It seems as though the motivation behind this blog comes from the words of Joni Mitchell.
I woke up this morning with "Both Sides Now" ringing through my still-sleepy head as I nursed my three-week-old baby girl. As I slowly awoke, I put on the song. I listened to the sound coming through my laptop speakers, still cozy in bed with my (now) sleeping Piper. Being three weeks post-partum, and (still) entirely emotional, I began to sob. I remembered listening to this song when I was pregnant. I wondered if in her own sleepy head, Piper recognized the sound of Joni Mitchell's voice.
I started thinking about what has been relentlessly occupying my mind for three weeks and one day: the birth of my daughter.
Her birth was unlike anything I imagined it to be. Everything I planned for, everything I hoped and dreamed her birth to be like, it was not.
On June 8th, 11 days past her "due date", around 11:50pm my water broke. I was laying in bed reading birth stories out of Ina May's Spiritual Midwifery while Cameron snored away next to me. I put the book down, turned off the lights and just lay there in the dark. Then I felt like I peed my pants. It had happened before and being over 40 weeks pregnant, I didn't doubt that it had happened again. I got up and went to the bathroom. My midwife had given me pH strips to test if and when my water broke. If it was amniotic fluid, the strip would turn midnight blue. It turned blue! I remember feeling that same heart-jumpy feeling I felt when I saw the + on the pregnancy test I took back in September. I made my way back into our bedroom. I thought about whether or not I should wake Cameron. Of course I should! This was it! I calmly said: "Hey Cameron, my water broke." He shot up in bed. He seemed excited and somewhat skeptical. I called my midwives and sent out a few texts to close friends.
Turns out, only my outer membranes ruptured and labor didn't end up really setting in until later the next day. Cameron and I spent the day walking the neighborhood. I bounced on my exercise ball. I paced around the house. I hadn't slept at all. Contractions were picking up but never got closer than 7-8 minutes apart. The plan was for us to head to the birth center once the contractions reached 5 minutes apart. All day Thursday and in to Thursday night, the contractions remained strong but still stayed irregular. After talking with my midwife, we decided it was best for us to head to the birth center Friday morning at 8am where he would try inducing with prostaglandin gel I think I slept for a total of five minutes that night.
Friday morning Cameron and I gathered our gear and car seat for baby and made our way to the birth center. It was such a strange drive. We had driven those roads a hundred times but this time it was different. We were on our way to meet our baby. Finally.
Once we got to the birth center, we were greeted by Krissy and Ed. Everyone was excited and we sat around and talked and laughed for a while. I started to become really focused on the task that lay ahead of me and became quiet while everyone else carried on their conversations. Ed suggested we walk around the neighborhood for a while. Krissy, Cameron and I walked for about an hour until Krissy had to head back to the clinic for a meeting. Cameron and I continued to walk for about another hour or so.
Every now and then, I had to stop with each contraction and just hold on to Cameron until it was over. The whole time we walked, we timed the contractions. They were about 5 minutes apart now. It was around 11am when I started getting tired from walking and my contractions were getting stronger so we began to make our way back to the birth center. A few hours went by and my contractions stayed somewhere between 5 and 6 minutes a part. Ed decided to inject some prostaglandin gel to attempt to speed things up a bit. This seemed to do the trick. What helped get me through the contractions was to look Cameron in the eyes. It was like his eyes were anchoring me to reality, without them, I'd float off to a really scary, vulnerable place. He kept reminding me to breathe. This helped too.
The hours seemed to melt together from here on out. It was getting harder and harder for me to focus on anything outside of myself and what was going on with my body and my baby. At some point, I remember Cameron and the midwives discussing what they would order for dinner. They were trying to decide between Thai or Indian food. I remember I was starving but the thought of actually consuming food made me sick. I drank protein shakes and snacked on almonds while everyone else decided on Thai. They were nice enough to eat their food in another room, just in case the smell made me sick.
I noticed it was dark outside and caught a quick glimpse of Krissy's wristwatch....I think it said 7:30pm. By this point, my ability to communicate was becoming difficult. My poor family on the East coast was completely in the dark. I had asked Cameron to turn off his phone so he could be completely present so they had no idea what was going on or if the baby had been born yet.
The most comfortable position for me to be in was sitting on the birth ball with pillows stacked on the edge of the bed in front of me where I rested my head. I asked Cameron to get a cold washcloth for my head. I sat on that ball with my head resting on the stack of pillows with the washcloth on my forehead for a long time. Cameron sat behind me in a rocking chair. I would point to my back when I wanted him to literally punch me or when I wanted him to squeeze my hips together as hard as he could. I put some essential oils on a tissue that I folded up into a small square. With each contraction, I would practice the "Hypnobirthing" techniques we learned in the 3 week course we took and sniff the small square tissue. This helped for a while. Then I just couldn't sit still. I had to be moving. Cameron and I walked the halls of the birth center, we went and stared at the fish in the fish tank, we walked the halls some more...I'd stop with contractions and hang off of Cameron's shoulders and just moan like a crazy woman.
Once we were done walking the halls, Ed checked me. I was 5 cm dilated which meant I could get into the tub. When they announced this to me, I was surprised I wasn't jumping with joy. I anticipated myself being really excited for this. In the moment, I guess I was just too exhausted and focused to really care. I climbed into the tub and lowered myself into the water. The warmth of the water felt amazing. I floated there surrounded by glowing candles and the sound of Chopin for what must have been hours. This is when everything turned into a BLUR. The contractions were kicking my ass. The controlled, low moaning that had been escaping my mouth earlier had now turned into strong intense growls. I had no idea what was going on around me, who was there, where I was...I was just going with each contraction and surrendering to my body.
In between contractions, in one of my fleeting moments of clarity, I noticed that everyone around me was asleep. I was alone. At this point I panicked. I actually believed I was going to die. The pain had taken over and was just too much. I was going to die and no one was going to notice. I was never going to meet my baby. I was going to die and that was that.
The night that had turned into early morning dragged on with incredible speed. I remember reaching the point when all I could do was scream. I wondered how the hell people were sleeping with me screaming like this? Cameron was next to the tub in the rocking chair. He had dozed off but his eyes would widen when I screamed.
Ed came in again to check me. He told me I had reached a good 8 to 9 cms. It was hard for me to wrap my mind around this. How had I made it this far? My baby was on her way! I was excited, I was exhausted, I was scared. The sun rose and I was still floating in the water. The skin on my feet and hands had turned to prunes.
Ed had determined that my cervix was stuck at 8 cms and was beginning to swell. For the next eight hours, we tried everything to change this. Nothing seemed to work. The pain had become out of this world bad. I found myself begging with my midwives, as if they had some secret escape plan that they had been keeping secret from me.
Then the news was broken to me.
Our best option was to head to the hospital for a c-section. My heart sunk with this. Everything I had planned for, everything that I had dreamed my birth experience would be was suddenly destroyed. All the preparations Cameron and I had made, the classes, the research, the books...all out the window. I wanted to cry, I felt like I was supposed to cry, but I couldn't. I knew that this is what needed to happen next. It had been days of trying, and I simply could not try any more. It was out of my hands now.
We packed up our things and I got dressed. Everyone was exhausted. In the parking lot, right before Cameron helped me into the car, I had an intense contraction. I gripped his neck and held on tight. I noticed a family with a little girl walking by. As I screamed, the little girl looked up at her parents with a look of terror in her face like, "What is happening to that lady?!" The car ride to the hospital was torture. We made it to the ER entrance and I was met with a wheelchair. I sat down in the wheelchair and they whisked me to a labor and delivery room. I clenched my eyes shut as tight as I could.
They told me to put on a robe (which I put on backwards at first and then had to get up and re-do it). Then they hooked me up to a monitor. I hated knowing when a contraction was coming and I hated hearing that my baby's heart rate was dropping. I was really holding back screaming with each contraction by breathing really heavy. I would breathe in and out like I've never breathed before. It was weird. My eyes still clenched, I could hear nurses chipperly saying: "wow, she's doing so good!"...this irritated me for some reason...maybe it was because they were trying to put an IV in while I was having these contractions. I had to ask them to wait until the contractions stopped for them to put the IV in. Then I was given a shot to stop my labor. What a weird sensation. I kept anxiously anticipating contractions that never ended up coming.
The rest is all an even bigger blur but I do remember the doctor coming in and telling me that he felt it was best to get the baby here by cesarean section. I signed a form and the wheeled me into the OR. Cameron had to wait outside while I was prepped for my spinal. The kindest, sweetest, loveliest nurse named "Bev" (who had the sparkliest, bluest eyes) asked if she could pray for me. I said yes. As I leaned my body forward, legs dangling off the edge of the table-like bed I sat on, Bev hugged me and prayed for me and Piper. I remained perfectly still as the needle stabbed into my back. I slowly but quickly felt my lower body disappear. They lifted my body from one table to another, put a warm blanket over my chest and tied my arms down as they draped a blue sheet in front of my head. Cameron was allowed in at this point. He remained close to my head the entire time. My body was numb but I could still feel it. Strangest feeling ever. I could feel the sensation as they shaved me and I could feel them tugging and pulling at my body.
And then we heard her.
After 9 months and 13 days of waiting, our daughter joined us. I met eyes with Cameron and he said "that's her". We were both flooded with tears. The look in Cameron's eyes at that very second is something I'll never forget. He had also gone through so much to get her here. At that moment, my love for him grew a million times stronger.
I couldn't believe the shrieking, shrilly, dolphin-like sounds I was hearing was the voice of my daughter. The white, sterile room was suddenly filled with so much life! They brought her over to a table to the left of where I lay to clean her up. I couldn't take my eyes off of her. Not for one second. It was if my eyes were protecting her. I couldn't put my arms around her so I guess it had to be my eyes. She was beet-red and chubby. Her hair was dark and she had so much of it! I yelled to Cameron to go get his camera. Then I felt guilty about sending him away for 2 seconds when he could have been talking to her while they cleaned her up and weighed her. When he came back, she was handed to him, bundled and cute. He brought her to me and for the first time, our eyes met. She cried, but didn't seem upset. I wanted, more than anything, to hold my baby. I kept asking if we could do "skin-to-skin". They said as soon as we get back to the recovery room.
They nudged her little bundled body into the hook of my arm as they wheeled me back to the recovery room. I don't remember exactly what I said to her in those first few moments. I'm pretty sure I just kept repeating: "I love you" and "you're beautiful".
Back in the recovery room, we were met by my midwives. They had stayed with me through it all. They are amazing. That lovely nurse "Bev" unwrapped my Piper and plopped her down on my bare chest. Bev helped me nurse Piper for the first time and she took to it like a pro. I was so so so grateful.
The first few hours with Piper will forever be locked inside my heart. The way Cameron rocked her in his arms when she cried at night, the way he gazed into her eyes and told her "just how beautiful she is" is something I'll never forget.
Piper has already taught me so much in her three weeks with us. I have learned that I cannot control everything that happens in my life. Birth was something I thought I could grab hold of and take control. I've heard or read "own your birth" so many times. During my pregnancy, I prepared myself for such a magical, amazing birth experience. I ended up with something quite different. No less magical, no less amazing, just different. I learned, in the end, that "my" birth wasn't mine at all. It was my birth experience but it was Piper's birth. How she arrived is exactly how she was destined to arrive. There was nothing I could have done differently to change that.
Now that she's here, I can't imagine what my life was like before. Now that she's here, I can't imagine what life will be like a week...a year...ten years from now. Something happened to me the day she was born. Something that I'm not sure I'll ever understand. My love for her is greater than any love I've ever felt.
It's these early days, when we're still trying to figure each other out, that I hope I never forget. It's an incredible feeling to feel love for your own child, but it's an even greater feeling to feel that they love you back. I feel that love as her little hand searches for my finger when she's nursing and then again when her hand finds my finger and grasps it. I feel that love as I hover above her talking nonsense and she begins to smile with her eyes and at only three weeks old (I swear!) she smiles with her little gummy mouth--her cooing telling me she is entertained by my nonsense-talk. I feel that love so many times throughout the day and I am so amazed by it. I am so amazed by her. I see myself in her and I see Cameron, but I mostly see her: Piper. I wonder what she will do with her life. I wonder who she will love, whose heart she will break, who will break her heart (and who I will obviously, have to kill because of it). I wonder how long she will fit in my arms and how long she will let me hold on to her.
Life is so different now that Piper is here. All that I thought I knew has suddenly been proven wrong and I can't wait for her to help me figure it all out for the first time.