A few gems from Alaska. Photo cred: ryangraves.
One month ago today, our baby boy entered the world. He, Finn Ryan Monaco, is easily the biggest accomplishment of my life. And because John 16:21 says, “a women, when she gives birth to a child, has agony because her time has come. But when she has delivered the child, she no longer remembers her pain because she is so glad that a man has been born into the world” I thought it would be a good idea to get the experience down, before the painful parts leave me completely.
Let me start of by saying that the truth is my husband Dan and I weren’t exactly trying to have a baby at this point in our lives and marriage. Obviously, we know how it happened (insert awkward smile here) but it wasn’t exactly intentional. We had been married for a year and a half and thought we’d probably start to talk about when we wanted to try to add to our family in the next year or so. We wanted to soak up our kidless years and be stable and ready for a family. I suppose we thought “stable” meant owning a home and feeling a little more settled that we were at the time. Silly us, God had different plans. And I’m so glad that he did. We took the shock of the positive pregnancy test pretty well though. After three months of trying to wrap my head around how much life would change, I really thoroughly enjoyed planned for Finn’s arrival and preparing to add to our family. It’s like wedding planning on steroids.
Looking back, I can say I had a fairly smooth pregnancy. A trip or two to triage along the way but when all is said and done, I think I had a pretty easy road. Some months it crawled by and some months it flew by. All I will say is, would I do it again it a heart beat to have Finn? Yes, I would do it 50 times over to have Finn. Am I glad it’s over? You bet. Though my sweet husband and my adorable dad may argue with this statement, I certainly don’t think I was one of those women that “glowed.”
So after 9 months of imagining life with a family of three, the day finally came. It was December 28th and my husband Dan and I had volunteered to bartend at a Holiday Bowl hospitality suite downtown. Our doctor had moved our due date from December 30 to January 1 or 2 and then said Finn would probably be a late arrival so we thought we definitely had a handful of days left to wait. (And, we may have had I not taken a 5-mile walk on the beach with my sister-in-law and friend the day before.)
Whatever brought it on, I started feeling a small bit of stomach pain while we were bar tending but assumed it was the normal discomfort of pregnancy (it didn’t feel much different at that point). We have some good friends who lived downtown that wanted to meet us to deliver a baby gift after our bar tending shift was over and so we made plans to meet them at a small wine bar called Toast. During our time at Toast my stomach started to feel worse and worse, I assumed it was normal cramping and that I could tough it out and it would subside. After a couple of hours we said goodbye and made the 5 or 6 block walk back to our car. It was then that I admitted to my husband that my stomach felt pretty crampy. Since I had been talking about stomach cramps, among other aches and pains, for months – neither of us thought that it meant labor.
By the time we got home, the pain was too bad to really do anything else so while my husband sat down to watch some TV, I went straight to bed. Around midnight he came back to check on me and I was lying in bed, awake, still worrying about what the pain was I was feeling. (I think I was googling “what do contractions feel like?” on my iPhone.) In the midst of him asking me how I was doing I felt an awkward gush and sure enough my water had started to break. I rushed to the bathroom and Dan called the doctor to confirm that we should come in. I was so nervous for delivery I could hardly admit that this meant it was actually time. After all, it was still December and we were all counting on a January baby!
In the 30 minutes it took to drive to the hospital, contractions went from feeling like normal cramps to totally taking over my body. By the time I was checked into triage, they had already become the most painful thing I have ever felt. I couldn’t talk, it was all I could do to breathe and keep from screaming out in pain. We were forced to wait in triage until a labor and delivery room was made available upstairs, I quickly became the cliche pregnant woman you see on TV, holding on to the side of the hospital bed screaming in pain and begging my husband to do anything in his power to make it stop. It was then, at 3.5 centimeters dilated, that I decided an epidural was absolutely necessary. By the time I was taken upstairs, assigned a nurse and the anesthesiologist was available I was 5 centimeters dilated. I made it half way, though not by choice. I was in unimaginable pain. It felt like my body was being ripped in two from the inside out.
I was so exhausted between contractions I was delirious. I actually hardly remember being wheeled upstairs to the delivery room. Once I was given the epidural (which was not nearly as scary as one might think, despite the size of the needle) everything about childbirth changed. I realized I might survive. The contractions that were once racking my body and leaving me screaming at my husband were now hardly noticeable. In fact, the nurse had to ask me if I felt the next contraction and my response was, “what contraction?” I don’t know how anyone could deny modern medicine when a pain that leaves me wishing I were dead could still be tackling my body while I’m blissfully unaware. I have the utmost respect for girls who choose to forgo pain medication. I’m also super glad I’m not one of the girls that felt the need to attempt that feat.
Once the epidural kicked in my nurse checked to see how dilated I was one more time before family was allowed back in the room. To everyone’s surprise I was already at a 10. The epidural had worked well to relax my tense (and terrified) body and it was already “go time.” I had no more time to worry and stress over the next part. It was already here.
After saying quick farewells to my mom and sister, the doctor came into meet us. Now, I mentioned before it took a while to get me upstairs and into a delivery room. That’s because this was one of the busiest nights in the hospital, they broke their record with 18 babies delivered in a 12 hour shift. Needless to say our doctor was needed elsewhere for an emergency C-section and we were left to “labor down” aka: wait for my body to do a little more work on it’s own until I helped by pushing. This was around 4 a.m. So, Dan and I got to lay back, rest, an anticipate meeting our son. The hours passed quickly and before we knew it, it was around 6:30 a.m. and our doctor was back.
Our nurse, who had been with us from the beginning was amazing. She helped me know when it was time to push and when it was time to relax. I was so blessed to gotten someone so wonderful to walk me through this process. And of course, Dan was right by my side the entire time and never let go of my hand. After 20 minutes and 4 big pushes, Finnegan Ryan Monaco was laying on my chest and everything changed.
I somehow forgot that after this intense journey of labor and delivery I would be meeting a little angel. Yes, I knew I would be meeting our little boy but I had no idea that he would be so perfect, or that I would be so in love. Despite 9-months of preparing and planning and dreaming and guessing what he would look like, it somehow didn’t seem real at all until he was here – kicking and wailing on my chest, trying to make sense of the new world around him. Dan was crying like a baby and I was paralyzed with shock. I couldn’t believe he was here, and I couldn’t believe he was mine. I was officially the luckiest girl in the universe. The moment after he arrives is really too hard to explain. Words can’t describe how surreal it is to be holding the child you’ve been carrying for what feels like an eternity, how amazing it is to know he’s yours, that God has put him on loan to you for this lifetime. And little did I know that as in love and euphoric as I felt in the hour that followed his arrival, the true bliss doesn’t even set it until a few days later.
So, Finn was born at 7:16 a.m. on December 29th weighing 6 lbs 9 oz and 19 inches and perfectly healthy. Breastfeeding went extremely well from the beginning with only a few hiccups. All tests done in the hospital came out perfectly. The pediatricians that checked him out said he was strong, he was tall, he was healthy and he was thriving. And, so we were as well. We couldn’t wait to get home to introduce Finn to our life. We stayed in the hospital until December 31st and headed home to celebrate NYE with our new family of three (well, four with our sweet lab Diesel).
A month has passed now and I’m pleased to say we have been able to spend it laying around and staring at our new baby boy. Obsessing over his every blink, kick and a few precious smiles. I can’t wait to spent the rest of my life watching him change and grow. I’m longing for the day when he can return the hugs and kisses that we are pouring over him – yet at the same time I’m secretly wishing he would stop growing and stay this way forever. He’s gained two pounds already!
We’ve had so much fun sharing him with family and introducing him to good friends. We’ve been pretty liberal with his activities; we’ve even taken him to Pizza Port a few times to sit and drink an afternoon brew. He’s resilient, well behaved, he’ll sleep anywhere. We are so very blessed. As for us, I think being parents suits us very well.
A wonderful part of this journey has been to see Dan turn into such an amazing father. Watching him get excited about tummy time, Dr. Suess books and first smiles has been amazing. Since Finn is basically a mini me version of him already, I’m already praying he inherits his Dad’s sense of humor, love of Jesus and passion for all the things that truly matter in life.
The biggest shock for me in all of this is how much I love being his mom. I’ll be honest, I was never the girl who wanted to simply grow up get a ring on my finger and pop out a few kids. I wanted babies, of course, but I never yearned for it the way some women do. I always dreamed of being a career women, and being an example of hard work to my children. And now… well, the whole world looks quite different. I can’t image a more important job than making sure Finn feels overwhelmingly loved every day of his childhood. Keeping him safe and healthy, and teaching him to love Jesus and not to value money too much – these are the things that matter. He is the best thing I’ve ever done, and no career accomplishment, promotion or raise will ever touch the worth I feel from simply being his mom. I feel crazy lucky. He has no idea how much I love him, and he probably never well.
I know many women struggle with bonding to their child, I’m blessed to not be one of them. The bond I feel is too strong to describe. I miss him when he’s in my arms and I look at pictures of him while he’s sleeping in his pack n’ play next to me. I love sharing him with family, but it’s all I can do to give him up so someone else can hold him for a time. I read somewhere a new mom describe it as being 14 and in love for the first time, and I think those words do very well to explain this ridiculous love.
One week left with my sweet husband on paternity leave. Soaking up every minute our little family of three gets to be together with the normal distractions of life set aside. So very blessed.
I have so much to be excited about and grateful for this holiday season, I don’t even know where to being. While I am celebrating today with just my sister and parents, in just a few days the masses of family and friends will be home to celebrate, be merry and ring in the new year. Since Thanksgiving raced by, it only seemed appropriate that I finally take a second to sit down and soak it all in. God has been great to me this season. In fact, he has been more than great, he really out did himself this year! Here’s why….
First off, the love of my life proposed last month during Thanksgiving, and both of our families were there to help us celebrate. Now, we not only get to plan an amazing, November, San Diego wedding - we also get to plan the rest of our lives together. Lucky, lucky me. (Check out our wedding website!) And along with the recent engagement, I no longer have one single family to celebrate with. This Christmas I find myself with an extra set of parents, sister, brother, niece and nephew to celebrate the season. I consider myself beyond blessed to have been welcomed with open arms into the Monaco family.
Next, the 2010 Holiday Bowl President is none other than my Dad, Eric Graves. Not only does this mean a slew of luncheons, parades (I’ve been practicing my wave), parties, tail gates, a lot of family in town, and a whole lot of fun.. it also means that my Dad is having the time of his life coordinating a bowl game he’s been involved and in love with for as long as I can remember (1993). We are all so proud.
Lastly, this season I find myself being stretched and challenged as a person. As you all know, a year ago exactly I picked up my life, drove (with my now-fiance) across the country, and moved to Indianapolis. Do it while your young right? I continue to love my new home. I can’t get enough of the snow, Midwest people and way-of-life. But — here it comes — it’s hard. I miss San Diego, my home and my family every day. I am faced with the realization that I might never make it back to the west coast. It’s for that reason that I’m grateful because I know it’s the hard things in life that grow and stretch you as a person. Some recent advice I received from a very best friend was right on — “Never be afraid to miss something”. This Christmas, rather than struggling with the 3,000 miles between my family and I, I’m heart-overflowing grateful that this is a city I will always call home.
So for the friends, the family (new and old), the fiance, the season, the cities and of course, the football — I am grateful. Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays, everyone!
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