Here I sit in my darkened bedroom with our last little newborn beside me. I’m happy as a lark when she hiccups on my tummy and not in it. I’m relieved to see my hospital bag half unpacked instead of half packed, stewing about what I forgot and when it would be time to go. But more than anything, I’m grateful for this perfect tiny bundle.
Like everything in life, God had a plan, and this time I was able to open my eyes and take notice of His guiding hand throughout my pregnancy.
I’ve had a strong desire from early on to have three children. It would have been easier (and surely made more sense to some) to stop with two rambunctious boys only 16 months apart. Having two and three year old boys almost made me certifiable. But something kept pressing me.
Marcello wasn’t in as much of a hurry as I was, but he was on board. We wanted three children, even if they were all boys, but I prayed often for a little girl to complete our family. We tried for over a year, which resulted in one crushing early miscarriage. After we regrouped, I continued to follow Dr. Shettle’s method to help conceive a baby girl. I tracked my cycle meticulously.
In basic terms, in case you are interested, this method is all about timing:
- For a boy, time intercourse the day of ovulation. Male sperm are fast and die more quickly than female sperm. They will beat their slower counterpart to the egg if it is available.
- For a girl, time intercourse three days before ovulation. Female sperm are slower, but more hearty than male sperm. The male sperm will die off before the egg arrives, leaving primarily female sperm to fertilize it. This is more tricky because you need to be aware of your cycle.
So I timed everything three days out, which is probably part of the reason it was taking so long to get pregnant. Now I’ve said quite a few words I never thought I would mention on this blog!
One day I decided that was enough waiting and called an endocrinologist to make an appointment. They were on lunch break and I got the answering machine. I decided to take a test, just in case. I was shocked when I saw a faint line appear. But it was a cheapy test so I asked Marcello to buy me one at the drug store on his way home. It too had a faint line. It wasn’t until we finally purchased the digital test that actually said “pregnant” on it that I truly believed I was pregnant.
We were excited and surprised. I looked at the calendar and this made no sense. When did I ovulate anyway? I thought back and remembered getting slight cramps one day. What day was that? Did all my charting and calculating mean nothing? I marked everything down I could remember and figured out that we accidentally timed it three days out. And it turned out her due date was my birthday!
It wasn’t until later that I saw God’s message to me: He is the creator of all life. I can try to bend science, but He is science. A little girl was His gift, not the result of my obsessive charting. And finding out the day I called the endocrinologist and the fact that her due date shared my birthday were just confirmations of His gentle and loving lesson: His plan, not mine.
When it came time to choose a name, we were at a stand still. I have loved the name Clara ever since my mom took me to see the Nutcracker when I was small. (It’s the name of the little girl who dreams of the Nutcracker prince in the ballet.) And Marcello was opting for strong Italian names with lots of syllables. There were two of them that I loved as well, but knowing they would be shortened, I was hesitant.
I decided to back off and give it some time, but not before sending up this little prayer: “God, can’t you just convince Marcello that Clara is a beautiful name?”
A day or two after my prayer, Marcello came home with a sort of confounded look on his face. “You will not believe what happened,” he said. He went into a story about how he had gone into to a local wine shop to try to sell some wines to an old customer. Without prompting, she said, “I know what you should name your daughter. Clara.”
It was so out of the blue and bizarre that he didn’t know what to say or think. But that was the day that he changed his mind about the name.
My body likes to do most of its labor prep work in advance and then deliver in a massive rush. At about 37 weeks, I was awake most nights with major cramps and contractions. I knew the time was nearing, but I took it easy to try to wait until my induction date.
When Adriano was born, the only reason I made it to the hospital in time is because I had a routine check up. I felt regular contractions, but they weren’t terribly strong. I never would have gone to the hospital on my own for them. “You’re 5 centimeters,” said my midwife during my exam. “You need to head over to the hospital.” My appointment was at 3 p.m. and he was born at 6 p.m.
So I did my best to hold Clara in until the night before my induction with a self-imposed, modified bed rest. When I had made it until the night before my induction date, I felt relieved that I would be able to go in calmly the next day and have my looming fear of giving birth in the car lifted from my shoulders.
My best friend, Ashby, came over with her son to spend the night and stay with the boys so we could leave for the hospital early in the morning. Her fiancé stopped by for dinner, Marcello’s famous eggplant parmesan. Eggplant supposedly helps induce labor according to some Italian traditions, so he makes it for me when the end is in sight. It worked with Adriano — I had him the next day. And it seems to have worked this time too!
The four of us chit chatted in the living room after we put the boys to bed. It was really a lovely evening, and I wasn’t terribly uncomfortable or having many contractions.
After he left, Ashby and I got in our PJs and got comfy on the couches to watch TV, while Marcello sat at the dining room table answering work emails. I remembered my midwife, Zoe, told me to pump for five minutes on each side to get my contractions going for the next day, so I pumped while we watched a rerun of Friends. After my ten minutes, I was starting to feel the contractions coming on strong. I stood up and felt a pop. Pumping was the final push my body needed to get the ball rolling. My water broke.
After standing frozen for a moment in a state of panic, we rushed around to get dressed, grab my hospital bag and go! It takes 45 minutes to get to our hospital, so we knew the clock was against us. I texted Zoe and she said she was on her way. I sat on an old towel as Marcello drove intently down the empty highway. My stomach contracted into a tight, painful ball every three and a half minutes, taking my breath away.
We made it to triage at the same time as another expectant mother, who was wailing from contractions. They admitted her first, naturally. And even though the world seemed to be spinning from the pain, I overheard a nurse say that when she called the other woman’s doctor, he said was trying to sleep to call him back when she was eight centimeters. This terrified me.
They wheeled me up with Marcello right by my side. He’s always my advocate and I feel safe in life when he’s near. When we got to the room, I went in the bathroom to put the gown on, which was quite a feat at this point. I could barely stand up. I heard him telling her I wanted an epidural and as quickly as possible. Of course, we would find out it was too late, once again, but he’s always got my back.
Zoe walked in the room minutes after I made it to the bed. Oh, how relieved I was to see her after hearing the other doctor’s remarks! After a few more contractions, I told Zoe I could feel her being pushed down quickly. She looked and they could see her head! “Feel like pushing?” she asked.
Not really, but that’s what I was there to do. I was actually able to crack a smile when Zoe turned a medical spotlight on my nether region in the darkened room and everyone directed their attention in that direction. “It’s showtime,” I uttered.
It’s like my body went on crazy fast forward auto pilot for its third delivery. It was miles more painful than the other two, as my body was physically pushing her out for me. I’m not a screamer because I’d rather put all my energy into pushing, but I definitely cried out this time. Probably for God’s help.
Zoe asked me if I wanted her to make a cut. I needed this to be over. I didn’t know my body could endure that much pain. I said yes immediately. “Ok, one more push and you’re done,” she responded. “You can do this,” Marcello reassured me.
One more push until I meet my baby girl. One more push until this burning and torment ends. With just one more push in mind, I beared down with everything that I had. I would not let up. “Do you want to help deliver her?” I heard Zoe ask Marcello. “Stand here.”
And finally I felt her head making its way down and then Zoe pull her body and legs all the way out. Immediate relief. The sound of her crying and listening to Zoe instruct Marcello on how to cut the cord were surreal and perfectly dreamlike.
She was born almost exactly two hours after my water broke.
Marcello changed quite a bit from our first pregnancy to our last. When I had morning sickness with Luca, our first, I think he muttered something only half-joking about me suffering in silence. Tiny diapers and black poo freaked him out. Ok, they freaked me out too.
But with Clara, he was making dinner in the mornings before work so I wouldn’t have to smell it in the evenings. He made food runs for my wacky cravings. He did way more than his share of cooking, washing dishes, laundry, and putting the boys to bed when I wasn’t up to it. He let most of my mood swings and random crying slide.
When it came time to deliver, he was my number one cheerleader, telling me how strong I was and how impressed he was with me. He wanted to help deliver the baby, cut the umbilical cord, see the placenta. And I was taken aback by his professional dad skills this time around. He was now a master swaddler and diaper changer. He refilled my ice water and even kept Clara’s feeding and stool chart updated.
Love may very well change forms as you get older. Instead of letters and roses, for me, swaddling and caring about newborn stools is tremendous love! With the normal parental fear that comes with the first baby out of the way, this was a deeply bonding experience for us.
The next day, Zoe stopped by to check on us. She told us that the hospital was so full of babies that we most likely would have been bumped from the induction list had I not gone into labor on my own. In fact, we were the third family to get bumped to another floor because they were already full that night.
All I could do was give gratitude to God for allowing me to go into labor with both Ashby and Marcello at home, a desolate highway with no traffic to slow us down, and a responsive midwife. Without His guidance, I think Clara would have a very different birth story.
The boys are fascinated by her. Luca keeps asking me when she’s going to crawl, play or do something. Adriano holds her, lightly touches her cheek, and examines her hands and feet. It’s adorable.
We’ve had to lay down some ground rules like: You can’t actually push the baby swing, and you can’t feed babies Goldfish. Luca thinks it’s funny to watch me freak out after he tells me that the baby ate part of his ravioli. “Just kidding,” he says with an ornery grin.
Mom’s postpartum recovery
Apologies for the never ending post! But I feel like this subject deserves just a minute.
During pregnancy, we mothers focus so much on the delivery day and our precious babes that I think we get blindsided by our postpartum recoveries. Some women have a tougher time and more complications than others, but every woman must go through a healing process.
Why is it that we never talk about what happens after you have a baby? No, it might not be the most pleasant of subject matter, and most of us probably haven’t even seen all that many people to share our story, but know that you are not alone if you are having a hard time coping.
After this delivery I felt like my body had gone haywire. All my symptoms put together, plus the typical nightly waking of my newborn every two to three hours seemed a tall order.
Warning, the TMI part: My body was very sore from it’s fast forward delivery. My episiotomy stitches came out and were restitched. Ouch. Clara spit up blood, which horrified me until I realized the blood was from my stingingly sore nipples, despite my obsessive lanolin cream use. My breasts had become engorged and painful to touch, it even hurt to take a shower. The afterbirth cramps while nursing were incredibly intense this time and lasted days. My hands and feet swelled and I broke out in an all-over-body rash (maybe a reaction to the epsom salt I bought?). Then, my bleeding continued well beyond what every website in creation says is normal.
And on top of postpartum physical pain, moms have to cope emotionally with what has just happened. Maybe the delivery didn’t go as planned or baby needs unexpected medical attention. Also, your body is far from where it was pre-baby, which can be hard to accept. And then please deal with all this on three hours of tortured sleep. No wonder the baby blues are common!
What I am saying to you is that despite all the pictures you see of lovely mamas with a full face of makeup and styled hair posing with their newborns, none of us escape the recovery. The woman in the picture is also tired, worried she’s not doing it all right, and not exactly happy with her now squishy midsection.
If you’re going through this, try to sit in the sun if you can, and soak up some vitamin D. Then kiss that sweet little newborn head to remember that, of course, it’s all worth it.