This birth story is approximately three years overdue. That is to say, the star of this story – the slightly mis-positioned fetal child – is now a stunning three-year-old who sleeps in her parents’ bed, laughs uncontrollably at her own jokes, and despite having watched barely a feature film in her short lifespan, loves Disney Princesses.
She’s going to be a big sister in about four months, when the baby in Mama’s belly will come out and also the baby in Daddy’s belly, and maybe the toy baby in her own belly. All of these babies will be named “girl,” but maybe one will be a bunny, too.
So much has changed for our family in the last three years, but have I become a more succinct, capable writer since I last poured thousands of words into her older brother’s multi-part birth story? Unlikely. Are you in for another long and artificially twisting ride? Perhaps.
Let’s jump nine months further back, to really get the full, novella-length effect. My husband and I decided to get pregnant when older brother was about 18 months old. It happened – for the second time – shockingly quickly. I was spared some of the anxiety I experienced with my first pregnancy, but instead was treated to more nausea (lasting into the 2nd trimester) more aches, and more tiny complications. An abnormal NT scan, followed by a delayed NIPT blood draw. My 2-year-old got Fifth’s Disease – more blood work. I failed my 1-hour glucose test – again. I barely survived my 3-hour glucose test – again.
Every test and lab came back fine. She’s fine. I’m fine. But it was a pregnancy peppered with tiny, nervous waiting games, leading up to the ultimate waiting game – when will this fine baby be born?
For those of you intelligent humans with exceptional time management skills who didn’t get around to reading my first birth story, I will spoil it for you now: after years of “first time moms go late!” conditioning, my water broke just a hair before I hit 38 weeks – 24 hours later, I delivered a decidedly fully grown 8 lb baby child. Conventional wisdom said: “second time moms go earlier!” Could I have a 37 weeker?? My no-nonsense, now-a-midwife little sister’s wisdom said: “remember how you also didn’t actually GO into labor? Your first data point is invalid.” It was true that I was an anomaly in a family of late-baby-havers – I really had no idea when the moment would arrive. It could be 37 weeks, it could be 41.
And so I entered that final month of potential delivery flying completely blind, feeling pretty physically awful, and probably going a little crazy. Thirty-seven weeks passed, then thirty-eight. I lumbered to work and back wearing a voluminous purple trench coat loaned to me by my sister. I sat in a puddle on a train seat and had a very confusing evening trying to figure out if my water had broken. I filled my freezer to capacity with meals, snacks, granola. I fell asleep reading Bad Blood in the bathtub every night after work.
And of course, I worried obsessively over who would watch my now 2.5-year-old when the awaited moment finally arrived. Gathering a list of friends felt like pulling my own vulnerability teeth, but I did have a list. And my MIL would be arriving at to celebrate Thanksgiving (38+4) and leave on Sunday (39+1); my midwife-sister had a one-way plane ticket for Tuesday night (39+3) could stay for a while. I had never been more than 38 weeks pregnant so it all seemed like a gamble, but lo and behold the days just waddled by.
38+0: Still pregnant
38+1: Still pregnant
38+2: Still pregnant
38+3: Still pregnant and had a visit with my OB. She checked my cervix – a service I’d never had the chance to be experience in-office before – and found me… 3-4 CM DILATED. “I don’t think you’ll make it to your next appointment,” she said. “DEAR GOD,” I said, remembering my functional induction from 1-2cm last time around. “I don’t know what to do with that information.”
38+4: Still pregnant, getting crazier, but now hosting my MIL
38+5: Made Thanksgiving dinner
38+6: Still pregnant, waddled to work, ate Tasty Burger for lunch with my family. After work, bought a Christmas tree.
39+0: Still pregnant, ate brunch at Zaftig’s with my family, waddled all the way up the hill from Coolidge Corner to Brookline Village to shop at Henry Bear’s and The Children’s Bookstore with Grandma.
That night, I sat on the couch with my husband and his mother as they enjoyed one last evening of family togetherness before she’d start the long drive back to Michigan in the morning.
I started working on a Spotify playlist. My previous delivery was a daylong affair, and I hadn’t given much thought to the audial experience. We ended up listening to a lot of musical soundtracks because they were long and didn’t require a lot of hands-on DJ-ing, but when contractions increased, I became increasingly disturbed by my husband’s attempts to select – the Carole King musical… instead of actual Carole King songs?? LES MISERABLES? Yes this is my favorite musical of all time but SERIOUSLY? RIGHT NOW?! So this time, I thought I’d try my hand at a few curated lists – two, I decided: Chill Labor Jams and a Pump Up the Energy Mix. I started in on the chill mix – Regina, Rufus, Joni, Simon, Garfunkel, etc. – all the while noticing that my familiar Braxton-Hicks contractions were feeling somewhat more… regular than had been typical.
Mother and son tried to say their final day goodbye, but as is their genetic predisposition, they failed and instead agreed to meet up for a quick coffee at Starbucks before the tender hour of 7am the next morning. Everyone went to sleep.
39+1: Sunday. I woke up at 5 a.m. With actual contractions.
I laid in bed for an hour or so, waiting for them to pass, probably trying to time them, but they were just… there. I woke up my husband for his coffee date – late, of course, he hurried to get out the door – and I felt compelled to tell him that I’d been having contractions for the last 90 minutes. He was shocked. “What do we do?” I don’t know! But get out of this house and talk to your mother!
Some time later, after the 2.5 year old had woken and breakfasted, a somewhat confused and road-trip-ready MIL arrived back on my couch. She had called her hotel and could stay another night, but in a different room so she couldn’t check in yet. We had no plans, so our default activity became “watch Jessica covertly but with interest to determine if she was in labor.”
I wasn’t, really. The contractions were happening and were somewhat timeable, but just not at all frequent or intense. Mostly fifteen minutes apart or more, starting and stopping. I took a long nap. I cared for my child and made dinner. I decorated half a Christmas tree before giving into exhaustion. I endured polite but unnerving scrutiny from the adults in the home.
My act wasn’t, ultimately convincing. False labor could last for days, or weeks, so MIL would leave in the morning, unless things changed over night. I went to bed, contracting away, but sleep came easily.
39+2: Monday. I woke in the dark with my alarm. I roused the troops. I packed lunches. I ate breakfast. I put on a dress and did my makeup.
Then I texted my boss and told her I was taking a sick day. My contractions were still there – no more frequent or intense, but I just couldn’t imagine sitting at my desk next to my 50-something-year-old male coworker all day feeling like I did.
My only photo evidence from the day. Those two dates must have really helped.
My family left for work and childcare and I had the always-unusual experience of spending a day alone in my own home. I put my pajama pants on and set about keeping myself as busy as a 39-week-pregnant person can muster. I cleaned up my house a little, did a load of laundry, and turned some sad looking bananas into muffins. I took yet another bath. My contractions stayed about 10 minutes apart for most of the day, although sometimes were as close as 4 minutes apart if I was up and moving around for a bit. I tried some Spinning Babies, then the Miles Circuit: on Step Two I fell asleep for an hour and a half. I don’t remember if I made it to Step Three. I Facetimed my midwife sister. My family came home in the afternoon, and we all walked down the street to the library.
At some point in the evening that I can’t remember, shit started to get real. Real-er anyway. I still am not sure. Contractions, finally, were staying in the 4-8 minute range instead of the 8-15 minute range. I had a few where I had to excuse myself from a conversation and take a break – one of my non-midwife sisters reported that she could tell I was in labor over Facetime, that I was clearly in denial.
I don’t remember what I thought, except for what I remembered from my last 24-hour labor: SLEEP IS YOUR ONE AND ONLY FRIEND AND SAVIOR. I so I put on my pajamas, brushed my teeth, and got into bed.
An hour later I got up and marched into the living room. My husband had just returned from a trip to a friend’s apartment gym (remember when we used to do such odd public activities on a whim?). “I guess we should call the hospital,” I said, “because I can’t sleep either way.”
For those of you who haven’t hung out with an extremely pregnant lady lately – specifically an extremely pregnant lady who wants to deliver in a hospital without an epidural or c-section – the question of when to go to the hospital is peak hand-wringing uncertainty. The stakes feel quite high. You could be sent home (shame). You could get admitted too soon and watch your perfect birth give way to the dreaded Cascade of Interventions (shame). You could be Sent! Home! (shame, shame, shame-shame-shame). Everyone knows someone who has experienced some of this – the Cascade, the shame. For me, I had a friend who shared her agonized weeks of false labor via live text earlier in the year. Surely this would be my fate.
So I braced myself and called the after hours nurse line. It was 10:45 pm. My contractions were still sometimes 4 minutes apart, sometimes 7 or 8 – but given my second time mom status and my wide open cervix, I’d been given clearance to call if contractions were consistently in the 7-10 minute range. I explained all of this to the nurse. She told me she’d forward my message onto the on-call midwives at L&D and they’d call me back.
We quietly hustled around the house getting dressed, gathering bags, preparing food and daycare supplies for the 2.5 year old who was sleeping snugly in his crib.
Thirty minutes later, no phone call. I called back and got the nurse line again. Contractions were back in the 7-8 minute range. “You said your contractions were… five minutes apart, right?” the nurse said, skeptically. “Yes,” I lied. “Five minutes.” We hung up, and the call back finally came. “We’ve been swamped!” the midwife said. “Tell me about your contractions!” I lied some more and threw in colorful but seemingly unmoving details about my bloody show (not a lie!). Whatever I said felt like a half-truth; whatever she said was the clearance I needed to get in the car and head to the hospital. The fact that I was clear-eyed enough to strategize, connive, and remember all of this seemed like a bad sign.
Meanwhile, my husband had been Frantically Seeking Childcare. “Don’t worry,” he said. “Mike is on the way.”
Mike – a former coworker of my husband’s, dad of two older kids, who lived nearby – was nowhere on our list of childcare options. While they used to be work besties and carpool friends, I wasn’t under the impression that they still spoke or hung out – if Mike even knew we were pregnant. He definitely hadn’t seen my 2.5 year old since his first birthday. Mike would be… staying over? Releasing my only beloved child from his crib and feeding him breakfast (watch out for those food allergies, by the way)? And driving him to daycare? Dear Lord…
About 45 seconds later, there was a knock at our apartment’s interior door. A soaking wet, out of breath Mike stood in our hallway. “Your neighbor let me up!” he said, breathless. “I’m here! You guys can go! I got this! I’m double-parked outside, but don’t worry about it! Just go!”
My husband settled down the only urgent man of the evening – convinced him to swap parking spots, installed a car seat in the downpour that had apparently begun outside, and started ferrying items down to the car. Then ferried me, and we were on our way.
It was nearly midnight and we drove in what seemed like pitch dark, with windshield wipers barely beating back the late November rainstorm. I timed contractions, excited to see a 6-minute interval, reassured to feel uncomfortable and squirmy in my car seat.
When I had my first baby, we drove straight into the heart of Boston just after nine in mild early June – I sat on a towel and ate Ben & Jerry’s from the carton to “wake up” the baby for my initial monitoring. The streetlights lit our path, and we felt jokily stymied by an overly cautious cop stopping traffic for construction. I wasn’t entirely happy to be heading to the hospital at 38 weeks without contractions, but it was the anxious, excited beginning to the hopefully unmedicated labor experience I’d been thinking about for years – the beginning of being parents.
Now, we drove down the Pike in the chilly, dark gloom and on into the suburbs. I didn’t know if I was supposed to be at the hospital. One day, weeks earlier, as I languished in late third-trimester discomfort, it struck me that I had to deliver this baby. I didn’t think I was AT ALL prepared to birth a baby, much less without an epidural.
I didn’t think I was prepared to start all over again with a helpless infant.
I didn’t know if I was at all prepared to be a mom of two.
We pulled into the hospital parking garage and rushed our slightly soggy selves some percentage of our belongings into the Emergency Room entrance, where we were to show ourselves and wait for a L&D escort. We did just that – I declined a chair while we answered paperwork questions, preferring to be standing when my still just-too-intermittent contractions struck, but beyond that I felt the same as I had all day. Fine. Ish. It was a bit of a hike over to the L&D ward, so a nurse arrived and offered me a wheelchair. It didn’t seem necessary. I lumbered into elevators and through the dim, winding hospital hallways and finally into what seemed like a completely empty Labor and Delivery unit. I was ushered immediately into a private triage room where I gowned up, was strapped to the requisite monitors, and had a chat with the preternaturally calm night nurse.
“Looks like your contractions are about 5 or 6 minutes apart,” she said politely.
Awesome. Amazing. Two days of contractions and… just so little progression. I was only 39 weeks. Here was where I received my lecture about prodromal labor and was sent along my merry way – back out into a rainstorm in the middle of the night to… try and sleep? Then what… resume my normal life for up to two more weeks?
“But here’s the midwife, so she will check your cervix and see how you are progressing.”
Midwife Naomi entered and did her thing. She smiled.
“Well, looks like we are having a baby tonight! You are 8-9cm dilated!”
“You’re shitting me.”
I would like to state, for the record, that never in my life have I uttered profanity in front of a medical professional. Not even in the midst of a very long and actually painful labor. That’s how, excuse me, fucking flabbergasted I was.
The mood in our quiet triage room turned cheery. “Usually moms who are 8cm dilated don’t come walking into triage!” the nurse said. My husband suggested he might run back out to the car to grab our giant yoga ball, and she admonished him, “You might miss delivery, Dad! Better stay close by!”
Minutes later, we were escorted through the dimly lit and silent halls to our delivery suite. This was such a departure from my previous hospital experience, where we spent midnight to nearly 7 a.m. camped out in a recovery “room” while we waited for a proper place to land. Not out here in the suburbs – or perhaps I was experiencing 8cm privilege. Either way, we settled into our delivery suite, met with our L&D nurse for the evening, and laid out a plan for what would surely be a quick and efficient stay.
So happy to be 8cm!
First, I would receive my first dose of antibiotics – who knows if I would have time for the second recommended dose, so let’s get that out of the way first! Whilst on the drip, we would attempt to Labor and Chill and catch a little sleep.
Next, would I like to try some Spinning Babies maneuvers to make sure the baby was in the ideal position for labor. Boy, yes, I would! I had not heard much about optimal baby positioning until way too late in my first pregnancy – so although my precious 8lb firstborn was neither breech nor posterior, I was, of course making up for lost anxiety by following all of the Spinning Babies exercises during my 2nd pregnancy. (Or at least until I became entirely too beaten down by mid-3rd trimester.)
Toward the very end of my pregnancy, however, I had become concerned. Despite being head down (definitely) and not posterior (as far as I could tell), my fetal child seemed wedged into a particular spot inside my torso, where she still remained that morning. My attempts at self-belly-mapping all pointed toward a baby position called ROA – right occiput anterior. ROA is a fetal position that is both head down and not posterior but is also “not clearly associated with a resulting labor pattern,” a diagnosis I took to mean… babies just aren’t supposed to come out this way. It was also predicted that ROA babies needed to first rotate to a posterior position before finally arriving at a position where labor was easiest/possible. Posterior babies, from what my research gathered, notoriously send mothers running frantically toward an epidural, tripping down the cascade of interventions and onto the operating table. Cool cool.
While none of the professionals in my life seemed concerned about my ROA baby, I had, strangely and luckily enough, walked into one of the first Spinning Babies certified hospitals in the country. My labor and delivery nurse was educated in assisting me in various strange bodily contortions, and she was happy to put her knowledge to practice. After I finished my IV drip, she flipped me upside down for an inversion or two. I hoped her ministrations (despite how… random and useless they really do seem) helped loosen my pelvic apparatus somewhat, and would eventually allow a baby to exit my vagina.
The final step of my on-the-fly birth plan was to enter a warm bathtub. After traipsing through the halls in flip-flops and swimsuits during my previous delivery, I was keen on the suburban hospital’s in-room water sources. The hospital had rooms with big bathtubs OR rooms with showers; and oh, I agonized. I’d never labored in a bathtub, experienced the “liquid epidural!” On the other hand, the semi-public shower had essentially saved my life during my last delivery.
Novelty won out in the end – I went for the bathtub, and I certainly planned on trying it out. Even if I wasn’t exactly in throes of labor. My contractions at this point were certainly still occurring, but, looking back, the only word I can use to describe them was… manageable. They hurt, but not a ton. I wasn’t interested in talking during a contraction, I might close my eyes, some took my breath away and required a little concentration to endure. But then, it would be gone and I could resume my relatively normal existence.
Yes, this is what most of my unmedicated labor looked like. It was… bizarre.
This was how I ended up spending a chunk of my labor just hanging out in a warm bathtub, listening to my Chill Labor Jams, and… waiting. The water was nice, although not as steamy hot as I’d hoped. The atmosphere was certainly Chill – the baby was doing fine, I was doing fine. Everyone loved our music – I had some deep chats with Midwife Naomi about Joni Mitchell’s career and the times she’d seen Tom Waits live. This show would be getting on the road any minute, so enjoy your bathtime, super pregnant 8cm lady!
Alas – as the water cooled off, so did the general mood. We were having too much fun; my contractions clearly weren’t progressing as they should. Unless I having some kind of mysterious pain-free labor, the mother unaware of her dilation until she accidentally sneezed her baby out? Everyone kept asking me if I was feeling pressure, feeling an urge to push. I was still 39 weeks pregnant, mind you, with most of my entire body uncomfortable. I was feeling a lot of things – mostly low, low contractions – but nothing that made me think “push.”
Back on dry land, my nurse helped me through some Spinning Babies side-lying releases. Midwife Naomi checked me for a second time and let me know as much.
“You were an 8-9, but now I think you are a 7,” she said. “You’re having too much fun and not enough pain, and your cervix is closing up,” she did not say. She looked at her watch – “It’s been awhile and we like to see more progress.”
It was now closing in on 6 a.m. – five or six hours since I arrived at the hospital, and closing in on the Awake for 24 Hours mark. My “don’t run out to the car, dad!” labor was clearly taking a different path. One lesson I’d learned from my previous, rather long labor, was the delicate cost-benefit balance between resting and activity. With my first, I chose activity – walking the halls, pacing my room, and bouncing on balls all night and all day in an effort to move labor along. When that second night arrived and I was in the thick of transition and pushing, my body and brain were totally spent.
As far as I knew, I could be in this room laboring until the sun rose and set again. So, along with Midwife Naomi, I laid out a new plan. My second dose of antibiotics was due soon. I would try to lie down and get a little sleep now, and while on the drip. Once that was done, Midwife Naomi would come back and break my water; then I would rise from my darkened labor cave and get walking those halls.
So I rested, or rested as much as a laboring woman can. I was still contracting, mind you! And contracting lying down, which always makes everything feel worse. My husband curled up in a chair next to me and actually caught some Z’s, as far as I could tell, but my L&D nurse came to check on me a few times when I seemed like I was having a hard contraction. At one point, she offered nitrous – a pain management tool not available to me at Big City hospital, and one I expressed an openness to trying. But the contraction faded, and it wasn’t too bad. “Maybe if it gets worse,” I told her.
I recall these small details here because I still remember them so clearly… because I felt so clear-headed for most of this very strange labor. Documenting my first birth was trying to dredge up of mysterious chunks of time lost to… probably nothing but dozens of contractions, maybe trying a strange new position, lumbering to the bathroom, hoisting up monitors. This day happened over three years ago and I’ve never worried about losing a moment, since I was just so lucid.
My drip finished around 7:00, and once I was released from the IV it was time to wake up and actually get this baby out of my body. My husband texted his babysitting buddy to check on our little guy at home – both boys were doing 100% fine and about to get in the car and drive over to daycare. I pulled out my laptop and fired off the official “Guess what? I’m on maternity leave,” email to my boss. Unbeknownst to me, my husband alerted the family text chain updating them upon our whereabouts (“the hospital!”) and our whatabouts (“about to break her water!”)
Midwife Naomi arrived on the scene, so I resumed my position on the bed to receive my giant crochet hook (that’s what I pictured, anyway, I didn’t actually see it). A moment later, a flood – it put my imaginary slow-leak on the Green Line to shame.
“Nothing happens when I’m in the room waiting,” Midwife Naomi said. “I’ll make a round and come back to check on you.”
It was time for Step Three – Getting Active. I laid in bed momentarily, trying to find the full-term pregnant lady momentum to get out of bed, when a contraction hit. Ow. Ouch. Okay, this was kind of painful. My labor and delivery nurse was by my side to help me sit up. Another contraction. I needed to stand up IMMEDIATELY. When I did, I felt a biiiiig baby movement, my insides being shuffled around. With the next contraction, one of those involuntary scream-moans came out of my mouth and my knees buckled.
Time finally gets fuzzy here. I was standing next to the bed with the labor and delivery nurse, unable to relocate, reposition, or do anything at all. I have no recollection of my husband being by my side, although I’m sure he wasn’t far away. All of the pain I had been waiting on for two days was suddenly upon me, and then with one contraction, my knees fell into a squat and, there it was.
“I’m pushing!” I said. “I think I’m pushing!”
At some point during the lengthy, chill, chatty portion of my labor, Midwife Naomi was casually feeling around the edges of what could be holding up my forward progress.
“Are you afraid to push?” she asked me.
I answered without deep consideration. “Yes!”
Of course I was afraid to push! Pushing was the worst. It was terrifying. I was bad at it. It hurt. I pushed for FOUR hours last time. And did I mention it was terrifying?
She insisted that I wouldn’t push for four hours. I pretended to be reassured. I’m not sure there was any amount of pushing that I would accept cheerfully.
Now, Midwife Naomi arrived fresh from her 15 minute jaunt around the ward. She came to my side and found me sobbing. She and the nurse asked me what was wrong. “I don’t want to push!” I said. “I don’t want to!
They made the appropriate cooing and calming noises while helping me back onto the bed to have my cervix checked. Once I was on the other side, it all made sense: I broke down in tears exactly once during my first labor, somewhere shortly before measuring 9cm. Transition. And now, after nearly 48 hours of laboring from 3-4cm to 8cm, my broken water had finally jostled my baby around enough to push me over the precipice. I was checked, and I was finally at a 10.
In a break between contractions, Midwife Naomi laid out my options. “You can labor in whatever position you want,” she said. “It’s really up to you.”
Still thinking about my extended pushing exertions past, I mentioned the squat bar – so many years ago, after a few hours without progress, I tried one push on the squat bar and my birth team cheered with the success! Then they let me lay back down and didn’t tell me to get up and try again, which I was cool with, because that push had been completely horrifying. This time, I shouldn’t be a wimp.
“Weeeellll,” Midwife Naomi said, “Anything other than the squat bar. I don’t like the squat bar for second time moms because things might go too fast.”
Still laying on the bed on my back, another contraction hit me hard. I didn’t care what position my body was in. My body was no longer under my command. It was pushing a baby out of me, whether I wanted it to or not.
Here is where I squeezed my eyes shut and just didn’t open them again. My husband was in the room but I remember nothing of his presence beyond asking if he needed to hold my leg (Nope, also not a second-time-mom thing). At one point I heard a familiar voice – a new midwife arrived, but it was my midwife, who I’d seen in the office for eight months. Midwife Kate offered to take over for Midwife Naomi. Midwife Naomi was like “Nope, I totally got this.”
There were a few contractions, I don’t remember how many. A few directions from the Midwife – wait, small push here – but I have no recollection of whether or not I was able to follow them.
And then there was a baby.
This is the face of someone whose body just pushed a baby out against their will. I’ve seen it since, and it’s pretty universal.
After 39 weeks and 3 days of pregnancy, weeks of fearing I wasn’t ready to deliver again, two days of contractions, and thirty minutes of actual labor, a baby. In my arms.
“You have a daughter!” They said. “A big, beautiful daughter!”
She was both big and beautiful. Nine and a half pounds big. Her head was round with a bit of tufty dark hair, her face rather bruised from her hasty exit. Beautiful.
I, on the other hand, looked like I had witnessed a murder. Looking at photos and video from this moment brings only one phrase to mind – shell shock. My stare was a little vacant. My responses delayed. What the hell had just happened to me??
Also shocking – while my eyes were closed for thirty minutes, my quietly dim birthing sanctuary had been populated by approximately one half of the hospital’s entire staff. No medical emergency had occurred – I was merely the mother of a lucky Shift Change baby. My delivery was attended by two midwives, two labor and delivery nurses, maybe a baby nurse of some kind, and at least one nursing student. My husband, again was somewhere. I lay on the table, suddenly shivering cold, surrounded by bustle.
The cord was clamped and cut and the Big Beautiful Baby was moved across the room to have her heel pricked. Her blood sugar was low, so they gave her some formula before I was allowed to offer the breast – strange, but as Midwife Naomi insisted, medically advised. Midwife Naomi also insisted that I deliver my own placenta. Like before, it proved somewhat… sticky? I was neither impressed nor motivated. I was tired. Some stern words were issued to me – “Push this placenta out RIGHT NOW Jessica or else we are going to do something even MORE painful to you,” or something like that. I guess I did what was required of me – another giant placenta emerged… this time with a true knot!
“Look at this!” everyone remarked. “That can be dangerous!”
Hope you aren’t eating!
I held my Big Beautiful Dangerous Baby while other humans still hovered between my legs, now presumably giving me a stitch or two. Again: really not into it. “Moms who have have natural births don’t usually like to be touched after they deliver,” some wise person intoned to the lurking nursing student. No shit.
I endured, while also trying to remember how to latch a newborn onto a breast. I had nearly two years of nursing experience, but most of it was spent whipping out a boob and the milk-drinker doing the rest. I’d forgotten that the fresh ones need to learn… and that they had no neck support. The first few weeks would be rocky, but on that early morning, with a little help, she latched.
The rest of my daughter’s first day of life is a soft blur in my memory. We moved to a postpartum room with windows – the storm had passed, the sun was up. Baby visited the nursery while we caught a nap. We were visited by all the medical professionals. In the evening, my husband left to pick up our two-year-old from daycare, feed him dinner, and put him to bed; I wondered if it was coincidence that my body decided it was time to deliver a baby approximately twenty minutes after he’d arrived at his trusted care provider’s home that morning. Another (male, teacher) friend arrived to stay with him until my sister’s late flight arrived – my mother, who bought a ticket that morning, would also be on the flight.
My husband caught a Lyft back to the hospital. We spent the night holed up in our room with our new baby, who was not, we were learning, the angelic newborn nighttime sleeper her older brother had been. The next day, more visiting, hanging out with my mom and sister, ordering sushi. A rough night – painful cramps, a baby who wouldn’t sleep unless she was on top of me, missing the familiarity of parenting my son, fearful of how life would go on once we were all home.
In some ways, in those early months, my fears were founded. It took my daughter a week or so to learn how to sleep independently for any stretch of time. Simultaneously, just a night or so after we arrived home with her, my son suddenly learned how to scale his crib wearing his sleep sack. It took him a week or so to learn how to stop wandering the house and waking every living being up at 2 a.m. Even after that dust settled, the days alone with my baby felt long and lonely. The nights – that started at 4pm in December – felt even longer.
But life did, in fact, go on, regardless of my coping skills or attitude. I learned how to care for both kids at the same time. We took a few weekend trips in the spring. In the summer, my husband came home from teaching and we spent three weeks in Michigan visiting family and a week in North Carolina. In the fall I went back to work. My baby turned one, and suddenly her brother acknowledged her presence. They’ve been two peas in a pod ever since.
Everything was starting to feel normal again, at the end of 2019.
But that’s a 6,000 word story for another day.
This story is about the Big Baby Girl who joined our family three and a half years ago. Who has startled us again and again with her clear comprehension of the world around her. A big hugger, a big snuggler, forever pushing her hair out of her eyes. She’s becoming a punk little sister who takes very little shit from her older brother, but will also follow him anywhere and try anything he thinks is fun. She has an enduring passion for walking around eating a snack, trailing crumbs behind her. She’s spent nearly 2/3 of life living in a global pandemic, but now she’s in full-time preschool; she comes home rattling off the names of the seven continents, a full list of every kid that was present and absent (and which kids weren’t being good listeners), and gossip about her clique of BFFs, Eva, Liana, and Sienna. She occasionally refers to herself as “Beautiful Robin.”
We go with it. Because she’s not wrong.
She’s my Big Beautiful Baby who is about to be a Beautiful Big Sister.
Oh, and here’s a link to the playlist that made it all happen.