Welcome to the tribe, wild one.
9 months of waiting for your bundle of joy to arrive isn’t actually 9 months. It’s 280 days. 40 weeks. Simple math here....we’ve been lied to! You are sharing your body with that baby for nearly 10 months. Almost a year! During that time you experience all the wonder of that first little kick, giggling when you're tickled to feel their tiny hiccups, telling them all your secrets while they share your journey with you. You also get to experience all the struggles of your hips turning into jello and your back feeling like a tractor trailer parked on it. *Blissful Sigh* Motherhood.
Norah was due on June 19th, but for some reason throughout my pregnancy I had this feeling that she would be arriving early. So when the final weeks came and it felt like not a whole lot was happening I was scratching my head thinking so much for mother’s intuition! At my final wellness check the doc said I was 3cm dilated and completely effaced, but the baby had a long way to come down. It sounded to me like I was going to be waiting a while longer. This is usually when all your female friends and relatives start giving you advice on the old wives tales that tell you to eat spicy food while your bouncing up and down on a yoga ball (or something else...ahem) or a tirade of other such nonsense. This is also usually when your doc will start suggesting setting up an induction if you go past your due date. I remember being pregnant with Mia in these final weeks and feeling like it was my job to make sure she came “on time”. I’m thankful for all my birthing experience on the homestead that has taught me that babies come when they are ready and not a second sooner!
While everyone else hemmed and hawed about when Little Norah would arrive I waited patiently for my sweet girl to decide. Her debut was as punctual and precise as her mother...right on her due date. You know how often that happens? 5% of the time! ...that’s right, I googled it. I woke at 3:30 on the morning of June 19th. I wasn’t sure what had awoken me, so I laid in bed waiting to feel my little monkey bouncing around (the usual reason why I was up at all hours of the night), but as I lay there I began to feel light cramping that came in waves every 15 minutes or so. Yup, it’s time! Being a seasoned mama bear was such a blessing with this pregnancy and birth. I understood my bodies signals and I actually listened this time! I know, crazy right? The earliest signs of labor can be deceiving. You expect there to be crippling pain like what’s always depicted in movies, but oh no, ladies, that comes later!
With a clear rhythm to the ebb and flow of this cramping I knew these were the early contractions letting me know that Norah would be with us soon. Shrouded in the darkness of the wee hours of the morning I finished packing my hospital bag. There was no fear because I knew what to expect and if I could get through this once, then by God I could do it again!
Sidebar: With Mia I was a week late and my entire labor was back labor. I didn’t feel actual contractions until right before she was born. Little Mia came fast and furious! We hardly made it to the hospital in time and 8 pushes later she came out sunny side up with her giant eyes wide open. If you’ve never heard about back labor let me tell you it’s relentless. No, thanks. I figured if I could get through that naturally, then whatever this labor and delivery had in store I’d be up to the challenge.
Back to Norah! I’d made the decision early on to have an epidural for this delivery. GASP! I know, there’s so much judgement now among mothers about delivering naturally (been there, done that) and earning your bada$$ mom badge. But here’s the thing. I remember very little about Mia’s actual labor and delivery outside of the searing pain in my back and the utter exhaustion. Of course I remember vividly the incredible moment I first saw her, but the labor is all a fog. I didn’t want that with Norah. I wanted the pain to take a backseat to my awareness and I wanted to be present, so I could cherish the memories.
Listen, here’s what I think on the topic of natural vs. epidural: Do what feels right for you! My best friend delivered her first born naturally, some of my friends have had c-sections, epidurals with speedy deliveries, epidurals that didn't work, inductions that lasted days, water births, home births...no matter what there was a gorgeous baby that you worked your butt off for on the other side of it! So, no, I didn’t have a home birth in my bath tub with a doula, BUT I had a wonderful experience that was by my own choice and I hope you choose not allow the pressures and influence of others influence YOUR CHOICE. I digress.
My bag was packed. All the things you think you might need (and probably won’t) were checked off the list. The towels were on the passenger seat of the car (gross to think about, I know, but I like my upholstery) and the contractions were gradually increasing in intensity. From 3:30 to 6:30 I prowled around in the dark recording my contractions while I tidied up the house and did all the last minute things I could think of. When my contractions were about 8 minutes apart I decided it was time to wake up Sam.
In the most theatrical display I could muster I threw open our bedroom curtains to the rising sun and proclaimed, “IT'S GO TIME!”
My husband operates off of key words. He's far too busy daydreaming to fully listen to 99% of the things coming out of my mouth. Admittedly, I have been known to babble now and again, so can he be blamed? Filtration might be fair, but in this circumstance I required his undivided attention and thus resorted to the use of a key phrase that had been determined prior to this thrilling event. Did I know this would catapult him from the dead sleep into a whirlwind of action? Why, yes, yes, I did. Which is precisely why it seemed entirely appropriate to then plop my giant backside into my favorite arm chair and watch the chaos unfold. Even laboring mama’s need a good bit of entertainment and no one provides that better than a soon-to-be father on the verge of being promoted to a labor and delivery coach.
Mia ran one way with her camelback backpack on, straw sticking straight up in the air like an antenna. Sam ran the other way listing off all the things that needed to be packed, which I’d already packed. It was a hilarious display of love and insanity. At some point they both realized that I was resting calmly and they began to slow down. We’ve got time, folks, chill.
According to every gynecologist, book and internet article you are supposed to wait until your contractions are 1 minute long and 5 minutes apart for at least an hour before heading to the hospital. Here‘s the funny thing about contractions though: they didn’t get the memo. My contractions were anywhere from 3 minutes to 8 minutes apart. So you’re waiting for this very precise pattern to emerge, but bodies don’t work that way. The vast majority of my contractions were about 6 minutes apart and Sam is frantic. Not because I’m in labor, no, because he has the nervous poops and somehow we are out of toilet paper! This is real life. He can’t possibly go to the hospital until after his morning ritual. *face palm* By the grace of God my best friend lives only a few blocks away and rushes over a roll of TP to the nervous dad. Poor Stephanie, 7 months pregnant herself, walks into the house to deliver the goods only to find me pacing around the kitchen mid-contraction and Sam stuck on his throne talking to the doctor. Finally, we get the green light. His business is resolved (seriously??) and the doc says come on in! Perfect, let’s do this.
We load up into the car and start our journey to the hospital, which is about 30 minutes away, but first we have to drop Mia off to our dear friend until her sister arrives. Did I mention that my labors are fast? Well, good, because here we are half way to the hospital and suddenly my contractions are 3 minutes apart. I’m ripping the seat belt out of the car door and sitting is now the most terrible thing I’ve ever been forced to endure. Finally, we pull into my girlfriend's driveway to drop off Mia and she flies out of the car with a kiss shouting, "I can’t wait to meet my baby sister!" Me too, kid, me too.
By the grace of God, the hospital is 5 minutes down the road, but now my contractions are about 2 minutes apart. Sam attempts to pull into the ER entrance and I blanch at the thought of being wheeled through the hospital in some dramatic sprint to the delivery room. Ummmmm, no. I tell him to go park and I’ll walk. He protests as any sane person would, but have you ever tried to reason with a woman in labor? It’s completely futile. So we park and I’m waddling up to the hospital on the sidewalk. There’s a delivery man parked out front unloading sodas. He takes one look at us and says, "Congratulations!" I attempt to smile and wave when a contraction comes on in full force and all I can do is pause and cringe. The poor man turned white as a ghost and asked, "Does she need a wheelchair??" Sam heaves a deep sigh and reports, "She says, no." Internal eye rolls were duly noted, but the poor guy is being a saint, so I'll let that minor transgression slide.
And we’re off! Into the hospital, waved through reception, up the elevator to the delivery floor, waddling down the hallway to the security doors that control admittance to the maternity ward. Sam presses the button on the intercom for entry and the nurses sweet voice chimes through asking how she can help us.
It was at this precise moment that Sam's calm facade finally broke and he screams into the intercom, "We‘re having a baby!!!!!" and without another word the doors swing open and he’s sprinting down the hallway!
I remind him that he literally can not have this baby without me and he returns to collect me for the remainder of this self-induced marathon to the delivery room. We are ushered directly in and after a swift exam the nurse proclaims I’m 7cm dilated. Happy dance! This is the home stretch. Only problem is these contractions aren’t getting any further apart and it turns out the doctor is an hour drive away...mmmmhmmmm, welp I guess I’ll just hit the pause button? Wait, no, that's not a thing.
It was a race against the clock to get the epidural in with the nurse begging me not to push the entire time, but by some miracle the anesthesiologist made it happen. Within minutes the pain receded, but the pressure remained. This baby was coming hell or high water! The nurse advised that the epidural should slow the labor down enough for the doctor to arrive and in the meantime I should just relax. That turned out to be the most expensive one hour nap in the history of napping! Worth it? Bet your bottom dollar it was! I was grateful for a temporary reprieve from the waves of contractions and a chance to catch my breathe before the delivery.
When I am in labor I go into myself. Everything around me is on mute. As my body relaxed I felt like I was coming out of a fog. I was able to take in my surroundings and reached out for my rock through this ordeal. His eyes looked a bit frantic, but he wore an air of calm. It is a challenging endeavor to watch the love of your life suffer and be powerless to help. I could sense the strain in him and smiled to offer some comfort. This was why I had wanted an epidural, so that I could be here with him and not buried inside myself. So that we could share these memories and in that moment I knew I had made the right choice. We caught our breathe. We laughed about the ridiculous walk through the hospital that I had put us through. We entwined our fingers knowing these hands would soon hold a precious gift.
The doctor swept into the room in a flurry of squeaking shoes and winking silver instruments. I was 10cm dilated and she proclaimed it was time to start pushing. I looked up at Sam and asked if he was ready. He laughed nervously and I could almost hear the undertone of are you??? I was. This journey had been crazy and silly and felt like it was in fast forward until this moment when meeting our little miracle was only moments away. It was surreal. We had dreamed of her for years and the time had finally come. After 5 short pushes Norah arrived and it felt like the world held its breathe. This impossible spark of life that had defied all odds had transformed into this delicate little girl in my arms.
Norah Grace was born at 12:15 on June 19th weighing in at 7 lbs 11oz and 21 inches of cute.
I’ll never forget the way Norah settled the first time she heard Sam’s voice. The nurses were weighing her and she cried in protest at being exposed to the cold after so long of being wrapped in her mother’s warmth. Sam offered gentle words to comfort her and she turned instantly to look at him falling silent. She recognized her daddy in that voice and from that moment forward you had to pry her from his arms. We were wrapped in our little cocoon of love. No visitors, no disturbances, just the 3 of us reflecting on this incredible journey. Sam spent the next 4 hours cradling her in his arms and staring down at her face in wonder. I’m so grateful they had that time to bond because to this day I’m quite sure she prefers him over anyone else on this planet. Watching them together was like waking in a dream.
Motherhood is like magic.
One minute you’re just an ordinary person and then the next...
You are a creator.
You realize you are courageous and fierce. That your whole existence resides not within yourself, but within the tiny hearts of these sparks of you created from love.
Raising these wild girls is my greatest pride.