I can’t believe it, but tomorrow will be four months since Mary Tobin made her big debut!
She’s already changed so much:
I’m certain I scared the friends who asked me about childbirth in those first weeks after she was born, but now that the trauma has subsided, I’ll share some highlights (and lowlights?) of her birth.
Biggest surprise: As I noted here, my water breaking in the middle of Adventures in Babysitting was the most startling moment of my life. I was laying on the floor on our pallet of blankets and pillows, doing my best to be utterly still and relax the rest of my body in the middle of a contraction, when BOOM! Then I crawled to the bathroom.
That’s when Israel and I knew it was happening, for real! We should’ve known before. Didn’t want to get our hopes up, I guess. This was at 9 or 10 pm on November 14, so we knew at that point that our cubette would arrive on our wedding anniversary! Three days early.
Best game time decision: goes to my dad. Mama Rote was planning to fly up on Wednesday so she could be there and help out a couple days before Mary Tobin’s due date Friday. But it was Monday morning that I woke up with light contractions; felt like gas pain or cramps. I called Mom after my already-scheduled doctor’s appointment that morning to let her know what was happening, but I didn’t know if it was truly labor or not. We discussed whether she should try to get an earlier flight. After another conversation that afternoon, Mom told Dad I still wasn’t sure. He said, “Did she say don’t come?” [No.] “Then you’re going.”
Thanks to his airline wizardry, Mom hopped on an earlier plane, connected in Dallas, and walked in the door a little after midnight, right when I’d had enough and wanted to head to the hospital. I had forgotten this, but when she walked in, I said, “Mom, I’m dying.”
Labor strategy fails: I had Flannery O’Connor’s short story “A Good Man Is Hard To Find” bookmarked for Israel to read aloud to entertain and distract me (same strategy as the movie), but by the time we busted the book out, it was way too late for those kind of shenanigans.
I note this to say that the experience was unlike any other. We prepared well, I think, but you just don’t know what’s going to fly at the time. Some things, like the heat sock (full of rice, heated in the microwave), were smashing successes; while some—like coconut water, and, oh yeah, trying to show off with Flannery O’Connor—didn’t work out. Also, I forgot to pack the five copies of our birth plan for the people at the hospital. I think we found a rough draft though.
Hurt more than: running a marathon. (Yes, I’ve run a marathon! Don’t let it make you feel inadequate. It was over six years ago, and I’ve barely run since. Maybe I worked a life’s worth of running out of my system.) A friend asked if labor hurt worse because that’s what she heard from another friend of ours.
The comparison is tough, because one trains for a marathon and preps those muscles, building up strength and endurance to peak at the big race. For childbirth, we did what we could to mentally prepare, and I did these exercises, which I think helped a lot to make my pregnancy more comfortable. You can train your body to some extent, but not in the same way you would train for a race.
Biggest surprise for my grandmother’s generation: We took a shower. After the ordeal of checking in, my doctor came in to see how things were progressing. Not well enough apparently, so she asked what I’d been doing as far as walking around, etc., and whether I had taken a shower. I had not, so she said, “Go get in the shower.” Israel’s pink Polo swim trunks were packed, so we got in the shower where he used the extendable shower head to spray me down like an elephant.
Though I felt like a dying elephant, hot water did the trick, and it was time to push.
Best moment (that I remember): After an hour of pushing, some people—I don’t know who!—came in to set things up for the doctor and the final push! I was so happy that this meant we were almost done.
At the moment Mary Tobin was born, I did not have the ecstatic feeling that some women describe. My main feeling was relief. It was 6:15 am, and I was surprised that it was already morning.
Because of the shower, and because the lights were still low (and because I just delivered a child), the pics of me immediately following the birth are hideous at best. You can’t tell where my wet hair ends and the dark blue pillow behind me begins. In one pic I’m clearly giving the photographer (Mom?) the fakest smile of my life. At that point though, I was not the main event. Here’s the precious girl:
MVP (besides me and MT): Israel was cool, calm, and collected throughout. It certainly would not have gone so well without him; without him I think I might have exploded or imploded. He supported me and guarded me, as if he’d done this a million times.
When we were taking the long walk down the hall from the hospital emergency entrance to the labor and delivery ward, we’d stop for each contraction: I leaned on Israel, and he’d hold up a hand and prevent the way-too-chatty guy escorting us from continuing to chat and ask me questions IN THE MIDDLE OF A CONTRACTION! (In that guy’s defense, I was totally zen so he probably had no idea how much it was hurting.)
Perhaps it’s cheesy, but he was the only one I wanted with me. When he was right there with me during contractions, it felt like things would be OK.
And they were!
P.S. Let me know if you want to read the full birth story, which I wrote down so we could remember all the sweet and sordid details (as if this post isn’t longwinded enough). I don’t feel comfortable putting the whole thing online, but there’s no shame in wanting to read it! While pregnant I was searching around for all kinds of birth stories, especially positive ones, to help me know what in the world to expect.