Friday, January 6, 2012

Motherhood Revisited

On December 23rd, at two minutes after midnight Alexandria, VA-time, Girl turned one. Had I pushed more efficiently, she would have had one day more between her and Christmas. Sorry, Girl, I hope everyone treats them as different events for the rest of your life, although your own Grammy and Great Grandmother would probably assure you that, no, unfortunately they do not.

I haven't typed up Girl's birth story, but the occasion of her very first birthday is a good reason to do so.

When pregnant with Boy, I was determined to do All The Right Things, and I shared that with everyone who would listen. I was going to have a natural birth, breastfeed immediately, keep him away from TV until he was 2, etc. etc. Then I swelled like a water balloon (Husband's favorite metaphor), was induced from 0 cm and ended up with the totally unwelcome but predictable C-section. Boy was almost three weeks early, slept all the time at the beginning and then never again after that, and barely ate. The first 8 months of our relationship were centered around how much nursing or sleeping he was or was not doing at any given moment. It was not an auspicious start to motherhood, and in retrospect the experience robbed us both. I spent the next two plus years hating my birth experience and even hesitating when I would say, "When I gave...birth to Boy," because I just couldn't forgive myself for not having pushed him out.

With Girl, I wanted a VBAC desperately, but I had learned enough in the interim between pregnancies that having desperate desires was a good way to set myself up for failure. Plus, I was a geographically single working mom in India. I had other things on my mind. By the time I got back to the U.S., I was twenty weeks pregnant. The day after I landed, I went to the ER for my final bout of Intestinal India and was, predictably, sent to L&D. They neglected to diagnose my bacterial infection, but they did confirm that I was pregnant with a very healthy looking little girl.

I immediately set to nesting, interrupted by several hours each day of Estonian training. By the time December rolled around, I had gained 30 fewer pounds than I had with Boy, and I felt good, but ready. The anticipation was killing me and I read every sign as A Sign. My poor mother flew out and kept extending her return, but alas, Girl stayed put. Boy was pulled out three weeks early and Girl decided to start her descent two days late. It was the best thing that could have happened.

I woke up about 1:30 a.m. on Wednesday, December 22 with a contraction. This was not terribly unusual, so I went back to bed. When I woke up at 6:00 with Boy, I felt another. Then ten minutes later, another. Then ten minutes later. Funny thing happens in late pregnancy: I was so convinced that I was going to be pregnant forever that I thought this was probably false labor. In reality, I was two days past my due date, sans mucus plug (TMI FTW!), and ready to go. I sent Husband to class and Boy to school, determined to enjoy my last few hours of silence and labor at home.

Keep in mind that I had never labored at home, or spontaneously, before.

Mostly I was bored. I fiddled around the house, tried to nap, took walks. My dad and stepmom were on standby. In late morning, I called Husband to tell him this was actually labor and that I wanted a milkshake and a Bureaucrat sandwich from Lost Dog Cafe, so he came home and obliged. Note to first time pregnant ladies: if you eat a big lunch during labor, you will see it later. It was still worth it (both labor and the sandwich).

My dream of a 9 hour labor came and went, and at 4:00 p.m. Boy came home and the grandparents came over to go on a walk around our snowy neighborhood. Contractions were still about ten minutes apart and I was pretty sure she would go to college in my uterus. Boy leapt on me, and I crumbled to the ground, unable to hold him. That was the first indication that my body was getting serious about this whole baby-expelling thing. Soon after, Boy cried in confusion as I bounced in the living room, mooing. (Note: everyone says sway, and nurses at the hospital kept saying it too. No sway for me, only the balls-of-my-feet bounce.)

By 6:15 p.m., I was sure I would split in half. Contractions were on top of each other, two or three at a time before I would get a two minute break. I was at least 12 hours into labor, if not more, and shit that sucker hurt. I had to be at least 14 cm dilated! Let's go to the hospital.

A snowy car ten minute car ride and three brutal contractions later:


In between my mooing (literally. mooing.), I said screw it to my natural birth plans and asked for an epidural. Oops. I know I would have survived, and if we had had a third, I would have tried for a drug-free birth again, but I'm going to be zen and not focus on that. Anyway: epidural. Only the right side worked. I actually ended up preferring that. I could still feel contractions, but more manageably.

A couple hours after ending up at the hospital, I was at seven centimeters, and the midwife said I would have a baby by morning. Girl was tolerating contractions perfectly and as I watched her heartbeat remain strong and steady, I flashed back to the constant decels with Boy. His decels were probably a result of the early induction--pitocin-strong contractions are rough on an umbilical cord--but it wasn't until that moment that I realized that Boy really wasn't tolerating labor. It wasn't a medical conspiracy because it was a Saturday. I won't comment on the induction decision, but the c-section was due to his heart rate. I forgave myself at that moment.

Then I barfed. Hello, Bureaucrat sandwich and milkshake.

Then Girl had her first decels and my heart plummeted to somewhere in the vicinity of my toes. The nurse came in and checked to see if her cord had slipped out, as the change was sudden. Nope. I had flown from 7 to 10 in thirty minutes and the baby had made her way to -2. It was time.

Twelve minutes of pushing later and there she was, screaming on my stomach as they suctioned her nose and rubbed her a bit, waiting for her cord to stop pulsating. My baby, my VBAC. The birth of a baby is the birth of a parent, and this time I wasn't conflicted. I made peace, finally, with Boy's birth and reveled in my little munchkin. Seven pounds, ten and a half ounces, and a voracious eater from the start.

She came on her own time and that lesson was hugely important to this mama.

By the time a baby is a year old, we have something of substance to say about that little person. We have a daughter who is the following:

Smiley. Tall. Chubby. Blond. Blue-eyed. Vampire-toothed. A dancer. A pink-elephant lover. Snuggly. A pea and carrot fanatic. A DJ Lance groupie. A walker. A climber. A sister. Loud. A cup master. A cat snuggler. A big brother worshipper. A cheddar bunny addict. A pattycake master. A Daddy's girl.

That child kills with her smile, with two canine teeth on top and her two middle teeth on bottom. She'll toddle right past me to see her father and I'm trying not to begrudge him that. She dances exactly like Nanny does, which Nanny is trying to interpret as flattery and not mockery. She's turned into a little teeny kid and she did it quicker than I could imagine.

Happy Birthday, Girl. Thanks for being you.


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