Our due date with our sweet surprise baby of Monday, January 11th came and went! I didn’t feel too stressed about it, as I figured I would go into labor a few days late. I could tell that the baby had dropped the night before because I felt somewhat lighter and could breathe easier. I had an appointment on the 11th with Dr. Barkley, where he said I was 1cm dilated and about 75% effaced. He stripped my membranes and scheduled an induction for Sunday, January 17th. I left hopeful that I would go into labor on my own before then.
I continued to work throughout the week, but was very thankful I was working from home and had the best team that gave me a lot of flexibility to rest, as I was becoming VERY sick of being pregnant. Literally. On Monday night, I bounced on my exercise ball for a while and then tried to get some rest. I slept well that night.
I did my best to stay busy throughout the week. On Tuesday, I went on a walk with Caitlyn and Wyatt and walked about 8,000 steps that day. I started to feel a lot of pressure in my backside and thought maybe that was a good sign. That night I had some dull stomach cramps that may have been mild contractions, but I honestly didn’t know. As the week went on, I took lots of baths, had a pizza night with my parents, took another walk with Caitlyn, ran some errands for work, watched some of my favorite movies with Luke, and got a pedicure. As Saturday rolled around, I was beginning to feel like I would have to be induced…it was a weird in between feeling of being happy I had more time to prepare and more time with Luke, but also ready to meet our baby and feeling like there wasn’t enough to fill my time with, as we had tried to be “ready” before January 11th.
On Saturday, January 16th, Luke and I had our last outing and went to Cracker Barrel for breakfast and then to Hobby Lobby to help my mom get something framed. Soon after, I got a call from the hospital about induction starting on Sunday night instead of Sunday morning, which made me mad because I just didn’t want to wait any longer. It was only a 12 hour difference, but I was so hormonal and just upset. This is when I also started to feel really nervous and scared about the induction process and cried a lot. I rested some and then started updating friends and asking for prayer. We went to the Cassidys for a bit to hang out on Saturday night and they prayed over us. Truly we are so blessed to have friends/mentors that are like family. Then we went to Jaimie’s for her 30th bday celebration and got to see several of our sweet friends who were all such an encouragement to us and made us laugh when we needed it most. We came home and I took a bath, got a few things done around the house and got ready to enjoy our last night at home before having a baby.
Sunday, January 17th arrived and it was induction day! We slept in and then the Bolands came over to hang with us for a bit and pray with us. I took a shower, finished throwing a few last minutes things in our hospital bags, and then both of our parents came over to pick up Willow, say goodbye, and pray for us as well. We are so thankful to have family and friends who covered us in prayer throughout the entire pregnancy, delivery process and after – those prayers, when we felt too weak to pray ourselves, are what the Lord used to carry us.
We loaded the car, got a quick dinner at Jersey Mike’s (I broke the cold deli meat rule for the first time, because at this point – it is all I wanted to eat and I figured not much could hurt a 41 week cooked baby ha). We turned on our labor and delivery playlist in the car (on shuffle) and the first song that came on was “Head to Toe” by Christy Nockels, which is the song we have hanging above the baby’s crib, so that felt like a hug from the Lord. We arrived at the hospital at 7:30 pm, checked in and got settled into our room (# 1503) at CMC Pineville.
Our first nurse was Kristin and she was so precious. We ended up having her for 3 separate shifts in our time at the hospital and it was a blessing! The first night at the hospital was ROUGH. Their philosophy is to bring you in in the evening so you can “rest” while the induction begins – but it is absolutely impossible to rest for even 30 minutes when you are on a medicine to induce contractions, have two uncomfortable straps on your belly, a blood pressure cuff that constantly goes off, an IV, flashing lights everywhere and a nurse that comes in every 30 minutes. That is their job, of course, but let’s just say I didn’t rest at all and was very frustrated that I was going to have to be in active labor when I was depleted.
The first night, they put in my IV and had to do it on both hands before getting it right, so I was upset that I had one hand totally bruised and then had to endure the process again. Bev, the midwife on call, came in to check my cervix and do an ultrasound to make sure the baby was head down. In the ultrasound, we got to see the baby’s head and all I can remember is that the baby’s lips looked SO big! They checked my cervix and I was still only 1cm dilated, so they started me on cytotec, a drug to ripen my cervix and it basically gave me moderate period cramps all night long. Around 5am on Monday morning (Jan 18th), Bev, the midwife, came in and checked me and I was still not dilating, so she put a balloon catheter in my cervix to try and dilate it (it was to stay in for 12 hours) – it was a horrific process and hands down, the worst/most painful part of our entire birth experience. At 7am that morning, it was shift change, so we had a new nurse, Lindsey and a new midwife, Lori. They were both so wonderful. The Lord truly gave us the exact nurse we needed for each stage of my experience. For example, on Monday, Lindsey talked to us a lot about a c section and although I really didn’t think that would happen, I know the Lord was using her to prep my heart and mind for that to happen. Thankfully, the baby was doing beautifully on the monitors the whole time…but baby was moving away from the monitors a lot, which was annoying because the nurses would have to come in and move the straps around constantly. Lindsey and Kristin both guessed the baby was a girl. Kristin even said she went home after her first night with me and dreamt that the baby was a girl.
Dr. Barkley was on call that day and also stopped by to check in, which was comforting. Monday was a very long day and I felt discouraged. Luke and I were able to rest a little bit, but not much. Around 6pm, they took the balloon catheter out and… it hadn’t worked…I was barely 2cm dilated. That evening, my mom brought us some Chick-fil-A and Luke begged the nurses and doctors for her to come in for just 30 minutes, which they agreed to! Praise the Lord (major win in the middle of COVID). With my mom there, I proceeded to cry a lot about how slowly things were going and how scared I was feeling. Dr. Silverton, Lindsay and Kristin all came in (shift change) while mama and Luke were there to talk more about what the next 12 hours would look like. Everyone was so encouraging, but I was not in a good mental space at that point.
At 7:30pm, I got a chance to be unhooked from ALL monitors and take a shower. Sweet Luke helped me take a shower and then I got a chance to walk around the hall a bit and eat a snack. I had to get back in the bed at 9pm to be monitored for 20 minutes before they started to administer pitocin. Once the pitocin started around 9:30, they would gradually increase it every 30 minutes to an hour. I could definitely feel contractions…they were not unbearable, but definitely painful/uncomfortable. I decided to get an epidural around 1:30am so that I could rest. Kristin was so supportive while Dr. Gallian inserted the epidural and he did a wonderful job as well. It wasn’t as scary as what I imagined, but I was shaking uncontrollably. I immediately felt better and like I could rest for the first time in 30 hours. Kristin set me up with the peanut ball and I slept for a while.
Around 4am Tuesday morning (January 19th), Kristin checked me and said I was at 4cm, which was encouraging! She even had another nurse come in to confirm, but that nurse seemed a little hesitant and asked me if this was my first baby. I slept for a few more hours until Lori (midwife) came in to break my water around 7am. She checked my cervix first and said it was really irritated and that I was maybe 2cm dilated, but definitely not 4. I think I was just so swollen down there, most likely from the awful balloon catheter the day before, and my body was simply not progressing. Lori was so calming and kind. She decided not to break my water and for us to instead chat about next steps with the doctor on call, who was Dr. Barkley!!! Truly the biggest BLESSING. As soon as I knew Dr. Barkley would be the one who would help me make the C section decision and perform the C section, if so, I felt completely at peace. At this point, Luke and I were both SO ready to meet our baby and for me to get some relief that the C section made perfect sense and Dr. Barkley confirmed that.
After chatting with Dr. B, we got our new nurse, Gina, at 7am and scheduled the C section for around 11am (first available time). This gave us several hours to rest, which was exactly what we needed. We listened to worship music, Luke updated our friends and family and I put on my makeup, ha! Then it was almost time for Luke to suit up for the OR and for us to meet our baby!
Our team in the OR was incredible! My nurse anesthetist, JP, was so kind and helped me relax so much. JP was from Haiti and spoke French and English and apparently Dr. Barkley speaks French too, because they were chatting back and forth in French. It was hilarious and things like that made the whole process feel less intimidating and more normal. The nurses put warm blankets all over me and I was honestly rather comfortable while the procedure was taking place. JP kept me updated on what was happening behind the curtain and Luke was also beside me, at my head. JP told me I was about to feel a lot of pressure as they popped the baby out and he also let Luke peer over the curtain for a minute while the baby was born to take a few pictures.
Dr. Barkley held up the baby for Luke to see and then Luke looked at me, both of us with tears in our eyes, and said “It’s Anna Stephens!” I could not believe it. A BABY GIRL!!!!! I was so overwhelmed with joy. I feel like watching Luke’s face and hearing him tell me that we had a baby girl will forever be impressed in my memory. It was the most incredible experience.
So on Tuesday, January 19th, 2021 at 11:47am (8 days late), Anna Stephens Hamilton was born!!! She weighed 7lbs 1oz and was 20.5 inches long. Her head circumference was 35.5 cm. The weather was between 42 and 58 and it was partly sunny. Anna means “full of grace” or “favor” and oh how we have already abundantly seen the grace and favor of the Lord in Him giving her to us. We pray she grows to receive His perfect grace personally and always extends it to others. Stephens honors my Nanny, Edith Stephens, who was the embodiment of everything we pray our girl becomes. A faithful woman of God, overflowing with love, compassion, selflessness and pure beauty from the inside out.
As they were stitching me up, they took Anna Stephens to the warmer and all I could really see was that she had red hair! They cleaned her up and had to work on her oxygen levels because she had a good bit of fluid on her lungs. They put a suction tube all the way down to her lungs 3 times and tried to make her cry to clear her airways, but it wasn’t working well enough. Eventually, the nurse brought her over so I could see her and give her a kiss, but then they had to take her to the NICU to continue to work on her breathing. She assured both Luke and I that this was pretty normal and she shouldn’t have to be in the NICU long.
I was upset, of course, but ultimately trusted the nurse and felt at peace with the situation. I started recovery in my room with my nurse Gina, because Luke was in the NICU and it would be a while before they could wheel me to see her. I was so drowsy from the surgery, so even though I hated being apart, I was able to snooze for a bit, which helped me a lot later. Anna Stephens was a perfect little fighter and pulled out all of her tubes and was breathing on her own in no time.
I was finally able to go to the NICU around 5pm and we were able to do skin to skin. Around 7pm, she was able to come back to our new room and all of us were able to be together from then on.
Around 9pm on Tuesday night, we facetimed our parents (they were together) and told them that their first grandchild was a baby GIRL!
The rest of our stay at the hospital was a whirlwind. We were SO exhausted and trying to figure out so much and so many people were in and out of the room … and this was without any outside visitors allowed! We had other wonderful nurses…Robyn, Kaitlyn, Abbi, Kristin again, and Cindy. On Wednesday, January 20, we were able to share Anna Stephens with more of our family and friends via text and facetime but we were SO ready to go home! My parents brought us Outback that night for dinner and they also brought the most precious kissy kissy gowns and toboggan with a pink pom pom for Anna Stephens and “It’s a girl” cigars for Luke. My aunt Reta also sent me the most beautiful flowers and a pink teddy bear for AS.
On Thursday, January 21st, we were released around lunch time! Anna Stephens had dropped from her birth weight of 7.1 to 6.9, but we were told that is normal and she was back up to her birth weight by 2 weeks. A pediatrician came to release Anna Stephens and then I had a sweet midwife, Cindy, come and check on me and my incision and clear me to go as well. We loaded up our things and put AS in her carseat and drove home, very slowly!
We came home to PINK balloons on our mailbox and our screened in porch decorated by the Cassidys! My parents put pink balloons on their mailbox as well…LOL…very proud grandparents!
Both of our families were waiting on us and it felt so good to see them. It was like a release, because after the initial hugs and them meeting Anna Stephens, Luke and I both sort of had meltdowns and crashed. We didn’t realize just how hard and exhausting the past 5 days had been until we were back home. Every minute was worth it to welcome our girl into the world, but it was so very hard. We literally do not know what we do without the support of our family and friends – we have been taken care of in literally every way – prayers, extra hands, meals, household chores, etc.
Luke and I are so overjoyed and in awe that the Lord would bless us with such a precious baby girl to love and shepherd for the rest of our lives. Let the adventure begin 💗