Sunday, April 23, 2017

That First Day, For Better or Worse

Day one with Eliza was both beautiful and disastrous. 

Beautiful because, new baby.  Disastrous because... well, we'll get to that. 

There's a lot to do when you have a brand new baby, you know.  There's the nursing and the loving and the holding and the staring, of course, but there are also stacks of forms to fill out and packets of papers to read and, apparently, videos to watch nowadays that teach you the proper way to put your baby to sleep. There are siblings to meet and pictures to take and texts to send to all the far reaching friends and family. And all of it is fun and exciting.  All of it, that is, except for one form this time: the birth certificate. It was easy to fill out the date and the time of birth and the parents information, of course, but then there was that one blank line that I could not, for the life of me, decide what to fill it with. 

Baby's Name: _________________


For hours it sat on the rolling table at the side of my bed calling for attention, calling for decision. The name we had been so mostly sure of, Matilda (Tillie) Jean, just wasn't working for some reason when I looked at this brand new baby. I love that name because it was my great-grandmother's name, but every single time I tried to use Matilda or Tillie my tongue seemed to get stuck and I couldn't even say it. I'd try to use it to say hello to this precious new face, but all that would come out as I stared into her eyes was, "Helloooooo... ... ... ... baaaaby,"

The nurses would ask what our name candidates were and, again, I couldn't even bring myself to mention the name Matilda in the list of possibilities. "Isabelle," I'd say to them without hesitation. "Addison," would roll off my tongue even though it wasn't my favorite. "Abigail," no problem. And when Brian was there to offer Matilda I would almost cringe at the sound of it.

Something's weird, I felt. I've always felt that no matter what name you choose, the child will grow into it and become that name without too much trouble.  I've never really feel like there is a right name that goes along with a baby (my babies anyway), but in this case there certainly seemed to be a wrong one. 

Alone in my hospital bed I watched her sleeping face through the clear plastic siding of her bassinet and thought through all of the names on our list of finalists.  None of them seemed to work either.

Who are you? I asked quietly.  But she didn't answer. And so I kept staring and thinking and tumbling names over and over each other in my mind, pulling them out at random and trying them out.  Amelia?
Somehow, names that we hadn't even considered before tumbled right alongside the ones that had been on our lists for months. Actually, let's be truthful here... that didn't really happen somehow, I know how. It was because I had pulled out my phone earlier and in desperate attempt landed all the way back at square one as I typed 'Baby Girl Names' into the Google search bar.

She squirmed and scrunched her face ever so slightly and at that moment a new name came floating past my consciousness. Eliza. 
"Eliza?" I said out loud. "Are you Eliza?" The name had been on one of our lists in the past and I had loved it, but somewhere along the line it had dropped from the finalists. Now, though, I loved the way it seemed to have fallen from my tongue as I watched her tiny face. Warmth filled my body and a small smile spread at the corners of my mouth.

Hm... Maybe Eliza then.

But there was a problem. Brian and the kids had been happily calling her Tillie for a while now, sporadically for over a month, and frequently since her birth, and that made me a little anxious to bring up my discontent.

Meanwhile back at home church had ended and the children had already dressed down into their regular clothes. Brian had fed them lunch and they were getting all ready for the exciting trip out to the hospital to meet their new baby sister.  They sent me a video that I watched from my hospital bed just before a nurse came in to check my vitals, and they were all so excited and so beautiful that it was all I could do to restrain myself from holding the nurse captive to watch it along with me again.  I let her be, but just look at this snapshot of the video... isn't it precious?!

You know from my previous post about how amazing the next couple of hours were.  We all oohed and ahhhed over her cuteness and her awesome (for my babies) head of hair,
and after the children had had their fill Brian took them back home to stay at the Calverts.  After dropping them off he turned right around to make his way back to the hospital. He called on his way and somewhere near the end of the conversation I mustered up some courage to say, "Hey, um... so... I don't think this is Matilda."  There was a slight pause as he absorbed the comment.
"No. It just feels weird. I can't even say it to her... I keep calling her 'baby' whenever I try. I don't know... we can talk about it later, but I'm really starting to think about 'Eliza' again... Just think about it."

It was around this point, 5pm, that things started taking a bit of a nosedive.  Hospitals are not my favorite place mostly because it's just so hard to get some decent sleep with all the interruptions going on all day and all night (and isn't it interesting that a place that's whole purpose is to help people heal doesn't do a better job at utilizing the body's greatest healing tool?). I had not slept a minute the entire night before because, labor, and then after a two hour nap on Sunday morning the rest of the day was spent getting up and down and in and out of bed caring for a brand new baby. Every time I would just get her to sleep, a nurse would come to check her vitals, bringing all the noise of a hospital with her, unwrapping the baby so completely and moving her around so quickly that the baby didn't stand a chance against it and would wake back up and feel hungry all over again. By 5pm my eyes were heavy from the want of sleep and my body felt weak and sore and grumpy. Yet the baby did not sleep.  And she was getting louder. I walked with her around the hospital room and bounced her gently till the point where I felt physically sick enough that I feared I would actually pass out there on the floor, holding the baby in my arms.  Thankfully Brian was close to making it back and when he arrived he took over. I stayed in bed after that point, but sleep was still far away.  Between what felt like constant nursing of a fussy baby and poorly timed nurse interruptions and the baby getting fussier and fussier as the hours went on, there was no room for sleep.  Eventually, Eliza became inconsolable and no amount of nursing or walking or bouncing could stop the screaming.  For hours. And hours. And hours. Minute by minute... second by second... through the latest hours of the night and the earliest hours of the morning... stuck in that tiny room with nowhere to go.

Her screams were confusing us - we'd never had a baby cry so hard for so long and we could not figure out what they meant or how to stop them.  It felt like we'd forgotten everything we ever knew about how to care for a newborn and at 5:00 in the morning, just as the sky was beginning to lighten after my second night of no sleep, my emotions broke and the flood of tears that coursed down my cheeks was quiet, but unstoppable. A cardiac nurse came in to check the baby's heart and I sat there listening to the cries of my fifth child and had no choice but to continue crying right along with her. I was able to answer all the questions the nurse had for me with a surprisingly calm voice but the tears were coming fast and hard and after the nurse had finished her assessment of the baby she gently asked, "Would you like for me to get your nurse?"

"Um...," I shrugged my shoulders and shook my head helplessly. Really, I knew I just needed a little sleep, and evidently a refresher course on parenting 101, but there was no nursery or parenting course, so it didn't seem like there was much of anything to be done.
"Well..." Brian said with the same helpless tone I felt in my own heart, "Probably not... I don't think there's anything she can do for us. We just need to get home so we can sleep."

Minutes later, however, my nurse came in and asked through the baby's screams if she could take her to the nurses station and give her a little bit of formula. I had been trying to nurse her almost non-stop but, of course, my milk had not come in yet and the little bit that she was getting didn't seem to be cutting it.
"Do you think she's just hungry?" I asked the nurse.
"I think she's just hungry," she confirmed.  "I can give you a couple of hours of rest."
Yes! I wanted to shout. Please! I wanted to scream. Take her and feed her and love her while I sleep! But instead I looked at her and calmly said, "Yes, that would be wonderful... thank you."

She was only able to take Eliza for one hour, but in that hour she fed her and Eliza fell sound asleep.  Brian and I did too and the three of us slept hard in that little room, undisturbed (thanks to the nurse who passed along the message to the rest of the staff that we needed to be left alone) until 10am.  I felt like a new person after those 5 beautiful hours of sleep!

Eliza was even more beautiful when she woke - happy and pleasant and absolutely perfect.  We started packing everything up to go home and when we came to the pile of papers with the birth certificate information on top Brian pulled out his pen.  We'd had a lot of time to talk and ponder through the sleepless night and we were both falling more and more in love with this new name. So when Brian picked up the pen to complete the form, it didn't seem as difficult at all.

Name: Eliza Lindsay Alder  he scrawled in his almost illegible handwriting.  "Okay," he said, "it's done."

And so it was. That day, after we named her, we learned that Brian has two grandmothers both several generations back named Eliza. Incredible women, one of whom who took her young family across the plains in the Willie Martin Handcart company. We have since read their stories and felt their voices and they are absolutely remarkable examples of courage, strength, and deep faith which leaves me to wonder: was this meant to be?  Maybe this little Eliza will need to feel a deep connection with those particular stories somewhere down the line... Could those women have been sitting in that hospital room somehow influencing my decision? I can't deny that the thought has crossed my mind.

Eventually the wristbands were cut and the dispatch papers were signed and it was time to pack everything, and everyone, into the van.  I love the feeling of driving away from the hospital with a brand new baby strapped snugly in the backseat. In a beautiful way it always feels like I'm leaving an old self behind, and this time was no different... driving away from our old life and into our new life as a family of seven.

And the kids only called her Tillie for about another week...

...and then 'Eliza' was here to stay.


  1. Oooh yes, I can relate so much! It's so hard to name a baby (for some people....other people seem to know the name as soon as they know the gender). I tried out several names on Ian and was stumped by the blank line with the name as well. And, yes, hospitals are the worst places to get any rest. Even being at home with a house full of kids is more restful, because your own bed is so much more comfortable and you don't get your vitals checked every three minutes. Anyway, your writing is so beautiful and real, it makes me tear up for some reason. I always want to savor and soak up the newborn days, but they are so raw and exhausting and emotional that it often is just more about surviving those days, no matter how hard I try to make it otherwise.
    I'm so glad you found a beautiful name that fits your beautiful baby! I hope you are doing well!

  2. When Jason was born (in the evening) I had so much adrenaline that I wasn't very sleepy that night. Then on top of that one of the nurses in the maternity unit was a sweet grandma from our ward--so she just would pop in to check on me throughout the night and stay and visit. At the time I thought it was just fine, but in retrospect I could see the damage done to me by that night without any sleep. After that my policy was to ask the nursery to keep the baby for the night (and even give them some formula) and to take a sleeping pill so that I could sleep. That really helped when Josh was born...which was good because we moved 2 days after he was born!

  3. (And I wondered how you got from Tillie to Eliza--so interesting! I think Eliza is a beautiful name and looking at her it seems to fit perfectly.)