It’s my first Mother’s Day. I’ve been wanting to type out the story of how I became a mother but (surprise!) with a 9 week old baby I just haven’t found the time until now.
This morning baby Kenzie woke up at 5:56AM, a full 8 hours after going to sleep in her bassinet next to our bed last night. Kenzie, Piper and I snuck out of the bedroom without waking Matt. I nursed the baby, let Piper out and fed her, made coffee, drank said coffee, pumped more milk for a practice bottle later, and now, at 7:30, I’m happily settled in my recliner in the nursery typing away as Kenzie gurgles and goos at her new crib mobile.
A few minutes ago Matt emerged from the bedroom to say good morning. He thought he was waking up before me and he had quietly slipped out of bed, only to turn around and realize that Kenzie and I weren’t there. Ha! He’s making breakfast strata downstairs so I have a strata’s worth of time to get some of Kenzie’s birth story down before my Mother’s Day breakfast feast. 😀 Onto the story!!
My due date was Friday, March 13th. I felt great for most of my pregnancy but by early March I was starting to feel really uncomfortable. Thinking I still had another 2 weeks to go, I continued to push through my runs, walks, and Pelotons, but bending over to put on my bike shoes was becoming increasingly difficult and my normally boney ankles were puffing up. I remember doing a quad stretch after a short run and being slightly alarmed when the imprints of my fingers were still visible on my ankle afterwards!
On Sunday March 1st I ran a mile and a half. On Monday I did a 30 minute Peloton and on Tuesday I walked and ran while watching the final action scenes from Captain America. On Wednesday morning at work I felt my first contraction. But I wasn’t sure it was a “real” contraction.
In early March we were all just realizing that Coronavirus might be a serious threat, so on that Wednesday I had printed out several signs from the CDC for our workplace about Proper Handwashing and Staying Home When Sick. Every time I had a contraction I got up from my desk and walked to a different area in the office to tape up a flyer. That helped get my mind off of the cramping pain.
By lunchtime I’d posted two or three flyers. Matt and I would usually go home for lunch with Piper, but on that Wednesday I requested lunch at our favorite new Mexican restaurant, Rey Azteca. I figured this might be my last lunch out for a while. (Little did I know… it’s now May 9th and that’s still the last restaurant we went to!!!) I ordered my favorite pork burrito with refried beans and rice and it was delicious.
I posted several more flyers throughout the afternoon at work but didn’t tell anyone except Matt that I was having contractions. A few days before I had downloaded a contraction timer app but all that told me at this point was that my contractions were not coming at regular intervals and were not close enough together to get excited about. After work Matt and I walked up the giant hill in our neighborhood, then I finished off the evening with another walk on the treadmill.
By the time we were watching Jeopardy! my contractions were becoming slightly more regular. I think I timed them at 40-ish minutes apart at that point. This was still a far cry from the “5-1-1” pattern that we had learned about in our birthing class a few weeks before. I needed to wait until my contractions were 5 minutes apart and lasting 1 full minute for 1 whole hour before calling my doctor and going to the hospital. So wait I did.
We went to bed. I got a little sleep until around 11:30 when a contraction woke me up. At first I tried to stay on my side in bed as I timed the contraction (1 minute!) and breathe through it, but that was really painful. Taking a cue from my flyer-posting walks at the office earlier that day, I began to pace around our house during my next contraction at midnight which made the painful minute go by much faster.
By 12:30 I had my pacing routine down. I figured out that it took me almost a full minute to walk a lap from our bedroom down the hallway around the perimeter of our second floor great room and back. I kept up this routine through the next several contractions. By 2AM they were 15-20 minutes apart. Although each contraction was painful I was really hoping the intervals would speed up so I could get this over with!!
Finally at 3:15AM I had a contraction just 5 ½ minutes after the last one. Hurrah! Now to hold out for another hour of this pattern. I did NOT want to go to the hospital too early only to be turned away!!
Shortly after 4AM I woke Matt up to tell him that I was nearing the 5-1-1 pattern. At 4:15 I called my doctor’s office to say things were getting serious. The call center said they’d give the hospital a heads up.
Our plan was for my mom to pick up Piper and watch her for a few days. As Matt got our go-bag into the car I specifically remember thinking to myself “Piper needs a bed for mom’s house!!” so I carried her dog bed down the stairs. That was HARD. Putting on my sneakers was also hard. I asked Matt to tie them. He says I moaned they were “too tight!!!!” even though he’d made them very loose for me.
By 4:47AM we were in the car, making our way towards Bryn Mawr Hospital at what felt like 10 miles per hour. Usually I am a huge stickler for not speeding on the narrow country roads around our house, but on this particular Thursday morning I kept urging Matt to go faster. We saw multiple deer lurking in the shadows next to the road and he wisely pointed out that if we hit a deer it would take a lot longer to get to the hospital. Good point, but that didn’t make the drive any better.
The contractions in the car were the worst yet. I obviously couldn’t walk around to take my mind off of them, so I sat in agony as we got stopped at what felt like every single red light between Newtown Square and Bryn Mawr. Why on earth would a shopping center get the green light at 4:55AM??? Matt was on the verge of going through a red light for a construction zone on Bryn Mawr Avenue when it happened to turn green. Longest drive ever.
We had toured the hospital’s maternity wing two weeks before so we knew right where to park. Matt offered to drop me off but I said I’d rather walk. After all, walking had been the only thing getting me through this long night so far. We parked in the garage and I made sure Matt grabbed my computer bag (who knew how much time we’d need to spend in the delivery room??!). The walk seemed to last forever but thankfully the L&D department knew we were coming and had already opened the big security doors for us. They whisked us to a room and gave me a gown and a stretchy sleeve to put over my abdomen that would hold the various monitors.
By 5:30 I was on the hospital bed and I was REALLY uncomfortable. No one had checked me yet, but I explained that I had hit 5-1-1 around 4AM. From our birth class I understood that it would probably still be HOURS before I delivered my baby. Considering how much pain I was already in at that point I was not looking forward to the next several hours. I had originally thought I would hold off on an epidural and “play it by ear” before making a decision. But when the nurse asked me if I wanted an epidural I figured I’d already played it by ear all night and I readily agreed to one. She said she’d let the Anesthesiologist know so they could start getting it ready for me.
I still hadn’t actually been examined by anyone at this point to see how far along I was. When the nurse finally checked she made sort of a funny face and went to get another nurse. The second nurse checked and they conferred between themselves, saying something along the lines of “Where’s her cervix? Is she complete?” They explained to me that they couldn’t feel my cervix at all. The meaning of this wasn’t especially clear to me and I was vaguely worried, but the contractions were so painful at this point that I didn’t have time to think through what they were saying. They said they were going to call the doctor in for him to have a look.
It felt like it took forever for the doctor to arrive. I think he came in around 6:10AM. He checked and confirmed what the nurses suspected… no cervix. But what did this mean?? Apparently that I was already fully dilated. The doctor casually asked if I wanted to start pushing. I understood THAT!! No more hours of contractions, waiting for incremental dilation centimeter by centimeter. It was go time!! WOOHOO!
I hadn’t had any medication of any kind at this point. A nurse asked me again if I wanted the epidural. She said something like “Are you sure you still want the epidural? You’re fully dilated so the hard work is already done.” With that hopeful thought in mind I declined the epidural and got ready to push.
The doctor broke my water at around 6:30AM. And then the real work began. In the birth class it seemed like all of the focus was on how difficult contractions and active labor and “transition” were. We had learned that you would spend hours laboring to get to full dilation, then POOF! you push and Ta Dah! here’s your baby! Maybe that was just my emphasis, but I had no idea how hard the pushing stage was going to be.
Luckily a team of supportive nurses made the process easier. Like birthing cheerleaders, they enthusiastically chanted 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10!! during each push. They showed Matt how to hold my left leg and a young female nursing student held my right leg. I watched Matt’s face as I pushed. At one point his eyes got really wide. “I can see her head! She has hair!!” he exclaimed. This spurred me on and I kept up the relentless pattern of two sets of pushes during contractions with what felt like a very (very!) brief rest between.
The time simultaneously dragged on and went by in a blur. There was a shift change at 7AM and a new doctor came in. Two of my original intake nurses said they’d stick around for a while longer even though their shift was over. The TV in the room was tuned to channel 6ABC (my favorite!) and at one point I looked up and there was a picture of a cruise ship and the words Italy and Coronavirus on the screen. I felt sick during a particularly rough contraction and threw up into a baggie that someone shoved into my right hand. And I kept on pushing.
Matt became increasingly excited which really helped motive me. He explained again how they could all see the baby’s head and made a small circle with his index finger and thumb to show “how big” the visible portion of her head was. His circle was about an inch in diameter. “That’s all!???!?!” I asked. I had been picturing much, much more head visible after all of that pushing. “Well yeah, but it was only this much before,” Matt replied, shrinking his finger circle down to the size of a blueberry. Fair enough.
After the hardest physical exertion of my life I gave my final pushes and at 8:07AM my baby girl was born. Everything happened at once. I pushed, her head emerged, her body slipped out behind it, and suddenly my tiny daughter was laying on my chest as everyone in the room cheered. I kept repeating something like “Hello Baby, I’m your momma” over and over again as she started to nurse. She held her lovely, goop-covered little right hand over her face, tiny fingers curling into her eyes as she adjusted to her new surroundings.
Our moms both visited us in the delivery room and then helped carry our gear (including my computer bag!) up to the recovery room. We spent the day getting to know our tiny baby and settled on her name, Mackenzie Grace, at around 5PM. For dinner Matt walked to Wawa and brought me back a meatball hoagie and we had chocolate-covered coconut Easter eggs that we’d brought from home for dessert.
The rest of our time in the hospital was a blur. I had blueberry pancakes from the cafeteria for breakfast, my step-father made a surprise visit, our moms visited again, I figured out how to nurse (which took 45 minutes every 3 hours!), we met Kenzie’s pediatrician, my brother brought us dinner from La Cabra Brewing Bodega restaurant, and before we knew it, it was Saturday morning and we were being discharged with our teeny tiny baby girl.
And I’ll stop there… Piper has come into the nursery and is happily squeaking her fox toy at Kenzie like she wants to play. Time to get our day started for real.
Happy Mother’s Day!!