But how did we get here? That is a rather long story...
The much anticipated morning of March 10th arrived early. Even though I slept much better than I imagined I would - I got about three hours and even slept until the alarm went off at 4:00 a.m. - I was feeling tired but extremely excited.
My eyes flew open as soon as the alarm went off, and I immediately bolted out of bed.
"It's baby day!" I exclaimed to Casey, who was a little groggy. I had to shake him a few times to get him to wake up.
It was very odd to have a chance to curl my hair before leaving for the hospital to have a baby... but that's what I did. We checked our bags to make sure that we had everything, Casey loaded up the car, and off we went to have a baby!
I was a little nervous once we got to the hospital. We checked in at 5:30, they gave us a room in Labor and Delivery, and I changed into my gorgeous gown. About this time, my mom and sister joined us. I was hooked up to a fetal monitor, and everything really began to move from there.
The worst part of the day was having my IV put in. I have terrible veins, and they had to stick me three times before they were able to actually set the IV (I now have a huge bruise on my right arm from where the nurse went "hunting" for my vein. Lovely!)
To help increase my blood flow before the surgery, they put me under a hot blanket. The odd thing was, it was hooked up to a vacuum-like contraption and filled with hot air! It was very strange, but kind of cool.
By 7:15, it was time for Casey to put on his scrubs before they wheeled me to the operating room. Casey really liked his outfit! We had a few minutes to say goodbye and take a few pictures, and then it was time. By this point, I was extremely excited, but nervous as well - mostly about the spinal block I knew they would give me to numb me for the c-section.
I didn't start to truly feel anxious until we actually got to the operating room. I closed my eyes and prayed... that I would be able to handle the spinal, that I would be safe, but mostly, I prayed that it would be an easy delivery for my precious baby.
The anesthesiologist had me sit on the operating table. He preped me for the spinal - he would give me a small shot to numb the area, then he would insert the big "scary" needle into my spine. This was the moment I had been absolutely dreading.
...And, as it turns out, I was massively over-reacting! I jumped a little when he inserted the first, local needle. It felt like a bee sting, but mostly it just surprised me. When the needle for the spinal went in, I hardly even felt it.
I did start to feel a warm sensation that started in my bottom and moved to my legs. It quickly spread, feeling exactly like the sensation you get when your foot falls asleep. It was so strange!
Before long, I was completely numb from the chest down. The doctor put up a blue curtain, and I could feel her moving me around as they washed my belly and prepared it for surgery.
I had so many emotions at that point. It was overwhelming to know that a) I was awake, b) I was about to be cut open, and c) my baby was about to come into the world. Casey was wonderful. He was talking to me soothingly and trying to help distract me.
I remember taking deep breaths and trying to use some of those relaxation techniques we had learned in our Bradley class... they might as well not go to waste!
After just a few minutes - maybe three or four - the doctor told Casey that she had a little leg! I couldn't believe it, but Casey stood up and looked over the curtain. He had been stroking my head soothingly, and at this point, he got a little intense. I wanted to ask him to stop, but I was too interested in what he was seeing on the other side...
Casey and the doctor both told me that her little hiney was out, followed quickly by arms, shoulders, and finally... a head.
I couldn't hear her cry yet, but one of the moments I remember most vividly was hearing and watching Casey when he said that our daughter was looking at him. She came out and looked right at her daddy!!! I wish I had been able to see it fully, but it was easy to see what an incredible effect the moment had on him. His was the first face she ever saw in this world, and that fact was clearly not lost on him. It was amazing! We both had tears in our eyes.
And then, all of a sudden: the most wonderful sound! A quiet but strong little cry.
I could kind of see as they took her over to the warmer to clean her up. Casey left my side only for a moment, to cut her cord. Then, the nurses wrapped her up and - finally! - Casey brought her over to me.
What an incredible feeling!!!!!
I didn't see her little face very clearly because of the angle, but I remember that one tiny hand was on my face. I just kept kissing and kissing those little fingers, and telling her how happy we were that she was part of our family. Casey alternated between kissing me and kissing her, and it was absolutely, without question the most perfect moment of my entire life.
It was an amazing experience, from start to finish. And the most incredible part of all is that it is just beginning. No matter what we went through to get to this day, Leah Madeline will always have been worth it!