Hello, world! I am here. I exist, I’m alive and I thrive! I’ve emerged like a mama bear from hibernation with her baby cub. Yep, I’m back! And, I dare say, better than ever!
I know what you’re thinking- wow, she’s hopped up on sleep deprivation and postpartum hormones and gone a little cray cray. And you might be a little correct. I don’t feel like I heard this enough before, but you guys, having a baby is the best. It is certainly not easy but I have a newfound joy and sense of purpose: my baby girl, Evie. Now that she’s almost three months old I’m coming up for air and taking some time to reflect on my journey through pregnancy, birth, and newborn baby land and wanted to share some thoughts.
Pregnancy is the worst.
Recently, my cousin, who was in her first trimester, mentioned that someone told her that she should be enjoying her pregnancy and she felt bad because she wasn’t enjoying it at all. I told her this was nonsense. There is nothing enjoyable about being pregnant. It’s uncomfortable, nauseating and downright terrifying. I had three scares in late pregnancy. The first was when I tripped and fell on the sidewalk while walking to work at 30 weeks. Yep, not proud of it. That put me in the hospital overnight and after that I had nearly constant painful contractions until birth. The baby was fine, but we were convinced she would come early. She didn’t. The second scare was during my weekly OB appointment. I’ll spare you the gory details, but it involved my doctor repeating the words “this has never happened before” (words you never ever want to hear from your doctor) and sending me straight to the hospital. Needless to say, everything was fine. The third surprise was at the appointment one day before my due date. My blood pressure had suddenly skyrocketed and my doctor wanted to induce right away.
Not everything goes according to plan.
In birth prep class, the instructor tells you to close your eyes and imagine your ideal birth. I imagined myself on a gorgeous mountainside, my husband massaging my shoulders for a couple hours until the baby beautifully and effortlessly made her way into the world. No meds, no interventions, just a beautiful natural birth. But I knew better than to think it would be easy and I knew that birth plans were regularly tossed aside as reality entered the picture, but I was really hoping for a natural birth. What I ended up with was anything but.
To make a very long story short, I went in to be induced on Friday night, December 16th, and didn’t have Evie until early Monday morning. I labored 10 hours without pain relief while on Pitocin until I decided to get an epidural to prevent swelling from pushing too early. It was sweet sweet relief, however, the epidural only really worked on one side of my body and I could still feel a lot of pain. After many more hours I was stuck at 9 cm and baby was sunny side up and a little twisted. After more waiting and a few issues with the baby’s heart rate, the doctors recommended that I have a c-section. At this point I had barely slept or eaten in days and I had never been so exhausted in my life. I was disappointed that after all that work they would just end up cutting her out. At the same time, though, I knew that we had tried everything possible to get her out and it just wasn’t going to happen and now she was showing signs of distress. I was ready for it to all be over and to meet my healthy baby girl. Not long after heading to the OR, I heard her little cry and they brought her to me. I thought how strange she looked. She was completely red and wailing and didn’t look like anyone I had ever seen before. I wasn’t sure what to do with her or how to make her stop crying. But then I noticed she was blowing little bubbles out of her mouth, something I had sworn I felt her doing in my belly, and I knew she was mine.
Having a difficult birth ending in a C-section can be meaningful and even a little magical.
They say that sometimes women make up their own coping mechanisms on the spot during labor and mine was the dolphin kick. During contractions I would lay on my side, cling to the bed railing and swing my legs forward and backward on top of the bed like I was a dolphin swimming underwater. I said to my husband, “I don’t know where this dolphin kick thing is coming from, but it’s working!” After Evie was born she made the most delightful squeaks and squeals that sounded just like little dolphin noises.
I can be proud of my birth story even though it ended with a C-section
I had nurses tell me that they’ve never seen anyone labor so long on Pitocin without pain meds. I must admit that this makes me a little proud although I am absolutely 100% sure I could never do that again. And I’m also very sure that many many women have endured much worse. The thing I am most proud of, though, is when my doula told me that I didn’t complain about anything the entire time. The birth may not have been ideal or according to plan, but I was okay with it because I maintained my composure and made educated and mindful decisions. This I am proud of and I am not ashamed to have a C-section baby.
Sometimes the drive home from the hospital is more painful than the drive to the hospital.
I learned very quickly that recovery was going to be long and difficult. This was the thing that I was not prepared for. And the hormones, oh the hormones! When Evie was 2 weeks old my husband had to go to Juneau to work for a week. Until then I thought we had everything under control with the baby and that I could handle it. My mother-in-law flew out from the east coast to help while he was gone. I was pretty miserable but doing ok until we found that one of our pet chickens was sick. A quick google search of the symptoms told me that the prognosis was not going to be good and that we’d most likely have to put old Foghorn down. I didn’t know what to do and it would be several days before my husband would be back to help. I called the bird vet and they said to bring her in right away. I knew I wasn’t going to come home with the chicken. Now, I can’t say that I was ever particularly close to this chicken but packing up my 2 week old baby in the car and our sick chicken to take it to its inevitable death was much more than I could handle. By the time I got to the vet I was sobbing. The people working there must have thought I was crazy and really attached to this little hen. I wasn’t really. There was just something about life and death happening in such a short period of time that was really overwhelming. Life and death, man. Ugh.
Time flies and slows down at the same time.
I remember shortly after having Evie that a friend told me life with baby gets easier around 2 months. This felt like a lifetime away to me at that point, but alas it came and went, and here we are at 11 weeks. It feels like time went by so quickly, but then when I think back to those first few weeks, it feels like a lifetime ago. Evie is already growing out of things that I didn’t think possible. She’s cooing and smiling and noticing things. She’s even reading books! Ok, we are reading them to her, but she actually looks at the books! I feel as though I will blink and she’ll be a teenager. I’m determined to enjoy every single minute.
The Blue Jay’s Dance by Louise Erdrich
The prolific and brilliant author, Louise Erdrich, graces us with her memoir and meditations on pregnancy, birth, and becoming new mother. I am reading this in short bursts as I get time, usually one-handed while I’m nursing. The short vignettes that follow a theme of the seasons are perfect for savoring over time. It is quiet, honest, heartfelt, and brings a smile of recognition to my face every time I open it.