We always expected that she would arrive mid-February, so when February 21 rolled around, I had already grown anxious and impatient. My parents had been in town for one week already, and every dinner conversation included, “Do you feel like she’s coming soon? Do you feel any different?” Due to a brief bout of elevated blood pressure earlier in the month, there was a short time where we thought I’d be induced. Thankfully, it passed, and we let her come naturally.
I woke up at 4:30 AM on Saturday, February 21st, to rain hitting the window and mild contractions. I had been awoken by baby kicks before, but this was different. It was a dull pain, kind of like a stomach ache. I thought, “Oh, my gosh. This is it. She might be born today!” I was excited and relieved. More relieved than anything. I went to the bathroom, saw that I lost my mucus plug, and went back to sleep. Excitement washed over everyone’s face when I told them later that morning that she was on her way.
The contractions carried on regularly but mildly throughout the morning. Knowing this was a special day, I felt compelled to put on make-up and curl my hair. My parents were surprised when I said I wanted to go out to lunch, but when a gal is in a great mood, even contractions won’t keep her from going to Bahama Breeze Island Grille. When we got there, the hostess asked when I was due, and I gushed, “She’ll be here tonight or tomorrow!” I was like a birthday girl riding around on her new Power Wheels convertible. Nothing could break my spirit! We ate delicious food and wondered what she would look like. When we got back to the house, we took one last photo as “just the two of us.” It was my last of my babybump photos. The rest of the afternoon was spent quietly doing things around the house, checking the hospital bags, and painting my toenails. (Zoya nail polish in Lulu, if you must know.)
Contractions grew stronger at home around dinner time, and I used the Full Term app to start tracking them. I was still talking and smiling through them, so I knew we still had awhile before she would be born. We had been hoping we wouldn’t be making a middle-of-the-night trip to the hospital, because sleep was a precious commodity as it was, but that was exactly the path we were headed down. Bummer. I chatted with my sister on FaceTime around 9:00 PM… and groaned through heavier contractions. She was understanding every time I had to switch to audio-only so that I could access the Full Term app for contractions which were about 5-7 minutes apart. She gave me a birthing pep talk and reminded me that I COULD DO THIS! My brother-in-law texted me a hilarious meme, and my sister explained to my nephew that the baby in my belly would come out soon.
We thought we were headed to the hospital at 11:30 PM when contractions had me surrendering on the floor. For good measure, and to avoid being sent home for going too early, my husband suggested that we call Labor & Delivery. I told the nurse that contractions were 5 minutes apart and lasting 1 minute each, but she advised that I wait a bit longer. I labored at home (meaning groaned and moaned... loudly) while everyone else was in and out of sleep until 4:30 AM when the pain got so strong that I started crying. I was unsure that I could stand the pain, so my mom said we needed to be on our way. At my request, we blasted Gounod’s Faust Waltz and Mendelssohn’s Symphony 4 in A Major as we drove down Germantown Parkway to the hospital.
By the time we got to the hospital, I was squatting to the floor and gripping the nearest sturdy object (table, chair, handrail, etc.) to make it through every contraction. I was 5cm when I was admitted. It wasn’t until the next day that I would realize how sore my arms would be from clutching the bedrail during every contraction. I had a steel grip on those bedrails. The next few hours were a blur. The nurses fluttered around preparing the room and checking my blood pressure. My husband sat by my side, and my parents occupied the couch against the wall. For some reason, I thought I could only have two people in the room with me, but the nurse assured me that all three of them could stay, if I wanted them to. I never asked my dad what he wanted to do; instead, he was simply never instructed to go to the waiting room. I thought it would be a special gift for him to be present for the birth of his granddaughter.
I was 7cm dilated around 6:30 AM and told that my doctor was on his way. I felt the heaviness of our daughter as she moved into position to be born. The pain was so strong that I wasn’t sure if I could deliver naturally, as previously planned. I thought it but never said it aloud. I wasn’t ready to change the plans just yet. I had progressed to 9cm by the time the doctor arrived, and I thought, “Well, I guess it’s too late to change my mind now.” I reminded myself of what my sister said: “There will be a point where you don’t think you can do it, because you’ll be in so much pain, but you can do it! Just stick with it!” My water was broken, and it was go time. I could feel myself bearing down with each contraction.
I pushed for a long time. An hour and a half? Two hours, maybe? I was a terrible pusher in the beginning. They reminded me repeatedly to hold my breath and push. Every time I opened my mouth to groan, they said, “Sweetie, you need to keep the air in and use that energy to push. Don’t let the energy out through your mouth.” My eyes were closed for most of the pushing. It felt easier to focus that way. Even though I wasn’t looking around the room, I was keenly aware of the conversations in the room.
They loved my Wizard of Oz ruby slipper socks.
The doctor’s cell phone rang, and a nurse called his wife back on his behalf.
The doctor told my husband to move in next to him to observe.
The doctor explained that the baby was working hard to get out.
(My husband saw her head twisting back and forth!)
The nurses told my husband to swing the washcloth for my forehead around like a helicopter to cool it off.
I was getting tired. My legs were achy, so they extended my legs between pushes. I kept asking “Why is it taking so long?” I felt like every push would move her down, and then the tip of her head would disappear again. They reassured me that she was almost there and that I was doing a great job. They were so encouraging. My husband didn’t say much, but every pat on my leg and stroke of my hair was his silent cheer. I was so anxious to meet our daughter, and I was getting excited. I was told to reach down to touch her head, and that was my final motivation to push. Before I knew it, the nurse said, “Can you look down? Look, Lindsay. Look, Lindsay.” Her head was out! “Watch her.” And the doctor pulled her out.
She was placed on my chest at 9:20 AM on Sunday, February 22nd -- right on time. I started crying and said, “Happy birthday, baby. We did it, baby!” At the sound of her first cry, the room let out a laugh of joy. That was the sound of our child. I can't accurately, fully describe the kind of love that took over my body and my mind. Presley was here, and healthy, and perfect. I watched my husband become a father. Three generations of my family were gathered together. My husband cut the umbilical cord, as we requested. As they took Presley's stats and prints, my doctor congratulated me on delivering naturally. (He had warned me weeks earlier that many first-time moms change their minds at the hospital.) I never got angry or slung the quintessential "you did this to me" line at my husband, and I only swore once. (I said shit.) Honestly, I didn't feel anything but excited and tired. (Well, and pain, obviously.) At one point, one of the nurses jokingly asked me if I wanted to punch my husband, and I gave her an incredulous "no!"
Presley was returned to me, and she started nursing like a champ. She was an incredible gift that we were lucky to receive. She was ours. I was exhausted and could have used a nap, but I couldn't help but stare at her and smell her.
I still tear up watching the video clip of her being born. I can even feel the energy in the room that morning. Birth is beautiful and magical -- almost supernatural. It's been one month since Presley was born, and I still can't believe it all happened. Saying that I feel grateful or blessed doesn't even begin to describe it.
To be continued...