Our little girl is one week old today. It seems impossible that eight days ago, we had yet to find out who she was, what she would be like, what we would be like as parents – eight days ago, we were just beginning the labor that would bring her into our arms.

I awoke early on the morning of Friday the 13th with light contractions. We started timing them were certain by mid-morning that I was in the midst of early labor. Finally! This baby was ready to say hello! I saw the doctor that afternoon, who confirmed that things we’re progressing – I was dilated 3 cm and was having contractions every 9-10 minutes. She sent us home, telling us that she (or one of her colleagues) expected to see us again soon. I spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening bouncing on our balance ball, breathing through the increasingly frequent, increasingly painful contractions. Nancy came over at 7:00 and stepped into her role as birth doula, offering us her encouragement and advice, and helping us make the call at 9:00 pm that it was indeed time to lay down a towel on the passenger seat of the car and head to the hospital (it would be a shame to add “clean up amniotic fluid” to our post-baby to-do’s, should my water break in the car). I waddled my way into the hospital, stopping in the garage and then the elevator lobby to breathe through a couple of contractions, and was given a small room in triage, where they checked my vitals and assessed my progress. Cervical exams are never pleasant, but I set aside any qualms about the discomfort and looked forward to seeing how far I’d come – after all the laboring I had done since our doctor appointment earlier that day, I was hopeful that I’d be well on my way to that ultimate goal of full dilation at 10 cm. My spirits fell when the nurse said that I was at 3, maybe 4 cm and told us to go walk around for a couple of hours to move things along. The thought of enduring several more hours of labor was daunting, but I summoned what energy I had left and we set out to wander the hospital’s deserted hallways while baby Schnell packed his or her bags. Shane and Nancy naturally fell into their roles as my perfect support team, Nance keeping me focused as she counted through each contraction and Shane offering physical encouragement as he rubbed my back or allowed me to lean into him. By the time we returned to triage around 1 am, I was exhausted and quickly climbing the pain scale – 18 hours of contractions, now coming just every three minutes, had taken a hefty toll on me, physically and emotionally. The nurse checked me again and said I had progressed only 1-2 cm, which sealed the deal: I wanted an epidural, stat. They moved us into our birthing suite and after a painfully long hour of watching our kind-but-sloooooow nurse fumble around the room to get supplies ready and place my IV, the anesthesiologist swooped in to offer me that sweet, blessed, magic medicine. I collapsed into the hospital bed as the pain subsided, thanking God for rest and relief. I fell asleep around 3 am and awoke a couple hours later to a leaking sensation – my water had broken! A sign of substantial progress! The doctor came in to check me shortly thereafter and surprised us all when she said I was fully dilated and ready to push. I asked for a little time to psych myself up, and at 7:30 I started in on the final stage of labor. After just a couple of pushes, the head was visible and the nurse excitedly remarked over our baby’s full head of hair. Hair? Our baby had hair? As in, there’s a real person in there ready to come out and meet us? Shane and I looked at each other and both started to cry – this was the moment our child’s imminent arrival became undeniably real. Our questions were about to be answered, our greatest longing fulfilled. The wait was nearly over – I wiped my tears and pushed like hell.

And then, at 9:03 am, our baby was born. The doctor held her in front of Shane for a brief moment and placed that slimy, wiggly, wailing little thing on my chest as Shane cried, “It’s Juliette, buhb, it’s Juliette!” Oh, that moment. It is sealed in my memory as one of the greatest joys of my life. I mean, I have cried tears of happiness before, but I laid in that bed and I outright sobbed, with relief, with gratitude, with the fullness of this brand new love. She was so beautiful, with her rosy skin and matted brown hair. Her cries were so strong but so vulnerable, like she was telling us, “Don’t worry, I’m ok, but I still really need mama right now.”

(Thank you, Nance for the photos!)

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We spent the next 30 hours in our post-partum room, in a hazy blur of feeding (our girl is an eater!), dozing, and getting poked and prodded by nurses and doctors. By Sunday afternoon, we were ready to get out of there. The hospital’s photographer snapped a few shots of our family of three before we left. Three. Two was pretty damn great, but three is amazing.

(Photos by Bella Baby)

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As we packed up our things and tucked Juliette into her car seat, we both started crying yet again (nothing like birthing a child to clear out those tear ducts!). I had dreamt of this moment for so long, this assertion of our status as capable parents, striking out to blaze our trail as the newly expanded Schnell family. Shane was overwhelmed by the thought that her care was being entrusted to us – his chin quivered as he squeezed his eyes shut, in that Shane way of crying that so rarely comes out, and he muttered, “I just really, really want to be a good dad…”. God had given us this precious gift, and we wanted nothing so badly as to do right by her.

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We toasted to Juliette’s one-week birthday this morning with champagne and donuts, and I was reminded that our family is in fact much larger than just three. There are people from coast to coast that love her and want to share in the journey of seeing her grow. Grandma and Grandpa Schnell oohed and ahhed over every little half-smile and wrinkle of her nose when we video chatted with them on Tuesday. Yesterday we received a card from Great Grandaddy Jarrell with thoughtful congratulations and the beginning of Juliette’s college fund. And these people, our Seattle family, are already lavishing her with affection and gifts (thanks, Jordan and Bees, for unexpectedly scavenging that hideous diaper cake on your latest Craigslist run – the nursery needed a touch of pink).

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What a crazy, wonderful, blessed week.  Life will never be the same again.


  1. Adrienne says:

    What a beautiful birth story, Kelly. And all those newborn photos are precious. Thank you for sharing. I teared up a bit myself when Shane said he just wanted to be a really, really good dad. I have no doubt in mind that you two will be amazing parents and Juliette is one blessed and lucky girl to have you both.

    Also, this is a quote that Donna shared with me the day before Wesley was born that I loved, so I’m passing it along to you. 🙂

    The moment a child is born,
    the mother is also born.
    She never existed before.
    The woman existed, but the mother, never.
    A mother is something absolutely new.

  2. brieanne says:

    of course you look amazing and gorgeous just after birth (in fact, perhaps even more gorgeous than normal?) and I am so jealous the hospital had a photographer–what I would give for a photo with our new family in the hospital!

    And I must say–that picture of you clutching Juliette like your life depended on her, on that moment…brought tears to my eyes! I remember that feeling…the disbelief, the joy, the awe…

    Xoxo, Schnell family!

  3. la v says:

    wow! she already looks so much bigger in that last photo! oh what a difference a week makes… so happy to have baby juliette join our family!! (what is going on in the photo where i’m holding jules? i see nance’s face behind me but jason’s legs…)