As I’ve shared before, I have known I was meant to be a mother at a very young age. At age eleven, my friend and I took our Red Cross CPR class and I started babysitting young children regularly. (By the way, I’m still baffled that adults were allowing me to care for their young infants. Let me tell you, nothing in that CPR certification class stuck in my pre-teen mind.) I truly enjoyed taking care of these kids. Sure there were times when I would have far rather been out with friends or sunbathing by the pool instead of playing fishy, but overall I have always been so enamored by the innocent, genuine joy that radiates from a child.
One of the first things that drew me to my husband was his shared desire to be a parent. When we were dating, most of my time not spent in school was spent nannying for one family or another. He’d inevitably join us at a park or out to lunch. I couldn’t believe what a natural he was with children. (Turns out it’s because he’s a bit of a child himself, but we’ll save that for another blog post…) Our dreams about the future always had included children, never if we would have children. We were married after 3 years of dating and as much as we had always yearned for children, we soon found ourselves in a fun, careless life without children. While it seems like an entirely different past life, I do vaguely remember being able to wake up on a Saturday morning on my own time and hearing my own thoughts clearly. My memories of our married life pre-children include a lot of sporting events, day drives through the mountains, time on the lake on our jet skis (which seemed like a prudent investment at the time), and spur of the moment trips.
I’ll never forget the day we found out we were pregnant with Baby Girl. My grandmother had died after a tough couple of weeks in the hospital and hospice. I had grown up very close with her and my grandfather. They shared the classic American love story and were married for 69 years—in fact, she passed away on their 69th wedding anniversary. The following day, my husband and I had an inkling to take a pregnancy test for no particular reason. We counted to three, read the results together and jumped up and down in celebration. This was a bit of a surprise but certainly no accident. We knew the time was coming, and it was more “Surprise! It’s time!”
Pregnancy with Baby Girl was easy. I certainly had a bit of nausea, but nothing that stopped me in my tracks. I did my due diligence and went to the doctor as soon as possible for a checkup, then soon found a birthing center in the area which I loved. My husband may say differently, but I’m pretty sure I was an angelic creature during my first pregnancy and was as pleasant as can be. We attended our classes, prepped her nursery, had the gender reveal party… the whole nine yards. We had a trip to New York for my job at the time, and I will never forget standing on a busy street corner and feeling so connected to my little partner in my belly in a city that can make you feel so small. I knew I was her whole world at the time, which was incredible to say the least.
Onto the actual birth. My estimated due date was the 5th of January so my last day before maternity leave (turned out to be my last day on the job) was New Year’s Eve. Those five days in between were filled with anxiety and anticipation. Looking back, I do wish I had just chilled out and let time run its course. On the morning of the 4th, I felt a couple of small contractions. I envisioned myself going into intense labor within a couple of hours, so I braced myself. Alas this was not the case. Instead I was in early labor for about a day until we decided this was the real deal. I went for a walk, went to lunch with my husband, and went to Costco (which horrified my mother… potentially having a baby on the Costco floor didn’t sound like a great idea to her). We also went to my 40-week checkup, where the midwife told me she expected to see me back again that night. While this was encouraging, it also felt like a lot of pressure to a punctual couple of parents-to-be.
Laboring at home was actually great. Contractions were not as treacherous as what I was expecting them to be. Certainly, no walk in the park but I experienced intense pressure rather than the excruciating pain I had been led to believe would come. In between contractions I walked, squatted, lunged… moved around in any way I could to keep things moving along. During contractions, my husband pressed on my hips and dug his fists into my lower back which was fantastic.
By about 10PM that night, we knew it was time to head to the birthing center. When I could no longer hold down water, fear started to sink in. Little did I know that vomiting is quite a normal symptom during labor, and this was actually helping push baby down.
We drove to the birthing center and being welcomed warmly by one of the midwives was such a comfort. My care providers were guides through my pregnancy but never in charge, and I was so grateful to be greeted by one more person who trusted my ability as a mother. This midwife was just the right person to support us during this particular stage of labor. She was strong, organized, experienced and to-the-point. While I was well on my way, I was still talkative, excited and cheerful. About halfway through the night, another midwife on the team ended up taking over and was just the right person support us during this particular stage of labor. By that time I didn’t want to speak to anyone, and I was truly immersed in the birthing process. This midwife was soft and patient, but intuitive and quick.
Throughout the night, my constant vomiting caused me to get hooked up to an IV but I was able to move around freely and continue help baby move into the right position. We were the only ones in the birthing center and I can still vividly remember my husband and I slowly making our way through the calm darkness, stopping every so often to breathe through a contraction. Through the night, we slept, walked, joked with each other, I got into the tub, got out of the tub, and moved with my body’s instinctual desire to move. My birthing center offered self-administered nitrous oxide (laughing gas) as a form of pain relief and I took advantage quickly. While I don’t remember the nitrous necessarily taking pain away, it instead helped to clear the fear from my mind. So much of the struggle of birth labor is combatting the fear that sets in.
During this birth, I never did get a strong urge to push and my water never broke on its own. Upon my asking, my midwife broke my water for me with what looked like a long crochet hook. I will never forget the gush (literally) of relief that came from her breaking the amniotic sac. We tried a few different positions and ultimately it felt best for me to lay on my side on the bed with my husband sitting behind me. Within about an hour of pushing, Baby Girl made her way into our world. I reached down and pulled her onto my chest—a moment that is so vividly imprinted on my heart.
The next couple of hours were calm and sweet. After all the blood in the umbilical cord had drained to baby, Daddy was able to cut the cord. Baby weighed in at six pounds, thirteen ounces and nineteen inches long. Grandparents and Auntie all came to see the new bundle of joy and celebrate. We couldn’t help but be amazed by Baby Girl’s wide-eyed, quiet observance of the new world around her. Within four hours, we were able to take our new bundle home. While it was admittedly nerve-wrecking to bring a new baby home just a few hours after she was born, taking care of a newborn came quite easily to both Daddy and me. We curled up in our little nest and enjoyed our first night of pure, sleepless bliss.
Any mother would agree that birth is the most humbling yet strengthening experience. A mother comes into a primal state that puts her in touch with the most human emotions, and she finds a strength within her that she may never have realized existed. My gratitude for my husband surged as he became a new person whose entire focus revolved around the well-being of this little girl. I gained a respect and gratitude for my body that I’d never felt before. Motherhood and self-empowerment have shifted many times over the last three years and I expect this will continue for the rest of my life, but I lead it all back to that incredible moment when I first held my new Baby Girl.