I’ve been wanting to write out Anna’s birth story, as it were, for a while now! I’m glad to finally have the opportunity and space to do so.
Anna is 3.5 months old now. She was born on October 2, right after her due date. Early in my pregnancy my doctor and I settled on a due date of September 30, but the first date I was given was actually October 2! She and her brother were both extremely punctual. My pregnancy this time around, unlike my pregnancy with Will, was pretty easy and comfortable. I had pretty mild first trimester symptoms (and was less fatigued than with Will, because I could sleep later and rest throughout the day more) and even the usual pregnancy indignities and annoyances were not all that bad compared to others. We found out at 13 weeks that she was likely a girl and got official confirmation at 22 weeks (the same day we closed on our new house!).
It took me a moment to wrap my head around the idea of having a girl, honestly. I was shocked when I found out, though I don’t know why! I was so accustomed to having a boy that I assumed I’d have another one, I guess. But once I got over the shock I realized how giddy I was at the prospect of having a daughter. I can’t wait to play dolls with her.
I also have to mention, in the interest of preserving all relevant details for the future, that my last month of pregnancy was absolutely brutal. I was uncomfortable all the time, could barely sleep, and was completely out of control hormonally. I also had a lot of false labor and spent the last two weeks before Anna was born timing contractions most nights, rocking on an exercise ball while knitting and watching the Ken Burns documentary on the Roosevelts. I had every labor symptom in the book, but to my surprise and great annoyance I was still pregnant at 40 weeks.
40 weeks. Go big or go home.
I was due on a Tuesday. The Friday before that, my doctor had sensed my hormonal desperation and gave me the option of being induced on the 2nd, but I somehow held strong and decided to wait and see if I would go into labor naturally. I figured that if I could make it to Thursday (the 2nd) I could manage to make it a few more days if I did need to be induced. Like the first time around, I really wanted to avoid being induced if I could. By the night of October 1, I was finally starting to relax about going into labor. I was already one day past my official due date (although everyone knows due dates are not hard and fast deadlines, so I didn’t consider myself “late”) and way past uncomfortable. All I could do was wait. Finally the iron grip of hormones started to lessen just a bit, and I went over to my sister’s house for dinner. We joked all night that I was going to be pregnant all weekend and go in for an induction the following week. Labor? What labor? Baby? What baby? Finally I stopped being stressed about labor and was just able to relax. Maybe that zenlike calm was the true prelabor symptom!
I woke up a few times that night, which was unusual for me. My pattern in late pregnancy was to wake up once and be totally unable to sleep for about two hours, during which I would eat cereal, surf the internet, and find out what was on HGTV in the middle of the night. Instead, I kept waking up for short periods of time. I would get up and go to the bathroom or get some water, feeling as uncomfortable as ever, and go back to bed for a little while. Finally at about 4 in the morning I got up and felt … different. I realized that throughout the night I had been growing more and more uncomfortable, and that it was contractions that had been waking me up. True contractions. I had been having regular contractions for weeks, but none that felt like this. Instinctively, I knew this was it. But since I had had so many false alarms, I ate some cereal and rested on the couch for a while, half waiting for the contractions to stop, half waiting for them to intensify.
At five, I woke Steve up and said to him, “Want to have a baby today?” Then I called my sister, who would come and stay with Will. I called my doctor and let him know what was going on. I was able to take a shower and dry my hair and make sure my bag was packed. At around six, as my contractions were definitely intensifying, we left for the hospital.
We were admitted around seven and I discovered I was dilated to 3 centimeters. This was kind of disappointing, but also not really surprising; I had been dilated to 3 for about two weeks. It looked like I wasn’t going to have a whirlwind fast labor this time around either. But already I felt such a difference with this labor compared to my last.
Some more background: I prayed about my labor nearly every day of my pregnancy with Anna. I prayed that it would go smoothly, that it would be quicker than my labor with Will, and that the epidural, should I get one, would be effective. I prayed for a calm spirit. I even prayed that I would go into labor early in the morning after a full night’s sleep. And I am so happy to say that every single one of those prayers was answered in the affirmative. I was calm and composed, I was able to remember to breathe through the contractions when they became truly painful, and I made sure to ask for an epidural before I felt desperate in order to give the anesthesiologist time to prepare one for me. Until then, I labored on an exercise ball, which helped, and for the first time I understood what people meant when they talked about getting a break between contractions! With Will I had back labor so I never really had a break. This time I’d breathe through a contraction, then look back up at House Hunters and comment on the granite countertops. It was great. By around 9:30 I was 5 centimeters and the pain started to become all-consuming, so I was relieved when I saw the anesthesiologist arrive. I managed to sit through getting the epidural inserted, then said a brief but fervent prayer for success. And successful it was!
The next several hours are a blur: I did some knitting, took a nap, chatted with the nurses (one was a yoga teacher!), and snacked. A big difference between this labor and my last was that I was actually very hungry for a lot of it. I made sure to eat light, but snuck in a croissant before things really got underway. My sisters visited for a bit, too. Medicated childbirth is the best thing ever. I was so comfortable it was hard to believe I was in labor!
Finally at about 3:30 in the afternoon, I was fully dilated. This was weird because I still didn’t feel a thing and only knew it was time to push because the nurses told me! I started to feel her descending almost immediately, which was a big change from last time. I felt so much relief during this labor as all of my fears began to fall away. Relief that I wasn’t in mind-bending pain. Relief that things moved more quickly. Relief that Anna was tolerating labor well. Relief that I wasn’t going to have to push for hours. And I didn’t — she was born at 4:07. I was overwhelmed with happiness, truly. They (my doctor? the nurses? I don’t know) placed her directly on my stomach, and to my great gratitude the nurses let her stay there for probably two hours. They cleaned her up while she snuggled with me, they got her into a diaper, put a hat on her head, and put some blankets around us to keep her warm — all without moving her away from me. I was so thankful! It was an amazing experience. I couldn’t believe she was finally real.
She has my chin dimple.
After we were moved to a recovery room, our visitors started arriving — including big brother Will, who also had an amazing day of his own that involved getting to ride a backhoe (totally random; the neighbors were having septic work done). My sisters and dad came too, and everyone enjoyed getting to know Anna at last.
I told my doctor after the delivery that I would have ten babies if every birth could go so smoothly. I meant it, too. I didn’t know it was possible to enjoy childbirth, but I loved every minute of Anna’s birth day. It was (to risk sounding kind of cheesy) a really beautiful experience and I’m so thankful to have gotten to have such an easy and happy birth experience. (A word on the mighty epidural: you hear “natural birth” advocates decrying epidurals, saying that they distance the mother from the birth experience. I would argue that the opposite was true for me. When my epidural didn’t work with Will, giving birth was horrific and the only thing I felt when he was finally born was a kind of deadened, emotionless relief. This time around I was much more present, and able to focus on the baby and not the pain. When she was born I was overjoyed, rather than too exhausted and relieved to feel anything. I love you, epidural.)
My recovery took a while, since I had the same significant tearing I had last time. But apart from that, everything went really well. It was such a joyful experience — in fact, I’d even go so far as to say it was perfect. And I didn’t know such a thing was possible. It was all so amazing, and I’m so, so thankful.