My baby is one this week. One year.
It’s surreal. All at once I can remember exactly how life was before she came, but it’s impossible to think she hasn’t been here my whole life. Maybe it’s because a baby is part of you. Life doesn’t seem real without them.
I woke up on March 21st, 2015 around 6:30 am, a day overdue, with no indication she was planning to come over the weekend. There had been no Braxton Hicks during my pregnancy, no contractions, no sign except my immensely swollen feet that I was now past nine months. And despite my constant protests, the doctor insisted he wouldn’t induce me until I was two weeks overdue. I woke up on Saturday figuring this was day one of 14 more miserable days trying not to tip over.
My plans for the weekend were the same plans I had every weekend. A friend from my running group in San Diego had recently moved to Charleston, and she came over around 7 am to take advantage of the warm spring weather for an early Saturday run. We started from my house and ran three very slow, waddling, miles, around the neighborhood, talking about my birth plan, or lack thereof, and how I had spent the whole pregnancy skirting around the idea of actually having the baby. There was no going back, and no reason to dwell on all the of horror stories people insisted on telling me.
John waved to us as he drove home from midnight shift, and after saying goodbye to my friend and telling her I would probably be available to run again the next Saturday, we I decided to drive to Mount Pleasant to grocery shop for the week.
Whole Foods is right by my favorite nail salon, and, for a month I had been meaning to get a manicure and pedicure (looking back the fact that I thought I was busy is hilarious). John came in in case the old wives tale was true that pedicures induced labor, which was part of my insistence that we stop for one.
With John sleeping during the day, and seemingly no reason to sit around and wait, I decided to meet two of my coworkers at the movies to see Cinderella. (As of today, it’s the last movie I’ve seen in the theater and likely the first of strictly children’s movies for the next ten years). They both had plans after the movie, so I was left to squeeze behind the steering wheel of my shrinking car and head home.
Being with my coworkers had filled an otherwise uncomfortable afternoon, but it also reminded me there was a work project due Monday, and I couldn’t shake the feeling that I needed to get it done. I tried sitting down to relax and watch TV, but my mind kept returning to the maps I had to make, so I made my way to my home office and completed the project, hoping to have an easier work day Monday since I was starting to lose the fight against mid-day naps.
John left for work after dinner, around 10 pm, and I continued my weekend ritual of getting straight into bed with my iPad and binge watching Netflix. I was really, obsessively, into the new 90210, so I put on season 4, wrapped myself around the pregnancy pillow and tried not to think of the heartburn that was going to keep me up all night. At about eleven I started feeling a twinge in my side, a small stabbing. It was a little unusual, but that far into pregnancy, I was used to ignoring the strange pulling sensations as my stomach outgrew my body. I got up to go to the bathroom and there was water running down my leg.
I always thought that moment would be incredibly dramatic. My water would break in the middle of the night with a huge gush and John and I would hurry to grab my hospital bag (that coordinated with my sweats), making it to the delivery room just in time to push.
As I noticed the trickle of water, it took a minute or two to put it together. Could my water have broken? I googled it.
Google confirmed that it had, but because I had absolutely no other signs of labor, I was still a little unsure. I got back in bed, restarted 90210 and decided to call John to see if he thought my water had broken. He was in a meeting so I left a message.
As I sat there and thought it over, I started getting a little excited. If it HAD broken, then I would have a baby. Tomorrow. No more giant belly. And I could finally meet the tiny person kicking me all night. But then, if it hadn’t, this might just be a preview of all the uncomfortable things that would happen until the doctor gave in and induced me.
When John was finally out of his nightly meeting and able to call, he sounded about as unsure as I was.
“Should I come home?” He questioned.
“I guess?” I said, playing it cool. “No rush.” I immediately packed my bags and got ready to go.
About an hour and a half later, the nurse had checked me into the maternity ward, tested the fluid down at the lab and confirmed my water had broken. I was hooked up to a contraction monitor, a blood pressure monitor and an IV for fluids and ordered into a cot sized, uncomfortable bed the corner of a large birthing suite, where John was already asleep on a chair near the window.
Because my contractions were still so far apart (and I couldn’t feel them), I was told the doctor would visit me in the morning. In the meantime, I couldn’t eat or drink anything. Or move, since I had to take the entire IV/monitor set up with me if I had to go to the bathroom.
You just can’t tell a 40 week, 1 day pregnant person they can’t eat. I already knew it was a huge mistake to go to the hospital that early, I should have gotten good night sleep at home and a full breakfast, and second breakfast, before subjecting myself to the hospitals unreasonable rules. I was incredibly uncomfortable with my giant belly in the small bed, constantly had to use the bathroom because of the fluids and was starving. I hid some Annie’s cheez-it’s from my hospital bag under my blanket and set up my iPad with 90210.
I slept maybe an hour total (but I did watch about five episodes, so that was productive) until the doctor came in around 8 am. He looked about as worn out as I felt, barely acknowledged me and told the nurses that it was time for induction. I started feeling contractions about an hour after they started the pitocin. Pitocin is nasty stuff. It’s incredibly strong, and can quickly increase contractions to speed up labor. But the first dose was small, and honestly, the initial contractions weren’t that bad. The best way to describe a contraction is a an extreme intensity, less pain, more uncomfortable sensation. Every few minutes I would feel one coming, count up in my head, breathe, focus on 90210 and it would over.
It wasn’t until about 1 pm and they had increased my dosage enough that the contractions were becoming more frequent, about every two minutes, and by 2:30pm that they were near constant. I was feeling pretty tough and breathing through them, but once I stopped getting a break I decided it was time for an epidural, so I awkwardly paged the nurse and requested one when they got a chance. She came in laughing, saying the epidural requests are usually screamed and demanded, and that I had asked for one too politely. But she had been sneaking me red popsicles all day, so I felt like I owed her the courtesy.
The epidural was quick, it didn’t hurt and it worked immediately. The nurse did a post epidural check and was surprised that I was still only at 4cm. She went to double check and got a concerned look on her face. She told me she thought she felt the baby’s foot. (I wasn’t in any capacity to think why that would be bad, I was just glad the baby had a foot).
The baby was upside down, inching out feet first with every contraction that I now couldn’t feel. The nurse brought in a doctor, who I liked immediately, a sophisticated and stylish Harvard Graduate, and she did a quick ultrasound to confirm.
“We’ll have to do a c-section,” she said nonchalantly. “Get her prepped.”
All the sudden “her” was me, and I was being wheeled into the operating room, calling John to tell him that he needed to come back up from hunting for food in the cafeteria. The baby was coming.
At that point I was a little nervous, a little excited, completely confused and still having an out of body, I’m not actually the one getting surgery attitude. All my lack of thinking about a birth plan meant I had no idea how they performed a C-section and I had no time in between calling John and mentally preparing for a major (but routine) operation. The anesthesiologist who had given me the epidural was in the room, and I asked him if he could just let me know when they were about to do the first cut so I wouldn’t be surprised if it hurt. He laughed and said they were already in.
Soon I could feel the movement, but no pain. It was an incredibly intense kneading sensation, lots of tugging and pulling, and I imagined my whole lower body was flailing around behind the sheet they used to shield me from the chaos as they made a path for her to come out. Imaging what was going on, I could feel my blood pressure rising, so I focused on yoga breaths and knowing that it was going to be over soon. John sat to the left of my head, looked over once, turned pale and muttered, “that was a mistake.”
The mood changed suddenly, the tugging slowed, and the nurse whispered, ‘she’s beautiful.’ I wasn’t sure what was happening, I didn’t hear crying, and just like my water breaking there was no dramatic movie-moment. Still cut off behind the curtain, I was starting to panic, so I asked John what was going on. “They’re wrapping her in a blanket,” he said, still looking a little sick.
After swaddling her in a striped hospital blanket, they laid her next to me, as the doctor continued to tug and pull and stitch me back together. She was quiet and pink, staring with dark, squinty eyes. She stuck her tongue out.
She was born on a Sunday and we were in the hospital until Tuesday. The day after she came was a complete haze. I hadn’t slept for over 48 hours, I was strapped into bed with blood pressure cuffs and still not allowed to eat. The nurses were able to take her for small stretches in between feedings, but I couldn’t get comfortable and I couldn’t sleep thinking that the nurses might accidently switch her with another baby. John slept on the couch next to my bed, about as miserable as I was but more uncomfortable.
It’s true that the first few days, weeks, months this new person comes home with you are a blur. She was still on her in-my-tummy schedule, sleeping during the day, partying all night, and when she would finally fall asleep every night at 2 am, we would pass out on the couch in her nursery in case we couldn’t hear her from our room. Pumping, nursing, feeding, doctors appointments, family visiting from three states filled my 6-week maternity leave, and John and I both fell into a permanent exhaustion trying to keep up with our work schedules (his rotating shift work) and a new baby. I’ve always had it in my head that after you do something big, run a marathon, finish finals, finish 90210 (just kidding) you can shut off for a few days. Having a baby is the opposite. There was no recovering from pregnancy and her birth, she was instantly ours, and we were instantly hers.
I can’t wrap my head around the reality that it’s already, and only, been a year since we went to the hospital. 2015 will always be our small family’s biggest year of change, going from two adults to two parents, to Friday nights in bed at 9 pm instead of out with friends, to a house full of toys and baby gear, and a fullness we never really understood before having a baby.