In honor of my first born's 4th birthday last week, I started to write his story about his birth. Here's what I remember, 4 years later:
I remember so much about my pregnancy with Eliot. I remember distinctly knowing I was pregnant before any test could tell me. After running the hilly Austin marathon in February, 2008, we signed up for a FLAT marathon in May, 2008--Lincoln, Nebraska. I had noticed a very distinct difference in my body while running in the weeks leading up to Lincoln. I didn't feel bad or fat or bloated. I just felt...different. I knew I was pregnant. The night before the marathon, Scott and I ate pasta at a local restaurant and I declined to drink wine, something I normally loved the night before a big race. Scott said "why do you think you're pregnant?" I responded, "I don't know, I just know that I am." And so I skipped the wine. And 10 days later we confirmed what my heart already knew, a baby was on the way.
At my insistence, we did not find out if Eliot was a boy or girl. It killed Scott not to know. But I loved it. As an adult I feel that good surprises are just too rare. How often are you truly shocked by something and it turns out it's a good thing? Typically grown up suprises are "surprise! You have cancer." or "Surprise! You are part of the reduction in force." And so...I cherish those moments where life hands me something unexpected and wonderful. And so no matter what we had, a boy or girl, it would be a wonderful surprise. And so I insisted. We were NOT finding out what we were having.
Around five months pregnant I had a dream. I was holding my beautiful baby and rocking it. In my dream the baby was probably 4 months old, laying in my arms and smiling at me. And it was a girl. There really was not much more to the dream but it was clear and distinct. It was a girl. And from that moment on, I was convinced. This baby was a girl. Scott dreamed too. He dreamt we picked our baby up at a big box store along with other expectant parents. And in his dream we were given a boy. And so he was convinced all along we were having a boy.
I gained 45 pounds. And while I certainly packed on the weight, the baby did not seem particularly large (my butt on the other hand...). Even my OB thought it would be a medium or average sized baby. And when she felt around and listened to the heartbeat and looked at how I carried the baby, she said "Yup, a small girl."
Scott and I picked the name Eliot years before we even tried for a baby. Regardless of the sex, the baby would be named Eliot. "Marie" for the girl's middle name. "Michael" for the boy's. We went shopping and purchased two beautiful, soft coming home outfits. One pink, one blue. We decorated the nursery in a deep gold and chocolate brown. We received lots of gender neutral gifts, green jammies and yellow afghans. And we decided on the spelling of Eliot for T.S. Eliot, one of my favorite poets.
Heading into the final weeks of pregnancy I was just insanely busy. I desperately wanted to finish my appeal brief and I needed probably another 3-4 solid days of work on it. On Sunday, January 11, the Golden Globes were on. I watched the celebrities on the red carpet and I started to labor. I had contractions for hours. I kept looking to Scott. We double checked our bags were ready and we got excited. He got out the video camera to tape me having contractions (brat). And eventually they fizzled. Nothing. I was disappointed but grateful to have another day to work on my brief.
I don't remember much of the next day or night but nothing remarkable happened. My due date was Tuesday the 13th. We woke up Tuesday morning around 6 or 6:15. I got up to go to the bathroom first thing and it happened. My water broke. I couldn't believe it as I did not think it broke first very often (it doesn't). I had zero discomfort. Nothing even resembling a contraction. And it wasn't the massive gushing you hear about, it was a slight trickle. Regardless, I looked at Scott and said "Well you had better go for your run, I think we are having a baby today!" And he did. He got up, took Pavlov for a run and came home ready to go to the hospital. I was not ready. I showered and straightened my new cut bob. I didn't wear any makeup to the hospital, but dangit, I was going to have perfect hair.
I sat on the couch for a couple of hours procratinating. I worked on the appeal brief! I ate bland food because I knew once I got to the hospital they were not going to let me eat and well, food is important. I emailed with my paralegal and finally, begrudingly, I called my doctor's office. I said "I think my water broke. I have no contractions though. What should I do?" I was scolded a bit by the nurse who told me I had to go to the hospital immediately. Babies have to be born within 24 hours of the water breaking or risk serious infection. Well, that meant this baby had to be born by 6:00 a.m. on the 14th or I'd be getting a C-section. I desperately wanted to avoid a C-section. That was my number one goal. Other goals for labor and delivery--no pitocin, no intervention, no drugs if at all possible.
Around 8:30 a.m. we headed to the hospital. I told the nurses what had happened and they decided to test to make sure it really was ambiotic fluid (it was). They checked to see if I was dilated. I was a 2. The same as I had been for the last month. My doctor stopped by and said "well it's time to get labor started. we need to get you going or I'm going to have to start pitocin." She told me start walking and she would be back in a few hours to "strip my membranes." And so walk I did. I remember strapping on my running shoes and walking, jogging, stretching, jumping around, anything I could think of. The nurses laughed at me as I asked if there was a treadmill available. I remember hearing a woman screaming her head off in another hallway as she labored through natural childbirth. And I remember my confidence taking a huge hit. This was real and maybe I was not quite strong enough to do this? But I shook it off and kept walking. And perhaps the faintest, lightest of contractions. Nothing of any consequence at all. I knew I had a long day ahead. But after a couple hours of walking, I was a 3. I was thrilled that I had made some solid progress.
My doctor came back and broke my water the rest of the way. And then, oh wow. They started. A very very long day of contractions. I tried many things to try to get comfortable. I got on all fours. I sat on an exercise ball. I stood. I laid on my side. Bottom line--I was miserable. And for hours, I struggled. For several hours, I was sick to my stomach. Every 5 minutes, overwhelming nausea hit me and I'd take off for the bathroom. Nothing could take my mind off of labor, not even movies or card games. The nurse offered me a lighter anethesia in my IV. I accepted. And I hated it. I would have preferred the pain many many times over to the woozy, fuzzy, nauseating feeling of those pain meds. I was exhausted.
After literally hours and hours and hours of laboring and at least 5 million contractions, the nurses checked. I was a 4. All of the blood, sweat and tears and I was nowhere near progressing. At 8:00 p.m. I broke. I tearfully accepted that I was never going to have the baby and that I was going to end up with a C-section at 6:00 a.m. the next day. I thought "well I might as well have an epidural now and save myself the pain of the next ten hours." I asked for the epidural. Every thing I had ever read said that epidurals slow down labor, often stop the process in its tracks. So I felt pretty depressed at that point. Everything was moving so slow and here I was giving up, slowing it down even more.
But what choice did I have? I hated the less invasive drugs and I could not labor on for hours with no end in sight and no progress being made. My epidural CRNA was wonderful. She came in and comforted me. My nurse, Jennifer, was so supportive. And Scott was so grateful. He was exhausted from watching me in pain with nothing he could do to help. Around 9:00 p.m. I got my block.
The epidural worked and slowly I felt the contractions get less and less intense, until I felt nothing at all. I fell asleep. And I mean I crashed. Exhausted from an entire day of laboring with barely any progress, I just passed out. When I woke up about an hour later, the nurse had wondeful news. I was an 8. Unlike the vast majority of patients, my body had the opposite reaction to the epidural. It sped up the process! The contractions came faster and faster and lasted longer. After about another hour, I was a 10.
Funny things and tidbits I remember throughout the day. My resident doctor's name was Jennifer Hill and she was also pregnant! My nurse's name was Jennifer. My OB/GYN had just stepped off the plane from running the Walt Disney Marathon in Orlando the day before the baby came. She was exhausted that day and spent a good chunk of the evening sleeping on the couch in our delivery suite. Scott fetched her coffee and snacks to help her recover before she brought our baby into the world. Scott got to eat that day and I was begrudgingly okay with it until dinner. At dinner time, when they brought him chicken fingers that smelled like heaven, I made him go in the other room to eat. I was starving. STARVING. All I got was some chicken broth to sip on. I probably sent Scott for more chicken broth 10 times that day. I hated, absolutely hated being stuck in the bed after I got my epidural. After spending the entire day walking and moving and adjusting myself to be comfortable, it was torture to be trapped in bed. But that was the price I paid for not feeling the last hours of all this stuff.
Around 11:00 p.m., Jennifer (the nurse) coached me through pushing. She said I needed to work with the contractions to help get the baby on its way. I remember thinking "well after laboring for so long, this part will probably go very quickly!" I was so excited to meet my dainty little girl. And poor Scott. He had hoped to have more of a buffer between himself and, well, all the blood and gore. Turns out, there was no curtain blocking him from the reality of childbirth. To the contrary, he held my right leg while I pushed and was a part of the whole process.
And so I pushed. And pushed. And pushed. The hours started ticking by. Several times my doctor would look, try to adjust me or the baby but baby was just stuck. The baby moved its head in the birth canal from side to side. The resident said, the baby was trying to help. Nothing. Finally talk started about how to "speed things up". And this whole time, I'm looking at the clock, knowing it's only a matter of time before real intervention gets started and maybe even a c-section. I pushed with everything I had but I was so numb I could not tell if I was making any progress at all or even using the right muscles.
Almost three hours later, everything changed. Suddenly, there were six or seven nurses. The doctors put on surgical gowns. The lights went dim except for what appeared to be spotlights on my nether regions. Scott assured me we were really close. I pushed and out came the head. I remember my nurse saying "You've got this. Just one more big push Jennifer." Suddenly, there he was. He looked huge in my doctor's hands. And, no question, it was a boy. I remember just feeling shock. A boy? A big huge boy? There must be some mistake.
No mistake about it. Around 2:00 a.m., I had my 8 1/2 pound boy. He was beautiful. He had a conehead and a fat pink belly. He barely cried. After he was born, they cleaned him and wrapped him and started to hand him to Scott. He insisted that I hold him first. The doctors had quite a bit of work left on me. Scott went to the waiting room and told our parents it was a boy, named Eliot Michael and he was healthy and so was mom. My OB laughed about her guess that baby was a small girl.
And he lay in my arms, wide awake. He stared at Scott and I forever. Silent. Peaceful. Beautiful. Just stared at us. We took pictures. We stared back. And it was completely surreal. I remember thinking "I don't even know you! I thought you were going to be a little girl!" I remember feeling like I had a lot of catching up to do.
Eventually our parents came in. He stayed awake. He silently stared at them too. For a very long time. He just stared and let himself be passed around. He was just beautiful. Such perfect skin. Such round cheeks. I could not believe it. A BOY. Eventually, the parents went home and the night settled down. And he slept. I slept. Scott slept. The next day he was just perfect. No crying, just cuddling. He was big. He was incredibly strong. He shocked me by lifting his head off my chest to look me straight in the eye. We came home from the hospital and I remember touching the pink outfit as Scott left to go return it. I got misty--no dance recitals or baby doll slumber parties, no pink ruffly Easter dresses. That dream was over. But a new one had started. I had a strong beautiful baby boy who needed me and loved me with a bond I could not believe felt so strong. I had new dreams to create.
He was laid back and easy going early on. He slept through the night at 8 weeks. He ate with reckless abandon and gained weight very quickly. He played with us very soon after he was born and I swear he kissed me back when he was only a few days old.
And now, here we are, 4 years later. I have on my hands, the most eloquent, hilarious kid I have ever known. He is opinionated and bossy. He is demanding and giving. He is affectionate and a rough housing all boy Star Wars fan. He's an amazing big brother and an obstinant picky eater (until he actually tries stuff and then he is usually a huge fan). Currently our game is to express our love through random number assignments or distances. "Mommy I love you 47." "Yea well Eliot, I love you 236." "Whoa, that's a lot." "I love you to Jupiter and back." "I love you all the way to the sun." Something I never expected was to love every stage of baby and childhood just so much. He was the most beautiful docile newborn. He was an easy happy baby. A fun toddler. A hilarious little boy. And lately so creative and imaginative and inquisitive, it hurts sometimes my brain. Happy 4th birthday Eliot! You were a lot of work to bring into this world but I would do it again a million times over.