I love reading birth stories. During the last trimester, I devoted a lot of time to two of the top preggo hobbies: reading birth stories and stalking Instagram pics of other pregnant women to compare bellies. It’s compulsive.
Yet I always balked at the idea of writing one. I am an oversharer by nature, an extrovert with few inhibitions or secrets who loves talking about life, all life, even the ignored bits, with pretty much everyone. I have to make a concerted effort on this blog and social media in general to curb my sharing when it affects others because it doesn’t come easily to me. With Henry in our lives, I’m reeling, trying to find a way to share, but also protect. To put forth the bits of motherhood that bring life and joy while also holding tight and close the things that are most precious just for us. It meant making a separate and private Instagram account just for people we actually know and love, not just cyber friends, so I can be more free with what I share about Henry. It will mean reassessing how and what I share here, and it will probably take us awhile to sort that out.
But I did want to share about his birth, partially because it was the best day of my life and I want to gush about it to everyone, and partially because I know that by sharing it here, I can come back and read it myself, remembering things afresh.
So in lieu of an actual birth story in all its details, here are some highlights from Henry’s birth. The moment that they announced that they would be letting me stay at the hospital and have a baby. Every birth is different, and mine was so different than what I expected, namely the charting of contractions and the anticipatory car ride as I huffed and puffed and counted. If you follow on Instagram, you may have seen me posting about trying to walk this baby out, and you might have done the math and rolled your eyes at my impatience as I was 37-38 weeks along rather than 40. There is a reason for this. At my 37 week appointment they told me that I was 3 cm dilated and that they would not be letting me go to my brother’s wedding on June 4th pregnant. Instantly, I burst into tears, begging for an induction, which they can’t do without reason before 39 weeks. People- I scheduled one for June 1st, and ACTUALLY THOUGHT I COULD BE IN A WEDDING ON JUNE 4TH. Laugh with me. But in the meantime, I started doing everything I could to get labor started. When my 38 week appointment rolled around, I had still experienced 0 contractions… which was why it was strange when the doctor checked and announced that I was at 5cm dilated. They did a membrane sweep and said that contractions should start soon… which never happened. All the following day I bounced, walked, even jogged, ate pineapple, chugged raspberry tea- NOTHING. Finally I called James during rush hour and just asked if we could go to the hospital to have them check for progress. We trekked out there, received some eye rolling when they strapped me into triage and watched for 20 minutes and found no contractions. But then they did a cervix check and found that I was at 7cm, 80% effaced, station 0, just not able to feel any contractions. Given this strangeness and the fact that it meant that they had no clue how fast labor would go, they went ahead and announced I could stay, at which point I literally skipped down the hall to bare my back for that sweet, sweet epidural.
The moment where my mom walked in. I had called her that morning in a flood of anxiety, saying I wasn’t in actual labor, but I needed her and could she please just start driving from Kentucky. She calmly announced that she had felt this might happen so the she had packed the car the night before, and she hung up to start driving. She walked into the hospital minutes before they broke my water, and I can’t imagine her not having been there. The moment I did finally feel a contraction (after having my water broken with still no contractions and then some strong Pitocin) and was able to hit my epidural button to crank it up. Um, I’m officially ruined for later babies if this scenario doesn’t repeat itself, because contractions are the worst. But by feeling a couple, I was relieved that this was HAPPENING, the baby was actually coming.
Listening to the monitors. I loved being hooked up to beeping screens. It meant I could watch Henry’s steady heartbeat all night and hear it thumping through the room. Late in the night, shortly after they told me I was at 10 cm and we would start pushing soon, I had the most amazing calm. It was dark and still, James napping next to me holding my hand, my mom dozing on the couch, no sound but the strong thumping of Henry’s heart pulsing through the room. We were surrounded by the sound of the life that I alone had felt for so long, and I can’t even tell you how special that was. The moment where, after almost two and a half hours of pushing — punctuated with moments of despair where I kind of just wanted to give up and have them cut him out — the nurse announced that we would start seeing the head.
The moment where Henry entered the world screaming and the doctor turned to pass him to me. James was between us, and before putting him in my arms, she held him up to James’ face. The two touched foreheads and in that moment, Henry instantly stopped crying, staring at his father. Lying on that bed, watching my boys meet each other, seeing my mom grinning and weeping over their shoulders– that is the single best moment in my entire life. Holding my son for the first time. Taking in every molecule of him, from his ginger hair, to his ridiculously long limbs, to his pointy head that was quickly and kindly covered in a hat. The breakfast burrito that I inhaled post birth. Maybe it was the pushing, but I maintain that it was one of the finest delicacies that I have ever eaten. Ok, so because I love cafeteria food, I actually loved every single time that I got to order something and have it show up on a tray. But the burrito was a true standout and I ordered it three times. Deciding on a name halfway through his first day, and then having an exhausted and holy moment praying for this baby by name there in our tiny hospital room. Watching our people meet our son. The stream of family and friends who flowed through that hospital, and through our home in the days following, have helped us experience the joy of him anew at every meeting. My friend Jackie had a baby recently and texted me, “It’s like holding an entire world!” And she’s right. From the months of planning for him to enter our world, to the moment of reality when he did, it feels surreal and natural and exciting and terrifying all at once. And we, James and I, people with no real clue what we are doing, we get the ridiculous privilege of caring for this little world and introducing him to the big one.