Luca is 6 months old. I cannot believe it. I don't know where the 6 months went, because I could swear it was just a week ago I was pushing that kid out.
Unlike a lot of women I know, childbirth for me was really, truly a beautiful, peaceful, and calm experience. Oh, sure, it hurt. Like nothing I've ever experienced before. It was a pain I could not have imagined. When you're pregnant, everyone tells you that contractions feel like "the worst menstrual cramps ever". Uhhhhh.....if I EVER have menstrual cramps that feel like THAT, I'm going to take a steak knife and carve out my own uterus, relying only on pain relief in the form of a few shots of tequila and a strap of leather to bite. However, despite the pain, I really would do it again tomorrow if it meant having another experience like the one I had and another baby like Luca.
So, now that Luca is 6 months old, I thought I should write about her birth, if only so I never forget all the special moments and little details. Every month that passes, the details get more and more fuzzy, and I want to remember those sweet and painful moments as well as possible.
I had my weekly appointments on Tuesdays at the end of my pregnancy, so my last appointment was exactly a week before Luca was due. It was a normal appointment: I cringed as I stepped on the scale, I tried to pee in a cup and only managed to eek out a few sad drops, I got my blood pressure checked, and my midwife checked my 'progress'. A lot of OBGYNs start checking a pregnant woman to see if she's dilating or effacing as early as 34 weeks. However, I go to an OBGYN practice that has a midwife in it, and I was seeing her. Midwives, in general, tend to be more hands-off about those kinds of things because, as any new mom who was 2 cm dilated and 75% effaced for 3 weeks in a row can tell you, it basically means just about jack shit. So my midwife started checking my progress at 38 weeks, and at my 39 week appointment it was the same: fingertip dilated, 75% effaced. On my way out, my midwife said she'd see me next week unless I had the baby before then, and gave me a reassuring smile.
I started thinking maybe I'd be overdue. My mom had 3 of her 4 kids early (I was the 4th, and the only one who was late), so I'd gone the whole pregnancy thinking that I'd be early. We even had a betting pool with the families, and I bet on April 28th, even though I was due May 8th.
The rest of the week at work was normal, but on Thursday I suddenly thought "Oh my god...I'm due next week! I better wrap everything up by Friday, just in case." I don't know why, but suddenly I had this feeling I wouldn't be back at work the next week.
My mother in law, who was living in NY for work at the time, came into town Friday night. On Saturday, we decided to go over to her house in Tempe to have dinner and watch a fight on TV with Darrick's family. It was De La Hoya vs Mayweather, and it was a good fight. His whole family was packed in the living room watching it, and I sat in one of the recliners, wondering what I ate that was making me feel crampy. The pain was really low and sort of steady, and was also in my lower back. I drank some water, got up and walked around, and thought "This can't be labor. If I was in labor, it would feel different." In childbirth prep classes and books, they tell you contractions are a tightening across your entire belly, but it didn't feel like that, so I didn't say anything. I didn't want to cry wolf and get everyone all worked up if it was something I ate.
When Darrick and I left that night, I couldn't wait to ask him what he thought. We drove home with the windows down, and I told him I thought maybe I was going to be in labor soon. He sort of smiled and said "Ok, sure, honey.", but I knew in my heart this was it. When we got home, I asked him to time the cramps, but they were so erratic we gave up. But the pain was getting stronger. Darrick decided to go to bed, and I tried, but I couldn't sleep. So, as he snored softly, I gathered some things and settled in for a bath. I laid in the tub for a long while, soaking and relaxing, feeling the rhythm of the tightening and pressure. I talked to Luca, rubbing my hands over the smooth lump of her body, telling her I was so excited to meet her and hoped she'd be here soon. After the bath I gave myself a pedicure. Yes...really. It was some sort of odd obsession I got about having pretty and clean feet in labor, since they'd be in my midwife's face. If you're wondering, I made sure ALL the zones she'd be exposed to for extended periods of time were up to par. How very considerate of me, no?
The next 6 hours I felt the contractions - - - which I now recognized as such - - - getting stronger and more regular. I napped off and on downstairs, curling on my side on the couch. I walked out onto the back patio, looking at the white moon in the black night sky, and rubbed my belly and rocked side to side. I imagined what was to come.
Around 6 a.m., I was curled up in bed next to Darrick, hugging my body pillow through contractions. Finally, I woke him up and told him I was sure I was in labor. He suggested I call the midwife, who had given us her cell phone number. Before we did, we timed contractions for about an hour. They were closer together now, but not in any pattern and mostly lasting 30-45 seconds. I called her anyhow, but she thought I sounded too calm to be delivering anytime too soon, so she advised I walk, eat, sleep, relax....just try to stay comfortable and labor at home until I felt like I couldn't wait any more.
So....we waited. I sat on my yoga ball and bounced. Darrick pulled out the video camera and documented us waiting. We tried to watch TV. I fought the urge to call everyone I knew and tell them I was going to give birth soon. I walked, I sat, I crouched. By 1 p.m., I was having pretty regular contractions, but they still weren't in a 5 minute pattern. They'd come every 3 then 7 then 5 then 4 then 2 then 2 then 6 then 4 minutes. Darrick was getting anxious, and thought we should go to the hospital, but I was afraid I'd be sent home and we lived less than a mile away so I thought we should wait. By 3 p.m., I caved and we got into the car. At this point, even sitting was not fun.
We got to L&D, and were sent to triage, where I donned a gown and was hooked to monitors. The baby was doing fine, and I was 4 cm dilated, so I was sent on the dreaded 'Walk the hospital grounds for 45 minutes and come back to be checked.' instructions. By this point, I was not wanting to walk, but I did. We went down the stairs to the basement cafeteria, and the whole way down I pictured me having a bad contraction and tumbling down the steps. In the cafeteria, I was tortured by my husband buying food and eating it as I bent over the back of a chair in pain. Don't worry...he's not an immense asshole...I actually asked him to eat so he wouldn't be hungry an hour later and start whining or -worse - leave me alone. I did have a nice woman come up to me while we were in there and say, "I remember when they made ME walk around when I was in labor...I wanted to tell those assholes where to shove it!". She was my new best friend.
While we were out walking, we called the families to let them know where we were. We asked them not to come down yet as we didn't know if I'd be admitted. When we got back to triage, I was 5 cm, so I was making enough progress to check in to the labor suite....which was SO nice! We settled in and I got in a gown and made myself comfortable. I was having a lot of back pain by this point. It was so bad that the contractions in my belly weren't phasing me that much. Getting comfortable was difficult, so we decided to try the shower. Poor Darrick had to hose my fat pregnant ass down like I was some sort of elephant in the zoo, but DAMN did the shower ever feel good. It was the best 45 minutes of my labor. I wanted to stay in there all damn night! But I had to come out to get monitored, and didn't go back in. I tried the yoga ball, but it wasn't that comfy at the moment. So the rest of the afternoon and evening, I labored in the bed for the most part. I thougt I would want to move around, but the pain in my back was making that hard to do. Instead, I shifted from side to side and kneeled facing the headboard to relieve the pain. We called the families to check in, and I tried to talk to my mother in law and my mom, but I hadn't had any pain meds, so when a contraction came on I tossed the phone to Darrick.
I had gone into pregnancy and labor saying I wasn't sure if I wanted pain meds. Most every mom I know told me I was a damn fool and should get the epidural as soon as medically possible, but I wanted to play it by ear. Before I was IN labor, Darrick was very adamant about me getting the epidural, but when labor hit, he didn't try to push it at all. So I went as long as I could without, but by about 10 p.m., my contractions were one on top of another, and had been that way for about 2 hours, the baby was facing to the side instead of down, I was 8 cm dialted and going into transition so I was shaking like crazy, and I was still having back labor, so I caved. I will say, getting the epidural was VERY painful for me, and I'm not sure why, but within 5 minutes I couldn't feel a thing below the waist. As soon as the epidural was in place, my water finally broke, and I was told to relax until it was time to push. Darrick and I tried to sleep, but were awoken when someone in another room had her baby and we heard the excited "It's a GIRL!". He turned to me and said "Oh my god. We're next! I can't sleep!". I couldn't either, so we called our families and finally allowed them out of their cages to come down and see us. While we waited for them, we took some pictures and talked about how exciting this all was.
The family all got there, and spent maybe 15 minutes with us before I had to be checked again and they were kicked out. It was about 11, and they decided they were ready for me to start pushing. I was offered the mirror, and at first I declined, but the nurse talked me into having it there under the condition that she'd move it if I asked. They turned the epidural down half way so I could feel contractions, but I still didn't feel any. With my ok, they turned it off all the way, and I started to be able to feel the tightening of my belly, but no pain. I pushed through contractions for just over an hour. Unlike in the movies, I did not scream, grunt, curse, or punch. I didn't sweat like crazy, and no crazy nurse was yelling "PUSH! 1......2......3.....keep going!...5......6......7....c'mon mom! push!....9....10...and BREATHE!". Instead, I held my legs and my midwife and Darrick held my pretty, clean, manicured feet (SEE??!!?? It WAS a good idea!) and pushed when I felt a contraction.
The moment she crowned, I looked in the mirror, and goddamnit, that was a beautiful moment. I must say, too, that my midwife was SO kind as to cover up anything ugly or scary and just let me see her little blonde head.
I kept pushing, and I could feel a strange tapping sensation. She got hiccups on her way out, which was kind of funny. Also funny was that we kept saying"C'mon down!" to her and laughing, and my midwife then informed me that she was on Price is Right in the 80s and WON the Showcase Showdown! I KNEW we were in good hands!!!!
When Luca finally emerged, my midwife said "It's a girl!", and placed her sweet, tiny, pink body on my chest and I cried and said "I did it.I did THAT. WOW." And then I looked at her, looked at Darrick, and realized...the kid looked NOTHING LIKE ME. And I cried tears of joy.
Once everyone was cleaned up, my family was allowed in to meet her and take pictures, and then we were left to get to know our newest little family member.
Here I sit, 6 months later, and that night is one of the best nights of my life. I am so lucky to have Luca, and to have a husband who adores his wife and daughter. We are lucky, as a family, to have parents and siblings who support us and adore our little girl. It's been such an incredible 6 months (+ the 9 I was pregnant), and I can't wait to watch Luca as she continues to grow and learn and blossom. She rolls over, she army-crawls, she has great hand-eye coordination, she sits on her own, and she is just so full of joy and smiles and curiosity. She is a daily reminder to me of all that matters in this world and of all the hope I have for the future.
Happy 6 months to us!