My dear Emily turned three this month. While I am amazed by all she is blossoming into: a thoughtful pre-schooler, a loving sister, an ornery monkey; I am thinking more about her birth. It is time I write her story down.
To Emily: Your Arrival
Though I was a week late on my period, I refused to take a test. At least until I could surprise Ben. Naturally, as soon as he heard the test wrapper–at 4 am–he couldn’t resist tumbling into the bathroom. Since it wasn’t a secret anymore, he sat with me as we waited for the results.
And there they were: two pink lines. A perfect gift to your father on his birthday.
At exactly 22 weeks, while I was sitting in my morning class, I felt the first kick. I had waited, somewhat impatiently, to feel those movements. The location of my placenta–directly in front (behind?) of my belly button, insulated my skin from feeling your movements sooner. Anyway, I felt the first movement and immediately stopped paying attention to the lecture. I could hardly wait until I could call your father.
Two weeks later, I had an appendectomy. It was a terrifying experience. I am extremely glad nothing happened to you.
Finally, things settled down. I eagerly awaited, and prepared, for your birth.
At 38 weeks, 10 days before your official due date, I took castor oil to get things going. Within hours, I was having regular contractions. Per the birth training I had used (hypnobirthing), I breathed through them. They were intense, but I did not feel any pain. By midnight, your father convinced me to pack our bags and head to the hospital.
Once there, we settled in for the hour wait to see if we would be admitted. While I continued to breathe through the contractions–the peaks continued growing while the time between was shrinking–your father watched the Olympics. At that time of night, the only event on was speed walking. Talk about thrilling.
Though I had not progressed too far, the nurse convinced my midwife to admit me because clearly my contractions were not going to slow down.
The nurse wheeled me to our room and Ben turned on calm music. I used a variety of breathing techniques to keep my body relaxed and felt as comfortable as I could. Between contractions (which were happening every 30 seconds), I dozed.
Although I should have felt exhausted, I could not wipe the smile off my face; nor rid my body of the adrenaline. I was to meet my little girl soon! I would be seeing the face I had pictured so perfectly for the last 9 months. I was ready.
As with most first pregnancies, the labor was slow and intense. I was admitted in the hospital at 1 am. By 7 am, I had progressed to a 6 and the midwife encouraged me to have my membranes ruptured. I was too exhausted to argue, so she went ahead. Though things had progressed calmly, once my membranes were ruptured, the pain rocked through my body. Sending me into spasms. I tried everything. I went to the bath, walked around (the hospital’s strict policy of constant fetal monitoring did not ease my sufferings), and had Ben massage my back. I breathed. I pictured calm images. Nothing worked. At 9 am, a different midwife (one who I did not like) looked in, checked me, and insisted I start on a Pitocin drip. Her reasoning was I had slowed down. Since I was clearly in pain, and not in a condition to respond rationally, I agreed only after requesting an epidural. My plan of natural birth went out the window, and I was okay with that. And so was Ben.
I hunkered down, waiting for the anesthesiologist. When he arrived, he asked that I stay still. Since my contractions were still overlapping, with only a few seconds break in between, I knew this request would be utterly impossible. With Ben’s stabling hand, I held still long enough for the doctor to insert the needle.
Once the anesthesia spread through my blood, my body relaxed. I was able to breathe slowly again and finally able to rest. After a few hours, the nurse checked me and, much to my surprise, announced I had progressed to a ten. She called the midwife and everyone else who is involved with the birthing part (I don’t even remember who was in there, I just remember it was a big group of people).
Unfortunately, the midwife was not patient and holistic like she had learned in training. After only one push, she said she would need to perform an episiotomy. I refused. Each push she would say the same thing and I would vehemently disagree. I knew I didn’t need one. I held her off long enough to push you out. By that time, only 15-30 minutes had passed and I had pushed maybe 5 times. When I felt your head and feet come out, heard your cries, and saw your face, I had a rush of emotions.
The silly midwife did not give you directly to me. Instead, she handed you off to the nurses for your first bath as she sewed my few tears up. Your daddy and I had to wait until almost 10-15 minutes after your arrival to hold you. Everything felt surreal. I couldn’t quite grasp that you were really mine; that I was your mom and Ben was your dad. I held you and, between exhaustion and fear, felt disconnected from the moment.
When I finally sat down to nurse you, it was both beautiful and incredibly painful. I bore the pain and successfully managed to nurse you almost the entire time in the hospital. (It took 4 months for the pain to finally subside, but I grew to really love it and have never regretted sticking with it.)
There were many things I felt angry about with your birth. As time progresses, the pain, anxiety, and fear of those first negative experiences fade. I now look fondly on the labor and birth. You were the first; as such, there are many special moments that are incomparable.
That first night, Ben held you. I was physically and emotionally spent and needed some sleep. You were awake that entire night, just looking at everything around you, exploring your new world. As I woke up sporadically throughout the night, I would see you and your father gazing at each other. You with curiosity, your daddy with amazement, and I fell in love with you and your father (again). I knew those moments he had were moments that would be repeated–with both of us–over our lifetime.
There are many moments that I worry I have let you down. As I grow more confident, I feel I am growing into being your mother. From birth to now, I still feel this sweet connection with you. I love to hug, kiss, and snuggle you. Thank you for loving me despite my many imperfections.
I remember our small family then. You were–still are–the center of our attention.
Even though you share our time with your brother, my love for your has never divided. Instead, it has multiplied the more I come to know you, your nuances, and your amazing personality. I love you to pieces, now until forever.