I was in bed and it was nearing midnight. Your daddy was fast asleep next to me. I’d been having contractions on and off for almost two weeks, but tonight I knew these were different. The first one literally took my breath away. At first I thought you were just giving me a relentless kick to the groin, but it lasted much longer than your normal kicks. I didn’t want to get excited yet because there were so many false alarms leading up to this night. But then the contractions started getting stronger and I knew this was the real deal. After about twenty minutes of intense, minute long contractions, I woke up Wesley and told him it was time, just like you see in the movies. I’m not too sure the progression of events after that, but in the next hour we called the midwife, told Papa and Nana (who had literally just taken her sleeping pills), and Nana started screaming when I told her it was time! The midwife said to give it a few hours, but if I wanted to come in and get checked I could. The contractions started coming one after another and Nana thought we should go on to the birthing center. The ride was surprisingly scary because in the car my contractions stopped! What if this is in my head? What if this is another false alarm? It’s after midnight, it’s cold, I’m keeping my family AND a midwife awake. Little did I know in just a few hours I’d be holding you in my arms.
We arrived at Baby + Company and I was quickly checked by a sleepy midwife who told me I was dilated to three centimeters. What a relief! These contractions were doing something! She watched me have a few contractions and I had the feeling she didn’t think I was in active labor. She said we could go home, or we could stay for two hours, and if there was no more progress she’d send us home. Your dad and I were taken to a beautiful room where we settled in for the next couple hours. Nana and Papa sat in the waiting room. The contractions were manageable; daddy and I were talking and joking; I watched an episode of Gossip Girl while bouncing on a blue birthing ball. Soon, I was unable to stand the sophomoric banter of the upper east side’s elite and I really had to focus on my breathing. These kind of contractions were a different breed of pain. I could not lay down during these contractions and I felt the most relief when standing with my arms around your dad’s neck.
Soon the midwife came back to check me and I had dilated two more centimeters and I was fully effaced! She was shocked, commented on how stoic I was, and officially checked us into the birthing center. This was happening. This was the real thing. We weren’t leaving there without you! Wesley updated Nana and Papa, who were extremely excited, and extremely tired. They eventually fell asleep in the waiting room until minutes before you were born. For the next three hours I labored hard. I made your dad count during each contraction, but he had to count at the exact right pace: not too slow and not too fast. I was always relieved by how fast a minute would go by. The pain was almost unbearable, but somehow I could stand it for one minute. I would squeeze your dad’s shoulders during each contraction, breath heavily and sway back and forth. A few more midwives arrived on the scene. I was too focused on my breathing to talk to anyone. I only wanted your dad in there to help me, but little did I know that I was hurting him during each contraction! He was tough as ever and never let on, but the midwives eventually moved me to a ladder I could hold onto during each contraction instead of daddy’s shoulders. Then my water broke, we thought, and I was told that the contractions would amp up now and come more often. I got into a warm bath, and in about twenty minutes I started feeling a slight urge to push! I got out of the tub and moved to the bed.
They got me all set up to start pushing. I first started on my hands and knees, but after a few pushes I knew that position was entirely wrong. They helped me roll over onto my side, and that’s when I knew you were close. I felt an unearthly pressure inside me, and the pain of it took over my brain. I was no longer in control of myself and I started crying. It hurt too bad to push, but it hurt so bad to have you sitting in the birth canal like that. During every push your dad and a handful of midwives would cheer me on, but I would lose my strength during the push and your head would slip back up into my body. I started panicking and saying I couldn’t do it anymore. I was crying like one of the women in the movies and I was completely terrified. Little did I know that I had torn internally, which was greatly intensifying the pain. During another push, my water broke, and we realized it had only partially broken earlier. A rush of water poured out and in the water was meconium, also known as your first poop. A baby is not supposed to poop inside its mother’s womb because the baby can easily inhale the feces, which is extremely dangerous. It can also cause an infection in the mother. So, I knew we had limited time and if I didn’t get you out soon we would be transferred to the hospital. As scary as it was, I think the Lord knew I needed the extra push, no pun intended, to be able to push you out of me. I pushed and screamed and pushed and screamed. You made your way down, and when your head was out the midwife stopped me because the umbilical cord was around your neck. The pain was unbearable, but once she told me to push again I did one last time and she helped pull you out of me. The relief overtook me and I started to cry again. You were born at 5:45am.
They put you on my chest and I immediately knew something was wrong. You hadn’t let out a cry yet and your body was purple. You weren’t breathing. By this time a very experienced midwife named Jasmine had been called in to help, and she was the one who talked me through each contraction. She very calmly asked for an ambu-bag and started pumping air into your lungs. I was on the verge of hysterics and I kept asking over and over if you were okay, but no one would answer me. Nicholai, that was probably the scariest moment of my life. I thought you were gone before we even had a chance to meet you. But after a minute or two you finally let out a loud cry and everyone breathed a sigh of relief. You were fine!! You just need a little jump-start into the world. You laid on my chest and cried and the color quickly came back into your body. Everything was worth it. All the pain and injury was worth it. I would have done it again in a heartbeat.
After you were born I held you while I delivered the placenta (which was a piece of cake) and they stitched me up (that hurt like hell). Eventually they wrapped you up and put you in your daddy’s arms. I wish I could remember more about that, but during that time I began bleeding very heavily. Later we would find out it was a near hemorrhage and I was almost transferred to the hospital. They tried a suppository to stop the bleeding but when that didn’t work they eventually gave me pitocin through my IV. Towel after towel was put under me and then replaced once it became soaked with blood. This was a very scary part of the story. They got the bleeding to stop but after the trauma of birth and all the blood loss I was very weak. I vividly remember grabbing Wesley’s hand and telling him I was going to pass out. He told Jasmine, who tried to keep my eyes focused on her but my sight was slowly fading, like an old TV that fades to black after being turned off. They grabbed some smelling salts from the wall, held it under my nose, and I woke up. That little bag of ammonia would have to be used two more times before the end of our stay. I couldn’t make it to the toilet to empty my bladder so I had to get a catheter (yuck) and I was instructed not to get out of bed without help from a nurse. By this time the staff had changed and the midwife who took care of us after you were born was amazing. She examined you a few hours after you were born and you were doing great. You weighed 7 pounds, 11 ounces and you were 19.75 inches long! The perfect size in my opinion. I was struck by your beautiful almond shaped eyes and your tiny chin. You had wrinkles on your face that made you look like a little, old man. Your nose was smushed from coming out of such a tight space (the same thing happened to your sister and you both have the cutest noses I’ve ever seen). Your ears looked a little too big for your head, which added to your immediate charm. You had a good head of hair on you, dark, like your Dad. The rest of the day was spent resting. Nana and Papa came in to meet you and then went and got us Panera for breakfast. I was so weak and tired, but when the time came to sleep I just couldn’t do it. You and daddy slept in the bed next to me and I laid wide awake, my body still full of adrenaline. I couldn’t take my eyes off of you because I was scared if I did you’d stop breathing again. Thankfully you and daddy got the rest you needed.
We had a very hard time choosing your name. We had a list of five or six names we liked and after you were born we spent a handful of hours picking a first a middle name that suited you. We could quickly cross off a few names from the list, but struggled to decide between two. I can’t for the life of me remember what the other names were, which is just fine because Nicholai Isaac is perfect for you.
We were allowed to go home after I regained a little strength and could make my way back and forth to the bathroom. We arrived at the house exactly 12 hours after you were born. You met Nina and she was enamored by you. It was like she knew something sacred was happening as we brought you into the kitchen to meet her. It was amazing to be able to rest in my own bed that night, even though I didn’t get much rest. You and I initially had a very hard time with breastfeeding. Once we brought you home you refused to latch. You spent hours screaming while I tried over and over to get you to eat. I started sobbing out of frustration and at 2:00 am Wesley called the midwives. Per her advice we ended up putting some milk on a spoon and feeding you that way, and once you had a little milk in your tummy you’d calm down enough to latch. We did this every two hours, and no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t get you to latch without spoon feeding you first. It was a very long night. We struggled for two weeks–I was in so much pain because of a bad latch, but we finally found our footing after about a month.
The transition for Nina was extremely hard which meant it was hard for us too. Plus, I was constantly torn: I wanted to savor every little moment with you, but I had a two year old to take care of. I also felt incredibly guilty for disrupting Nina’s life and becoming much more unavailable. I vividly remember Wesley carrying her out of the bedroom, screaming for mommy, as I sat on the end of the bed crying and feeding you. My heart was breaking and it felt like things would never be the same again, which they weren’t. They just got better.
From the very beginning you added joy to our lives. After three or four months we started to get into the swing of things. You and Nina began interacting with each other and at that point I could no longer imagine our lives without you. You were a serious boy, but you’d surprise us with a coy half smile that would melt our hearts. You also were extremely observant, constantly watching what everyone was doing. You wanted to be held almost all the time, and if you were playing on the floor you’d cry when someone would walk past you without stopping to say hello. Now, as I sit writing your story fourteen months later, I can’t imagine this world without you. You are a living, breathing, piece of my heart, walking around outside my body. I knew what it felt like to love a child of my own, but I didn’t know how sweet it would be to have a little boy like you. I thank God that He entrusted us with you, Nicholai, and I pray you feel that love, always.