Our first daughter was born while we were living in New York. From the beginning we knew that we wanted to have a natural birth, so we found a doctor who was open to that, and I got used to monthly check ups, peeing in cups, watching my weight go up etc…it was fun. I did prenatal yoga and religiously wrote down everything I ate to make sure I was getting enough veggies. I forced myself to eat zucchini, which I had always hated, but hey, it was for the baby.
Matt and I took an 8 week birthing class that we found in our area. It was amazing. The teacher hosted the classes in her home, serving us tea and snacks, and walking us through all the aspects of childbirth and helping us create a birthing plan. We watched lots of birthing videos that made all the dad’s in the room look really awkward and anxious – they were very honest videos. But she helped us to not be afraid. We felt very confident – we were as ready as we could be.
The doctor said I was due on April 11th, and Easter was April 4th. My cousin, who was going to college in the city, came to our house for the holiday weekend. We picked her up on Friday, shopped for Easter breakfast and dinner on Saturday morning, and then made carrot-cake cupcakes on Saturday evening. That evening I lay in bed and made a list in my little notebook, like I always do when I am hosting, of what needs to be cooked first, what time to start prepping, and when dinner should be ready. We all went to sleep happily and expecting a full week more of being pregnant.
I woke up at around 6am on Easter Sunday morning and I was not feeling well. At first I thought I felt ill, like I was coming down with a stomach virus – but that wasn’t right. I just felt weird and uncomfortable and crampy and a little nauseous. I went to the bathroom and had some diarrhea, then I went back to bed. About an hour later I woke up again not feeling well and went to the bathroom again. This time there was a little bit of bloody show. I went back into our room, but just didn’t feel like getting into bed. I sat down on the floor for a minute. That’s where Matt found me. He groggily sat up in bed and asked what I was doing on the floor…I answered that I wasn’t sure I just didn’t feel well and sitting on the floor felt good. (I am smiling as I write this because weird behavior like that is such a sign of labor, but I really honestly didn’t think I was in labor…such a newbie)
After a little while on the floor I felt too tired to stay there any longer. I went to the bathroom again, had more show, and gently woke my cousin up on my way back to our room. I told her I might be in labor and she should call her friend who also lived in the area – just in case she needed another place to stay for the weekend.
I went back to bed and by now, I was having contractions that I could tell were contractions. Every 10 minutes I would wake up, sit up in bed, feel nauseous and moan for about 45 seconds, and then I would flop back down onto my side and fall asleep. As labor progressed, my contractions got funny and I would have a big one, followed by a little “aftershock” about 2 minutes later, and then I would have a 6 minute break till my next big one. Again, newbie mistake, we were only counting the big ones!
I had no concept of the passage of time, but we knew we wanted to labor at home for a while, so we were being patient – maybe a little too patient. Unbeknownst to me, Matt took a shower, cooked himself breakfast, got the house ready to be unoccupied for a couple days, and kept coming back into our room every time he heard me begin to moan with the next contraction. Apparently I would moan before I even woke up, so by the time I sat up, awake, he was there by my side.
He kept track of my contractions on my notepad – on the exact backside of my to-do list for Easter. I still have that paper as a reminder that birth has it’s own plan and happens when its ready, not always when it fits in to our to-do list.
A little after noon my water broke and it was go time. My contractions went from uncomfortable and nauseous to powerful and difficult. We managed into the car, with my 18 year old wide eyed cousin sitting in the back. The worst contractions happened in the car and for some reason we seemed to hit every single red light along the way.
When we got to the hospital Matt grabbed a wheelchair and my cousin parked the car for us. I was so in labor that I forgot to say goodbye to her. When Matt wheeled me into the Labor and Delivery wing check in room no one was there! I remember thinking that was a bit of an oversight, should someone always be in there? You can’t get in to deliver your baby without someone there to unlock the door, but no one was there!
In all fairness, I think it was about 10 seconds before someone came in the side door. She took one look at me and cried “Oh…oh!…we’ll check her in once she gets to her room! Go…take her in…go!” She clicked the button that unlocked the door and waved us right through. The first nurse we saw in the hallway said about the same thing “Oh, ok, let’s go, let’s get her in a room now.”
“Why is everyone in such a hurry?” I thought.
They kicked another woman out of a room for me. Poor thing. But she was still laughing and talking and walking around the room – she had time. Matt told me later that I was moaning a low, almost constant moan, and rocking my head back and forth with my eyes half shut. That is so funny to me because I felt much more put together than that.
The nurses helped me change and hoisted me onto the bed, breaking it down immediately. I remember wondering why they were already doing that…I had no idea how far into labor I was.
Matt handed our birth plan to our L&D nurse who took one look at it and said “Oh! You took classes with Pauline didn’t you?” Then, she came up to my side and said “Corrie, I’m Sarah. I took Pauline’s classes too, and I’ve had two babies naturally. You can do this!”
Don’t ever leave my side, Sarah.
Our doctor was on vacation, so in walked a doctor I had never met before. She was a tall, strong looking woman and I was a little intimidated by her. But she looked at me firmly and said “You cando this” and then checked me – 9, close to 10 centimeters.
What? But I had packed snacks and a swim suit top for the shower and little verse cards to decorate the room and we had music to set up!
No time. It was time to learn how to push, she said.
We had arrived at the hospital at about 1pm, and I was pushing 30 minutes later.
It turns out my sweet, petite little girl had her arm up by her head in kind of a superhero pose – cute, but not helpful. My sweet, petite little girl’s head circumference plus an arm was not sweet and petite.
It was Easter Sunday though, and since it was a Catholic hospital, there was a small cross hanging on the wall directly opposite my bed. That became my focal point as I asked Jesus for the strength to get through this.
At 2:30 our daughter was born. The last 30 minutes was really hard and painful. Her little arm+head combo tore me quite badly. But the minute she was out, I didn’t care. I just reached out for her and wanted her in my arms right then.
The nurses opened up my gown and laid baby girl on my chest. That was the most amazing feeling in the world. It was my first time holding her and yet she felt so familiar – I already knew her.
After a few minutes on my chest, she began to root around, guided herself to my left side and began nursing right away. I had heard about that instinct but it was still amazing. I’ve heard it theorized that they go to the left side first because they can feel or hear mammas heartbeat.
I had a bit of a hard time birthing the entire placenta, and the doctor kept coming back to “massage” my stomach. It did not feel like a massage. They tried to get me to go to the bathroom to empty my bladder, but only blood came out and then I passed out on the nurse who was helping me. It was then that I was introduced to the smell of those little ammonia packets they keep taped all over the room. I did NOT like it.
After the initial high of delivery, the pain of my tear also settled in and that was rough too. I had managed the entire labor and delivery with no drugs, but I always say now that if there was an epidural for the next week after delivery I would be much more open to that.
I lost quite a bit of blood so they kept me in the hospital for a couple days, but thankfully Matt was a genius and had the foresight to grab quite a few of those freshly made carrot cake cupcakes before we left the house. We had fun snacking on those in between rounds of the less good hospital food.
After two days in the hospital we were released to go home. Before we had gone in to the hospital, spring was on its way but hadn’t fully bloomed yet. On the drive home we realized that ALL the trees, especially the dogwoods, were in full bloom. It was as if the world had come alive on that Easter Sunday and was celebrating our baby’s birth with all these flowers.
We were finally home, and the adventure of figuring out life together as a family of three began.