August 3, 2010

Her Story, and Mine


"It's a GIRL.

It's a little girl,
with scrunched-up petal lips
and a tuft of dark hair
and hands in tiny fits, up by her ears.
All that time, that's who was in there.
And it's weird, but the minute I saw her I just thought: IT'S YOU.
Of course it is."


I don’t know if there’s so much poetry in the story as there is in living the story. I want to write down all the pieces, even the things that weren’t so pleasant, because I think the least I can do for my daughter is be her historian.

The day started with Sky making sourdough French toast. He woke me as he was about to finish cooking. Then there was a doctor appointment, some swimming, some Little Caesar’s pizza, and watching recorded shows on our DVR. Between shows, I began a quiz online- how to tell when you’re beginning labor. Sky made fun of me, so I put the laptop down and started watching Project Runway.

About 10 minutes into the show, something happened very suddenly. I jumped off the couch and ran to the bathroom, Sky calling behind me, “Are you okay?” I didn’t know. All I did know is that there was a puddle underneath me. Sky looked excited, and I was slightly in shock- a pattern that seems to have started from the very first day of this pregnancy. After calling the hospital, my doula Jill, and my mom, it was decided we should go in to the hospital to make sure it was my water breaking.

It was nearly 11:30pm when we drove there, the traffic from the day slowing down, the moon out. There were quick calls to my mom and dad on the way and a few text messages sent. We went straight to the bright labor and delivery floor, and after doing a couple quick tests on a dipstick, the nurse held it up like a pregnancy test and showed me two lines- it was amniotic fluid, and I was staying in that room until a baby would be born.

With little ceremony, I changed out of my jeans and into a huge gown with “Carle” stamped on the front. They started an IV, Sky brought the bags from the car, and we settled in. It didn’t take long to fall asleep again. But at 4:30am, I woke with a bad pain in my back and some cramps. I realized it wasn’t because I had slept at a weird angle. It was the first ‘real’ contraction.

So from 4:30 on, that’s what I did. Jill, Sky and I walked laps and laps around the hall. She made me drink from every water fountain we passed, and do lunges and squats in the hallway. If you think it sounds like something really sexy for a 9 months pregnant girl in a hospital gown and bathrobe to do, you would be correct.

Between walking, I took a few showers to stimulate more contractions. It was the only time I was alone during labor. I’d shut the door and let the water run over me, and it was during this time that I could put aside the pain and just think. During every one of the showers I took, I cried. I’m not sure what it was, but it had something to do with being overwhelmed by it all. I started to doubt that I could really get through the whole process.

I would bounce on the labor ball or try different positions in bed. Jill and Sky rubbed my back, brought me water, and gave me cool washcloths or a hot pack depending on what I needed at the moment. After the contractions started getting stronger and harder, Jill grabbed my hair band and braided a French braid for me. Even during the pain, it felt like such a sweet thing for her to do. Eventually, I ended up curled on my side in the bed, holding onto hands and bedrails and starting to get louder.

Then came the worse pain. They checked my progress a few times throughout labor, but I decided I didn’t want to know how dilated I was anymore, because I was afraid of not being close enough. I started crying, then screaming, and gave up the seemingly rock solid birth plan I’d written- I asked for an epidural.

The nurse couldn’t come soon enough. I begged her to hurry, and I felt like it took forever to get the needle in and feel relief by not feeling anything. But soon, my legs were almost completely numb and I could finally unclench my fists a little. I even slept for a little. It was so amazingly good to have a break. I could breathe.

Eventually, though, the nurses said I was ready to push-they gave me the option of starting right then or waiting a half an hour to sleep more. I wanted to wait, although I definitely didn’t go back to sleep. I lie there thinking about how it would be over. I started to feel the pain creeping back, and tried to brace myself for what would happen next. Although my dad had left a few hours before, he called the hospital for an update and rushed back when they announced I’d start pushing soon. He sat around the corner in the dark room and waited. Everyone waited. Everyone prepared. The little bed with a heat lamp was all set up, carts with blue paper covering them were wheeled in and assembled, and my doctor walked in with a surgery gown and gloves. This was actually happening. I was in too much pain to notice every one of these details at the time, but I specifically remember the baby bed being prepped.

Sparing the nitty gritty details, I pushed for four and a half hours. If it sounds like a long time, multiply it by 5 million to get an idea of how time passed for me. After a while, I felt like pushing through my contractions was some strange trick the doctors were using to get me through them, but not as something that would actually make a difference. When they told me they could see the top of the baby’s head, I barely believed them. Once, they asked if I wanted a mirror. I declined because there are some things you just shouldn’t see your body do. But I did get to reach my hand down, and they guided it to some soft, wet fuzz on her head. It was good to know there really was a baby coming from it all.

She began to show signs of distress, and after a few attempts with a vacuum, my doctor called the on-call OB doctor. I looked up during one contraction to see my doctor replaced with a strange man I’d never met. He tried the vacuum a couple more times, telling me to push when he said and stop when he asked. I did, and suddenly-unexpectedly- it was over.

He held her up and after a couple seconds, she cried. He said something to announce her arrival, but I couldn’t hear him. I looked at her long body, her wide open eyes, and then at Sky. We both had tears streaming down our faces. I forgot that I was in pain and had complete tunnel vision for the new girl in the room.

Sky went to the other side of the room to be with her while they cleaned her off and suctioned her mouth and nose. He took lots of pictures and waited with her as they finished up with me. In just a minute or two, someone brought her to me, and all I could think was, “You’re finally here.” I held her close for a minute, and she grasped my finger tightly. I fell in love with her. And then I handed her to Sky, and I’m pretty sure he fell in love, too.

After an hour or so, around 4:00am, we loaded up our flowers and bags, and they helped me off the bed to a wheelchair. We went to the postpartum unit and got comfortable in the new room. They took her to the nursery for a little while, but brought her back to me to start nursing. Then the day started about 6am, and she stayed with us throughout most of the day. There were lots of visitors and flowers and presents, and lots of cooing over her. Because we’d been awake for most of the time since the morning of July 29, July 31st felt like the longest day, although not in a bad way. That day and the next were spent gazing at her for hours and chatting with visitors, as nurses came in every hour or so for various things.

We came home on Monday. Sky made a couple trips to the car with all of our things, and they had us put her in her car seat. It seemed to swallow her up. I held her like that on my lap in the wheelchair, and an older man pulled me up to the car door. We took a couple pictures, and finally got to head home. Everyone talks about this being the scary part, and that they felt clueless as to what to do next. But I found myself very ready to be at home in my own bed, and I was surprised that I didn’t feel totally lost without outside help. Although my mom flew in from Oregon to be with us this week, I felt confident that I could be what Amelia needed somehow.

These last two days have been fairly lazy. Millie sleeps most of the time right now, so I love the times she wakes up to eat-although, I admit, I really prefer this in the daytime- when she opens her deep blue eyes and searches around until she sees my face. We’re getting the hang of breastfeeding, and I’m getting better at not putting on the diaper backwards. We have gone through more outfits than I thought she’d wear in a week due to various stains. She has her first doctor’s appointment tomorrow, and I’m nervous about really using the car seat for the first time, as well as being in traffic, since the ride home from the hospital seemed like every car was driving too fast or too carelessly.

It’s mildly unbelievable how life has changed so much in the past 5 days- how a quiet night on the couch in front of the TV turned into a weekend in the hospital. I feel like things have obviously changed in day to day life, but not as much as I feared. I told Sky last night that something about having her here makes me love him more. I can’t really explain why or how it works, but having a family-creating a family- is the most unique feeling in the world. I guess it adds a new depth to our love, something that I never felt was lacking before but is somehow multiplied by a million.

So this is her story of our first day together. I couldn’t be happier that I’ve finally met my daughter. I say it a few times the way I used to practice saying my new last name- “my daughter”, “my daughter, Millie”, “my baby.” It’s so humbling that she is mine. It’s so amazing that she is here now.

6 kind comments from you:

Kaylee said...

EEEKK!!! Congrats! What a precious miracle and a great story - it made me tear up - the idea of a baby being born is so beautiful and such a blessing!!!! Thank you for sharing!

Andrea Lieb said...

Erika, That is sooo beautiful! I cried when I read this ..I cant wait to be a mommy someday! Im scared to death of Labor & delivery..But i know its totally worth it in the end! Congratulations to you both!

Nikki said...

Awesome! Congratulation to both of you! Maybe if you ever head down to Evansville again, you can look me up!

Mr. Superman & Mrs. S. said...

Beautiful! Congratulations doll :)

Nicholereo333 said...

I'm defn having an epidural pain is not for me, congrats mom

Beka said...

yay! i finally got around to reading millie's birth story. pretty interesting stuff. anna just doula'd a birth last night at 9 till about 11 this morning, a first born....ah! so exciting to hear about it. women are amazing creations, i tell ya. waaaaay stronger than men when it comes down to it.

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