I have been meaning to write this story down for exactly two years tomorrow. It is the story of the day my beautiful daughter was born. I had an incredibly rough pregnancy and a few scares which made the day that much sweeter. Happy early birthday, sweet pea.
"What?" Mike asked. He was still in bed.
"I just felt a crampy thing. I think it was a Braxton Hicks".
"A Braxton what?"
"Do you pay attention in the class AT ALL?"
Mike chose to ignore me and asked instead, "What are you gonna do with your first day off?"
It was Monday morning, two weeks before my due date and it was the first morning since I had taken off work.
"I'm going to the gym and then I'm meeting Lauren for lunch."
I ran four miles on the tread mill that day. (Which is totally laughable considering how much time I make for the gym now.)
At lunch, I sat across from my newly divorced friend as she regaled me with various online dating stories.
"Do you feel like you are ready to have the baby?"
"No, not at all."
"Not at ALL?"
"Well, this morning I felt a weird stomach tightening but— Oh! Like right now, I feel it again!"
"ARE YOU OKAY?!"
"Yes. It's not labor. It's Braxton Hicks."
"A Braxton what?"
After lunch, I went to Trader Joe's. It was a ten block walk to the store. Once there, I started feeling the tightening again so just for fun, I took out my iPhone and loaded the iContractions app. I thought this would be a good test run for the real thing.
As I walked around the store picking up frozen raspberries and bell peppers, I recorded my "tightenings" on the phone. I left with five full bags and proceeded to lug them back to my apartment. Each time I felt something, I stopped, put the bags down, inputed the time into iContractions and waited for the feeling to pass.
When I finally got home, I looked at my phone.
Huh. Each "tightening" was exactly four minutes apart.
I called Mike.
"I think I'm in labor."
"I thought you said it was the Braxton Hicks."
"It might be the Braxton Hicks. Do they occur in regular intervals?"
We both furiously googled "Braxton Hicks".
"Are you getting them right now?"
"No. It seems to have stopped."
"Well, then it's not regular and probably a false alarm."
We got off the phone. I felt another tightening.
I called my friend Pam.
"What does labor feel like?"
"If you have to ask, you're probably in labor."
"What? Shouldn't you be saying— if you have to ask, it's NOT labor?"
"I don't know. Do you feel like you're in labor?"
"That's what I'm asking you!"
"How would I know?"
I called Mike again.
"I think I'm in labor."
"You THINK you are in labor? Or you ARE in labor?"
"I'm in labor."
"Are you sure?"
I sat around my apartment playing with iContractions. The "tightenings" seemed to get more intense but less regular. And then more regular but less intense. But they definitely weren't going away.
I called Mike again. It was about 4pm.
"You should come home now."
About two hours later, Mike walks in the door with three huge bags from Duane Reade.
"What the hell is that?"
"We needed toilet paper and paper towels."
"Your very pregnant wife tells you to COME HOME NOW and you go to the drugstore to buy paper products?"
"How are you feeling?"
"I have no idea."
Mike and I sat side by side on the couch, each with our laptops googling the difference between "real labor" and "false labor".
Mike delivered his now expert opinion.
"I think you are in false labor."
"I do too."
An hour later, I decided it was real labor again. Mike made convincing arguments as to why it was not. The contractions are totally irregular, you don't seem like you are in that much pain, it's two weeks early, the doctor told us yesterday that you're not dilated at all, etc. etc.
"I don't know, I still think its real labor."
"If you think it's real labor, then call the doctor."
"Is that some sort of CHALLENGE?"
"Well, if you—"
"Fine! I will call the doctor!"
I called the doctor. The nurse's station answered. I described what was happening. She told me that she didn't think I should come in.
"Well, you are talking to me easily and don't seem to be in that much pain."
"Is it possible I just have a really high tolerance for pain?"
We sat around and watched TV.
Mike's friend called.
I called Pam again.
Me to Pam: "I think it's the real thing."
Mike to his friend: "Ilana's having false labor pains."
Me to Pam: "Mike is telling his friend I'm in false labor as if he knows ANYTHING."
Mike to me: "My friend says you should press a tennis ball into your back."
We sat around watching more TV. I pressed a tennis ball into my back and it was perhaps the best advice anybody has ever given me.
Mike proceeded to fall asleep on the couch. (Of course he did. It's not like anything exciting was happening or anything.) I debated waking him but decided to let him sleep. After all, it would be his last chance for uninterrupted sleep EVER.
Meanwhile, the contractions continued to get more intense, longer and more regular.
This was definitely the real thing.
I called the nurse's station again.
"You still don't sound like you are in a lot of pain."
"I assure you, I am in a lot of pain."
"I would suggest waiting."
I finished packing our hospital bag. I tried everything imaginable to make myself more comfortable. Leaning over the couch. Lying on the floor. Curled in the fetal position. My tennis ball playing a critical role in each position. Finally, the pain was intolerable. Plus, the repeat episode of Law & Order was over.
I woke Mike up. It was 2am.
"It's time to go to the hospital."
Mike is THE WORST when he is awoken from a deep sleep. He looked at me like I was a bear that had snuck into his tent in the middle of the night to kill him.
"Don't you remember that the teacher said to wait as long as possible before you go to the hospital because if you are not far enough along, they will just send you home?"
"Yes, I do. Why do you think I let you sleep for the past FIVE hours? LET'S GO."
We went downstairs. It was both raining and snowing out.
Mike: "I have to get a cup of coffee."
Mike: "Yes, seriously. I'll just go to the bodega across the street. Wait here."
The night doorman looked at me with total and complete terror. I grabbed my tennis ball, bent over the lobby couch and pressed.
Mike returned about fifteen minutes later.
"Sorry I took so long, I had to wait for them to brew a fresh pot."
"ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND? YOU WAITED FOR THEM TO BREW A FRESH POT??! WHAT EXACTLY DO YOU THINK IS GOING ON HERE???"
The doorman gave me a sad smile. I think it was pity.
When we got to the hospital, the nurse told us they were filled to capacity.
"You'll have to wait in the waiting room."
I looked at the little grey room with the tiny television and the uncomfortably upright couches.
"You've got to be kidding me."
I spent the next three hours leaning against a wooden bench with my trusty tennis ball jammed in my side.
Yes, I said THREE HOURS. Before they even checked me in.
Me: "Does anyone ever give birth in the waiting room?"
Nurse: "No. It's never happened."
Me: "Never say never…"
When they finally admitted me, I was dilated to four. I think this was the first time Mike let it sink in that we were actually having a baby.
Up until that point, I had been taking the whole thing in stride— walking around, using my tennis ball, bending over the couch… but once I lied down, ALL HELL BROKE LOOSE.
I started shivering, the contractions went from 0 to 60 and I looked at Mike in total panic. I truly was not sure I could do this.
Mike squeezed my hand, told me to breathe and said it would be fine.
Shortly after that, I was given an epidural. One of the scarier experiences of my life because you're trying desperately to stay still while your body wants to convulse like crazy. But once it was administered and the drugs kicked in, all was well.
It was about 6am. For the next 12 hours, we sat in the room, watching television, entertaining guests, and relaxing. It was like a BIRTHING BIZARRO WORLD.
At 6pm, they administered pitocin to get the contractions going again.
Two minutes later I was surrounded by doctors and nurses being told to push. I must say, it felt incredibly strange to be part of the same intense scene you have seen played out in the movies and on episodes of Grey's Anatomy a billion times. Like living your very own cliche.
After the first push, the doctor said, "Great job! You will have this baby in no time!"
I pushed again.
The pushing process turned out to be way easier than I expected (I know nobody says that) and I couldn't stop laughing at myself through most of it.
"Do you want a mirror to see what's happening?" asked the nurse.
"NOOOO!!!" Mike and I both shouted in unison.
Two more pushes and she was out. It was Tuesday at 6:22pm.
"Do you want to hold her?"
I was supposed to say 'yes', right?
The nurse handed me a tiny pink baby with a full head of jet black hair. Her eyes were puffy but open. I would be lying if I said it was anything but weird to hold the being that's been growing inside your uterus for the past nine months.
I studied her. She was pretty cute as far as newborns go.
Mike kissed the baby's forehead and then mine.
"She's ours," he said.
"Yes, she is."
"Should we tell everybody her name?"
I will never forget the pride in my husband's voice as he announced his daughter to the doctors and nurses.
"SAY HELLO TO MAZZY ROSE!"
And my heart swelled for both of them.