I have to say – it feels surreal sitting down to write out Juliana’s birth story. It’s hard to believe she is sleeping in a swing beside me – she is finally here. 3.5 years later…and our daughter is here and she is real.
If you are new to our story – I will say its been a crazy journey – full of love, tears, fear, hope, grace and overwhelming faith and I think you might enjoy reading the full story – you can get caught up here, here and here .
When we learned I couldn’t carry a baby and we prayed for the Lord to make our path to parenthood clear – He answered that prayer in BIG WAYS. Every step of this journey – we have seen God’s hand and His favor, felt overwhelming peace and experienced His goodness along the way – even on the really hard days – which felt so sweet after a long and challenging road.
God has been in the business of miracles these past 2 years – ever since we felt God show us the beginning of His plan for our growing family. God prompted my cousin Lexi’s heart to help us grow our family years ago ( 13 years to be exact!) and she has felt so much peace ever since she shared with us that she still felt the same way. So today – Lexi’s birthday – seemed like the perfect day to honor her strength and celebrate this incredible journey!
Then in the Spring of 2018, I got a rare syndrome called Parsonage Turner Syndrome – where I lost 95% of the mobility in my left arm (the functioning arm) and we depleted all of our savings that was set aside for our baby journey (knowing adoption or IVF was costly) – trying to fight to save my left arm. That was such a challenging time…experiencing – even for just 2 months – what it was like to live without an upper extremity that worked – so getting dressed, eating, showering, everything..was a struggle. God swiftly prompted our community – and our friends and family rallied around us and raised the money that we lost and more and it radically helped us to cover the costs of surrogacy!! God showed up and our community stepped in!
Then – even with my quite extensive medical history – when it came time to start IVF – by God’s grace, the egg retrieval and embryo transfer was successful on the FIRST try! This pregnancy has had God’s favor every step of the way. Not to say it has been comfortable by ANY means, ( the first trimester was pretty rough!) but Lexi is seriously so strong with such an incredible heart – BUT every ultrasound and appointment has been textbook perfect.
I loved flying out to visit Lexi throughout the pregnancy – to visit and hang out with her and the family, check in on her, pamper her and offer whatever comfort I could!! And I tried to continue sharing the love whether I was there in person or across the country! God even provided a babysitter during that season, a referral from one of my Delight girls I mentor Carina – get this – within 24 hrs of me texting Carina who I knew lived in PA (which is a BIG STATE!) – she shared with me that her sister-n-law Heather lived 5 mins away from Lexi!! AND Heather had a flexible hours, could help on weekdays and LOVES kids!! So it was amazing to be able to text Heather and ask if she was free to take the kids even with only a couple hours notice at times – so Lexi could rest! I wished I could have been there every day – but since I live across the country – it was the prefect gift – to have a reliable wonderful woman who lived close and could watch Lexi’s kids when she needed. There were so many stories like that throughout this journey.
So the time finally was here – to come out to Pennsylvania 2 weeks before Juliana’s due date to ensure we would be here for the birth. Lexi went into false labor 3 days before my flight to PA – which was a bit of a scare for all of us – because we found out she was going to the hospital for contractions and we were all the way across the country! But things calmed down and finally Agustin and I made it out to PA and we all felt a sense of relief because we knew we would be there for the birth. The last person we were waiting for was my Aunt Janet – Lexi’s mom – because she was Lexi’s support coach and midwife and she delivered both of Lexi’s kids! We were so thankful she was going to be there to deliver our baby!
Lexi delivered her two kids at a birthing center in birthing tubs, but the fertility clinic said they required that we deliver the baby at a hospital with access to a NICU. Without skipping a beat, Lexi said, “Of course, whatever we need to do.” She had such a great attitude – even though we knew the experience would be different than her past births. But one INCREDIBLE God story – was two (not one but TWO!) of the midwives that helped deliver her two kids at the birth center – over the course of the past year, switched jobs and were now working in the new Women’s Health Unit at the hospital!! So throughout the pregnancy – Lexi got to meet with the SAME midwives that helped deliver her babies!! We knew that was such a sweet gift from God!
The week leading up to Juliana’s birth – was tough on Lexi – and that was heart breaking to witness. One night she had horrible Braxton Hicks ( false contractions) – that we were sure it was the real deal — So we packed up the car with adrenaline pumping….then things would slow down again – false alarm. Then a day or two would go by – so we would unpack the car of our toiletries etc – then another night her Braxton Hicks were so convincing we even went to the Mall near the hospital to take a couple laps – expecting to be checking in that night — only to have things slow down again so we went back home. That week was really hard on Lexi’s emotions – of getting hyped up and ready for such a big moment such as birth – then to have it not happen – 3 separate times was hard!
Finally the day arrived!! Wednesday Jan 29th. We were SOO thankful my Aunt Jan was there and is incredible midwife and coach – because she could check Lexi at home without going to the hospital to see if we were progressing. So my Aunt Jan whipped up the “birth cocktail” (an all natural concoction that helps your body naturally go into labor IF your body is ready ) and Lexi started feeling strong contractions a couple hours later. But her Braxton Hicks were so convincing before – it was hard to know if it it was real. But after a long evening of laboring and timing the contractions – Lexi took a bath to see if she could calm them down – and they were only getting stronger – so we “knew” (more like PRAYED) – this was real!! So off to the hospital!
Upon arriving – the Triage nurse checked us into a small room to monitor her contractions to determine if we would be admitted or if we would have to go back home. Triage …ugh.. I think most women would agree – when you are laboring with painful contractions – that last thing you want to hear is that they might be sending you home. She was 3cm dilated – so the nurse recommended that we walk around the hospital for 2 hrs and then the doctor will check her and admit us into a room if things are continuing to progress. Man, it was tough to keep my mouth quiet when I just wanted to say, “Can you see the pain she is in? We would LOVE to be checked in so she can labor in a more private and comfortable area!” But…I learned about patience in this experience.
So we played a board game in the empty lobby at midnight, eating Cheetos, while Lexi (who was also playing the game) labored like a champ!! One random memory – was Agustin was about to make a play that would take over one of Lexi’s territories – to which I said, “Agustin! Lexi is about to give birth to our baby! You better not take over her territory!” Haha He listened.
Finally, our awesome Triage nurse saw how much pain she was in and how frequent the contractions were so she admitted us to a room early – so that Lexi could labor in the shower (which helps ease the pain) until the doctor was ready. We then got the news that she progressed from 3cm to 4cm – which meant we were staying and not leaving without a baby!
So once we got up to our room – Lexi labored like a champion!! She chose to go unmedicated through the whole process and wow, she is truly a warrior and I was so proud of her! It was so difficult to watch her in such pain, and honestly – there were moments where I wished she could have some pain relief – but I knew I would support any decision she made and was just amazed by her strength!
We decided to make some Birth Goals :) First – Agustin decided to write on the board Baby Wulbunga – an inside joke – because when we looked up names with the meaning “Grace” – Wulbunga came up..and that became the joke – then we all started referring to her as Baby Wulbunga..which then stuck! Haha So Baby Wulbunga was written up on the white board.. then Lexi said her goal was not to tear – so Agustin wrote ” No Tears!”
He then read the goal aloud and said, “Wait…no tears?” Realizing tears and tears are spelled the same – but it sounded like we were saying to Lexi.. that there would be no tears (like crying) – which was hysterical at the time and I will note – if that were a goal.. we failed miserably because Agustin and I cried most of the laboring experience! haha! But thankfully Lexi actually didn’t tear!
After a couple hours of intense labor – everything slowed down and the contractions stopped. So we encouraged Lexi to try and sleep and we all tried (and failed at) as well. Then the morning came and the contractions started picking up again.
Lexi – prefers to not be touched when she is in pain (so no massages, back rubs etc) so at times it was hard to know how to comfort her, but we did everything we could to support her – which mostly consisted of praying – intense prayers and pleas to God. I have one memory of Danny helping Lexi switch to different positions that helped ease the pain, my Aunt Jan coaching her through it and Agustin began to read scripture over her and I sat on the floor with tears streaming down my face – with so much gratitude and love and praying over Lexi..Praying that God would preform a miracle and bring Juliana as fast as safely possible. It is so hard to watch someone you love in pain – especially when they are in pain because they want to give you the incredible gift of carrying your baby. There were countless times that I wished I could take the pain instead, but we covered Lexi in prayer and supported her the best we could.
We then got to the transition stage! So Lexi moved to shower to help ease the pain – with Danny supporting her while holding the showerhead, spraying water wherever gave her a bit of relief . It was such a beautiful picture of their marriage and incredible to witness. My Aunt Jan told me to change into my bathing suit – so that I could be ready to sit beside her in the shower if the baby came out in the shower! It really seemed like it could be any minute… then the nurses came in and saw that she was in transition and insisted they move her to the bed. This was frustrating – because laying down was the most painful position for Lexi…but they brought her to the bed.
This was when things took a scary turn. She was having extremely INTENSE contractions, so much pain, but nothing was progressing – Juliana wasn’t coming out. This was scary because it was something Lexi had never experienced before. They tried so many different positions and attempts and Lexi was completely exhausted. It was then we learned that Juliana was rotated and was coming out at an angle and was stuck. Lexi had been laboring for 16 hours…
But the nurses and Aunt Jan coached her through it – and recommended she take a few moments on her side to catch her breath and then its Go time! So Lexi asked me to lay beside her. THIS was the most powerful moment in the whole experience!! I laid beside her, holding her, and I would breathe in….and out…and helped her pace her breathing til we were in sync. Breathing in sync…inhale…exhale… Tears were streaming down my face – as I witnessed the most incredible sacrifice. That was when Lexi said something I’ll never forget – in between her INTENSE contractions – she said, “Kelly – I want you to know that this will all be worth it! Every moment is worth it! And I would do it all again!” In the middle of some of the most intense pain in her life – she wanted ME to know that she didn’t regret it and knew it was worth it – so that we could meet baby Juliana! What?!! Who is this amazing person!? She kissed my cheek and I cried and breathed with her for a moment longer – til it seemed like the time was here.
So the next 15 minutes were brutal. Everyone was sobbing, praying that Juliana would get unstuck and that the excruciating pain would end.
FINALLY with one last BIG PUSH – Baby Juliana made her arrival and my Aunt Janet got to catch her!! These next few photos are some of my favorites from such a powerful experience! There was such a wide range of emotions and I feel like I feel that in these photos.
Agustin cut the umbilical cord, I kissed Juliana’s little body and after it was safe – Juliana was laid on my chest.
I just held Juliana close to my chest and just cried. After such a crazy journey …here she is, our miracle baby warm against my chest.
I will never forget looking over at Lexi just moments after meeting my daughter. Agustin and I were overflowing with gratitude. Lexi shared with me what she felt in that exact moment. She shared that she was overwhelmed with joy, finally seeing us as a family of 3 all together and the honor she felt to be a part of it. We will forever be grateful to the amazing woman who helped us become parents.
Juliana Isabel Vizcaino entered the world at 2:47pm on Jan 30th, 2020!!
Danny, Lexi, Agustin and I have walked through an incredible journey together. From the beginning, we each felt that God was writing a beautiful story. These past 2 years, but especially those 17 hours… will forever shape our bond as two families. Lexi’s friend (and my new friend) Diana – volunteered to take photos of the birth and our first newborn photos and it was so special – that the person capturing such a powerful and intimate experience was one of Lexi’s close friends. Diana shared, “Kelly, I could see it in your face.. how you longed to take the pain away and I could see how you wished in those moments that you could have been the one to feel the pain instead..” and I immediately said “yes! Thats exactly how I felt.” and then Lexi shared, “Kelly – you have experienced so much pain throughout your life – literally the last 20 years – I was so happy to give you an experience where you were not the one in pain.” (cue the tears!)
Lexi, I love you! Thank you doesn’t even begin to express our hearts. I am so thankful for our deepened friendship, the love, support, and sacrifice that came with this incredible gift of helping us bring our daughter into this world. I know that I can never fully express the extent of our gratitude.
Here she is! Juliana Isabel – weighing 7lbs 3oz and 19.5 inches long and a FULL head of hair! We choose a name that is bilingual and Juliana ( the “ana” within Juliana) means Grace and Isabel is my Grandma Muriel Isabel Smith’s middle name. My Grandma Muriel is a role model for me – she is a prayer warrior, strong, sassy, smart and so wise and I am so thankful to honor my grandma with my daughter’s name.
We stayed with Lexi and her family for 3 weeks – because not only did we want to wait til Juliana was at least 2 weeks old before flying across the country back to WA – but wanted to make sure we were there to help Lexi as she recovered from birth. Lexi was so generous and offered to pump breastmilk for us – and with only 2 weeks of pumping – she not only provided enough milk to feed Juliana – but we were able to take 50 BAGS of frozen breastmilk home to WA! Thats a crazy amount of milk in such a short period of time! God continues to show us His miracles.
Our sweet Juliana entered the world – with an incredible community that has been loving and praying for her for years and we cannot thank you enough – for the messages, prayers, support, gifts and words of love! Thank you!
Also a big thank you to Diana for sharing her gift and capturing these photos for us during the birth and our first photos as a family!