I am now a mother of two.
Already, my boys have taught me a huge, important lesson: they are each individual, unique and wonderful in their own ways.
Because I had “been there before” with Milo, I expected my conception, pregnancy, labor and delivery with Eliot to all be familiar. I was wrong, and occasionally disappointed because of my expectations. Hopefully, in the future
if I ever decide to embark on this long journey of child-bearing again when I prepare for the next child, I will know from the start how different it will be.
Now, let me tell you about bringing Eliot into the world.
(p.s. it’s the longest story ever…)
The real beginning? Over a year ago in March, 2010, when Dave and I excitedly discovered we were expecting a baby. Two months later, we lost the pregnancy and I began a few months of recovery. In October, 2010, we once again were expecting and at 6 weeks along seeing a tiny flutter on the ultra sound screen brought tears to my eyes. Eliot was healthy, growing and on his way into our family. For 14 weeks I ate sourdough toast and chicken noodle soup. Half of that time I spent with family taking care of Milo and me in Utah. Upon my return to VA, I gained back a little energy, but fatigue, back pain, swelling, nausea, and heartburn followed me all the way through into my third trimester. For some reason, I expected Eliot to arrive early. I made sure we were prepared with every necessary thing and had my bag pretty much packed from about 2 weeks prior to my due date. I committed the error of disclaiming every plan and appointment with “if I haven’t had the baby, yet…” which, of course only leads to disappointment. The days crept on, and every night I went to bed excited for those labor pains to hit. And every morning I awoke a little shocked to still be pregnant. Silly. On Wednesday, June 15th my mother arrived to help take care of Milo and me when Eliot arrived. I was dilated to 3 cm and 50% effaced. No pressure.
On Saturday June 18th, my due date, I sent a sincere prayer heavenward that Eliot would come. The day proceeded as usual, and as the evening arrived, my mom sent Dave and I to a movie (Midnight in Paris…pretty entertaining!) to get my mind off it. Half-way through the movie I began to feel some pain…inconsistent contractions that made me jump a little. After about 20 minutes I excitedly told Dave what was happening and he began timing for me. 5 minutes, 7 minutes, 4 minutes, 11 minutes…they continued and began feeling stronger. The movie ended, we walked over to get ice cream, and went home to finish packing for the hospital. Contractions continued on the way home, and as I packed…then slowed down…and slowed down. And I went to sleep. And woke up on Sunday still pregnant.
Sunday evening, I went to bed. Around 2 am I woke up to go to the bathroom, and noticed I was having some cramping. I tried to go back to sleep, but as the contractions continued, I began to pay more attention. I sat awake for about 2 hours, waiting and timing. About 6-7 minutes apart…then 10 minutes, then 15…then I went back to sleep and woke up on Monday still pregnant.
Monday morning I called the midwives and expressed my confusion and frustration and asked for some guidance. The nurse said I could change my appointment from Tuesday afternoon to Tuesday morning and have my membranes stripped to see if that might help labor along a little. Though my usual worldview of labor is one of low intervention and natural process, I was interested in seeing if my contractions had helped my progression at all, and if a little help might push me into labor, so I changed the appointment. An hour later the midwife on call called me to say I could come in right then, since she didn’t have anyone delivering at the moment. I packed my bag again, called Dave to tell him I was picking him up and we were heading to the office. I didn’t know exactly what to expect, but since my midwives are about an hour from home, she had said to come as if we would stay.
I said a tearful goodbye to Milo as I left him with my mom, thinking that this might be the last time I saw him as my only boy. Then I cried some more as I picked up Dave, just overwhelmed and excited and hopeful. The midwife checked me and I was 3 cm and 50% effaced. “It’s the exact same exam as last week,” she said, “I was hoping you’d be a little further.” Yeah. Tell me about it. So, she stripped me, and sent Dave and I to walk at the mall, but said if nothing developed in a couple hours to head on home. She left the room and I cried. Disappointed. Confused. Frustrated. The whole process had just been so so long.
As we walked around the mall I felt crampy and heavy, but no contractions. I indulged in a venti coconut chocolate frappachino-no coffee, skim milk- from Starbucks. Then we went home. I asked Dave to give me a priesthood blessing of faith and patience and for Eliot to come soon. He also started a fast for a safe and healthy and timely delivery. We ate delicious Ethiopian food with my mom and Milo. We watched Music & Lyrics. About halfway through the movie, I began to feel contractions…again. I shrugged them off and went to bed. I tossed and turned for about two hours, then finally asked Dave if he would go on a walk with me to see if they continued. We walked a lap, timing contractions every 5-6 minutes. Then another lap and timed them as consistently 3 minutes apart. At that point I was excited but exhausted and so we sat on the porch timing. Every 3 minutes for 45 minutes…then 4…then 4…then 10…then I couldn’t remember the last one. Dave woke me up and told me we should go to bed.
Tuesday, June 21st, first day of summer, longest day of the year.
Dave and I left home about 7 am to get to our midwife appointment at 8:30 am, again with all of our bags ready for a baby. On the way we talked about our available options and choices. Since the blessing he had given me the day before, I had felt at peace. My mind felt clear as we discussed what might be right for us, and came to the conclusion that if I hadn’t progressed at all, we would choose to be induced. It was an option that never had even come close to the perimeter of my mind as something I would want or choose, but there it was, feeling right. We talked to the midwife about our choice, and she said we should see where I was and maybe talk about breaking my water to induce, rather than using pitocin. But she was supportive of the desire to get the labor going. When she checked me I was 5 cm and 70% effaced. After stripping me again she said, “Now you’re a 6.” She called the hospital to tell them we were on our way, that the midwife on call would break my water and get me walking, and then she said, “Well, go have your baby!”
We checked in about 10:00 am and I was having irregular contractions from the stripping, about 10 minutes apart. The midwife on call came in to meet us and talk about the plan, which was to break my water, get me walking and have the baby! It went about just like that. At 10:30 am she checked me, I was at 6-7cm and 80% effaced. After breaking my water, they monitored my contractions and Eliot’s heart rate for about 10 minutes, then Dave and I were sent into the hallway to walk. I went up and down the hall, pausing to relax against the wall for contractions, for about 45 minutes. By that time, my contractions were strong, very painful, and about 1-2 minutes apart.
I decided I was ready to sit in the tub. The warm water was a welcome change, and lying against the tile, essentially floating, I was able to breathe through about 45 more minutes of tough, long contractions. Dave held my hand and rubbed my shoulders and counted the first 30 seconds of each contraction, telling me when it would not get any worse and I just needed to ride it out. As the contractions got harder, my focus, coping, and strength ran out. I told Dave I was ready for an epidural. He looked slightly shell-shocked, as I have always desired only unmedicated labors for myself. I told him I was ready to take a nap…worn out from months of pregnancy and days of waiting. I simply didn’t want to work hard any more, and it was my choice. The right choice for me for right then. He said that sounded fair, and got the nurse. She was darling and talked me through the decision, making sure I wasn’t simply reacting to the pain. Then the midwife offered to check me, in case I was close (which I was) and I said it didn’t really matter, because I was so spent-mostly emotionally.
I transitioned as the epidural was prepared. The strongest and most painful contractions, that had me feeling ready to push, came every 30 seconds as I tried to sit still on the edge of the bed and round out my back for the needle. I may have let a cuss word slip out, and the nurse, midwife and Dave all coached me through, telling me to breathe and blow. I breathed and blew through about 4 or 5 more contractions as the anesthesia made it’s way along my nerves, blocking the pain and dulling my sensation. Then, probably as Eliot’s head began to descend, I could relax. I breathed out the anxiety and stress and expectation of the long, overwhelming experience and smiled at Dave. “This is amazing,” I said, then called my mom to tell her I would be pushing soon. I also called my older sister, mother of four, to tell her that an epidural was pretty cool, and she busted up laughing, telling me she had tried to tell me so.
After about 45 minutes of rest, relaxation, and regrouping, the midwife came in to check me. “There’s the baby’s head,” she said bringing over a mirror. He was about one push from crowning, and I had no idea. The team prepared the table, and set up some stirrups, as I was so numb my legs were foreign. Then they coached me when to push, and after two contractions his little blue face emerged. I was told to stop pushing, for the midwife to unwrap the cord from his neck, and then his body was delivered. I couldn’t believe my eyes as this slippery, purple, wiggly guy was suctioned and rubbed, working for that first breath and first cry. I was worried when the pediatric nurse whisked him onto the table to give him oxygen and rub him pink. It felt like an hour before he was on my chest, skin to skin, as he should be.
He was beautiful. All of my work and prayers and struggle melted away into this tiny bundle of new life. He peered up at me curiously, red lips shiny and tuft of black hair still plastered to his head.
He nursed like a champ, within a minute of being next to me. Another hungry boy added to my little family. My first degree tear was quickly repaired, and the room was suddenly pretty calm.
I was instantly in love. How could I not be? I had been worried that I wouldn’t know how to open my heart for another child, with the way it belongs to Milo, but somehow there is space, without taking away anything from my first, for Eliot to also be completely adored.
After a quiet moment, and a good snuggle, Dave accompanied Eliot for all of the odds and ends, and I laid in bed, still paraplegic from the anesthesia. It was weird to not be able to jump up out of bed and walk myself to the bathroom. I couldn’t reach the camera, so I sent out and posted photos from my phone.
Eliot passed his tests with flying colors, whatever tests they did. He weighed 7 pounds and 12.5 ounces, just a half ounce less than his older brother. At 20 inches long he was a half-inch longer than Milo. Born at 2:29 pm, just 4 hours after breaking my water.
What a love.
And then the brothers got to meet.
Milo was so excited to have Eliot roll into the room in his little cubby. “Baby Aye Yai!!” he yelled, and climbed up onto the bed to peer into the bassinet and
poke point out Eliot’s eyes. Mamo was pretty smitten with him, too.
A proud Dad (and sexy husband)
Admiring our new bundle.
Luckily, I’ve got two arms! I see a whole lot of hug-juggling in my future!
Me and my two wonderful boys. I can’t believe it. I am finally a mother of two–and not pregnant!! Hip hip hooray!!
For as different, difficult and completely unexpected as Eliot’s birth experience was, it was perfect.
And we are happy. All four of us.
Update: To listen to this and my other two birth stories, tune into The Birth Hour Podcast to hear my interview!