Tuesday, March 28th – I was 39 weeks and 5 days pregnant. With my due date looming, I was feeling anxious, impatient, and overwhelmingly excited. Liv was on spring break from school, so we enjoyed a slow morning before I headed to the gym and jogged 3.3 miles on the treadmill, thinking: “I feel so good! There’s no way this baby is coming soon!”
That afternoon, we headed to the park and library.
Back home, I drank red raspberry leaf tea, bounced on the yoga ball, ate Chipotle for dinner, and went to bed reminding myself of our midwife, Amanda’s words: “This sweet boy will know exactly when he’s meant to make his entrance.”
Wednesday, March 29th – It was the day before our due date. I woke up before the rest of the house and laid in bed browsing Instagram and ordering a couple t-shirts from Homage. Jared woke up, I heard his mom get up, and finally, Liv wandered into our room.
7:30 AM – I texted my mom: “Liv was the last one up this AM!!!!”
8:00 AM – I was drinking tea and busily making breakfast, picking up toys, and watching the clock as I paid attention to what I thought were Braxton Hicks contractions. I quickly realized they were coming on every 10 minutes with a steadily growing ache in my low back. “I think this is it,” I told Jared.
9:02 AM – I texted our midwife: “Hi Amanda! Think today’s the day…!!!! Woke up with Brax Hicks every 10 min, that have gotten progressively more intense, wrapping around my low back. Eating & showering now, but wanted to give you a heads up!”
Jared was busy tying up loose ends for work, throwing last minute items in our hospital bag, and prepping his mom and Liv for our departure. As he gave her a bath, I heard him tell Liv: “Your baby brother is coming today!”
9:30 AM – The house was buzzing with excitement as I stepped out of the shower. I pulled up the contraction timer on BabyCenter and with calm urgency told Jared: “Contractions are 4-5 minutes apart! We need to go!”
We rushed to get ready, as contractions became so intense I had to stop what I was doing to focus on my breathing. I knew we needed to go, but was flooded with nerves, excitement, and bittersweet reluctance to say goodbye to our first baby.
10:08 AM – Text to my mom: “This is Jared. Heading to the hospital now!”
We were barely a mile away from our house when Jared realized we’d forgotten the cooler, so he made a U-turn back home as I had my second contraction in the car. After a second round of goodbyes, we were on our way, again.
We had a 25 mile drive to the hospital birth center, which can take 90+ minutes during rush hour, so we were grateful it was mid-morning and we made the trip in only 40 minutes! I had seven contractions during the drive, while Jared played Enya on Pandora Radio, blasted the air conditioning, and cheered me on, saying: “You’re doing great, Paype,” reminding me to relax, surrender, and breathe.
11:02 AM – We parked in the hospital’s garage, paid for two days (oh my gosh, this is it…), and walked in. I had four contractions on our way from the car to Labor and Delivery on the ninth floor.
I was baffled when the guy at the front desk of Labor and Delivery asked why we were there. “We’re having a BABY!” I exclaimed as he buzzed us through with a smile. Jared had called ahead, so a nurse, Stephanie, was waiting for us, asking: “Are you Megan?” She led us down the hallway we’d toured several weeks ago. We walked by our midwife, Amanda, and the triage rooms, straight into Birth Center #3. Jared immediately busied himself unpacking our bag, as I changed into a hospital gown. Amanda came in to do our first cervical check, announcing I was 4-5 centimeters dilated. With Liv, I’d arrived at the hospital at 9.5 centimeters, and gave birth 4 hours later, so I felt discouraged, thinking: “We have a long way to go…”
Another nurse, Kari, got me set up with an IV, since this pregnancy, I tested positive for Group B Strep (GBS). I can’t remember ever having an IV before, and for a moment, felt sad being hooked up to meds, but it made me think of my niece, Jessica, who’d had countless IVs during her 12 year battle with cancer. Just thinking of her sweet face filled me with strength and gratitude, as I breathed through several more contractions, sitting on a birth ball. I kept reminding myself: “I get to do this. This experience is a gift.”
12:11 PM – I texted my mom: “All checked in, 4-5cm dilated, contractions every 4-5 min.”
Amanda let us know she’d have to head into the office for her clinic hours at 1:00 PM and another midwife would be taking over. She assured us we were in great hands, and said she’d come back after clinic in case we hadn’t given birth yet. I’ve adored working with Amanda throughout our pregnancy and wanted her there for our birth, but I was scared at the thought of laboring for another eight hours…
I knew I couldn’t go down that path of fear, so I worked to erase the word “pain” from my mind, saying instead that the contractions were getting more “intense” and “powerful,” and reminding myself of the words from my sweet friend, Julie, to “choose joy.”
Amanda and the nurses left the room so we could continue laboring on our own. The contractions were starting to consume me, but Jared and I were working through them together. I felt calm and strong, certain we had several hours to go. I got up from the birth ball to go to the bathroom, dragging the IV pole with me, while Jared took control of the contraction timer on my phone. In retrospect, this is where my labor sped up considerably.
I had back-to-back contractions in the bathroom, which were noticeably stronger. I felt suddenly hot and sweaty and remember thinking: “Oh no… I’m having an allergic reaction to the antibiotics!”
Jared had to help me the few steps from the bathroom to the bed, where I curled up on my side, and closed my eyes, moaning through the contractions as they washed over me every 2-3 minutes. Jared was busy timing my contractions, applying counter-pressure on my low-back, and offering endless words of encouragement. He reminded me of my favorite yoga mantra: “Breathe in peace. Breathe out love,” but didn’t respond when I told him: “I feel like I need to push!”
Amanda and the nurses came back in the room, with the other midwife and a student midwife. This time, I said it louder: “I feel like I need to push!” Amanda checked my progress, announcing: “She’s a solid 6 centimeters.” They all seemed happy, but all I could think was: “6 is a long way from 10…”
I remember being asked if I wanted to labor in the tub and Jared said yes for me, because I was completely consumed by the focus it took to relax, breathe, and surrender through the minute-long contractions every 2-3 minutes. I kept my eyes closed tight as the tub filled and people floated in and out of the room, with Jared right by my side in the bed.
12:37 PM – Jared read a text from our friend, Sarah “Snaves” on my phone: “How are you holding up??? T-minus 1 day?!?”
12:47 PM – Reply from Jared: “Happening”
12:48 PM – Text from Snaves: “You are so strong and amazing. You got this. Can’t wait for you to hold your little boy.”
12:52 PM – Reply from Jared: “[This is] Jared”
1:01 PM – Jared tracked three more contractions at 12:53, 12:57, and 1:00 PM, before ditching the phone, when again, I pleadingly said: “I need to push, but I know it’s too soon!”
Somehow, Amanda was still there. As she put on her delivery scrubs and gloves, she said: “With you, I wouldn’t be surprised by anything.” She checked me again, announcing: “She’s at 9 centimeters with an anterior lip.” Then, she turned back to me: “With the next contraction, I’m going to keep my hand there to help you move to 10.”
I was severely uncomfortable, shuddering as the contraction grew, and Jared later told me he could tell I was starting to panic. He reminded me about the final, unforgettable stretch of last year’s LA Marathon: “You can see the finish line, Meg. You’re almost there!”
Now at 10 centimeters, Amanda told me I could push. For months I’d imagined laboring and delivering with a squat bar or on a birth stool (because a squat position shortens the birth canal), but just like with Liv, I ended up lying in bed, with Jared to my left. It was the easiest position to be in to fully rest between contractions.
As the next contraction came on, I breathed and pushed, my left hand gripping Jared’s. With my eyes closed, I felt my waters burst, and heard Amanda’s startled: “Wow!” She then said: “There’s meconium, Meg. We’re going to bring in the pediatric team, just in case.” I didn’t have time to think about what she said before another contraction came on and again, I pushed with all of my strength. Jared on my left, and the nurse, Kari, on my right, were flooding me with words of encouragement: “You’re doing so great, Meg. You’re so close. We can see your baby’s head.”
Jared got a laugh out of me by announcing: “He has hair! He’s not Xavier!” Our friend, Andrew, had jokingly predicted our baby’s name would start with an X, so we joked back that if he came out completely bald, like Professor X of X-Men, we’d name him Xavier, ha! (Phew!)
With the next contraction, Kari asked me if I wanted to feel his head, but when I let my eyes flutter open, I was overwhelmed by the room full of people: two nurses, three midwives, and three serious-faced pediatric doctors lurking in the back of the room with their arms crossed. “No, no…” I shook my head and closed my eyes tight again, surrendering myself to the next contraction, and pushing with every ounce of strength in me.
I felt the “ring of fire” and knew our baby was close, so even as the contraction subsided, I kept pushing, desperate and determined to birth our baby and finally, finally meet our boy. Kari and Amanda both urged me to rest and wait for the next contraction. But it was Jared who got me to relax by asking if I could give him a “half-smile.”
As the next wave built, I told myself: “This is it.” I pushed and pushed, as hard as I could, my eyes shut tight, my mouth wide open, a low, loud cry building from deep within me. All I could think, see, and feel was our baby, baby, baby. And finally, I could tell his head was out!
There were lots of voices and cheers, but I barely heard any of it over my own gasps and cries, as I tried to rest and regroup for the final push. I remember Amanda asking Jared if he wanted to catch our baby and he moved into place as the next contraction built.
1:19 PM – With everything in me, I pushed and pushed and pushed, until I heard: “He’s here!” Jared placed our slippery, warm son on my belly, as I broke down in tears, sobbing: “He’s here, he’s here!”
Without hesitation, Jared announced our boy’s name for the first time: “His name is Leo!” I was still gasping and crying, my arms wrapped around our boy. He was purple, but perfect, with a tiny, mighty cry that reassured the pediatricians he was just fine. They left the room as the midwives and nurses worked to help me deliver the placenta. I was bleeding more than they wanted to see, so they gave me pitocin. Just like with Liv, Jared cut Leo’s umbilical cord after it stopped pulsing, while the midwives continued taking care of me. I was shaking uncontrollably and had to get a catheter in order to be stitched up, which was the least fun part of the day, but Jared helped me focus all of my energy on the tiny, perfect child curled up in my arms.
For the next hour, our nurse, Kari, was in and out, monitoring my bleeding and vitals, as well as Leo’s (because of the meconium and GBS exposure). But Jared and I were completely consumed by our newest little miracle, studying every little thing about Leo, and repeatedly saying: “I can’t believe he’s here!” and “We have our boy!”
As soon as we had a true moment to ourselves, we video chatted with Liv and Jared’s mom. Liv was overflowing with love and excitement, flapping her hands, and asking to see Leo again and again. We said goodbye so they could get ready to come visit and finally surrendered Leo to the nurse to be weighed and measured. He clocked in at 7 lbs. 9 oz., and 20 inches long. I had predicted a big boy, guessing he was over eight pounds, so we were surprised he was slightly smaller than his big sis had been at 7 lbs. 15 oz. and 20.5 inches. “He’s just perfect,” I kept saying.
4:00 PM – Despite the fact that children under 12 are restricted from patient areas during flu season, we were grateful Jared’s mom brought Liv to the hospital. We took turns visiting with Liv in the lobby and Jared even took her out for a special daddy-daughter date at Veggie Grill, where he picked up food for me, too (including the best gluten-free brownie of my life…)!
9:00 PM – Amanda popped back in after her clinic hours and we rehashed the details of the day. We all marveled at the how quickly and perfectly it went and Jared and I continued to express how grateful we were that Amanda was able to be there for the delivery afterall. She later texted me: “I couldn’t feel more honored that I was able to be there and help hold that precious space for you, while you brought your son into this world. It is something that I will hold close to my heart forever.”
It was also Amanda who first asked us the story behind our son’s name. We love meaningful names, and were pretty quick to settle on: Leo Pax Lurie. Leo is Latin for “lion,” and German for “brave people,” while Pax is Latin for “peace.” Brave and peace are words I’ve meditated on for years, especially throughout the challenges of this pregnancy — words that have come to mean a lot to us as a family, and that we hope our son will live by, too.
Thursday, March 30th – Our first night was mostly sleepless. Leo was a champ at nursing, right from the start, and that’s all he wanted to do, all night. Not to mention the fact that the nurses had to monitor our vitals every couple hours (my bleeding, blood pressure, and temperature and Leo’s heart rate, breathing, and temp). I think I slept for a total of one whole hour. Jared crashed on the couch for a couple hours, while I listened to both of my guys snore, and watched the sun rise on day #2, my heart absolutely overflowing.
We video chatted with Liv before breakfast, then had a steady train of nurses, midwives, pediatricians, and other specialists in and out. Leo and I were both doing well and if it weren’t for the GBS exposure, we would’ve been discharged on Thursday, but the pediatricians wanted to monitor Leo for another day, so we stayed put.
I squeezed in a shower before Jared’s mom and Liv returned for another visit. This time, Jared took Liv to Sloan’s, where she picked out stuffed animals for herself and Leo, as well as some fudge and a chocolate covered Oreo pop! She really, really wanted us to come home, so while I was grateful for hugs from my girl, this goodbye was especially difficult.
That night, we were given a special “celebration dinner,” which was just mediocre hospital food with plastic flutes for sparkling cider. Jared saved the day with the best ever chicken burrito bowl from Chipotle and we toasted to our growing fam.
Friday, March 31st – On our second night, we knew we had to get some sleep, but Leo was still very attached to me, continuously nursing and wanting to be held. After getting a few hours of sleep himself, Jared took a shift with the little dude, pacing around, rocking, and perfecting his swaddle, as I finally, finally slept. At 4AM, though, Jared and I were both wide awake, as Leo slept, piecing together his birth story, and falling even more in love with our boy. At 5AM, Jared dozed off, and again, I watched the sunrise.
The nurses, pediatricians, and midwives started making their rounds at 6AM, and in between, we savored a slow start to our third day with Leo. Reading to Liv is one of my favorite things in the world, so I was excited to read Leo his first couple books: I’d Know You Anywhere, My Love and On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman (I cried through both of them).
It was close to 10AM, when we were officially cleared to go home! As I got myself and Leo ready to go, I had Jared snap pictures of our room: Birth Center #3, where we went from a family of 3 to 4!
The tub (that I never got to use!), the queen-sized bed, giant TV, and incredible views of San Diego and the ocean. We haven’t gotten our bill yet, but for now, I can honestly say our birth experience surpassed our highest hopes, by far!
I dressed Leo in his first “outfit,” and we secured him in Liv’s old infant carseat for the trip home.
Back home, Jared ran in to get Liv, as I got Leo from the carseat. After nine months of anticipation (on all of our parts), I can definitely say Liv’s first meeting with Leo was not what we expected… She barely acknowledged him as she bubbled with excitement about the welcome home party she’d set up with Nonny, ha!
But once we were inside, and we’d seen the balloons, and the tablecloth, and the cake, we had Liv sit down with the Boppy pillow to hold Leo. She was immediately smitten, saying: “Hi Leo, I’m your big sister!” “I’m so in love…” And “I just can’t get enough!”
Our hearts exploded when she told him: “You’re my best present ever, Leo!”
While the initial face-to-face wasn’t what we envisioned, these first moments were everything.
Leo was born only two weeks ago, but he’s already teaching us so much about what it means to be brave, to be peace, and to choose joy, as a family of four. It’s miraculous how perfectly he fits into our world — like a piece of our hearts that we didn’t know was missing.
Every day, I find myself blinking away tears, in awe of how much a heart can grow overnight, and overwhelmed knowing how much joy awaits in the days to come.
Welcome to the world, Leo Pax Lurie!