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Give and take: The birth of Maximilian Epidural

Give and take: The birth of Maximilian

"All Together, baby Max and I logged more than 80 hours of flight time during the pregnancy, with an entire month spent living in Shanghai."

I’d never given much thought to becoming a mom. I’d never dreamt of becoming one, nor did I ever think I’d be nurturing DSCF3824

enough for the job.In my mind, motherhood took someone like my mom—selfless, with saint-like patience, an unmistakable bob tucked behind the ears, plus the ability to turn up a table-full of dishes on-demand for my two older brothers and me. At my wedding, I thanked my mom by telling her, “There was no other relationship in this world that allows someone to be a complete taker … than the one of a child to their parent.” As far as I was concerned, I am the biggest taker I’ve ever known, and I just couldn’t imagine giving so endlessly to a child myself.

Shortly after getting married in 2012, I moved to Paris to pursue an Executive MBA. My husband, Chris, an engineer who led as busy a life as I did, visited Paris when time afforded him the opportunity. The life we knew was busy, meaningful and fulfilled. If you’d ask me then, the word “baby” to me didn’t mean a tiny human—but what Chris and I called each other.

In June 2013, when I moved back to Canada, Chris and I still didn’t feel ready. There was always a long list of deadlines, commitments or vacations-for-two on our minds. It wasn’t until late fall that year when I chatted with a girlfriend, and said, “I don’t think I would ever reach a point where I’m done with traveling and doing the things I want to have a baby” that I realized it may never happen in our current trajectory. How could we possibly make a baby suit our lifestyle? Could we, people who were so babied ourselves, handle a baby? Those questions soon no longer mattered when, just a couple weeks later, I was staring at a small round window with a plus sign.

When the doctor confirmed my pregnancy saying, “Your blood test is completely normal given that you’re pregnant … You do know you’re pregnant, right?” Chris and I both looked as stunned as if we were going through a teenage pregnancy. But as soon as the doctor was out of the office, Chris jumped up from his chair and gave me a tight, long squeeze as I sat in disbelief on the examination table. “So I have to wait three months to tell everyone?” he complained with a grin.

To answer my own questions about fitting a baby into our lifestyle, I continued to fly on the regular. I’d check that any smaller aircrafts I flew on were fully pressurized and opted out of airport X-ray scans and hand-held magnetic metal detectors when I could. While I was six months pregnant, I was invited to attend a show at the 2014 Seoul Fashion Week in Korea. “Are you still gonna go?” my girlfriends asked. “No,” I replied, “we are gonna go.” Altogether, baby Max and I logged more than 80 hours of flight time during the pregnancy, with an entire month spent living in Shanghai. We became the closest travel buddies. I would do all of the talking, and Max would do all of the kicking. We were a package deal. And we were in sync.

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My pregnancy symptoms were not out of the ordinary. In the first trimester, I prided myself in having no morning sickness. But that must’ve angered the morning sickness gods because I was blessed with a gag reflex by my third trimester. My IQ also slipped during the months—one day after putting a glass of milk into the microwave, I promptly punched in my iPhone passcode on the keypad. When the microwave didn’t respond, it took me another try of the same passcode to realize what I was doing.

By 35 weeks, when Max was about as big as a honeydew melon (as I was told by the BabyCenter app), he had decided it was time. That night, my water ruptured suddenly around 11 p.m. after a full workday. DSCF3924

“It’s too early, I’m only 35 weeks, and I’m on maid of honor duty this weekend!” I cried. We were skeptical but immediately packed the hospital bag that was long overdue. As I didn’t feel any pain at that point, I made it through the car ride and the hospital admittance process without unleashing any angry public announcements like I’d imagined myself doing. The delivery nurses soon let us know that because Max was considered a pre-term baby, there needed to be extra staff at-the-ready, as well as a delayed cord cut, to give him the best chance at life. And, oh yes, I was also getting induced right away. That’s when I knew it was all happening.

Before that night, it was hard to imagine what contractions would feel like. I’ve heard them compared to everything from knife stabs to fingers being jammed in car doors. To me, it felt like being stepped on by an elephant at the abdomen with the pain spreading out to every nerve in my body. It didn’t matter how much pregnancy yoga or meditation I did before birth, there was no way to mind-over-matter or “Zen” out contraction pains. Still, somewhere between my teeth chattering and Chris’s desperate attempts to distract me from pain (he put on a long playlist of my favorite music and kept promising that I’d soon be able to eat salmon sashimi as my “push present”), my labor progressed quickly. Not long after taking the epidural, I was fully dilated, and within an hour, I was instructed to start pushing. My nurse, Cherlyn, was fiercely competent with a memorable sense of humor and bedside manner. With her coaching, I managed without any vacuums, forceps or incisions. Right before Max was born, Cherlyn smiled at us and said, “With this last push, you’ll finally get to see your baby!” Shortly after half past 2 p.m., Maximilian was born.

From the day he was born, Max has had a serious case of the smiles. There hasn’t been a day where he didn’t arch his eyes and lips into a content, contagious grin.
Some days, he would stockpile milk in his mouth and give us a cheeky, pursed-lipped smile. When all was said and done, pregnancy (and motherhood thus far) did not slow or change me. It didn’t make me cut my hair (although I do find lobs—long bobs—very on-trend!), more selfless or patient. As I found, it wasn’t necessary to check who we were and our lives at the door before getting pregnant. And if we did, we’d miss letting Max learn all about who we were, are and will be.

Send us your birth story! Whether you had a home birth, hospital birth, 37-hour labor or emergency C-section, we’d love to read the tale of your little one’s grand entrance. Write up your birth story (click here for tips on getting started) and email it, along with a few photos, to birthstory@pnmag.com. We’ll share it on our Birth Day blog and may even print it in an upcoming issue!