFECT happy ending.