I was aware of you almost immediately. A week after you were conceived, I felt the telltale ache in my breasts when I hugged your daddy or picked up your brother. I knew I was pregnant, but Daddy was skeptical. We worked very hard for a long time to get pregnant with your brother and this was our first try at a second baby. Daddy thought it couldn’t be so easy.
I just smiled as said, “We’ll see.” I tried taking an early pregnancy test on Thanksgiving morning to surprise Daddy, but it was negative. I waited until Monday and tried again. I awoke before dawn and slipped into the bathroom for a test. It was positive before I even set it down. You were real. I snuck back into bed to tell Daddy. It was still dark and he was shocked when I woke him to tell him we would be having another baby. I lay in bed trying to go back to sleep. Daddy had no problems with that. So many possibilities began stretching out in front of me instantly and my body seemed to buzz with excitement and life. It was one of the greatest and sweetest moments of my life and you were still months away from my arms.
My early pregnancy was filled with joy and sickness. I was so glad to hold you inside of myself, but you were a little hard on me. I had many food aversions and nausea and vomiting starting at 6 weeks. Christmas was spent trying to find the few things I could eat and keep down. I ate mostly bread, pasta, and fruit. I threw up everywhere you can think of: shower, sidewalk, flowerbed, parking lot, sink, trashcan, even the bushes in front of a Mexican restaurant. I was worried people would think I had had one too many Margaritas so I just yelled, “Don’t worry, I’m just pregnant.” My winter was long and tiring, but as the hyacinths along our front walk poked their heads out of the ground to greet spring, I began feeling stronger. In March, we found out that you were a little girl and we were elated. Your brother was firm in his desire for a sister and was with us in the ultrasound room when we saw your face for the first time. He loved you so much and his excitement was a delight to us. My suspicions were confirmed and I finally indulged in buying a few of the girly things I had been eying. I felt wonderful and my pregnancy was smooth sailing. Your name was decided and announced on Mother’s Day: Katalina for your grandmothers Kathy and Alina.
The summer you were due was a hot one. Your brother loves being outside so I tried to strategically avoid the heat. I hunted shade like an animal on the savannah. I began having contractions weeks ahead of schedule. We took walks almost every evening after Daddy got home, but I often had to stop because of the increasing tightening in my belly. I became worried that you would come early like your brother and feared being separated from you. I wanted you at home with your family not stuck in the NICU for your first days. I tried to take is as easy as possible while chasing a very busy 2 and a half year old. I got used to the presence of the contractions and learned how to make them go away. Usually a cool spot and a tall glass of water did the trick. The pool was a revelation. I didn’t make the trek to the pool at the top of the street until late June, but it was amazing to feel so weightless and cool. Your Aunt Sassy came to visit in early July to give me a hand. You were not due until early August. On Friday July 9 I went in to the office where I work 2 days a week and Sassy decided to take Eamon to the zoo. As I sat at my desk at work, I felt some cramping begin, but didn’t think much of it. I had some water and lunch and thought it was odd that they didn’t stop.
After an hour or so, the contractions were coming every 10 minutes. I called Daddy to tell him I thought I might be in labor early again. I was excited, but a little apprehensive. I had hoped to give you more time to grow. I wanted you to be ready. We decided that Daddy should keep working to try to wrap things up at work in case you decided to come. I called Sassy and told them it was time to come home from the zoo. They had barely seen anything so I told them to check out the pandas and meet me after a little while. I called my midwife and she asked that I rest to see if I could get the contractions to stop. I lay on the couch and drank cold water while I watched a movie. When Daddy got home the contractions were still coming. My labor had been chugging along for about 9 hours and seemed to be picking up in intensity. I decided to go in to the hospital so my midwife could check me. I called my best friend, Sarah, who was 7 months pregnant and told her I was in labor. She was planning to attend the birth so she headed over. My first labor was 24 hours long so I figured I must be pretty far along. Everyone says second babies come faster so we packed everyone up and headed to the hospital. Once I got to triage, my contractions seemed to calm down a bit, but were clear on the monitor. My midwife did an exam and I was only 1 centimeter dilated! I did exactly what I tell my childbirth class students not to do! I paid attention too soon and came to the hospital too early. You were doing very well, but in the posterior position (you were facing my front instead of the more optimal anterior position where you would be facing back). I knew that posterior babies usually meant long labors with more back pain. My midwife teased me for bringing my whole entourage in just to go back home. She wanted to give you all the time you could get and I wanted the same thing. Off we went back home. I called my mom in Texas and told her not to rush. I didn’t think we would see you that night. She decided to come in on Saturday evening hoping she would not miss your birth. After a long and eventful day, I went to bed and I slept.
I awoke to a very rainy Saturday. I felt the contractions as soon as I opened my eyes, but they were only uncomfortable. My maternity photos were scheduled for that day so I called the photographer to see what we could do. The pictures were supposed to be outside and I was in labor. She decided to come over to see if she could get some pictures anyway. I had a hair appointment scheduled and kept it. Contractions came like clockwork while my hair was washed and styled. I was so glad that I didn’t have to do it myself. As we took the pictures the photographer would periodically ask if I was having contractions because she could see my belly getting hard. The pictures were a great distraction and kept me very active. After the photographer left, I was feeling really tired and my contractions were getting tougher. I spent a couple of hours laboring in bed with Daddy and Sassy helping and Eamon periodically coming to cheer me up. He would sneak in and with a big grin say, “Ho, Ho, Ho, Merry Christmas.” That definitely put a smile on my face. I was now feeling contractions in my back and some of them were really painful, but I managed them. When I called my midwife she said I had been dehydrated the night before and to keep resting and drinking water. My labor calmed down again in the evening and Daddy went to pick up Ma at the airport. I was glad that she would see you being born. After another long and eventful day, I went to bed and I slept.
I felt the contractions before I even opened my eyes. It was morning again and I was still in labor. I began to get frustrated. Was I really in labor or not? What was going on in there? I was excited to see you, but knew you needed every minute in my belly. I was 36 weeks today. I decided to just go about my day like it was any other. We ran errands and picked up a few last minute things like diapers. Ma wanted me to rest, but I decided that after 2 full days some walking wouldn’t hurt. Sassy and I snuck out to take secret walks around the block to start shaking you loose. I knew my labor wasn’t going to suddenly stop after all this time so we walked as I gulped water from a huge pink water bottle. I contracted the whole day. It would pick up when I walked and slow back down when I rested, but it never stopped. I never even bothered to check in with the midwife because the contractions were so easy. I wasn’t having back labor anymore so I was confident that you had turned. After yet another long and eventful day, I went to bed and I slept.
I woke up Monday morning to more contractions. I decided to keep ignoring them so Daddy went back to work and I went to my 36 week check-up with Ma, Sassy, and Eamon. Everything looked great and the midwife saw that I was still contracting. She asked if I wanted a vaginal exam and I decided that I wanted to know. I was now a 4. Because I went into labor before my Strep B test, my status was unknown. I opted for the IV antibiotics just in case. We decided that I should head over to the hospital to get my first dose. We decided to take a detour to Panera to have a leisurely last lunch. I called Daddy and he said he would meet us as soon as he wrapped up at work. I ate my entire soup and sandwich and finished off Eamon’s mac and cheese. I knew this was my last chance to eat anything substantial so I wanted to take full advantage of it. Daddy met us at the hospital and we went through triage again. I was feeling fine when I got hooked up to the IV antibiotics. I have a problem with needles so getting the hep lock was one of the most stressful parts of my labor. The anxiety rose as it was placed and it continued to bother me throughout my stay in Labor & Delivery. I decided to start walking as soon as the first dose was done. Daddy and I paced the hall for hours. We could only go up and down 2 hallways and passed the nurses’ station every time. I would wave and chat and they and they would give me updates on my contractions as I passed. The contractions got more intense so I would pause between them and rest up against Daddy or the wall. I got so bored of walking, but it definitely made the contractions more regular and stronger. I took periodic rests in the room and Ma & Sassy eventually snuck me some vegetable soup and a bagel w/ cream cheese. I refused to labor without food like I had with your brother. I knew it would give me the strength I needed.
I spent a lot of time sitting on the birthing ball listening to music. Sassy was our personal DJ and Sarah kept us company. I swayed back and forth and bounced, finding my rhythm. My other best friend, Deanna, came by to visit too. Our nurse was a ray of sunshine and commented about our party atmosphere. She said she hadn’t been to many natural births and didn’t think it would be so fun. Obviously, it was still early! Mimi (my mother-in-law) watched Eamon during my labor. When it started getting later, she took him over to her house for the night. My midwife was still confident I would have the baby by midnight and mentioned that my labor might pick up after he left since I could focus completely on my labor. I had been in the hospital for since mid-afternoon and had made slow progress. As evening dragged into night I began to get tired. I was between 6-7 centimeters when I agreed to the midwife breaking my bag of waters. I didn’t love the idea, but I could tell that my energy was waning and that I needed for things to get more intense. I got my wish. Working through my contractions required most of my focus & energy. I tried to keep walking as much as possible. The pain was tough, but not overwhelming. Sarah made a late night donut run so the birth team could get a boost from a little sugar and coffee. I really wanted to have you before midnight so that your birthday would be July 12th (I am weird and like even numbers), but the time came and went. I was so tired and so was everybody else. The last few hours of labor were very intense and I became a little delirious. Someone was flipping channels and I got very excited that Sherlock Holmes was on PBS. I shocked everyone in the room with a moment of lucidity when I recognized a very young Jude Law in the episode. Even Sherlock could not help me relax. We tried moving the bed into “the throne” position so I was sitting upright. It felt great to me, but my midwife said it was slowing my contractions down again. She recommended trying some contractions on the toilet so Daddy helped me move to the bathroom since I needed to empty my bladder anyway. I was having the hot and cold flashes of transition. I went through one very rough contraction there and said “no, no, no, back to the bed.” On the way back to the bed I remember saying “I don’t know how much more I can take.” At this point the midwife said she knew I didn’t want Pitocin, but she thought it could speed up this last little bit of labor and get me to the pushing stage. She was sure I would push you out very quickly. Your brother had come out like a rocket. I was scared because I remembered how intense my contractions became on Pitocin during Eamon’s birth. I told her I didn’t think I could deal if my contractions got more painful and she said she didn’t think they would get worse, just closer together. I went through one more contraction with Daddy holding my hand and Sassy & Ma close by and said, “ok give me the Pit.”
They hung the bag and hooked it up and I had a couple monster contractions. My sister said I looked like a deer in the headlights. I felt a very strong urge to push and announced it loudly to the room while bearing down and starting to push. There was no stopping or waiting. The nurse came in the room with my next dose of antibiotics and my midwife said if I didn’t want another dose (I’d already had like 5) I needed to get you born. Everyone started to scramble around because you were all the sudden coming fast. After such a long labor no one seemed quite prepared. I think we were all at least half asleep. I gave a couple strong pushes (and screeches) and I felt the burn of your head coming out of my body. I gave another push for your shoulders and you were out.
My midwife placed you on my tummy and I finally got to see your pretty little face. You opened your mouth to cry and I noticed a little bubble on your bottom gums. I asked about it and they said it could be a tooth! You were amazing. Long and skinny and wrinkly, but perfect. Ma and Sassy and Sarah cried. Daddy and I beamed! I held you and let you nuzzle around as I was stitched up. You came out so quickly that your face was bruised up and I tore a little. My placenta came within a few minutes and it amazed me all over again. I loved seeing the miracle of the organ that sustained you. Your little face, hands and feet were a great distraction, but I felt the stitches as my repair began and asked why. The midwife said the local lidocaine wasn’t always very effective so she did it as quickly as possible. You stayed with me and everyone ohhhed and ahhhed as you passed your first few moments with your family. After such a long labor, those moments were bliss. I loved seeing you being held by your sweet daddy and the most important women in my life. I wished my other sister had been there too, but she couldn’t make it from Texas. There was so much love in that room that it almost overwhelmed me.
You were measured and weighed and checked and Daddy followed you down to the nursery for your 1st bath. Everyone went to call people with the news and Sarah headed home (she was very pregnant with my godson at the time and had been up all night!). I was alone in the room and scarfed down 2 donuts that everyone had saved for me. It made me a little nauseous, but I was starving! The nurse came in to ask if I was ready to get up and moving and I asked for a few minutes to rest. She said no! I had to try to use the bathroom so I could head to postpartum. I guess they really needed the room!!! I reluctantly left the bed, did my business, and was wheeled to my postpartum room. After a few minutes alone, Daddy and the nurse brought you back to me. I tried to nurse you, but you were very sleepy. We decided to try to sleep until the morning visiting hours (only a couple hours away) when you would meet your brother and Mimi and PopPop. I think I dozed a bit, but I was still high on adrenaline and really just wanted to hold you and look at you. We were exhausted, but so happy. You were such a precious little peanut and very healthy. No problems breathing like your brother and a good little nurser once you woke up long enough to try. You were super sleepy and didn’t mind being passed around when everyone came to visit. The time in the hospital flew by and Eamon loved you immediately. As he held you, I could tell he was in love. We all felt exactly the same way. Your official arrival time was 4:21 am on July 13th. Our birthdays are only one day apart. From the first contraction, your labor lasted 88 hours. A nice round, even number.