The Story of Our Little
May 12th, 2012 we spent the day the way we would spend any gorgeous Saturday with both of us home. We got up and went out to grab breakfast prior to hitting the local markets. Our missions on this day? Color for the yard followed promptly by the art gallery, bookstore, music place and farmer's market. This was the first day in months that I felt truly energized. We strolled along in the sunshine, hand-in-hand, marveling over the hand-crafted goods, local cheeses, and Amish furniture. It was truly a picturesque day for a young couple in love and was sorely overdue.
The recent stress of my job had been quite draining, and thanks to the two negative pregnancy tests we had in late-Feburary and early-April we chalked up the four pounds I had gained to stress as well. Regardless, for a couple of individuals in the health care industry... the facts just weren't quite adding up. So we took another test--or rather I peed on another stick while the mister waited supportively in the living room.
"Pregnant" stared me in the face. I instantly regretted climbing up the lattice outside of our house to save our kitten from the roof just a mere 30 minutes before; she had busted out the window screen and could not figure out how to get back into the house. We processed the news and quickly realized that the guitar we purchased for the mister while out at the markets that day would have extra meaning now and we looked forward to using it to serenade the lil one that would be joining our family. But when?
The next day was Sunday and Mother's Day; we woke up expectant parents. What a great feeling! Fun fact: the first person in the world to know our expectant status other than us was the cashier at Barnes and Noble because new parents want books! She asked if the books were for us or someone else. We looked at each other, giggled, and admitted they were for us.
Promptly on Monday I called the local hospital to make an appointment, somewhat awkwardly, "Um yeah, hi, I think I'm pregnant and I have no idea how far along I am... my last menstrual cycle was in January but I had two negative tests and I just thought it was stress. My husband and I are both adopted and therefore don't completely know our family heredity..." I trailed off. The receptionist asked me to hold for all of about thirty seconds before informing me that the midwife would skip lunch and see us at noon.
During our first appointment we got to hear our sweet little one's heart beat--it was seriously *the* most amazing thing. The midwife projected that I could be as far as 16 weeks into this pregnancy... so, uh, buh bye first trimester, you were okay. Other than being rather exhausted, which I attributed to employment stress levels and some nausea, which I attributed to illness, and my hair looking fantastic, which I really wasn't going to ask questions... okay yes, hindsight being 20/20: I was pregnant.
When asked if I'd had any cravings, I sheepishly stated that I'd eaten an entire brick of cheddar cheese a few days prior to testing positive and thought nothing of it. (Can you say Wisconsinite?)
And then, we waited. Waited to meet our child, to find out if we would have a girl or a boy, to become parents. My figure began to change and along with it our priorities.
Time passed... quickly and yet very slowly all at the same time; I attribute this to not really knowing about our little until the second trimester. The whole experience was rather surreal.
Soon it was October. The leaves began to change and the world began to prepare for winter. We began to prepare for our family's expansion. Any time now. Apprehension. Peace. Love.
Then, on Thursday, October 18th I was home from work--having recently dropped to three-days per week to accommodate my growing belly, continuous appetite, consistent braxton hicks, frequent nose bleeds, and increased need for sleep. I wasn't sure if the contractions I was having were the real thing, but around 2030 I called the midwife to give her a "courtesy heads-up" just in case things began progressing and we found ourselves on our way to the hospital at four in the morning.
Only we didn't.
Contractions continued well into Friday morning before the duration and frequency changed. Around 1140 I called her again, told her that they were coming stronger, lasting almost a minute, and seemed to be about 7 minutes apart. We agreed that it was probably time to make the 52-minute commute to the hospital. She called ahead to let the nurses know we were coming. Ben loaded the bags and we were off.
You know that thing where your husband makes a labor playlist for the car ride to the hospital but doesn't tell you about it because he wants you to be surprised? That thing. I love him.
I was glad we headed in when we did. Had we labored at home much longer the car ride would have been increasingly more challenging--as I was unable to move around in the manner I wanted. We put off going in as long as we thought we could because we knew this was a little early and we certainly didn't want to get our hopes up that October 19th would become our child's birthday only to reach the hospital and realize we would have to wait a while longer.
Fortunately, that was not the case. We admitted at 5cm (what a relief!). Since we knew we would be staying, Ben went to retrieve our bags from the car. I was monitored for 20 minutes and then disconnected. The midwife thought it best that I walk around, so I donned the infamous pink bathrobe and hit the halls with my mom.
It was going on 1330 and the anticipation of everything meant lunch had not been a priority. The men--my father and husband--decided to make a run to Culvers. The cheese curds I'd requested were entirely awesome ... and then just as rapidly ... totally not. I was definitely beyond eating at this point and soon found my way to the birthing ball. Husband set up my laptop with my Birthin' playlist, and we settled in for the experience.
I had an exceptional support crew. My mother, a certified massage practitioner, brought along the essential oil blend I requested to use for massage--which was wonderful. Our little one would be born into an environment scented with the tones of geranium, lemongrass, tangerine, and grapefruit.
A few hours later, I found that the ball no longer met my positional needs. I elected, instead, to be on all fours on the floor. My dad (a pastor) was getting ready for a wedding rehearsal that evening. As he came to bid us farewell and tell us he hoped to make it back before the baby was born he entered to find me mid-contraction on my hands and knees. He left for rehearsal looking rather concerned with plans to hurry back.
The nurse midwife checked me again and announced that I had progressed to 8cm. Since we were planning a water birth, we decided it was time for me to get into the tub. The water was AMAZING. It was a whole new level of comfort and freedom of motion. I could change positions much more readily and welcomed the warmth.
My water broke in the tub with a gush and then we really got down to business. Up until that point, I would have classified labor "a breeze." Sure, there were some uncomfortable contractions and yes, I was very glad to have my husband and mother trading off on the back rubs; but it certainly wasn't unbearable. In fact, there was smiling, joking, and exchanging of stories in between. Once my water broke everything changed. Labor took on a new urgency and, for me, a completely new level of, well, everything. NOW I was in pain. Clear, definitive pain. Not the toe-curling discomfort I had been experiencing. I wanted to go back to that toe-curling discomfort in the worst way, but knew we were so far past it at the same time... and that the only direction we could go from here was forward. Pretty quickly I became a screaming banshee that I would later also classify a "snippy bitch" (whiny too). I'm not sure where that woman came from, but I hope to never meet her again. She was completely inconsolable.
It soon became impossible to regulate my temperature in the tub. I was too warm in the water and the cool washcloths didn't stay cool long enough to offer sufficient relief. We turned to ice, but that was too extreme. In a word, I was miserable.
With every push I failed to perceive any progress. I didn't feel as if our baby were moving down the birth canal. I didn't feel as if the work would ever end. After an hour of pushing and screaming I turned to the following two completely irrational phrases:
I want out.
Um, hello. You're having a BABY. This isn't something you can just walk out on... even so, I distinctly remember turning to my midwife and pleading.
I'm begging you, please, I'm so tired.
I knew I needed to be strong for this child, but I could not. Internally, I felt terrible that I had reached break point. I was the only person who could deliver this child... and... I couldn't do it. I felt I had failed him or her before they even entered this world. But I was exhausted. I'm not sure what I was begging the midwife to do, but I wanted someone to do something, anything.
In my opinion, my size-zero pelvic girdle and complete lack of body fat did me absolutely no favors. I perceived a slowing in my contractions and found them coming father apart. I began to panic. It was time to transition out of the tub.
It would be prudent to note that my midwife had just undergone foot surgery and was non-weight bearing on her affected limb. Regardless, she was fantastic--wheeling around the room on her little scooter and directing the other staff. She had lined up a physician to be present with her just in case she needed an extra set of hands (or a foot! *wink*) and she asked for him at this point. Thankfully, I was very comfortable with this gentleman--we had interacted on previous occasions since a patient of his had been placed in the nursing home I serve. I remember him being very calm and just being present near my midwife in case she needed him (she didn't though, what a rockstar).
My midwife asked me to try one push on the toilet to see if the supported squat would help, while staff broke down the bed for a traditional land birth. So. Not. Comfortable.
I welcomed the bed at this point. I was neither too hot nor too cold, and although still inconsolable this seemed to be a vast improvement.
More pushing. More screaming. More pleading.
My mom and my husband holding my legs to give me the positional support and leverage we needed to get this baby down. Still no baby.
But now our child was far enough down that the midwife could grant the assistance I felt I so desperately needed. She deftly applied the vacuum. With a few more pushes and some skillful help on her part the cries of a baby rang out at 1856--after an hour and a half of pushing.
Our child was immediately placed on my chest. So much hair!! I remembered being so shocked by the amount of hair I didn't even have time to ask whether we had a boy or a girl before husband announced the gender and cut the cord. We had a daughter! Husband and mother broke into tears. I breathed a sigh of contented, exhausted relief and the midwife stitched me up while Mondo Bongo by Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros played softly in the background.
I think because I was so tired, I didn't really truly have my "mommy moment" until the following morning.
Something about lying in the hospital with my new baby girl snuggled in my arms while the rest of the world just began to wake was so surreal I soon had tears running down my face. I found myself making whispered statements and planting lots of kisses on her tiny forehead.
In that moment, I reflected on her birth and it took a new perspective for me. I hadn't failed her. She had entered the world naturally with a little help from a strong family and an exceptional set of clinicians. She spent the first three hours of her life on my chest nursing eagerly and staring up at people who loved her. I smiled and snuggled her in closer.
We stayed two overnights in the hospital and received visitors both Saturday and Sunday--including my college roommates. Even my roommate who was residing in D.C. at the time was able to join as she happened to be in the state visiting; we both agreed that the new addition to our tribe was extraordinarily courteous with the timing of her birth.
And then it was time to go home with our little pumpkin to start our life as a family of three!