Onederland

My baby is one.

The morning of her birthday, Ellie woke up crying at 1AM. We looked at her on the video monitor (which is the #1 most useful baby gadget we have, hands down) and noticed that her crib sheet seemed awfully wet. We usually give her a few minutes to cry if she wakes up at night to see if she’ll settle herself back down (nine times out of ten she puts herself back to sleep within a minute or two), but we thought maybe she had leaked out of her diaper or something so we went right in. As soon as we opened the door the vomit smell hit us like a ton of bricks. Poor baby had puked everywhere. In addition to her sheet being soaked, puke was smeared all over her PJs, all over her face, in her hair, in her ears.

Tammy and I changed her and wiped her down as best we could and then I rocked her and sang to her and told her I loved her. At first she was tense and straining against me, agitated and exhausted and confused. But soon her little body was relaxing and growing heavier and so I laid her down in her clean crib. I stroked her face and her fuzzy head and as I pulled my hand back to let her sleep, her little fingers reached up and grasped mine, and so I sat there, hand in hand with my girl, as she fell asleep.

hands-istock-infant-holding-mothers-hand-bw

Happy Birthday to my spirited, joyful, funny and beautiful not-so-baby girl. Thank you for making me a mother. Thank you for choosing me. Thank you for holding my hand in the middle of the night. Welcome to onederland.

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Remember November

November is a bad month for me, because it’s the month I lost my first, desperately wanted pregnancy.

November is also a beautiful month for me, filled with gratitude for the honor of watching my daughter grow.

I wrote THIS last year about the miscarriage, and it still rings true for me. Memories are still triggered that bring back the drowning feeling of despair. There’s a bit of cognitive dissonance as I bathe my daughter in the tub that two years ago I floated in, feeling the waves of pain envelop me. As I rake leaves in our backyard and remember wondering what “it” would look like, even knowing my daughter is napping inside.

I am so, so grateful for my girl. Beyond grateful. Privileged and in awe that she is here.

But having Ellie also brought into sharp focus what I lost, and what could have been

fall-leaves.

The Spirit Is Willing

Hi there. Long time, no post.

I would say I’m sorry (because I am) but I have no real words to offer up in defense. I think of posting often, and have many things I’d like to say to you. But by the time I’ve run through my day of up early/commute/work/pump/commute/pick up baby/home/put baby to bed/eat dinner/sit on couch with no pants I’m totally spent, you know? After dinner is when I could totally try to make something of the dozen-odd half formed posts that live in my drafts folder, but at that point It’s all I can do to keep my eyes open while I prep the baby and myself for the next day.

As they say, the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.

So how about a quick run down? The baby first, because, well, she is our raison d’être.

She’s almost 9 months now. Can you believe it?!

She sleeps mostly well. We sleep trained (Ferber, which sucked massively but goddamn if it didn’t work exactly like it’s supposed to) at 4ish months. She took to it in a few days and then we tackled night feedings by once a week dropping a minute off the time that I nursed her. Once we were down to about 5 minutes per nursing session she decided waking up wasn’t worth her time and started sleeping through the night. For the most part she goes down by 7PM and wakes up around 6AM, although recently she’s been waking up around 4 or 5 which is decidedly not cool and makes me dread the end of Daylight Savings Time. We’re going to be putting her down a few minutes later every night this week in hopes that it will help recalibrate her clock. It probably won’t work, but then, I’m your resident pessimist.

She eats VERY well. She has three big bowls of solid food a day and has recently gotten the hang of self feeding via soft bits of carrot and peas and cheerios and her beloved puffs. Over the next few months I figure we’ll transition to more and more self feeding and do away with the baby food (which she LOVES).

I am working on weaning her from breastfeeding, which I am both sad and excited about.

Breastfeeding was really hard in the first few months. She initially wouldn’t latch due to her tongue tie, I had massive engorgement, she ate round the clock (seriously, she was either attached to the boob or screaming – I was her pacifier, and no plastic substitute was acceptable) and I got little to no sleep. For weeks I would sleep in half hour bursts which drove me to the very brink of my sanity. The gaping maw of insanity is a very dark and terrifying place. PPD is not a joke, my friends. Tread lightly.

On the other hand, I spent some heart achingly sweet time cuddled up with my girl, and I was (and am!) so damn proud of myself for being able to feed my daughter from my very own body. After all the shit infertility put my sense of self through, being able to nourish and sustain my long fought for child from my very own body (sorry, that needs to be repeated) went a long way toward healing.

So why am I stopping? Well, I went back to work and my supply tanked. I did the fenugreek, the water, the oatmeal, the extra pump sessions, the power pumping and blah blah blah. It helped some, but not enough and I was killing myself trying to make quota every day. So we started supplementing, which further tanked my supply, and it’s been dwindling ever since. My hope was that I could feed her mornings and nights and just not worry about pumping during the day, but Ellie just seems frustrated that she gets a measly few ounces first thing in the morning when she would greatly prefer a hearty breakfast of about 7 or 8 ounces.

And while it’s sad, it’s also exciting. If I never have to pump again it will be too soon. I might burn that damn pump. Seriously. Set the fucker on fire and dance around its charred remains. If there is anything more sucky (ha) about pumping, please don’t bring it to my attention because god almighty there is enough shit in the world.

So. The end. Sob. (Yay!)

Ellie loves her daycare. We had a few bumps as we all got adjusted, but it’s worked out beautifully. She has two sweet little friends in her class that she plays with every day and the teachers help gently encourage skills that routinely blow me away. It’s like, what do you mean she can hold her own bottle/clap hands/wave bye-bye/blow kisses/hold hands with her friend (omgsocute)/etc. I didn’t teach her that! It’s like she’s an independent person! That can be taught things! Weird!

She is crawling like a champ, and pulls herself to stand. We think she’ll be an early walker, probably by Christmas, according to her teacher. She would be around 10 or 11 months then.

And how are her mamas? We’re well. We’re both a little shell shocked from her infancy, and honestly, we’re just starting to recover. Tammy gets visibly upset if anyone mentions having another baby (because obviously it would be the easiest and cheapest thing to get pregnant) and is adamant about wanting to be one and done with Ellie. I go back and forth on the issue but don’t want to commit myself one way or another. There are pros and cons to both.

One thing that Tammy I and agree on is that Ellie’s infancy was, frankly, the most difficult thing we’ve ever done. Now though, it is so, SO fun. So worth it. This is what I wanted when I fought so long for a child. Watching her discover and explore and learn and grow. Her whole body smile. Giving her one last kiss on her fuzzy little head when I lay her sleep heavy body down in her crib at night.

Like they say, the days are long but the years are short. I hope you all are well. xo

It Never Left

You know how when that Justin Timberlake song “Bringing Sexy Back” came out, and everyone went around saying “I wasn’t aware that it left”? No? Just me? Ok then.

Video break!

Well, that’s how I feel when people say things about getting their body “back” after having a baby. INCLUDING my Mother in Law who told me I really should be working on regaining my girlish figure.

Liz Lemon Eye Roll

I managed not to make this face. Barely.

Look, I, like most women in our patriarchal BULLSHIT society, have a complicated relationship with my body. Sometimes I think I look ok, good even! Other times I despair over this or that, and feel like I’m not fit for polite society. Then came infertility and a miscarriage, and I started to truly hate my body, because I felt like it had betrayed me and killed my child. Healthy, no?

Pregnancy was strange for me. I watched in a kind of fascinated horror like my body was an out of control science experiment. A Frankenstien, if you will. I gained weight, and that was OK because I was supposed to gain weight, for the first time in my life. All told, I gained about 40 pounds, a little more than the “recommended average,” but that was OK. Not only did I grow a baby bump (obviously), but I rounded out all over. My face filled out, my arms grew plump, and my ass curved and filled out my jeans in a way it never has before.

Once Ellie was born, I was pretty shocked with how I looked and felt. I was still plump and swollen, my boobs were rock hard and freakin’ HUGE and my stomach felt heavy and jiggled like I was pregnant with the world’s largest bowl of jello.

jello jiggling

It’s aliiiive!

I lost “the baby weight” pretty quickly. I felt enormous pressure to do so, mostly from family. And now I actually weigh 7 pounds less than I did before I was pregnant. But you know what? My body isn’t “back.” I feel deflated and soft. My stomach is a lot softer than it used to be, and my pants don’t really fit the same way. My breasts are softer, and after Ellie eats they sag. My nipples are bigger and darker. I have the dreaded “mom butt.” Stretch marks cover my stomach, hips, and breasts.

So will my body ever again look like it did before I was pregnant? Probably not. I would be lying if I said I was totally comfortable with that fact. I’m trying to work on making positive changes for my body – becoming stronger, building muscle, etc. – in the hopes that I’ll come to terms with my new body and learn to love it the way I never loved it pre-baby.

Recovery

Ellie is 10 weeks today! Her personality is really starting to emerge and it delights me. She is mercurial and opinionated, charming and funny. She loves her mobile and her bouncy seat, but hates the stroller and the car seat. She likes to look at me while she’s nursing and when she catches my eye will give me a big cheeky grin, which is annoying because it pours milk all over my lap, but come on, how could you not smile back? Watching her learn things (woah, I have FINGERS) just gobsmacks me. What a wonder my child is! 

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Is there anything more boring than a blogger blogging about not blogging? I don’t think so.

(Sorry about going MIA. I plead newborn.)

Anyway! Moving on swiftly.

Amazingly enough for the worry wart that I am, I gave almost no thought to what recovery from child birth would be like. My mom had assured me that I would be up and about in a few hours, like she was, so I assumed it was all good.

Now, I love my mother, and I don’t want to speak ill of her, but she fucking LIED to me. A couple of hours my ass! I felt like I had been ripped open (…because I had been) and hit by a truck. I had trouble sitting, standing, walking, doing stairs, etc for the first two weeks or so, and really only started to feel like myself again after a month.

So, keeping in mind that there is no universal recovery experience, in no particular order, here are the things I wish someone had warned me about, and what I found to help:

1. Even if you have an epidural (which I highly recommend), crowning hurts like a BITCH. You know that song, Ring of Fire? Yes. That, exactly.

Here’s what helped me: Delivering the damn baby already. But, postpartum, those ice packs you slip into your (gigantic) underwear, numbing spray and time. Some people have found heat packs feel nice, but I liked ice better. OTC painkillers, or something stronger if your doctor will prescribe it. Stay on top of the painkillers – don’t wait for the pain because you will be in agony waiting for the drug to kick in. Don’t be a hero – take the damn drugs.

2. Stitches make walking, doing the stairs, etc difficult. I mean, this one is kind of obvious but it hadn’t occurred to me so there you go! Also, those stitches might have bits and pieces fall out as you heal, which will make you panic, but don’t. It means you’re healing.

Here’s what helped me: Again, ice packs (or heat), numbing spray, and painkillers. Also try to lay down or recline as much as possible – being upright puts pressure on things. Do take a few short, gentle walks (Iike, to the bathroom) every now and then to test the waters, but don’t push yourself.

3. Peeing stings like CRAZY. You may cry when you go to the bathroom.

Here’s what helps: Use the little squirty bottle. Experiment with cold or warm water to see which feels better, and squirt yourself while you pee. It doesn’t help a ton but it does help. Also, use tucks pads (witch hazel wipes) and the numbing spray.

4. Pooping will make you want to die. You will feel like you are going to rip open and you may have a panic attack on the toilet.

Here’s what helped me: Take lots of stool softeners. Drink smoothies. Drink a shit ton (Do anything to help make that first poop easier on yourself. But prepare to spend a LONG time in the bathroom. And prepare to cry. Try using your labor breathing when you poop – it totally helps.

5. Being upright may make you feel like your organs are going to fall out. I don’t know if this is because I tore so badly (“Y” shaped scarring, holla!) or my pelvic floor muscles were damaged from two hours of pushing or what, but it took about a month for this to go away. It was an awful feeling.

Here’s what helped me: Time. Kegels. Your muscles have to heal. Don’t push yourself.

6. Engorgement is scary. It doesn’t matter if you’re breastfeeding or not, your boobs will get enormous and rock hard a few hours to a few days after you deliver. You may continuously leak (drip, drip, drip, like an annoying faucet you keep meaning to fix) and they will HURT. I went from an A cup before pregnancy, to a C cup during pregnancy, and then overnight from a C to a DD when my milk came in. It was shocking. I looked like a porn star, in the worst way possible. You may also run a low fever and feel a little fluey.

Here’s what helped me: Nurse as much as possible if you’re breastfeeding. You can also experiment with cool or warm wash clothes, or hot showers, and put cold cabbage leaves (put the cabbage in the fridge or freezer) on your boobs. I know, it sounds weird (and you end up smelling like coleslaw) but it totally works. Some people have found this reduces milk production though, so be careful if you’re trying to BF. (Didn’t cause any problems for me, but that’s what I’ve read.)

7. Do not assume breastfeeding will be easy. Ellie would not latch in the hospital. Just, would not. Blame hormones, blame shock, but I was completely unconcerned that she hadn’t eaten anything for 24 hours after her birth. Tammy, meanwhile, was having silent conniptions and the nurses were getting concerned.

Here’s what helped me: supplement if you have to, or just go to formula feeding. And check in with a lactation consultant, or multiple LCs. The LC in the hospital was completely worthless (her advice consisted of “just keep trying!”) but the second LC (not affiliated with the hospital) diagnosed Ellie with a tongue tie. Also, nipple shields. Use them. Love them.

8. Do not underestimate the power of hormones. The day we came home from the hospital, my parents told Tammy and me to go upstairs and nap while they watched Ellie for a few hours. Tammy passed out within 30 seconds, I shit you not, while I lay there shooting murderous looks at her. How could she sleep?! Our baby was downstairs!! All alone in the world!!! Vulnerable and unprotected!!! I gave up on sleep and went downstairs to check on Ellie only to find that my mother had put her in the bassinet with a blanket on her. I nearly had an aneurysm. “Blankets cause SIDS,” I hissed, snatching the blanket off. I then laid down on the couch and sobbed for 5 minutes straight, sat back up, and asked my extremely alarmed dad to make me a sandwich.

Here’s what helped me:  Time. Taking a shower every day. Eating good food. Daily crying jags. Having help.

8. In that vein, people will surprise you with their helpfulness (or lack thereof). I expected my parents to be super helpful with Ellie. They were in the sense that they provided an extra set of hands (or two) but when Ellie started crying they would immediately hand her back to me*. Other people, random friends I wasn’t all that friendly with, surprised me by being so kind and helpful, bringing food, checking in, providing support and commiseration.

Here’s what helped me: Nothing really helped with this. It just is what it is. Try and roll with it.

9. Nothing will prepare you for the sleep deprivation. Nothing. You think you know because you pulled all nighters in college? No. You do not know. This kind of sleep deprivation is pure torture. It makes everything, simply everything, a million times worse. You may fall asleep standing up. You may think you will die, literally die, if you do not get some sleep. You won’t die though.

Here’s what helped me: Coffee. Time. Learning sleep tricks (swaddle, white noise, shushing, etc). Also, forgive your partner for the things you say to each other in the depths of crushing sleep deprivation.

What about you, oh wise parents of the internet? What are your best tips for recovery?

*I feel like an asshole saying that, because I think my parents were scared of messing up. I think I made some crappy remarks about how she put on Ellie’s diaper, for example, and made my poor mom a little gun shy. I suck. Also, so many things have changed since they were caring for babies – all the SIDS stuff, back to sleep, all that stuff.

Baby Catching – Part II

Friends, has it really been a month since I wrote last? Time has become elastic, pulling and snapping and bending into shapes unrecognizable. I’ve fallen behind on reading your updates, and completely neglected commenting. Someday soon (I hope) I’ll get back on the bandwagon and become more active on here. In the meantime, know that I have managed to read posts here and there, and have cheered from afar when things have gone well, and cried with you when they haven’t.

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photo

Ellie lay on my chest for what felt like seconds and hours at the same time, but all too quickly she was whisked away. All I heard was “baby isn’t crying,” and then she was gone, lifted up and away. I told Tammy to stay with Ellie, so she followed her across the room as the nurses poked and suctioned Ellie until she started to scream…and scream…and scream, which she would do nonstop for the next three hours.

Looking back, I think I was in shock. I didn’t feel high, but I did feel detached, like I was watching this happen to someone else. I simultaneously felt like I was floating and pressed heavily into the bed. Physically, I had just undergone an extreme trauma, and emotionally I had just experienced one of the most important moments I’d ever experience.

Meanwhile, I delivered the placenta in one big schloop and I remarked to the doctor that I wished delivering the baby was as easy. The doctor kept up a running teaching commentary to the med student (something about a compound cord, and second degree tearing).

When Ellie was finally brought back to me, I tried to nurse for the first time, completely unsuccessfully. Ellie was too busy screaming, and before I could object, she was whisked away again. We were on our third shift of nurses at this point, and unfortunately the nurse assigned to our room was our least favorite. Her name was Edith, an older lady with bad breath. She kept muttering to herself about Ellie’s screaming, and my weakly stated opinion that “babies cry” was ignored outright.

She took Ellie across the room to stick her heel for a glucose test (way to make her scream more, genius) when a new nurse came into the room. Tammy and I had never seen this nurse before, but she walked right up to Edith and Ellie and asked Edith if she could pray over Ellie. Edith immediately said yes, and the new nurse began. Walking with the Lord was mentioned, the blood of Jesus was mentioned, and Tammy and I sat there with identical expressions of shock and horror. During the prayer, we looked at each other, shaking our heads furiously, mouths moving soundlessly, until Tammy finally found her voice and turned to the nurses and said, “please don’t do that.” The nurse completely nonchalantly, said “oh, ok” and turned and left. We never saw her again.

Eventually I was allowed up and attempted to use the bathroom (also unsuccessfully) and we were transferred from the L&D room to the postpartum room. The L&D room had been spacious and airy, but unfortunately the postpartum room was tiny, and stiflingly hot with a broken thermostat.

I tried to nurse a few more times, again unsuccessfully, but I was totally not concerned about the lack of success. For some reason, I thought she wouldn’t need to eat for a few days (?? No idea what I was thinking there but I’m guessing I was still in shock) so it was not a big deal that she wouldn’t latch on. The nurses eventually dissuaded me of that idea, when she lost close to 10% of her birth weight and didn’t have a wet diaper in the first 24 hours. We ended up supplementing with formula until I got my hands on a nipple shield, which saved our breastfeeding relationship. (I have a whole other post percolating on breastfeeding, so more on the nipple shield later.)

Physically, I was in a lot of pain. I managed to last 24 hours on ibuprofen, until I got a doctor to write me a prescription for Percocet (now Percocet is something I would pray to). I had stitches in my perineum, as well as my vaginal wall. I walked around in an old lady shuffle, something I would keep up for days, and sat on ice packs. My stomach was truly, truly horrifying to look at – people say you still look pregnant after birth, which is sort of true, but only if you were pregnant with a giant bowl of jello.

We stayed three days in the hospital. The world shrank for me during those days – only the hospital room existed. When we left the hospital, the hallways seemed enormous, bright, and threatening.

Part III (on coming home, breastfeeding, and recovery) coming soon.

Baby Catching – Part I

Ellie is a good baby. A sweet baby. She doesn’t cry unless she needs something (for now at least, I know this could change). She nuzzles my neck with her little fuzzy head, makes little cooing “eh-eh-eh” noises, and has expressions that make us laugh with delight. I spend my days drinking in the smell of her, kissing her satiny cheeks, and staring into her blue eyes in wonder and joy. She looks back at me as if to say “what took you so long, mom? I’ve been waiting here this whole time.” My daughter. My daughter. Holding her in my arms feels like a reunion, like a long lost traveller has finally come home.

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Baby Catching – Part I

Friday morning (January 31st) I woke up to a labor pain. I’d been having contractions for weeks, but this one HURT. I thought I knew what a painful contraction was. I did not. I was so, so naive.

I had a scheduled OB appointment that morning, and I was desperately hoping they would tell me I had dilated beyond the paltry 1 centimeter I had been for two weeks.

At the appointment I complained to the Nurse Practitioner about my PUPPPs, and while she was sympathetic, she told me it was probably not a good enough reason to induce. I was still only 1 centimeter dilated (goddamnittalltohell), and I wasn’t so overdue that it was medically necessary to get the baby out. Tammy and I reconciled ourselves to the sad state of my cervix (what is the holdup, cervix) while she went to check with a doctor about a steroid cream for my belly. But instead of coming back with some cream, she came back with an offer to induce. The doctor had told her the steroid cream isn’t really very effective, and that only delivery would provide me with some relief. Since I was past 40 weeks, I could be induced any time.

We hadn’t really prepared to have that offer thrown at us, and I think the panic of making an important decision like that showed on our faces. The NP offered us some time to think about it while we went off to our scheduled Non Stress Test (NST, something they had me doing for the past few weeks – another post about that another time), and told us to stop by on our way back with a decisions. The NST was absolutely fine – baby’s heartbeat was healthy, I was having contractions that showed up on the monitor, but as my cervix had just been checked and showed minimal dilation, they weren’t too concerned I might go into imminent labor.

Tammy and I agonized over the induction decision on the slow, painful (still contracting!) walk between the OB’s office and the office where they did the NST. We went back and forth on pros and cons, but ultimately decided to give my body a few more days to do it’s thing without medical intervention, which would hopefully avoid a C-section. We asked the NP if we could get an induction set for Sunday night, both to give my body more time to “ripen” (like a damn peach or something) and because our doctor, whom we love, was on call at the hospital on Mondays. She called us later to let us know they didn’t have any slots available for Sunday night, but they did have one for Monday morning at 8AM, so we booked it. Tammy was relieved that we wouldn’t be having the baby until Monday – she was glad to have the weekend to do final preparations, notify work, etc. Poor Tammy. Wish not granted.

Meanwhile, I was still having painful contractions. They were 10 minutes apart in the morning, but by the time we got back from the doctor’s office around 1PM they were 7-8 minutes apart. And they fucking hurt. I was starting to think I was in labor, but we’d had so many false alarms before – contractions getting closer together, only to space out and piss me the hell off disappoint – so I kept my inkling to myself. Around 4:30, Tammy asked me if we could order Chinese for dinner. She had been timing the contractions, which were a solid 6-7 minutes apart at this point, and she didn’t want to have the hassle of cooking something while she was also trying to time my contractions and hold my hand while I had them. I had absolutely zero interest in food, but I told her Chinese was fine. Looking back, this was another indication that I was in labor – All I’d eaten that day was a slice of toast for breakfast and half a bag of popcorn for lunch but I could hardly bear to think about dinner.

By the time the food came, the contractions were so painful all I could do during them was moan or wail and grip Tammy’s hand with all my might. They were also 5-6 minutes apart. I looked at her after a particularly painful one and said, “I want to go to the hospital and I want an epidural.” Me saying that flipped a switch with her. She absolutely LEAPED into action, grabbing the last of the items for the baby bag, throwing dishes into the dishwasher, feeding the cat, all while running back to me every 3-4 minutes now to hold my hand during a contraction. Poor thing only got to have a few bites of dinner.

The car ride to the hospital was awful. Every bump in the road was magnified, and each contraction felt like my body was being ripped into pieces.

They way our hospital is set up meant we had to check in at the ER desk and would then be admitted to Labor and Delivery. Tammy pulled up out front and walked me in (I was totally incapable of walking on my own), and the second we got inside a bad contraction hit. I had found the most comforting position during contractions was to bend at the (non existent) waist, clutch Tammy’s midsection, bury my face into her stomach or back, and moan. The admissions desk took one look at us standing there and called for a wheelchair to take me up to L&D (I wonder how they could tell I was in labor?). Somehow I climbed in and was whisked off to the fifth floor while Tammy went and parked.

(A note here about the pain: It’s hard to describe what labor felt like, except to say it was so, SO much worse than I could ever have imagine. I think my mom, as much as I love her, set me up badly because she told me her labor pains just felt like “pressure”. And sure, we could call labor pains pressure, if by “pressure” you mean a wild animal ripping apart my belly with its teeth.)

When I got up to L&D the disgustingly chipper orderly made me get up out of the wheelchair and the nurses made me check in. I was leaning over the desk panting and wailing while they asked me questions like “how far along are you?” and, “is this your first baby?” I’m not sure how I restrained myself from telling them to go fuck themselves. All I could think about was making the pain stop. I could barely remember my own name.

Somehow I ended up sitting alone in a chair by the check in desk. Tammy came running in (she had run all the way from the parking garage with our gigantic hospital bag (we totally overpacked)) and found me there, huddled and shaking and whimpering to myself. I’m sure I looked pathetic, but what they say is true: when you are in labor you truly, truly do not care what you look like. I could have been butt naked in front of my boss and I would not have cared in the slightest.

We got into our room and I was told to put on a hospital gown and provide them with a urine sample. A motherfucking urine sample, y’all. Sitting down on the toilet was the most painful position yet (in retrospect I’m sure it had something to do with the baby bearing down on my cervix) and I was shaking so badly I could barely hold the cup between my legs. I ended up handing a pee soaked cup to Tammy to label and hand off to the nurse.

(A note here about Tammy: she was a rockstar. An absolute rockstar. She kept it together when I’m sure I would have been panicking, validated my every whim, every choice, every decision and did her best to keep me calm. She never left my side. I would have been absolutely lost without her.)

At this point I was begging every nurse, tech, and doctor (really, anyone I thought had a remote chance of working at the hospital – I would have asked a janitor) for an epidural. I had started throwing up from the pain (half digested popcorn looks disgusting as vomit, FYI) and I had to endure a painful cervix check during a contraction. I was 4 centimeters dilated and 100% effaced. I’d gone from 1cm and 0% effaced at 10:30am to 4cm and 100% effaced at 7:30pm.

Finally, finally, after I got the requisite amount of IV fluid in my system, I was given an epidural. Oh my GOD you guys. The needle hurt a tiny bit, but nothing worse than a pinch and it was only for a moment. Maybe I would feel differently about epidurals if I’d had a some of those bad side effects you hear about (itching skin, for example, or bad headaches) but I had no adverse reaction whatsoever. I thought I might be disappointed that I opted for an epidural rather than the non-medicated labor I had planned on, but I wasn’t disappointed then and I’m not now, not in the slightest. They told me it might take up to 15 minutes for the epidural to kick in, but within two minutes I was no longer in pain. The relief I felt was so immense, so overwhelming, that I cried in gratitude. Tammy hadn’t been allowed to stay with me while the inserted the epidural, but when she came back in the room she told me later that one look at my face made her a believer in epidurals.

(A note here about medicated vs. non-medicated births: I’m so uninterested in this debate, if one is better than the other, what it says about you if you have an epidural vs. go without, blah blah. For me, I’m grateful I had the option. I’m grateful I had the opportunity to labor at home, grateful we went to the hospital when we did, grateful I asked for the epidural, and grateful I received it. I’m also grateful that women who want a labor free from medicated pain relief have that option. I’m all about options, and I’m most of all grateful that we have them.)

An hour and a half after I received the epidural, my cervix was checked again. At 10pm I was 8 centimeters dilated. The nurse cheerfully told us to start placing bets on a delivery before or after midnight. Unfortunately, they checked me at midnight and I was still 8cm, and the baby hadn’t moved down at all. They broke my water, hoping that would put the baby’s head closer to my cervix, thus applying more pressure and dilating me further. It didn’t work though, and the baby’s heart rate started showing signs of distress. They made me stay lying on my right side because being on my left or on my back made her heart rate slow to unacceptable speeds. I had to wear an oxygen mask for the rest of the night in hopes that it would help.

Sometime in the early morning the doctor started discussing c-sections with me. She told me she wasn’t sure why I was stuck at 8 centimeters, but it could be that the baby’s head was too big to properly engage (and therefore couldn’t put the required pressure on my cervix), it could be that the baby’s head was at an odd angle in my pelvis (and therefore couldn’t put the required pressure on my cervix). Before they recommended a c-section however, they wanted to try me on a low dose of pitocin, to see if contractions of increased strength did the trick.

Half an hour on the lowest possible dose of pitocin and I was 10 centimeters and ready to push. I was so relieved to avoid a c-section and really excited to push. The epidural had worn off enough that I could feel contractions coming on, but they mainly felt like a tightness and pressure, similar to braxton-hix, rather than the searing pain of real contractions.

The doctor had me do a few practice pushes (“pretend you’re constipated and pushing out a great big poop”) and then called the team in (because I delivered at a teaching hospital, there was the doctor, a resident, a med student and a handful of nurses all there at various points in the pushing process).  After the first few pushes, the doctor asked if I wanted to watch myself push, and I said yes. Watching myself, splayed open, pooping, bleeding, and stretching open was both awesome and horrifying. I didn’t enjoy watching myself poop (truly bizarre) but seeing this small dark oval get larger, ever so slowly larger made was worth every view of the gore and poop.

I was pretty cheerful for the first hour of pushing. I felt strong and confident and was filled with adrenaline and excitement. Halfway through the second hour my strength began to fade, and I got more and more tired. I felt like I’d been pushing forever, and started to get weepy.

Pushing hadn’t really hurt up to the point of her crowning – just the pressure and tightness from the (epidurally reduced) contractions. By the time she was crowning, however, everything burned. I was so tightly stretched, and the doctor kept pouring oil over me, then running her finger along the edge of Ellie’s head and my skin to try to stretch me further. I kept telling her that it hurt (because it fucking did) and she kept telling me that the baby was almost here. At one point she had me reach down and feel Ellie’s head, and it was such a strange, exhilarating, rejuvenating feeling.

Just a few minutes before I hit two hours of pushing there was suddenly a lot of activity in the room. All of the various people who had drifted in and out of the room during my pushing process all came back in. Everyone put on these blue paper gowns over their scrubs, and the bottom of the hospital bed was removed. Stirrups were pulled up.

I can’t remember how many more times I pushed. I do remember the final push though – the push that birthed her head. The delivery team was chanting and cheering, and the doctor was saying, “just a little bit more, just a little bit more!” I pushed and screamed and felt my back rise up off the bed. I felt myself tearing – it was like I was being split open. And then, all of a sudden, it was over.

“Stop pushing! Stop pushing, Sarah, for just a second!” The doctor said. “Now one more big push! Push! You can do it!” I pushed again, and felt a tremendous release as her body slipped, all in a rush, into the world.

“Now reach down, Sarah. Reach down and catch your baby!”

And I reached down, and caught my baby, and pulled her up onto me. I was sobbing and shaking. I held my baby girl in my arms and told her it was her birthday, that I loved her, that I was her mommy. I looked at my crying Tammy and said “this is our baby.”

Finally. Finally. Welcome home, Ellie.