March 23, 2011

One Year Ago Today - Tessa's Birth Story

Every year on the night of my birthday, no matter how old I got, my mom and I would crawl in her bed together and she would read me the story of my birth. I loved the tradition, loved watching her relive what she considered to be one of the best days of her life, and I want to do the same thing for Tessa Jean. This is the story of her birth, one year ago today.

Dearest Tessa,

The night before you were born, I couldn’t sleep a wink. By that time my belly was so enormous and my back was so sore that I that I decided to sleep downstairs on the couch rather than in bed with your dad. We had to be at the hospital at 6 a.m. to get labor induced, so I kept opening one eye to see what time it was, pretending to myself that I was sleeping at all. I couldn’t wait for it to be morning so that it could officially be The Day You Were Born.

At 4:30 a.m. I finally decided enough was enough with the tossing and turning and went upstairs to wake your Dad up. I was too excited to put on the charade of sleep anymore. He was pretty agreeable to getting up because he was very much ready to meet you as well. We’d spent the past nine months trying to imagine who you’d be and what you’d look like and working on your pretty little nursery and happily rearranging our lives to make sure we’d have everything ready for you. While I was taking a shower, your Dad made me French toast, even though I wasn’t supposed to eat anything before going to the hospital. But, frankly, I couldn’t do that to your dad; I’m not very nice when I don’t eat and I wanted to feel as well and cheerful as possible on The Day You Were Born. Anyway, it was delicious, of course, because your dad is one hell of a cook.

We got to Baptist Hospital at 6 a.m. on the dot and your dad went right to work making the nurses and hospital personnel laugh. We waited for our “suite” for about half an hour before a nurse escorted us back to the room where you would be born. It was a huge room with a big picture window. At 7:30 a.m., Dr. Phillips Altenbern came in to break my water. I was nervous about it but it was painless. I was also started with a drip of Pitocin, which is what they give you to get contractions going. Getting the IV in my hand made me feel really faint, and your dad got me a wet washcloth for my forehead. By 9:30 a.m. I started feeling definite contractions but they just felt like no-big-deal period cramps.

When we arrived at the hospital that morning, I was already one and a half centimeters dialated. By 10:30 a.m., I’d only progressed to 2 centimeters. The contractions got much closer together — about a minute apart — and more painful, and I asked for an epidural and received it by 11:15 a.m. After the epidural was in place, I felt next to nothing. It was heavenly. Your dad and I had agreed not to turn on the TV in our hospital room, and I decided I didn’t want to talk on the phone to anyone either. So your dad fielded the phone calls, while I leafed through fashion magazines.

The monitor showed that I was having insane contractions, but I didn’t feel the physical pain, only the exhaustion it was causing. I snuck bites of a Snickers bar your dad was munching on. By 12:15, I’d progressed to almost 3 centimeters, but that would barely budge at all in the next couple hours. I started to get nervous that I might have to have a cesarean birth if I didn’t continue to dialate. Your dad told me to chill out, that everything was going great.

Reading Us Weekly, but of course. 
By 2 p.m. I was officially 4 centimeters. By 3 p.m., 5 centimeters. By 4 p.m., 7 centimeters! By 5:15, fully dialated and ready to start pushing! The nurse was amazed how quickly your head had dropped. So were we.

Now that you know all about the numbers regarding your birth, let me tell you how I felt. Terrified! Once it was announced I would be starting to push, I started trembling — it was a tremble that not even a pile of warm blankets could touch. This was the moment I had been waiting for my whole life. I was about to meet you. But I was nervous that you might not be healthy, nervous that it would be too painful to deliver you. It wasn’t! Your dad had one of my legs and the nurse had the other and with each contraction I would push, push, push. With each contraction, I was closer to you. Finally, when the nurse saw that you would soon crown, she called Dr. Altenbern and he came over from his office next door. (By the way, during your delivery your dad and I were playing this moody, magical music from an Icelandic band called Sigur Rós and it gave the room a really spiritual feeling. Well, your birth was helping with that feeling too.) When the doctor arrived, he put on his scrubs, shined a spotlight on my business, and pulled up a stool, ready to get to work.

You were born at 6:34 p.m. and when the doctor lay you on my chest, I burst into tears and said, “She’s beautiful!” Kid, you were one good-looking newborn. With a head full of dark hair and wise eyes. They took you over to a nearby warming bed to clean you up and check your vitals and weigh you. Your dad wanted to comfort me and make sure I was OK but he looked as fidgety as I had ever seen him. I realized that he wanted to go over and stare at you and I told him to go right ahead. I didn’t have to tell him twice. He went over to watch you and take pictures of you while the nurse wiped you down and exclaimed over how extraordinary looking you were. You were then weighed — a healthy 6 lbs., 9 oz., my dear.

I couldn’t wait for my mom to meet you, so Nekos went out to the waiting room to get her. She began to cry as soon as she walked in the room and saw you cradled in my arms. She was the first person to hold you after me and your dad. She was taken with you right away. We had a ton of other visitors to the delivery room in the hour or two after your birth: your grandfather John, your great Aunt Bugs, your godmothers Brooke Cawthon and Molly Kincaid, and our dear friends Rock Yosek and Lenore Kinder. We were all so proud of you, Tessa.

What just happened to me?
When they wheeled us to the hospital room where we’d spend the next two nights, a parade of friends and family followed us there. I’d thought I would want you all to myself, but I wanted to share you with everyone. It was someone else who first pointed out to me that your eyes were blue. The deepest, darkest blue.

That night, after everyone had left, your dad and I unwrapped your swaddling and looked hard at you. We couldn’t imagine that this was real, that we had made you, that you were ours. We loved you right away. We always will.