…you find yourself selling your engagement ring to help pay rent on the apartment that you now share with a roommate and your incredible two-year-old daughter. And you look at your dear old blog and think, whoa. Maybe it’s time to start fresh.
So all along I’ve been promising myself I’d finish writing Sadie’s birth story before she turns one, and looks like I’m just narrowly making it: she’ll be one in about 12 hours. So here, without further ado, is the conclusion to my overly long and poorly remembered birth story!
Upon arrival at the birth center, I found out I had succeeded in getting through all of early and a lot of of active labor at home, with only my husband and mom for support. I’d known that it had been a long night, but I was still pleasantly surprised when the midwife told me I was 8 cm dilated.
My water still hadn’t broken, though, so they told me they’d need to break it to check for meconium. I tried not to wince as Phary, the midwife, pulled out a rather ominous-looking white plastic device with a pointy end that was destined for my nether regions. I thankfully felt nothing as she broke my water; a moment later I felt a warm gush and said to her shakily, “funny, I always imagined it would be cold…” At the same time, I realized gratefully that the other midwife, Mary Lou, had started running the water in the big, luxurious tub in the adjoining bathroom. I waited for the tub to fill, trying to find the most comfortable position in this new environment. I got on all fours, grasping onto the big fancy headboard for support while Michael applied pressure to my lower back and hips. Each contraction felt more intense than the last; each break in between was more blessedly welcome. Finally when the tub was full and ready, I lowered my unwieldy, aching body into the water.
Phary brought me a pillow, which I leaned onto while she poured warm water down my back. When a contraction would hit, Michael and Phary held my hands while I fought my way through it.
Not long after I got in the tub (I think? Time is fuzzy at this point!), our doula, Keela, arrived, much to my relief. She immediately set to work trying to help me relax. For the next 45 minutes or so, I worked my way through various positions and techniques in the tub to get through each contraction.
Between contractions, I felt like I was floating. My consciousness was gradually moving back to a dark place in the back of my skull where all that mattered was the feelings rolling through my body. The specifics at this point all blur together. I know at one point Phary told me I was almost fully dilated except for a small “lip” of my cervix, and told me she was going to put her finger inside and wanted me to “push it out.” My husband got a kick out of that. After that, I remember it was time to push. When a contraction hit, I’d like to say that I breathed deeply, went inward and rode the wave of each surge with serenity and focus, but that wouldn’t be true. I screamed when I pushed. Oh, did I scream! I was like a petulant child, kicking and fighting, arching my back and clenching my jaw with each one. They would tell me to push and I’d howl things like, “I CAN’T!” And yet after it passed, I’d apologize for being “such a jerk.” I remember feeling like the pain had taken over my body and I just needed to get away, out of my body. After about 45 minutes in the tub, the midwives decided it would be best if I got out and pushed in bed instead, so out I went. Apparently they tried to move me into different positions for pushing, but the only way I was comfortable was on my back. (The doula-in-training in me is appalled now!) I remember pushing was so, so hard. At this point I was just so tired and so ready to be done. Clearly the exhaustion was taking its toll because at one point I remember they gave me an oxygen mask. After about ten minutes of pushing in the bed, though, they told me they could see her head, with lots of dark hair! Someone told me to reach down and feel her, so I did. I remember thinking, “whoa, her head is so squishy!” (Not “whoa, what a beautiful moment,” or “whoa, my baby’s almost here,” but…”squishy!”) I kept pushing for what felt like either an eternity or a split second but what I know now to have been about ten more minutes. I felt the proverbial ring of fire, which felt exactly how it sounds, but at that point I didn’t even care. I remember reaching the point where I felt like I’d hit a wall. I knew I simply couldn’t go on any more. I reached down deep inside, somewhere primal and wordless, and pulled out another push. I pushed out of frustration, out of spite, with what felt like the last ounces of energy left in me.
And out she came.
As soon as her head was out, I gasped with relief. The rest of her body came out quickly and easily, like an afterthought. I remember saying to everyone, “wow, it really does feel better immediately after!” And there she was: this tiny, slippery, lavender creature, real and alive and solid on my chest.
She was only there a few seconds before they took her to check her; she hadn’t made any noise yet and they wanted to make sure she was okay. There were a few tense moments before I heard her squeak, and then she was returned to me, rapidly getting pinker and wearing a funny little hat. She nestled in between my breasts and I looked at her and said “hi, baby.” There was a flurry of activity around me, midwives talking and cleaning, all of us laughing nervous, relieved laughter. My husband got in bed next to me and I turned to him and said, “what do you think? Is she Sadie?” He looked at her and back at me and said yes.
After that was phone calls, family arriving, breastfeeding lessons. Sadie was weighed, measured, swaddled, and ogled.
I remember feeling giddy and giggly, like all the intensity and hard work of the last 12 hours had been a dream I had just woken up from. All that divine post-birth oxytocin was working its magic. Everything was sweet and hazy and strange and blissful. The midwives informed me I hadn’t torn at all. Keela went and got us sandwiches. Countless cell phone pictures were taken. Our little baby burrito met her aunt, three grandmothers, and two grandfathers all in a span of her first couple hours.
And then, only a few hours later, we got to pack up and go home. We’d arrived in noise and chaos and urgency, but we left quietly, tentatively and peacefully. Our little family got home, exhausted and bewildered and fifty percent larger than when we’d left that morning.
…and that’s how it all began.
So, I’m making a career change: I’m going to be a doula! More details on that later, but for now I wanted to just mention I have an IndieGogo campaign going to help me raise funds for training. I made a silly little video and everything; check it out here.
Active labor crept up on me like a sudden thunderstorm. The signs had been there, building all day, but I kept on going until I found myself at home in our bedroom, overcome by an intense contraction, unable to stand up straight without supporting myself. My body was rebelling against my well-maintained facade of “I’m okay!”-ness and was folding in upon itself in waves of increasingly powerful cramps. This was the point when I realized that I needed my husband and I needed him NOW. However, I suspect childbirth was the farthest thing from his mind at that point. When I texted him something along the lines of “I’MINALOTOFPAINANDIWISHYOUWEREHERE,” he’d been out all day with friends – it was both Cinco de Mayo and Kentucky Derby weekend – and was, understandably, slightly inebriated. Still, the urgency of my text was not lost on him, and he made the nearly mile-long walk from the bar to our place in record time, arriving concerned and panting. He went into action mode, leaving to accompany my mom to get her stuff (she was staying in an Air B&B just around the corner from us) after making an order for Chinese delivery and leaving some cash with me in case it came while they were gone. And of course the delivery guy came not only while they were gone but while I was in the middle of a contraction. I waddled to the door, smiling wincingly and hoping that the wad of cash I’d tossed in his direction was enough. I clambered back into bed and hunkered down to try to breathe through the pain while timing my contractions with my app.
Now, at this point in the story, things get a bit fuzzy for me and I need to rely a bit more on old text messages and my mom’s photos to piece together the progression of events. Despite the fact that I had accepted the fact that labor had begun, I was still reluctant to contact our doula, Keela, but at around midnight I gave in and sent her this text:
Hey, it’s Emily … I don’t think much is happening yet but I think I may be having some contractions?
Yep. Those are the words of someone who was unable to stand up straight due to the amount of pain she was in – someone who had, in fact, been having contractions for over 12 hours. Apparently I still wasn’t quite believing it. I told her that I’d had 16 contractions in the last hour, ranging anywhere from 1 to 8.5 minutes apart, and she suggested I try to get some sleep. And try I did. Man, did I try. My body, however, had different plans. I tried different positions with no luck. I decided to labor in the bath for a while, which was probably ridiculous to see since we have a 3/4 size bathtub, and I was a million months pregnant (and legit almost 200 pounds). I remember the warm water was nice, but being on my back like a flipped-over turtle was not the most comfortable position for me during contractions, so back to bed I went. I spend the next few hours there, breathing and moaning through each wave, in the only position I could tolerate: face down, ass up (“that’s the way I like to…labor”).
By about 4:00 AM, my contractions were happening 1 – 2 minutes apart, lasting almost a minute each time. At Keela’s suggestion, we called the midwives at the birth center to let them know what was up. The midwife on duty suggested – maddeningly – that I drink some water and try to sleep. At some point I must have requested a bendy straw, because I remember drinking my water out of one as I curled up in bed. I vaguely remember both my mom and my husband comforting me as the contractions become increasingly intense. The next couple of hours passed this way, with me moaning through each contraction as it came and trying desperately to sleep in between them. I don’t think I slept much, but I must have gone to a place mentally that was somewhere between sleep and waking where my only focus was my body and the intense waves rolling through it. Somewhere in the early dawn hours of May 5, my husband called the midwives again since I could barely talk, and they told us we could come in to the birth center around 9:30. It was a gorgeous, sunny early spring day; as we left the house, my mother proclaimed, “it’s a beautiful day to have a baby!” to which I responded “SHUT. UP.” I remember specifically trying to walk down the driveway like everything was normal – I didn’t want someone to drive by and see a massively pregnant woman obviously in pain and pull over thinking something was wrong! It was no small feat standing up straight and walking to that car. The birth center is less than three miles from our place, but the journey there was a bit of a comedy of errors. I clambered in the back and assumed what was apparently the most comfortable position, with my feet pressed up agains the window and my head and arms in the newly-installed car seat next to me. The main road between our place and the birth center is riddled with potholes, every one of which I felt resonating through my entire being that day. And of course, we found ourselves stuck behind a tediously slow driver for most of the way. So it was a bit like a scene from some awful birth-themed rom-com: screaming pregnant woman in the backseat, frantic husband swearing at the traffic while trying to navigate a treacherous road. If I hadn’t been the screaming pregnant woman, I’m sure I would’ve been amused. When we finally arrived at the birth center, my husband ran in to let them know we’d arrived. Apparently the midwife took one look at his face and knew we’d need a wheelchair, which she mercifully wheeled out to me. We skipped the exam room and went right up to the room where I’d be delivering.
Once I was in the bed, the midwife, Phary, checked me. I almost didn’t believe her when she smiled and said, “wow, you’ve been working hard! You’re eight centimeters with a bulging bag of waters.” I was so incredibly relieved. I looked her in the eye and said, “I could kiss you right now.”
Stay tuned for the fourth and final installment…
So I spent most of my labor in denial that I was actually in labor. I know that sounds crazy, but it just didn’t seem real. For one, I was so close to my due date, and everyone knows that nobody actually gives birth on her due date. I mean, due dates are like unicorns or the tooth fairy or the male g-spot, amirite? The last thing I wanted was to sound the alarm and call in all the troops, only to be wrong. I really was expecting to go late; I’d already had countless imaginary arguments in my head with some faceless doctor* telling me I have to be induced**. Furthermore, I don’t think I really realized I was in labor because let’s face it: it’s hard to know if you’re in labor when you have no idea what labor actually feels like. Not that I hadn’t done my research. Truth be told, I’ve been a bit of a “birth geek” since long before I was even pregnant. The ever-helpful mamas at babycenter.com (with which I have a love/hate relationship) describe the pain of childbirth as akin to everything from “being impaled on a hot fireplace poker” to “menstrual cramps on steroids” to “a 400 pound man pressing down on each hip.” Not particularly helpful.
So when I woke up on the morning of Saturday, May 4 to what felt vaguely like a menstrual cramp but also sort of not at all like a menstrual cramp (I don’t know, maybe I had to poop?), I honestly didn’t think much of it. I got up and get dressed and went about my day. I had plans – no time to dwell on what probably wasn’t labor. My mom was in town so we met my sister downtown to get lunch before a mani/pedi*** appointment I’d made a few days earlier. I’d heard that certain pressure points in the ankles and feet could help get labor going, plus I had long since lost sight of my lower half, so I figured it might be nice to get a little pampering. As I awkwardly lowered my nearly-200-pound body into the chair, the manicurist asked me when I was due, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the look of shock (and maybe panic?) that crossed her face when I replied “tomorrow!” I had a few more not-sure-if-they’re-contractions while I was there, but continued to brush them off. After that I’d figured I’d go home and take a nap, but it was a gorgeous early spring day and my mom was planning on going to Harvard Square, so I went along with her instead, maybe-but-probably-not-contractions be damned.
We walked around Harvard Square for a while, window shopping and stumbling upon some Morris dancers:
We stopped for dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant, where the hostess, in awe of my very pregnant state, gently guided me by the arm to my seat, oohing and ahing over my belly. At this point, my okay-these-might-be-contractions were coming a bit more frequently, but I still wanted to go on with our plans. After dinner we jumped back on the T and headed downtown to see my burlesque troupe’s show. Around this time I started noticing some maternal side-eye coming from my mom, but like the good mom she is, she went along with me when I insisted that I was fine. After all, burlesque is more important than probably-not-labor!
The show was great, but I found myself increasingly unable to focus due to what were obviously contractions. Still, I brushed off any sense of urgency. My mom suggested I try to time them (with my fancy contraction timer app), but I told her I felt rude taking my cell phone out during the show. We did a little after-show schmoozing,**** and decided that perhaps I should try to get some rest.
As we got off the T at my stop, we ran into a friend, who I insisted on stopping to talk to, ending the conversation with a jaunty “well, my mom thinks I’m in labor, so I guess we should go!” Our walk to my place from the T took us through a semi-lit parking lot, which can feel a little ominous late at night, particularly when filled with teenagers***** like it was that night. As we walked through, though, the boy hitting rocks into the wall with a makeshift bat paused to let us pass, and the kids sitting under the streetlight asked us how we were doing. I answered with a shaky “a bit tired!” and my mom told them I was due the next day. They asked if I was having a boy or a girl, and my response set all the girls shouting that I should name her after each of them. “Maya! Kayla! No, name her Jessica!” I told them I’d think about it and waddled on my way, mom in tow.
My plan when we got home was to get into something comfy, make a PBJ, and get to sleep. My husband was out with friends and I’d texted him telling him that maybe something was happening, but I wasn’t sure. By the time I’d gotten into PJs, sandwich in hand, I found myself doubled over in pain, grasping my dresser for support. I feebly reiterated that I was okay and that no, it wasn’t quite time to call the doula, but it very quickly became apparent that I was in fact in labor. No more denying it.
Stay tuned for part 3!
*this is particularly silly because I didn’t even have a doctor; I saw a midwife for all my prenatal appointments.
**me, barefoot and cross-legged, patchouli-scented, between sips of kombucha: “I trust my daughter to tell us when she is ready to come earthside.”
***things I rarely do: use the phrase “mani/pedi,” get mani/pedis.
****me: “That was awesome! I think I’m having contractions! The show was great!”
*****I don’t know when I became afraid of teenagers. I used to teach high school.
Hi, friends and what few readers I may have out there. Clearly, my hopes to chronicle my pregnancy on here were in vain. It was a whirlwind 40 weeks, and although I loved being pregnant, I never quite found the time or energy to write about it. I know someday I’ll regret this, but there’s no fixing that, so onward! Let me tell you about our daughter!
GUYS WE HAVE A DAUGHTER!
We have a daughter and her name is Sadie. She has big blue eyes, pouty little lips and a full head of dark, fluffy hair. She looks like her papa most of the time but when she looks like me, I swear she looks just like how I remember looking as a tiny person. She has a huge smile and a husky little voice and a dimple under her left eye. She is exactly who I was expecting and nothing like what I had imagined. In short, she is magical.
And not to brag, but I brought her into the world! Sadie was born on her due date(!), May 5, 2013. The story of her birth is, at least to me, crazy and funny and fascinating. Let me impart it to you.
I had planned to work up until I went into labor so I could maximize my maternity leave, but as my due date approached, I could feel myself slowing down. My body was ready to be done. At my midwife appointment the week before I was due, my midwife looked me over and asked, “if I wrote you a note, would you feel okay leaving work?” And yes, I decided that would make me feel okay. While I was concerned that I’d be sitting around for weeks waiting for this kid, I was undeniably tired, and my commute to work, which included a bit of walking each way, was becoming more and more taxing. So I went in the next day, note in hand, and informed them that that day – Tuesday, April 30, would be my last. As it turned out, that was just in time.
After making sure my desk was in order and my temp replacement properly trained, I hunkered down for what I thought could be days of nesting and waiting. I was born 10 days late and my husband was three weeks late, so I knew there was a chance that this kiddo would be similarly tardy. Still, by the third day after I left work, I’d felt nothing, and was already starting to feel antsy and impatient. I hadn’t even reached my due date, mind you, but I was just so. Ready. To be done. That Friday, May 3, we went out to see our friends Hallelujah The Hills play a show at the Sinclair. I hadn’t been doing much going out at that point, but I thought maybe dancing around at a rock show would help things get moving.
We had a great time – the band even gave us an impending-baby shoutout – but I didn’t feel any different when I went to bed that night than I had before.
And then the next morning, Saturday, May 4, I woke up to my first contraction.
…to be continued!
I’ve got some pretty bad pregnant blogger guilt right now, y’all. This is a time when I should be documenting everything, but instead my brain is full of things like stroller choices and pregnancy-friendly burlesque costumes. In my downtime, I’ll start a blog post and then inevitably end up on Buzzfeed* or reading A Feast for Crows.
So, let’s see. I’m currently at 29 weeks (!) but haven’t taken a belly photo in a while, so here’s my 24-week one. Imagine that plus five more weeks’ worth of gestating (and eating).
Despite my fuzzy mental state, though, I have to admit I am one of those obnoxious women who loves being pregnant. Sure, I’ve been feeling the less-than-wonderful effects, too. My back and hips ache, my balance is off, I get out of breath if I talk too much, and some days there’s nothing I’d like more than to just drink an entire bottle of red wine. There are times that I’m ready to be done, ready to have an identity outside of “pregnant chick,” ready to meet this kid! But still, there’s just something so strange and exciting about walking around growing a future human in my belly. Maybe it’s the extrovert in me, but I can’t say I mind the attention it brings. People love to touch my belly. And I (usually) love it when they do. Because what’s better than having people lavish love on me and my daughter? People who’ve never met me think she’s wonderful and special. And I may be biased here, but she kind of is, right? She is new and fresh and nobody has ever been or will ever be quite like the person she will become.
A couple of months ago, late into a pre-holiday evening at the bar, our friend Jaime asked if she could talk to the baby. She bent low and spoke close, almost touching, next to my belly. It was loud at the bar and I couldn’t hear a word she said, but she must have said a lot because she was down there a while, and I found myself getting teary.
It’s humbling to see the love that’s already waiting out here for my kid. I wonder sometimes if she can sense it. Does she hear the many voices of the people who can’t wait to meet her, murmuring through my skin to her new ears? Can she feel the hands and arms and hugs lavished upon me? Does she hear it when her sweet papa speaks to her through my belly button, or plays her grandpa’s guitar for her? There are so many people who love her so much already. And me! I have no idea who she is or will be, but I already love her so ridiculously much. What a weird feeling it is to love someone you’ve never met.
Maybe this is why I haven’t written much about pregnancy – it gets me all emotional and teary if I think about it too long. I’ve always been a tad on the mushy side; being knocked up just seems to have pushed me over the edge. Now it’s all puppies and rainbows and tiny little baby booties. Sheesh. I’m hopeless. You’ve ruined me, little baby. Soon I’ll start collecting Precious Moments figurines and it’ll all be over.
* I pretty much died while reading this one.
So last week, I somehow managed to forget my winter coat at home when going to upstate NY for Christmas. While this was certainly not its first appearance, this was definitely the best example of what I’ve been calling “Preggo Brain.” I realize this is not a phenomenon that is unique to me, but it has nonetheless been interesting. Aside from apparently deciding I didn’t need a winter coat in December, my own brand of Preggo Brain has looked like this:
- Walking into a telephone pole while texting
- Narrowly avoiding a meltdown when being told at Target that their registry was down
- Falling over onto two chairs at a bar
- Bawling at Liz Lemon’s “Planty” dream sequence on 30 Rock
…so basically, pregnancy – specifically, the second trimester – has made me clumsy and emotional and maybe a bit of a jerk. Also, Preggo Brain seems to be bad for blogging. I need to get better at that; this is a magical time that I need to be documenting, or something, etc. etc. Still, I love the perks, like having people give up their seats for me on the T, and this genius belly band thingy that enables me to wear my pants COMPLETELY unzipped. Seriously, I’ll be wearing this thing for the rest of my life.
In other bebe news, we found out a few weeks ago that our spawn is a LADY BABY (with an absurdly adorable nose):
And, here’s a little visual update for those of y’alls who like belly pictures:
(Yeah, I need to clean that mirror before the next belly photo.)
So, that’s what’s up in the land of my womb and its inhabitant. I’ll keep you posted on whatever bizarre things may happen next. Oh, and Happy Effing New Year, friends. Needless to say, I’m pretty damn excited for 2013. I hope you are, too.