I’m going to skip the “Well, it’s been awhile…” preamble here because… well, it seems silly. The Boy and I have been pretty busy in the early months of this year preparing for the arrival of and — more recently — caring for and getting to know our daughter! I am a little shell-shocked to write that she is now a month old, but there you have it. Allow me to introduce our little Starfish:
I still can’t get over that as small as I still think she is when I cuddle her (hourly!)… I know — in my hands, in my heart — that she is growing daily (hourly!) and already so much bigger than she was just this short month ago. The picture above was taken the day Starfish was born, and already she is bigger, stronger, more solid. In my more lucid moments, I tell myself that in gaining that solidity, this presence and weightiness, she is becoming more real, day by day stepping further across the line from Hope and Dream into Real Live Blessing. In my less lucid times, I mourn her already-gone tiny-ness, knowing how ridiculous that is, all while feeling overflowing with joy at seeing my living, breathing, thriving little girl continuing to grow, and becoming daily more aware of the world around her.
I know every mother remembers the births of her children (or so I hear), and I’m no exception. The Boy and I would be hard pressed to forget this little lady’s entrance into our lives! For those folks interested in that sort of thing, her birth story is below. For those who aren’t really into it: a picture of The Boy with his daughter. (I can tell she’s already destined to be daddy’s girl. Ah well.)
So where to start? Let’s start on a Saturday morning, the day after Starfish’s due date.
After a lazy, sleeping in kind of morning (and boy am I glad we had one last one of those!) I was pretty sure my water broke. The midwives came by to check, decided it was inconclusive, and suggested I swing by the clinic so they could check a sample under the microscope. A quick glimpse later and they stated that no, I did not appear to be leaking amniotic fluid, to Keep Calm and Carry On. This would be the first time when my gut feeling went against what they said. In spite of their advice, I defrosted all my frozen hospital foods, and suggested to The Boy that we do groceries. We got home to a phone call saying that after double-checking the sample, it turns out my water had broken after all. We had lift-off!
The day passed by pretty calmly. No real signs or symptoms. I finished packing the hospital bag (what? It’s a first pregnancy; The Boy and I were pretty sure we’d have ample warning), got the carseat ready and piled everything up near the door. We had dinner (leftover soup for me; I didn’t want to eat anything heavy), settled in for a movie on tv and… waited. Around 8pm, “flames” of back pain started up. This had been happening for about a week, so I didn’t read too much into it. By 8:30, however, the intensity of these waves made tv-watching an impossibility for me. Shortly after 9, I was on all fours on the rug sobbing to The Boy that if this was what early labour was like, I wasn’t sure I was going to make it through the delivery. (Given that my hope had been for a drug-free birth, this was a little demoralizing for me. So early into labour, and already I felt overwhelmed? Where was my pool of hitherto untapped feminine strength?) I decided at this point to go to bed and try to sleep through the contractions until they were regular enough for us to head to the hospital. I advised The Boy to sleep in another bed, as I would likely be tossing and turning (and moaning and groaning).
I slept a little, and woke up to stronger, more regular contractions. At this point, things get a little hazy for me. Although I was definitely “in” my body throughout the labour, my right brain was doing the driving. My ability to verbalize my thoughts or remember times was seriously hampered. Even operating the stopwatch function on my phone took a ridiculous amount of concentration. Lesson learned: get The Boy involved when your left brain checks out! Analysis and logic are still needed!
Around 10:30, the contractions felt both regular enough and close enough together that I started timing. When they were happening at 5 minute intervals, I called my midwife, and this is the second time I should have trusted my instincts. Listening to me, and timing my contraction over the phone, my midwife didn’t understand (see also: right brain driving) that my contractions had been at this state for awhile. My contractions were happening consistently in double-bumps, with each “peak” lasting less than a minute, but the combination of the two being longer than a minute. If I could have verbalized what was going on to The Boy, this would be the point at which we would have headed to the hospital. (He had even packed everything into the car earlier in the evening!) Unfortunately, he was in the guest bedroom trying to get some sleep and after hanging up with the midwife, I couldn’t rouse myself to hobble over to the room to wake him. I stayed crouched in bed and focused on my breath.
At some point, the compulsion to push started. If you’re reading this and asking why at this point we weren’t hospital-bound, or at least calling an ambulance, I don’t have an answer for you. It didn’t actually occur to me at the time that what my body was doing was “pushing”: I felt each contraction, and I’m pretty sure I was crying out or grunting or whatever but… really at that point, what was left of my conscious thought figured my body knew what it was doing, and I was just going to let it drive. The Boy came in, asking if we maybe shouldn’t go to the hospital, since it sounded like my labour was getting pretty intense? At this point, we had the last conversation I remember of that night:
The Boy: So, uh, we never discussed what your “safe word” is for if you want an epidural?
Me: I want an epidural.
The Boy: …uh, is that the safe word? Or do you–
Me: I want an epidural!!!
The Boy would need to tell you what happened in the next few minutes because aside from screaming that There’s a head! and Oh my God, the baby is coming! I honestly don’t remember what happened. My next memory is of The Boy handing me our baby — tiny, blue and covered in sticky vernix — while squishing a phone between his shoulder and ear as he told the midwife what was happening. I remember taking her, thinking how small and fragile she was, and feeling a wave of panic: what do we do now?? I remember hearing her crying — such a strong wail! — and being relieved (At least she can breathe.) before hearing The Boy telling me that I needed to lie down, and keep our baby warm.
Way back in early pregnancy, I had toyed with the idea of a home birth, but agreed when The Boy suggested that for this first pregnancy, maybe a hospital would be better. Just in case. Later on, as I tried to sort out my priorities (I made up a Top 5 Wishlist, rather than a formal Birth Plan), I had asked The Boy if he would like to cut the umbilical cord. His answer? Nope, it’s fine. The midwives can do that.
It definitely wasn’t the plan, and I still feel a cold, clammy grip around my heart when I think of everything that could have gone wrong that night, but oh! This daughter of ours, who started out her life by taking us WAY outside of our comfort zones, and teaching us both so much! I am grateful every day for the amazing partner that The Boy is, but having your husband go from asleep to delivering your first child at an unplanned, unattended home birth, without panicking? Just proves beyond any doubt that he puts the rock in rockstar. I don’t ever wish that kind of experience on him again, but honestly… I’m not sorry that things turned out the way they did, either.
The midwives (followed very shortly by the EMTs) showed up pretty soon after that, at which point they congratulated The Boy on his amazing work, and took over. (And yes, they cut the cord.) Starfish was born around 2am on Sunday morning, which makes my labour not quite the textbook “precipitous”, but still incredibly speedy. (Moral of the story? Careful what you wish for!)
I was surprised to find this picture on my camera, when I eventually got around to sorting through pictures. The Boy had taken it the afternoon of Starfish’s birth day and I never knew until I saw it.
The month following that day has been a blur; a hugely emotional blur. I was ready (sort of) for labour and I was ready for the scanty and irregular sleep. I was, however, in no way prepared for the huge waves of emotion that kept welling up and washing over me for the next two weeks. I am still grateful for the presence of my parents who came up to help me rest up in these early days, grateful that trusting my body brought us this life, and grateful as always for the amazing father The Boy is proving himself to be.
It has been a crazy adjustment with no rhythm, no pattern to speak of, in the early days. Slowly, though, we’ve been growing together as a family, learning each other, and it just keeps getting better. There have definitely been bad days, days when I cried with frustration, despite the good advice from my mom and other moms, but they are blindingly outshone by all the good days, the good moments, and they’re happening more often, it seems, as we learn to read our little Starfish, and become Three, instead of Two + One.
Welcome home, Starfish! Despite my efforts, words can’t express our hopes or happiness when it comes to you; know always that you are awash in love. We are both looking forward to many (many, many!) more months of growing and learning with you.