I always wanted to have a baby, I was the kind of little girl and teenager who would play with babies for hours on end, I just loved babies. After I met my future husband, we waited until after we finished college to get married and we knew we’d have to wait to have children, because we wanted to live abroad for a while first. After we went abroad (here to the U.S., read more here) came graduate school, then, we wanted to travel to Europe, so wait we did, for seven years. One day, 3 years into graduate school (2 for me), back in early 2000 I was taking a shower when I had a great idea – “Honey”, I screamed “since we aren’t going to the West Coast with your parents this summer, how about going to Europe? And then we can have a baby next year!!” We booked our tickets that March and went late in May for a month. It was an awesome trip, and I went off birth control pills even before we left. I knew I would likely have problems to conceive because I never had regular periods and had been diagnosed with mild PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) when I was 15 (I had yearly ultrasounds from then on, which I hated because of the full bladder requirement). Because of the aforementioned irregular periods/ cycles, I did many home pregnancy tests, but none were ever positive. In April 2001 I went for my yearly gynecological exam and mentioned my PCOS to the doctor who was very nice and gave me a referral me to the OB-GYN even though technically it hadn’t been a full year since we had started trying. I saw the other doctor in July (by then it had been1 year) who was ready to prescribe Clomid, I would just have to wait for my period to come. In August we traveled to Brazil for my brother’s wedding, and I even bought Clomid at our friend’s pharmacy. We didn’t come back to the U.S. until the first week in September and it was then that I decided to pee on a stick again (I hadn’t done so in Brazil because I was always with my parents or in-laws, and if I went into a pharmacy to get one, because they’d see it). So on Sept. 7, 2001, a Friday night, I did so, and there was a really, really bright second pink line. I first panicked then was overwhelmed with joy.
Getting seen by a doctor was another story. I had no idea of how far along I was, and that made me frantic – the first time around is usually fraught with questions and worries, and it was no different for me. First I had do an “official” urine pregnancy test at the university clinic, but I needed to schedule a doctor’s visit for that, since I needed to see a doctor for 2 minutes to be given a piece of paper with “positive” written on it, and for a referral to the OB-GYN. The appointment was for a week later, and the OB’s? Four weeks later. I was incensed! I told the OB’s secretary that I had been seen the year before for infertility – why would I need a referral? She responded that it was a different diagnosis. As if infertility and pregnancy had nothing to do with each other… On October 4 I was finally seen by a midwife (I was puzzled by that, I wanted a “doctor,” it would be years before I realized that if I had known better, and given the choice I would rather have chosen the care of a midwife throughout my pregnancies and birth – that was not to be the case because in my 3rd visit with her I was informed that the university clinic would no longer have midwives). She listened to my worries about not being able to date the pregnancy and was able to get me to do an ultrasound that very same day! I cried when we listened to the heartbeat in the Doppler and was fascinated by the ultrasound, which showed that I was already 15 weeks along! I had been pregnant for over two months and been blissfully unaware, since I didn’t have any symptoms. We ended up having 4 ultrasounds, because my son (we found out it was a boy in the second sonogram) had enlarged kidneys – but this turned out not to be a problem.
The pregnancy was great and in the seventh month we even went to London for a week, because I had a conference to attend in Belgium, that way we got to know most of Europe before we had a baby, which was one of our goals! We took the childbirth classes that the hospital offered, I took the breastfeeding class, and even though I don’t like hospitals too much we were lucky because our small hospital (in “NoHo”, MA) had a great birthing center, and the childbirth educator was a lovely woman, who said that the hospital, unlike other hospitals supported her philosophies (for more natural births). I wanted to go completely natural, but I never did a formal birth plan, mainly because I didn’t want to be frustrated if it went wrong we just scribbled some notes on the back of an envelope on our way to the hospital.
On the night of March 8 when I was 37 weeks pregnant (my due date was March 27) I wrote in my diary at 1 a.m.:
I’d like to say that I’m fully prepared, but there’s no way to be prepared for this – birth, motherhood – responsibility for a son. . . . I need to be calm and above all to have physical and psychological strength for this birth to go well (in what little depends on me – since there are so many things that are beyond my control!). That’s why I’m not even thinking of my “birthing plan,” or “wish list” regarding what I would like to happen. I don’t want to stubbornly insist in something that may not be realized in practice (like not having an epidural [or cesarean]).
Only four hours later, at 5 a.m. I woke up to go to the bathroom and when I came back to bed my water broke! I had no bag packed to go to the hospital, we had no crib or nursery set up,and my mom had just arrived three days earlier from Brazil with the baby’s whole layette in one of her bags, but I managed to still have a whole session of photos before getting ready to go to the hospital :) (we took bi-weekly pictures of my belly since we found out about the pregnancy). The doctor even called to know whether we were on our way to the hospital or what! We got there around 9 a.m.
In spite of all my worries, I was lucky, very lucky… After I was monitored for the requisite 20-30 minutes (I was 2-3 cm dilated) I was able to go into the bathtub, where I labored in the water for several hours, with the jets on and all. Around noon I had to get out for the doctor to check me – and I did not want to get out of the water at all! I was 5 cm and I went back to the tub, where I remained until 3 p.m. with stronger and stronger contractions. It was painful to get out of there again, but when I got on the bed, I was fully dilated, yay! I pushed for 1h15, watching everything through a mirror. The funny thing was that onceI started pushing, I felt the pain practically stopped, because now it was being “useful” and I said, “Oh, this is easier than I thought it would be, it doesn’t really hurt!” Of course after a while I started getting tired of pushing, and didn’t think it was easy anymore, but the doctor joked that I shouldn’t say this to other women, they might “kill” me for thinking it is/was easy :) I was getting tired and hot, so my husband put a washcloth dipped in ice-water on my forehead (you can see it in the photo above), but eventually the baby descended and crowned, and the doctor asked me to touch his head, which felt a bit strange! As I was pushing him out, the doctor asked me to pull him up to me, and I thought that was great! My mom took pictures of everything (we were not allowed to film it), even though it’s not very “pretty.” I tore a bit, but not too much, but I didn’t feel the stitching, I was busy looking at my baby, holding him after they wrapped him. He was tiny, he weighed 5lb 13oz. (2.236 kg), but he was fine, and technically full term (after 37 weeks).
It was wonderful to give birth. Ater it was done, I felt physically very weak, but I was empowered by the fact that I did it without drugs, that I let my body do what it needed to do (with help from the hot water – I can’t say enough good things about laboring in a hot tub – I only regret not having been able to give birth in the water… among other things, but that’s another story). I think the pain made me more alert, more ready to take in that wonderful moment when I finally met him, the son I had been carrying inside me for almost 9 months, and I welcomed him with open arms, close into my heart.