Tag Archives: labor

Happy birthday, Nora!

Happy birthday, Nora! Thanks for making the last year of our lives so much fun.

A year ago, right about now, we were headed to the hospital. I remember thinking (between contractions) as we headed over the Tappan Zee Bridge, what a beautiful day. Unseasonably warm. Clear blue sky. Pretty Hudson River. And then, of course, I’d have another contraction and think — Ow, ow, ow.

You’re here now, and you’re the best thing that ever happened to us. They say it goes fast, and they’re right. For a nostalgic person like me, parenthood is just a trip. Because just a second ago, you were a newborn. We swaddled you like a little potato and bounced you to sleep on the exercise ball. We couldn’t get you to sleep in the bassinet so we took turns holding you all night. Your little smooshy face, pouty lips. (That’s when you became Shmooples to us. :)) When you sneezed, you’d get your whole body into it. We’d lay you on your back in the activity gym and you’d stare up at the whale, your eyes wide and unfocused. We carried you around in the baby bjorn to get you to fall asleep, you, bundled up in a little bear suit. And we’d walk down to the river and all around. We took long, long walks. Or, we put on some music (a lot of Amos Lee and Wilco) and danced around the family room. Then, you smiled for the first time. Then, you laughed. You rolled over. You started sleeping on your stomach, your butt straight up in the air. You liked to squeal and grunt a lot. We were sometimes worried you were going to swallow a bug because you’d grunt in the stroller, your mouth wide open. You went to the beach and the pool, chubby arms and legs flailing around in the water. You grew two bottom teeth. You tried rice cereal — you didn’t like it at first, so you’d shut your lips and close the shop. You sat up by yourself. You jumped around in the Jumparoo, laughing and squealing with frenetic energy. You started rocking on your hands and knees and then you crawled. You met two dogs (“gungs”) and became fascinated with them, and any creature that was not human was a “gung” or “da.” You pulled yourself to stand. You got two more teeth. And then two more teeth.

When you are happy, you are SO happy. You like to catch strangers’ attention and flash your teeth at them. You get wound up close to bedtime, laughing and kicking on the changing table. When you hear a musical note, whether it’s a jingle in a commercial or Daddy playing a plastic trumpet, you get the urge to boogie. You sometimes look very thoughtful, very serious. You have a lot to say, although we don’t always know yet what you mean. You’ll point to a pillow and say, “Ba ba,” over and over again. You’re sweet, affectionate, curious and very silly. Now, you’re learning to stand on your own. You keep trying and falling, trying and falling, without getting frustrated.

And it goes on and on and on! We’re so proud of you and we can’t wait to see what you do next.

We love you, Shmooples! Happy 1st birthday!

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My labor story (part II)

In the car, I noticed that it was a beautiful warm day as we crossed the Tappan Zee Bridge, blue sky, warm for January. The Hudson stretched out for miles and miles. And then I’d have a contraction and I could focus on nothing but the pain. I kept telling Kevin I just wanted the drugs. Though it felt to me like something very extreme was happening to my body, I still feared that I would get to the hospital, they would tell me I was a whiny little baby—that what I’d been experiencing since 1am was nothing, little mini cramps. “You thought that was real labor? Wow. Just you wait.”

I waddled into the hospital, grossly pregnant, water dripping down my legs. Kevin and I approached the security guard.

“I’m here for-”

“Floor six,” he said, after taking one look at me.

I recognized one of the nurses at the desk.

“I took a class with you,” I said. This was the nurse who’d told our class about the wussy woman who made a huge scene when she was in early labor.

“Oh really?” she said.

“Excuse me,” I said and squatted on the floor to have a contraction.

It took a little while to get setup in the room. The nurse asked me questions about my medical history, hooked up an IV, took some blood samples and encouraged me when I had a contraction.

When she finally checked me out down there, she seemed perplexed.

“Huh,” she said. “That’s strange. Just hold tight, I’m going to get a second opinion.”

“Yup,” the second nurse said. “You were right. She’s fully dilated. She’s ready to push.”

I’d gone through the whole labor at home with no medication. Apparently, they thought I seemed too calm to be that far along. I let a wave of relief wash over me once I realized that the pain I’d been feeling was the real deal, not just the beginning stages.

Pushing was the hard part, the last six miles of the marathon. I lay on my back on the hospital bed, my legs up, spread open, knees bent, feet pressed against a metal bar, and with every push I squeezed and yanked at a sheet that was tied to the bar.

I remember little snippets of what was happening around me, the nurses telling me to grunt when I pushed, Kevin feeding me ice chips and apple juice through a straw and wiping the sweat off my forehead, everyone cheering, “C’mon Sara, you can do it Sara, push now, don’t hold back!” But all of the noise and commotion was in the background. I was present for my pain, possibly the most present I’ve ever been in my own body.

I closed my eyes, breathed and tried to muster up the courage to push when I felt a contraction coming on. My throat hurt from screaming. My arms were sore from yanking the cloth. My body ached, burned and shook. The breaks between each contraction were bitter sweet. I could rest for just a beat, but the anticipation of the next oncoming surge was awful. I did not want to have to push anymore, I just wanted to release, take a little nap and let the contraction wash over me. It didn’t work like that. The contractions were so intense now, so sharp and so immediate that it actually felt better to push.

I pleaded to the nurses, to the baby and to the heavens, “Please, get this baby out!”

The nurses set up a mirror so I could see everything. “Look, there’s her hair!” they said. “Look down and see your baby! She’s almost out.” I didn’t want to look. Honestly, it was a war zone down there, and they’d been telling me I was almost there for the last two hours.

“Is she going to come out soon?” I said to the nurses, defeated. “Can’t you just pull her out?”

“It’s up to you,” one of the nurses said. “Only you can do it. You have to give it everything you have.”

I wanted to punch her. “I know,” I said. “I am giving it everything. I’m trying really, really hard.”

The truth was that there was still more I could give and I knew it even though I didn’t want to admit it.

“It’s either you the doctor,” my midwife said, meaning I had to push her out soon or else the doctor would step in for a C-section.

I had worked at it for nearly three hours. I thought it would never end; this baby’s head would be stuck there forever. Until the end of time, I would be pushing out a baby like Sisyphus who was doomed to haul a boulder up a hill for all eternity.

Eventually, my midwife decided that I needed Pitocin to speed things up and make the contractions longer. They never got to sixty seconds and so I only had time to push two or three times. She wanted me to get a fourth push out of each contraction. She also told me to wait to push until she gave me the go-ahead. I was starting too soon and missing the peak.

At some point, I knew that the end was near which gave me an adrenaline rush. Everyone was yelling louder. “Push, push, push, Sara, you’re almost there, she’s coming, she’s almost there, give it everything, c’mon, good job, push!”

I took in deep inhalations and went to town.

Out she came all 9lbs 9 ounces of her. The pain and effort were over. They laid her on my chest while Kevin cut the cord. I didn’t cry. I reached out my arms and thought, “Just hand me my baby. Just give her to me.”

I didn’t know until later that Kevin had looked on terrified as they pulled her out of me, blue, her cord wrapped her neck. He watched as they uncoiled her and handed her to me. He said the color flushed back into her little body as soon as her skin touched mine. My midwife also told me later that she’d tied a knot in her cord – she must flipped around in there early on – and her spine was against my spine, making this a posterior labor which is apparently very painful, hence the pain in my low back. All of this, along with her large size, were risk factors. “Is she named for anyone?” my midwife asked. I told her Nora’s middle name was for my grandmother, Rosalyn, my father’s mother. “Well, she was watching over Nora today,” she said. “You were very lucky.”

Nora stopped crying when I held her. She was perfect, everything about her, her big strong lungs, her blue eyes, her button nose, her cone shaped head (which eventually rounded out, thank goodness), her imperfect ear. She nuzzled into me. Her body was warm against mine. I nursed her for the first time, although nothing came out, but I felt this was natural. Here she is. She is my daughter.

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My labor story (part I)

My Labor Story, Part I:

I packed for the hospital as if I were heading off to a spa/yoga retreat in the mountains. Though I feared labor would be grueling hard work, the worst pain I’d felt in my life, the books I had read had made me believe I could make it a meditative if not pleasant experience if I put my mind in the right spot and brought the right tools.

In our hospital bag, we packed the following: battery operated candles, an I-pod loaded with calming “labor” music such as Enya, Hem and the sounds of the ocean, a yoga mat and blocks, reading material including a book about hypnobirthing, What to Expect When You are Expecting, People Magazine and Tess of the D’Uberville, a sleep mask and some trail mix.

When I was in the thick of it, I would be equipped with appropriate supplies, readings and relaxation techniques.  I would visualize that each contraction was a wave lapping on the shore.  I would not know that I was pushing out a watermelon-sized baby; instead, I would think that I was floating on a bed of mist which gently shifted from red to orange and then faded into all the colors of the rainbow.

This was not how it went down. We did not use one of the items we packed in that bag.

I went into labor at 1am and waited about a half hour before waking Kevin.

“Kevin, I might be in labor,” I said, shaking his shoulder.

“Oh,” he said, groggy and confused. “That’s good.”

Soon it became clear to me that it was really happening. The contractions were about five minutes apart and I could no longer comfortably lie on my side in bed.

I sat on the birthing ball (which, in your Rock Hard Abs class at the gym is just called an exercise ball) and leaned forward onto the bed breathing through each contraction. I felt an intense pain in my back and a tingling crampy feeling stretching across my pelvis.  Kevin said supportive words, pressed down on my low back, timed my contractions on an app he’d downloaded onto his phone and made me some toast.

I waited until 4am before calling my midwife because she’d encouraged me to go through as much of the labor as I could at home. She said people tend to clam up at the hospital and often the contractions slow down, so better to wait it out. She asked me a few more questions which I can’t remember and then I said, “Excuse me, I’m about to have a contraction.” I breathed it out and when the pain subsided, said, “Okay, I think I’m done.”

Why was I being so calm and polite when seconds before I had been groaning, barreled over on the bed begging Kevin to let me call the doctor?

One of the nurses in our labor classes described a woman who rolled to labor and delivery in a wheelchair, clutching the side of the chair, hyperventilating, and after they checked her out, they discovered she was in early labor and she had thirty hours to go. I did not want to be the woman that nurses gossiped about to their classes for being a mega drama queen. Even in moments of intense pain, I self-consciously wanted Kevin and the nurses to think I was a warrior and not a baby.  So when my midwife asked me on a scale from one to ten, what my pain level was, I said five.

“Okay, you’re not in active labor yet,” she said. “I want you to call me when your contractions are exactly sixty seconds and no more than five minutes apart.”

When I called her at 7am, she gave me the same report. It wasn’t time to come to the hospital yet. I said okay and then got off the phone, whimpered and told Kevin how much I hated her.

I went into labor with an open mind about whether or not I’d use medication – I’d give it a good ol’ try the natural way, but I gave myself permission to decide whenever I wanted that the pain was too much. At this point, I just wanted to get to the hospital so they could drug me up. The pain I was feeling was manageable, I mean, it wasn’t like getting stabbed in the chest, (not that I really knew what that felt like either, but before going into labor I often tried to imagine which would be worse), but if this was just the start of my troubles, I didn’t want to know what active labor would feel like.

The movies have you believe labor is like a race from start to end, but really, I had some down time between each contraction. It wasn’t all horrific, crippling pain all the time. There was a lot of moaning and groaning, but I also had time to eat a few bites of the toast Kevin had made for me, take a shower, and suggest Kevin make the bed before we load up the car.

At 8:45am my water broke and so we made a run for it.

To be continued…

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