At 41 weeks pregnant, I was setting small goals. Goals like:
Get off the couch and pour a glass of water
Stay up past 10 p.m.
That last one is of course a joke—I stopped blow-drying my hair around month 7. However, one small goal I was looking forward achieving was “Make it out to pancake breakfast on Saturday.”
But first, on Friday, February 15, I was due for my 41-week ultrasound. My husband Ryan was at his office, so I asked if my dad could drive me into the hospital. Sure, I was capable of making it into Boston, but at 41 weeks, I was pretty achy and tentative about solo travel. At Mass General Hospital, my dad waited downstairs in the cafe and I went up to get my belly looked at—just a routine check to make sure everything was good.
The ultrasound tech showed me my baby’s little profile, her little heart, her little fingers up against her mouth. She was beautiful. But then the tech pursed her lips a little and called the doctor in to take a second look. After a few minutes of scoping around he said, pretty casually, that the fluid was low and I should come back in a few hours to induce labor. No emergency, but he’d feel best if we delivered in the next 24 hours.
Have the baby in the next 24 hours. Have the actual baby. In less than a day. Panic swelled up inside me. He called Labor & Delivery scheduled my induction for 7 p.m.
Downstairs, my dad was reading a book, spectacles down on his nose and looking particularly grandfatherly as I approached. I had to let him know fast that there was no emergency, because a 41-week pregnant lady with tears streaming down her face after a doctor’s appointment is a potentially scary sight, especially when she’s your daughter.
One thing about my dad, he is a professional at “no big deal.” He works with high school kids, where this expertise in de-escalation must make him indispensible. I’m very lucky he was there and guided me in taking care of the pragmatic things.
1. Call Ryan.
2. Get a chicken salad sandwich.
I cried the whole way home, scared to death, and he made sure I had the kind of chips I liked for my last prebaby meal.
It was the suddenness of it all, I think, that made me so afraid. The idea that my little girl was on a ticking clock and that this abstract concept “delivering a baby” was about to become incredibly concrete. It wasn’t just an idea anymore, it was a thing. A thing that was going to start happening around 7 p.m.
When Ryan came home, he tagged-out my dad and the two of us commenced the preparation. The hospital bag that had been packed and ready for weeks seemed inexplicably incomplete. We went over checklist after checklist, and Ryan ran around making everything right and ready. If my dad is an expert in “no big deal,” my husband is a world-class champion at “right and ready.”
All through pregnancy, I’d imagined the car ride into L&D would be tense, contraction-punctuated minutes wherein I’d be hurling curse words and Ryan would be sweating bullets and running through red lights. Instead, it was quiet. We listened to the radio. He held my hand.
The first 12 hours after induction were awfully painful. You know, labor and all that. At 8 a.m., something wonderful happened. I caved in and got the epidural. That beautiful, sweet epidural. It was the most divine failure of will. I was afraid I would regret getting the medicine sooner than I had planned to get it, but instead it turned out to be one of the best decisions of my adulthood. Honestly. Probably only second to marrying my wonderful husband who sat in a chair next to my bed for 24 hours and let me know how much he loved me while we waited for our daughter to debut.
I dozed through the day, and we watched Back to the Future and the heart monitor for another 12 hours until she was ready. In the blink of an eye, it was time to push.
Then, there she was. Our Emmeline.
The doctors and nurses were shocked at how fast she arrived. I guess she was sick of the waiting room, because 10 minutes of pushing was enough to deliver our girl into the world. Before I knew it, she was on my chest, looking up at me with dark blue eyes and stretching out her tiny fingers.
Since Emmeline came home there have been a million moments of wonder and challenge. My physical recovery has been a serious challenge. I could write a book called From Carpal Tunnel Syndrome to Hot Flashes: Your Guide to the Unsung Heroes of PostpartumLlife* or Life After Epidural: Why can’t the epidural come home with me? (Seriously guys. Why can’t it?) or My Baby is Precious and Perfect, But OUUUCCHHHDAMMIT. Sleep deprivation is a situation to be reckoned with and not to be underestimated. At moments it has made me dizzy and sad and confused, and I lost a half-can of cat food somewhere in my house. That is a true story.
But it all gets better and better. The weeks have flown by and before I knew it, my baby started snoozing for more than one to two hours at a time and is getting a twinkle in her eye that makes me fall even deeper in love with her than I could ever have imagined. And now she does this thing where she says, “Oooh,” and then I say, “Oooh” … it’s hard to do it justice in essay form, but needless to say, I’m enthralled by every little move she makes.
On that weekend in February, I’d been planning on pancakes. I was expecting another day of huffing and puffing up and down stairs and rolling uncomfortably off the couch to go to the bathroom every five minutes.
Instead of pancakes, we got a miracle—a 7-pound, 13-ounce miracle with light brown hair,and an infinite feeling of pulling love, full and ready-made. All the feeling my heart ever had, all right there. My Ryan, my Emmeline, my family.