I’ve always felt grateful and comforted when other moms share their birth experiences honestly. Before I had Olivia, I dreamed what it would be like to finally meet the baby we’d jumped several hurdles to have. My entire pregnancy I was in a dreamlike fog. I didn’t particularly love being pregnant, but I loved what my body was creating. I was so incredibly humbled by the whole thing.
My birth plan was simple: I joked that I just wanted us both to survive. I planned my delivery at a hospital with a fantastic NICU just in case. I had no reason to suspect I might need it, though.
I went into labor on my own at 39 weeks and 4 days. We went to labor and delivery at 2pm on July 5, certain that it was go time. They checked me out, said my contractions weren’t consistent enough to admit me (though they were excruciating – back labor, you can die in a fire, ok?) so we left, stopped at Panera for a late lunch and went home… where I writhed around in agony for several more hours.
I remember lying in bed trying not to cry out in pain so I wouldn’t wake Tom. I went into the living room and started using an online contraction timer and when I realized they were at two minutes apart for a half hour, I hobbled into the bedroom and begged Tom to call the doctor.
They confirmed that we should come in. The half hour ride was awful. When we arrived at the hospital, we had forgotten that the main entrance closed at night and parked what seemed like miles away from the emergency department entrance. It certainly took me forever to walk there.
Once I was in and changed into a gown, they assured me the baby was on its way and I ordered my epidural. After I got it, they told us to get some rest (it was 1am by now), but once my pain was under control, I was so excited, I couldn’t sleep.
Me (whispering): Tom?
Me: I think it’s a girl.
Tom: Me, too. Now GO TO SLEEP.
Me: (GIGGLING MANIACALLY)
I remember quizzing Tom on his job. The only thing I wanted to make sure of was that he got a picture of the baby being weighed for the first time. Why? I have no idea, but it was important to me. I progressed slowly, but steadily enough on my own that I didn’t receive any pitocin. Around 6am they broke my water and I remember the look of concern. I also remember nobody making a big deal to us about the fact that my water was thick and dark green (full of meconium). I had no previous experience, so it didn’t seem odd to me that they placed an internal monitor on the baby’s head or that suddenly, the room went from two or three medical personnel to roughly fifteen.
When it was time to push, I felt super clumsy and the pain was coming back slowly. I started pushing at 7am and after hours of it, the baby was stuck under my pelvic bone and I seriously was exhausted and wondered if I’d be able to do this. Ring of fire, anyone? Holy cow.
Somehow, I managed to push through it and at 10:46 am on July 6, out came the baby we’d prayed for. The baby was whisked away and the room was so silent. I remember realizing in what seemed like slow motion that something was not right. We didn’t even know if we’d had a boy or a girl. I don’t know how we’d have survived those first hours if not for the presence of my amazing friend and delivery nurse. She went over to where they were working on my baby (turns out they were trying to suction the meconium before she’d had a chance to aspirate) and even though she may have been scared, she joyfully exclaimed, “It’s a GIRL!” and we all cried. Olivia Marie was here.
They let me have a brief glimpse before they whisked her away to the NICU. She was so swollen. I didn’t know at the time that her APGAR scores were 1, 2 and 6. If you don’t know how freaking scary that is, don’t google it because OHMYGOD.
Our friend snuck into the NICU while I was being “repaired” to snap a photo of our girl and get her vitals. After she was born, the umbilical cord separated from the placenta and the doctor had to, um, retrieve it. My undercarriage was in bad shape, people. Let’s just leave it at that.
Our friend returned with an illicit cell phone photo of our beautiful girl and news that she was 8lbs 10oz and 22 inches long. She also was on intravenous antibiotics to help combat the infection from aspirating meconium, a feeding tube and oxygen. Never did get that first weigh in picture.
We couldn’t comprehend how our full term heavyweight baby could be sick. We had a day when we weren’t sure how long she’d been deprived of oxygen at birth. Would there be long term damage? I prayed to my parents not to let anyone take her from me. Begged.
It turned out that she just needed a week of help to learn how to breathe and eat on her own and we were very, very lucky. I know that. In my head. My heart? Still hurts over it.
But looking at this face every day reminds me that she is a miracle in more ways than we even know.