What wild times we’re living in, Baby. Earlier this week a global pandemic was announced and today a national emergency was declared. You’re turning five in two months but likely won’t remember much detail around this time in your life. You’re home from school for the next three weeks as we, as a nation, attempt to curb the growth of COVID-19. There is much uncertainty and while we don’t know what tomorrow or the day after next will bring, Daddy and I are hopeful this will pass and life will return to normal shortly. My own anxiety has been difficult to keep at bay but it gives me calm to remember that beautiful things are still happening in the world everyday. Life is still being brought into this world. So what better time than now to reflect on your birth story. You won’t read this for a few years to come but when you do, I hope you enjoy it.
May 13-14, 2015
Balancing on a taut lavender exercise ball, the cream colored carpet is soft against the balls of my feet as I attempt to manage my center of gravity with my swollen belly. What feels like a low rumble begins at the base of my belly, moving up and down my linea nigra as if a roller coaster ride is going on inside me. These initial contractions were a tickle compared to the latter ones that took my breath away and literally stopped me in my tracks as I walked toward the entrance of Huntington Hospital.
If it weren’t for the triage area being full that evening, we would have been turned away. My exam, given to me in a patient room, showed that I had not dilated far enough to stay. Dr. Hong, however, gave us the choice and I opted to be admitted in order to begin pain management. An epidural was 100% going to happen. Any fear I had about the large 3 inch needle entering my backside was overshadowed by the torment of each contraction. Because dilation hadn’t progressed far enough, they suggested a narcotic, for fear of the epidural wearing off too early. Giving birth without pain management sounded like a nightmare I didn’t want any part of so I happily welcomed the intravenous narcotics. I will say this, I now understand why we have an opioid epidemic in the United States. The relief was immediate but most surprising to me was the instantaneous smile plastered on my face and the unrelenting laughter that spilled out and echoed down the hallway. Daddy, who was uncharacteristically showing his nerves, broke out into his familiar mischievous smile, the crinkle lines near his eyes reappearing, laughing while letting the stress he was feeling wash away.
Despite the interlude from the pain, we were still at the beginning of your birth journey. As dilation continued at a snail’s pace, Pitocin was administered with contractions escalating in both frequency and pain. As the effect of the narcotics waned, my cries of pain escalated. Body tense, fists clenched, feet and body curled into a ball, I tried to ride through each incoming contraction. Finally, oh finally, it was time for the epidural. Daddy, who had been at my side this entire time, was told to leave the room. I sat at the edge of the bed, curled my back into a C and welcomed the drugs. Shortly after administered, all warmth left the room, teeth chattering, I felt like I’d been plunged into an ice bath. While this side effect of the epidural eventually subsided, the right side of my lower body lost feeling. Although we turned my body to the left side in an attempt to even out the drugs, as the nurse suggested, feeling did not start to return to my right leg until labor was over. More hours would pass as Daddy and I watched the black and green computer screen spiking when a contraction came. With the epidural working it’s magic, my body gave no indication the contraction was happening at all. Cycles of intermittent sleep, contractions, beeping machines and nurse check-ins continued all through the night.
At around 6:00 a.m. the next morning, I was awakened, checked for dilation progression and told it was time to push. It was finally time to meet you! Nerves overshadowed my excitement, unclear what would happen next. You made me work for it, Tessa. It was a difficult labor taking me to the point of exhaustion wondering if I would actually be able to do it. Several times Dr. Hong threatened a c-section if I couldn't manage to get you out naturally. If that wasn’t enough, the worst of my nightmares came true when after nearly two hours of pushing, it was becoming evident that the epidural had worn off. In the birthing class Daddy and I had taken, they described the brief moment when the baby’s head would crown as a ring of fire. I still cannot think of a more apt description. In this last leg of our marathon, I writhed in pain, crying, “I can’t do it!” Push after push, sweat dripping down my face, I finally heard your cry and my breath caught. You were here, on my chest, in the flesh. A moment of silence passed between Daddy and I as we both individually processed the magnitude in which our lives were about to change.
The hours, days and years since your birth have been the best days of our lives. This is not to say you haven’t challenged or frustrated us, that thoughts of your development haven’t kept me up longer at night than I intended. But our lives are richer with you and your brother in it. In the past few months, I’ve been watching you when you’re not looking. Your hair has grown inches in a matter of months without me noticing. Your feet have outgrown your favorite pink bow boots that you’ve been able to wear for over a year. Your response to someone blocking the TV while you’re watching has evolved from yelling, “I can’t see!!!!” to a polite “Can you please move? I can’t see the TV.” Your Mandarin is exploding as well as your self confidence. Your zest for life continues to eclipse Dad, mine and Miles’ put together. I can’t stop smiling thinking about the new laugh you’ve acquired that echoes Fran Drescher's character from The Nanny. Like we tell you each night as we’re putting you to bed, Dad and I are so very proud of the girl you’re becoming. While we can't foresee what the next few weeks and months may bring, we can control how we react. We are choosing to stay positive and today, for me, that meant reflecting on the day you came in to this world. There isn't much we can promise about what will unfold in the next few weeks, but we can promise that we'll do everything in our power to make you and your brother feel safe. You and Miles are so loved.
P.S. Another day, please ask Daddy to tell you this story from his point of view and how horrified he was when you exited the womb with a cone shaped head. This, in truth, may have initiated his moment of silence.