It's a girl! Almost two years after I became a mother for the first time, I am a new mother again but this time I was blessed with a gorgeous little girl. She is 10 weeks old now and I fall in love with her more every day. Here is the story of her birth.
Ava Elizabeth Morris was born on a rainy Tuesday evening in the spring. I was 39 weeks pregnant and oh-so-ready to not be pregnant for one second longer. I realize in hindsight that I am not a very inspiring pregnant person.
I went in for my 39 week check-up the Monday before she was born. When my midwife checked my dilation, her eyes widened and she said, "Well, you're between 4 and 5 centimeters dilated and about 90 percent effaced."
She warned me to be ready to get to the hospital as soon as contractions started because I wasn't going to hold this baby in for long once things got going. She estimated that the baby would come within the week.
My husband Clayton had come down with the flu and I begged him to stay home and rest up for our baby. He did not. After that fateful doctor's visit, I called him to inform him that it was an anytime-now situation. I don't think men ever really believe it until someone is actually yelling Push!!
I called him around noon and he was coming back from a meeting with plans to rest on the couch for the remainder of the day. That never happened!
Before picking him up at the train station, I stopped at the market to make sure that my refrigerator would be properly stocked for my mother-in-law when she came to watch Miles while I went to the hospital. I was not careful at the market. I bended and twisted and lifted heavy things. I was deliberately challenging my body to go into labor. And it worked! It turns out a rigorous trip to Whole Foods was the ticket!
After picking Clayton up from the train, I started to contract as he was carrying the groceries in. He thought I might be kidding but when I started to time them 7 minutes apart, I told him that it was time to take me seriously. He called his mother in Pennsylvania and told her to get to New Jersey pronto.
"This is the call you've been waiting for," he said when she picked up the phone.
We started to pack for the hospital with uncertainty. Contractions were still seven minutes apart and Clayton wanted his "lucky Adidas track pants," which were still wet in the washer. We waited for them to dry and I put on some makeup so I wouldn't look like a total beast when I met my new baby.
I have always hoped not to be one of those women who gets sent home from the hospital with false labor. Well that happened. The baby did not come that night. My contractions were too piddly to get any kind of labor started and they remained at 7 minutes apart.
The midwife told us to go home so that we could rest and try again tomorrow. Hospital rules prevented her from breaking my water in order to induce labor until I was exactly 39 weeks, which wasn't until the next day.
"Go home, eat some spicy food, walk around a little, do some nipple stimulation with your breast pump, have a glass of wine, have some sex," she said. "When a woman has an orgasm, it brings the uterus down and can bring on labor."
I nodded, willing to do anything. Clayton blushed in the corner and pretended to look at something on his iPad.
I was heartbroken to be sent home while contracting and dilated. So I tried all of the above. All of it. I would have tried it all at the same time if that were possible.
None of those things in and of themselves brought on labor. I ended up sleeping most of the night with a few contractions waking me up.
The next morning I went back to the midwife for a checkup. This time it was a different midwife who was very much a fan of Clayton. She said that I had dilated another 2 cm overnight and that we should head back to the hospital to "get this party started." She also gave Clayton a prescription for a zpack so that he would be healthy for our newborn. We went back home for our bags and brought lunch for my mother-in-law who had put Miles down for a nap.
I did not want to see Miles before we left for the hospital because I knew I would be too emotional but we dawdled so long that he woke up from his nap before we left. I will never forget the wide eyed look on his face as I left for the hospital. He was sitting on my mother-in-law's lap eating apple slices. I cried and kissed him and said, "Mommy loves you! I'll be back soon, sweetheart! I love you!"
He didn't understand of course. He looked at me with big sleepy eyes and said, "Bye bye Mommy." I knew it would never be the same again and I hoped that I was leaving to bring him the best friend he would ever know. I cried for our family of three that would never be the same again, even though it was changing in a good way.
Once we arrived at the hospital again, things moved quickly. They broke my water within an hour of arrival.
I was on the fence about having an epidural and wanted to see how far I could get. Wow. That was some crazy bullshit. I dilated all the way to about 8-9 cm before I got the epidural and it was horrid. I felt like someone was sawing me in half.
But I did not curse and I did not cry. Other than throwing a vomit bowl at Clayton when he tried to film a contraction, I kept it together. And I tried everything to endure that pain! I got in the tub. I sat on the ball. I bit down on towels. Nothing helped the pain subside. Whatever fortitude it takes to endure childbirth without meds, I do not possess.
As the contractions worsened, Clayton could hardly look at me. It must be really hard to see someone you love in such agony. He tried to rub my forehead but was uneasy. "What does it feel like?" he asked. I couldn't even form the sentences to tell him.
When I finally did order the epidural, I had to get 15 minutes of fluids via an IV. Luckily, I had the needle put in my arm earlier in the afternoon. In that 15 minutes, I had to endure about 10 more God-awful contractions. It felt like 15 hours! I was told that the anesthesiologist on duty that day was "the best" and bless his heart, he was! I barely felt the epidural and I had relief almost immediately! If I could remember his name, I'd send him flowers. A car. I would have put him in my will at the time, I was so grateful.
After the epidural my midwife said we would wait a little while for the meds to take effect and my uterus to finish dilating. She left to check on a few other patients. Twenty minutes later another midwife, her colleague, walked in. It had been a busy night for them with five other women going into labor. I had warned them of the Hurricane Irene storm babies like mine!!
The second midwife walked in smiling and said she had come to help. She checked my dilation and said, "Oh honey, you're ready. This baby is nearly out already!" She asked me to push once. I pushed and felt the baby move nearly half way out of me. "Lets do this!" she said.
I asked for a fresh pair of socks that I had brought and the midwife and Clayton both tried to discourage me. Don't ask me why I was so fixated on those darn socks but I would not push again without them.
"You don't want those socks, they're going to get all messed up," she said.
"Yes I really do. I don't care. I bought them just for this," I said.
"No hon, you don't want the socks," said Clayton.
"I do, I want the socks," I said.
"Are you sure? The socks are going to get icky," said the midwife.
"GIVE ME THE SOCKS!!!"
Once I had the socks, the midwife told Clayton to come hold my head and he had to scramble to get his cameras and get to my bedside. The nurse walked in and saw the baby nearly out and said, "Oh my! Hang on let me get set up!"
Two more pushes and five minutes later and the baby was out!
"It's a boy!" said the nurse because the umbilical cord was wrapped between her legs, looking rather testicle-like.
"It is?" I said, fully expecting this result.
"Wait a minute, what is this..." she said, turning over my tiny bundle of joy. "No, this is a girl! It's a girl!"
My baby girl. I was so shocked that she was a girl that I couldn't think much else. I cried. I cried through laughter. I cried more than I thought I would and more than I did when Miles was born. I was shocked and happy and grateful. So I laughed and cried and then laughed and cried some more.
It wasn't all smooth sailing from then on out. Having not spent much time in the birth canal, Ava was still full of muchus and had a hard time breathing. Two nurses turned into six or seven and they all worked frantically to get her breathing easily on her own. They warned us that if she didn't start breathing easier they would take her to the NICU. The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. The acronym no parent wants to hear. I watched across the room as several nurses descended on my tiny baby and tried to put all the scary words I heard out of my mind.
In the meantime, I lay on the delivery table bleeding pretty profusely. My placenta was wedged and I continued to bleed while my body failed to deliver it. My blood pressure dropped significantly and the nurse told me to hang up the phone with my mom so that she could care for me and try to bring my blood pressure back up. She warned of a possible transfusion if they couldn't stabilize me.
It was nerve-wracking with both of us in potential danger but it passed quickly and we were soon stable. This world will soon learn that my daughter and I are resilient and strong. And soon enough they handed her back to me and I had my first real good look at her.
"Oh she's pretty," I said with a hint of surprise. Not because I didn't expect her to be pretty but because I didn't expect anything of her at all.
The beauty of not finding out the gender of your babies is that you have no expectations of them before they are born. You love them because they are your offspring but you don't anticipate them in pink or blue. You don't ask yourself if they'll be pretty or handsome, strong or feminine, smart or sensitive. You learn to love them for who they are - not what they are. It is a beautiful thing to have zero preconceived notion of your child when you meet them.
My little girl is very sweet and mild and precious. She completes our family so perfectly. Her brother loves his "Baby Ava" and she absolutely lights up when he walks into her sight. Clayton calls her"baby girl" and looks at her with trepidation and even more awe. For the first few weeks or her life, he only touched her with the very tips of his fingers for fear of breaking her. He was not as gentle with Miles but Miles was an 8 pound boy. Ava was a 6 pound girl.
As for me, I had no idea I could love a little girl this much. I was used to loving my little boy but had no notion of raising a girl. I wasn't excited for hair braiding or dresses. I could care less about dolls and pink and princesses. But I adored her from the get-go. She doesn't look much like me but she is a part of me in a way that I can't explain.
Almost from birth, Ava could wrap her arms around my neck when I held her. It is the sweetest feeling to hold her and feel her holding onto me right back. It makes me want to cry to think about it because it is symbolic of our relationship so early on: She knows that I need her as much as she needs me. And she's right, I do.
When I look at Ava and Miles at the same time, I am overwhelmed to think, "These are my children. These are the two souls I have been blessed with." I don't think I'll ever get over how amazing it is.
My children have saved me in ways that I cannot describe. They are such beautiful souls. May I always be worthy to be their mother.