Monday, February 3, 2014

Mila's Birth Story

  One little girl
Bring me life from where I thought it was dark
Be the spark that has a chance to light the candle
Love that I can handle
Let me go, let me go, let me go, let me go

**This is a verse from the song, Soul Like the Wheels, by one of our favorite bands, The Avett Brothers.  It was the first song Beau and Mila listened to the night she was born.  At the time, Beau had no idea it included this verse and now, it's become a fitting little birth song for our baby girl.  She's our spark that God gave us at just the right time.  My little soul girl.


I guess you could say Mila's birth story began at Bourbon Street like her brother's; however, it entailed nothing more than a few stolen sips of Beau's wine and a nice family dinner on a Saturday night.  No, we weren't able to add another notch on the belt of life-changing family events that we have in the past; however, it does prove the lengths I was willing to go to to induce labor the weekend prior to Mila's birth.  I was scheduled for an induction the following Monday and began having a lot of anxiety over the matter the Friday night before.  I'm not sure if it was attributed to hormones, or the finality of my pregnancy coming to an end, or the multiple message boards I read after a game of cribbage that night, but I freaked myself out and was convinced that inducing my own labor was my solution for avoiding induction on Monday.  I was worried about a longer labor, a baby that obviously wasn't ready to come out on her own, a failed delivery and c-section, the list goes on.  Although he stayed tight until 41 weeks, I was blessed with an easy labor and easy delivery with Cruz and I feared I was challenging that by playing my own hand with this one.  So, I tried just about everything that weekend - I ate fresh pineapple until my tongue became numb, walked more on the treadmill on Saturday morning than I'd walked my entire pregnancy, had multiple dance parties with Cruz that involved jumping and Elvis-like hip swaying, and finally, plans for dinner at Bourbon Street, the restaurant Beau and I shared our first date, our engagement night, and my very first labor contraction with Cruz. 

(Fast forward to Sunday night, still pregnant, just hours before I would be checking into a hospital room to give birth to this baby girl, whether she was ready to be out or not.)  

I was a bundle of emotions Sunday.  I had prepared our little nest as much as I could and as I attempted one last eggplant-inducing dish for dinner, I knew I had reached my moment of truth.  The last ten months of waiting and preparing my life to welcome another baby had built to this moment.  I was anxious, wondering how it would go and whether it would be as easy as the first time.  I was excited, so ready to meet this baby girl, hold her in my arms, and kiss her cheeks.  I couldn't look at Cruz without getting emotional, knowing it was my last night with just him, wondering how he would handle the big changes to come.  I felt as if I was at the top of a steep rollercoaster, bracing myself for the fall and knowing there was no way I was getting off.  And while I was so excited for the ride, another part of me longed for two feet on the ground - a normal Sunday night of the Golden Globes, a full night's sleep, and books before bedtime with Cruz. 

Her nursery, the night before her birth day.  

I didn't sleep at all Sunday night.  It was one of those desperate nights when all attempts to relax and will myself to sleep failed miserably and I was left laying there with nothing but my thoughts.  The last time I remember looking at the clock was 3 am and my 6:00 alarm followed all too soon.  It was Monday, January 13, 2014, the day I was going to meet my baby girl.  I was looking ahead to one of the single greatest days of my life.  How on earth does one wrap their mind around that?

Monday morning came quickly, but the events of the day soon slowed to a hurry-up-and-wait pace that helped relax my nerves and create a comfortable atmosphere for the uncertainty of the day ahead.  My mom and Beau's mom came to stay with Cruz and he was quick to usher us out the door so he could have time with his grandmas.  It was weird to say goodbye knowing the next time I would see him our life would look so differently.  As I climbed into our car, I realized this was it.  I had just closed the back cover of a chapter that was so good to us and my hand was just waiting to turn the pages of the next one, to get lost in the story that was to come.  It all felt so surreal.    

As we made our way to the hospital, we laughed as we noted that for most morning travelers around us, it was just another start to a typical work week.  We had stepped into our temporary universe, about to embark on a brand new adventure for our family, and for most of the world, it was just another Monday morning.   

We checked into Room 386 and were quickly greeted by Katie and Michelle, the first two of several amazing labor and delivery nurses we would get to know during our three days at Covenant Medical Center.  We felt like a couple of celebrities, really, all thanks to the amazing Amy Spooner, a nurse I had come to know during Cruz's birth.  She was by my side every step of the way, sitting forehead to forehead with me during my epidural, staying well past her shift to cheer me on and take pictures of my delivery, and coming in the next day and hugging me as I cried hormonal tears the morning before we checked out.  She will forever be one of my fondest memories from Cruz's birth and we have stayed in touch since that day three years before.  Now, Amy is no longer a nurse on the labor and delivery floor, but used her resources to make a few phone calls and hook us up with some of the best available.  These nurses would take many forms in the days to come.  There was Katie, who greeted us early Monday morning, checked my progress, and reassured me that my decision to induce was a good one and that I would indeed be holding my baby girl at some point that day.  They took the form of Michelle, a labor nurse-in-training, who tied my robe for me and calmed any lingering nerves with her sweet, reassuring smile.  They took the form of Shannon and Amy, both there by my side as I began to feel Mila getting closer and knew it was time to push.  They took the form of Shana, my mother baby nurse who talked me through a frustrating night of nursing, stepping into the bathroom with me to cheer me on as I worked to express drops of milk into a baby spoon.  And there was Bobbie, who wiped my tears with one hand and cradled my breast with the other, applauding Mila as she conquered the latch after a long second night.  These are the women there every step of the way, encouraging, smiling, and making me feel as if there was nowhere else they'd rather be than there to welcome my sweet girl into the world.  These are the women who have seen hundreds of births, yet celebrate ours for the unique miracle it is.  These are the women that play such an important part in the beautiful, raw, uncut moments of a baby's birth day.  There are few people you meet in a day but cherish for a lifetime.  These were my nurses at both my babies' births.  

My pitocin was started at 9:00 and the first three hours was this wonderful quiet time of just Beau and I.  This time around felt so differently as we knew more of what to expect.  I wrapped up in my favorite flannel blanket, Beau filled my one-of-a-kind Covenant water jug with ice chips, and we let the lull of the baby's heart-rate monitor and the Avett Brothers fill the room and prepare our hearts for what was to come.  There was no turning back at this point and I think the certainty of a decision made helped strip away the nerves I had brought with me that day.  I wasn't nervous or anxious, but present and excited for the miracle within my reach.

The nurses (and my impatient husband) talked me into an epidural around noon, followed by our first visit with Dr. Hines, my amazing doctor who delivered Cruz and would soon deliver his sister.  She broke my water, we talked for awhile, and she left to go check on a floor that was filling up with other awaiting mamas. 

For a couple of hours, I had an aching feeling we were going to be there for awhile.  I was slow to progress.  And then, in a series of events very similar to Cruz's birth, everything started happening very fast.  Nurse Amy came in around 3:30 to check on my progress, her bright eyes linking with mine as she told me I was at an 8.  Soon, Shannon came in and confirmed it was near go time and it was within these moments that I can remember every detail about the next two hours.  I remember the nurse coming in to prep the labor table, smiling at us as she eavesdropped on our conversations with our nurses.  I remember Mila's baby nurse coming in and getting her little bed ready.  I remember Katie meandering in and out of the room, even though her shift had ended a half hour ago.  I remember being so thankful for my husband, whose jokes lightened the tension and won over every single nurse on the floor.  Every single nurse, including an Amy Spooner, who happened to stop by after her day's work, asked if we wanted a photographer, and would later witness her first baby born since leaving her job at labor and delivery.  There was laughter, the excitement I felt as I knew it would happen soon, and the same look on my mom's face she gave me before she left to await Cruz's birth, a look I would later realize is one only a mother can give to her daughter. 

Soon, the laid back atmosphere turned a little tense as the nurses started paying closer attention to my monitors.  "Are you feeling any pressure?" and this time around I was.  And I told them that with Cruz, I was too numb to feel when to push and they assured me this time around was better - that the epidural should take away the pain, but not the feeling of knowing when to push.  And I remember feeling so in control this time around.  I kept asking, "Am I having a contraction?" and Shannon would watch the screen and assure me I was and at that moment I could feel my baby making her way into the world.  They kept checking to see if Dr. Hines was close by, one of them stepping out in the hallway, only to soon return, nervously shaking their head.  Some of them laughed and said it wouldn't be the first time they had delivered a baby without a doctor, but I kept my eyes on Shannon, my nurse on call, who took off her gloves in defiance and paged Dr. Hines again.   

And then it all got so real.  We had waited long enough and the nurses finally told me I could push if I wanted to and I felt so ready to do it.  I remember thinking I was going to push less hard this time around and I remember feeling every part of her get closer and closer.  The nurses held my legs, oohed and aahed at my progress, and made me feel like I could do anything in the world.  Two pushes later, Dr. Hines walked in with her scrubs on and the nurses informed her that the baby was ready to meet us.

"Let's try and do the rest of this without pushing." Dr. Hines said as calm and assuring as she always is.  And just like that, at 5:05 pm on January 13th, she was here.  This time, the nurse put her right on my chest, all six pounds of her, and I knew immediately she was so much smaller than Cruz was.  I heard them confirm she was a little girl and I instantly fell so in love with her.  I'm not sure I felt a deeper connection to someone in my whole life, as if I was looking into my own soul as I stared at her sweet, scrunched up face.  She was my daughter, for always.

I held her for so long.  And before they weighed her, poked her, or measured her head to foot, we connected, skin to skin.  She cried little yelps and blink-blink-blinked, taking in the first lights and sounds of her new world.  The first thing we noticed were her long fingers and long long toes - just like her mama when she was a baby.  She moved her arms a lot and curled her fingers up by her face in such a feminine, stunning way.  We fell in love, my girl and I.   

After weighing her tiny body and confirming she was 6 lbs., 13 oz. and 21 inches long, Beau had had enough waiting and asked if it was finally his turn to hold his baby girl.  I watched him cradle her into his chest and had forgotten how natural he was with a baby.  I longed to be inside his head, to feel how it felt to have a daughter from his point of view, but the big tears in his eyes gave me a pretty good idea.  We stayed in there awhile, just the two of us, donning over her tiny features and drinking her in before inviting our anxious family in to meet her.  

And then, one by one, they filed in and we celebrated Mila's birth day together.  I ordered a turkey sandwich and chocolate shake, Beau poured pink champagne in plastic flutes for us to toast, and Cruz requested we all sing her the Happy Birthday song.  It was the sweetest moment, all of us singing and surrounding this little girl with our love.  And from my hospital bed, I soaked up the scene that played out in front of me, knowing it was one of those rare, once-in-a-lifetime events we never get back.  

I didn't cry when Mila was born, but the tears came when big brother got to our room.  It was hard to stay in my hospital bed and not be able to go to him, pick him up, and take him to the warming bed to meet his baby sister.  He seemed interested as his Grandma Mary lifted him up to catch a glimpse of her; however, his eyes stayed fixated on me, for he had never seen me in a hospital bed before.  "You having a check-up, Mommy?" he asked, interested and maybe a little concerned, but he quickly loosened up after I told him I was just fine and offered him my chocolate shake.  He held Mila for only a minute that night and when she started to cry he said, "Heyyyyy!  Somebody take her!!!" 

If only I knew what he was thinking here.

Family stayed until about 9:00 or so and soon it was just us on our first night with Mila Carys.  I felt so good, too good for just having a baby.  I soaked in the jacuzzi, put on a fresh nightgown, and walked back into our dimly lit room to find Beau rocking his baby girl in the corner, listening to the song, Soul Like Wheels, by the Avett Brothers.  He's been waiting for this for so long, I told myself as he snuggled the sweet pink bundle close and hummed along to the words.  I watched the two of them interact, drank in the quietness of the moment, and felt so at peace.

Mila's first bath.  She wasn't much of a fan, but LOVED the warming lights afterwards.  She sprawled out in her little shirt and fleece hat and looked like she was sun bathing. 

Our first night was a dream.  Mila was very sleepy all night and hardly peeped.  With her little bed positioned as closely to my hospital bed as possible, we laid face to face all night long, and as I drifted in and out of sleep, I watched her face, watched her big eyes float in and out of dreams, and dreamed myself about all the fun we are going to have together.  

We had to wake her up to feed her multiple times that night, pretty counterintuitive to the whole first night with a baby thing.  At one point, Beau and I found ourselves laughing hysterically as our sleepy baby failed to respond to tickling, stripping her naked, and an ice cube to the bottom of the foot.  Who was this baby and where did she come from?  While the second night was a different story as Mila went through what my nurses referred to as a 'feeding frenzy', Mila has proved since that beauty sleep is still pretty important to our little lady's growth and development.  And she's a good eater, too. 

I love being pregnant, but to me there is nothing better than the hospital stay.  I love that it seems like a little getaway, an escape from reality for a few days.  I love that there is nothing to do for three days but welcome a new baby and celebrate motherhood.  The day after Mila was born was a cold and blustery one and it felt so cozy to have nowhere to be but in that room getting to know our girl.  Beau left for awhile to take his mom and Cruz out for lunch and my mom and I shared some special time with her newest granddaughter.  Cruz visited again, too, and we read big brother books in my hospital bed, he loved his special 'brother mouse' gift I picked out especially for him, we shared another chocolate shake together, and he and Beau explored the halls and met some of the nurses who had heard so much about him. 

Wednesday morning, we packed up our belongings and made our way to the car we parked just two days before.  Just two days before, a baby in my belly, a mind and heart so full of emotions, unsure of what was to come and how it would feel to become a mother of two.  And as we walked into our quiet house that afternoon, greeted by a smiling three-year-old very eager to see his mom and dad and get to know this sister of his, I felt content, happy, and so at peace.  We made it - a new chapter of adventure, growth, baby dolls, and pretty pink things. It's a good place to be. 

Welcome to the world, Mila Carys.  You have no idea how much we love your little self.  



  1. So beautiful Ashley. I'm glad that everything went well. Welcome little Mila.

    1. Thanks so much, Kate. It feels good to have a baby around again.

  2. She is so precious! What a treasure. Many blessings on your family of four!

    1. Thank you! Blessings to your family as well!

  3. Replies
    1. Thanks, Brandi! I love reading birth stories - everyone is unique and special in its own way.

  4. Oh write the best stories! I know I will read this one again & again.:) So many sweet pictures!! Welcome to our family, Mila Carys! You are a precious gift!!

    1. I'm so glad it's written down! So much I don't want to ever forget. It was one of the best days, wasn't it?!



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