The birth of my second child, my second daughter, was much less dramatic than that of my first. But not a moment of it was less special. I want her to know that.
There I was, a full forty weeks pregnant, and no one ever thought I’d make it this far, least of all me. With my first baby arriving five weeks early, I was just hoping to make it to term with this pregnancy. Unlike last time, this time hubby and I were prepared. The crib was assembled with the bedding in place; diapers and clothes were purchased; hospital forms were completed; and the hospital to-go bag was packed. We had been ready for over a month, expecting our baby to arrive at any moment. We waited…and waited…and waited. Nothing.
This pregnancy was rather easy, as far as pregnancies go. I had no major aches or pains. There was almost no swelling in my hands and feet. And carpal tunnel never made an appearance. My only issues were mild acid reflux and sciatica down my right leg. I didn’t have much to complain about, theoretically. I was big. I was tired. I was hot. Being nine months pregnant in the June desert heat is just poor planning. Suffice it to say that I had some serious choice words for Dr. Cap at my last few weekly appointments. He never heard these words, though, because I said them in my mind.
Finally, on a Tuesday evening, the day I was due, I started to feel some cramps in my lower back. I wasn’t sure if they were labor pains or simply aches from being so big and uncomfortable. When I woke up at 7:30 the next morning, my lower back was sore and stiff. I crawled out of bed and called Dr. Cap. I had my forty week appointment that morning but wasn’t sure if I should go to the office or straight to the hospital. He said to come to the office. So, I got dressed, ate what little breakfast I could, and took off with hubby, leaving my big girl at home with my mom.
We normally wouldn’t have expected to run into morning traffic on our route, but the fair was in town! Less than half way to our destination, we were essentially parked on the highway. You can always count on hubby to have a backup plan, though. We seized the next exit and took a scenic drive through one of the richest neighborhoods in the city. Staring at huge houses, manicured lawns, and fancy cars driving past us is a great distraction from labor pains! Actually, my “pains” were not strong or bothersome at all; I was more excited that they were finally happening! As we were driving through the neighborhood, we (of course!) got lost, making the journey even more enticing and distracting. The extra time allowed us to figure out that my contractions were coming every ten minutes.
It seems to be in our (or rather my) nature to delay going to the doctor once I’m in labor. With my first pregnancy, there was a good three hours between my water breaking and us arriving at the hospital. With this pregnancy, there was little difference. What should have been a thirty minute journey door-to-door took over an hour just to reach the right neighborhood. Instead of going to Dr. Cap’s office, though, we stopped to pick up some amazing croissants from the French bakery. Yummy! I devoured one right there in the car. We then drove across the street for some freshly squeezed juice. Ultimately, instead of arriving to my 10:15 am appointment early as expected, I was barely on time.
After a quick exam, it was determined that I was dilated four centimeters and having mild but regular contractions. I was told to go out for a walk and to head to the hospital when the contractions got stronger and closer together. Silly doctor. He didn’t realize that he had just sent me and my hooky-playing hubby out on an afternoon shopping trip! Ideally, we would have gone to the beach for a nice stroll, but the beach didn’t have air conditioning. So it was back across the street to order another juice
from the juice bar and then a lovely retail adventure in the brand new Kohl’s. I sent hubby to the sportswear section while I walked laps in the wonderfully cool store, looking longingly at all of the beautiful summer clothes and shoes that I could not fit into. To keep from getting depressed, I called a few friends to let them know that I was in labor, and to ask them to check up on my older daughter and mom for the next couple of days. Around noon, I had had enough. My contractions were stronger. We were going to the hospital.
What a strange feeling it was walking into the hospital, standing at the doors to the birth pavilion. The last time I had been there was two and a half years earlier for the birth of my older daughter. Yet the place was so familiar, as though I had been there yesterday. I recognized some of the nurses. In fact, some of them recognized me! With our bags in tow, it felt more like checking into a hotel than being admitted to a hospital, which says something about the comfort level of the place, although they hang their toilet paper in the “under” configuration, which is a little disconcerting. The nurse settled us in our birthing room and left us to “labor for a while.” (Dr. Cap, I’ll never forget that phrase!)
Now, this is where one would expect some excitement, some drama, some anything! But…nothing. My body decided to slow play the entire labor experience. After six hours of labor in the hospital with very little progression, there was some talk about either intervening by breaking the water sack to speed up the process, or sending me home. I was comfortable with neither choice. Instead, hubby and I walked, and walked, and walked. In fact, it was on one of these expeditions that we inadvertently created some drama. Apparently Dr. Cap came by to check up on me, but I was nowhere to be found. A search party of nurses and security guards was recruited to find us, even receiving conflicting intelligence reports of us being sighted near the parking structure, in the lobby, everywhere! All of these reports were correct; we did walk everywhere. It was a lucky security guard at the front entrance to the hospital that eventually found us and politely told us to get our butts back to our room because the doctor was here. (I hope that guard won a prize or something!) While Dr. Cap was relieved that we finally showed up, he was still stuck waiting for a nurse to return from her search! Eventually, all of the required parties were in the same room, where I informed everyone that I wanted nothing by way of intervention to be done. So, they all went home. And on came the night staff.
I spent the night slowly laboring away, with hubby soundly sleeping on the pullout bed next to me. Throughout the night, I had the most wonderful conversations with my nurse. Her name was Shenell. She wore red scrubs and was absolutely sunny and lovely. The night passed by in no time! (Shenell would miss the birth of my daughter by 43 minutes. Being the wonderful lady that she is, she stopped by on her day off to say hi and meet the little one. Thank you, Shenell.)
Now would be a good time to bring up my old nemeses, the heart beat and contraction monitors. THEY DON’T WORK ON ME. With my first baby, I assumed that the inability of these monitors to detect signals had something to do with the baby’s small size and position. Now, being over forty weeks pregnant, baby’s size should not have been an issue. And yet those darn discs never did their job!! Shenell told me that while she believed (obviously!) that I was having contractions and that the baby was fine, the hospital wanted proof in the form of twenty minutes of continuous recording out of every hour. The poor girl was caught between adjusting the discs to get her twenty minutes of proof and easing my sour mood for having to stay in bed. After over two hours of this nonsense, she finally brought in the big guns: a wide, elastic belly band that velcro-ed the two discs in place. Voila! Not only did my baby now have a heartbeat, but I was also having contractions!! We segued into a lovely discussion about belief versus proof, helping to pass the next twenty minutes.
Hubby was still happily sleeping away. He is such a cutie.
By early morning, my contractions had become stronger, about five to six minutes apart. They were apparently still not strong enough, given the fact that I was talking and smiling. I also needed to dilate another two to three centimeters. Shenell was convinced that I was one of those women who would have a long, easy labor, and then ramp up very quickly at the end. Boy was she right! That was exactly what had happened during my first daughter’s birth, but I had always attributed it to the Pitocin. I thought that if labor was left to progress naturally, the intensity should increase steadily over time rather than go crazy all at once near the end.
Around 6 am, I was exhausted and asked for the epidural with the intension to take a nap afterwards. The anesthesiologist’s name was Keeran, half Indian, half Irish-English. I told him that Kiran was on our short list of names for this baby. He asked if it was a boy or girl. I told him it was a girl, but that the name was unisex. He didn’t seem too impressed. Luckily we had this conversation after he had inserted and administered the epidural.
By 6:45 am, I was feeling no better. Another anesthesiologist was on shift now. She told me that I was probably in transition, which is why my contractions were feeling intense despite the medicine. She suggested that I give it a little more time, and that she would check on me in a bit. (She would be too late!) A few minutes later, Shenell’s replacement came in to tell me the same thing. It was now 7 am, and, as we were talking, or rather, as she was talking at me while I squirmed with contractions, my water broke.
The next 43 minutes were…intense. I dilated the remaining couple of centimeters. Dr. Cap came into the room and announced that I would need to start pushing soon. Baby’s heart beat was dipping a little too low for comfort with every contraction, so it was safest to let her out now. A few minutes later, hubby was holding my hand and telling me to push. I became overwhelmed very quickly with so much happening so fast. Just a few minutes ago I was walking and laughing with the nurses, and now my whole body was seemingly out of my control. After the first push and feeling the baby coming, I started to panic. I couldn’t breathe. I remember the nurse telling me to calm down and take slower breaths. What got me through the birth was my husband. I looked into his eyes and could only hear his booming voice cheering me on to push. Boy, did I marry the right guy, my one-man pep squad. He said push, so I pushed. I pushed so hard that the doc told me to slow down. Three pushes later (so they told me, because lord knows I wasn’t counting!!), at 7:43 am, my little girl was here.
I wish I could say that my first thought after her birth was something magnanimous. But in all honesty, my first thought was, “Thank God I never have to do that again!” Then I opened my eyes and saw her. And she was screaming at me. And I loved her. My second thought after she was born was, “Why is she so small??” My preemie baby was only four and a half pounds at birth, so I expected to see someone much larger this time around. The nurse weighed her in at 6 lbs 14 oz. I guess I just forgot how small seven-ish pounds was.
They placed my daughter on my chest, skin-to-skin, tummy-to-tummy. She stopped crying almost instantly. Then I witnessed the most marvelous thing I have ever seen. First, my daughter started licking me. Then she lifted her head, bobbing up and down, licking and surveying the area around her. Within a couple of minutes, she had squirmed her way towards my left breast, her body now almost perpendicular to her original position, and was trying to latch on! After seeking the nurse’s permission, I helped my baby to latch, and she proved herself to be a professional eater, just like her big sister. I
remember watching a documentary about newborn babies and their natural instinct to root after birth, but to witness it all unfold in front of me left me marveling at nature. She was latched and nursing before the doctor completed the single stitch I needed!
After this point, I found myself doing probably what every second-time mom does, and probably what every second child hates: I started comparing everything to my first child. While technically I’m an experienced mom, this was the first time I was able to be near and to care for a healthy newborn. No wires, no tubes, no needles, no special instructions from nurses. Just a little human, eating and sleeping beside me in bed. I realized I had no idea how often to feed her, what her sleeping habits should be, what to look for in terms of wet and soiled diapers, or even how to care for her cord. My first daughter was whisked off to the NICU almost immediately after birth and returned to me twelve days later without her cord and on a very regular feeding and sleep schedule. Surprisingly, it didn’t take long to figure out how to care for my newest daughter. She ate, slept, and pooped like an expert, as though she had read the baby manual before entering this world.
While I was pregnant, people would comment about how busy I would be with two kids, and how difficult it would be for my older daughter to accept the new baby, to get used to having less attention. None of these things worried me. I have never been afraid of hard work, and my older daughter has such a soft heart that I was sure she would make an excellent big sister. Instead, in those last months of pregnancy, I found myself grappling with questions such as: How do you love a second child when your heart is so full with the first? When the little baby is born, will I be so enamored with her that I inadvertently ignore my older girl?
I know the answers now. The first question is easy. There’s always room to love another child. The love is different, though. There is something more tangible in my love for my oldest daughter. When I think of her, there is a history, a personality, a concept to grasp in my mind. With my littlest, my love, while equally strong, is a little more abstract. Even when I say her name, I am not sure who I am calling. Her pages are yet to be filled with a story, details of her voice, her personality, her history. I know it will come in time, as it did with my first. I am excited and somewhat impatient to find out who she is.
The nature of the answer to the first question is the basis for the answer to the second. It is impossible for me to forget my first born. I spend most of my hours now holding, feeding, and soothing my littlest girl. But, no matter how tired I am, I always have time and energy to spend with my oldest babe, not because I am trying to be fair, but simply because I miss her. Luckily she seems to be so enthralled with her little sister that she doesn’t mind the added company. It seems that in her mind, the more, the merrier. I wonder that my youngest daughter will never know that undivided attention from me that my oldest daughter experienced for two and a half years. But, I guess life is balanced; my youngest will not have to contend with the stresses and anxieties of a first-time mom. Moreover, she will never be without a playmate.
We brought our baby girl home on Friday night. The biggest shock to me came on Saturday morning when my older daughter ran into our bedroom excited to see her new “thither” for the first time. I couldn’t believe how big my big girl was, as if she had aged years in just a few days!! When I left for the hospital, she was my little baby; in fact, it was difficult to imagine her as the “big” sister. Spending a couple of days alone with a newborn, however, changes one’s perspective. Now I clearly had a Big Girl on my hands.
Today, my little baby is one month old. On one hand, I feel like there are not enough memories to fill thirty days. On the other hand, my life is so full of love and happiness that I can’t imagine having lived in this home without her. I have a wonderful husband and two gorgeous girls. My life is beautiful. They make it beautiful.