Date night, up until I had hit the third trimester, had been my favorite night of the week. I loved the process of getting dressed up, going somewhere nice and spending some one-on-one time with my husband, Josh. I love the ritual of it, the routine. But the bigger and more uncomfortable I got, the more it seemed like a huge drain to have to change out of anything except Josh’s oversized sweats and T-shirts and eat something besides take-out. At 38 weeks pregnant, all I wanted to do was eat, sleep, complain and clean.
And clean I had. My mother-in-law, Malika, had been visiting for the week helping me finish up “nesting.” The house was sparkling. We had washed, dusted, vacuumed, bleached and scrubbed until I was exhausted. So when she suggested Josh and I go out on our normal night, I groaned. It could wait, I said. We had a whole week left, and we were not going to leave her to fend for herself for dinner.
“Go!” she coaxed. “I’ll be fine. Besides, you never know if it will be your last before the princess gets here.”
I felt Josie give a light kick as I put on my eyeliner, remembering the conversation. I touched my belly and smiled. A daughter had been what I wanted from the start—a girl to cuddle, to dress up, to be not only a mother to but a friend. My daughter wasn’t even born yet, but I already felt like we had a special bond that nothing could touch.
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“Well,” I told my massive belly, “At least we get pasta for dinner!”
About that time my husband came in and complimented how I looked, saying, “You don’t look a day past 29 weeks!” I rolled my eyes and finished my routine as he changed clothes. Earrings, bracelet and wedding r—oh, that’s right, those didn’t fit anymore. So much for that.
“I’m all ready,” I smiled, even though I felt like the only thing I was ready for was a nap.
“Great. Let me go let the dog out, and we will head out,” he replied. I sat on the bed for a second then decided it was best to go to the bathroom before we left. Not that it would stop me from having to go 50 times during dinner, but at least it wouldn’t have to be the first thing I did at the restaurant.
I sat down, did my thing and then stood up. Suddenly I felt a trickle of fluid down my legs. “Great,” I thought, “I can’t even go to the bathroom without peeing my pants.” I took a step to change pants. Another trickle, this time larger. I reached down and touched my legs, then I examined my hands. It wasn’t pee. It was amniotic fluid. It appeared my water broke.
So doing what any normal, rational thinking pregnant woman would do, I took a deep breath and screamed at the top of my lungs.
Josh and Malika came running. I couldn’t even speak. I just began crying and pointing at the fluid running down my legs. Thank goodness my mother-in-law immediately took action.
“Josh, get the bags and put a towel down for her. It looks like we are having a baby tonight!”
Getting to the hospital is now just a panic stricken blur in my mind. I called my mother, who living out of town, could arrive at the earliest the next morning. I clutched my husband’s hand and cried—not because I was sad, but because I wasn’t prepared. I had a whole week left, after all. She was throwing off my well-laid plan!
We arrived at the hospital and confirmed that, yes, my water had broken. I was 3 centimeters dilated and 80 percent effaced. My doctor was on call in the morning, so she asked that I labor naturally through the night, then start the Pitocin if I hadn’t progressed by 1 a.m. They did go ahead and prepare me for my epidural, something I insisted on having before they induced me. It didn’t hurt nearly as bad as I thought it would.
Now this is where it helps to mention every woman in my family has had a C-section. My mother, my aunts, my sister. All had been wheeled back for surgery and emerged with their own bundles of joy. I had decided that this would likely be my fate, too, and had mentally prepared myself for it. Honestly, I thought it might be easier. No pain, no risk of feeling anything and no tearing. It didn’t sound that awful. So when the nurse checked me at 1 a.m. and said I had made no progress, I wasn’t shocked.
“I’ll have to have a C-section,” I declared matter-of-factly. “The Pitocin isn’t going to work.”
My husband and mother-in-law rolled their eyes at me. The nurse just grinned.
“You never know! You might just be the first.” With that they got the epidural going and, once I couldn’t feel anything, cranked up the Pitocin. They left us to rest, promising to come back and check at 5 a.m. While everyone else snored, I passed the last hours of pregnancy trying to picture exactly what my Josie would look like.
When 5 a.m arrived the nurse quietly walked in to check me. I watched her examine me and saw a grin on her face. I figured I had been right.
“Does he need to suit up for surgery?” I asked, pointing to my husband.
“No,” she said, almost laughing now. “You’re 9 centimeters dilated. You’ll be ready to push soon!” And with that I had my second emotional breakdown of labor and delivery. What had started as a date night had turned into a date with the labor and delivery ward, and I was getting ready to push out the party crasher. I was completely unprepared for the range of emotions that overtook me.
Before long the bed had been converted, lights were shining down on me, and my mother in law and husband each gripped one of my hands as I pushed with everything I had. An hour passed, then two. The nurses kept saying I was making progress, but it was hard to tell without feeling it.
Finally, slowly, I felt a pressure build—an unbelievable pressure, and I cried out for the first time as the doctor got into position.
“I can’t do it,” I cried. “I quit. Cut me open; vacuum her out. I can’t push another time!”
“One more push, and she’s out.” The doctor promised me. “Just one more good push.”
I gave it everything I had and watched as she pulled my daughter into the world. “Is that my baby? Is that my baby?” was all I could manage to say as they placed her on my chest. She was beautiful. Her wide eyes just stared at me in wonder—and mine at her. I heard my husband start to cry, and then I began crying, too.
They took Josie to clean her up. I watched Josh and Malika hold her for the first time as I was stitched back together. The months of waiting for our princess were over. She had finally arrived, all 7 pounds and 12 ounces of perfection.
She had rewritten every well-laid plan I had, from date night to her delivery, and I got the feeling that was going to be the story of our lives. She would challenge every idea and preconceived notion I ever had about being a parent, a mother and a person, and she’d make my life more beautiful because of it.
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