Six years ago. It doesn’t feel like six years. Well, maybe it does.
Six years ago today my husband and I found love at first sight. We found it looking into the eyes of our beautiful baby girl. All I have to do is look at one of her baby pictures and the memories surround me like a warm blanket: her head full of dark hair, those tiny hands, and that sweet baby smell (the freshly powdered smell; I’m still trying to forget the other smells that emanated from that girl).
I’ve also tried to forget the forty hours of labor that preceded my daughter’s entrance into this world, but so far I’ve had no success. Everyone I knew told me their birthing horror stories but to be perfectly honest, I quit listening once they got to the “water breaking” part. These stories just reminded me of high school geometry: something I should be learning but it just didn’t seem applicable in my life. And ladies, let’s be clear here: never share your stories of the birthing battlefield to a new mom. These kinds of stories are best shared with women who have already been in the trenches; don’t scare the rookies with words like “mucous plug.”
My husband and I checked into the hospital on a Sunday for a scheduled induction. I did my hair, make up, and nails before we left. “I want to look good for the pictures when the doctor hands me the baby.” It made perfect sense to me at the time.
The nurse took us to our room and I ordered the customary ice chips. My husband and I laughed and figured we would have a baby in just a few hours. Oh, the flawed thinking of two birthing class drop-outs.
I never realized how many people would become that familiar with my cervix, but all night nurse after nurse came in to check on my cervix. Apparently I have one stubborn cervix; the next day was Monday and still we had no baby. Tensions rose and I started to rethink this whole baby thing.
“Maybe we should have just gotten a dog,” I tell my husband.
“Probably, but we should at least see this through.” He’s always so good in high-stress situations.
It soon becomes clear to me that the doctor is mostly just a mystical presence sending orders via phone to the nurses. The next order that’s given is pitocin. Pitocin, I’m almost certain, is Latin for “Holy hell here come the contractions.” I’m really starting to regret dropping out of that birthing class but I really needed a churro, so I made my husband take me to Disneyland that day. Damn that mouse and his delicious and strategically-placed-all-over-the-park Mexican pastries!
One of the nurses suggests that I get up and go for a walk. Yes, a walk. I’m connected to a machine feeding me a sadistic, intravenous cocktail that makes me feel like I may split into two, I haven’t eaten in 24 hours, and I have no underwear on. Yes, a walk sounds delightful. After one lap around the maternity ward, my husband escorts me back to my room. Apparently, no one really appreciated the trail of profanity I created as I went for my little stroll. I can’t help it, I don’t remember how that instructor said to breath through the contractions, so I making due with swearing through them. Cursing: it’s always been one of my best coping strategies.
Another sixteen hours later, another check of my cervix and a nurse declares that I am ready to push. The nurses are like a well-rehearsed orchestra as they magically turn the labor room into the delivery room. Another nurse appeared with five nursing students and asked if they could observe.
“Well, I’d usually say no, but since my knees are currently shoved up to my ears and I’m squeezing a human being out of my body, come on in! I hope you’re not easily offended because swearing may be frowned upon in the hallway, but I plan on letting a few off-color phrases fly here in just a minute.”
I realize it’s now Tuesday. We checked in on Sunday. I haven’t eaten, I haven’t slept, and any hopes I had of looking presentable in pictures is now laughable. I’m sweaty and all I really want at this moment is a cheeseburger and a nap. And mascara. I really need some mascara.
My OB comes in so I know things are about to get serious. My husband takes his position at ground zero. What a guy; I may have gone through 40 hours of labor, but I can’t even imagine the unspeakable horrors he witnessed down there and yet he is still able to function in society without any discernible side effects.
Two hours of pushing and then, a baby. Upon hearing her cry, I panicked. I had no training for this. Sure, I had dolls when I was a kid, but mostly I just cut their hair and then forgot them outside in the rain. That’s not proper motherhood training. There’s no way I’m cut out for this.
Then the doctor handed her to me. Our baby. In my arms, finally. And somewhere deep inside of me, a mommy switch was turned on and I was overcome with a love so strong it almost hurt. Right then my sole purpose in life became to protect this gorgeous baby girl.
Here we are six years later, still loving and protecting this sweet little girl. Our baby.
And I haven’t left her out in the rain yet.