I thank God for His perfect plan in Hartlynn’s birth, it is so evident that He had His hand on every detail of her arrival.  Her birth was unlike anything, it was the most intense, incredible experience of my life.

Ryan and I worked together to have a natural childbirth, a desire we had before we even got pregnant.  To be completely aware and feel everything of your child being born is amazing.  It is so intense but so tender… it is such a consuming connection… it is indescribable.  We worked hard for it.  We took birth classes that emphasized husband-coached childbirth, did exercises to prepare my body for labor, focused on a healthy diet and went through three different doctors before we found one we loved and that was not only on board with our birth plan, but believed in it.  Of course, every woman must do what is best for their baby and themselves and what matters the most is healthy baby, healthy mom, healthy family.  It is only one day, a very important one, but just one out of the many that we’re all striving to be good parents.  Even with our strong desire for a natural childbirth, we would have been content if it went differently for a serious medical reason and we would have made our peace if we needed intervention because of that.  That was the key though, only doing so for a serious medical reason and this was why we chose the doctor we did, we knew he would only intervene if that occurred.

My husband was such a support through everything. He supported me in our classes, made sure I did my exercises, even doing countless squats with me, and his overwhelming excitement, encouragement and desire for only the best for me and our baby carried me through this amazing journey.

The day before Hartlynn was born, I was having cramps but I wasn’t convinced they were contractions since they were irregular and not too painful.  After being evacuated from our home a few days earlier due to nearby wildfires and packing up her nursery in case of any potential smoke damage (which we thankfully did not have), I put her nursery back together and then went into labor that day.  That week our doctor was out of town, we were evacuated from our home, and baby girl’s nursery was empty, so I just kept praying and asking baby girl to hang in there for another week, which she did.  Thanks, sweetheart!  That night, the cramps got stronger, but were comparable to period cramps, so I didn’t want to put too much energy and thought into it since it could still be a while.

We went to bed and the cramps progressed and were intense enough that I wasn’t able to sleep.  When they continued to progress, I woke Ryan up and he suggested timing them, which we did, but they were irregular and I could only tell when they peaked, not when they began or ended, since there wasn’t any breaks between them, just lulls in the pain.  I told Ryan to go back to sleep since it could still be quite some time and I laid in bed with the heating pad on my lower belly, unable to sleep but not needing Ryan up with me or having to focus too much on breathing and such.

A few hours later I was still lying in bed, and I heard and felt a “pop,” which really scared me, especially the feeling it gave (yes, you can actually hear and feel your water breaking, bizarre).  I woke Ryan up immediately to tell him what happened and as I was doing so, I felt a small gush of fluid - my water broke!  I was relieved at the reason for the strange feeling, but my relief was short lived as immediately after this happened, the contractions became very painful very suddenly.  Honestly, this was scary.  I thought labor would progress steadily until transition but mine flipped so fast.  For most women, your water breaks and then you go into labor and contractions pick up.  So when my water broke and I thought it might be just the beginning of real, active labor, I was very nervous for what was to come if that was just the beginning.  Well, thankfully, the reason for the sudden intensity was that my labor was just a bit different from the norm in the water-breaking aspect and I was further along than I thought and had progressed quite a bit during the night.  I was still progressing very quickly, which was great, but very hard - my labor was fast and intense at that point.  Ryan was packing up the last of our things as I sat on the edge of the bed and rocked back and forth through the contractions.  I told Ryan I wouldn’t be able to get to the car for much longer, so we needed to hurry.  The sun was just coming up as we were pulling out of our driveway and I remember thinking, “This is it, we’re on our way to the hospital to have our baby.”  Despite the pain and the fact that I was going off into labor land, it was a distinct moment of peace I will always remember.

We wanted my mom with us when our baby was born and as a support during labor and delivery, so Ryan called her and told her to head to the hospital.  Since neither one of us realized how far along I was even though I was intense pain at this point, we didn’t tell her to rush like, looking back, we should have.  During my pregnancy, I stressed to Ryan that I would need food for energy during labor so he asked my mom to stop for snacks along the way like we had planned.  Though I should have told him there was no way I was eating at that point, but the snacks were great after labor!  Ryan also called his dad and mom, told them we were heading to the hospital and that we would call them once our baby was born.  At this point, things became a blur.  I don’t remember most of the drive in and there are so many details that Ryan told me later on that I was clueless about.  If it wasn’t in my direct circle of my baby, my contractions, Ryan, my mom and the doctor, I was unaware of it.

We got to the hospital and started walking in but had to stop every time a contraction hit.  There was another couple coming in to have a baby and as she was dropped off, I remember thinking how she had her hair and makeup done and was dressed in a nice outfit, and there I was, in my pajamas and glasses, no makeup, barely able to walk.  I couldn’t have cared less though because I thought I had to be much closer to having my baby than her.  We made our way to the elevator and I told Ryan to close the door on the other couple since I wanted to hurry.  As we reached the second floor, I got another contraction and had to stop while Ryan held the elevator door open.  It kept chiming “going down, going down” as I stood there hunched over waiting for the contraction to pass so I could walk again.  While we were waiting for the contraction to lull, the other couple that we closed the door on got another elevator, walked right past us and beat us in since we had to stop.  Kind of funny, now.

Waiting in the triage area was the hardest part.  Ryan told me I was doing great, that I could do it, but honestly, I wasn’t so sure.  This is when transition labor was happening though, so no wonder.  The nurse came in reviewing my birth plan and I was desperate for her to give us good news.  And thankfully, it came… I asked her how far along I was after my exam and she told me “like 9 ½, all you have left to do is push this baby out, honey.”  Those were some of  the sweetest words I have ever heard in my entire life.  I was tremendously thankful and knew that at that point, I could do it.  We got through the majority of my labor at home, which was our plan all along, getting to the hospital once I had made some good progress since this makes a natural birth at a hospital much more likely.  The nurse told me that we needed to make our way to our room down the hall.  I told them there was no way I could walk but they both told me I could.

Walking down the hallway to our room is the last thing I remember before I started pushing, even though I was still in labor for about half an hour before that happened.  I told Ryan to tell my mom to hurry and get there since we were so far along.  We thought we might have hours ahead of us, but now we knew how close we were.  The nurse also told us our doctor was on his way.  They both arrived soon after that and in the meantime, the urge to push was getting much stronger.  It was such a relief though.  It was very hard work and I had to really focus on letting go and just working with my body since it’s quite a strange feeling for your body to be taken over by such a powerful force.  I spent quite a while working her head down and everyone thought she would come sooner than she did, but I had to really work at it - now we know why, as her head circumference has always been in pretty high percentiles. Women, pay attention - it’s not how much your baby weighs, it’s the size of that head!  At this point, I was pushing very hard to move her down but I was now getting breaks between contractions.  I was calm during them and was able to rest.  I held Ryan’s hand and he told me I just stared into his eyes so intently during everything, that it was like I was somewhere else but keeping a grip on reality by focusing on him.  He was the center of my world at that point and even though I don’t remember staring into his eyes the entire time, I know I was drawing strength from him by doing so.  My mom provided such great encouragement also and I remember clearly her telling me that today was going to be my baby’s birthday!  I was so glad she was there, she was such a great support throughout my entire pregnancy, and my labor and delivery, as she delivered her babies naturally and believed in it strongly even before I did.  She went on countless walks with me, encouraged both Ryan and I all along and was almost as excited as we were to meet baby girl. Her and Ryan kept me strong in our plan.

After an hour of pushing, baby girl’s head finally came out, followed immediately by her body, all in one push.  She was put on my belly and I just held her, completely overwhelmed with so many emotions.  I held my beautiful girl as we waited for the umbilical cord to stop pulsing.  Ryan cut the cord and she was placed on my chest.  I sat there and held her, staring at our brand new little baby, and she began to nurse almost immediately.  My mom asked earnestly what her name was.  Ryan and I looked at each other and said “Do we know?” even though we knew we did the second we saw her, that we were going with our first choice all along.  I told Ryan he could announce it and he said “Hartlynn May.”

Hartlynn was born on Thursday, June 20, 2013 at 7:05am, weighing 6 pounds, 4 ounces and she was 19 ½ inches long.  The hour after her birth was spent with her laying on my chest, nursing, and laying on daddy.  We were left alone, just the three of us, soaking everything in.  Everything was still and quiet in the peaceful morning light.  It is indescribable, the trip that is childbirth.  In the pure act of childbirth, we made a good team, her and I.

Hartlynn’s birth went better than I could have ever planned myself, which I am so thankful for.  God’s plan is so perfect and rewarding and His love for me, Ryan and Hartlynn is overwhelming.  It’s incredible to think that He loves her even more than we ever could, and I find such peace in that.