One month and I can’t even remember what it was like to not be a mom. The process of becoming a parent is fascinating and progressive. I remember back last May when Dave and I decided to begin preparing to have a baby. Our preparations included eating healthy and exercising to be in optimal shape, ensuring our daily/weekly/monthly habits were intact and would not be lost in the whirlwind of a new child, and observing solid financial practices to allow for a comfortable transition to parenthood with all the necessary acutriments. After a couple months we were ready, and I was pregnant. The look on Dave’s face when I told him reflected the excitement, anticipation and joy that we shared at that moment, and through the remaining 34 weeks of pregnancy.
Pregnancy, now there is an interesting process. Mine was full of new feelings, white and tan foods (like cheerios and bagels…daily for 16 weeks!), weight gain, wiggles in my belly, trips to the bathroom, Dave saying “thank you for carrying our baby,”counting down the days until the next appointment and doppler, long walks, borrowed maternity clothes and wondering and waiting and waiting. I have never felt more unlike myself than I did while I was pregnant…until, all of the sudden (somewhere between weeks 20-30) I was pregnant, and I couldn’t remember being anything else! Then, at around midnight on April 30th, I awoke for a usual trip to the bathroom and I noticed a crampy feeling in my belly. Convinced that the beginning of labor would be somewhat more spectacular, I spent the next hour eating a snack, doing dishes, and taking a bath to see if these contractions would subside. When they had increased in intensity and frequency I woke Dave up and told him that we may be on our way to having a baby. I called the OB, who said to spend a few hours at home to make sure labor was real, so Dave and I watched A League of Their Own in bed, made sure the bags were indeed packed, then returned our library books and DVDs on the way to the hospital at 4 am. After 1 hour of triage and a monitored strip showing contractions 3 minutes apart, I was admitted…I was having a baby!
We walked the halls for a little while, pausing to squat against the wall and relax during contractions. I found that method not quite as comfortable as I wanted, so I opted for a hot bath in my room’s jacuzzi tub. Dave sat next to me on the floor and coached me through each contraction. He held my hand and timed 30 seconds from the start of each so he could tell me when it wasn’t going to get any worse. I sipped iced cranberry juice and nibbled graham crackers to maintain hydration and energy over the following 8 hours. Because I chose a natural delivery, I was unencumbered by tubes and lines and was able to move around freely, which became less and less important as contractions intensified. Labor was a dance of forced relaxation in the bathtub, on the birthing ball and side lying on the bed. About 10 am I was dilated to 6 cm and though contractions were painful, I realized that this pain meant progress. At 12 pm I was 8 cm and I felt fatigued but focused. At 1 pm when I was only 8.5 cm we decided to break the fore bag to allow a little more pressure for dilation. When Julie, the midwife, broke the bag we discovered that there was meconium in the water…and for the first time I felt anxious about the process. My concern for Milo’s welfare was overwhelming. I was ready to get him quickly, and safely into my arms.
Instead of increased frequency of contractions, after breaking the water mine spread out to every 5 minutes. We needed to find a good position for direct pressure. Turns out the right position was sitting on the toilet, not a very relaxing or comfortable place to experience the most painful and intense contractions of the whole labor. Dave’s important role as labor coach became vital as I struggled through transition. I was able to close my eyes and listen to him encouraging me to relax every muscle and envision myself floating…just floating through the pain. Finally, around 2 pm the contractions didn’t just peak with pain, but with an overwhelming feeling to push. I felt weak and shaky but excited to be approaching the time in the labor when I could DO something rather than using all of my energy NOT DOING ANYTHING.
Every muscle in my body went into those pushes, first sitting on the birthing stool, then lying up in the bed. Pushing was fun! Contractions stopped hurting and spread out to allow some rest. I have never put more physical effort into anything else…ever. After about 30 minutes I could see Milo’s head. After 29 more minutes I pushed my last push. When little, conehead, purple Milo shrieked with vigor my still worried heart settled and the specialists who had been called in case of meconium aspiration quietly left the room.
Then I held my son for the first time. He was slimy, wiggly, warm, swollen, tiny, and PERFECT. I counted ten little fingers and ten little toes. He opened up those huge eyes and looked around his new world. Dave cut the cord, took some photos and then snuggled up close to Milo and me. Over the next hour I nursed Milo and talked with Dave as the midwife and OB repaired my battle wounds. It was amazing how fast we went from two to three, and how incredibly natural the transition. I have heard that there is no way to prepare for being a parent, but somehow even in those first moments I felt like my whole life was preparation, and this was what I was made for.
I love watching Dave as a dad. He is so excited to spend time with Milo, even if it’s just holding him while he sleeps. Having my husband become a father adds a whole new dimension to our relationship. I didn’t know I could love him more, but I do. Every day for the last month Dave and I have been blessed to care for our little miracle. He eats, squeaks, sleeps, stretches, grunts, snuggles, and learns as he looks around with his wide eyes. I have found my joy in life, and it is being a wife and mother. Nothing could be better.
Update: If you’d like to listen to this and my other two birth stories, tune in to The Birth Hour Podcast.