Abigail Esther

Abigail Esther

Abigail means “Father’s Joy”

Born on 8 October 2016 at 1:01 in the morning

8 pounds and 8 ounces of perfect newborn squish

21 inches long

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Since he was our first child, I fully expected John-Paul to arrive late. He arrived one day early. Having a second child, I expected her to arrive even earlier, especially since at my 38 weeks appointment I was 3 centimeters dilated and 80% effaced (and I felt so much pressure from her sitting so low in my pelvis). But kids, they never quite do what you expect, am I right?

Mama Heidi/Mimi arrived on October 2 and was scheduled to leave the 10. As my due date approached and passed, I started to feel anxious about not having our little girl before my mom left. I knew there was nothing I could do about it! I knew it would all be ok! I knew worrying was useless and unproductive! But worriers gonna worry. I so wanted my mom to be here for the big moment (and for peace of mind that I could leave on a moment’s notice and my mom would be here with JP). Trying to push the what-ifs out of my mind, Josh and Mama started taking me on frequent walks throughout the week, trying to get labor going.

What helped me the most is that I tried to remember that these moments with JP and Josh and Mom were precious and important. I didn’t want to wish the time away.

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Isn’t his haircut ridiculously adorable? I digress.

After a day of contractions with no pattern or progression and lamenting “She’s never going to come out!” and “Is there even a baby in there? Maybe it’s just a watermelon?” and “I’m going to be the first human being to have a year long gestation!” labor kicked in. (I know. SO dramatic for a woman that is only ONE DAY past her due date. Mamas that go two weeks past their dates…bless ye.) I was just wrapping up some messages with Greta (Mod 7 forever) and it was about 8:45. My back started aching like it did when I was in early labor with JP. It was a slight shift, but I knew things were changing. Within the hour my contractions went from mild and 7 minutes apart to over 1 minute long and less than 3 minutes apart.

I thought I’d labor at home for a long time, but at 10:10 Josh and I decided we didn’t have time to spare. Our little lady decided to make haste! After what felt like the longest drive of my life, gripping the seats and trying to breathe as the contractions piled on top of one another…we arrived. After a very painful check in (why are you asking me all these questions right now?! Didn’t we fill out a pre-admission form for a reason?!) we were taken in to triage…which is a whole thing in itself because I was going to the natural birth center within the hospital and because I was in active labor I shouldn’t have gone to triage…but there we were. We waited for ten excruciating minutes as country music blared through the room (WHO CHOSE THIS MUSIC? NO ONE IS SOOTHED BY THIS). When a nurse finally asked “Is anyone helping you…?” we were assisted and the ball got rolling. I made it clear in no uncertain terms that I did NOT want to be checked and that I wanted to go over to Family Beginnings, stat. It was about 11pm when we got in the room, and I was already at a pain level that I wanted to hop into the tub for some hydrotherapy.

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The pain got so intense and the timeline starts to blur in my memory. From this point on I remember things in general segments, having no idea how long things actually took. I know I was in the tub for a while, until I got to the point where the contractions caused me to feel like I had to throw up and the hot water made me feel worse. I got out of the water and tried some different positions, like leaning over an egg shaped ball while Josh or the nurse applied counter pressure to help with my overwhelming back labor. I was on the bed for a while I think? I know at some point I got up and sitting on the toilet and leaning forward helped relieve some of the pain. Then I felt an immense pressure in my lower back/rectum and I collapsed back onto the bed. I knew intellectually that some sort of squatting position would be better, allowing gravity to help  bring our baby into the world, but that wasn’t going to happen. Because my labor happens primarily in my lower back, I felt as if my legs were paralyzed (they obviously weren’t, but they couldn’t bear my weight at this point). Shaking, I looked at Josh and said “If I’m not close, I want an epidural.” The nurse knew I was serious as a heart attack and she went out of the room to get my midwife, Neva. Neva, the calmest person in the world, checked me and told me I was 9.5 cms (10cms is when you’re ready to push). Although the pain rolled over me in continuous, almost unbearable waves, knowing I was so close made a world of difference. I still held onto the fear that I’d push for three hours like I did with John-Paul. I was afraid of tearing, too. But fear is useless and birth presses forward. I felt the urge to push. Neva told me to trust my body and away we went. I pushed and cried out that I couldn’t do it. I remember bits of their coaching – “grab your legs and curl into your legs with the contraction.” “Push all the way through the contraction.” “You can do it. You’re close now.”

Birth is crazy because you cannot quit. No matter how badly it hurts or how you feel you can no longer go on, you have to. Your body spurs you on passed your perceived limitations. I think that’s part of why birth, and in particular natural/low intervention birth, feel so empowering. Josh, Neva and Ashley (the nurse) all calmly told me I could do it and that I was close. I heard the same encouraging mantras over the course of three hours with JP, so I didn’t believe them when they told me I was close. I said don’t tell me that! I’m not close! Neva told me to reach down and feel the baby’s head, but I didn’t because another contraction came on. I don’t know how long it was but I felt that “ring of fire” and knew I was pushing the baby’s head through, and then the feeling of release and knowing her head was out. I paused in between the contractions. Knowing her head was out, I expected to hear her cry, but that’s not the case! With the next couple contractions her shoulders and body came through and then that beautiful scream of new life.

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They placed her directly on my chest and allowed her cord to stop pulsing before Josh cut it. If I remember correctly, I kept announcing, “She’s here! She’s here! I can’t believe she’s here!” You dream about this little person for so long and then they come crashing into your world…naked, screaming and precious.

All in all, Abby’s birth took about 4 1/2 hours. After which we enjoyed a magical hour with our girl. At Family Beginnings, they encourage immediate skin to skin bonding between mama and baby. They do not take the baby away to measure or clean before you’ve had time to bond and try breastfeeding. When they do the measurements, they do it right next to your bedside and never take the baby out of the room. Additionally, you get to stay in your room that has a nice big bed and recover. No getting shuffled around and there’s plenty of room for daddy to sleep comfortably as well. Instead of sending the baby to a nursery, the baby sleeps in a co-sleeper bassinet right along side the bed. Family Beginnings truly helped us have the birth we desired (with the peace of mind that we could be taken down the hall to regular L&D/NICU if any complications came up!).

Having kids is challenging. Some days are really hard.  When people ask me about motherhood, I try to paint a realistic picture because I don’t want to romanticize and create unrealistic expectations for new moms out there. Some people have said “you make motherhood sound awful!” But motherhood is alot like this birth story or any birth story. It’s a labor of love. Labor means WORK. Motherhood is hard work and some days are downright painful. But look at the joy and the love we receive. Look at that precious face! Look at that unique, unrepeatable body and soul that God entrusts to us. No matter how hard it is, no matter how much I pour out…I’ve already received much more than I could ever give.

Abigail Esther Dill, you are a joy, daughter! We are so glad you’re here. Welcome to the family!

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A Grateful Father

This post is written by Ashlie’s lesser half, Joshua.  On many occasions over the life of this blog, Ashlie has invited me to write a post to capture my thoughts on this dillightful adventure.  As much as I love talking about myself to anyone who would listen, I’ve never been motivated enough to sit down and share about any one particular event.  Mostly out of charity for Ashlie and her view count. But this month, a significant milestone has occurred on our dillightful adventure.  One that Ashlie has already written extensively about, one that readers are probably ready to move on from, well buckle up cuz you’re going to get dad’s version.

I won’t retell the entire day’s events as Ashlie already so eloquently did.  Instead I’ll focus in on the time in which she wrote “I think this was the most emotional part of labor for Josh.” It was right around 4pm on November 4th.  After hours of massages, showers, and general trial and error on my part to figure out how I could help, the time came when I could do no more.  The nurses where prepping Ashlie for her spinal shot and pitocin IV.  As soon as she gave the order, it was a highly coordinated process that happened quickly.  I sat there looking at Ashlie propped up on the bed while I sat on the inflated exercise ball.  She gave me a gentle smile as if to tell me she was ok and everything would be alright.  At this point my heart exploded.

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I felt like the Grinch on Christmas morning and could literally feel my heart expand to feel emotions I’d never experienced before.  I’ve always loved my wife, but when she was patiently bearing the pain of having our child without ever complaining and smiling through it all it brought about a whole new meaning to the love we shared.  Words fail, but it was in that moment my heart was stretched and I felt more love for her than on our wedding day.

In the other chamber of my 3 sizes too small heart, was the feeling of fear and hopelessness.  So many times before this day Ashlie had recounted the horror stories of women losing control of their labor.  The stories all seem to start the same, a pain killer is administered to relax the muscles then pitocin comes to expedite the contractions.  Finally when not enough progress is being made or the baby’s heart rate drops an emergency c-section is ordered to save the baby.  I know Ashlie was worried about this which is why she waited so long to request the drug.  So here we are taking the first step down a road that may lead to the very thing she doesn’t want.  Or worse what happens if something serious goes wrong and Ashlie’s life is in danger?  It happens.  The problem is there is no way to know what road you’re heading down until it’s too late to change your mind.  And with Ashlie hooked up and in the nurses’ hands there was nothing I could do.  No tasks to focus on and distract my thoughts from heading down to the road of uncontrollable worries.

Uncontrollable is really what defined that hour.  Now I’ve always been a person who takes pride in being able to focus during tense or difficult times.  Whether it’s in academics, sports, military training, when a decision needs to be made I can block out the ‘what-ifs’ and fears and focus on what I need to do in this very moment.  But the problem is when you have zero control over a situation, when there is nothing you can do; you can’t focus on any task immediately in front of you.  And when you are a person who feels comfortable & confident making hard decisions when the game is on the line, it’s even harder to be in a situation that you have no control over.  During these moments that Ashlie is being hooked up and prepped all I had to focus on where the fears running thru my head.  It was this two-fold combination of fear and love that stretched my little pumper.

It was in this moment my heart was simultaneously giving praise and gratitude to God, while earnestly praying for the safety of my beloved.  What else can you do when a situation is entirely out of your hands?  My only option was to place my trust & my family in God.  What a strange blessing that is…  I long for riches and power just as much as the next person.  Yet it was in this true moment of poverty, abandonment, and helplessness that I was blessed to experience love I’d never known before.  This is truly a paradox to me.

My heart grew 3 sizes

Thanks be to God Ashlie (and John-Paul) made it through labor safely.  There was no need for a c-section and John-Paul calmed his parents during those stressful times by having a strong and healthy heart beat as if that day was just like any other.  We brought him home and the transition for us was seamless and natural.  And it was here at home that Ashlie impressed me even more than at the hospital.  Immediately upon our arrival home, my mind was focused on a test I had less than a week later in my most difficult class.  To add to my stress I hadn’t reviewed any of the material since the last midterm and had plenty of additional work in my other classes to keep me busy.  (So begins a life of balancing work and family).  Ashlie was well aware I had a big midterm the following week and insisted that I sleep thru the night after being gone all day studying while she takes care of John-Paul.  Now you need to understand 2 things about Ashlie:

  1. She absolutely values her sleep
  2. She is a very light sleeper

Ashlie is a woman whose sleep is so important to her that she once yelled at her mom for making too much noise at night while her mother was returning from the bathroom after spending an hour up sick.  So for Ashlie to say she will wake up with JP every two hours during the night, so her husband can rollover and rest for an upcoming exam is…well it’s nothing short of unconditional love from her. Also while parents need to be selfless, I feel like 48 hours to a week after pushing a human out from your body is a time where a woman can get away with being selfish.  Instead Ash chose to use this time to give her husband additional rest.  Amazing…

I could go on about how great a mother Ashlie is.  She has just so naturally embraced her role as mother.  I always knew she would be a great mother, but I’m actually surprised how great of a mother she really is.  She just does a wonderful job balancing her roles as mother.  While she could get away with only feeding and changing him all day, she still manages to find time to clean, do laundry, blog, or run errands.  On days that she doesn’t accomplish as much as she would have liked, she doesn’t get down on herself and just embraces that JP was a little bit needy that day.  When her husband is failing to contribute and support as much as he should, she gently tells him she needs additional help.  I braced myself before JP was born for some melt-downs or panic attacks, but she hasn’t had them at all; which I believe is because she is so good at communicating with me when she needs help.  In a word Ashlie is present, which is exactly how we should live.  I’m so proud of her and I truly continue to be impressed every day.  She is a wonderful woman.  I’d marry her again tomorrow if I could.

As for me and what I experienced coming home from the hospital these last three weeks.  I’ll say at first I was surprised.  Everyone always talks about the outpouring of love that comes toward your child seconds after he emerges from the womb.  I didn’t initially feel that.  Mostly I felt relief and love toward my wife.  Oh and an overwhelming fear of my exam a week from JP’s birthday.  The initial days after the birth I was worried my cold, stony heart would relapse to its pre-birth Grinch size.  But with my test behind me I was able to process my feelings more.  What I’ve found is every day I love JP more than the previous day.  Every day it’s easier to sacrifice for JP and mom.  I also found my desires changed overnight.  For better or worse, I know longer care about going to the bar on Friday night to hang out with friends.  I’d much more content having a glass of milk at home with my wife and baby.

However, I would say the biggest surprise to me has been my inability to distinguish my love for Ashlie and John-Paul.  When Ashlie is selflessly taking care of him the love and affection I feel for her increases the love I have for JP.  When JP interrupts his grumpy face for a 2 second smile it stirs up more love toward Ashlie.  When I change JP’s diaper I feel like I’m doing it equally out of love for him and Ashlie.  I’ve found the love for one engenders more love for the other.  I suppose the only reason it surprises me is because no one talks about that feeling.  When they discuss the emotions from having a new child it’s always individually focuses.  I’ve found my emotions have been unifying.

Discharge dayMy Wonderful Wife and Son

Life is good, God is truly good.  This child that began with love has somehow given more love back to me, which makes me love his mother even more.  He’s brought us closer and made us a family.  My heart is full.  In this season, I am more thankful than ever.