Dear Baby E,
I woke up crampy and tired the morning I went into labor with you. Sleep had been interrupted for weeks and our five year old IKEA mattress was not doing my back any favors. I tried to get back to sleep, but the cramps continued. Then I felt a trickle, almost a pop, and I knew it was starting.
You were always an extremely active baby in your watery pool. Now that I have gotten to know you Earthside I firmly believe more than ever before that certain aspects of personality and temperament are just something you’re born with. You continued to roll and kick, poke and prod, and I had faith you were starting to make your way to us.
The cramping stayed irregular, and it was a bright, sunny day. The heat had broken, and it was a cool, beautiful summer morning. We decided to walk to the coffee shop up the hill and see if I couldn’t get things moving. Through the day the cramping came and went, but was steadily picking up and getting more uncomfortable.
That afternoon we started watching a documentary about baseball, but it was starting to become difficult to concentrate. Things picked up quickly and I knew we needed to start the drive to the hospital, which, in the best of traffic would be a 45 minute journey. That day it took almost two hours.
By the time we reached the hospital, my contractions were starting to get intense, but I was prepared. We had done classes and practiced. We had our birth preferences written on a neat little sheet, and I believed deeply in birth. I am a midwife, how could I not?
But my confidence in the process had been shaken when I was pregnant with you, Baby. I saw terrifying emergencies of placentas detatching, a baby of a woman I cared for deeply in pregnancy stillborn into my hands, and I witnessed a sweet babe leave this world after just hours with us.
These tragedies were difficult to shake while I labored with you. I snapped at the nurse when she couldn’t find your heartbeat with the doppler. My labor intensified, and my memory of this time becomes hazy. I know I walked. I know I moaned. I know I labored and labored and labored. I got nauseated. I felt exhausted. I felt the intensity rising. I had been in labor for about 18 hours, and I was sure the finish line was approaching. No one had checked my cervix yet, but when my midwife looked up at me I knew she had awful news. I hadn’t dilated much more than I had when she saw me in the office a few days prior. It completely devastated me. I felt so far from you, Baby, so far from the sweet, normal birth I wanted.
So I walked and I labored. I pulled all the strength and reserve I had to continue on, to force myself forward with every step that brought the contractions closer together and more intense. In those wee hours before dawn, I began to come undone. I felt as if one more contraction might be the end of me. I hadn’t slept and had hardly eaten in 24 hours. It was time for some relief.
Everything around this time has stayed hazy to me, but the sleep I experienced after the epidural was the most relaxing and rejuvinating sleep I can remember. While I slept, they pumped my body full of hormones to make my contractions more effective and open the way for you into the world.
Around noon, I felt some pressure, and significant progress had been made. I was elated. You were plugging away, your heartbeat always steady and sure on the monitor, so strong and clear. That evening all my cervix had melted away, and it was time to push you into our arms. The epidural made it difficult to work with the natural urges of my body, and after three long hours, you had hardly budged.
Then my midwife started having the conversation with me that I have had with so many women. The talk that starts, “You’re doing so amazing. You’re working so hard to get this baby out. But they’re not coming. I’m going to talk with my back-up physician.”
In some ways, I had always had a feeling deep down that I would need a cesarean birth to bring you safely into the world. Your Papa wanted this least of all, because he hates blood and surgery.
We moved into the operating room in the early morning hours, and your Papa stood over the curtain to tell us what I had knows from the time you were the size of a lentil: that our baby boy was here.
They placed you right on my chest, and the first thing I noticed about you was the dimple on your right cheek, your dark, downy hair, and that you were a full three pounds heavier than anyone thought you would be! My midwife told me you were a stargazer, your face lined up with my bellybutton instead of my back, which helped to explain the long, difficult labor and contractions focused deeply in my back.
The next few days were long and painful ones, mostly because of your tongue and lip ties, and our trip to Children’s Hospital, where we waited 48 long hours to try to find out if you had a life-threatening infection or if you were just dehydrated from not being able to eat.
When you made your way into the world, Baby E, a little bit of my heart left my body and is now living on the outside. Motherhood has challenged me in ways that I could never have imagined, as has given me the most intense feeling of solidarity with all other mothers I know or have ever known.
It has been 8 extremely long and, at the same time, incredibly short months since you wiggled into our lives. Our routines are starting to make sense again, with your added joyful smiles and belly laughs lighting the way.
I made a promise to myself long before I became your Mama that I’d continue being me, and hitting the 8 month mark and realizing that I had abandoned my writing hit me hard. I think I was trying to figure out a way to write your birth story in all its joy, its pain, and its heartache. To write what happened and feel proud instead of shame that my body had failed you and me.
Today, I buckled you into your carrier and walked to the store to get something sweet for after dinner. It started to rain and you arched your back and looked at the sky as the big raindrops started to hit your button nose and your cheeks and your sandy hair. A big drop hit you right between the eyes and a look of shock and astonishment crossed over your face that looked exactly like one of my own expressions. I see myself in you every day. I see you starting to grow into the gorgeous human you will become, and now, 8 months later, I can only feel proud.
Welcome to the world, Baby E.