By Elizabeth Leonard
In early July, my grandmother was having her 90th birthday. My Aunt had asked me to come with Matthew to Denver to surprise my grandmother for her birthday. Denver was hot, dry, and it was a miserable trip. Matthew, who was two years old, was difficult to travel with because he was so frightened of new things. I was feeling odd and dehydrated. When I returned home, I had started to “spot” some blood. We immediately went to see the doctor and he performed an ultrasound to see if they could tell if I had a viable pregnancy. This was about Week 5. They really couldn’t tell and I was told to return a week later. The spotting eventually diminished and at Week 6, the ultrasound showed a tiny heart beating fast. It was the most fascinating thing to see on the monitor. I was pregnant and the baby was definitely alive!! I was sent home and told to take it easy which is kind of hard to do with a two-year old around the house. We were ecstatic!
But I was very, very sick and could not hold anything done after eating any meals. The doctors kept saying that by the 14th week, the nausea would go away. That came and went and then they would tell me by the 20th week, I would feel better. Then the docs started to get concerned because I wasn’t getting any better and I wasn’t gaining any weight. I called the doctor at Week 27 because I just could not eat without throwing up. He then told me that I would probably be sick for the entire pregnancy and I was!
My labor started at the 39th week of pregnancy. I was outside on the driveway watching Matthew play while waiting for Dad to come home from work. My swollen body, including my feet, which could only fit in slip-on shoes, allowed me to move very slowly. I was about as green as I always was at that time of the day.
We had our usual dinner and bath routine and nighttime bed stories with Matthew. Nothing seemed amiss and we went about our usual evening. I woke up about 1:00 a.m. and felt some small contractions--very subtle, just a tightening of the stomach muscles. I laid in bed for a while and decided it was time to have my baby. I woke dad up and we called the hospital just to make sure that we should come in. With Matthew, it was easy to tell. My water had begun to seep. This was different. I went to the bathroom before we left, and my mucous plug came out and it was in the toilet. It was strange though because my water had not broken.
It was a long drive to the hospital and I swear Dad hit every pot hole and every bump all the way down to the hospital. I was given a private birthing room, and as I turned to get comfortable in the bed, I could feel this rush of warm water all over me. My water had broken. Soon the contractions started to get harder and harder. An epidural was administered to me when I was dilated to about four or five centimeters. I asked for less medication so I could push more effectively.
I remember both Dad and the doctor had their arms crossed, standing up against the wall talking and watching me. Then all of a sudden, the doctor told me to stop pushing. She could see your head crowning. She still had to get her gloves on and drop the bed for her to be able to get in position and put my feet in stirrups. That never happened. I held off as long as I could and then I did a few more big pushes and there you were! The doctor never had time to do an episiotomy as your head crowned and the tissues around my vagina tore open.
“It’s a girl,” she announced! It was March 7 at 11:53 a.m. You were 20 inches long and weighed 5 pounds 10 ounces. You didn’t have much hair but what you did have was red. After they cleaned you up and wrapped you up in that familiar UCSD baby blanket, they handed you to me. It was so exciting to finally hold that beautiful baby girl. It’s a feeling that I can’t express and it is something that you will have to experience it yourself. All of these intense emotions of joy, happiness, relief that you were healthy, wonder and amazement of the miracle of birth were overwhelming. You had finally arrived in our lives to make our family complete.
I felt much differently after I had you. It is true; the second birth is much easier. When Matthew came down the birth canal, he rammed my tail bone and broke my coccyx which made it difficult to sit, stand, or walk. With you, it was much easier. The morning I was to go home, I got up and actually walked to take a shower. It felt so good and I was ready to come home. Later in the morning, I could hear Matthew coming down the hall with Grandma and Grandpa. They had come to take me home along with Dad. I will never forget hearing Matthew’s voice, “Where is my new baby?” He was so cute as he hugged and kissed his little sister’s head while I held you in my lap. There was never any jealousy or ill-will towards you on his part. It was like you had always been there and he was happy to see you. I must have known I was going to have a girl because I had decided to wear a new soft pink pajama outfit to bring you home.
I would have liked a third child but decided against it after Dad went off to the Persian Gulf War. While he was gone for six months, I got a chance to see what it would be like to be a single parent to two very small people. The responsibility of raising two children by myself was put on my shoulders for a brief time. And honestly, if I had to do raise you two alone, I would have done it with joy. But at the same time, I didn’t think I could do a decent job of parenting and certainly couldn’t do it with three children. We wanted both of you to have as many advantages that we could offer you. And both financially and nurturing wise, we thought it best to keep our family small with two children. Matthew’s birthing experience was much harder than yours. My pregnancy with you was much harder than his. But neither of that determined if we would have another child. We were very blessed to have both a boy and a girl.
It was a gorgeous spring day when we brought you home, and our neighbor had placed pink balloons in front of the garage. The pink balloons were a nice welcoming gesture for our new baby girl!
Elizabeth Leonard - I am a mother of two adult children. This is a story of my daughter's birth (2nd child), who was born 29 years ago. We did not know the sex of either of our children in my pregnancies. It was a different time for having children. There weren't as many services or information available to newly pregnant women. Most of the information we received were from other mother's birth experiences or from Dr. Spock. Each pregnancy and birth is so special that it was hard to just pick one for this story. I hope all of these stories inspire other new mamas to share in their own birthing experience. They are stories you never forget!