I think the worst part about the contractions was the pressure. It was one thing when it was in its Beethoven subwoofing stage. Kind of like when the orchestra is tuning before the concert begins and you just hear a mosh of instruments gradually getting louder and louder…and then dissipating. As the contractions were getting more and more intense, there were definitely more horns in the mix, but again, it felt like a huge wave. And then the conductor decided to add more tubas. And bassoons. AND A GONG. All at the same time! And you’re sitting in the front row. Well, you get the idea. It was a big hot mess.
It was time to assemble the full team. All three women who assisted our birth came in the room and started prepping. They asked me where I wanted to give birth. I wanted to be in the tub. What amazed me was the fact that nobody told me what I needed to do. My body did. I just did what was most comfortable, which is how I ended up on my knees in the tub. Matt was facing me and holding me while the midwives were assisting me from behind. Holy crap, was the pressure intense! Again, going back to pre-pregnancy and really wondering what a contraction felt like… For me, it was like having to take a massive crap. But it was so massive and hard that I was afraid to push it out. How is this thing supposed to come out of me?! (*on a side note, I hope I never get constipated that bad. Ever.) The waves were constant and all I could do was keep breathing in between screaming. I felt the baby descending, and then the head…oh, the head. I understand why they call it “the ring of fire.” OW. I thought the contractions were painful, but this? This hurt! “OW…OW…OW…OW!!!” The head came out and I touched it. What a weird sensation… I just wanted it to be done. This hurts! Can I be done? Kind of like how you wanted to be excused from the table as a kid from having to eat your peas. May I be excused now? But then I thought I probably shouldn’t go through life with a head sticking out of my vagina. FINE. I’ll get the rest out! Ugh…
I was just SO exhausted. I knew Matt was too. But he stuck with me the whole time, kept encouraging me even when he was scared. He was an amazing coach, and I couldn’t have done it without him. We were so in sync, riding the waves together and working towards the same goal. He was calm when I was freaking out, patient when I was getting frustrated, and loving through this whole ordeal.
The baby slipped out of me. Instantly, the quivering, writhing pain went away. I sat back in the tub and held her clumsily. The midwife asked us what her name was. “Ellie.” We hadn’t told anybody, not even family what we chose as her name. And this was the first time telling anybody. It felt weird. This baby that just came out of me still didn’t feel real, and it felt separated from the name “Ellie.” I guess she was sucking on her thumb when she came out, and all the midwives were amazed because babies that small usually can’t do that yet. I looked down at her and felt disconnected. What’s going on? And why am I still FREAKING OUT?!?! I was hyperventilating and shaking. Then the midwife told me I had to deliver the placenta. Wha??? I thought that happens on its own in like, 20 minutes. Why do I have to? Now? There was a sense of urgency, but I didn’t really understand why. Then they started pushing on my stomach to push out the placenta. HOLY SH*T. I heard about this in our Bradley course, and how someone said it was worse than the contractions. Ohmygawd, it hurt. With the placenta out, it was placed in a bowl and whisked away with the baby and Matt. I was still hyperventilating and I just couldn’t catch my breath. And I was freezing. That’s when the midwife said I was forming blood clots inside and they had to get them out STAT. And in order to do that, they needed me to get out of the tub and to the bed. Are you kidding me?! I just squeezed a miniature human being out of a hole. I’m tired. And cold. NO. NO. And then she said if they didn’t get it out, I would have to be transferred to the hospital. You know when you got in trouble with your mom as a kid and she pulled the “I’m going to tell your father” card? Well, that’s what it was like. That instantly put a kibosh on my whining. FINE. Ugh…
They wrapped a blanket around me and helped me climb out of the tub, onto the bed. I was so cold. SO cold. And then…I saw the midwife put a rubber glove on, and go to town. Inside me. HOLY SH*T. I was there to get something out. Not in. Yup, her entire arm was inside me, scraping out all the blood clots. This was also something I had heard in our Bradley course about someone who knew someone who had to go through this. That it was worse than the contractions. Okay, I agree with that. I don’t think I’ll complain about my Pap smear exam ever again. This whole ordeal felt like an eternity, but I think in reality it was about 15 minutes.
I’m glad I didn’t have to see all the blood, but poor Matt saw everything. There he was, holding our newborn that was still attached to the placenta and the cord, sitting on the bed terrified of what was happening to his wife. He really is something. The midwife wrapped me up in layers of warm blankets, and gave me an IV to replenish the fluids. Phew. The chaos was over. I looked over at Ellie and she still didn’t seem real to me. I cut the cord, and Matt handed her to me. She latched on like a pro and I nursed her. I was expecting a rush of motherly hormones to come over me as I stared at her in awe…but it didn’t happen. Where’s my oxytocin rush like they showed in the documentary? I thought. I just felt exhausted, and wanted to pass out. But I remember thinking what if I fell asleep and she rolled off of me?! You hear about those pandas in the zoo where they ‘accidentally’roll over their newborn baby cubs and kill them. I can’t be a panda. But…I…am…so…tired…… I had to pee, but I was immobile. Ellie was swaddled, and so was I. Because I was so cold earlier, I was wrapped up in several layers of blankets. I was starting to sweat now. But my body ached so bad I couldn’t move. I thought to myself, after everything that’s happened today, wetting the bed probably wouldn’t be a really big deal. And before I could finish that thought, I passed out.
12 hours after Ellie was born, we were packing up to head home. We came as a couple and were leaving as a family. The birth center really encourages families to head home as soon as possible so mom can rest comfortably in her own bed. I was still sore, but was feeling great. Wow…we have a baby! She’s mine. She’s our’s! It was amazing to think of the life changing event that a mere 24 hours brought. I was just so excited to tell everybody that she was here, and to unveil her name. Ellie Kokomi. “Kokomi” is written “beautiful heart” in Japanese. Looking back, it honestly hadn’t hit me yet that we had a baby. That we became parents. At that point I was just so excited to go home, and to get sushi on the way back. Yes. I had been waiting for this moment for 9 months. The baby to arrive, of course, but SUSHI. SUUUUSHIIIIIIIIII. Sushi was the only thing I had to “give up” while I was pregnant. I didn’t even touch it when Matt and I went to Japan when I was 6 months pregnant. Let me say it again. I didn’t eat sushi when I was in Japan. That’s like going to a steak house and ordering chicken nuggets. Or a Coney dog without chili. Or pancakes without syrup. Why would you do that? Because I had 40 or so extra hormones in my body. That’s why.
So we stopped at one of my favorite Japanese restaurants on our way home and got sushi to go. When we got home, it all sunk in. WHOA. I couldn’t believe that the pregnancy chapter ended! All the research, the planning, the classes, the appointments, the relaxation exercises, counting my daily protein intake, nesting, everything. We were about to start a new chapter, and I had absolutely no idea what it was going to be like. But I was so happy with the last chapter and how it ended. Yes, even the tuna noodle casserole, the uterus rave, everything that went in instead of out, the chaos following Ellie’s birth, I wouldn’t have changed a single thing. It was the most amazing, empowering experience I ever had. The bond I felt with Matt was incredible, the love from the midwives was amazing, and the birth place couldn’t have been more beautiful. This book had been incredible thus far, and surely this new chapter would be just as good, if not better. I had no idea how things were going to unravel, but the only way to find out was to turn the pages one at a time.
What surprised me the most about this experience was the fact that the birth of my child, even with a 24 hour labor, a difficult, challenging, painful, yet empowering experience, did not instantly make me a “mother”. It was something I had to learn, just like Ellie was learning to accept living in this world. It shocked me, disappointed me, angered me, and I even felt ashamed. What’s wrong with me? I’m not instantly, madly, blindly, head-over-heels in love with my child (like you always see and hear about)! But through accepting myself, the process, the unexpected, and with all the love from friends, family, and Matt, I’ve learned to let go. And the moment I did, my love for Ellie grew stronger. I still don’t really understand what it means to be a “mom”, but the journey so far, I’m enjoying it. And I guess that’s all that really matters.
Happy birthday Ellie. Happy Birth Day to Matt and me! Thank you for pushing me to places I’ve never been to before, for your unconditional love and trust, for showing me what it really means to live each day to the fullest, for the joy and happiness so thick I can literally touch and smell, and most of all for choosing your dad and I to join this journey with you.