The Day I Became A Mama
The Lead Up
My water broke at work. In every birth class and every doctor’s appointment they had said, “When you go into labor, it’s really not like the movies. It’s not likely your water breaks with a rush.” Welp. That’s exactly what happened to me. After a full day of rehearsing with 300 children for a super high profile event at Lincoln Center in New York City (I’m a music teacher by training), I sat in a staff meeting with my feet on a chair and inexplicably started weeping. Yup.
Crying at work with my oversized ankles propped up and a desk fan pointed straight at me because we were on day 72 (ok it only felt like that long) of a 100 degree heat wave. (P.S. If you’ve never been 9 months pregnant, in a heat wave, standing in the bowels of New York City on a Subway platform, waiting on a train that always seems to be delayed, I really don’t recommend it…).
My sweet coworkers took pity on me and sent me waddling back to my desk to work on an email. I sat down and started working. After a few minutes I felt a huge twinge in my abdomen. I looked up at my friend next to me and said, “I think you’re going to have to do this dress rehearsal without…” Then I stood up and my water promptly broke. And when I say broke, I mean it flooded. Like I had peed my pants 6 times, at least. I immediately started hyperventilating and crying because I wasn’t due for another three weeks and I was not expecting this.
I’ll never forget my boss taking me square by the shoulders, looking me in the eyes, and telling me that my body knew exactly what it was doing and that I was going to be amazing. Through tears I called my husband and then my doctor. “You’re having a baby,” the nurse on the phone said, “Come on in!”
Well, there was my next issue. I was at my office in Manhattan. My hospital was on Long Island. It was Friday. In the summer. At rush hour. If you’re not familiar with New York traffic on Friday afternoons mid-July, let me paint a picture. On Fridays after work, every human (4 million of them) leaves the city to go to, you guessed it, Long Island. Again, my boss looked at me and assured me, “You’re going to make it.” Then, in the same breath, she turned to my coworkers driving me to the hospital and said, “If you have to, pull over and call 911.” Perfect.
We hailed a cab (I was still leaking fluid everywhere, by the way) and took it across town to where my friend’s car was parked. After laying down some table cloths and garbage bags from the office in the back seat, we were hospital bound! Because there was so much traffic, the entrance to the highway to get out of Manhattan was barricaded, so in another film-worthy turn of events, we pulled up to the police officers at the barricade and rolled down the window. “Um, can we get through here, my friend is in labor?” *Cop peers through window.” I wave and point at my belly, “Hi. It’s me. I’m in labor.” Thank you NYPD for your kindness in opening that barricade for us.
At the Hospital
Fast forward an hour and a half and we made it safely to the hospital. My husband was waiting when we got there. I squeegeed my way into the birth center waiting room and said, “Hi! My name is Caitlin, I’m here because my water broke.” The nurse was super sweet and told me I’d have to be checked to make sure my water.
“If my water didn’t break, we’ve got a serious problem…” At that moment another nurse walked around the corner, saw me standing in my own puddle, and declared, “Oh! We’ve got a leaker.” Into triage I went where they started to monitor my contractions. For hours NOTHING was happening… so unfortunately I had to head into labor and delivery with pitocin. (I didn’t know until after the fact that this would make my contraction more intense and painful, but I guess it was a good thing I didn’t know what I was in for…)
I got into my L&D room at about 7:00 pm and made a valiant effort to labor without and epidural until around 4:30 am. All the while, the kept increasing my dose of pitocin hoping that my contractions would start to even out. (Spoiler alert, they didn’t…) Going into labor, I wanted to try to see how long I could go without pain meds, knowing that I would probably end up using them. As soon as I got that epidural, oh man, was the relief sweet! I promptly fell asleep until noon. All you mamas out there who labor naturally without pain meds. you are freaking warriors!! And to all you mamas who used them like me, you are freaking warriors, too!! Birth ain’t easy no matter how you decide to do it.
By the time I woke up, I was contracting regularly, even though thanks to the epi, I couldn’t feel a thing! I was fully dilated, fully effaced and ready to push!! The only problem was, my epidural had worked SO well that I could even move my legs… like, really and truly, I was a little concerned because I legitimately wasn’t sure if they were even still there. So they decided to turn off my epidural and let baby girl labor down for a while.
I suppose this is a good time to mention, we had not yet picked out a name! We had a list of a few favorites (Leila and Hazel had been our top two for months), but nothing had felt perfect yet. Eric said that it was probably a smart idea to pick something!! Really out of no where, Eric mentioned the name Lucy. We had never talked about that name before, but in that moment I knew it was the one. Grace had always been our list for middle names, and we both Lucy Grace was just perfect.
After about an hour and a half, I could finally move my legs again, and baby girl had a name, so it was time to start pushing! There were approximately 1,000 people in the room for Lucy’s birth. No, but for real, I think in addition to Eric there were at least four doctors, three nurses, and a volunteer doula who kept trying to massage my legs in between contractions. She was the sweetest human on the planet, and I feel awful that in my labor induced rage, I screamed at her at the top of my lungs to, for the love of all things holy, STOP touching me… In my defense, about 5 minutes later, after a particularly bad contraction, I did apologize!!
Turns out, I am an excellent pusher! The nurses and doctors kept complimenting me on it, and I have to say, the people pleaser and high achiever in me was very pleased with myself. I only pushed for about thirty minutes before Lucy came out into the world (thank you 1 million squats that I did while I was pregnant!!!), but I’ll admit it definitely felt like an eternity. I try now to remember what it felt like, and I really can’t quite recall it. I just know that it was an exhaustion unlike anything I had ever felt in my life. By the end, I wasn’t sure I’d even be able to do it, but knowing I’d finally get to see that face of my baby girl was what kept me going. The doctor kept saying, “Just one more push,” and honestly if he had said it one more time to me, I might have kicked him in the face… “Am I really almost there!?” I screamed. Eric looked down and assured me that she was right there, he could see her head and I had to just give it one more go.
Lucy Grace Arrives
When she finally came out, it felt like the world stood still. Eric cut the cord, but there was no sound. My head and my heart started racing. Why wasn’t she crying?? The doctors rushed her over to a table and I called out to ask if she was ok. No one answered me. Still no crying. They hit the emergency button on the wall and a NICU nurse rushed in. Still no crying. I’m sure it was only about a minute total, but it felt like the longest eternity. I held my breath and I was in a full on panic. Finally, she let out a cry. Tears started immediately as they brought her over to me and laid her on my chest. It turns out that on her way out, Lucy sucked in a lot of amniotic fluid and was essentially drowning when she came earth side. They were able to suction her lungs and get her breathing right away, thank God.
I know that every mother has a different experience when they first meet their baby, and let me be clear in saying I do not in any way feel that there is a correct way you should feel. But for me, I had that experience of instantaneous, earth-shattering love. I couldn’t believe that sometime so perfect was mine. I couldn’t believe that I had made something so perfect and just brought her into the world. She cozied right up to my breast and latched right away. (Now, in case you’re getting jealous and thinking that we had a perfect, pain-free breast feeding experience, that particular trial will be a blog post for another day. The suction they had to do ended up causing some trials for us in that area over the next few days.) I immediately felt this crystal clear focus that I’d never felt before. This love, so simple yet so massive, pulled my priorities and values into alignment in an instant.
The lyrics from one of my favorite songs by Sara Bareilles, Everthing Changes from the musical Waitress sum it up better than I’ve ver been able to explain:
Today’s a day, like any other, but I am changed, I am a mother. Oh, in an instant.
And who I was has disappeared. It doesn’t matter, now you’re here, so innocent.
I was lost for you to find, and now I’m yours and you are mine.
(Get, your tissues, and listen to the whole song here.)
When I think back on this day, I, of course, cry every time. There’s nothing quite as amazing as becoming a mama for the first time. There’s nothing so pure as experiencing what it feels like to love someone more than you ever felt possible. It’s the most overwhlemingly beautiful thing to look at your partner and know, that because of your love, there is a new perfect little being who will bless the world with her presence.
Thanks for choosing me as your mama, Lucy Grace. I love you more than you’ll ever know.