Dear baby girl,
You were born on a Saturday but your story begins on a Wednesday. Your brother came down with an ugly stomach virus. He threw up all night long. Every hour, I nursed him to health one tablespoon of Vitamin Water at a time.
Thursday: By morning he was fine. And then I got this ugly stomach virus. Liquids spewing out both ends. 10 months pregnant. It wasn’t pretty. I nursed myself with Vitamin Water all night long.
Friday: By morning I was fine. And then your daddy got it.
That’s when shit got hectic.
1am. I wake to hear your daddy covering the entirety of our four square foot bathroom with puke. As I wonder who is going to clean that up, I notice that in the 5 minutes I have been awake I have had 5 contractions. Seriously. But they aren’t strong, so I close my eyes and try to go back to sleep. Good luck with that one.
3am. I call the doctor. Thankfully the midwife is on call. We speak for 10 minutes, debating what to do. Clearly I am not in much pain but the contractions are coming regularly, one minute apart, and second babies come quick. I insist I want to stay home as long as I can. Your daddy is still locked in the bathroom.
5am. The contractions are farther apart, but stronger. I call the doctor again. Three minutes apart. Yes I can still talk, but they stop me in my tracks. Get ready, she says, and call soon. I know that your dad can’t accompany me to the hospital in the shape he is in, so I call your eagerly waiting nana. She lives two hours away. I ask her to leave now.
7am. Stepping over the mess that was my bathroom floor I shower and pack a bag. The contractions are getting stronger. I know I am in labor. It feels oddly calming.
8am. Your nana arrives. She isn’t sure what to make of my calm so she freaks out. I insist that I will walk to the hospital. This only elevates her freak out level. She pictures you being born in a puddle of Starbucks, dog urine and late night pizza scraps on the corner of 31st and 2nd.
815am. We leave the building to make the half mile trek. And then I remember, “oh, I need a bagel and juice! They won’t let me eat at the hospital!” Your nana’s eyes bulge out of her head. We have to go! I ignore her and walk in to our regular bagel shop. My friend behind the counter asks when the baby is coming but he doesn’t expect me to say “right now” as I double over with a contraction. We make our way out. There are almost no cars on the road. It is a quiet Saturday morning. It isn’t cold for February, but it is so windy. The contractions are getting stronger. I feel you moving down.
840am. We arrive at NYU reception. They take one look at me, how calm and relatively pain-free I am and send me to triage. “You aren’t ready to be admitted but we’ll have your doctor check you.” I go to triage where they hook me up to the fetal monitor. Every moment of sitting is sheer pain. Stabbing feeling in my abdomen. My doctor comes in. The one who saved my life (but that’s a story for later). She checks me. 5 centimeters. She knows I want more than anything to do this with no medication, no intervention.
9am. “Walk around the hallways. Do not leave. I will check you again in two hours.”
Elated that I don’t have to be admitted yet, I jump up to walk around. As soon as I pop up, a gush. My water breaks. And so does my calm. In a split second I am S-C-R-E-A-M-I-N-G my head off. THE PAIN. I DEMAND an epidural. I cry about how tired I am from the events before, I haven’t slept in three nights. The sickness left me drained. I stand, I jump, I shush everyone. I squeeze my eyes shut. My toes curl. The pain.
910am. WHERE IS THE ANESTHESIOLOGIST?? I screech. A 12 year old boy who swears he isn’t Doogie Howser and that he is old enough to have completed med school comes in. He barks some legal mumbo jumbo. I say yes, yes, yes, whatever you need, just BRING IT NOW.
My doctor hears my screams and wants to know what happened. “Her water broke,” Doogie explains. She checks me. “Carinn, you are 10 centimeters”. Oh God, what? I’m still in triage!
915am. My doctor, two nurses and the jilted anesthesiologist beg me to sit in the wheelchair but I am busy swaying and jumping and doubling over and curling my toes. It’s not an option to walk so I climb on like a petulant child who won’t sit in his stroller facing you and instead faces the wrong way, kneeling and grabbing the back of the seat. But I am not smiling, only wincing and writhing with pain. One of the nurses finally notices the pad that was discarded. The one I was sitting on as my water broke. “MECONIUM” she screams.
MECONIUM they echo. PEDS (short for pediatrics)! PEDS, PEDS PEDS they yell to reception as we race by. There was meconium in the water. WE NEED PEDS HERE NOW. I swear they were only yelling so loud to drown out my screaming. My primal, guttural, indescribable shouting.
920am. There were no delivery rooms available. They are quite literally wiping blood off the floor of one as they wheel me in, still kneeling, still hollering. They push me in and the team disburses. Doogie leaves with his unsigned waiver. I have a moment of “holy shit I am really going to do this without any meds, all on my own, not even hooked up to a freaking monitor.”
One nurse scrubs in while another grabs instruments and another gets the baby blankets ready. My doctor scrubs in. All this activity fades as I realize an important piece of business that needs to be taken care of before we get on to delivering this baby. I’m in my head trying to figure out how I can ask this at such a tenuous and inconvenient time.
“Can I please go to the bathroom real quick? Bathroom? Please?” I say to no one in particular.
“Um, I HAVE TO POOP!” A little louder this time. “Can someone help me to the bathroom?”
It’s like I have never seen
80,000 a few episodes of TLC’s A Baby Story. I truly believe I need to go #2. My doctor explains that is the baby making me feel that way and if I was a little less delirious from the pain I would have shot her a dirty look for saying you are making me feel like shit.
Lightbulb. Oh. The baby is coming!
925am. The nurses are still getting ready but I climb up from the wheelchair on to the hospital bed, still kneeling, and begin to push. Completely unattended. The nurses take time from their busy work to notice my silence and signal to each other.
“Somebody better get her, she is pushing,” their masked mouths whisper.
I finally realize I don’t know where your nana has gone. Wait – she’s in the corner on the phone. Really? I see her hang up and put her coat on. REALLY?? Not sure this is the time for a coffee break.
She explains. “Ian and I are going to switch off. He has stopped throwing up. I am going to go home to watch the baby (your brother was the baby right up until the minute you were born). Ian will come now.”
“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! This baby is coming RIGHT NOW!” I shriek.
Not that I blame her. Last time I pushed for 4 hours. She thinks she has time. But I know you are coming now. I know you will not wait. Not for your brother to feel better, not for your daddy to arrive, not for anyone for anything. This is your time baby girl. Your time, your terms.
935am. I ROAR. This is not an exaggeration. I ROAR and your perfect little head peeks into the world for the very first time.
939am. You are born. Small and pink with bright blue eyes. You make your presence known instantly with your strong baby lungs. Flailing and agitated, you don’t settle until they put you back in my arms. Physically, you look nothing like me, but the connection we have is deeper. It’s evident in the way we stare at each other in silence and awe. It’s in our DNA.
Welcome to the world my beautiful daughter.
940am. I feel more amazing and alive than I have ever felt.
I am a self-professed adrenaline junkie and this feeling surpasses any other. I feel more vitalized than I did after swimming with sharks in Tahiti. More exhilarated than after jumping off a 30 ft. cliff in Maui. More inspired than when I finished writing my screenplay. It’s like I can actually feel life coursing through my veins.
It’s transcendental. Pure euphoria.
I call your daddy before they even cut the cord.
“I’m so sorry, I couldn’t wait!”
“It’s ok, I’m coming now.”
“She is amazing, Ian. A real force to be reckoned with!”
The natural high eventually faded, but in that moment it brought me real clarity. Because one year later, those words I uttered just minutes after your arrival, they never felt truer.
This is what a real force to be reckoned with looks like on her birthday.