Happy First Birthday, Dear Little Princess
Hello, world. March 2013
Selfie with mom, February 2014.
All I can say to Caitlin at the end of her first year is thank you.
Thank you for being patient with your mommy, who is still grieving and heartbroken. Thank you for being such an easygoing, friendly baby, who has never met a stranger. Thank you for being so delightful. Thank you for wanting to be held so much – even though sometimes I grumble about it because I want to get something else done – because I need those cuddles as much as you do. Thank you for your smile and your sassy attitude.
Thank you, dear little princess, for all the joy you brought into our lives, for being an answered prayer and a light in our darkness.
On the evening of March 4th last year, my mother and I took a brisk walk around the block in the warm spring darkness. Then she went home, and I sat up for a couple of hours watching television while Jon snoozed on the couch next to me. I’d been having irregular contractions for the past week or so, and after the walk they settled into a regular, increasingly painful rhythm.
This had happened before, but each time I’d panicked a little bit when I thought I was actually in labor, and the contractions subsided. So when I finally laid down in bed, I prayed. I said, “I’m ready, God. I’m not afraid. I’m ready to have this baby.” I expected the contractions to keep ramping up in intensity, and if I slept at all I’d wake up in the middle of the night ready to go to the hospital.
But I was wrong. I slept soundly all night long and woke up to the sun shining brightly.
So I got some coffee and sat down at the computer to play several fruitless games of Solitare before getting ready for work. I had spent a lot of time playing video games in the months since Garrett’s death, as a sort of mind-numbing comfort mechanism. But this morning I had a different reason for parking my butt in the computer chair: I’d noticed that whenever I assumed this posture, with my back straight and angled forward over the desk, my contractions would really get going. And so they did. After about half an hour, I got cleaned up and dressed and went to the office.
I tried to focus on work, but my mind definitely kept coming back to “is this it?” After so many “false starts,” I hesitated to actually say I was in labor, but this was the longest the contractions had lasted so far. I texted my mom. I texted my husband. I checked the time over and over. I got another cup of coffee. I tried to be productive. Finally I told my boss I was going home. “But it’s probably nothing,” I said, trying to be cool.
Back at home, I played a few more rounds of solitare and timed contractions. It seemed as if they were getting longer and stronger, and had been for several hours. My husband texted to say he’d leave work at lunchtime. “I’m so excited,” I texted back. “We might get to meet our baby today!”
My mom came over, bubbling with excitement. “It may still be nothing,” I said, STILL trying to be cool. I didn’t want to be the woman who went to the hospital and got sent home. I didn’t want to get everybody worked up and have a stampede of friends and family appear at my doorstep. I was feeling a bit fragile emotionally and a little scared and I didn’t want to frighten my labor away again.
Jon came home and sat down to relax a bit. My mom to ran to Hardee’s to get lunch for all of us. We watched TV and ate our burgers and fries, and finally I told Jon, “You may want to go ahead and shower.” I got my already-packed bags ready to go out the door, and put the dogs in their crates. Then I laid on our bed to re-assess the labor situation. Nothing too painful going on…oh wait. Yeah, maybe it was time to go.
My mom left to do some shopping to distract herself. Jon and I loaded up in the car and headed to the hospital. We checked in and were escorted to a small examination room, where the nurse left us so I could change out of my clothes and into a gown. For some reason, it seemed phenomenally difficult to change clothes, and I think it took me about forty-five minutes. Or maybe it just took five minutes, but in any case, by the time I sat on the bed-slash-exam table next to Jon, I was getting a little anxious and testy.
“You know,” said Jon thoughtfully. “It seems a shame to waste this semi-private room.”
I literally laughed out loud. “That’s the first time we’ve been able to use that line in its proper context.”
A few minutes later the nurse came in and checked me. I was six centimeters dilated, which meant that I was officially in labor and could move to a legitimate (and much more comfortable) birthing room.
Although I was most definitely still in labor and therefore still in pain for the next hour or so, the flurry of excitement of getting checked in distracted me, and I was able to breathe through contractions easily. They strapped me to a monitor and got a hep-lock set up, and my labor nurse (I think her name was Jennifer but I’m not 100% sure of that) went over my medical history and got everything entered into the computer.
“What’s your pain management plan?” she asked at one point.
“None like you don’t have a plan or none like you don’t want any pain at all?”
I laughed. “None like I’m going to do it naturally.”
She laughed. “Now, see, if I had said none I would have meant no pain at all.”
After all the intake drama was done, Jon and I were left alone in the room together. I put on some music – a playlist I’d put together specifically for this day – and did my best to relax during each contraction. I remembered from my labor with Garrett that as the pain had increased I’d felt this urge to get away from it, which had made me anxious and tense, which in turn made the pain worse. So this time I reminded myself over and over that I couldn’t get away from the pain, and I wouldn’t want to if I could. I had to surrender to get through it. I even talked to Caitlin, inside my head. I told her we were going to do this together, that she knew how to get out and my body knew how to help her and we were rock stars and we were going to be totally awesome today.
So that is what I did for a couple of hours – breathe, listen to music, repeat rah-rah birth goddess mantras to myself, lather rinse repeat. Jon pretty much kept to himself, playing Angry Birds or something like it, only speaking when spoken to or doing something if/when I asked him to. (And I don’t wish to imply that he was shirking his responsibilities by doing so; this is the sort of labor support I prefer.) I was doing pretty good if I do say so myself, until transition kicked in and then I lost my everloving mind, as I have been known to do in the past. Jon says that at one point my eyes opened wider than he’d ever seen before and I think it scared him a little bit. I remember clinging to the bed rails as if I were dangling from a rain gutter on the side of a ten-story building. I no longer felt like a birth goddess rock star. I felt like my body was a runaway freight train, and Britney Spears (circa shaved-head-attacking-paparazzo-with-umbrella) was at the controls.
I paged the nurse to say that I thought we were getting close and could she please come and check me? When she did not appear IMMEDIATELY, I sent Jon out to the nurse’s station to chase her down. Then things start to get a little fuzzy because I got a little crazy. I started to hyperventilate and levitate off the bed. I thought I was going to barf. I thought I was going to lose control of all my bodily functions. I thought this was complete and total bullshit. I asked Jon to rub my back. That made me nauseous. I told him to stop touching me. I started moaning and crying and swearing. I decided I did not want to have a baby today after all and maybe I would just go home. I wondered aloud where the hell the nurse was and why no one else thought that having a baby was a big damn deal.
Finally, FINALLY Jennifer returned to check my progress, then she paged the doctor and asked for nursely backup. My doctor strolled in a few minutes later, smiling sweetly, rubbing sanitizer onto her hands and speaking in soothing tones, which just pissed me off of course. She checked me, too, as if the nurse’s assessment of the situation wasn’t enough, and said something to the effect of, “Well, let’s get ready to have this baby.”
(Although I was still kind of thinking that I might just go home.)
So the nurses (Jennifer and a friend of mine who works at the hospital and had just finished helping another mama give birth) broke the bed down and spread paper sheets all over everything and got all the implements of destruction out, while my husband tried to stay out of their way and not freak me out by running around in circles screaming like a girl.
You know how it’s done.
My doctor broke my water, and turned the big scary vagina spotlight and the nurses each grabbed ahold of one of my knees and suddenly everyone was looking at me expectantly and… I didn’t have to push any more.
My contractions had slowed down and I was just lying there panting and wishing someone else could do this for me. I felt bad for a sec about being all EVERYBODY HURRY UP GET IN HERE GET IN HERE GETINHEEEERE. I also felt pretty silly because I was talking to Jesus out loud, whereas a few minutes before I’d been inventing clever and highly offensive new combinations of swear words. But eventually I got down to business and started pushing.
After an hour and a half (okay, more like three pushes) the doctor was like, “Yay! She’s almost crowning,” and I was like are you freaking kidding me shouldn’t we be done by now? Then she says, “Aw, she has a full head of soft blond hair,” and I was like I don’t freaking care lady this shit hurts. After another four hours (or whatever), I delivered the head and the nurses were like, “You’re doing great” and Jon was like, “You’re doing great,” but because no one is ever satisfied, they wanted me to push AGAIN and get the rest of the baby out. The doctor cut the umbilical cord, which was wrapped around Caitlin’s neck, and as I pushed again I think her shoulders kind of got stuck because the nurses had me put my knees up over my head and I pushed a little bit more and then I had a baby. They doctor laid Caitlin on my chest and probably said congratulations but I don’t really remember because I was exhausted and I was so in love and Jon hugged and kissed me and I told Caitlin how proud I was of her, because we were a team, we were rock stars, and we got it done. I was feeling high as a kite, and stayed pretty buoyant while getting my nether regions stitched up and clothes put back on so the grandparents could come and see the baby.
That’s the end of the interesting stuff – the rest is all blah blah blah bathtime for baby and shower for mommy, naps for everyone, phone calls to far-flung family members and photos posted on Facebook.
Speaking of pictures…
In the hospital with Daddy, less than a day old.
Snoozing with Daddy, eleven months and three weeks old.
I die a little every time I look at this picture.
SO WIDDLE! SO CUTE!
I think she was just around a month old when this was taken.
And she still sleeps like that.
At the library, summer 2013. Nerd indoctrination begins early.
Birthday party last weekend.
This morning. So precious.