I thought writing her birth story would be easier, but truth be told, I’m struggling to figure it all out. I think I’m searching for some grand epiphany of womanhood that should have hit me like lightning in the throes of a late contraction, but frankly, I’m still settling into the spiritual side of our labor experience. From where I stand today, I see two and a half really rough days that culminated in one tiny miracle – any huge self realizations beyond that are still elusive. But I’ll write what I know. And what I know is this:
Fable Genevieve arrived at 5:57pm on the 3rd of November, sunny side up to take in the world, crying like a prize fighter, and completely entangled in a mile of umbilical cord. I expected her to be slick or slimy, but she was impossibly soft, damp velvet like a baby seal or sting ray. Her eyes, already blue, were wide open.
But back to the beginning.
I had my first contraction halfway through the bathroom door at Fabric Depot on Thursday the 1st and nearly cheered. At 41 weeks, with a scheduled induction looming overhead and a serious fear of pitocin growing daily, the realization that my body was going to opt to do this on its own was a massive relief. And of course, being a total newb, I thought for sure one contraction meant I was on the fast track to baby holding – surely in no more than 24 hours this kiddo would be out! Huzzah!
We hurried home, my mother and I, and I texted Fave to update him and tell him he might want to tie up some loose ends since I didn’t think he’d be going to work the next day. At home, through a trip to Stark St. pizza for a “last supper,” and then all through a long a sleepless night, my contractions continued to build from barely present to mildly uncomfortable to “Oh, hey, hold on a second” sometime around midnight. In the morning, I called my midwife to let her know things were steadily on the move, which, naturally, caused my contractions to completely stop.
Walking commenced. Fave and I took a series of long walks, 6 in total, all day Friday. The dog was in absolute heaven. Around four, the contractions picked up again, and this time they meant business – longer, stronger, and mighty enough to stop me in my tracks. After dinner I sent Fave off to bed figuring one of us should get some sleep and labored on the couch again for another sleepless night. By 3am, things were serious enough that I felt I should wake Fave and coax him into one more walk to see if we could speed up the timing a bit. Sure enough, by the time we got home from our 20 minute stroll I was contracting every 3 minutes or so. I took a shower, dried my hair, put on makeup (silly girl) and we headed off to the hospital just shy of 5am.
I’d never had any reason to check in to a hospital before that morning of November 3rd, so the whole thing had a fabulous early morning going to Disneyland vibe – giddiness, excitement, a little anxiety. Naturally, my contractions all but stopped as soon as they hooked me up to the monitors, so Fave and I were sent to roam the halls of the hospital for an hour so they could see how I was progressing. We had some fun exploring all the different wings in the wee hours of the AM, which included somewhat iffy situations and a few moments of serious lostness. My contractions resumed with considerable force, and I started to get the idea that this wasn’t going to be as fun as I’d originally thought.
Upon our return, the nurse checked and announced that I’d progressed from 3.5 to 5 centimeters in the hour, which meant two things: I was definitely staying, and they weren’t going to try to push any pitocin on me – all excellent news. Around this time my parents and sister showed up (mom and Katelyn were planning to be in the room for my labor and delivery while my dad toughed it out in the waiting room all by his lonesome until Fave’s parents arrived).
We kept on keeping on. I lost track of time somewhere around 9am. I found myself squatting by the bed through each contraction, something I thought my notoriously fiesty knees would never let me do. My midwife, Linda, and her trainee (I’d volunteered to be a guinea pig) arrived and we talked birth plan – no drugs if possible, skin to skin, your typical “Why yes, I have seen The Business of Being Born” rigamarole. I paced and squatted, paced and squatted, paced and squatted, took a shower, paced and squatted, paced and squatted.
Eventually I lost it. Somewhere near transition the break between contractions disappeared and I couldn’t stay on top of my breathing or the pain, and when I can’t breathe, I cry, so I melted down. I was ready to beg for an epidural at that point, despite the reasoning voices of Fave and my support team. Thankfully, our midwife in training was able to get my attention (I’m way too much of a people pleaser to blow off a near stranger). She helped me to organize my breathing and insisted I get into the tub.
Oh the tub.
That tub saved my birth plan. It slowed the contractions enough that I could nap between them, and Fave and I sat there for an hour or so as I drifted in and out and the world started to seem almost manageable again. I loved that tub. And I’m strictly a shower person.
I was starting to feel pushing urges, so we decided to leave the tub – not an easy goodbye, that one. When checked, I was only about 8.5 centimeters, so they had me lay on my side to progress the rest of the way. I hate laboring on my side. I hated it on Thursday night as I lay counting early contractions on our couch, and I hated it in that hospital bed, trying to maintain my composure in the space between those awful rending waves that had me convinced I would probably die. Fave swears we were only in that position for 45 minutes or so, me trying to wrestle my suffering into his right arm and the bed frame, him patiently sitting and moving the hair out of my eyes, waiting with me in the silence and riding with me in the pain. I’m still convinced it was hours, maybe a lifetime, maybe all of time that we lived in that space. But then it was over. And then it was time to push.
After the first push they assured me that I wouldn’t push for the two hour average – that I was making this look easy and it would certainly not take that long. Two hours later, they told me I was just two pushes away from meeting my baby. Ten pushes later, I was only two pushes still. We carried on that way for three endless hours that were oddly only moments. I was tired enough to dose off between pushes, dreaming myself away every time the pain stopped and talking to people who weren’t in the room. Every once and a while I felt lucid enough to crack a joke – when you’re sure you’re going to die, it’s best to reassure those around you with a mood-lighteneing wisecrack. I remember Fave was eating Cheez-its. I remember my mother telling me I was doing well, so well, so close, so almost there. I remember my sister appearing and disappearing like she was playing some sort of ghostly game of peekaboo behind the nurse. I remember the urgency of having my legs lifted when I could no longer lift them myself, and the bizarre relief and agony that is pushing out a person from whence a person should not come. I remember begging everyone, anyone, insisting that they had to just get her out, no, seriously guys, get her out. I remember wanting to stick a fork in the eye of everyone who started echoing the midwife’s mantra: everytime I said “I’m so tired” a chorus of voices would chant out “You’re so strong” and I’d envision stabbing them all with silverware. Whatever gets you through. But then.
Fable Genevieve arrived at 5:57pm on the 3rd of November, sunny side up to take in the world, crying like a prize fighter, and completely entangled in a mile of umbilical cord. I expected her to be slick or slimy, but she was impossibly soft, damp velvet like a baby seal or sting ray. Her eyes, already blue, were wide open. They put her on my chest and went about the placenta delivery and the stitching while Fave and I cried and counted fingers and toes, listened to her otherworldly breathing, marveled at the smallness of her perfect ears. I had then – and still have now, with her tiny person curled up on my chest as I type – a hard time reconciling the outside baby with the alien tenant that had inhabited my body for the last nine months. This complete human couldn’t possibly have been the same soulful someone floating in the dark that she is here in my arms. Some sort of changeling magic, this daughter of mine.
Fae is lovely, and hungry, and snuggly, and ours. She is all comedy and also the most tragic of all things when she cries. She squeaks in her sleep. She was hard won and continues to make me earn the right to keep her in sleeplessness and tears and pain and impossible love. She is the best thing we’ve ever done.
Fave is a natural daddy – his baby dance is an award winning soother, and he loves her with a confidence I don’t think either of us expected. My amazing mother is here doing our dishes and keeping our home in order so we have uninterrupted time to get to know our beautiful girl. Caper is oddly protective and tolerant of the new puppy, cautiously licking her pajama-ed feet and inching ever closer to her silly little face. I am tired, and sore, but wildly in love with her. Nothing has ever been so perfect as tiniest she.
Welcome to the world, little beautiful girl. You have our whole hearts.