On my last day of work, which was just a little over a week before my due date, my husband Adam drove me to and from work—knowing that this day would be bittersweet for me. That evening, we went out for dinner to celebrate my official start of maternity leave. At this point in my pregnancy, I was ready to prepare for my first child’s birth. I was filled with so many emotions—joy, excitement, relief (to be finished with work and have some time to relax), and I was slightly scared anticipating the pain of childbirth.
Fortunately, I did get some time to relax and get some well-deserved rest. The first few days, I slept, and slept, and slept some more. I knew my body would need plenty of strength and energy to bring life into the world, and I wanted to have the strength to cope with a natural birth.
My immediate family members and some extended family members actually had a small monetary bet going regarding the potential birth date of the baby. This made our baby’s anticipated arrival even more exciting. There was definitely some competition in the air. Now it was up to my baby and me to make a winner out of one of them!
Due date (my cousin’s guess)On April 5 I was still at home and playing the waiting game. I decided to go shopping with my mom, and I remember walking into several stores and the employees asking me about my due date. Naturally, I responded with “I am due today,” knowing there was still no sign that our baby was going to arrive. Many friends and family had told me that first babies are usually late arrivals, and I passed the due date with no baby.
April 8 (no bets on this day)
Our little baby still hadn’t made an appearance. However in the evening, I started to feel contractions, which were completely manageable. When I tried to go to bed the pain intensified to the point that I had trouble sleeping. Adam and I had been timing the contractions to determine if I would be admitted to the hospital using the 5-1-1 rule (i.e., five minutes apart, lasting one minute for one hour). I asked Adam to call the hospital to determine if they had any advice for me because I was in a lot of pain. They advised me to take some Tylenol, and—if I needed to come into the hospital—then they could provide me with some morphine. Honestly, I didn’t want to be a wimp so early in the game. I waited for more than three hours trying to get to sleep and then decided it was time to go. We got in the car and headed to the hospital at 2 a.m.
At the hospital, the nurse determined that I was only half a centimeter dilated. I was a little excited thinking it was almost show time. They provided me with some morphine, and I went home for a wonderful sleep.
April 9 (my dad’s guess)
I woke up this morning thinking my baby was coming today! I went to my scheduled doctor’s appointment that morning and learned that I was now only one centimeter dilated. My obstetrician then informed me that my baby would not be arriving today. I was completely deflated. During our discussion, she proceeded to book me for an induction on April 14. I remember thinking that I was definitely not going to make it another five days, especially because the pain was intensifying.
After my doctor’s appointment, I decided to go out for lunch with Adam and my parents. During the lunch the contractions were so strong and close together I could barely eat. After lunch, we took a drive (perhaps to distract me), but I only remember the painful contractions and feeling the need to get out of the car.
I returned home with my mom while Adam and my dad took our chocolate lab, Bella, and my parents’ black labs, Molly and Basil, to the dog park for a run. I was at home for about an hour until I finally said to my mom, “I need to go the hospital now.” When Adam and my dad returned home, we all drove to the hospital together. At this point, my dad was certain he was going to win the bet.
We arrived at the hospital around 3 p.m. The nursing staff was very attentive, and we were admitted almost immediately. We entered our newly renovated and spacious birthing suite then waited for the doctor. It turns out that two doctors (the obstetrician on duty along with a resident) would be assisting me with my labor. The resident did an internal exam and determined I was at about one and a half centimeters, not much further along. I wasn’t advised at the time, but my mom informed me later that the resident doctor wanted to send me home. The obstetrician overrode her decision, and I stayed. I am very glad that they didn’t send me home given that I was having such a difficult time managing the pain, and I just felt more comfortable in the hospital.
After receiving morphine, which did absolutely nothing at this point, I decided to spend a few hours in the birthing tub, which really helped with the contractions and moved my labor along. I was actually in so much pain that I threw up several times—charming! (Luckily it was not in the birthing tub.)
It was around 11 p.m., and I was almost four centimeters dilated. At that point I was so ready to have an epidural. I would have preferred not to take the medication, but I had already endured hours of very painful contractions—and at only four centimeters, I still had a long way to go. Sorry, Dad, not today!
April 10 (my brother’s guess)
That night, I had a restless sleep primarily because I couldn’t get comfortable in the hospital bed. At around 7 a.m., the obstetrician on duty that day (a new doctor) visited me to let me know we were ready to start the birthing process. I was so ready to push. He said we would start around 7:40 a.m., and he promised me (or so he thought) that my baby would be born by 8:30 a.m.
This doctor was very kind and encouraging, which was exactly what I needed. I began pushing and with only a few pushes our son, Declan, was born at 7:53 a.m. weighing 8 pounds, 3 ounces. My husband cut the cord (which I later learned was initially double wrapped around his neck), and then my doctor placed our baby boy on my chest. Initially, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to have him on my chest because I was a bit nervous. The doctor took the lead and placed him there obviously knowing the benefits of skin-to-skin contact. Looking back, I am so thankful because I shared a beautiful first moment with my son. I realized later that you couldn’t get those moments back if you pass them up, but if you did take them, they are yours for a lifetime.
During the hospital stay until Declan’s birth, my mother and husband didn’t leave my side, sleeping curled up on uncomfortable hospital chairs. They were supportive of me the entire time and I am so grateful to both of them for the kindness and compassion they showed me. I was especially grateful to have my mother (a former nurse and now a nursing school professor) there because of the excellent medical care she provided and her correspondence with the doctors to ensure I received the right care. It also gave me peace of mind knowing she was there in case anything went wrong.
While my dad lost the birth date bet to my brother, he was the first person (after my birthing partners of course) to meet the newest addition to our family. My dad just held my hand as he watched my son nestled on my chest. I knew he was so proud of me and that bet or no bet, he still had won!
I must admit that I am very happy with Declan’s birth experience. He was delivered naturally, and I was surrounded with the best care possible: excellent nursing staff along with a caring and attentive doctor that delivered my baby. I feel so blessed that Declan was born in such a supportive environment.
As a new mom, I will continue to ensure that I always take good care of myself, so I can be a supportive and an emotionally available mom to our son and any future children that we may have. Becoming a mother has taught me that it is sometimes difficult to set our priorities with busy work schedules, household demands, and “perfectionism.” I have learned that sometimes letting go and giving yourself a break is the best thing you can do for yourself and your family.
In the weeks after my delivery, I was concerned about my weight. I did drop quite a bit of weight initially from the birth. But, I still had some belly fat that I didn’t have before I was pregnant. Once I moved beyond the postpregnancy pounds, I really started to reflect on my birthing experience and writing this story has provided me with some profound thoughts about my body. I discovered that I should be honoring, celebrating and thanking my body for delivering such a wonderful gift—my baby. It did take me some time to realize that I am very proud of what my body achieved by creating this new life, who will have his own journey and many possibilities along the way.
I am amazed that becoming a mother has taught me the importance of focusing on what really matter. Becoming a mother has enabled me to stay present and enjoy every moment with my child, the good times and the challenging ones. I have a renewed sense of self and it feels so good!
To all the women and men expecting their first, second or third child—or to those who are already parents, all the best with the joys of raising your children.
This story is dedicated to my sweet boy; I love you always and forever.
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