Next month will mark five straight years for me of being either pregnant or nursing.
I had a small (three month) break in between G weaning and getting pregnant with O, but basically, it’s been a long five years.
I’m tired. Scratch that. I’m exhausted. I know I share this feeling with many women across the span of, well, millenia, but somehow I still feel proud of this journey my body has endured.
I’ve spent a lot of years not liking my body very much. It has never been the fastest or the strongest, or even come close to making a goal, scoring one for the team, or crossing the finish line. It will never turn heads in a swimsuit (okay, let’s be real, out of a swimsuit either). Really, until I became a mother, I couldn’t name one thing it was particularly good at.
In addition to the obvious gift of my children, this is why pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding have been so significant for me. I finally found something that my body was really, really good at doing. It can grow a baby! It can birth a baby! It can completely feed and nourish a baby! All on its own.
I’ve read some criticism online when women express pride in their bodies doing something as natural and God-given as baby making. “So, this is like, her greatest achievement or something?”
Uh, yeah. It is.
And I challenge anyone to think of something more meaningful.
So, thank you, Body. I am really proud and grateful for what you’ve been up to these past five years.
All photos in this post are courtesy of Becca Howell Photography. Becca apparently witnessed my “grand entrance” off the elevator, so I know I probably didn’t give her a very warm greeting! Nevertheless, I am so thankful that she made it because I will treasure these images forever. She was like a fly on the wall for the birth and such a lovely presence in the joyful moments that followed. If you haven’t considered a birth photographer for your birth, I hope you will! Thank you, Becca!
Tiffany had given Matthew instructions that if I got the urge to push, he was to pull over. If my water broke, he was to really step on it.
The ride to the hospital was only 2.8 miles but as luck would have it, we got stuck behind someone going 20 mph. I begged him to honk his horn or go around the guy, and screamed that he had to hurry or we wouldn’t make it.
Our arrival to the hospital must have looked like something out of a movie scene. Matthew screeched the car to a halt in front of the sliding doors. It had barely come to a full stop before I jumped out, towel between my legs, screaming as I ran for the elevators. Matthew grabbed our bags and left the car illegally parked by the entrance. Tiffany appeared, and together we maneuvered our way around a cart full of soda being pushed by two very nervous looking men. As the elevator opened I shouted, “PEEEEE! I NEED TO PEEEE!” and nurses immediately rushed to get me into a room.
As soon as we were in the room, Matthew ran back to move the car. He later told me that he was genuinely worried he would miss the birth, but figured at the very worst he could arrive back in between pushes.
I don’t know for certain, but I think they did a vaginal exam right away. I was slightly discouraged to learn I was at 8 centimeters, but contractions were right on top of each other and I had no time to think.
It was 7am and a new shift had just started. Per hospital procedure, they had to get me on the fetal monitors, insert a saline lock, and draw blood. Through the fog of contractions I sat on the toilet as they changed me into a hospital gown, then moved me onto the edge of the bed where someone was trying to find a vein on my left arm. Despite being a large person, I must have small veins, because this took an inordinate amount of time.
All I could do was sit there and stare at Tiffany through the pain as the nurse poked the hell out of my arm.
Jesus, this is taking so long, it finally occurred to me.
Mom and Gray came into the room, Gray saying he was “going to help me push the baby out!” I didn’t have the strength to give him the acknowledgement I wanted to, but I needed to hug him one last time before our lives changed forever.
That damn needle put up a hell of a fight. I had pretty bad bruising from the nurse’s struggle. Finally, the blood draw. So much blood.
These people are vampires, I thought.
I couldn’t speak. At one point, someone casually asked me something along the lines of, “Is it a boy or a girl? Do you have a name?”
I was beyond irritated. Small talk? You want to make small talk? You obviously haven’t given birth.
Then I became conscious of some arguing among the nurses. From what I could discern, the change of shift and a new nurse seemed to raise the question about needing another blood draw to determine my blood type. I couldn’t gather the words to tell them that they should already have my blood type on file, or ask if it was sufficient that I just tell them myself.
I closed my eyes and just tried to breathe, but the staff conflict in the background was hard to drown out. “We shouldn’t have to do it…I did see it somewhere…But this is standard procedure…”
I couldn’t bear the additional chaos any longer and managed to get out, “STOP ARGUING!”
A nurse responded, “Sorry, I’m just trying to save you from an additional blood draw!”
I was starting to really fade in between contractions. When I was in labor with Gray, I put so much effort into focusing my mental energy–I dedicated contractions to thinking about certain people and I focused on a whole list of mantras and affirmations. This time, I turned my brain off. My only mantra was “just do this.”
My body went limp; Matthew sat behind me to hold me up. I didn’t have the energy to scream. At one point I managed to shout, like a tantruming child, “No! I don’t want to! I don’t want to do this!”
Tiffany was so calm and comforting. I stared at her eyelashes and leaned into her, the sheer shock of transition leaving me without any more words.
Thirty minutes had passed. I had to lean back to be checked. I barely remember this, but I see in Matthew’s notes that I was at 9 centimeters.
I finished the rest of labor on my knees, leaning into the bed. Tiffany had been holding a cloth in between my legs the entire time to provide relief from “the pee feeling.” With each contraction, I would dictate to her the pressure and position I needed the cloth (If you ever wonder if a doula is worth her fee, please think about how mine dutifully put pressure on my vagina for a full hour). Matthew held a lemon-flavored Recharge drink that I requested every few minutes, and no beverage had ever tasted as good as that cold tangy liquid during transition.
Until this point I had been doing my best to remember to do low moaning sounds when I cried out, but I was a wild animal by the end of these and screaming my head off. My throat was sore for two days after the birth from so much screaming.
A nurse told me in an upbeat voice to save my energy. I wanted to punch her.
At 7:56–less than an hour from when we arrived at the hospital–I started to push. There was talk of trying to get me on my back but I flat-out refused. It was Tiffany who suggested turning on my side and making the necessary adjustments with the bed to support my legs. I was at a weird angle, not perfectly aligned on the bed, but thankfully my doctor, Dr. Parker, was accommodating (really though, she didn’t have a choice. I. Was. Not. Moving.).
I was a comatose zombie in between contractions at this point. I remember thinking that surely I should be screaming or crying or doing something other than almost passing out, but all I could do was lie with my eyes half closed and wait for the next contraction. Things were eerily calm in between; I wondered if they wanted me to push without a contraction, because it seemed like everyone was just sitting around expectantly, waiting on me.
They can damn well wait, I’d think, until another one would hit and my body would take over and push.
Tiffany encouraged me to several times to lift my legs and curl my body around my baby, but the first couple times I just could not muster the strength.
Still, it was such a relief to push against the pain. I was in control. I was out of control. I was operating on pure instinct. No one was coaching me. No one was telling me when or how to push. I just did what felt right. It was everything my mom had been telling me it was since I was a little girl curious about childbirth.
Suddenly I became aware of some contention between Dr. Parker and the nurses as, little by little, my water broke, each gush finally bringing relief from “the pee feeling.” Between pushes I was able to make sense of what was going on.
One nurse had raised suspicion on the fluid’s clarity, though no one else had noticed anything. Per our birth plan as well as hospital policy, we wanted the baby to be placed immediately on my chest, but that could not happen if meconium was present.
“I’m not calling mec,” said Dr. Parker. Still, the nurse persisted that some of the fluid she initially saw was not clear.
As a precaution, they had called in the respiratory doctor, baby nurse, and neonatal surgeon. But Dr. Parker advocated for skin-to-skin and reached a compromise with the rest of the team: if the baby came out and immediately cried, he would go straight to my chest. If he did not, they would take him to be checked.
I suddenly felt a sensation that felt as though my doctor was examining me again. I started to shout out for her to stop when I realized it was my baby’s head.
“What color is his hair?!” I cried.
“Looks like it’s brown!” she said.
“I see some blond, too!” said Tiffany.
As it did the first time, this provided me with a burst of motivation. My baby was almost here. He had hair. They could see it.
I pushed through the next contraction and heard Dr. Parker tell me something along the lines of, “Okay, his head is right here. I know it’s uncomfortable, but if you can leave it for a little bit, it would really help to give you a nice, natural stretch. Otherwise, he’ll probably come out on the next push.”
…all I really registered though was, “he’ll probably come out on the next push.”
I decided to just keep pushing.
Deep breaths, push.
I’ll always remember how Tiffany smiled through her words when she said proudly, “Or you can just breathe him out.”
And that’s what I did.
And it felt amazing.
And the most beautiful cry.
My baby! My baby! I love you. I love you.
As it was for his big brother, the cord was wrapped around his neck, but Dr. Parker swiftly unwrapped it. I kept trying to pull him higher on me before I realized the cord wouldn’t let him go that far!
Near-perfect APGARs of 9 and 9. Matthew cut the cord once it went white.
I asked what time he was born. 8:26am. Less than an hour and a half since we arrived at the hospital, and not quite eight hours since that first cramp woke me.
The moments that followed were ones I will treasure until the day I die.
Mom and Gray were practically busting down the door to get in to see us. Gray had waited faithfully in that waiting room with just my mom and a banana to entertain him. She had offered to take him to Starbucks for a cake pop. He refused.
He was insistent on waiting for his baby.
When this three and a half year old challenges my patience, now and in the years ahead, I will think back to the moments when he first met his brother. Never in your life could you have witnessed more raw, pure sweetness and love.
Those first hours were such magic for our family. Our birth team made it all possible, and we will be forever grateful.
After a couple hours, he was taken to be measured and checked. Apparently when he came out, everyone else in the room had noticed his size right away. To me, he was a tiny baby, but he turned out to be quite a big fella at well over 9 lbs!
That morning, I fell in love for the third time.
I felt a strong connection with this boy during my pregnancy. I knew he would have brown hair. I knew he would be big. I knew, deep in my bones, that he would be beautiful.
And he is. Oh, he is. Photos do not do him justice.
Our precious Baby O has filled our hearts with more joy than we ever could have imagined.
During our stay at the hospital, Matthew turned to me and said, “There will be some hard days and nights ahead. But let’s always remember this day.”
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