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52 weeks.

3:30 AM. The same time 52 weeks ago there was a stirring inside my womb, and cramps that instantaneously flooded my mind with - is this it? Is it time? Do I get to meet you today? Followed by…oh no, am I ready? Is your room ready (jokes on me, you wouldn’t sleep there for 6 months), are there enough meals in the freezer… I remember laying there, surrounded by tons of pillows, and Taylor in a ball in one corner that was left for him. I remember feeling like time was frozen still, and I was somewhere in between what has been and what would soon be. There was a knowingness that life was going to change, I just wasn’t sure how and quite frankly nothing could prepare you for it - you quite simply have to experience it. I lay there for next few hours, watched my girl (Bellie) and hubby sleep soundly - and when the sun came up - decided it was time to get up. I felt like I needed to be productive and I was anxious that I had forgotten something and the clock was ticking, soon he would be here.

In the midst of my frenzy, my calm and ever present husband wrote me this note - and made me the best omelet (the only thing I would end up eating that day until after the birth of Jed). His words a reminder I wasn’t alone, and that the unknown is just an exercise of faith - an opportunity to truly lean in and be held. What was ahead was beyond my control, but not His. Brief insert of birth story (if you don’t want details skip ahead). Around noon, I had a bloody show. To confirm, I sent a photo to my doula (LeNay Graham - more on her later). She asked how I was feeling, and if any contractions had started. At the time I still had cramps that would come and go, but nothing that kept me from moving about - which I continued to do. Around 2 PM, the contractions started. Taylor started packing up the car, and I was on the phone on and off with LeNay to keep her updated on my progress. They continued to get closer and closer - I wasn’t in pain, but I started to get nervous. Because it was my first time, I didn’t know how quickly things progress and I knew we had at least a 20-25 minute drive to the hospital. After a couple hours of some exercises and ultimately getting in the shower - when Taylor came down to check on me, I told him it was time to go. I wanted the peace of mind of being where I knew I wanted to be to have our son. It was 5:00 PM when we pulled out of our driveway. I never realized how bumpy our back country roads are, until I felt every hole, curve etc alongside the contractions. We arrived at the hospital at 5:25 PM, walked through the doors - was put in a wheelchair, waited for Taylor to come in behind with all our things and was brought upstairs to get checked in. The nurse told me I could change, and then they would do a cervical check to see where I was at. I immediately start stripping down to change into a gown, and the nurse laughs and goes you can change in the bathroom if you want. To which I said, I mean I’m going to be pretty naked in a moment - just as well get comfortable with being exposed now. Up until this point I had not had a cervical check and it was not my favorite experience (I remember looking at Taylor after saying I don’t think they should be allowed or have nails). I was only 3 CM dilated. She told me I could stay or go home - as a first time mom I may have some time before baby boy would arrive. At this point I just wanted to stay, LeNay was already on her way and I was pretty convinced he would be here soon. LeNay arrived shortly after, and her presence when she came into the room immediately calmed me. I knew the person (alongside Taylor) who knew my birth plan was present, and she would help advocate for me along the way. The hospital was pretty empty that night (one mom had already her baby). So we were able to get up and walk the halls. I’ll never forget the exercise she had me do, because there was a pretty distinct moment when things changed - with each contraction LeNay had me stop, lift up on my stomach, and push my hips forward, breathing deep down through to my pelvis. One time in particular I felt baby sink and the contractions started to feel different (more intense). The next couple of hours are a blur in many ways but some moments stand out and bring tears to my eyes as I recall:

  • Taylor opening the Bible, holding my hand and reading Psalms out loud. The same thing he did many nights when I couldn’t sleep.

  • Taylor holding me up, and saying encouraging words as I draped my very pregnant self over his shoulders.

  • LeNay being the calm, energetic, kind, and encouraging constant for both Taylor and I (a huge blessing, as obviously I couldn’t check in real well on how Taylor was doing).

It was about 10 PM and I was sitting at the edge of the bed, trying to encourage baby boy to drop more - LeNay on one side and Taylor on the other - I remember looking at them both and saying okay maybe I don’t need to do this naturally, maybe it’s just time to get an epidural. I was tired and not sure how much more energy I had to keep riding the wave of contraction, break, contraction, break. LeNay looked at me and said you are doing so well mama, let’s stick to your plan and try one more thing. She would later tell me she knew I was more than likely too late and I was in transition. She was right. The nurse came in a few minutes later to do another cervical check, and the words “complete” were said - I was fully effaced and dilated. From here carts were wheeled in, more nurses arrived, and the doctor came back in. The next 30-45 minutes Taylor and I still laugh about. The doctor would pop in every 5-10 minutes say “we can see the head” and then would walk out. We both were like wait, if that’s the case where are you going? Finally, at 11ish the one nurse who had been around since I arrived came in, and said - Sweetheart you have way too high a pain tolerance, you are breathing through all of these contractions and it’s time to push that baby out. I remember looking at her and saying, “just tell me what to do, and I will do it”. Probably should let Taylor tell the next part, but I continually censored myself through each contraction - and in between prayed OK Lord last one, please? At this point it was pretty intense, Taylor was holding my hand by my head, and LeNay had one of my legs - I remember hearing the words it’s about to get worse and then it will be done - the look I gave Taylor - and they were right. The ring of fire is something special. And then he was in my arms. Jedidiah Michael Hotchkiss was born at 11:15 PM. I wish I could say I had this euphoric, tear filled moment. I didn’t. I think I was in shock. I couldn’t believe what just happened, couldn’t believe someone just handed me a baby…I look over and Taylor is crying and going back and forth between kissing my head and Jed’s. I was potentially death staring the doctor down like OK when does this whole afterbirth thing take place (that was honestly one of the worst parts to me). Eventually it was just the three of us in the room. It was almost 2 AM I won’t forget, because it was daylight saving and we watched the old school clock wind back time (little trippy). Taylor went to sleep, and I laid there and held Jedidiah. It was 2:15 AM when the tears came. More like full on sob. It was like it all the sudden it hit me that he was here, and I was a mom. The next days, weeks and months were hard. Beautiful, but really hard. My productivity declined, my plans were shattered, my body …never the same - my world shifted, overnight and I felt unprepared. I didn’t feel like I had anyone to talk to, because everyone everywhere I turned kept telling me to “enjoy it”, “it goes fast”…I felt like something was really wrong with me because I wasn’t enjoying it. I enjoyed him, and loved him dearly - but I missed my life and I didn’t recognize the one I was in. The last months have been an up hill battle. I have fought for what was, and been frustrated that in many ways I feel like I have let so many people down because I’m not the same friend, sister, daughter, teammate …wife.

As I looked at my son at his first birthday party, I was overwhelmed with joy. His sweet smile, curiosity, ability to be present (like his dad), and did I say sweet smile - were great reminders of how loved he knows he is and that everything is OK. It may not be as perfect (what does that even mean) as I think things should be. I’m not where I thought I would be, but I’m here, doing the best I can. We have figured out life (for me, anew) together over the last 52 weeks. Jed has taught me it’s OK to slow down, things can get pushed into tomorrow, how to prioritize…and that love really is the best gift.

So as I held my baby (officially toddler) this morning at 3:30 AM (52 weeks after the contractions started) instead of rushing to get him back down, I rocked him to sleep and held him because I know those days are limited and I don’t want to wish another moment away. Sleep will come, but what he needs, and let’s be real what I need is a moment to be still, lean in and trust in the One who is in control. He’s in the unknown, and I am never alone.

Now, that I am here, today, I cannot believe he is 1! Somewhere along the way the long days began to feel a little shorter and I found myself savoring all of his firsts. It feels less hard, but I’ve embraced life is different, it’s a new normal. I can embrace the both/and - and create safe spaces for women to be seen, heard and loved with where they find themselves today. Whatever that looks like. I’m grateful for a new perspective, and the opportunity to continue to grow. Every day truly is an arrival.

Happy Birthday, Jedidiah! You have changed my world for the better, and I have a feeling you will do the same for others too.

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