Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Juniper's Birth Story

Warning: this is long. I'm not sure why I feel the need to apologize for that, but I do, so I did. If you finish this, you are a champ. If not, my feelings will not be hurt. :) Enjoy. xoxo

It is funny how you can forget the small stuff after a year has gone by. For instance, I can't remember if my due date was September 25 or 26. I guess it does not really matter since the baby did not see fit to come either of those days.

The day after my due date I had a doctor's appointment with my midwife. The good news was that I was already 3 cm, the bad news was that my blood pressure was still high. I was sent out to a different hospital for a stress test, which showed that everything was fine. The baby had a strong heartbeat and my blood pressure went down after I had some time to relax and acclimate to the environment. (I have a certain kind of phobia of doctors and hospitals, and my bp is always higher at the beginning of an appointment than after.) Despite this, they wanted me to come back the next day, Saturday, to have another stress test. Also, if the baby did not come soon then I was going to be induced on Tuesday, October 2nd.

The stress test on Saturday took a little longer than expected. Doctors were concerned by a slight drop in the baby's heart rate and they wanted to make sure that everything was alright before sending me home. I was so thankful that my parents were with me, especially because Forrest was working that day. Thankfully for him, his mom and sister, Annika, had just gotten into town the day before so they were able to have lunch with him and keep him company.

After several hours, I was finally cleared to go home. The rest of the evening was relaxed and enjoyable. Forrest, my dad, Annika and I took a long walk, and then we all watched a few episodes of The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. Later in the evening, Laura, my dear friend and doula, came over to see how I was doing. We sat on the deck and drank a glass of wine (my first in 9 months) and talked about how life was about to change so drastically and wonderfully. After she left, we all went to bed and wondered when the baby would make his or her grand entrance.

Who knows if it was the long walk or the wine, but on Sunday morning I woke up to contractions. I tried desperately to keep my expectations low because this had already happened a few times. Forrest and I made some coffee and then sat on the upstairs deck while enjoying the fall weather and talking about the baby. 

All of a sudden, I got a powerful urge to...nest. Forrest helped me move some stuff around in our room so that everything would be perfect for the baby. Lesta and Annika arrived with fresh bagels and cream cheese and we all just puttered around the house. Lovely.

Broncos! Oh, that belly.

At this point, the contractions were not going away, and we all started to get excited that maybe the baby would come today. The rest of the afternoon carried on in a quiet and peaceful way. I watched Parenthood with my mom while she timed my contractions while everyone else watched the Broncos game or read. Several times that day I took walks through the neighborhood with neighbors asking me when that baby was going to show up. I am so thankful that I was able to labor like this with my family close by. I also remember being thankful that the contractions, though painful, were not too difficult to manage.

Around 5 pm we decided that it was time to call the hospital and see if we should come in or not. We received good and bad news. The good news was that it was time to come in, the bad news was that we could not go to Kaiser like we had planned. They were full, so we were being sent to St. Vincents. I'll be honest here, for the first time that day I broke down into tears.

I am a woman who loves a plan, a list. So, when given the news that I could not deliver at the hospital I was familiar with and probably could not have my midwife, I was a mess. Again, I am so thankful for all of my family that were instantly supportive and encouraging. And in hindsight, I am so thankful for the 'hiccup' in my plans.

Forrest and I got into our car, my parents into theirs and Annika and Lesta into theirs. On the way to the hospital, Forrest and I sang a hymn, one that we had been singing almost every day to the baby. I remember needing to stop part way through because of a contraction, but Forrest continued singing, and the sound of his voice was such a sweet encouragement. It reminded me that the pain I was feeling was good because it was bringing us our baby.

We got to the hospital, and my beautiful doula was already there. What a welcome thing to see a familiar face in an unfamiliar place! She assured me that St. Vincents was a wonderful hospital and I did not have anything to be worried about.

(Side note: If you are pregnant or plan on getting pregnant, you should find a doula. Laura was such a wonderful advocate for Forrest and I. She provided relief for Forrest when he was tired and I still needed help through contractions, and she was a calm presence in what feels like a very chaotic and unfamiliar experience. Alright, side note over.)

Forrest and I were taken into a triage room. This guy is so prepared. While we waited he read to me...Calvin and Hobbes. So lighthearted and fun.

I requested to be seen by the midwife on duty that night, and before she checked me she mentioned that my contractions were not lasting all that long. Hmph. This was a very frustrating thing to hear because every contraction was painful and felt like it was lasting a long time. However, after checking me she said I was 5 cm and could stay.


We were finally taken to our room. Now, this is going to sound silly, but there was no VCR attached to the TV. This was problematic because one of my coping methods was to have Dick van Dyke playing in the background. Weird, I know. Forrest and I have loved Dick van Dyke since we got married, and it made sense to us to have a distraction that was comforting. Well, my dad came to the rescue! He went back to the house to get snacks and a laptop.

I remember going into the bathroom to put on my black tank top and blue exercise shorts and coming out to a room full of eyes. Everyone was facing me - my mom, Forrest, Annika, Lesta and Laura. I was not sure how I was going to labor with everyone watching me, but when a contraction would come I would forget about everyone else in the room and focus on relaxing into the pain.

Ha! Relaxing into the pain. Good one.

After several hours, a nurse came to take Forrest and I to a different room with a large bathtub in it. The room was small and quiet. While I laid back into the water and felt some relief from the pain, Forrest sat beside the tub and talked to me. I'm not sure how long we were like that until all of a sudden I felt a great shudder go all through my body. I bolted upright and started shaking because I was not sure what had just happened. A nurse came in and told me that my water had broken. With the help of the nurse and Forrest, I got out of the tub, dressed, and back to my room.

Now, contractions pre-water breakage were manageable for me. Post-breakage...oh my goodness.

Back in the room, I tried several different positions but was struggling to find relief. It was my goal to do this whole thing without any medicine, but I can remember sitting on that birthing ball and thinking that I just wanted an epidural. I actually started to panic - the pain felt too much.

Then I started to wonder, how will I know when it is time to push?

And just like that, I had to push. I told everyone in the room and someone called for the nurse and midwife. I don't think the midwife believed me that it was time to push, but after she checked me she said, "If you want to push, let's push!"

This is what I remember - I remember laying on my back with my family all around me. Forrest was on my left, my mom, Lesta and Annika were on my right, Laura was, of course, at my feet with the midwife and nurses, and my precious dad was on the other side of the curtain praying with all his heart for me and baby. How thankful I was then and how thankful I am now for being completely surrounded by all those wonderful people.

I got into the rhythm of holding my breath while pushing with every ounce of strength I had and then collapsing into a heap of exhaustion. The nurse gave me oxygen after each push and I savored those moments of rest. The best encouragement came from the cries of encouragement from everyone, especially when the baby's head became visible.

But after I had pushed for a while and the baby still had not come out, the midwife told me she would need to do an episiotomy. I was disappointed, but willing to do whatever was necessary to get the baby out. I found out later that the baby's heart rate had dropped a little and they didn't want to waste any time. Also, I did not realize it at the time, but the room began to fill with extra doctors and nurses just in case something went wrong.

After the episiotomy and a final push, the baby was out! The midwife placed the baby on my chest, and all of us waited for Forrest to say whether we had a boy or a girl.

"It's a girl!" he said.

A girl. I remember marveling at the perfection of this human being that was my daughter. I remember that room feeling so full of love and joy.

We had a girl - Juniper Elizabeth Johnson, born at 2:30 am on October 1st, 7 lbs, 8 oz, 21 inches long.

Juniper, meet your daddy...

and your Poppy...

and your Grams...
and your Farmor...

and your Aunt Annika...

and your Aunt Laura

While Juniper had her first bath and everyone got a chance to hold her, I was stitched up. Soon, everyone trickled out and then it was just me, Forrest, Juniper, Lesta, Annika, and the two sweet nurses who were there through it all. Before they could send me to my room for the night I had to pass one final test - in the bathroom. Unfortunately, I failed the test by passing out in the wheelchair.


Chalk it up to this momma being overly exhausted and hungry.

After we were finally set up in our cozy room and it was just the three of us, I remember Forrest saying over and over, "She's just so sweet."

I would have to agree, wouldn't you?

Now a year has gone by, and I just can't believe it. Today my baby is 1. And while I rejoice in her four teeth, crawling-almost-walking, jibber-jabbering self, my heart aches a little at the remembering of when I first met her and held her.

I am so thankful for her life, for the last 365 days. I can't wait to see what the next year(s) will hold.

Thanks so much for reading.

Much love,

PS: How did the "other" child react to baby Juniper?

Pretty well, I'd say.


tokyotuesday said...

Oh my, how beautiful. I can't stop my tears. Thank you thank you thank you.

PS-It was definitely the wine.

MT said...


Love this, Libs. Thanks for writing it up. Beautiful, through and through. I cherish the whole story, and I cherish your little girl!!

Polly Dugan said...

Oh Elizabeth, how wonderful to read the entirety of Juniper's birth story! I remember the time so well, bugging Forrest constantly as the day drew near. Happy Birthday to Juniper and birth day to you. Thank you for sharing this.

I hope you're all taking good care.

elizabeth said...

Ha! You're probably right.

elizabeth said...

Thank you for reading it and cherishing my girl!

elizabeth said...

Thank you so much, Polly! It is lovely to hear from you. Forrest sends a hello to you, and we hope you are doing well!

Amber said...

So beautiful, Elizabeth. Such a privilege to read.

elizabeth said...

Thank you, Amber. That means a lot to me.

Sam S. said...

I never heard this story. It was fun to read about it. What a great story and such a special time (last year and this year). Happy Birthday Juniper!

cheri said...

No words just tears and a heart full of emotion. Sweet sweet moments. Thank you for sharing this post and thank you for sharing those moments with us that day. Ok. Tears again. Happy Happy Birthday Juniper Elizabeth!!!

cheri said...

I have no words just the weepies. Thank you for sharing your story and thank you for sharing that night with us. What a sacred sweet room that was. All to celebrate the life of Juniper Elizabeth. A tad weepy again....Happy Happy Birthday Juniper! Your life brings complete joy.