One month since I was pregnant, and then – BOOM! – I wasn’t pregnant (well, it wasn’t exactly as quick as BOOM! but you know what I mean). How has my life changed since the BOOM! of being pregnant, to then holding and caring for a baby? It has changed drastically in many different ways. This post is going to be long, because I want to write about our birth. I want to remember it, and I want to be able to share it with Maggie some day. So, my point in saying this is…good luck with getting all the way to the end, because it’s long…very long. And if you do get to the end, you win a prize.
Labor, delivery, and then holding your baby for the first time are all CRAZY experiences, in my opinion. Let’s see if I can properly explain any of this…
Contractions started for me on Thursday, January 30th while I was at the movies watching Saving Mr. Banks with my friend Christine. They strengthened a bit that night, but seemed to go away Friday morning and most of the day. But then, BOOM!, they were back for more Friday night – growing consistently stronger and closer together. My goal was to labor at home for as long as possible, but by about 3:00 a.m. we decided it was time to head to the hospital. We arrived around 3:30, I was 4 cm dilated and my midwife said it would probably be about twelve hours from then that our baby would be with us. And guess what? She said this at about 3:45 a.m. Saturday morning, and Maggie arrived at 3:49 p.m. Saturday afternoon (February 1st). Pretty good guess, Rebecca!
I was the only one in the labor and delivery wing the day Maggie was born, which was really nice. The whole floor was quiet and peaceful – a perfect setting for the birth I envisioned. See, Colin and I had taken a five week hypnobirthing course in preparation for the day I went into labor. What drew us to the course were the relaxation techniques that I could use while I was in labor. I had a lot of anxiety while pregnant when I thought about actually HAVING the baby. Contractions, transition, pushing, crowning – they all made me tense and pretty terrified. I literally could cry on the spot when I thought about going into labor (ask Colin!) and knew I needed something to help calm me down. From what I read, and heard from my sister Megan and brother in law Matt (who took the course before the birth of their first son Declan) – I knew hypnobirthing could help me achieve my goal of a natural birth.
Our course and our instructor were extremely helpful. Probably by the third class, I was already feeling much calmer about everything. By the end of the course, and with continued practice of the meditations we learned as well as incorporating my affirmations into my life as much as possible, I was very calm when I thought about bringing our baby into the world. I was maybe a little (VERY little, honestly) nervous when I thought about going into labor, for fear of the unknown, but ultimately the course taught me to trust myself, my body, and my baby to do what they needed to do to bring Maggie safely into the world. Our bodies were meant to grow and birth a baby – there was nothing I needed to be afraid of. As someone who can be pretty insecure, it was hard at first for me to trust myself, but throughout my pregnancy I learned to. I’m not all the way there by any means, but becoming a mother is truly helping me with that. Thankfully I fully trust my amazing husband with all my being, and he was incredibly supportive of taking this hypnobirthing course with me, reading meditations to me, and being there whenever a fearful thought crept in. He helped me believe I could accomplish this, that I was strong enough to do this.
So back to birth day! My AMAZING husband Colin and my AMAZING mother Michelle were with me as I got through each contraction. My AMAZING midwife Barbara (Rebecca switched shifts by the time things got REALLY real) and my AMAZING nurse Angela were in and out helping with anything I needed, and then they were there the whole time during the transition/pushing phases. I thought I would only want my husband and mother in the room with me (in addition to my midwife and nurse of course), but then when I didn’t think I could go on any further – I really wanted my AMAZING big sister Meg. She had just recently (this past June) had a natural birth (with her son Brian) and I knew I could use her support as well. She came right to the hospital and rounded out my AMAZING birth team. I am saying AMAZING a million times in this paragraph, because that’s what each one of them are to me. Yes, I am the one who physically pushed Maggie out, but I could NOT have done this without Colin, Michelle, Barbara, Angela, and Megan. I couldn’t have. And I wouldn’t have wanted to. Each one of them gave me something different – a sense of calm, an understanding that these feelings wouldn’t last forever and that our baby would be there soon, a cold wash cloth on my forehead and ice on my back (back labor – ouch!), prayers, a hand to hold and encouraging words – I am so grateful for all of the help I received. This was a team effort, and Maggie was on our team too, of course. She worked with me and did everything she was supposed to do – she was just as AMAZING as everyone else. These people helped me succeed in accomplishing my goal of a natural birth. (**Side note – a natural birth is not for everyone. And there is nothing wrong with a different birth path using interventions. It is what each and every woman is comfortable with. After giving birth I would NEVER judge someone for wanting an epidural or other pain remedies – it is hard work with or without help!)
Also, our AMAZING friend Lisa was there all day to capture this adventure on video. She is truly a gift, that Lisa! I will forever cherish our video.
So here are a few snipits about my specific labor. Using the shower on and off throughout the twelve hours was so, so, so helpful for my body, especially because I experienced back labor. Back labor stinks – there really is no way to sugar coat it. It was painful. Using the tub during the transition phase let me feel a sense of relaxation – I didn’t want my body to tense up during this important time. I ate throughout the twelve hours, which kept my energy levels up (banana chips will forever remind me of this day). It is imperative that you drink water throughout this process. Make sure you have someone remembering this for you and forcing you to (you will have other things to think about and focus on…) Like they say, try your best to rest in between contractions. I was so tired that by the transition phase I was pretty much falling asleep in between contractions. But, come time to push I was ready to go. I pushed with sheer determination for about fifty minutes. I loved knowing that it was time to push, because you can finally understand that this is actually happening – the baby will be here soon, for real. My midwife didn’t really update me on how dilated I was throughout the process, which I was thankful for. What is the point in knowing, really? Just keep on keeping on and it’s obviously going to happen one way or another. If I knew how dilated I was every step of the way I think that would have made me anxious.
So anyway, I pushed and pushed – probably breaking my mom and Colin’s hands off in the process – and actually pulled Maggie right out onto my chest. WOW, that was cool! This moment was incredibly surreal and I know I won’t be able to describe it, but know that it was beyond words. I remember feeling SO HAPPY. So happy it was all finished, but that it was also just beginning. Maggie was finally here! Somehow all my energy came back (for a little while) and the room immediately filled with love with everyone who entered to meet our darling girl. We didn’t even fully decide on Maggie’s name for about an hour or so. We were deciding between Maggie and Lucy – and for some reason Maggie just seemed to fit her better. So, we went with Maggie Grace Temple. Twenty inches, and 8 pounds 2 ounces of perfection.
Those first two nights of Maggie’s life while we were in the hospital consisted of some sleep, lots of special visitors, Colin and I looking at Maggie in amazement, then at each other with crazy happy smiles on our faces, good food (seriously…they actually had good food at our hospital), lots of popping in and out by nurses, sleeping through the Super Bowl, Colin’s first experience changing a baby’s diaper, my first few experiences breastfeeding (wondering if I were even doing it correctly), realizing I still looked about five months pregnant even after Maggie wasn’t in there anymore (umm why don’t we magically go back to our pre-bump bodies?!), cuddling with Mags, texting/calling people, and updating our social media accounts with the good news. I honestly would have, and still would, shout our news from the rooftops!
People can tell you a million things about having a baby, but people couldn’t tell me a million things about ME and My child. Everyone is so different, and your experiences inevitably will be different. People couldn’t tell me how my heart would explode with love every time I breastfed Maggie (even if it would be tough on my nipples sometimes). They couldn’t tell me that my husband was some sort of magic swaddler of babies (with never having done it before), or that I’d miss Maggie when I wasn’t holding her (even if we were in the same room – crazy, I know!), or how watching her smile would bring me more joy than I could EVER imagine (even if people tell you that, you can’t actually know what they mean until you’re experiencing it). They could tell you that you’ll fall in love with your husband all over again, but you can’t understand that until you see YOUR husband with the baby you created together resting on his chest, or that first kiss you share after the final push that brings your baby into the world. They can tell you how great it is when you hold your baby, but they can’t explain the feeling you get when she sinks into you with complete comfort knowing she is in her mother’s arms.
Hopefully you have seen great generosity from people in your life – I know I have. But I couldn’t have imagined the generosity I would see from people throughout my pregnancy, and now with Maggie having arrived. Cards, flowers, cookies, fruit, meals, gifts, kind words and well wishes have been sent from all over the world, for our little girl. Colin’s parents and sister cleaned our house for us before we got home, and made dinner for us to eat the day we got home from the hospital so we had a home cooked meal. My father, grandfather, and sister drove up from and back to New York just to meet Maggie (with a beautiful teddy bear for Maggie, just like my dad gave me the day I was born!). My mother and sisters decorated our house for us to celebrate our bringing Maggie home. My husband stayed by my and Maggie’s side the whole time during our hospital stay. My sister Megan has been there to answer every single question or concern I have had throughout my whole pregnancy, and especially during these first few weeks of having a baby. My brother and sister are coming to visit all the way from California to meet our little one. My mother in law has put together the most beautiful book of pictures from Maggie’s first few days for us. My sister in law and her boyfriend made a delicious meal for us one of our first nights back home – they cleaned up and everything! (Always a great idea for new parents, I must say). My best friend and her boyfriend did the same! My mother gave up her personal time to stay with me the first week Colin went back to work. My sister Kelly put together a touching and completely wonderful video of Maggie’s first few days (link at the end of the post after the pictures). People have been so generous – more than generous, so it’s not even generous any more, it’s something bigger – a word I don’t have. These acts of kindness have brought me to tears many times – at times, right when they were happening, or at times privately in thinking about them. I am so appreciative – and in my crazy haze of postpartum feelings and emotions – hope each and every one of you know that. I love you all more than you know. (These people have done even more than this, but if I continued on I would have to publish a book on the specific subject of their generosity during the first few weeks of Maggie’s life. I’ve babbled on so long at this point, I don’t even know if anyone is still with me…….)
Maggie has already brought so much joy to people’s lives – Colin and mine for sure, and her grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, etc. It was absolutely delightful to watch Maggie meet her great grandfather George and great grandmother Dot last weekend while we were up in Vermont. Watching the loving expressions on their faces was priceless. I am so happy they got to meet her while she is this small! And her Aunt Jean and cousin Dugan Mae too! (And Maggie met her other great grandparent, the Great Pa while we were in the hospital which was also wonderful).
Maggie is one month today. She loves to sleep on Mom and Dad’s chest. She doesn’t love getting changed. She poops a lot! And sometimes she pees the second her diaper is off (she is tricky!). She loves to nurse, and has been great from the start. She has a tight grip, and her neck is getting stronger and stronger every day. She had a photo shoot with our friend Alissa as well as her grandmother and was very cooperative throughout both. Maggie loves to snooze, swing in her swing, and play on her play mat. We’ve been referring to her as Maggie, Mags, or Colin’s word, Chubbaloots which makes me laugh every time we say it. Maggie likes to take baths, and likes having coconut oil rubbed on her. Mom, Dad, and everyone else who has experienced it, melt when Maggie smiles.
All the clichéd things people say about having a baby are true – it’s amazing, it’s life changing (in the best way), it’s truly a miracle. But you can’t possibly know all of this until you experience it which is part of why it’s so amazing. The second you’re in it – you get it; you’re part of the club.
I write this post with a happy baby sleeping peacefully on my chest, and my husband by my side. That, my friends, is my life these days – and I am truly happy.