On January 6, 2016, 19 days ahead of my baby's due date, I awoke at 12:45 a.m. with contractions and dampness. I went downstairs to let Andy sleep, and I paced the living room a bit, drinking water, trying to get it to stop. Instead it got worse.
I woke Andy up, and he dawdled for a while, until it hit him that it was the middle of the night and I was in labor and oh yeah my labors are fast. We called my dad to meet us at the hospital before waking up Fletcher and Truman and forcing them into the old Ford Escape.
The boys were confused and a bit upset. I was gripping the passenger door and doing my best to turn my screams into something that wouldn't frighten them. I probably didn't succeed.
By the time we hit the freeway, I wasn't sure I would make it to the hospital before our baby girl made her appearance. When I spotted a police car on the side of the freeway with its lights flashing, I considered telling Andy to stop and flag him over. But I was too busy panting and screaming, so on we went, racing against time and icy roads and incomprehensible pain.
It should be noted that Andy had his own obstacles to overcome that night. A mere five days had passed since his vasectomy, and here he was hauling a five-year-old around, and a two-year-old, and our bags. Once the boys were passed off to my dad, and Andy finally joined me in the hospital room, his body was ready to give out.
When I got to the hospital room, I was surprised and disappointed that she didn't immediately fall out of me. While Andy was busy with the car and the boys and the bags, I went through hell several times over, the kind of hell that you're helpless to do anything about -- no position or breathing or even drugs would offer even an inch of relief. As always, it was too late for me for drugs.
But I wasn't fully dilated, so on and on it went.
Andy joined me.
Then we got ready, as ready as we could manage. Impossibly, the pain got worse, and it was time to push.
Push and push and push. It was too much pain. I'll never forget my exact words when I looked up at Andy's strained face.
"I don't think I can do this."
Then the nurses told me I have to push again.
One. Big. Mighty. Push.
...and she was here.
That split second was completely startling. Before I even knew what had happened, the nurse dropped this bloody thing on my torso and my fingers tentatively touched my precious baby girl for the first time.
"I guess I can do this," I said to Andy. Then I laughed one pained, wondrous laugh.
At 3:19 a.m., after just 2.5 hours of conscious labor, Sinclare Alyssa Jane Schultz was born.
It was only a second after the highest high that my emotions crashed low. A recurring thought that I struggled with throughout the pregnancy would hit me the hardest now that it was over.
I'm never going to do this again.
That was the last time I would ever feel that stunning, overwhelming high. The last time I would hold my just-born baby. I wasn't ready to not be pregnant anymore, to not be pregnant ever again.
But I wasn't going to waste the little time I had. Almost immediately after my emotional crash, I brought myself back to the wonder of the present, and I have cherished every second of my precious girl's life since.
I will never not be sad that it's over. Nothing in my life has been as bittersweet as this.
I will never not be grateful for the blessings -- the miracles -- I have in my babies.
She was a tiny thing, at least compared to my boys, at 6 lbs 15 oz, 19 1/4 inches. In the year since, she has made up for lost time and is now in the 97th percentile compared to other babies. Andy calls her his "full-figured baby." To daddy, she's Clara. And no one makes her smile as big and bright as her daddy.
She smiles a lot, even when she's exhausted or sick, which is often. She has fought RSV, bronchiolitis, endless cold viruses, eczema, an adenoidectomy, egg and other unidentified food allergies, and croup. The illnesses keep coming, and we keep fighting, and she keeps smiling.
One of the scariest moments of my life was when she was one week old. I took her to the doctor because she seemed to have a cold and was having difficulty breathing. The doctor told me to take her to children's hospital. Now. Don't even go home. Go straight to the hospital. That was the longest drive of my entire life, as I begged whoever was listening to help me keep my baby girl with me. It turned into a miserable five-day stay at the hospital, but she survived the bronchiolitis from RSV, and I will keep with me a million memories of tiny moments spent in that hospital room with her, from the daytime visits with my dad to the nighttime visits with my boys to all the silent moments in between that I spent staring at her face just watching her breathe.
It's a year later, and I could still spend a day staring at her and be happy. My baby Clare.
(Hospital announcement still online: https://www.froedtert.com/onlinebabies/BabyDetail.aspx?BabyID=4328&ShowBack=true&ssid=1&sid=1&id=306)