Sunday, April 25, 2010

AYear Ago

(Note: Very long post follows. Probably only for the truly dedicated blog readers out there. Consider yourselves warned.)

I never wrote about Lucy’s birth.

I meant to, of course. I love reading other people’s birth stories, and I had every intention of sharing Lucy’s. But blogging right after her birth was hard for me – we were struggling with feeding and jaundice issues, and I didn’t have the time or energy to type it all out right away. As each day passed, the details of her birth grew fuzzier and fuzzier, to the point where I wasn’t even sure I could reconstruct it anymore. Also, so many of my emotions and actions during that her birth day were really a result of my first experience, with Finn’s birth. And so I felt like I couldn’t properly tell Lucy’s story unless I told Finn’s first. I actually sat down on several occasions to type out the story of Finn’s birth, which in some ways I remember better than Lucy’s, even though it happened three and a half years ago. But I didn’t get very far before my momentum was lost and the project was abandoned.

Here we are, though, one year later. My hormones and emotions are calmer, though my memory is no sharper. To mark Lucy’s first birthday, I thought I would share with you what I still remember about the day she was born, make a record of what is left of those memories. Minus (most of) the Finn back story, minus many of the details that have been forgotten along the way, probably minus any sense of coherence.

Admittedly, I will occasionally need to refer to Finn’s birth, to put things in perspective. We start with one such detail. Finn was born on October 20th, 2006. His due date was October 12th, 2006. So, EIGHT DAYS LATE. EIGHT LOOOONG DAYS LATE. Another pertinent detail is that M. and I live alone here in Maryland, with no family around within at least a ~430 mile radius. This was no big deal when Finn was born. Who needs a crowd of family members when one is pushing large things out of not-so-large openings, right? Seems beside the point. However, this presents a much greater problem when one is looking to expel baby number 2. It became clear that if I didn’t want to be abandoned to the mercies of a newborn in a hospital that mandates rooming-in while M. was off “taking care of the eldest child” (aka sleeping),I really needed some family around for the big event.

Said family was identified – my mother. The big question then was, when should Grammy arrive? My due date with Lucy was April 25th. Given my history with Finn, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t go into labor early, or even on time. I didn’t want my mom to sit around for weeks at our house, waiting for me to go into labor, while I carted my large self off to work every day. Not fun for anyone, right? So we arranged that Mom would fly into town on the afternoon of Thursday, April 23rd. A total guessing game, and once her ticket was purchased, I immediately began to panic that I would go into labor early, OF COURSE, because you idiot, second babies always come earlier, that’s just my kind of luck, etc etc.

However, April 23rd arrived, and as planned, the baby (keep in mind, Lucy’s gender was still a surprise to us) was still safely ensconced in my uterus. Now it was time to panic that labor would NEVER begin. That two weeks would go by, Mom would be boarding her plane to go home, and I would STILL BE PREGNANT. Sigh. Aren’t hormones wonderful?

So, the story proceeds. April 24th dawns sunny and warm. I took a planned “sick” day from work (if ever there is a healthy condition that calls for a sick day, it’s being 39 weeks, 6 days pregnant). I spent the morning catching up on e-mails (really only a half of a sick day then, I suppose) and trying to clear work off my plate. Mom spent the morning painting the master bathroom. Weird? Maybe, but she’s a doer, that one. Likes doing projects. I couldn’t trap her at my house for a couple of weeks without giving her something that relates heavily to an HGTV program for her to do. Plus, we had recently done some minor renovations to our bathroom stemming from an emergency tile incident, so it was not a project without purpose.

Once painting and work e-mailing were over, we set off to do what we do best – shopping. Not for baby stuff, that was of course all taken care of thanks to my fascination with organizing and reorganizing the nursery months in advance. No, the shopping was to “accessorize” the master bathroom. We hit Home Goods, a source of many excellent decorating finds for my mother. We found pictures to hang on the walls, vases and candles to display, photo frames (that to this day remain empty), a rug – you name it, we bought it. I believe we also stopped at a few other stores, but memory fails on that issue. All I know is, we returned home exhausted and full of purchases. Then it was time for dinner, some TV watching, and bed.

At around 3 or 4 in the morning, I woke up, per usual. This was my typical time for starting the late pregnancy “toss, turn, pee, repeat” pattern. I noticed some contractions – painless, but a little stronger than the Braxton Hicks I had occasionally been having. Plus, they were happening often enough that I was having a hard time going back to sleep. Rather than wake M. up with my restlessness, I went downstairs and logged on to my work computer. I know, total nerd, right? I even wrote this to Outnumbered Gal, time stamp 4:37 am, April 25, 2009:

It's about 4:30 am here - I'm up because I'm having some contractions. Trying to drink some water and see if they'll go away or not. They are about 5 minutes apart, but they don't seem painful enough to be real so I'm not getting my hopes up. I'm biding my time by uploading crap into EGS and timing my contractions on Lame, I know, but I don't want to wake anyone else up by doing something more interesting...

Anyway, I'll keep you posted :-).

Then I went back upstairs to lie down for a while. Eventually it was time to get up. Details are again a bit fuzzy here, but I’m sure the getting up was spurred by Finn waking up, and somehow I broke the news to M. and Mom that I was having contractions. I was adamant that we carry on per usual, though. And this again takes us back to my labor with Finn. For those of you that don’t know (if I’ve met you in person, I’ve probably already complained about it to you), my labor with him started at around 10 pm on a Wednesday night, and lasted until he was born at 12:30 pm on Friday. NEARLY 40 HOURS. OF BACK LABOR (those of you that have experienced this are shuddering and sympathizing, I know). 24 hours of labor at home, and the rest at the hospital.

The parts of Finn’s birth up until the epidural totally sucked, but especially the hospital parts. So, I was determined not to believe that this was active, progressing labor. It could be DAYS before it was time for me to pop this kid out. No way was I going to sit around and fixate on every contraction, and wonder when it was time to call the doctor or head to the hospital. I mean, good God, it was my due date, everyone knows that less than 5% of babies are born on their due date (at least, that’s what Wikipedia tells me). No way that this was the day. So what did I do with myself in the meantime? I went shopping. Even drove the car myself. I strolled through Target with my mom, pushing Finn in a shopping cart, loading it up with shorts and short-sleeved shirts for him, all the while having contractions. By then, they hurt. Not a lot, not in the “take your breath away” sense, but they did hurt. And they were still coming maybe every 5-10 minutes or so.

We got home with our purchases, and some of our neighbors were outside with their kids. It was a hot, sunny day. So I let Mom drag our bags inside (side note – none of us can remember what M. did that morning while the rest of us shopped at Target – perhaps he just hyperventilated into a bag, at home by himself?), and I let Finn play with his friends while I chatted with the other moms. And contracted.

Time passed, things happened. Those details are gone. But the contractions continued, got a bit closer together, and hurt a little more. I was still convinced that they weren’t hurting enough to be “real labor” (whatever the hell that means). Eventually, it was post nap-time (Finn’s, Mom’s), and we were all out on the deck having a popsicle (Finn’s idea). I finished my popsicle, and decided that the contractions were wearing me out, and it was time to take a bath. That’s supposed to help, right? They always have tubs in the birthing rooms, must be something to it. So I drew a bath and climbed in with one of the trashy gossip rags M. had bought that day for my impending hospital stay. As I read about the certain break up of Brangelina and Tori Spelling’s weight loss, I realized that the contractions were coming much closer together, more like 3-5 minutes apart than 5-7. And they hurt. A lot. I found myself on my knees in the tub, suddenly worrying I was in transition and that I needed to GET THE HELL TO THE HOSPITAL.

I dried myself off, got dressed, and went downstairs to call the doctor. Of course it was my least favorite doctor who was on call (the same thing happened when Finn was born, though it was a different practice). I have no idea what I told him, but he cleared us to head to the hospital. We threw our bags in the car and left the house, and my baby boy, at around 5:45. I saw our neighbors outside again as we got in the car, and managed to exchanged some “Is it time? Not sure, maybe” type of pleasantries. And we were off.

Snapped just before leaving to head to the hospital

As we drove, I gripped the chicken bar and moaned, a lot. I was convinced I was in transition, and that the hospital would refuse to give me an epidural. It was a very, very painful ride. We arrived at the hospital, and M. offered to drop me off at the door so I could go inside. I didn’t think I’d be able to make it down the hallway without him, so I refused and parked the car with him. We walked into the hospital, through the corridors, and into the elevators that would take us up to Labor and Delivery. As we road in the elevator, I couldn’t help crying. Not because of the pain (though it did hurt), and not because I was scared of labor (been there, done that – as long as I could get the epidural, I’d be fine). I cried because Finn would never be an only child again. Because his world was about to change forever. I would never be able to be as involved in his life again as I was the first two and a half years (in hindsight, I see this as a good thing, of course). What the hell was I doing to him? Was it too late to change my mind? Oh yes, I brought the DRAMA into that elevator.

Once inside L&D, I filled out some minor paperwork (why any at all is necessary when you pre- register like a good doobie, as recommended, is beyond me), still dripping tears left and right. I got myself under control by the time a nurse came to fetch me. She asked whether I thought I could go straight to a birthing room, or whether I should be checked in a triage room first. I waffled (momentary doubt about my “I must be in transition” thoughts), but decided to take a chance on the birthing room. This turned out to be a good choice, as once in a Johnny and displaying my wares for everyone to see, it was determined that I was over 8 cm dilated! No wonder those contractions were hurting like a [insert epithet here].

So, transition? Check. Panic that I wouldn’t be able to get an epidural and would be forced to push this baby out in excruciating pain? Check. The first words out of my mouth to the nurses were, “Can I still get an epidural?” And bless their hearts, they said yes. While a bag of IV fluids dripped into me, the nurses gathered all my patient information and I winced through several contractions. Then a tiny little Asian man came in my room to administer the epidural. This process, even though I had been through it once before without any issues, was nerve-wracking for me. They make you sit on the side of the bed and hunch over your belly to lengthen your spine – not a comfortable position for someone who hasn’t seen her feet in months. The entire time, your body is tensed, waiting for the needle/catheter to be inserted, and the simultaneous contraction that will screw everything up and render you paralyzed forever. Or so I imagined.

In all honestly, this time around there were issues. It took a while for the doctor to get the catheter in, and at one point he was literally wailing on my back, pounding on… something. I chose not to imagine what or why. The whole process hurt. But eventually, it was over, and the pain relief began to set in. Well, sort of. It soon became apparent, after the doc adjusted my meds once or twice to little effect, that I was too far into labor for the epidural to do much more than take the edge off of things. But hey, that’s better than nothing, right? Funnily enough, once Lucy was born, the epidural really kicked in, and I was nice and numb where it counted, just a little too late.

So, at this point, I’m lying in bed, resting a little more comfortably. M. is by my side, we’ve called my mom to let her know we were staying/baby was definitely coming, and we had some music playing in the background. For all of 5 minutes, we were somewhat relaxed. Then I felt some strange pressure down there, and (sorry folks, this is where it gets graphic) being the curious girl that I am, I investigated and found something, er, bulging out of me. This was apparently my “bag of waters”. Ew, right? I kind of imagined that my water would break, but apparently that amniotic sac of mine was pretty tough.

I called the nurse’s attention to this alarming development. She may or may not have called the doctor in at this point. This may or may not have been my first time seeing him (honestly can’t remember, as he was such a minor participant in the whole birth experience). Someone broke my water, and I was told to let everyone know if I started to feel a lot of pressure. I still kept waiting for that totally numb feeling to kick in, the one I had during my labor with Finn, so I kind of passed off this whole “pressure” thing as something I wouldn’t feel. I figured eventually they’d check me again, I’d be at a 10, and they’d tell me to start pushing.

But low and behold, about 5 minutes after my water broke, I started to feel crazy amounts of pressure in a “why isn’t the epidural working, this kinda hurts” way. I have no idea if anyone checked me again (probably yes), all I know is suddenly it was time to push. The nurse had me roll from my side to my back, and I started the whole “raise your knees to your chest and count three sets of ten” routine. M. encouraged me as he held up one of my legs, while the nurse alternately typed things on the computer and criticized my pushing technique. Did NOT like her. I could feel what was going on, though it didn’t hurt too much thanks to the epidural, and I could tell that I wasn’t pushing effectively. It just did not feel right. But the nurse was no help at all. She was terrible about noting when I was entering a contraction, didn’t help me try to find a good physical spot to focus on (sometimes a nurse will sort of guide you by using her hand to show you where to push), frequently wasn’t by my side to help hold my legs up, and flat out told me I was doing it wrong. She also told me that I wasn’t pushing right because I was afraid to poop. Good god, if she only knew that I came to terms with labor pooping a long, long time ago, she would have realized it was not holding me back.

After about 30 minutes of frustration, the nurse finally had me roll to my side to try pushing that way. I was glad, as lying on my back in late pregnancy has always been very uncomfortable for me (makes me feel “weird,” there is really no other way to explain it). The position change made all the difference in the world. Within two pushes, I could feel the baby move all the way down. It was crazy! I was told to stop while the nurse called in the rest of the nursing team and the doctor into the room. While we waited, M. and I sort of smiled and chatted, making the kind of small talk that requires absolutely no brain power, knowing we were just a few minutes away from meeting our baby.

In came the doctor, I was put on my back again, and the bottom of the delivery bed was dropped away. It was show time. M. held a leg (as he had been the whole time), and had a front row view of our baby as she crowned.[Side note: I always said my husband would need to stay by my head when our babies were born. Who knew that birth was such an “all hands on deck” experience? For both Finn and Lucy, if M. hadn’t been down there holding a leg, I don’t know if they would have ever come out. With only one nurse in the room with you during most of the labor process, there really is no one else to “hold the other leg.” So, there goes the romance and mystery in our relationship, eh?] The doctor did his best to help ease the baby out, but I still managed to tear over the scar from my episiotomy (ugh) with Finn’s birth. During the process, my water broke again, oddly enough. Two fluid sacs, or something weird like that. The doctor announced that we’d had a baby girl (!), and M. cut the cord.

And… that was it! Birth over. The next few minutes are a blur for me, memory-wise. I think I was in shock that this moment I had been waiting for since August 16, 2008 (the day of the positive HPT) was already over, less than two hours after I had arrived at the hospital. I couldn’t believe I had another baby, I couldn’t believe I had a daughter. I was happy, but quietly so, and there were no tears. Lucy was taken to an isolette right next to my bed for assessment and weighing, while the doctor took out the afterbirth and stitched me up. She really didn’t cry much at all. While the nurses looked her over, M. and I talked about what her name should be. We had arrived at the hospital with a short list of girl names and one boy name. I had been going back and forth a lot on the girl names, and sort of thought to myself, “well, shoot, this would be a whole lot easier if this baby was a boy!” We decided to wait until we could get a good look at her, and put the decision off for a bit.

Lucy was brought over to me, and I got a chance to cuddle her and nurse her a little. Then, while she was given a bath in my room, I called my mom to let her know the news – Baby girl! Born at 8:14 pm! 8 lbs, 5 oz!! And… no name yet.

There was a not-so-fun trek to the bathroom on numb legs for me, a “couldn’t care less because I can’t feel it anyway” catheter experience when my numbness prevented me from actually USING the bathroom, and a few other phone calls to various relatives. Then, while M. and I pondered our name choices, he ran out to get us some food from Chipotle while I waited for the feeling to come back into my legs. I THINK Lucy slept next to my bed, but she may have also been whisked away for some tests at that point.

M. returned, and I had the BEST TASTING black bean burrito ever. It was like I hadn’t eaten in days, and it tasted soooo good. As we ate, we talked it over some more, and finally settled on a name. Lucy Elaine. Lucy because we like it (and it’s short – with a long last name, you really need a short first name), and Elaine because it was the middle name of my Aunt Donna, my dad’s sister whom I was very close to before she died of cancer in 1997.

During this name-deciding effort, my mom texted M. (?? Didn’t even know she could text!) and suggested the name Jennifer Elizabeth; the Jennifer after one of my closest friends, and Elizabeth after her (it’s my mom’s middle name). I called her up to tell her the name we had chosen, and she started crying! And said, “I thought you could use the name I picked out”, clearly disappointed with our name choice. Or so I remember it, anyway. According to one of my sister’s, though, she really started crying because we chose to use Donna’s middle name. Not sure what was really behind the tears, but I will always remember that when I told Mom Lucy’s name, she cried.

At some point, the three of us were moved to a maternity ward room, and we all settled in for the night. The shock of the whole experience was starting to wear off, and I was busy marveling at Lucy, her chubby cheeks and legs (a chubby newborn! Crazy!), her soft dark hair. I was too wired to sleep, though M. dropped off pretty easily. Lucy began making some noise at around midnight or 1, and I had M. bring her to me so I could nurse her (why they make those little isolettes so high off the ground that a post partum, “feeling like a Mack truck just hit between your legs” woman cannot grab the baby herself makes absolutely no sense to me, by the way). While he went back to sleep, she and I became fast friends. We had a wonderful, peaceful night. She latched on like a champ, and ate for at least 20 minutes on each side. Steadily, quietly, without fussing. I thought to myself “How wonderful! I have a good eater; this breastfeeding thing is finally going to work out!” And I held her in my arms the rest of the night, smiling, smelling her and touching her, listening to all those wonderful little new baby noises.

The craziness eventually set in (Jaundice! Supplementing! Painful latch! Threats that Lucy would need to be admitted to the Pediatric ward while I was discharged!) and stayed with us once we left for home. But instead of thinking of those things, the many tears I cried, the countless bili checks, the frustration and eventual end of breastfeeding, I like to think of that first night. When everything was dark and quiet, and my baby girl and I were the only two people in the world.


  1. Wonderful story! I remember being so wired after Cameron was born too. Jeremy was able to fall asleep but I couldn't. I did like that our hospital didn't force us to room-in. Intellectually I knew that once we were released we would be on our own so I took advantage of it while I could. Happy birthday, beautiful Lucy!

  2. What a beautiful story. Love that last photo especially.

  3. Just finished reading your blog. . .I'm in tears :) you write so beautifully. . .thank you for sharing a wonderful story. AND. . .a very Happy Birthday to little Lucy!! love, Mimi and Papa

  4. I love the last photo! Precious!

  5. First let me say that you are a total rock star! :-) Second, this was quite educational for me, and also made me cry. Love the last photo!

  6. Awww. And she still looks so much the same! I'll have to take a photo of my belly before I go to the hospital since I have none so far.

    Happy Birthday, Lucy!

  7. Thank you, thank you! I love anything that brings Donna back to my mind. It's nice getting to know you through your excellent writing. I will stay tuned.