Just over one year ago we found out that I was pregnant again. So much has happened in the last year and I just wanted to share about my pregnancy, how we chose her name, and my birth story.
Having suffered the loss of two pregnancies the year before, I was terrified from the moment the line showed up on my at-home pregnancy test. Over the next week or two I wrestled with the Lord about what it meant to trust him with this tiny life. I remember him saying, "She's in my hands. And by the way, so are you," (it was kind of a joking way to remind me that I don't have any real control over my life much less the lives of my kids). Eventually I came to the place where I could say, "Lord, I know that you are powerful enough to intervene on my behalf and keep my baby safe and healthy. But I WILL NOT STAKE MY HOPE IN YOU AS A GOOD GOD ON YOUR WILLINGNESS TO DO SO." I still wasn't able to fully relax until our anatomy scan around 20wks. Seeing her healthy and whole was such a relief. Then, as we approached my due date my fear was renewed as I have friends who have lost their babies during birth. Obviously I was relieved when birth went smoothly, but more on that later.
I couldn't eat eggs or drink coffee for the first 8 weeks of my pregnancy. I was nauseated all of the time. I started craving savory things which was weird because I'm usually all about sweets. One of my most persistent cravings was for black olives which I've never actively wanted before (I still want them even now!). As a pregnant person you never want to complain because you know that so many other people want to be pregnant so badly, but at the same time, pregnancy is hard. It was so helpful to have a few close friends that I could be honest with about how I was feeling.
Lots of people have asked about her name. They've wondered if it's a family name, how it's spelled, how we came up with it. The truth is simple and some might say it's strange. I know it feels strange to say and I know that many won't understand.
The Lord named our daughter.
Being that we were scared during so much of our pregnancy, we prayed for this baby a lot. Sometimes when we prayed together we would leave space in our prayers and ask the Lord if he had anything he wanted to share with us about this tiny life. We were surprised when, in his mind's eye, Nathan saw the letters "A-N-N-I-A". We looked up the meaning of the word, "inexhaustible grace". I wish I could say that over the next few weeks the name just grew on us and that's what we went with. But that wouldn't be completely honest. Now I can say that I love her name, but it honestly became a point of surrender to the Lord.
There were two other names that I liked a little more than Annia Hope. They were family names that I had picked out when we were pregnant with James. I would often ask James, as a ploy to manipulate the situation, what he thought we should name the baby and he almost never picked Annia from the list I gave him. Eventually I realized that it was easier for me to theoretically surrender this child to the Lord and his purposes than it was for me to allow him to name her.
It was easier for me to surrender this child to the Lord and his purposes than it was for me to allow him to name her.
In some ways "surrendering" her to the Lord can remain theoretical. In some deep part of me I continue to doubt the Lord's presence and hold on my life so surrendering her to him can remain abstract and without any real substance. Allowing him to name her affects her for life. She will carry that name forever. It was significantly harder for me to say yes to that.
I don't remember when I came around but eventually I surrendered. Annia Hope. Inexhaustible grace. Hope. Two things that I struggle with. They signify my continued belief in the Lord's goodness. My re-definition of him as a good God who is full of grace, one that I can hope in. And her name represents the shift in my heart that remembers that "grace" and "hope" don't always equal happy earthly endings. They mean eternal goodness and healing of the heart. Ushering in the kingdom of God on earth. This is the grace that I hope in.
Her Birth Story
First, some history. When Liam was born I showed up to the hospital at 6am and he was born at 8am (they broke my water and he was born within 5 minutes). So when I found out that I was Group B Strep positive and would need to show up to the hospital 4 hours before delivery to begin antibiotics (to protect Annia from contracting it during delivery) I was nervous about my timing.
James was born 14 days before his due date and Liam was born 9 days before his due date. I was prepared for Annia to arrive on December 1st even though her due date wasn't until December 23. I wanted to be ready. I put all of my plans on hold and made sure everyone knew that all plans were subject to the imminent arrival of our daughter.
The closer we got to my due date the more convinced I was that I would be pregnant forever. There's a first time for everything, right? There are medical anomalies happening all the time, surely this baby was never coming out. I was miserable. And also trying to soak it in because Nathan & I had decided that this was going to be our last biological child.
Eventually I just decided that the wait would be easier if I assumed I would be pregnant forever. We planned to host Christmas Eve brunch and have my parents over for Christmas dinner. On the 23rd I had some consistent contractions and put my parents on standby to hightail it to Greenville to watch our kids so we could go to the hospital. Then the contractions went away and we all went to sleep. Christmas Eve came and my parents, my siblings and their families (minus my brother's family--we missed them though!) all piled into our little house for food and presents. That afternoon my sister and I went walking around Target to try to get this baby moving. My parents had originally planned to return to Raleigh for the evening to spend Christmas morning with my mother's parents but I asked them to stay the night just in case. At dinner time my contractions started to pick back up and were fairly regular, about 10 minutes apart. I felt confident it was the real thing and decided to go on in to the hospital so that I could start my antibiotics as soon as possible.
When I got into triage at 8pm I was 3cm dilated. They decided that if it was real labor it was still early and that I should return home to labor there and come back to the hospital if my contractions picked up. Frustrated and discouraged, I returned home.
My contractions slowed down some then gradually picked up during the night. Liam was fighting some kind of bug and running a fever. Nathan was having to get up and check on him repeatedly so I finally suggested that I would go labor and rest on the couch and that Liam could sleep in our bed with Nathan. That worked until around 2 in the morning when I felt a little pop. My water was broken and leaking. There wasn't a huge gush because her head was so low the fluid could only leak out around it. I knew that things were going to pick up so as soon as I was sure that it was my water breaking I woke up Nathan, told my parents we were leaving and called the doctor.
We got to the hospital around 3am and I was in a lot of pain. We waited in the lobby for about 20 minutes and my contractions were about 3 minutes apart at that time. Eventually the receptionist started to get a little nervous and called the nurses from triage to hurry up and get me. We made it to triage where they had me change into their gown and pee in the bathroom. I'm sort of amazed I could do that on my own. They checked me immediately and I was completely dilated! I remember saying, "I want drugs!" She regretted to inform that there would be no time for that.
They wheeled me to the delivery room on the gurney and I was in such a daze I have no idea who we passed or how we got there. I do remember having to get off the gurney on to the other bed in between contractions. I'm pretty sure I laid in the crack between them for a minute because it was just too hard to move. They kept saying, "Try not to push!" and all I could think was, "haha, you're crazy. This baby is coming out and you're not gonna let her fall on the floor."
I remember saying things like, "I want this baby out!" and, "Is it like 80 degrees in here?"
Natural childbirth is a lot like a roller coaster. You're standing in line looking up at this big ride thinking, "Yea, I can handle that." You get closer and closer and get nervous but convince yourself it'll be good. Then you get on a strap in and as you go up that first huge ascent, you start to panic. "Oh shit. Oh shit. Oh shit. Why did I think this was a good idea?!" But at that point it's too late to back out. By the time the pain of childbirth is so intense you are desperate for drugs, it's too late. You're committed and you just have to ride it out.
By the time I got to the hospital, it was too late for drugs and I just had to ride it out. At 8lbs 9oz Annia was a full 1.5 pounds heavier than Liam at birth and let me tell you, I felt it. They brought in a doctor I had never met before to catch the baby but my doctor got there literally 2 minutes before she was born at 3:54 Christmas morning.
She was beautiful and healthy and latched on to nurse within minutes of birth. Because of the Group B Strep we had to stay in the hospital for 48 hours to monitor her. It's funny, when she was born she had a little pustule under her tongue, about the size of a mike & ike. When my sister who is a nurse came to visit I knew that she would be intrigued by that little anomaly but by that time it was gone. It had busted and disappeared on its own.
While we were in the hospital Liam continued to fight his bug. Nathan had to leave the hospital to take him to the after-hours night clinic where they said his ears were clear but checked for strep. We asked my nurse sister to come stay with my parents and the kids to help with Liam. The next day Liam's ear drum ruptured and she took him to our pediatrician who confirmed that he had a severe ear infection. It was so stressful for me to be in the hospital with our newborn knowing that Liam was so sick at home. I felt like worst case scenario he would get severely dehydrated and wind up in the hospital. Not being able to see him or take care of him personally, I had no idea whether that was a real possibility. Thankfully he perked up with the antibiotics and quickly returned to himself.
James was thrilled to welcome her home and we were so excited that my parents were able to meet her before returning to Nigeria where they live as missionaries. A few days later Nathan's parents were able to travel from Virginia to meet her and help us for a few days.
Annia Hope is now 4 months old and thriving. We have been blessed with a grace that is inexhaustible even when we don't understand it and we hope in a God who knows the end of all of our stories.