***HAPPY BIRTHDAY ANYA!***
Today is my oldest daughter Anya’s birthday, and she is eight years old. I know all parents say this, but I really cannot believe how old she is now. I feel like I should not have an eight year old – then again, I was nineteen when I had her.
I discovered I was pregnant with Anya right before I graduated from high school. It was a surprise and more than a little shocking for everyone. Not to reveal too much information, but we were being careful. I was on birth control, but I had recently been sick and on antibiotics. My doctor told me to be careful during my cycle of pills, but the medicine fell in the middle of my cycle, so I needed to be careful during two cycles. Oops on the doctor and on me. Andy was in his first year of the military, so he was only home to visit maybe once a month. Yes kids – despite all the odds, I found myself pregnant (lesson to my own kids someday about how easily you can get pregnant!). Andy and I had a plan for the future. We were going to wait a year and get married, since Andy was going to deploy to Iraq soon and I was enrolled in college locally. This threw a big crimp into the plan.
My family reacted like you would expect, but we all had to reassess the situation. I graduated from high school and was still planning on going to school. However, we all agreed that maybe Andy and I should get married before he deployed. We were already planning on it, and if God forbid something happened to him, our new family would be protected and provided for. So in two weeks, our families married us in a wonderful and small ceremony. We also made the difficult and painful decision to move me down to Ft. Campbell before Andy left. It was hard on our families and for us, but we are lucky to have very supportive and helpful families who made it possible. I moved there on July 22, 2003, and Andy left four days later. I was eighteen, pregnant, and had never lived on my own. It was new, exciting, and a little scary.
I made it through that first deployment with the help of one of my greatest friends Becca who showed me the ropes of military life, deployments, and living alone. She was there with me for every pain, triumph, and failure. Our husbands were gone together, so we spent a lot of time together as well. We were only eight hours away from our families too, so I saw them frequently, either driving up to them or having visitors come to me. My mom even came down to do my childbirth class. I grew up so fast in those four months because I had to, but moving there was still one of the best decisions we have made.
As mentioned above, I was very young and very pregnant. My body, which had been in great shape from cheerleading in high school, expanded overnight. I did everything wrong though: I wasn’t exercising, I ate whatever I wanted, and I spent a lot of time in my new apartment just waiting for Andy to get home. I was astonished by every poke and movement inside me, but I also hated the pains and lack of sleep. This baby was constantly moving. She even kicked five of my ribs out of place during my seventh month of pregnancy! I would occasionally walk my neighborhood, but I was so tired all the time. I did do one thing right – to give up coffee – but that also did not help my exhaustion. Combine all of these together, and I was huge. There is no nice way to say this and all those who knew me then should not lie – I was enormous.
Andy returned home in late November, and he was shocked. Yes, I had made it through the time apart, but we had spent the first four months of our marriage apart. I was very different, and so was he. We were both young and still had some growing up to do, and now we were expecting a baby in a little over a month. We spent the time getting to know each other again, learning to live with one another, and preparing for our baby. We had a few false alarms and even a tumble down the stairs (which allowed Andy to see a sonogram in person when we went to the hospital!), and we spent a lot of time walking the local mall to try and “walk the baby out.” We were newlyweds and blissfully in love and naive as to what life would be like for us soon.
On January 11, 2004, I woke up at 5:00 am on my couch (I slept on the couch the entire time I was pregnant, it was the only place I felt comfortable). I sat straight up and felt a gush. My water broke on the couch! I made it up our stairs as fast as I could to wake up Andy, then got dressed. I woke Andy up again because he fell back asleep, then went downstairs to clean my couch. Andy stared at me as if I was crazy, but I couldn’t go the hospital with amniotic fluid all over my hand-me-down couch! He put me in the car and off we went. We only lived about ten minutes from the post hospital, but it felt like agony. The contractions started immediately and were intense. I was expecting pain, but I had not imagined just how painful it would be. We made it to the hospital, took ten minutes to get inside since I had to stop every three minutes for a contraction, and got ourselves checked into labor and delivery.
By this time, it was around 6:30 am. Andy made all the phone calls to family, and my mom immediately booked the earliest flight out to get there. I got my epidural, the wonder drug of the century, and the doctor measured me at five centimeters dilated. I knew from childbirth books that labor usually takes between eight and twelve hours, so I thought I had some time. Andy went out make more phone calls and to find some breakfast, and I watched some early morning television. A nurse came in to check my vitals and saw some discrepancies in the baby’s heart rate. She had me turn on my side, measured me again at eight centimeters (quick, huh?), and went to find the doctor. He came in and they watched my monitors in silence. He then checked me again, and I was at nine centimeters. He nodded at the nurse, then calmly told me that they were going to have to get the baby out now. Her heart rate was fluctuating, and they were going to use a vacuum extraction to help her out as quickly as possible. While I was asking about what her head would look like and if she would be okay, the nurses rolled my bed down the hallway to the delivery room. I asked for Andy, and they found him just coming back. He ran down to meet me, and we were there before I knew it.
My labor was nothing like I had expected. Because I had only had my epidural for about two hours and my labor progressed so quickly, they had not tapered the dose off. I could not feel anything from the waist down, which was an advantage pain wise but a disadvantage in that I could not feel my contractions and know when to push. The nurses instructed me, and Andy was by my head the whole time, encouraging me and holding me. After about twenty minutes of pushing, she arrived. Anya Shirley Elizabeth Carpenter was born at 9:08 am. She was large headed, so the vacuum extraction or a c-section would have been necessary, and she weighed in at 9 lbs. 1 oz. I could not believe it when they told me; I had to see the scale for myself.
We were excited, overwhelmed, and exhausted with our beautiful child. I spent the time in the hospital and at home with my mom, who arrived later the day of her birth, and my husband. I could not stop crying, both for joy and fear. Who entrusted me with a baby? I was prepared, being the oldest of five children, a frequent babysitter, and an avid reader of as many books on babies that I could get my hands on. As I looked at this tiny little person, I wondered how we would do it. We were so young ourselves, and now we had to grow up even faster to be the best parents we could.
I will not lie – the first year of Anya’s existence was not always perfect. I did not stop crying for eight weeks, enough to worry Andy and my mom. I felt ugly, fat, and tired all the time. Andy and I were living on one income, so it was a struggle at times. Anya was such a good baby, but we had to quickly adapt to being the three of us, not just two. After awhile, it became easier, and parenting became a second instinct to us. We thrived as a family, and we were happy. We made it through TDYs, moving to another house, and our first year of marriage. I even managed to start college as planned when Anya was seven months old. She was a beautiful, smart, and inspiring little person – and still is today. She challenged Andy and I to grow and to become better together and as individuals.
So there is my sappy tale of how our family started. It was unexpected and unplanned, but in the end, it has been wonderful. As I watch Anya grow every day, I am amazed that Andy and I created this child and are able to watch her become the intelligent and beautiful child she is and will continue to be. Parenthood has been nothing like I expected and will continue to surprise me, but I love that girl more than I can begin to describe. Again, who entrusted us with this child? Whomever did, our lives were forever changed and we are eternally grateful.