Guest Editor: Callan Russo
Being stuck at home is making me pretty nostalgic. This time last year, I was two weeks into my maternity leave, a day from my due date, and a few days past losing my mind. I had convinced myself that I would go into labor early, and that clearly wasn’t happening. Naïve, right? Do not do what I did. 0 out of 10, would not recommend. For the sake of your sanity, pretend your due date is two weeks later. And definitely don’t give much weight to your birth plan. Especially now.
Since, I’m sure, a pretty major part of your plan was having a support team possibly at, and definitely after, your birth. Now you may be forced to forgo having a doula, adjust to life with baby without the additional help, and wait a lot longer than you would like to introduce your new one to their family, and even siblings. I can’t say I know exactly how you new and expecting moms are feeling right now, but I can imagine. I know I had a lot of dreamy visions about delivering and meeting my first child, and I know what its like to see them evaporate.
Around the start of my 3rd trimester, my midwife-led birth center had me put together my “Birthing Hopes and Dreams” (fancy name for a birth plan). In a nutshell, my plan was to spend my labor eating hard candies and popsicles in a nice hot bath, and then to deliver naturally, free of medications and machines. My husband would announce the sex of the baby (we kept it a surprise), and I would get that immediate skin-to-skin contact I’d been craving. I’d taken all the classes, I felt ready to take on the challenge of a natural birth and prepared for a few hiccups. What I wasn’t prepared for was absolutely nothing going according to plan. Not even close to plan. In fact, the complete opposite of my plan.
Sure, my midwives let me know that 30% of women didn’t end up delivering at the birth center – they needed to deliver at the hospital across the street for a variety of reasons. Including being two weeks overdue. But again, I convinced myself (like an idiot), that this wouldn’t apply to me. Everything would go mostly according to plan. I’d have my tiny baby early or at least before April, I would have that amazing after delivery moment of seeing him for the first time, and yes, it would be a him. I just had that feeling it would be a boy.
Well, March came and went. And then all of a sudden it was April 8th, the day before being officially two weeks overdue, and I was still pregnant. My blood pressure had been getting steadily higher the more overdue I was, and that morning it was pretty high. Since I was basically at the cut off from delivering at the birth center, with absolutely no sign that the baby was coming anytime soon (despite trying EVERY SINGLE trick in the book), they advised that I be induced at the hospital. Definitely not part of my birth plan, but at this point – man, I didn’t care! Let’s get that baby out of me!
So to the hospital I went to be induced. Between the pain, not being able to move freely, and the final straw of having to pee in a commode next to my bed – I said screw it, give me the epidural. And a natural birth was quickly scratched off my birth plan. And then I stalled at seven centimeters, and there went my vaginal birth. There was only one option: an emergency c-section. I laid on that hospital bed, hysterically crying that nothing was turning out as I hoped, and profusely apologizing to the amazing nurse stuck with shaving my bikini line that I hadn’t been able to see in several months.
After being wheeled into the operating room, the anesthesiologist came and did her thing, they made sure I was numb – and I wasn’t. The anesthesiologist tried again, they gave me another sharp prick, and I could still feel it. Apparently, two strikes and then you are literally out – I had to be put under. Those hysterical tears turned into guttural sobs unlike anything I’ve ever produced. And as the mask was lowered down, I was told my husband could not be in the room.
My next, very hazy, memory is waking up with crazy chills racking through my body in a small, bright room. I was super confused and recall asking if I could be moved somewhere else because it was too bright and too cold. I’m not even sure that in the moment I remembered that I had a baby. But all of a sudden, there was this super long, super pink, little person being brought over to me, with my husband (where did he come from) saying, “It’s a girl.” So I guess ONE thing did go according to plan.
It is a really strange experience, being completely drugged out and told that this long baby is your daughter when you didn’t see her come out of you, and you were expecting a little peanut (and a boy). I wish I could say I had that moment when you first look at your baby and it’s an instant connection, captured in the perfect first family photo. But I was way too medicated and disoriented.
So did my birth go according to plan? Absolutely not. But you know what? I woke up the next day, a whole lot clearer, and looked at my daughter, my Eilish Margaret, with wonder. No, I wasn’t happy about my delivery and wished it could have been better. But here was this tiny, perfectly healthy, and beautiful little lady. This small baby that grew inside of me was suddenly in my arms and we were making eye contact. And I GREW those eyes, and that perfect face, and that little mouth that I was still feeding. She was here, and she didn’t care how she got there. I did what I had to do to deliver her safely, just like you guys are going to.
And as I approach Eilish’s first birthday, I’m not thinking about all the things that went wrong. I’m reminiscing about the early, long days at home when it was just me and her. When she would wake up from a nap and I swear look different than when she went to sleep. The nighttime feedings when she would reach out and touch my face, and I’ve never felt more loved or more in love. So even though it may seem like everything is going wrong, I promise, the bad is going to drown in a sea of good.