On Labor Day two years ago, I shared Grace’s birth story (still hate that expression, still love becoming a mother… obvi). Today marks the first Labor Day since baby Nick was born and he’s exactly 9 months old today, so this seems as good a time as ever to reflect on the day we welcomed him to the world and to our family.
Waiting until Labor Day was sort of a convenient excuse for me to take nine months to digest, reflect on and embrace those sort of bizarre, sometimes anxious, but ultimately amazing 24-ish hours of labor. And because all people and pregnancies and labors and deliveries and babies and postpartum meals (peanut M + Ms for life) are different, I’m sharing less about what actually happened and more about how I remember things.
My hair is full of mom secrets.
Because the second time around, you have an experience to compare things to. You have expectations (even if you know you shouldn’t). You sort of feel like you know what you’re doing, but you also know you’re not a medical professional (unless you’re a medical professional). You’re a little bit further removed from the childbirth classes (regardless of whether you paid attention… or if you, like me, left the room for fear of being grossed out and read pamphlets about influenza in the hallway). You know what it feels like to have that baby placed on your chest for the first time. You just can’t imagine how your heart could get any more full.
I don’t want at all to sound like, Oh… I’ve done this before. I’ve got it under control. (If anything, it’s quite the opposite.) Or that I am in any way better equipped as a parent than any one else. I also think it’s important to express that families come to be families in any number of ways. All are good. And there is no better place for a child to be than in a loving family.
So back to those influenza pamphlets. There was an aura of blissful ignorance about me as I delivered Grace. I didn’t want to know any more than I needed to know, and because I had no experience—personal or otherwise (this is very real: I fainted during sex ed in the 6th grade and again in 9th grade biology… and then skipped the video during our childbirth class mostly so I could remain conscious)—it was relatively easy to trust the process. To surrender to labor. To let my body (and Grace) do its thing.
In the days before Nick was born, I knew he was coming. He was allegedly two weeks early… but given the fact that he is nine months old and already the size of a Buick, I’d be less surprised if you told me he was two months late. Right around Thanksgiving, I woke up every day thinking, this is it. And it wasn’t. Until it was.
I had planned to take Grace to see the fox at the Trailside Museum (they have some sort of special connection) on a Friday morning, but my back felt especially achy and I remembered I needed to pick up Clark’s prescription (honestly… why are these the things I remember? Imagine what powerful thoughts my brain could harness if it forgot about ridiculous things like phone messages from the vet?), so we headed to Castle Island for a walk instead. After a loop or two, I called our midwife.
She called back just as I was getting to the vet. So I was the super normal person talking about being in labor while sitting in the waiting room next to a man cradling his sick cat (it might have been healthy, I know even less about cats than I do childbirth… so, I know literally nothing about cats). In essence, she told me to leave the vet’s office and come to, like, the human doctor’s office. I remember thinking how weird it felt to be in public, and knowing I was in labor. Should I warn people? I don’t know. (I should warn my husband, I decided. Yes. That was a good call.)
While I waited for Nick to get home and for my parents to pick up Grace, I chatted with our neighbor, who is a former cop. He told me he had delivered six (maybe it was four) babies in his squad car. All he needed was a blanket. I mostly hoped it didn’t come to that. I thought for sure I’d need more than a blanket. For starters, I wanted one of those peanut-shaped yoga balls. Also, medicine. And a sanitary environment.
This is sort of how the next 15 or so hours would unfold. I knew baby Nick was coming. I knew it would be soon, but I didn’t know how soon (more than 15 minutes, but less than a day… that was my guess). I knew I was uncomfortable, but I also knew I could manage.
Nick was born at a different hospital than Grace, and I had to consciously remind myself to trust the process despite everything feeling very unfamiliar. We stayed in triage from 10:30-ish that Friday night until finally getting a delivery room around 3 AM. During that stretch, we had to listen to all kind of things through the thin curtain dividers. And other people had to listen to me throw up and make groaning noises. For that, I am sort of sorry.
When we were finally moved to a room, I got wrapped in warm blankets and spritzed with lavender water by a particularly kind nurse. She turned on the hospital’s equivalent of the Nature Channel and encouraged me to be “soothed by Earth’s beauty.” Not normal, per se, but I kept telling myself to trust the process. To surrender.
During morning rounds, the midwife on duty said baby Nick would be born that day… which seemed like an awfully big window. She told me to relax as much as possible, and encouraged grown-up Nick to grab coffee. I worried that the baby was hearing the crashing waves, cawing seagulls and distant foghorns from the nature channel and thinking “This lady’s trying to give birth to me in the middle of the Atlantic. I should stay in until she finds dry land!” No sooner had she left the room than we were pressing the call button to have her and the labor and delivery nurse hightail it back.
Less than 30 minutes later, baby Nick’s tiny, perfect, warm body was pressed against mine. My husband was kissing my head, tears streaming down his face. And everything, everything, everything was right.
And really. That’s the only part of this story that matters. (I probably could have skipped the part about the cat at the vet, but I believe in setting the scene.)
So much of becoming a parent and becoming a family is unpredictable. It’s messy. It’s strange. It’s uncomfortable. It can get real weird, real fast. It’s anxiety producing. And once you are that parent, and you are that family, it doesn’t get any easier. Your heart lives outside your body, vulnerable and exposed. You worry. You cry. You stay awake for, like… ever. Some days you forget to put on pants because you’re too busy pureeing organic kale.
But every day, you trust the process more and more. You embrace surrendering as not only something very good, but something (to quote Salt-n-Pepa) very necessary. You remind yourself that the best possible place for child is in a loving family. And you’ve got that covered.
Whether you’re sitting on a beach soaking up the last waves of summer, or cradling a newborn in your arms (like my beautiful and amazing sister!), or somewhere in between… Happy Labor Day.