I’m sorry this ended up being so long but I wrote it for Isa and I want it to be complete. And without further ado, I present the culmination of this literary event.
The midwife left and we all hunkered down for what ended up being 2.5 hours of pushing. Every contraction I pushed and pushed, my body took over and helped me bring my baby down. It was slow going but everyone said I was doing beautifully. My daughter’s head was right there for the last 30 minutes. The nurse kept asking if I wanted to reach down and touch it, or see it with a mirror but I just wanted to get her out of there. If someone told me how much hair she had one more time I was going to go crazy. I kept hearing people whisper to each other, the next one will be it, it’s going to be it, and then it wasn’t.
After what felt like a lifetime of pushing I felt my daughter kick inside me. Sadly I realized that it would probably be the last time we’d share one of those special, private communication just between us that I’d so enjoyed throughout my pregnancy. It was a sobering moment. By then the midwife had returned and was trying to stretch my perineum, which was evidently very tight. She told me to push more slowly but once my body took over it was impossible to hold back.
After one push the nurse midwife was suddenly urging me to “Take her! Take her!” “Take who?” I asked myself. My daughter was dangling in front of me. At 4:42pm she’d been born and I hadn’t even felt it! I was simultaneously disappointed and relieved. I’d so wanted to feel her emerge from me but I was also terrified of the ring of fire. I didn’t end up feeling anything, but I did hear the midwife exclaim, “She’s so much bigger than I expected her to be!”
I placed my own daughter on my chest and looked at her for the first time. I still couldn’t believe it. I felt like she had materialized out of nowhere. Who was this person? I stared at her, dazed, for several moments before I just broke down and started sobbing. My partner was sobbing as well. Suddenly, I remembered all the anxiety and fear I’d felt during my pregnancy. The whole time I was so worried I would never arrive at this moment, this sublime moment where I was meeting my daughter for the first time. But I had made it. She was here. I couldn’t believe it was true.
I stared at my daughter for hours after she was born. She had an unpleased look on her face, a look I now know so well. She just kept blinking and looking around, nuzzling into my chest. When my sobs subsided I just stared at her, kissed my partner, showed my mother what I had done. I was so proud. I was so happy. I couldn’t believe she was here. After all that, she had made it. She was healthy and happy and whole.
In all the commotion we hadn’t even checked if she was a girl (there had been uncertainty throughout the ultrasounds). My partner did a check and confirmed that we did, in fact, have a daughter. All three of us stayed close, as my partner and I looked from each other to the creature we had created and back again. My mother hugged me and told me that my daughter was beautiful. She called me “mom”. I couldn’t believe that title pertained to me.
Our birth plan made clear we wanted a good hour with her before they cleaned her or did any tests or gave her any shots. That hour was spent taking in the reality of our new family. After about 30 minutes I brought Isa to my breast and she immediately knew what to do. I remember saying out loud, “Isn’t this supposed to be difficult?!” If only I knew then how hard it would be, but at that moment it was so natural.
As Isa lay on my chest the after birth was expelled. I hardly remember how it happened but it certainly didn’t hurt. My partner told me it was a sight to be seen – he couldn’t believe how big it was. Then the midwife informed me that, despite her best efforts, I had a third degree tear. Because it was so deep she, as a midwife, could not stitch it up; an OBGYN would be arriving shortly to do that. She seemed genuinely upset that she had been unable to prevent the tear, despite warm compresses, oils and massage. I told her I didn’t feel a thing and I didn’t blame her in the least. The stitches were uncomfortable but seemed so inconsequential after all those hours of painful labor. Finally, after about 45 minutes, everything “down there” had been taken care of and I could enjoy my new family in peace.
While Isa was being cleaned up my doula left the room so my father could see her. Evidently he’d been pacing the halls outside for the better part of four hours. He came in when Isa was holding up her head and immediately declared her the strongest baby alive. He also heard the midwife refer to her as “perfect” after her tests and then the grandfatherly boasting began in full force. It was so wonderful to see my parents so happy.
Then my parents left and my partner’s came in. They agreed that Isa was a miracle and a beautiful one at that. She was so big that she hardly looked like a newborn at all. Despite being born 11 days early my daughter weighed in at 8 pounds 15 ounces, 20.75 inches long; a big girl to be sure. And her hair! She had so much hair. Gorgeous dark hair framing her beautiful face. She looked so much like her father but upon closer inspection was a perfect mixture of him and me.
Eventually we were moved to the maternity ward. I was given ice pack pads and giant maxi pads to place in my mesh hospital panties. My hair was soaked through with sweat and all I wanted to do was take a shower. My daughter was taken away for more tests and I took one of the most amazing showers of my life. I had forgotten shampoo but used the California Baby stuff we’d brought for Isa. I emerged from the shower slowly, shuffling back to the bed and carefully positioning all the ice and absorbent pads in the proper place before gingerly lowering myself onto the sheets. I was very sore, but completely satisfied.
There were many times that night and the following day where I was sure it was all a dream. I don’t know if it’s because she came early or if it was just the enormity of her being born, but I was absolutely certain I would wake up from this reality. It wasn’t that it was too good to be true (thought it was) it was more like I could just not wrap my head around the fact that, in the short span of a day, my identity had completely changed. I asked my partner, my mother, even friends if it had really happened. They all assured me they were not just characters in my dreamscape, but I wasn’t easily convinced. It was the most unsettling feeling I’ve ever had and even now, months later, I still sometimes wonder if I’ll wake up from all of this, if it’s just a figment of my imagination.
Friends came and visited that evening and then we did our best to sleep through the night as my daughter expressed her unhappiness at her new surroundings. The next morning we asked to leave. After only 24 hours in the hospital we prepared to go home, to our new life with our new baby.