LIFE IS A JOURNEY (The Birth of Cecilia Elizabeth)

Now that our third child, Cecilia Elizabeth Stemen, is about a month old, and I won’t be violating OPSEC (aka: Army Operational Security) I feel that it’s time to get this story out.

The journey begins over a year ago in May 2011…

My favorite quote from the movie Bella is: “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.”  Time and time again I’ve found this to be extremely true!  Yet I don’t think God was laughing in May 2011…”Sooner or later every one of us will face an irreversible moment that will change our lives forever.”  That irreversible moment came on a very painful night in mid-May, 13 weeks into our third pregnancy, the first time Troy & I had ever “planned/tried” to have a child…we lost that child.  We were still fairly new to Fort Stewart and I didn’t know many people.  I had been attending MOPS out at Gum Branch and just announced that we were expecting our third child, and just exchanged numbers with another lady that was new to the area and had children similar in age to mine.  I took a leap of faith and called her the next day to ask her to watch Sophia and Tedy so that I could go to the doctor for a follow up.  Thank God she agreed and our kids had a blast playing together.  I am so thankful for that moment she said yes to watching the kiddos and we have since become extremely close friends!  The days and weeks following were extremely painful both physically, emotionally and spiritually.  God and I were wrestling big time!  Troy and I had many discussions on what we should do.  Then finally we looked at Sophia and Tedy and knew that we were extremely blessed with two beautiful children.  We needed to get away from “playing God” and back to embracing life the way we used to.

In the fall of 2011 we found out we were pregnant again.  We kept very quiet because we were so nervous after what happened in May.  We told the people closest to us and asked them to simply pray for us and told them that we would share the news when we were ready.  When the due date from the previous pregnancy passed by I wrestled with God some more.  Even though I was pregnant again it was painful to think about what could have been.  It hurt me so much that I’ll admit I didn’t attend mass during the entire season of Advent.

When Christmas rolled around, something inside me told me to go to Mass.  In just a couple of weeks I would have an ultrasound and we would know if we were having a boy or a girl.  To prepare for this we were discussing names and heavily debating on girls and boys names.  After many lists, we had finally come to a consensus on a boys name yet still didn’t have a girls first name option – we had a middle name, Elizabeth (woo-hoo I finally won that “battle”).  On Christmas Eve, during the litany of the Saints, the name Cecilia stood out to me.  I couldn’t get that name out of my head!  I went home, pulled out one of my many Saints books and looked it up.  Saint Cecilia is the patron saint of music.  I thought wow, that’s it that’s the girls name – so I told Troy and he agreed that it was a beautiful and fitting name.

January 2012 – HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!!!!!!!!  I had never been so happy for a new year to arrive, 2011 was an extremely difficult year in many ways for us and I was ready to leave it behind and start a new.  By the way, how’s everyone doing on their new years resolutions?  We are over half way through the year and I’ve still been keeping mine in mind.  Remember though if you need a bit of a change, “everyday is a new year!”  Anyways, the day for my ultrasound came and my friend (ya know that one I was talking about earlier that amazingly said yes all those months ago) Lisa watched Sophia and Tedy.  Troy however was not able to be with me; though this stung a bit at first, deep down I remind myself that he’s in the Army and things like this are to be expected.  So there I was, by myself, and I got to take a sneak peek and see our baby for the first time – we were going to have a GIRL!  Not going to lie, I was extremely excited that we were having a girl because I loved the name so much!

Throughout the pregnancy with Cecilia I stayed extremely active!  Though it was the first time I was pregnant and not “working” I did a ton and we were always busy!  Just running wise during my pregnancy I completed my first half-marathon: the Savannah Rock ‘n’ Roll, the Savannah River Bridge Run “Double Pump”, the Critz Tybee Run Fest & a 5K.  For most of those races, Lisa was by my side.  We also started planning our next season and signed up for a triathlon.  I also signed up to complete my second Marine Corps Marathon.  Just because I was pregnant didn’t mean I was going to stop being active.  I listened to my body and did what I could.

As May 2012 rolled around I had mixed feelings.  I was still hurt, and will always have some level of sadness and pain from what happened in May 2011; yet I was excited for Ceci to be born!  I was also in the middle of Resiliency training (which if you’re in the Army, spouse, etc…and ever get a chance to take that course, I HIGHLY recommend it).  At home we were not only preparing for a baby to arrive we were also preparing for Troy to leave and go TDY for about 2 months.  The closer we got to his departure date the more he wanted Ceci to be born, she would’ve been just a little bit early like Tedy was.  Yet the days went by and I was still pregnant as I drove him to the airport.

June 2012 was finally here, Ceci was due in just two weeks!  Yet there was a ton of stuff going on in those couple of weeks…I joked with people that she had to wait until I was done with these things.  As the days went by I joked with people on when she could arrive.  Since Troy was gone I arranged for my dad to come for a visit so that he could watch the kiddos for me while I attended a Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Training and to have him there just in case I went into labor.  I would joke that since we live just a mile away from the hospital that I’d walk there and Lisa could meet me.  This freaked my friend Caroline out and it just made me laugh how anxious everyone else was but how relaxed I was.  Well, my dad’s visit and Ceci’s due date came and…went!  Luckily I had arranged for Troy’s mom to visit and she arrived the day before my dad left.  Father’s day, the day after her due date and the day before my dad had to leave to go back home came and…went!  Each day came and…went…still no baby!  We would walk every day, we would play – I even swang on the swings, swam, etc and still the days would go by. I kept making appointments for things that needed to get done because I didn’t want Tedy to miss out on an opportunity just because it was past my due date.  We went to those appointments for Tedy and did many other things and everyday that went by I’d think ok maybe she’ll come today…and yet nope!  My mom and dad started saying that she was waiting to be another 23rd baby since we have so many people in our family that have a 23rd Birthday: January 23 = Sophia, March 23 = my dad, October 23 = my mom, December 23 = Troy’s mom.  Then Troy’s mom started saying that Troy was due on June 16th but didn’t arrive until June 30th.  At first I was like heck no, I’m not waiting that long!  Then as the days went by and people were suggesting all these “old wives tale” methods of induction I thought well, it would be cute if they shared a Birthday, and I finally gave in to the fact that I wasn’t in control and that she would come when it was her time.

Saturday, June 23, 2012 – I woke up and cleaned the office, it had been it’s typically disastrous mess of a room that it some how always turns into.  I vacuumed and did laundry yet to me it was no more “nesting” than I had been doing the past few weeks.  I woke Sophia and Tedy up and Laura (Troy’s mom) drove us to our Lowe’s Build & Grow tradition – a trip to Dunkin Donuts and then over to Lowe’s.  At Lowe’s Sophia & I built a Madagascar 3 limo.  We went back home and Sophia wanted to build the plane we had from the previous build & grow.  We built the plane and I made sure the kids had lunch.  Then I went upstairs to rest and text my mom & Lisa because I was tired and had a dull pain in my lower back.  Lisa and I chalked it up to me not having been to the chiropractor in a few weeks.  Then I couldn’t get comfortable anymore and decided to call our friend Carlos.  He was out at wal-mart at the time and I asked him to come to the house because I thought I needed to go to the hospital.  Later I learned that he dropped everything and sped to the house to get me.  I texted Lisa who was going to be my birth coach and told her I was going to have Carlos bring me in to check things out.  Later I learned that her family dropped everything where they were in Savannah and sped to get to the hospital.  My things for the hospital had been packed and waiting by the door for weeks.  Carlos grabbed my bag and we got into the truck and he took me to the hospital.  It was the weirdest feeling, not painful but I just felt really hot – then again it was a Georgia summer I thought.  We walk into the hospital and take the elevator up to the 4th floor where the labor & delivery unit is.  We get to the unit and the receptionist windows are closed.  We go to the door and it’s locked.  We look into the door and no one is at the desk.  I ring the bell and Carlos starts pounding the door.  I say: “You’ve got to be $#(&!*% kidding me!”  Someone opens the door and we go in.  The nurse starts asking us questions but I just tell her I’m ready to have her and that I have no clue if I’m in labor or not.  So as Carlos finishes checking me in I go into the triage room with the nurse to be checked.  I am 8cm and fully effaced.  The nurse says ok we are going to admit you and have a baby.  She hands me a gown to put on and says she will be right back.  I take the gown and just after she closes the door I yell at her to come back and not leave me.  I couldn’t get the gown on so she helped me and wheeled me across the hall into a labor & delivery room.  I get onto the bed and started to feel like I was crazy!  I told the labor & delivery nurse that I had no clue what I was doing (yes I know, I have two children but they were both born when I had an epidural – I didn’t know what this awkward feeling would be like and what it’d turn into and how long I’d be there) looking back I now realize I was extremely nervous about being alone.  Anyways…after some choice words concerning the attempt to get an IV in me as my waters broke and a few more choice words asking where the doctor (mind you I had no clue who was on duty and had never met him) was because I felt like I needed to push and a few breaths and pushes later I was in shock and awe that Cecilia Elizabeth was on my chest!  As they finished cleaning me up and they started taking assessments of Ceci and finished putting that stupid IV in my hand my birth coach, Lisa, walks into the room and jokes what the heck you couldn’t have waited a few more minutes.  I was in complete awe of what had just happened and apologized to the labor & delivery nurse for acting crazy.  She insisted that I wasn’t bad and that I did an amazing job.  To this day I am still amazed that I did it…alone, no medication, completely natural!  Though I hadn’t had an medication I felt high and realized that I was high on life and so thankful for this addition to our family!  A couple of days later as I was reading through my chart I saw labor & delivery time: 22 minutes.  It felt much longer to me but as I went through my text messages it was about 30 minutes from the time I told Lisa that Carlos had just pulled up to the time Ceci was born.  I guess I’m glad I didn’t follow through on my joke and walk because I probably wouldn’t have made it into a room.  I mean when Ceci was born I didn’t have any monitors on or an IV or even a wristband and all of my things were still in triage!

I am so thankful for this journey.  It taught me so much about life.  It started with tragedy and has been a journey to a new happiness and appreciation for life.  I say I was alone when I had Ceci but I really wasn’t…I am so thankful for Carlos being there to take me to the hospital.  I am thankful for Lisa for arriving shortly after and taking those first precious moments pictures.  I am thankful for everyone praying for us.  There are many other people that played a role in this amazing day and they know who they are and I am thankful for them as well.  Finally, I am extremely thankful for my husband, and even though Troy wasn’t able to be there when Ceci was born, the way he held her for the first time a few weeks later made me cry because even though it was tough I know how strong our relationship is and that we can handle anything that the Army throws at us.




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