I wrote this in December ’07–the plan being it would be a letter detailing the whole of her first year. Well, much like my plan to read the 19th Century British Novel alphabetically by author in the summer before medical school, I, ah, got stalled (for that project, I remain in firmly in mid-Dickens, where I have been since 2000. The man rarely wrote a book that was less than 800 pages. I look forward to reading George Eliot in my retirement.). So what follows is Evie’s Birth Story:

Dear Evie,

It’s December 26, 2007, Boxing Day, and I’m writing up your first Birthday Letter. It’s a bit late because I only thought of this after your birthday. I want to write one to you every year for your birthday, so you can know what it was like to be your mom for that moment in time. I like the idea of gathering these and giving them to you when you turn 18.

Let me tell you about your birth and the days leading up to it. The week before, your dad and I finally got organized enough to take some belly pictures of you inside me—just barely inside, I was huge, but I love those pictures so much. I was able to take off from November 3rd and oh, having that last month just free to be home and incredibly pregnant and try and read as much as I could about what was going to happen as a parent was so lovely. I would have these incredibly fierce Braxton-Hicks contractions, increasing in intensity & frequency up until the time you were born—totally non-painful, but man, did they make me respect my uterus! I remember thinking I might just have these kind of contractions throughout labor… hahahaha. I ordered a big lot of cloth diapers (Kissaluv contours) off Ebay and a few others in trial packages and waited for you to come.

The last month of pregnancy is a pretty uncomfortable time—lots of pressure on the pelvis, having to wake up every hour to pee or flip my big body over—the Farmhouse we live in now (which has undoubtedly been replaced by an apartment complex as you are reading this) was long on charm but short on creature comforts, including a bathroom upstairs near the bedrooms… Waddling up and down those stairs in the middle of the night was not fun. Your “official” due date was Dec. 10th, but we calculated Dec. 8th because of my cycle and being pretty sure when you were conceived (around March 15th 2006). At my last visit to the OB before the competing due dates, I was about 3 cm dilated. On the 8th, we went to Pinky’s Pizza in Walnut Creek and had their pepperoni & pineapple pizza, reputed to bring on labor. I remember going there a lot as a kid with the swim team for pizza parties. The pizza wasn’t great but maybe it helped… later that night, labor began. Labor was like starting with the ferocious intensity of those Braxton Hicks contractions I was telling you about and slowly adding pain. It began probably around 7 pm Friday the 8th. I remember just kind of slowing down while your dad and I waited for things to progress. There was a terrible rainstorm going on. I think my water broke at some point, but I don’t remember a big gush or anything (which can sometimes happen). At about midnight the pain was pretty bad (or so I thought)—about a 6-7/10, in retrospect. Of course at that time I had no frame of reference for what a “10” would feel like! I could still talk and think and focus. We called the hospital and spoke to the on-call doc, who knew we were coming across a bridge to get to San Francisco in this terrible weather and said “why don’t you just come on in. We won’t send you home.” We waited another couple of hours, and drove in. When we got to the OBER, I apparently wasn’t in enough pain to satisfy the nurses, and was only 4 cm dilated. I remember thinking about my contractions: these are really bad, but I think I just have a high pain threshold and can handle them. We hadn’t done any classes like the Bradley Method or Hypnobirthing, but wanted to go natural if possible. We were open to an epidural, though. Anyway, they gave us the “choice” of being induced (which I thought was an unnecessarily invasive thing to do at that point) or going home to “rest.”

We ended up going home, in pouring down rain, seeing accident after accident around us. We were pissed! At home, I tried to get comfortable, but the pain really did start to get much, much worse—there was no “resting” to be had. We finally headed back into SF around 7 am on the 9th. I remember parts of the drive—bracing myself against the dashboard of my incredibly crappy Hyundai Accent, feeling more and more in the grip of something that was altering my consciousness—I couldn’t really communicate to Sean much, something primal was taking over. We were roomed and had a wonderful nurse named Pat. Between contractions I could talk a bit, and reconnect with your dad, but during them, I was in another place entirely. The things we’d hoped to be able to do—walk around the room, massage my back, slow dance (we’d seen videos!)—were impossible. I froze with the pain, totally rigid and unable to relax or listen to your dad or Pat, who were both trying to help. I felt totally disconnected from anything or anyone but the pain I was feeling—I was shutting your dad out, but I couldn’t control it.

It didn’t take long for me to realize I wanted the epidural. First they gave me Fentanyl, which took enough of the edge off of the pain for me to be present in the room again. Then the anesthesiologist came in and gave me the epidural. I forget how quickly it took effect—the LP barely even registered—but when it did take, I felt utterly and completely relaxed. There was no pain—it was like the aftermath of the best massage ever given, I just felt like butter. And I was able to connect with your dad, and slow down and enjoy the process—I think I even slept, which was a gift from God, let me tell you. When it came time to push, I had this wonderful sense of well-being. I was surprised at how fast it went—I don’t think I pushed for more than 45 minutes. Your dad and I were holding hands and smiling, really enjoying the experience of being present for your birth together. At the end, your dad gowned & gloved up to catch you. I was so proud of him—he’s kind of a squeamish guy about blood and such, but he was incredible, and the look on his face when you flopped out into his hands—I’ll never forget it. Then they put you on my chest. Those nurses are pretty amazing at cleaning off the baby goo—and you were pretty amazing too. You cried a bit for a minute or two, but then you had this calm curiosity about you, looking around, looking at me. You nursed immediately and easily—that was incredible. Your dad put Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely” on the iPod. I held and nursed you for awhile, and then we had family in the waiting room (your Nana, your aunt Katie, Grandma & Grandpa K). They took you to the scale, weighed & cleaned you some more, and then when everyone else came in, I felt like you got separated from me, and it made me sad (and still does, remembering it). I remember someone else told me that you had dimples, and I felt kind of cheated that I didn’t see that first. I don’t think I got a “turn” with you again for what seemed like an hour in retrospect; I don’t know how long it really was. You were pretty calm and quiet during that time.

After a couple of hours in the L&D room, they moved us into our room on the maternity ward—a tiny room, which could barely accommodate the cot, my bed, and the absurd amount of “stuff” we brought with us. Everyone else left, and it was just you and Daddy and me. I remember it didn’t take long for you to start crying, and we were both a little shocked at how often it happened! I think we were both stunned at how little sleep we got that night. It wasn’t all you though—just when we’d have a good stretch, some idiot would come in and ask us about the menu for breakfast, or want to take you for an exam (at 3 am!), or a hearing test… it was incredible how little rest we got. The next day we went to a breastfeeding meeting at the hospital for new moms. I had a lactation consultant come by—she helped a lot, but had a terrible bedside manner. We stayed 2 nights, I think—the last night they give you a fancy dinner (filet mignon! we also had a great beet, chicken and blue cheese salad). Your Nana came to help us get loaded into our car—let me tell you, scrunching into the backseat of that Hyundai at 36 hours post-partum was NOT fun. You were wearing a pale yellow quilted baby bunting; earlier, a pediatrician had had to help us get the onesie on you!

So we took you home.

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