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charlotte pepper's birth story

I've had a few months to reflect about Charlotte Pepper’s birth story, along with the events leading up to her birthday, and I finally found a quiet moment to finish writing it all out. I am a pretty open person but I also want to respect Pepper’s privacy. There is definitely a balance of wanting to share but keep Pepper safe and not overshare. My mama-bear instincts have come out full force! I appreciate everyone who has followed along our journey the past few years. Thank you for all of the support and well wishes through everything.

With that being said, leading up to Pepper’s birth, I had a feeling she was going to come early. For awhile I had placenta previa but around 28 weeks, my placenta moved. At the same appointment where they said my placenta previa was better, the doctor noticed my amniotic fluid was lower than they would like it to be, so I needed to come in for more appointments to be kept under observation. I soon felt like a pro when the technician would conduct my ultrasounds, noting when they paused to observe Pepper practice breathing and when they would measure the pockets of fluid surrounding Pepper. I would add the fluid measurements up in my head and either be relieved that it increased or disappointed when it decreased.

At first Michael came to all of our appointments, but there were so many of them. I eventually told him he didn’t need to come to every single appointment. I had 1 to 2 appointments per week. At the end of February I went in for an appointment and the doctor said my fluid was low and they would like to put me on an iv of fluids. They would also give me a steroid shot to help develop Pepper’s lungs in case she had to come early. They would give me one shot now and another shot 24 hours later. I was calm. I simply said, “Ok, if you think I need that, let’s do it.” I texted Michael to tell him and then I started thinking about a client meeting I had scheduled at my home studio a couple hours from the time of my appointment. While a nurse walked me to the elevator to go up to the maternity ward, I was trying to calculate what time I could reschedule the meeting for later that afternoon. I thought 3 hours would be enough time.

“How long does it take for them to put the iv of fluid in me?” I asked the nurse. “Around an hour or two?”

She looked at me with a quizzical glance. “Nooo, 24 hours. You are staying here overnight.”

I don’t know what my face looked like but I’m sure I looked shocked as I quickly said, “Well I better call my husband!”

I thought I would get an iv and shot at that time, and then come back the next day to get another shot. I didn’t realize I wasn’t going home! I called Michael at work who rushed to our house to pack a bag and quickly arrived at the hospital. They observed Pepper and I for a little over 24 hours. My amniotic fluid actually decreased when they measured it the next morning and the technician said she would be surprised if they let me go home before having my baby. That comment worried me. On my phone I started typing out a list of things Michael needed to pick up from our house if I was going to be on bedrest in a hospital until Pepper arrived. It was a stressful couple of hours but then the doctor came in and said I could go home. I was so grateful!

When I had placenta previa, I realized I could need a c-section. I mulled the idea around in my head and came to terms with it pretty quickly. Honestly, I was a little relieved. I was induced with Bennett and I did not want to relive the same sensations and pains while birthing Pepper. I wanted a different experience. I knew it was ultimately out of my control and tried my best to put it in God’s hands. So when the placenta previa went away, I had to think about how it would be to not have a c-section. Pepper was breech but there was still time for her to flip. Each week they would check and she would still be breech; sitting up and facing out toward the world!

So as the weeks flew by, I stayed under watchful care, and eventually they penciled in my c-section date for when we turned 39 weeks—April 2nd. It felt surreal to already know my daughter’s possible birthday but also great to know she would definitely be here by the 2nd!

Side note on c-sections:

Since I knew I was going to have a c-section, I started googling information about c-sections. I thought if I heard other women’s c-sections stories, I would feel more prepared. After I read a couple stories and listened to a birth story podcast, I had to stop. All of the c-section stories were so negative. All of the stories were about how devastated they were to have a c-section and how they felt like failures.

Wait, what?

I completely understand if you feel disappointed with your child’s birth story not going as you planned. I get it. But at the same time, there is so much in life that we don’t get to plan out and I hadn’t realized there was such a bad stigma with c-sections. I wanted to read just one positive c-section story but I couldn’t find one. (Luckily I did hear positive c-section stories in real life with people I know; just not online). C-sections exist to safely deliver a baby into the world. If you have to get a c-section, it is in your best interest! I am thankful for modern technology that allows us to know beforehand when a c-section is the safest plan. So if you are reading this and you need to have a c-section, please know, it is ok! It is a “real” birth and you are a mama warrior. Do not let anyone else (or yourself) tell you otherwise!

I wanted our home to be clean and ready for Charlotte Pepper but I felt tired and huge, so on April 1st Michael cleaned our whole house while I looked over our bags and made sure everything was ready. We took a few last maternity photos a few blocks from our house in front of a pretty yellow bush that always blooms in the spring for a couple weeks out of the year. I set out my Beatles “Sgt Pepper“ shirt to wear to the hospital in the morning after we ate dinner and watched a movie at home. I actually slept pretty well and the next morning we were off to the hospital! We parked in the “Expecting Mothers“ parking spot one last time (Michael loved looking for the Expecting Mothers parking spots) and made our way up to the maternity ward.

It was very surreal to be prepped for the birth of Pepper and knowing our daughter would be with us within a few hours! Soon I was wheeled into the room where we would meet little Charlotte Pepper. Michael had to wait in another room while I got a spinal block. For some reason I didn’t think the spinal block would hurt but it did not feel great. haha However, soon I was completely numb and Michael walked in to be right by my head.

Our original plan was to only have a clear sheet up between my belly and my chest so we could see Pepper being born. As the staff prepared everything though we realized we could see way too much of what was going on so we asked them to put up a blue sheet while they started to get her out and then drop the blue sheet once she was coming out so we could see her. I did not want to accidentally see them cutting me open!

I was a little scared I wouldn’t be all of the way numb but when I voiced my concern, the nurse standing by me said my doctor just pinched my skin really hard and I would have yelled out if I could feel it, so I guess the spinal block was already working!

My wonderful doctor talked us through what was happening and said when she could see Pepper’s feet, legs and body. She then said Pepper was peeing everywhere! haha Then the blue sheet dropped and we saw our beautiful chubby baby girl staring at us! It was amazing and it brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it. She reached out her little hand and I reached mine out too as we held hands through the clear sheet. {Cue more water works}. She didn’t cry at first and I remember asking a few times if she was ok but then I heard her make some noise. Very quickly they brought Pepper over to us and put her on my chest. She immediately started sucking on my skin and the nurse closest to me said she was trying to feed! I was in complete awe. Luckily one of the nurses had my phone and snapped a few photos of the three of us meeting for the first time. Before I knew it I was being wheeled into a recovery room as Michael pushed Charlotte in her bassinet behind me. They had daddy/daughter skin-to-skin time and then she came to me a nursed for the first time. I was so grateful and again, awestruck at our beautiful, perfect baby girl.

Due to the hospital wanting to lessen the time people stayed, we only slept at the hospital for two nights, leaving a day earlier than a typical c-section patient. The first night I think I got one hour of sleep and the second night I got maybe three hours, so we were happy to go home and be in our own bed! I had packed several different outfits for me and Pepper because originally I thought we would have visitors but I ended up wearing the hospital gown for the majority of our time at the hospital. I wanted a few photos of Pepper at the hospital so before we left our room, I took some pictures of her and a nurse helped us take a family photo. Our little photo shoot did not last long since I was sore and Pepper wasn't very happy, but at least we got a few photographs! Her pink onesie was actually a Christmas gift from me to Michael. It has the lyrics from one of our favorite Beatles songs, "Golden Slumbers."

On out way home we stopped to get my pain medication. Michael picked me up a magazine all about The Office while he was inside so that made me happy. haha When we stepped into our home for the first time with Pepper it was freezing! The weather was really nice when we left for the hospital on that Thursday morning, but by Saturday it was cold outside! We started putting all of our clothes in the washer and sanitizing all of our stuff, while turning on our heat and trying to calm down our cat Khaleesi and introduce her to little sister. I went to get my pills and realized they did not give us all of my medication!

“I need those pills!” I, a little too urgently, said to Michael. He rushed back to pick up the remainder of my medicine and they luckily had it ready for me. It was a whirlwind but we were so happy to be home.

Michael had two weeks off of work for paternity leave and he took such good care of his girls during that time (and thereafter). For awhile I needed help getting out of bed, I couldn’t lift Pepper out of her bassinet and I only went down our stairs once in the morning and went back up when it was time for bed. I pretty much only fed Pepper and he did everything else. After his two weeks were up, he has worked from home due to covid which has been helpful and definitely a silver-lining during this time.

My two follow-up doctor appointments were virtual because of covid19 and for Pepper’s doctor appointments, only one parent has been allowed to come inside. Since I couldn’t lift and carry Pepper right after she was born though, they luckily let Michael come to her first appointment. Since then, I take her into her appointments and we FaceTime Michael who is in the car waiting for us to come out. We’ve been slowly introducing Pepper to family and friends and I can hardly believe she is practically 3 months old now. We don’t get out too much and I’m not sure how our life with Pepper would be different if there wasn’t a pandemic right now. We do like to go on nightly walks around our neighborhood, and our family outings are usually to a drive-thru to pickup coffee.

I know 2020 has been a surreal, crazy and weird time in the world, but it has also brought our biggest blessing ever — little miss Charlotte Pepper. Every day Michael and I look at each other in awe that we get to be her parents, and we thank God for placing her in our care. ❤️


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