Colette’s Birth Story

Ok, a little late, but here’s the tale of how my little lady came into the world.

Rewind two months to July 21, two weeks before Colette’s due date.

11 am: I meet my friends for brunch. My friend Ashley gives me a box of raspberry leaf tea, which is supposed to induce labor.

2 pm: I drink one cup of raspberry leaf tea. One!

7 pm: I send my friend Elizabeth, who’s really into astrology, the following text: “Pretty sure this baby is going to be a Leo after all. She has one more day left to declare herself a Cancer.”

9 pm: I’m lying in bed reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed. I’m annoyed at everything. The book is dumb. I’m uncomfortable. I say to Tim, “Ughhhhhh! I’m going to be pregnant forever.” I randomly decide to get on all fours on the bed. I stay there for a couple of minutes.

I get up.

I feel a huge gush.

I say to Tim, “Holy shit! Holy shit!”

And he says, “What? What?”

And I say, “I think my water just broke! Or maybe I peed myself.”

9:05 pm: It becomes obvious that I did not pee myself, as crazy amounts of liquid are still flowing.

Apparently this baby really wants to be a Cancer.

9:15 pm: I call the midwives. The on-call phones me back and tells me to come into the hospital to make sure it really was my water.

9:45 pm: We arrive at the hospital and the water is still gushing. Still! My dress is soaked, my flip flops are soaked. A nurse in the elevator with us is cracking up at me. Once I get to the PETU, they hook me up to the baby monitors and the midwife comes in. She tells me that, yep, it’s definitely my water. And that she has never seen so much amniotic fluid come out of one person.

Blue ribbon for me!

The midwife says I have two options. One, to be induced right then and there. Or two, to go home and see if active labor starts. If that doesn’t happen, I have to come back in 12 hours. Once the water breaks, there’s a greater chance of infection, so I have to be induced in 12 hours no matter what. She acts like going into labor on my own is a slim possibility.

In my head I’m like, yeah right. I know shit is going to go down.

We decide to go home. The midwife instructs me to take a sleeping pill and get some shut eye.

11:30 pm: We get home. We call our parents and tell them the news. I take a Unisom. Right after I take it, contractions start. They’re manageable for, like, 25 minutes.

And then it starts to get really real all at once.

I go from no labor to HOLY CRAP FULL-ON LABOR! The contractions are now one minute long, every two minutes apart. That’s right. One minute of rest every two minutes. As a bonus, I’m groggy from the sleeping pill.

Midnight: We call our doula and tell her to get on over.

12:30 am: Oh My G, the pain!

12:45 am: I call the midwife again and she tells me it sounds like active labor is just beginning. In my head I’m like, yeah right. I’m in it, lady. She tells me to give it a few more hours.

1 am: The doula arrives. She tries massaging, acupressure, etc. At this point, I’m in so much pain I have no idea what anyone is saying or doing around me. I’m on the yoga mat in my bedroom, on all fours.

1:30 am: I say to the air, “I need to go to the hospital and get an epidural. Now.”

1:45 am: We walk from the house to the car, which is across the street, about ten feet away from my front door. On the way, I have a contraction and get down on all fours on the sidewalk. In the middle of South Philly, people!

2 am: We get to the hospital. I don’t remember the ride at all. I stop in the lobby of the hospital and get down on all fours again, this time on a bench. No shame at this point, no shame.

2:05 am: We arrive back at the PETU. The nurse tells me that I need to be on the fetal monitor for one half hour and that if I move and the monitor loses the baby’s heartbeat, I need to start all over again for another half an hour. Basically, she’s telling me I have to keep still for an entire half hour.

2:06-2:36 am: Holy shit.

3 am: The midwife comes in and checks my cervix. I’m 6 centimeters dilated. The room cheers. All except for me, who barely registers what the hell is going on.

3:15 am: They transfer me to labor and delivery.

4 am: Still no epidural. After every few contractions I wimper, “Why isn’t she here yet?” By she, I mean the anesthesiologist. She was administering another epidural somewhere else on the floor. Then that patient’s blood pressure went haywire, so the anesthesiologist had to chill with her for a while. Every few minutes the midwife checks Baby’s heartbeat. The rest of the time the midwife just chills in the room with me while I labor. I was surprised because I did not think doctors or midwives stuck around like that.

4:45 am: The anesthesiologist arrives. Praise be! She gives me the epidural. I’ve heard horror stories about epidural administration, but compared to the pain I’m in, getting the epidural is awesome.

5 am: The edipural kicks in. I breathe. Now, I had in mind to “try” to have a natural childbirth. But I changed my mind pretty quickly once the bad-ass contractions set in. You au-natural ladies, I admire you. But next time? Epidural all the way for me.

5-7 am: I rest. No sleep, but I’m blissfully zoned out.

7 am: The midwife checks me and I’m over 9 centimeters dilated. Sha-bam!

8:00 am: One more check before shift change. I’m declared almost ready to push.

8:15 am: A new midwife arrives and I start pushing. Contrary to childbirth lore, I can still feel when it’s time to push, despite having an epidural.

8:30 am: I start running a fever. Because my water broke before labor they’re worried the fever is a sign of infection. This means that Colette will have to go to the NICU after she’s born and we’ll both have to get antibiotics.

8:45 am: The midwife wants to do an episiotomy. She says Colette’s head is just sort of stuck. My doula tells me to hold out. I listen to the doula.

8:58 am: The midwife says, “Listen, I’m just going to do the episiotomy anyway.”

9:01 am: It works! Colette shoots out faster than a speeding bullet. It’s crazy how fast she comes out after the episiotomy.

Almost exactly 12 hours after my water broke, the world has a new little girl in it.

I say, “Oh my God, my baby, it’s my baby,” and “I love you so much,” over and over again.

Tim doesn’t say a word, but tears roll down his face.

Because she is here. After all of our longing and waiting and wishing, she is finally, finally here.

Chub’s first weigh-in.
Taken right before C was wisked away to the NICU. We got her back after a couple of hours.
First snuggles with Grandma and Grandpa Best.
Heading home to begin our lives as a family of three.

Letter to My Little Lady: Go Big or Go Home

You, at eight weeks.

Dear Little Fish,

In the darkest days of my pregnancy, I was convinced something terrible would happen to you before I got the chance to meet you. I just couldn’t imagine how you could be ok when my own mother was so clearly not. Rationally, I know the two had nothing to do with each other, but for some reason I couldn’t unlink them. You and your grandma were a package deal.

I never verbalized all of that to your grandma, but she knew I worried about you. “I just want you not to worry so much,” she told me often. And she was right. I didn’t need to worry. Because even though she was taken from us too soon, you are are still here. You are alive, thriving and loved.

Thinking about that made me wonder what else she was right about over the years. With a moniker like Mrs. Rightwood, you can imagine she was right about a lot. It made me wonder what lessons she taught me that I could pass on to you. I’m sure there were many, but the one that comes to mind right away is this: love big.

Like, really big.

Your grandma, she loved with her entire heart. If she loved someone the whole world knew about it. And the whole world better like it.

When I was in second grade, I remember telling your grandma that I loved my teacher, Mrs. McElwain. At seven years old, I was a loud, energetic handful. Often my teachers didn’t know what to do with me. But Mrs. McElwain treated me with nothing but gentleness and grace. From her I got smiles and kind words and jelly beans. Jelly beans! Who wouldn’t love a teacher who passed out jelly beans?

And your grandma, she said to me, “Well, why don’t you tell her you love her?” But I didn’t do it. Even then, I thought it was weird to tell your teacher you loved her. Would she think I was an oddball? Would she laugh at me? No amount of encouragement on your grandma’s part could make me budge. I stayed mum. I would save my “I love yous” for my family, thank you very much.

But now, looking back, I realize that Mrs. McElwain–a mother of two herself–would have undoubtedly thought my declaration of love was sweet.

If there’s one trait I hope you inherit from your grandma, it’s the ability to love big and to love without fear. If you love someone, let them know. People like to be loved. I don’t know one single person who doesn’t.

Your heart is big enough to love anyone you choose: family, friends, teachers, pets, the dentist, whoever. There is always room for more love in this world.

So go ahead Fish Face, shout it from the rooftops.


The Days Are Long…

Things are rough these days.

My mom’s memorial service was a week ago in Vermont. Colette did great on the trip and seeing my family was wonderful, but overall the weekend was both physically and emotionally exhausting.

We got back Sunday and Tim went back to work on Tuesday after being off for six weeks. So it was my first time alone with the baby for longer than an hour or two.

And the week did not go well. Colette didn’t sleep very much at all during the days, maybe 20-30 minutes at a time, if that. She had maybe 20 minutes of happy, alert time after she ate and then she would start crying. The rest of each day was spent trying to soothe her and get her to take those precious aforementioned minutes of sleep. I worked the Happiest Baby On The Block techniques like it was my job (which, I guess, it is), but to no avail. I tried the stroller, but that only worked when I was walking. Even if I sat down somewhere and moved the stroller, she cried. It’s like she knew when we weren’t walking. She’ll go in her swing for Tim, but not so much for me. I think she just wants to be held, which is fine with me, but even then, the kid does not want to sleep.

I’m still breastfeeding, followed by a supplementary bottle. And still pumping after every feeding. You can imagine what it’s like to try and pump with a screaming infant. I tried to stop pumping after every feeding, but then I got a clogged duct again (and it still hasn’t gone away). So now I have to keep up the pumping because if the clogged duct turns into mastitis, there’s no way I can take care of the chub. Even though Colette’s suck still hasn’t improved, I do love our nursing time…but if someone would have told me how hard it would be with the pumping I never would have started. Ever. I pumped in the car on the way to and fro Vermont last weekend. I pumped during my mom’s memorial luncheon. I pumped in the evenings when the rest of my family was spending time together. I feel like my whole life right now is that effing pump. And I feel like I’ll never be able to stop.

By the time Tim got home from work last week, both Colette and I were strung out. Tim was great about taking her as soon as he stepped in the door, but her fussiest time of day is in the evenings. While I usually tried to take a bath and eat my first real meal of the day, I could still hear her crying. So the evenings did not feel like any sort of respite, or at least enough of one. As a matter of fact, as I type this, I am listening to her crying.

Basically this has been the most intense week of my life. And I’ve had no time–not even one second–to grieve. Every once in a while I’m like, “Oh yeah, my mom is dead.” And then I have to push the thought away and pretend like it doesn’t exist. Because what can I do? I can’t spend all day or even a few minutes crying when I’m trying to soothe and take care of a crying baby.

Colette is sleeping longer at night, which is incredibly awesome, but I still have to get up and pump. And I’m having trouble sleeping, I think because that’s when the thoughts about my mom creep in.

I am exhausted. Right now, I can’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. Everyone says babies get easier, but when? And when will I ever be able to begin to process the loss of my mom? Because even if Colette gets easier, I still have to deal with the fact that I don’t have a mom anymore. And that fact is there, waiting for me, when I have a second to breathe.