I suppose I’ll start at the beginning, before there was a Miss P to have adventures with. It’s difficult, now, to imagine that a time like that ever existed.
Tim and I got married on December 12th, 2012, on a beautiful beach in St. Thomas, USVI. It was a fairy tale wedding. Shimmering turquoise water lapped at the sand around us as the photographer snapped countless pictures. “A Dream is A Wish Your Heart Makes” played softly in the background. There were hugs and kisses and bubbles, lots of bubbles, blown through heart-shaped wands. The bubbles drifted away in the salty breeze and I felt so light, like I could float away in one of them.
Since our wedding took place so close to Christmas, we decided to celebrate the holiday without gifts. There was, however, one thing I’d wanted for quite some time.
“All I want for Christmas is a baby,” I told Tim when we’d returned from our trip.
Well, I got my wish.
My pregnancy started like this:
and ended like this:
Here’s a look back at some of the highlights in between:
As soon as I found out we were expecting a new addition, I began researching all things pregnancy, birth and baby related. I’d always felt equal parts of fear and distrust toward the mainstream medical industry, so I knew, from the beginning, that we were going to do things a bit differently.
At 20 weeks, we officially announced Miss P was on her way!
The 20-week mark was very special for us. It came right after our anatomical scan, where we learned that our little babe was healthy and developing normally. Of course, as a bonus, we also learned that babe was a SHE! Tim and I had a feeling she was a girl from the very beginning.
20 weeks is also when I switched from a traditional OBGYN practice to Midwifery Care at a local free-standing birth center. (A choice that I would make a million times over again.) I wasn’t completely unhappy with the OBGYN. She was nice and all, but I wanted something much more personal. Plus, most of my appointments consisted of hours of waiting- the prize at the end being a whopping five minutes with the doctor. She always asked if I had any questions, but it seemed more out of protocol than genuine concern. And since this was my first baby, I always had lots of questions.
I’d also watched documentaries (I’m a documentary junkie) like The Business of Being Born, Pregnant in America and What Babies Want, which made me realize I had choices. I’d never realized there were different types of prenatal care. I also didn’t know that OBGYNs are surgeons above all – and I mean no disrespect to OBGYNs. We’re very lucky to have them in case of a medical emergency, but I really didn’t feel comfortable with this new information given that I wanted my birth to be as natural as my body would allow it to be.
It was through this same research that I learned about midwives, doulas and many other birth options such as declining unnecessary medical interventions, laboring and/or birthing in a tub, delayed cord-clamping, requesting immediate skin-to-skin contact with the baby and so on. I also learned about the extraordinary benefits of breastfeeding.
Armed with this new information, I started seeing a midwife and continued to research options that would help me plan a gentle and memorable birth ensuring a smooth transition from womb to world for my little one.
Insert trite Subway joke [HERE].
Third Trimester! Woohoo!
Note: I cannot say enough wonderful things about HypnoBirthing! It was a no-brainer that I would have an unmedicated birth. I’m the girl who won’t even take Tylenol for a headache, so yeah, drugs were definitely out. A lot of people told me I was crazy and that I’d never be able to do it. (Spoiler Alert: I DID! And HypnoBirthing played a major role in this.) Tim and I took a 5-week course at a place called Amazing Births and Beyond, and it was such an empowering experience. In fact, if we’re ever expecting another baby, I will definitely take this class again!
It was also through Amazing Births and Beyond that we crossed paths with our magnificent doula. (Much more about that in my birth story.)
I was very reluctant to work on Poet’s nursery throughout my pregnancy, but for practical reasons, we wanted the room completed before her arrival. Even though we knew she wouldn’t be using it right away, it didn’t make sense to be running around trying to furnish and decorate a room while caring for a newborn baby, so I had to give the over-active superstitious side of me a nudge and get down to business.
I couldn’t have been happier with the results!
This was another very special week because my sister and brother-in-law came to visit. The last time we were all together was eight months earlier, for my wedding, so it was really nice to see them.
We also got a sneak-peek at our little woman in 3D/4D, which isn’t something I would’ve ordinarily done, (it’s actually something I was opposed to) but it ended up being a great experience to share with the family. (Me, Tim, my sister, brother-in-law, mom and dad all squeezed into the room.)
It was at this week’s end that we had our baby shower and officially announced Miss P’s name: Poet Victoria.
This was our Baby Shower Board:
It was also around this time that I began to constantly worry that she was going to make her appearance too early. (What can I say? I’m a worrier!)
We made it to FULL TERM! (Sigh of relief!) Also, at 37 weeks, we were in our window to deliver at the birth center.
This week I packed, unpacked and repacked my bag about ten times. How are you supposed to know what to put in there? I sure didn’t.
(In retrospect, the three most important things in my bag turned out to be yoga pants, Sleepy Time Lip Balm (the greatest stuff on Earth!) and my favorite two-bite brownies.)
We finally chose a pediatrician this week. (A task I put off for months because it just seemed so overwhelming.)
Growing up in the Northeast, Fall had always been my favorite season. Even though the South Florida air hadn’t even begun to cool off yet, I was still one happy Mama that Miss P was going to be a Fall baby. It brought back glorious memories of leaves blazing with color, fresh pressed apple cider and pumpkin picking.
Beyond the excitement, this week was also the start of much unwelcome (and, in my opinion, unnecessary) stress. By the time I had reached the middle of my 40th week, I was sent for a bio-physical profile and non-stress test to monitor Miss P and make sure she was still doing well. Since the placenta can begin the deteriorate after 40 weeks, these tests would be repeated every two days until her arrival.
My midwife was able to conduct one round of tests at the birth center, but I still ended up having them repeated at a near-by hospital on three separate occasions. Each time I arrived, the nurses drilled me about why my doctor had not yet scheduled an induction, (a word that brought forth in me all-encompassing fear) then they completed the tests in silence. When they finished, they left me in the triage room while they phoned my midwife’s office with the results.
“Do you want us to keep her?” The nurse always asked. “Do you at least want us to check her?”
I smoldered on the exam-table as I listened, through the curtain, to these phone calls. I was always afraid the nurse was going to try to admit me, and I ran these scenarios through my head as I waited.
At one of the visits, the nurse outfitted me with two hospital bracelets. One contained my name and other identifying information, the second was neon orange with the word “ALLERGY” marching across it in bold black letters.
“What are these for?” I asked.
“Just in case.”
She walked away leaving me in a panic. Why did she put these bracelets on me? Was something wrong this time? Was Miss P okay? Were they going to keep me?
After a few minutes, the nurse came back to inform me I could leave. I jumped off the table and exhaled a sigh of relief that all was well. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.
It was at this point that I began to worry Poet wasn’t going to make an appearance at all. Silly, I know, because obviously she had to come out eventually, but seriously. It wasn’t that I minded being pregnant. Actually, I really enjoyed being pregnant. It was just the constant clatter around me: “Have you had that baby yet?” “Is the baby here yet?” “How about now?” “Now?” “What about now?” “Is that baby ever coming?”
(People, listen up: Don’t do this! It’s annoying, and it creates unnecessary stress.
But, you say, it’s exciting!
Yes, yes, it is, and, trust me, no one is more excited than the Mom-and-Dad-To-Be. And trust me, again, they aren’t going to forget to tell you when the baby arrives.)
I was also starting to get worried because if she didn’t come on her own before 42 weeks, I would no longer be allowed to deliver at the birth center. Instead, the natural birth I had planned would turn into a medical induction. The thought of that was terrifying, especially since my extensive research had opened my eyes to the potential dangers of Pitocin, the synthetic hormone commonly
used abused to jump-start or speed along labor.
Sure I’d found things to worry about throughout my pregnancy, but this was the first time I realized just how little control I actually had.
I walked around the block 4589728 times a day in the Florida heat and poured cayenne pepper over everything I ate, and still no baby. I was angry. I felt like my body was failing me. I stopped taking phone calls, and refused to make a Week 41 chalkboard. There wasn’t even supposed to be a Week 41.
When I’d reached 41 weeks and 2 days, my midwife suggested I go for an induction acupuncture session with another midwife, to which I agreed. I’d always had an interest in acupuncture, but I’d never tried it before. I scheduled a session for the next day.
I had my doubts that acupuncture would work, but this new plan gave me enough hope to finally break out the chalk and get started on my Week 41 board. When I finished, I plunked onto my yoga ball and tried to clear my mind of negativity. My back hurt and I was exhausted. I decided for the rest of the day I’d try the only thing it seemed I hadn’t tried yet: relaxing.
I couldn’t sleep that night. My back was still bothering me, and I was restless. Around 1 AM, I began having contractions. They were completely different from the Braxton Hicks contractions I’d been feeling for months now. This time, they started in my lower back and pulled around to the front, like elastic being stretched beyond its capacity. I was getting scared and excited, but I still wasn’t sure if what I was feeling was real.
I woke Tim up.
He gathered pillows and blankets, and we camped out on the couch like kids at a slumber party.
The contractions were coming every 15 minutes or so and felt nothing like I’d expected. They were painful, sure, but not unbearable. Still, I couldn’t relax enough to sleep, so I watched Tim sleep, from my end of the couch, while I impatiently waited for the sun to rise. I wondered if tomorrow would be the day we finally got to meet our little girl.
When 8 AM arrived, I called my midwife and told her I’d been having contractions since 1 AM. I was hoping this would excuse me from the next round of tests I was scheduled for that afternoon. No such luck.
By the time Tim and I arrived at the hospital, my contractions had almost completely stopped. Between waiting to be seen and both tests, we were there for just over three hours.
As the nurse strapped elastic bands around my belly for my non-stress test, I told her I’d been having contractions the previous night and throughout the morning. She asked me if I was able to talk through them. When I told her yes, she laughed and assured me that what I was feeling were certainly not “real” contractions.
I left the hospital, once again, with reassurance that Miss P was doing fine, but as we headed to my acupuncture appointment I couldn’t help feeling a bit defeated. I was so excited I’d finally started having contractions just to be told they weren’t even real. Why wasn’t my body doing what it was supposed to do?
Since we’d been at the hospital for so long, Tim offered to stop for a bite to eat on our way to the acupuncturist’s house. We made small talk as we ate our sandwiches, having no idea it would be the last meal we’d eat as a family of two.
YOUR DESTINATION IS ON THE LEFT blared the GPS as Tim approached the driveway.
“Are you sure this is the right place?” I asked, feeling a little unsure.
He nodded, and we got out of the truck.
A cat rubbed its back against the tire as Tim shut the driver’s-side door, then it trotted along behind us. There were sprawling plants every which way leading up the front walk, and I felt, for a moment, like Mary from “A Secret Garden.”
The front door swung open, and we were greeted by the acupuncturist herself. After a quick exchange of hellos, she ushered us down a hallway and through a couple of rooms until we reached her workspace.
I sat next to Tim on the couch as I glanced around. The space hosted numerous books, pillows and tchotchkes, all tidily arranged on the walls, shelves and floor. The room was dimly lit, and it seemed to buzz with positive energy. I was beginning to think this acupuncture business just might work.
The acupuncturist spent a few minutes talking with us, then she asked me to take my shoes off and climb onto her table. I was dizzy with a mixture of uncertainty and anticipation as I sunk into a pillow that rested near the top of the table, and I rattled off something unintelligible because that’s what I do when I’m full of nervous excitement.
She explained what she was doing as she pushed the needles into my skin in swift motions, concentrating on my lower legs, feet and hands. I didn’t feel most of the needles going in at all, but there was one that gave me a jolt like I’d just stuck my foot into a light socket.
“Think of it as a disconnect that’s been reconnected,” she said, and I pictured energy, which, in my imagination, looked a lot like rainbow glitter, swirling through my body. I felt exhilarated.
Next, she mixed a homeopathic remedy, of sorts, for me. She took turns pouring drops from several tiny vials into a large plastic bottle full of water. After each new addition, she shook the concoction vigorously. While she worked, she explained the basic concept of homeopathy: Something about throwing a stone into water and ripples traveling away. The way I understood it was that homeopathy is basically a thing that’s diluted so many times that it becomes nothing, but still something. Confusing, yet intriguing. I had a burning desire to learn more.
She held the bottle out toward me, and my head whirred as I accepted it.
“Take a sip every 30 minutes or so,” she said. “Swish it around in your mouth, and hold it under your tongue for a little bit before you swallow.”
Like wine, I thought, trying to distract myself from the fact that I was about to ingest some unknown substance. I won’t lie. I was scared to drink the whatever-it-was, (I’m funny about stuff like that) but I did it anyway. Sure, I’d just met this woman, but I found her fascinating. She seemed to know exactly what she was doing, and I trusted that she wouldn’t give me anything that would harm me or my baby.
“It tastes kind of like printer ink, but mostly like water,” I told Tim as we drove home. Don’t ask me where I came up with this considering I’d certainly never tasted printer ink before. I took another swig and swished it around just as I’d been instructed.
“Yep,” I said. “Printer ink.”
“Oh yeah?” He kept his eyes on the road. He was used to my offhanded comments by now.
Then, somewhere along the 30-minute trek home, I began having contractions again, and, this time, they didn’t go away until my daughter was in my arms.
COMING SOON: Miss P’s Birth Day