Friday, March 22, 2013

A Birth Story: Evan Michael

The last month of pregnancy was the best. I felt good most of the time, even with the lack of sleep, sore pelvis, and backache. But emotionally I was centered, filled with hope, and ready to meet my littlest love.

By week 39, I was ready to deliver. My body was aching under the strain of carrying a baby. I walked, hiked, did squats, tried everything I could think of to move Evan down. No luck. All three of my pregnancies, my babies carried SUPER high. I never once experienced the "drop" or lightening of labor. For the week leading up to Evan's delivery, I barely progressed from 1 to 1 1/2 cm dilation. 

I visited Dr. Wells (the best OB ever!) on Monday the 11th and asked about getting an induction date scheduled, in case my little guy didn't make any movements on his own. I was growing weary. According to my medical record, I turned 39 weeks on 3/14, so the soonest they could induce would be Thursday of that week (I kept pushing for an earlier DD because I knew the *exact* day of conception. Napa.)

Dr. Wells said he would call about Friday, or possibly the following Monday. It was good to know there was an end in sight, but by that point a week might as well been a month. It seemed so far away! I started praying for Friday. The number nerd in me was hoping for a birthdate of 3/11/13, 3/13/13, or 3/15/13. 

On Wednesday I called the doctor because I hadn't yet heard anything, and my mom and aunt were planning to drive down from Oregon to help out during our hospital stay. Dr. Wells called back late Wednesday to share the good news--Friday at 7:30am. He was going back and forth about whether to do a catheter or overnight pitocin drip, but ultimately decided I should just head in early in the morning and we'd hope to have our baby by early evening.

I was thinking that since things went SO FAST with Sam (2 hours 45 minutes from start of pitocin drip to delivery), that this labor would be similarly fast. Dr. Wells had his own thoughts about that, and of course, he was right. :)

I barely slept Thursday night. We all barely slept, actually. Sam and Maddie were both up twice. I couldn't sleep for a few hours in the middle of the night. Same with Ben. Our excitement level was at a major high. We called in at 6:30, heard there was a space, and I took a quick shower, ate a piece of peanut butter toast, drank half a cup of coffee, and in we went.

I should have given myself more time in the morning. I was planning to sleep as late as possible, but I should have planned to eat more breakfast. There was a long day ahead, and I would eventually regret not eating more before we left.

At 7:35 I was undressed and in my hospital room. At 7:45 they started the pitocin drip. My nurse's name was Mel and she had awesome tattoos all over her arms. An hour later, at 8:45, I was still at 1 1/2cm. No progress. Up went the pitocin drip, and continued to gradually increase at the rate of 4 ml/hr to 20 ml/hr at 11:00. 

By 11, I was having regular contractions every 2-3 minutes, but with no pain. They felt like Braxton Hicks, a gradual tightening. Evan's heartrate started sort of high but eventually settled between 130-170 bpm for the entire induction. 

I walked around my room from 8:45-11:45 in an effort to help labor along. I read three magazines during that time: People, Martha Stewart Living, and Oprah. I knitted for a bit. Ben and I took instagram photos. It was a pretty chill morning. Actually, one of the quietest and most peaceful mornings I've had in a long time. I thought about taking a nap, but it never happened. At some point I was quite hungry and ate a banana that I had brought along. That and ice chips kept me going.

At 1pm, Ben laid down for a nap. I took this picture and posted it to IG with the following description:
"Poor guy can hardly relax he's so excited."

At 1:15 I was 3+cm and Dr. Wells dropped by to rupture my membranes. At that point I started contracting every 2 minutes for several hours. At 1:30, Ben took a nap.

By 2:00, Ben was awake and my contractions were still every 2 minutes, but finally getting stronger. I was feeling them strongly at the top of the uterus. Amniotic fluid leaked out with each passing contraction. That hadn't happened with either of my previous pregnancies and it made me laugh.

Shortly after that, Ben took a scary picture of himself and posted to IG with this note: "Introducing Evan Michael. Looks just like his dad."

Needless to say, we were feeling a little bored and rather punchy.

But by 2:40 I started closing my eyes during contractions, growing quiet and concentrating. I was glad that things were getting more intense and hoped my cervix was opening in response.

I continued to walk around the room with my "diaper" to catch the leaks. By 4:15 I finally decided to call for the epidural. I didn't want to lose my window of opportunity btw really feeling the contractions and being overwhelmed by them.

The anesthesiologist arrived by 4:30 and the epi was live at 4:45. Starting at 5, I noticed a "window" of pain in the lower right quadrant of my body, much like I had with Sam's labor. It was as if all my contraction was intensified into that one spot between my right hip and pubic bone. It was pretty intense, even though everything else was numb. And then I started feeling nauseous.

I really, really did not want to be sick, so I mentioned it to Dr. Wells, who instantly recommended zofran. He said, "Zofran and (Pain MED), always take them when offered." So I did. The plastic barf bin was not needed, thankfully, though I kept it close through several contractions.

At 5:30, they checked my cervix and I was SO disappointed to hear it was only 4cm, though I was 90% effaced by then. The nurse told me every labor is different and not to worry, as the woman next door came in at 10cm dilated with her fourth pregnancy, pushed for FIVE hours, and ended up needing a vacuum-assisted delivery. I counted my blessings that the dilation was the long part and prayed the pushing would go quickly.

The lower right quadrant pain never went away. The anesthesiologist came back and gave me a second bolster of the epidural meds, hoping it would help. Eventually things softened, though I still was feeling quite a bit. And actually, this is just what I wanted. With Sam I felt like I was able to be in control of the pushing because I felt pressure but no pain. With Evan I would have pressure and a little bit more pain.

Dr. Wells stopped in and I asked him to make an educated guess as to when I'd be meeting my baby. He said he was planning on dinner with his wife so Evan would be here before 7:30. I laughed and it took the edge off momentarily.

At 6:20 I was up at 7cm. Transition. Finally. Before I knew it, I was 9 1/2cm, with just a tiny lip of cervix remaining. Dr. Wells told me that we'd start pushing shortly after 7.

7:00 rolled around and I was feeling SO MUCH PRESSURE. I felt like I was going to pee  and poo all over the table (this is a good sign that you're ready to go). 

At 7:05 I started pushing. Holy RING OF FIRE. With Maddie's delivery, I couldn't feel a thing. I was completely numb. With Sam's pushing stage, I felt a buzzing as his head descended. But with baby E, boy oh boy, this was a completely new experience. 

I enjoyed the experience. I could feel Evan's head descending bit by bit through the birth canal with each push. I noticed Dr. Wells and the attending Nurse watching the FHR monitor and making comments like, "He really doesn't like that, does he?" I asked if all was okay, and they reassured me things were fine but Evan didn't like the pushing. In between contractions, Dr. Wells would reach in and tickle Evan's head to keep his heart rate up and stimulated. It was NOT my favorite thing ever.

Also, I was SO hot. Like unbearably hot. I was sending Ben to get ice-cold washcloths for my face, neck, & chest every minute. He kept on replenishing them, bless his heart. And this is where I question the lovely ladies who wear full makeup to deliver. Had I been wearing any makeup at all, it would have been either removed or completely smeared all over my face because I was crazy with those washcloths. In between pushes on the video you can see me wiping myself down with reckless abandon. Hilarious. I really was hot.

At one point, Ben, Dr. Wells, and the nurse all said something to the effect of, "You're almost there!" and I asked "What do you ACTUALLY mean?" And they said maybe one more push, or one more set of pushes, and he'd be out.

The encouragement gave me that little bit of inspiration I really needed, and I grabbed my legs, pulled back hard and pushed just as much as my body could take. I felt like I was bursting every vein in my face I was working so hard. BURNING!!!!! BURNING!!!! OWWWWW!!!! BURNING!!!! 

And then, there was his head. I looked down and saw it myself. A face, a shoulder out, then his little left hand. I reached down between my legs and helped hoist him out onto my waiting chest. 

7:22. 17 minutes of pushing. Evan Michael Joyce entered our world with a full head of thick, dark, long hair, blue-gray eyes, lower half covered in thick vernix. I first noticed his little chin, tucked back. He was absolutely perfect. Even his head didn't look that misshapen, considering the journey he'd just endured. He was perfect!

We were able to snuggle for 15 or 20 minutes while the cord was clamped and cut, placenta delivered, and my tears sewn up. I soaked up every minute and was so thankful for a healthy baby who I could hold for so long and cover with kisses. I think I cried a few tears when he first came out but then I just couldn't stop smiling. The joy was thick.

Oh, and also: he pooped on me. Right in the middle of all that snuggling, Evan passed his first batch of sticky meconium. All over me, all over himself, and all over the receiving blanket.

They took him over the warming table to check vitals. Apgar scores were 8 and 9. He was so perfectly healthy and thriving. And I was SO grateful.

They put him on the scale for the moment of truth: 8 pounds, 14 ounces! My biggest baby yet, by almost 10 ounces!! 21 inches long (same as Sam and Maddie). The biggest surprise was the size of his head: 37cm! The nurse double-checked it because she couldn't believe it was so big. A few of the staff, including Dr. Wells, remarked how unusual it was to see 37cm, that the average was more around 34. No wonder I felt that ring of fire. Hello, cabeza gigantica!

Back in my arms, Evan latched right on and nurse for 20-25 minutes before the visitors started arriving. First, big sister Maddie, big brother Sam, Grammy & Auntie Cheryl. Maddie, as promised, was the first visitor to hold Evan. It was just as magical as we'd imagined:


And then the baby-hogging commenced. Between each family member, Maddie would fight for another chance to snuggle her baby brother, covering him with kisses. Maddie, Sam, Maddie, Grammy, Maddie, Daddy, Maddie, Tutu, Maddie, Boppa, Maddie, get the idea. When it was time to share, Maddie actually cried tears.
Grammy meets grandbaby # 6
Tutu & E
Auntie Jennie
Boppa and his new grandson, also his namesake
Finally, around 9, the nurses gently "kicked out" the visitors, all of whom were completely smitten with our little man. Right before it was time to go, Sam finally asked for his turn to hold the baby. He said "Hiiiiii!" and snuggled him so sweetly. Poor big brother was beyond tired at that point but his gentleness so made an impact on this Mama's heart. Maddie remarked, "I wish I could spend the night! Can I come back tomorrow??? Please?"

At 9:30 we were moved into a new room, and we got to ring the bell that plays the lullaby song on our way out of L&D. The new room was nice, and the floor was SO quiet. Evan nursed a little more in our new room before going to get his first bath at 10:30. He came back looking and smelling like heaven. I probably kissed his neck, face and head about a thousand times that night.

All night I barely slept. Not only were there vital checks to be done, a new baby to feed around the clock, but I couldn't stop looking at, thinking about, and snuggling my little love. He slept the whole night against my chest.

The next day the siblings came back for a long, fun visit. Maddie was excited to get her hands on her baby again. Then she decided they should take a nap together:

Heart. Melting.

Now our little Evan Michael is nearly a week old. :( It's gone by in a flash. He is nursing like a pro (holy ouchie nipples, though. yikes.). He sleeps most of the time, with a few short wakeful periods throughout the day. He still has a head of hair, and is covered with fine, soft, long blond hair on his ears, neck, shoulders, and arms. He still smells like heaven. We are so, so blessed.

Evan (from evangelist), meaning "the good news of God's grace"
Michael, meaning "gift of God"

And that is precisely how we feel about the fifth member of our family: he is a good, good gift from a God who loves us!! Welcome to our family Evan!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Maddie: 74 Months

Dear Madeleine Noelle,

Well, two months in, six is still my favorite. You are such a love. I keep joking that siblings should be six years apart because I am reminded daily that all that hard work from 0-5 is starting to pay off! You are centered. You are helpful. You are kind. You are fun. You are a delight to be around. 

Not that I'm taking all the credit. You have a marvelous personality. God has given you the most gracious, generous, & forgiving heart. It is constantly blowing my mind. Last month a new student joined your class, and without sharing details, I'll just say it's been an adjustment. This person has bullied you many times on the playground but you were determined to show him kindness. Last week, he sadly told you that no one wanted to be his friend, and you replied that you would be his friend.

When you told me this story, huge tears welled in my eyes. After you told me the things he had said and did to you (and other kids), I stopped engaging with him. I was holding a grudge, inwardly frustrated with and mad at this little boy who would be so unkind and hurtful toward others. But you kept finding ways to show him love and compassion. To the extent of forgiving it all in order to be his only friend at school. It still brings me to tears and reminds me of how much you have to teach me about life.

A few nights ago after softball practice we hung out with our friend's six month old. You stood for fifteen or twenty minutes, just watching him eat some yogurt, and you were in love. The smile on your face and the crinkles around your eyes made me SO excited for baby Evan to arrive.  You are going to be the BEST big, big sister that he will ever know. You are patient and kind to Sam. Just this morning he told you that you are helping him to "know everything." 

When you pass by the baby's bassinet, or ride in the car by the carseat, you remark how sad it makes you to have these "empty," and you can't wait for our boy to fill up our house. The way you anticipate him and verbalize your longings is so beyond your six years; it's as if you gave words to exactly the feelings I've been experiencing, this deep longing and anticipation for our home to be filled up with more love, with another baby, with a constant reminder of God's grace in our lives.

At your school conference this week, Mrs. L remarked on what a kind person you are, and what a great model student you are for all the kids in the class. She is so fond of you, that much is clear. We are SO impressed with how your reading has completely taken off. Everywhere we go you are reading signs and slogans, reminding us of the speed limit or when to stop. At night you read us long, complicated books without having to pause hardly at all. One day in the car I listened as you read a book about transformers to Sam, sounding out Optimus Prime and the like while substituting words and ideas with creativity when you couldn't figure things out. It was perfectly smooth, and Sam was never the wiser. It is your intelligence mixed with creativity that makes you so marvelous! You're not afraid to improvise when the need arises. 

I just never imagined or dreamed how fun it would be to watch my child grow and learn and mature. Every day I'm just in awe of what an amazing creature you are. From your athletic abilities to your brain, your sweetness to your charm, the way you can motivate kids of all ages to join in your games, how you make your Daddy crack up almost every day, the way you look at babies, how you find such joy and delight in Sam's naivete, the affection you bestow on friends and family...I could go on and on. It is truly such a gift to be your mom. I wouldn't trade it for anything. I know that we have our moments (as well as days, weeks, and phases), but for now, I'm soaking up every second of your radiance. I'm in constant gratitude to God for making you into such a lovely human being. I weep tears of joy when I hear the heartfelt, earnest, faithful prayers you say each night. 

Thank you, Lord, for this indescribable gift. 



Thursday, March 07, 2013

Sam: Four Years Old!

Dear Sam Ben Joyce (as you refer to yourself these days),

Today you are FOUR. Whew! Glad to have the threes behind us--this was quite a year!! A year of great joy and great trial as you both warmed our hearts and tested our limits.

These days you are indescribably funny, full of life, talking up a storm, and full of little Samisms to make us laugh. Just a few of my favorites I happened to record in the past month:

"No, not tomorrow. Tomorrow I go to college and get real life."

"You work for me! Actually, you work for the whole family."

"I want some privacy... Privacy!... No, the kind of privacy when you with me."

"I no want you be a grandma."

"I'm four now! I can drink beer now!"

Yes, welcome to the CA state legal drinking age. Just kidding. (Though some nights in the past several sleepless months I have wondered if they make Tylenol PM for kids). You have suffered from nightmares for many months now, and your sleeping has been deeply affected (as has mine). We finally came up with a solution that's helped us all rest more effectively, but even on the nights when you aren't scared, you manage to make your way into the "snuggle nest" beside our bed because you just "yike it so much in here."

Your speech, while much improved since three, has still a long way to go. You can speak in these long, complicated sentences, sing songs, wax poetic about firetrucks, army men, astronauts, and legos, but about half of what you say may be indiscernible to those outside your close circle. Fortunately, you aren't usually bothered by folks' inability to understand you, and it hasn't affected your sweet spirit or desire to make friends on the playground. We hope and pray that in the next year we'll see great strides in your speech!!

You are obsessed with legos. Every day we build and re-build the same firetrucks and rescue vehicles and you construct elaborate play scenes. You can focus on your legos for twenty, thirty, forty minutes at a time. It's impressive!! You also love to dress up these days. Your new astronaut costume (thanks Tutu & Boppa) is SO fun, and now we won't need to borrow Wyatt's in order to get you out of the Eakin house without a major tantrum. :)

At school you are quiet but also a bit sneaky. Circle time is hard for you, but you love the imaginative play time and especially art. You and your sister are both SO creative and artistic, constantly making these beautiful, elaborate, detailed pieces of art that belie your ages. Your teachers have remarked on both your artistic ability as well as your great architectural skills. You write your name on your papers all the time now, and are constantly asking me how to spell things. You signed your whole name "Sam Joyce" on many of your thank-you cards, taking about twenty minutes to carefully pen the letters out.

You love to snuggle, which I'm so thankful for. I hope that you never outgrow your affectionate, cuddly personality. Not a morning goes by when we drop off Maddie at K that you don't run into her arms with big hugs and kisses to start off her day. It warms my heart more and more each day. You call it "hug-kiss" and sometimes we're lucky to get "hug-kiss, hug-kiss, hug-kiss, hug-kiss" or even more! At night if you crawl in your snuggle nest and I stir, you'll tenderly reach for my hand and give it a sweet little kiss.

I can't wait to see you as a big brother. I know that you will have some hard transitions ahead when you are no longer the baby, but I see such a gentle, tender spirit in you and I know that having a baby in the house will bring out the best in those qualities.

Happy Four Years Old, our sweet little buddy! Even amidst the struggles and challenges you throw at us each day, you manage to be the cutest, funniest, and most lovable boy we know. So glad that I get to be your Mama.



Wednesday, March 06, 2013


After enduring eight long, hard months of pregnancy, I have to report that the past month has been surprisingly lovely. I've felt well...much like myself, actually. My swelling belly has filled me with joy and expectation. Even in the aches and pains of these final weeks, I've been so in awe of the life growing inside. And this is a total and complete gift from a God who loves me.

A pregnancy not planned in a time that my body just could barely take care of itself.

A baby not expected in a season of incredible hardship.

A life ordained by his Creator, destined for this life before I even knew he existed.

A baby, a boy, another arrow in his father's quiver, a twinkle in the eye of his Heavenly Father.

You know that verse that church folks are always throwing around??

"He works all things together for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose..."

This life inside me, this almost-here, I-can-just-feel-him-in-my-arms boy, is living proof of this verse. What was hard and difficult and dangerous for my health has blossomed and grown into a healthy, vibrant, life inside me. And I can't wait to meet our sweet little Evan. He should be here soon, and so I give you a photo montage of our nine months together. Presenting, The Belly:


Saturday, March 02, 2013

Sam's 4th Birthday: Firefighter Fun!

Yesterday afternoon we celebrated (early) our big four year-old boy, Sam the Fireman! It was a beautiful, sunny, 72-degree day in the park. It was a nice, mellow party with a great group of friends. 

First up, the decor & snacks: everything was red & blue, spicy, or flame-colored. We had some great balloons, red tulips, & little wooden firetrucks. Food included spicy cinnamon bears and hot tamales, chips and fire-roasted salsa, fruit skewers & veggie cups in flame colors. The party favors were dalmatian notebooks with colored pencils.

Sam & the kiddos thoroughly enjoyed the fruit skewers:

Big buddies Brett, Wyatt, Tyler & Tyler
Scenes from playtime at the park:

Sweet Nicole & Kayla
Firestation 34 Friends & An Amazing Tour:

The birthday boy in awe...
Mama kisses!
Listening intently
Sharing facts about fire & earthquake drills :)
The whole crew!
Firefighter Sam & buddies

After an awesome tour with some super nice firefighters and lots of information, we headed back to the park for cake! (Because it was 4:30, I made mini cupcakes for the kids so they'd hopefully all still eat dinner). Sam's request: chocolate cake!

 By the end of the party, we had one tired but satisfied Sam!

Happy Birthday to my favorite 4 year-old big boy! We love you buddy!