Tomorrow, Liv will be five years old. We’ve already been busy celebrating with cousins (and donuts!), cocoa with marshmallows! for breakfast, cake baking, and decorating, with so much more to come. I’ll be back with her birthday interview, but first, I wanted to republish her birth story, because this might be “her” day, but it’s Jared’s and my day, too — one of the best days of our lives, and in so many ways, the beginning of everything.
Part One (*Originally written February 17th, 2013):
At 6:46 AM on Tuesday morning, I woke up to a contraction.
I’d been having Braxton Hicks contractions since Week 20, so even though this contraction felt different enough for me to take note of the time, I told myself it was just the same old false labor. The contractions were mildly painful and happening every 8-10 minutes, so I got up for the day and worked on my Week 40 post. I mentioned the contractions to Jared, but sent him to work, promising it wasn’t the “real deal.” I cleaned the kitchen and busied myself around the house, in denial that the progressively more intense and more frequent contractions could possibly be real labor…
Around 11:00 AM, Jared called to check in. By then, I was so uncomfortable I was pacing around the house. I told him I thought maybe, perhaps, he might possibly… need to cancel his second presentation and come home.
I continued pacing and bouncing on the yoga ball. By the time Jared got home with “Happy Due Date Day” cupcakes, I wasn’t in the mood to talk. All I could do was breathe and moan through the contractions. They were about 6-8 minutes apart. I looked at Jared and said, “I think we might have a baby today…” He laughed and said, “I’m pretty sure of it.” Still, I wasn’t so sure (*In retrospect, this was the beginning of active labor). I knew we still had a long way to go, because our goal was to labor at home until my contractions were 2-3 minutes apart, 1 minute per contraction, for 2 hours.
I got in the shower under the delusion that I’d shave my legs, do my hair, and makeup and somehow, pull myself together to be one of those cute women, who pops into the hospital to have a baby like it’s an everyday thing. Well, I’m not that girl. I managed to get in and out of the shower, but in between contractions, I could barely focus enough to run a brush through my hair.
For me, contractions were a gradual tension that built up in my abdomen, radiating, rushing, and surging out though every inch of my whole body. It was intense and exhausting unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before and the relief between contractions was minimal, because the pain in my low back never let up. I repeatedly reminded myself about what my friend, Kelly, said about her labor just a few weeks earlier: All you can do is to just let yourself go. I also thought about what I’d learned through my prenatal yoga practice: My body and my baby know what to do.
So all I could do was let myself go and surrender.
By 1:00 PM, Jared had been timing my contractions, which were frustratingly inconsistent, ranging from 3-7 minutes apart. In the shower, they seemed to be getting closer together and I was hopeful that we’d be heading to the hospital soon, but I was already feeling alarmingly exhausted.
After the shower, I labored in our dark bedroom, which I remember being the most difficult part of laboring at home. I was tossing and turning on the bed, nauseous, shaking uncontrollably, and moaning through the overpowering contractions. (*Looking back, I believe I was going through transition at this point).
Jared was in and out of the bedroom as he gathered our things for the hospital. He put Enya on in the background, brought me a trash can when I thought I was going to throw up, covered me in blankets when I was trembling, put counter-pressure on my low back, and did anything/everything he could think of to help me.
Despite the intensity, my contractions actually spaced out, sometimes between 5-7 minutes apart, which was devastating to me. I thought I was regressing and started telling Jared I couldn’t do it. I wanted medication. It was too hard. I was done. He packed up the car and called the midwives to let them know we’d be heading to the birth center, but he was told a midwife would give us a call back in 15 minutes.
By now, it was close to 3:00 PM and my contractions were suddenly 2.5-3.5 minutes apart. When the midwife, Karen, called back and wanted to talk to me, I couldn’t say more than a couple words to her. I shoved the phone back to Jared and she asked how far away we lived. When he said, “About 15 minutes,” she said, “Okay, good.”
I don’t remember saying bye to Sully or getting in the car, but I remember watching the clock in my car as contractions slammed into me every 2 minutes. Our Bradley instructor had recommended going to the hospital when contractions were 2-3 minutes apart, because she said we would be close to transition, which is the last phase before pushing. So when we arrived at the hospital, I expected to be checked in triage and told I was somewhere around 5 centimeters dilated. I was still so certain we had a long way to go.
At 3:25 PM, we parked in the hospital garage. Up until this point, I was very vocal through all of the contractions, moaning and crying out through each and every wave; however, I did everything I could to hold back the screams as we walked into the hospital (I didn’t want to terrify the public… you know?). Silently enduring the contractions made them a billion times worse and I’m sure it was quite a sight to see me laboring my way into the hospital, while Jared coached me, loaded down with our bags.
An elderly lady with a cane stopped as I was leaning over a light post to ask Jared if I was in “a whole lot of pain” and if she should hurry ahead to have a wheelchair sent out. I shook my head, stubbornly, but before she could even notify anyone, a nurse’s assistant was scooping me up in a wheelchair and taking me up to the birth center. I remember her excitedly telling me, “I just wheeled out a new mama and her baby. Now I’m bringing you in!” In my head, I was desperately, pleadingly wishing I could fast-forward to the wheeling out part.
I was surprised when the nurse’s assistant wheeled me past triage and straight into one of the birth rooms. She said they were expecting me and made a joke about: “Go straight to jail, do not pass go.” I tried to joke, “I’ll go to jail if it gets this baby out!”
The midwife was waiting and the nurse’s assistant told her: “She’s already had two contractions on the ride up.” The midwife had me get undressed right away and when she checked my cervix, she said I was 9 centimeters dilated and 100% effaced. I looked at Jared, confused, and said, “What? Did she say nine?”
Part Two (*Originally written February 18th, 2013):
We had arrived at the birth center at 3:25 PM, where my contractions were coming one after another after another. The midwife confirmed I was 9 centimeters dilated and 100% effaced. I was only partially aware of the fact that the hospital staff was scrambling to get me officially admitted as I started feeling the urge to push.
Jared still had a stopwatch hanging around his neck and never left my side. He continuously coached me along, saying I was doing great, that I was making progress, that he was proud of me. He was my rock. As desperate and anxious as I felt, I clung to his promises that we were going to meet “Bob” soon.
It was around then that Ann walked into our room. Aside from having the hospital-based birth center separate from labor and delivery, one of the pros for delivering at the UCSD Medical Center was that there’s a volunteer doula program. The counselor I’ve been seeing through the women’s clinic had strongly encouraged me to take advantage of this service. I’ve read countless birth stories raving about how invaluable doulas are during labor and delivery, so it wasn’t hard to convince me. On our way to the birth center, Jared put in a request for a doula.
When we arrived, Ann, the head of the volunteer doula program, was working on contacting a doula to come in for us; however, when she heard I was 9 centimeters dilated, she realized we might not have time to wait for someone to drive in. So she showed up herself. I don’t really remember meeting her (I think I was laboring on the toilet… ha!), but I remember her calm, comforting presence. She had the most gentle, compassionate, and soothing demeanor. She held my hands, stroked my hair, and talked Jared and I through what was happening. I feel like we got the best of the best.
At 4:15 PM, the midwife walked back in and announced we were “officially” admitted, jokingly giving us permission to have the baby anytime. She checked me again and said I was 9 and 3/4 centimeters dilated — almost there! Moments later, they told me I could start pushing.
I thought pushing would be instinctual and would even provide some relief from the contractions, but for me, this was the hardest part (it really was the last 6.2 miles of a marathon). Ann and the midwife had to give me a lot of guidance on how to use the contractions to my advantage and how to continue bearing down even when I paused to breathe between pushes. With each contraction I tried to push at least three times. I could feel — and even see it on my morphing, moving belly — the pressure was helping move the baby down the birth canal. With every contraction, I gave 100%, using every bit of strength I had, promising myself each time: “This is it. Bob will be here on this next push.”
For 2 and a 1/2 hours I pushed, promising myself I was almost there, almost there, almost there. (*Later, I learned the pushing stage was longer and more difficult, because the baby was posterior or sunny-side up). Jared knew continuous assurance was what I needed too, so he kept praising and encouraging me, telling me how strong I was. Any shred of doubt that popped into my mind was washed away by his continuous affirmations. Ann, the midwife, and the nurses were all cheering me along as well, but Jared’s voice was what carried me through the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.
At 7:03 PM, with three all-consuming pushes, followed by a fourth, and then a fifth, our baby was born with an arm and elbow casually draped overhead. The midwife lifted the baby to Jared, who announced:
“It’s a girl!“
She was placed on my belly, all slippery, warm, and pink, and all I could do was cry, “She’s here! She’s here!” I kept saying, “Hi baby, hi baby,” over and over again.
Jared and I both had our hands on her, overwhelmed with love. The nurses gathered around, rubbing her down until we heard the most life changing cry we’ve ever heard. I gave all my attention to the beautiful baby on my belly and barely noticed as I delivered the placenta minutes later and the midwife gave me three tiny stitches to repair a first degree tear (from that elbow over her head). Jared was handed scissors and he cut the cord.
Heading to the hospital, we had a few names picked out for a boy or girl. I wanted to see our baby first before committing to a name. But with a head full of hair and a hearty cry, Jared and I knew this was our girl, Liv Clare Lurie. Liv is a Scandinavian name that means “life,” and Clare is a family name — it’s my middle name, as well as my mom’s, and was my Nana’s maiden name. It’s Latin for “bright, clear.” Just looking at her, holding her, we loved giving her a name that means bright life.
To us, she was pink and perfect, but the nurses were worried about her body temperature, which was on the low side. She was taken across the room to a warmer, where Jared stayed by her side, her tiny fist tightly wrapped around his finger. No more than five minutes later, she was back in my arms, alert and peaceful.
I thought seeing our baby for the first time would be the most emotional moment of my life, but I was wrong. It was seeing Jared, as a dad, with our daughter. I feel like my heart’s going to explode every time I see them together.
We had more than an hour to ourselves, nursing and bonding, before a nurse popped in to weigh and evaluate Liv. We were all a little surprised when our little peanut weighed 7 lbs. 15 oz. and measured 20.5 inches long.
By now, it was 9:30 PM. The nurse told us to get some rest and call if we needed anything, but Jared and I were both overflowing with adrenaline and joy and started calling our families in the Midwest to share the news. Liv peacefully slept in our arms all night long, while Jared and I stared at her in awe.
On Thursday, February 14th — Jared’s and my 3rd wedding anniversary, we brought our daughter home. Jared and I have barely slept since last Monday, but it’s been the best, most surreal week of our lives.
It took 40 weeks to grow and nourish her, and 12 hours to help her transition into this world. But it only took a moment for her to completely and wholly steal our hearts forever.