As I write this, 3 month old Milo is laying next to me looking up at his play gym with deep blue eyes and is cooing at me in earnest while he flails and kicks and attempts to put his fist in his mouth. Three weeks ago at his two month appointment he had gained 5 pounds and grown 3 inches since his arrival. It's so hard to believe he has grown that much already! And that just a year ago he started existing.
JD and I are fortunate - getting pregnant is easy for us. One try for both of them, and then all of a sudden there they were in my tummy, growing. I have a great many friends who are not so lucky and it is hard for us to stand next to them and not feel guilty. But while making them is simple, pregnancy is not. Carrying a baby for that long with all of the bodily changes that accompany growing another person is hard for me. In Spanish, there is this great little phrase called "me cuesta" - which means, "It costs me." It costs me to grow a baby. I can handle the morning sickness (thank you, God, for strawberry flavored Ondansetron), the lethargy, the weight gain (I'm looking at you, dreaded stretch marks), but the one thing that does me in is the back pain. With Milo, at 18 weeks my body decided to go ahead and start stretching out, loosening ligaments and in general "preparing the way" and it brought me incredible pain. Any movement hurt. Even walking was an ordeal. Rolling over in bed usually involved a ridiculous amount of grunting and hoisting. Bending over? Didn't happen. Being pregnant with a toddler? Uh. Don't remind me. The added pressure on my joints made me feel like a very large old woman, and whatever nerves were wrapped around my hips decided to plague me constantly. I know, I know, he's worth it, but the only thing that got me through it was knowing it was temporary. Some day he would be out and I could carry him in new ways.
Milo's birth brought me great relief, but obviously it's harder before it gets easier. The process really started months before he was born. When I had Alice, I was very poorly educated on the whole matter, and my ignorance lead to a domino effect of uninformed medical decisions and a much harder labor (and longer - 18 hours from start to finish). I resolved with the next one that it would be different, so we signed up for Bradley classes towards the end of our pregnancy with Milo. I wanted to know how to do it naturally, and I wanted JD to know how to be my coach. (Although, when I asked him why he wanted to do the class, he initially said "I just want a happy wife." I still loved him for it.) While we knew a great many things from experience at that point, it was still a comfort to learn what our options were, namely how to have a natural birth, post-birth procedures (e.g. delayed cord-clamping), and newborn procedures (e.g. not circumcising). It was also affirming to know we had a community of other like-minded parents-to-be at our backs, encouraging us.
November 2nd was Milo's due date. When that date came and went, suddenly the thought of waiting any longer was maddening. Alice came on her due date - uncommon, but I thought common for us. A few days passed, and at my doctor's appointment I opted to get things going by having my membranes stripped (a phrase the Husband has banned from our household - gives him the heebie jeebies). This was a deviation from "natural" in the sense that I was no longer waiting for Milo in his good time, but biologically speaking, it was as natural as I could go without using medicine. At that point, I didn't even care. I just wanted to get this show on the road. It didn't hurt - discomfort at the point was my constant companion so it never registered as anything worse than normal.
Within hours after getting home, contractions became more regular. I had been having false alarms for weeks prior but they always died out just when I got my hopes up. My mom, who was watching Alice for me while I went to the doctor went ahead and took her to the farm just in case. I packed Alice up and hugged her close. I knew it would be the last time I got to hold her knowing it was just the two of us. That was the sad part of having another baby - it wouldn't be "just us" anymore. Our previously unlimited mommy/Alice time was coming to an end. While I love Milo and wouldn't change a thing, it was still hard to let go of that.
Confident that we were having a baby that night, I started cleaning, packing, doing laundry, and every other stray task that hadn't been done yet. At 9 p.m., JD wisely decided to get some rest while I finished housework and watched a few shows on Hulu (there's no way I could sleep knowing it was happening soon!). While I laid down, my contractions slowed and grew weaker and I began to despair that perhaps tonight wasn't the night after all. But when I got up at 11 p.m. to fold laundry, all of a sudden they were full force and 5 minutes apart. Excited, I hurried through a shower and finished packing. They began to take my breath away at that point and my body remembered with a flash just how hard this was going to be. It's amazing how the body can suppress memories of intense pain. Probably good or we would never procreate.
Wanting JD - my coach - to get as much sleep as possible, I woke him up at midnight and announced that he would be holding his son soon. He threw on his clothes, grabbed our bag, and I stole one last look at our empty nursery knowing the next time we walked down this hallway it would be with our beautiful baby boy.
The hospital is a mere 2 minute walk from our door, so in the dead of night we set off on foot, hand in hand. I remember thinking how clear and crisp and cold the air was, the stars shining, the street lights bright, the moon almost full, the dry leaves scratching across the sidewalk. JD's hand was warm and reassuring and his smile said "we are having a baby!" We paused once on the sidewalk to breathe through a tough one and then continued on.
Once there and checked in, it felt like an eternity for the nurse to get my vitals, check me (2 cm), insert the saline lock, and monitor Milo's heartbeat. They honored my birth plan and all had copies. (Highly recommend typing out a birth plan and sharing it ahead of time with your doctor.) I did have to have an IV since I tested positive for Group B Strep a number of weeks prior, so unfortunately I had to have antibiotics during labor. I would have rather not have anything in Milo's system upon arrival, but didn't have a whole lot of choice on it. After waiting for over an hour bound to the bed, I begged to move around - my contractions had become unbearable and I needed the freedom to walk.
On a side note, we had been training for JD to be my coach - to relax me and encourage me - but when it came down to it, all I needed from him was a water boy. I needed him there, yes, but the nursing staff gave me such outstanding and thorough emotional support, that JD really didn't need to pitch in much in that area. I knew some of the staff from Alice's delivery and they were so warm and genuine that at the time it was just what I needed. From JD, I needed water. And yesterday. Poor guy. His lot was only about to get more interesting.
Finally, I was allowed to get into the tub to "relax." There is no relaxing at this point. Relaxation during labor is a myth - or perhaps only achievable by a very select few. I labored (translate: shouted/wished I could ask for painkillers - why did I think I could do this without medicine??? Too late now...) in the tub for 25 minutes. My contractions were excruciating. Pure agony. At one point I must have thought banging my head against the side of the tub would help alleviate the pain in my womb, because the next day I puzzled over a big bruise on my forehead before I remembered I was trying to distract myself from the horrendous contractions I was experiencing. Then, all of a sudden, I felt an enormous need to push. Or poop. I didn't really care at that point. JD shouted to one of the nurses of this latest development and I could hear them yelling all the way down the hallway "Get her out! Get her out!" Water births are a no-no.
Mid-contraction they were busy getting me out of the tub. I hobbled over to the bed where I learned I had gone from a 2 to an 8 in that short amount of time and based on my need to push, Milo would be making his debut shortly. The lights were blaringly bright. I didn't care. I remember from my birthing experience with Alice that my environment was the last thing on my mind. Mood lighting? Special playlist? Who the heck cares - just get this person out of me. I was in so much pain I just wanted it to end. Wet and naked (you do not care a thing about clothes or who is in the room at this point - modesty doesn't exist) I scream-moaned through contraction upon contraction and honestly wished I could just die. It sounds so dramatic and I even remember apologizing for sounding dramatic, but I really just wanted to be done. To the poor woman down the hall who just had a baby and had to listen to me screaming like a goat from hell, I'm sorry. Couldn't be helped. It was all I could do to not hyperventilate.
The doctor was still on her way so no one wanted me pushing, but my body wasn't giving me a second option. A few minutes later she rushed into the room and exclaimed JD needed to suit up still. My eyes were closed through most of this, but next thing I knew I could hear our doctor instructing JD. Now, JD wanted to help catch Milo - essentially, be the first one to hold him - but our doctor was under the impression JD wanted to deliver him. All I heard was "put your fingers here and here or she might tear here..." Uf. Da. When I asked JD about it later, he said he sort of "grayed out." I'm glad. With Alice I didn't want him any where but by my head. This was quite a different story.
Having gone without medication this time around, the pain of delivery was considerably worse. The burning and tearing, the immense pain of pushing another person out of you - worst physical pain I've ever gone through. Curse you, Eve! I remember thinking I'm never doing this again. But ten minutes later - 2:12 a.m. - my baby was out and crying and wet and so warm and silky soft. You've just never held anything so soft in your life. And it felt so much better to not have him inside anymore. A relief. Instead I could pour over him in my arms and see those features I'd been guessing at for the last 9 months. Blue eyes, ginger hair, Alice's nose. Perfection.
His body was so perfect and healthy, we saw no reason to tamper with it. I know some of our decisions are pretty counter-cultural - "weird" even by today's standards. We delayed cutting his umbilical cord. Milo stayed hooked up to the placenta until all of it's nutrients were back in his little body. We didn't bathe him til we got home. We didn't insert him with any vaccines. We didn't circumcise him. And we feel great about every single decision. We did it all for him. His health and future were the only things we thought about. I'm sure it goes without saying, but I know some may have their opinions on it, so I will say: Milo is our child. We have his best interest in mind and made every decision with great care and education. You can trust we made the right choices for our son.
After the commotion of the delivery, Milo was left to stay warm on my chest and get familiar with my scent. He figured out how to eat remarkably fast - an activity he has certainly not lost his zeal for. JD laid down on the couch and I memorized our son. A son! We have a son!! We made some texts and phone calls over the next few hours, but stayed relatively low-key. We learned the hard way that we don't like a lot of visitors, so we encouraged people to wait until we settled in at home to receive them.
When we had Alice, we were terrified of taking her home. When the nurses asked "How long will you be staying?" our reply was "How long can we stay?" There was a serious war in myself on whether or not we could beg a nurse to come home with us. Now, we know what we're doing. At least we think we do. This time, when the nurses asked us how long we'd be staying, we said "When can we leave?" "Tomorrow morning." I couldn't wait to bring him home.
Alice and Milo's first meeting is documented below. It didn't go exactly as I had planned. I wanted to bring her into the room, hand in hand with me and JD, and for Milo to be on the bed, alone, with a little wooden train as his gift to her. Our first moment as a family of four. It didn't happen that way and I still struggle to get over that. I felt like I got robbed of a very precious moment, but as much as we communicate our wishes, we don't always get what we want. *Sigh* Oh well. She loved him, and us, nonetheless.
Holding Milo, seeing JD hold his first son, and watching Alice adore him were priceless. I really did forget how tiny newborns are. Alice felt like the biggest toddler ever when I held her after holding Milo. (Even now her size surprises me.) She was very careful around him, but only as much as being a toddler allows :) She easily forgets her own strength.
On a bright, cold November morning, we brought him home - all two blocks - and haven't looked back. We certainly have a number of struggles - Alice's adjustment, how on earth do you take care of two at once?!, mastitis, nap times, baby blues (bawling out of nowhere for no reason!), a post-baby body, making time for dates, and the list goes on. But more on that another time...
Suffice it to say, we are happy and whole and very much in love with the little people we've made.