I’m writing this both so I’ll remember it, and because I devoured every birth story I could find while I was pregnant. There’s something so comforting in mama voyeurism, and most of the books leave all the good parts out. I have left out things, both on purpose, and because I’m now 10+ months of foggy brain. DO NOT read this if birth grosses you out. Obviously.
edit: I'M SORRY THIS IS SO LONG AND BORING. carry on.
I found out I was pregnant at week 5 or 6. I had a choronic villus sampling test at 11 weeks, on a Monday. That Thursday, I got a phone call from the genetics office. The nurse was excited to tell me that it was a female. I cried, and I called everyone, and started talking to baby girl inside my belly.
30 weeks later I was 1 week past my due date. My date had been moved back a few times, so I was already anxious, and now obnoxiously bloated. The stretch marks that circle my belly now are from that last week of waiting. I had been so good at soaking my gigantic tummy in belly oil!
Friday April 12th, technically my due date, I started feeling dull, deep contractions. There isn’t a lot of information out there for the first-time mom to understand what labor feels like, and maybe that’s intentional. Everyone knows it feels shitty and painful. I googled it a lot. I think just try to picture your muscles all tearing. And period cramps times a million.
I started feeling contractions a week before Luna actually arrived, and it started a long and painful, annoying process. Super-nesting, wanting the house to be in order in preparation for being gone. I think that’s why pregnant women want it all to be over at the end - you’re excited to meet the baby, but also ready to get over the extra-nesting urges.
I had saved up a lot of my reading to do at the very end. I read Ina May’s natural birthing book, and her breastfeeding book. I skimmed a lot of the other books. Florence and I went on walks. I think, looking back, I was really lucky to have a few weeks alone, to center myself. Even though the whole time I was thinking the baby would be early and quick, and I’d have to run home post water-breaking with fluid everywhere and a terrified dog. It was a relatively peaceful time, and I walked through all the constant cramps.
That saturday, we skipped a friend’s wedding...we decided it was too far from the hospital, and I was emotionally tied to my sweatpants. We sat at home, ate pizza and watched a movie. I lost my mucous plug, or I thought I did. I bounced on a giant pink exercise ball that I had borrowed from my sister-in-law. It helped distract my brain, I think. And it’s supposed to loosen the birthing muscles.
The next Tuesday, I went to see my OBGYN. He did a test, listened for the heartbeat, and said I was 2 cm dilated. My OB is a great dude, very funny, and not excitable in any way. He said we would probably see a baby ‘soon,’ and sent me home with some casual instructions to call him if anything happened. I went back Thursday for the stress test where they hook you up to monitors and watch the heartbeat over time. Mr OB looked at the results, said ‘great.’ He asked if I wanted to induce midnight that night, and I accepted.
We were scheduled to induce two nights in a row, denied twice because of crowding, and then finally went in because I had painful contractions.
The receptionist was annoyed and barely noticed us while we stood in the hallway at LB Memorial. The rest of the staff was even worse, and barely looked up. Since we were marked for an ‘Induction,’ that was written on our intake papers, and we could hear everyone who read it give us a huge sigh and ‘INDUCTION, WE DON’T HAVE ROOM FOR THAT.’ We waited in the waiting room, which smelled like old sandwiches, and had flickering fluorescent lighting. It added to my uncomfortable weepiness. The contractions were getting too painful to consider going home. We spent a few hours in that waiting room, and wondered what our dog was doing. I asked Ben to tell the intake nurse the pain that I was in, thinking she wasn’t taking my labor seriously. I finally went up and cried to her myself. She repeated again that they didn’t have room. Finally, my contractions reached 3 minutes apart/ 1 min long. One of the overnight nurses took pity on me and found us a triage room. They hooked me up to monitors and told me to rest. The contractions got stronger, we could see them on the monitor. The room was cold and small, and there was a couple next to us. It was a crazy maze of curtains that always seemed to be getting pulled back and twisted. I was hooked up to fluids. It was miserable but still really exciting to be in a bed, and getting closer to having a baby.
My doctor was in the hospital for a scheduled C-section, and stopped by to check my progress. I was 3 cm, but had lost my mucus plug for real this time. He yelled at the nurse that I was moving quickly and wanted to break my water. The nurse countered that they weren’t allowed to break waters in a triage room. Hours flew by really fast even though I was in a lot of pain.
After what seemed like forever, I got a birthing room. It felt amazing to relax a little, and get ready to go through more labor. After the trauma of being in labor in the waiting room for so long, I asked for an epidural. I had planned on doing everything naturally, but now I know that unless you have a REAL plan, it’s really easy to rely on the epidural. Next time I will advocate for natural birth and demand a midwife and birthing classes and everything. But this time, we were on our own, and that epidural made everything easier. We watched the contractions go up and down on the monitor. It was really quite amazing how something can do that to your insides...squeezing and stretching and moving, all on its own.
We were moved into the birthing room around 7 am, and called the doctor in. He broke my water and then everything progressed really fast. I didn’t need pitocin. Luna wanted to be born that day.
After a few hours of family coming in and out and clearly raising my blood pressure, Ben kicked everyone out and helped me go through the contractions. He was really amazing. He held my hands and told me everything would be alright. He held my legs when we got to the pushing part. He wasn’t too grossed out by everything. He’ll tell you the really gross details if you ask him.
We started to push around 12:30pm and Baby Luna peeked her head out with a couple pushes. The Doc reached in and scooped her head and then shoulders out. She cried, and I cried. The NICU doctors grabbed her and tested her because of meconium. I’m really glad they did all the testing right next to me, I got to look at her tiny little beautiful body. I fell in love with that smashed little nose, I knew she was perfect. I think the whole time I was pregnant, I was so terrified that she wouldn’t function outside of me. It was such a glorious relief to see her out and breathing and screaming.
I was stitched for a small tear and then immediately got some alone time with Ben and the little bubb. She nursed right away. She’s been nursing pretty constantly ever since. And that was just the beginning of our little family story. We chose the name Luna because we always felt the moon had a magical and mysterious effect on our relationship. We had been going back and forth between a few names, but it just seemed perfect.
all photos by Benjamin Squirrell.