Dear Grace Evelyn,
Where to begin? We are completely smitten by you. You are a delight and a joy. God is so, so good to us in giving us such a precious gift!
I must back up.. My memory is already foggy and days and nights are quickly mashing into another, but I want to capture the details of your birth, because just like your big bros, it contains such sweet and precious moments. As mentioned, Friday, August 29th, my midwife informed me I was already at 5 cm and to start preparing for a baby to come! Excitement, anxiety, anticipation all at once! We tried to anticipate each labor pain as the real thing, but each pain would slowly subside to nothing and the wait would start all over again. We tried to relax all weekend, and keep occupied, but was hard to do since our church family was up in Green Lake Wisconsin for annual Labor day weekend. We were blessed to have Grandma Searles nearby for support and childcare, and camaraderie with our friends, the Sommerfields, also expecting baby any day. We got away to the beach Sunday afternoon and soaked in last minute family of 4 moments. I was feeling uncomfortable, timing contractions on and off, but nothing that would send me further into labor. Monday came and instead of waiting, and trying to stay busy at home, we ventured out of the house, doing errands as a family. At night, we headed to the Searles for a family dinner, walked to the school park and headed home. I was feeling the weight of the busyness of the day with more cramping and aches. Every time I was about to get discouraged or agitated that you hadn’t come (mind you, still one week ahead of your due date!) I would say a prayer and remind myself that all this work and cramping at home is putting me further into labor, and closer to meeting you! In the end, I am grateful for the weekend to mentally prepare for the birth ahead and felt it was very peaceful as we all anticipated your arrival.
Monday night we went to bed, and around 4:00am I started having solid, painful contractions. 10 minutes… 8 minutes…6 minutes apart. I woke up your dad (he probably woke up with all my groaning and squirming anyway) and we knew it was time to go to the hospital. How quickly your brain activates to pain of childbirth… “Oh yeah, there’s the pain, I forgot exactly how it felt..” We knew we didn’t have alot of time, but made a quick call to Grandma and Grandpa Searles, asking them to come and cover the boys, while we loaded up. We actually left before they got to the house, but we knew they would be minutes behind us. Dad made the call to the midwife on the way to the hospital, and I vaguely remember telling him to take shortcuts to get to the hospital faster. I had no idea how progressive labor was, I just knew it was really intense at this point! I was so thankful labor started this time of day with little traffic and while the boys were asleep! It was an answer to prayer! We got to the ER, and Aaron briefly chatted with a nurse saying I was already in labor, was 5 cm, and was probably much further along, he quickly ran out to move the car. I then realized I was alone, and that the ER nurses didn’t really take me seriously. I was moaning in pain with every contraction, and there was NO help from them! I was started to grow agitated and…annoyed. Aaron was back by my side and I started telling nurses I needed to push! (OK, I really didn’t know if I needed to push, per instructions by Gretchen, one of the midwives, it would help them move a little faster in the ER…!) Instead of moving things right along, they decided to lay me down in a stretcher in the ER. I kept hearing voices from one person to the other.. “Hey, do you know where we keep the OB kit?” What? Are you kidding, I’m going to deliver a baby in a closet sized ER room with only a kit for supplies?? Ever grateful for the wimpy curtain they pulled across, because finally someone from OB showed up and checked me. She then confirmed I was at 10 cm. and we needed to head upstairs. (Really? I was loosing my patience) I tried not to open my eyes during the wheel ride upstairs, and prayed I would not have to stop again. We finally made to the OB unit and was greeted by Diane. I remember thinking she was looking really pulled together and fresh, like she had just showered and put on lipstick, and I was jealous b/c I didn’t have time to brush my teeth..
Anyway, they were able to maneuver me into the delivery bed in between contractions, and Rebecca came in. I was not used to her or her style but was surprised how little she engaged or communicated with us. I had not had her for previous births as a midwife, and didn’t know what to expect. All this time I was trying to breathe and calm down in between contractions, all the things that they tell you to do. I wasn’t feeling like it was going… right. Nurses kept coming in and asking random (stupid) questions like, “Is the baby getting such and such done?” “I’m going to start putting an IV in now..” I kept being rude and pushing people away and telling them “No” but I didn’t care at that point. The pain was intense, and I was growing frustrated that it was taking this long to get the baby out (It wasn’t taking long, but it felt like hours to me) I was looking around for someone to boss me around and tell me how to get this baby out! Every contraction came, and I was pushing against gravity, away from the pain, instead of letting it work with my body and to help transition the baby out. We tried holding onto a bar, and finally one nurse said, “You have to get mad, and bear down, and get this baby out!” And “Do you want to have a baby or what?” I didn’t know if I wanted to cry or yell at her, but I do know that was motivation to adjust how I was moving and pushing. And then everyone got a bit more excited. I could tell contractions were actually helping and pushing was actually getting me somewhere! I was hoping for a little more guidance like “I can see the head” or “you’re crowning” SOMETHING to tell me how things were going, but I don’t remember much of that. I just remember Rebecca reaching and guiding and all of a sudden, I knew you were there! And then that magical moment when I heard you cry and you were in my arms and there was instant RELIEF and JOY and LOVE all crashing in on me at the same time. Its like the whole room breathed and I was so overjoyed the hard part was done and I looked down at yet another precious little sight; your snuggly warm body right on my chest. What a beautiful little baby. Perfect. Everyone said you were very healthy, because the umbilical cord was VERY strong and thick. But Daddy got to cut that and then we marveled at you in those first precious minutes. There’s nothing in the world that prepares for that moment of holding your baby for the first time, and the emotion and joy that overwhelms. We didn’t think long about your name, even thought we didn’t have it put together before we got to the hospital. Grace Evelyn. It seemed to fit you perfectly, like God laid it on our hearts; chosen for you.
You were born at 5:43am, just as the light was coming in from the window. Your dad was so proud and happy and calm. The first thing I noticed about you was how long and delicate your fingers were; and how you instantly reminded me of Isaac. Strange because now, at 7 weeks you resemble Will so much more. We knew you were a girl from around 30 weeks, but we kept it a secret from everyone else. We had fun processing, and planning together, but also anticipating everyones reaction to a girl! We called Grandma and Grandpa Rietema right away. I had texted my mom just as were heading to the hospital but being around 2am, didn’t know if they received it. They hadn’t. It was a big shock to them to not only get a face-time call around 3:45am that I was IN the hospital, but that I had also given BIRTH already and that it was a GIRL! Their reactions were priceless! We also face-timed Uncle John and Aunt Erin, because living in Korea has its time perks, and they were just finishing the day, got to be one of the first to see you too.
Afterwards, it was a blur. I was grateful that everything moved quickly; that you were a healthy baby and things were all unremarkable in the days following. You are precious and a perfect part in our family. The boys have adored you and loved to be close to you since day 1. They have been their usual boisterous selves, including having a major fight and meltdown that ended in loud wailing the minute we got home from the hospital with you. But you handled it ever so calmly, sleeping through the chaos!
We are so thrilled you are here, and life has not been the same, but for perfectly good reasons. When it seems overwhelming and busy and out of control with an infant and 2 other young children, I am reminded that God’s grace is sufficient to parent and to love for exactly what you need. He has chosen you from the beginning to be in our family, and we are the ones who get to be the beneficiaries of such a great gift! We love you, Grace!