where to even begin with the biggest day ever?! to be honest, i feel like i'm still processing it, a month later with gus asleep on my chest, but i'll do my best.
finding out i was pregnant was one of the most emotionally charged moments in my life. (little did i know what was in store...) after spending the majority of my life certain that i was born to be a mother, it was finally happening. a tiny life had started to grow out of our love and the happiness was over the top.
my nine and a half months seemed to fly by and slow right down all at the same time. the first three, plagued by all-day-every-day-nausea and that ever-present-eye-crossing-exhaustion felt like they would never end. and then quite abruptly, they did, and i was flung forward to month nine, left feeling like... wtf just happened?! while it was hard, both mentally and physically draining, being pregnant is something i will always cherish and remember. my body grew a brand new person! it fed and sustained new life! it birthed a beautiful baby boy that we get to call our son. what a gift! and don't get me wrong, the struggle was real (eating anytime after 6PM...? NOPE. tying up shoes anywhere past 20 weeks...? LOL ya, ok. "i have to pee. yes. again.") and our journey came with a scare and a few complications (READ), but it was ours and to me, it was perfect. carrying our son, feeling him move, watching him grow, it was an incredibly surreal experience that i can't even begin to put into words.
but then he came and i'm at an even bigger loss for words.
it's a strange thing, to know when you're going to give birth. i mean, i don't have another (spontaneous) experience to compare it to, but i imagine them being different. because of the complication i had, we knew we wouldn't be waiting around for him to make his appearance, i'd be induced at 38 weeks. with the risk of stillbirth, the decision was easy, he would come early. even still, it was weird to know "the day" and as much as we prepared, i don't think anything could have readied me for what was on the other side.
the process began the evening of december 7th, a pre-procedure that took all of 10 minutes and we were back home to "get a good sleep before the big day" - haha, OKAY. the night was pretty restless, we were too excited (and scared shitless) to close our eyes.
bags packed, we left for the hospital the next morning, bright and early. it wasn't until 10:30AM that someone came to see us, i got prepped, my mom arrived and the show was on the road. the gown was on and the induction started. an hour came and went, with it, my water. contractions started, but they were weak and sporadic and that's how they stayed for the majority of the afternoon. hours flew by (yes, flew, even though nothing was happening). we read, ate chips, laughed and coped. the contractions started to get a little closer together, but then would taper off. painful yes, but never more than i could handle. 5:30PM came and after an "adjustment" from my OB what we had been waiting for was here, fast and furious.
the weeks leading up to the birth were restful and relaxed. i tried really hard to keep my feet up, nap and think about it as little as possible. but still, i was nervous. births through induction are hard. because the moment is brought on with synthetic hormones and medication, your body doesn't have a chance to say, "i'm ready now, let's do this!" and ramp up to what's needed to birth a baby, it's just sort of told, "it's time and it's happening now." i don't do well with pain and the idea of things going from zero to ten scared me. knowing that the female body was designed for this and resting in the fact that my body had known what to do all along was comforting, but bringing something unnatural into the mix was unnerving. it was hard to reconcile that this would just be a kickstarted extension of my body just "knowing" and that everything would be fine.
the contractions during the day had started modestly, tricking me into thinking it wouldn't be as hard as "they" say. but what was upon me now was nothing short of the worst pain i had ever felt in my entire life... and they were coming every two minutes. (just to put things into perspective, labour that's about to bring on a baby starts when contractions are four minutes apart) i spent the better part of two hours coping and moaning my way through what felt like death from the inside out. i moved from the bed, to the ball, to the bathroom and back again. i leaned on myles, my mom, my midwife, white knuckled and only 5cm in. i felt insane and in another world every time one hit, sure i wouldn't come out of it, that the pain would eat me alive. not liking where my head was at and also exhausted from the extreme that my body already been put through (zero to ten, remember?) i asked for an epidural. i wanted to be "there" when my son came into the world, not writhing in pain inside my own head.
the wait for the anaesthetist felt both long and short at the same time. the contractions still coming and coming, all i could focus on was getting through that next clench. i couldn't see the light at the end of the tunnel even though i was being hurtled towards it, relief half an hour away. it happened quickly, but if the pain had been bad so far, it was nothing compared to the ten minutes following the administering of the needle. having to lie flat on your back post epidural is some sort of cruel joke, but necessary for the medication to flow evenly into your body. i hadn't cried yet, but this... this is what did it. but as if waking up, slowly and surely, the nightmare faded until all i was left with was clear eyes, my husband's hand in mine, my mom wiping my brow and the steady sound of gus' heartbeat on the monitor to my right. i had made it, the pain was over and body would go on doing it's magnificent work while i was able to refocus, rest and ready myself to meet our son. i felt good, the decision had been the right one. delirious from both the intense pain i had just experienced as well as the intense relief i was feeling, i just kept asking, "why doesn't every woman do this, i feel amazing!"
in the hours following i was able to nap (i KNOW!), eat a popsicle, snuggle with myles, joke with my mom, watch netflix and did i mention... nap? it was pretty crazy to watch my contractions come and go on the monitor, feeling only a tightening, but no pain. to know that with each one, we were getting closer and closer. at 11PM it still felt like it would be hours until we'd be holding our baby, but all of a sudden i felt different. alert and more awake. my lower back felt like it was being squeezed, intense pressure building in my tailbone with each wave on the screen. it had been a while since my progress had been checked, but once it was, it was unanimous, the pressure i was feeling was his head in position and i was ready to push.
the mix of emotions that hit me hearing those words was an intense one. here i was thinking this time wouldn't be coming until at least the next morning, and they were telling me now? i looked up at myles and his face mirrored what i was feeling inside - excitement, happiness, anticipation, fear. our son was coming and our world was about to change. now.
our midwife was called back to the hospital and our room was readied. it was midnight on the nose and it was happening! thankful i had taken the drugs, i was able to be in the moment, but it was definitely half an hour of the hardest physical work i have ever done. to be surrounded by people i trusted was key and to say i felt supported would be an understatement. the pushing was ridiculously draining and there were times when i felt i didn't have it in me to go again, but just listening to the incredible wonder and amazement coming from myles was what kept me going. with each push, more and more was visible and myles was more and more fascinated. i wanted to keep going to keep that going. it was intense, but so, so worth it. he was witnessing a miracle and i was lucky enough to be the one to give him that experience. WILD.
"okay myles, get ready!" i heard our OB say. 12:35AM and it was time for the last push and he was going to be the one to catch our child. i'll never forget the look on his face when he pulled him up and out and put lil gus on my chest - pride, love, happiness.
what happened next was a bit of a blur, but memories i will keep with me forever. gus' first cry, holding his tiny little warm body close to mine and seeing his beautiful face of the first time. my mom video'ing it all and seeing her reaction to the name. the overwhelming love exploding out of my chest and the incredible look of adoration from myles as he went from being my husband to my husband AND the father of our child. he proudly cut the cord, comforted him while he was weighed (7 lbs, 1 ounce) and measured (21.5 inches) and even changed the first diaper - already taking such good care of us. there is so much to be said about watching him become a dad that i don't even know where to begin, so i may just save that for another time... i could've never have done it without him, my biggest fan, a cheerleader that wouldn't let me quit.
and where would i have been without my mom? the decision to have her in the room with us was an easy one. no one can provide the kind of comfort and encouragement a mother can. and how special to have the woman who birthed me, to be there for the birth of her first grandchild? to have her there was a true blessing and her faith in me was empowering. it also strengthened our bond, not only as a mother and a daughter or best friends, but also as women. to now share in the experience of childbirth, to be able to relate to each other on a new level... it's powerful stuff and i'm so thankful for it.
and then, as quickly as it had started, it was over and we were packing up and putting gus into the car. because we had midwives, we were able to leave after the standard 3 hour mark. as it had been just after midnight that i gave birth, we were given the okay and on our way by 4AM. it's weird, leaving the hospital with a newborn in the middle of the night. i always pictured our first drive home as a family to be a sundrenched one, feeling a little more awake and aware, something peppy on the radio. this felt rebellious, a little like we were stealing away unnoticed with our tiny bundle. terrified, we pulled away and were on our way, alone as three for the first time and starting our journey. we had a BABY and shit was REAL. it was sinking in. the city was still asleep and quiet, like we were the only ones that existed and it was beautifully appropriate.
you know that scene at the end of how the grinch stole christmas where it shows his heart on the magnifying glass? where it just grows and grows and he almost looks manic with happiness and emotion? after trying to articulate those first few days many different ways, this comes closest. i would look at myles and we'd look at gus and we'd both just weep. we couldn't believe this gorgeous tiny human was ours, that we had made him and that we got to keep him. "surreal" doesn't even come close to how we were feeling and even still it's tough to find an appropriate descriptor. my heart has been blown apart and made into completely different place -- one capable of holding this brand new, intoxicatingly huge type of love that comes with having a child. it really is true that you have no idea what it's like until you're there. pure magic, overwhelming and fulfilling, all at once.