How I Became A Mother, Part Three: Birth

It was 6:00 a.m. on Wednesday, March 8, 2017, after over 28 hours of labor, when my “birth plan” went flying out the window.

Even though the notion of essentially pushing a bowling ball out of my vagina terrified me, it was what I had been planning to do for the past nine months. I like to be prepared (thank nine years of Girl Scouting for that!) and I’m a really good student, so I did everything I could to ready myself. J and I took childbirth classes at the hospital and I — a person who had never practiced yoga before — took a weekly prenatal yoga class starting at seven weeks pregnant, all the way through to 36 weeks.

I was looking forward to experiencing what my best childhood friend once described to me as “the most pain you’ll ever feel followed by the biggest wave of euphoria you’ll ever know.” Instead, my son’s birth wound up being fraught with confusion, anxiety, and a little bit of nausea. While the end result was still a win — me holding my newborn son in my arms for the first time, this was not the story I intended to write.

That morning, at 6 a.m., my OB came into my room to examine me. My water had broken sometime the night before (probably between midnight and 1 a.m.) and I was only five centimeters dilated when the nurse examined me at 1:30.  Now, four and a half hours later, my doctor informed me that I was still only at five centimeters. At this point, after such a long labor, they were getting concerned about the baby’s heart rate. I would later find out that he had flipped his body so that he was not in the prime birthing position and the umbilical cord had loosely wrapped itself around his neck in the process.

Everything happened so quickly after that. The doctor explained that we were going to have to do a c-section, and we were going to have to do it NOW. Within seconds of him saying those words, and without a moment to digest any of it, the room became a frenzied blur of nurses directing J to put all of our belongings into plastic bags, an oxygen mask being put over my mouth and nose, and a nurse standing over me with a razor. J found a quick moment to call our parents and had to abrubtly get off the phone to support me as I started to panic and dry heave into hosptial barf bags. I would have thrown up if I hadn’t been starved for the past 24+ hours.

In what seemed like five seconds, I was being wheeled into the operating room to be prepped to have my first born child surgically removed from my body. I was shivering cold and terrified, as they wouldn’t allow J into the room until I was fully prepped. This involved the doctors strapping my arms down, outstretched at my sides in a T shape and a room full of strangers asking me questions and mispronouncing my name (Alicia – I pronounce it Ah-lee-see-ah, not Ah-lee-shuh).

It wasn’t a completely sterile and lifeless room — there was music playing from a speaker off to the side. While I was being strapped down like a death row inmate, Morrissey was the soundtrack. This was not the vibe I was going for, and while I had very little control of what was happening to my body, I sure as hell could control this part of my experience. I asked for the Beatles — several times as my speech had started to slur a bit at this point — and as soon as the familiar sounds of the Fab Four filled the room and J was finally by my side, holding my hand and breathing with me, I knew it was all going to be ok.

At 6:40 a.m. my beautiful, perfect baby boy was born to the sound of “Dear Prudence.”

While it was not the magical, intimate experience I had dreamed of, my baby was here and he was healthy. Because I was numb and because he didn’t cry immediately, I didn’t even know it had happened until the doctor stood up and said “he’s here, and he’s perfect!”

They held his pink, naked body up for me to see and I couldn’t believe my eyes. Here was this tiny human being that just moments ago was inside my body. It still blows my mind. J left my side for the first time to go cut the cord, and then I waited for what seemed like an eternity until they finally brought him closer for me to see him.

Love at first sight.
First family photo. 

The breathtaking, overwhelmingly emotional moment didn’t last too long. Soon, J and the baby were whisked out of the room to begin their skin-to-skin bonding time while the doctor stitched me back up. Eventually, I made it to the recovery room and held my son for the first time.

At around 11 a.m., J’s dad and my parents were finally allowed to come see us and meet their grandson. Seeing my parents hold my baby for the first time is an image that will bring me comfort for the rest of my life.

While things were finally starting to feel real, and normal, and good, my suffering was not over. It had now been over 30 hours since I had eaten any real food and I was STARVING. I was informed that I wasn’t allowed to eat anything until 3:30 p.m., which was still HOURS away. Shortly after 2:00, J went out into the world to get me some non-hospital food, so that I would have my long-awaited turkey sandwich (oh, how I missed you, deli meat!) at exactly 3:30. We ate our first meal as parents together while our son slept beside us. And to mark the occasion, we shared a piece of birthday cake.

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Happy birthday, little man.

I’ll be honest, I struggled a bit writing this post. I have no trouble being honest about all of the details of my own experience, but this was also my son’s experience. Someday he will read this, and I don’t ever want him to associate his birth with any stress or trauma of mine. So what I want him (and you, dear reader) to take away is that childbirth is a mysterious, painful, and devastatingly beautiful experience. Whether a child is born at home or in a hospital, vaginally or surgically, via a surrogate or a birth mother who chose to give another family the most selfless gift, it’s all miraculous. My birth experience may not have been what I planned for or expected, but it was what was right for my family. And while I didn’t “do the work” of pushing my baby out, my body still performed an astonishing feat, and I have the battle scar to prove it. Together with my favorite person in the world, we MADE A HUMAN LIFE, which we were told would be nearly impossible for us. I carried that life inside of me for 41 weeks. Four days later, I brought my son home to a place with joy and gratitude in abundance. He will always know that he was so wanted, and is loved unconditionally by the two people who got lucky enough to be his parents.

And that’s all that really matters, isn’t it?


Still Enjoying All Of The Things

When I was pregnant, everyone I knew told me to enjoy doing things like going to the movies, going out to dinner with J, and traveling “while I can” because once the baby came, apparently my life as I knew it would end.

That’s bullshit.

Yes, we have had to make some adjustments. We can’t afford to have nice dinners out as often as we would like these days, and we are generally more tired more often, but we somehow have found ways to do the things we love.

Things we were told we’d never do again once the baby came:

  • Go to the movies
  • Go out to dinner, brunch, etc
  • Have friends over/entertain
  • Travel
  • Have intimate alone time
  • Sleep

Things that we are still doing, three months into parenthood:

  • Going to the movies – with our baby!
    • Drive in movies are great — you can hold/feed the baby while watching a first-run movie, or let the baby sleep in their carseat. And if they get fussy, nobody outside your own car can hear! Outdoor movie screenings are another great option!
  • Going out to eat.
    • Tonight, in fact, we went out for the third anniversary of our first date, to the same Japanese restaurant (we go back every year), and we took the baby. He did great. Slept a little, ate a little from a bottle, and only fussed a little (but after a quick diaper change and bottle fix, he was FINE). It was stress-free and we had a great time and made a lovely memory.
  • Having friends over.
    • People love to come over and coo at our little one. And sometimes, they even bring food!
  • Traveling.
    • We have two trips planned. We are taking our tiny human to Europe in August. He will be just shy of six months. Sure, there will be some tricky moments, and it’s a long flight, but IT WILL BE FINE. And in October we’ll be headed to the east coast to visit my family. We’re even going to have a couple days to ourselves. My parents will keep the little man while we head off for a weekend getaway to celebrate J’s 40th birthday.
  • Having intimate alone time.
    • It’s none of your business, but yes, all things are possible when your baby is a good sleeper.
  • Sleeping.
    • Okay, this one was a bit tricky at first. That first month is HARD. We didn’t sleep much. But now, baby boy is averaging 5-7 hours of uninterrupted sleep at night. And even after waking up, a quick feed and diaper change and he’s back down for another 3-4 hours.

Having a baby changes a lot of things, but as long as you’ve got the energy and an adventurous spirit (and a willing partner!) you can still live your life and make incredible memories with your teeny human. Any alarmist who tries to tell you differently can kindly bugger off.

We’ve got this. YOU’VE GOT THIS.

How I Became A Mother, Part Two: Labor

I was convinced that my baby would come early. When we had our ultrasound at 32 weeks to see the baby’s size, we were told he was already looking very big, with basically a giant head. I’m gonna be really frank here, I’m a tiny woman and this TERRIFIED me. J also took this time to remind me that when he was born, he had the biggest head in the nursery at the hospital.

What the hell did I marry?

Between the fear of my giant baby coming early, and the fact that J and I are meticulous planners and over-preparers, we had our hospital bag packed weeks before my due date. I dealt with my anxiety by going into nesting overdrive. We got the nursery together, I washed, organized, and put away all of the lovely hand-me-down baby clothes (and the adorable new stuff we got at our shower), and we had our car seats professionally installed. My parents flew in a week before the due date to make sure they wouldn’t miss the birth.

And then we waited. And watched a lot of HGTV.

On February 28, two days before my due date, I woke up with some tightness in my lungs and pain in my back. I had felt a little achy the night before, but went to bed thinking it was just normal pregnancy discomfort. Now, it felt painful to take a deep breath. As the morning dragged on, the pain got so intense that it hurt to take a breath of any size. At around 2 p.m, I finally called my OBGYN’s office and was told to head to the hospital and check in to Labor & Delivery. I called J, who immediately headed home from work to pick me up, while I packed the last-minute toiletries into our hospital bag and waited.

When J got home, he came inside for a minute, then packed up the car and walked me out, got me in the car, and promptly lost his car keys. I sat there in the passenger seat, watching him sweat, running back and forth from the car to the house looking frantically for the keys like a perfectly executed classic sitcom moment. If it didn’t hurt so much to laugh, I would have enjoyed this a lot more. Finally, we were on our way.

When we checked in to the hospital, I was immediately put on a fetal monitor to make sure the baby was okay (which he was), and then a battery of doctors, nurses, and technicians came in to check my blood, my heart rate, and my vitals. Apparently when a 40-weeks pregnant woman says she can’t breathe and has chest pains, it’s kind of a big deal. I had an EKG, an ultrasound of my legs, and a terrifying CT scan. The doctors wanted to rule out a pulmonary embolism. Eventually, I was taken from L&D and admitted to the hospital for more monitoring and some antibiotics. One doctor thought I might have walking pneumonia. One thing was clear, though. I was probably not having a baby tonight. They decided to keep me overnight to make sure everything was good with my heart, my lungs, and most importantly, my unborn baby. The final diagnosis was Corona Virus, which is basically a fancy way of saying cold/flu, and makes no sense because I had exactly zero cold symptoms. Either way, the next morning, March 1, — the day before my due date — they sent me home from the hospital without a baby.

More waiting.

We tried everything. Long walks (or walking for as long as I could stand to waddle around the block), herbal tea, clumsy sex, and a local salad that is supposed to be well-known for inducing labor. Nothing.

Four days after my due date, we had a check-up with my OBGYN. After examining me, he let us know that it was time to induce. We were to check in at the hospital the following morning at 5:45 a.m. to get things started! That night we went out for a “last meal” of sorts with my parents and my father-in-law. I had a giant lasagne and a decadent chocolate cake, as I knew once I got to the hospital in the morning it would be ice chips and Jell-O for the foreseeable future.

Naturally, the night before I was meant to be induced, I went into labor at home. I started having mild contractions at about 1 a.m. and J and I dutifully breathed through them just as we were taught in our birthing classes. J drew me a nice, warm bath which felt really good and helped ease some of that early pain and discomfort. We stuck it out at home for a few hours, and at around 5 a.m., J grabbed the smoothie he had made and frozen for me the night before, to take in the car as my final meal before the hospital rules kicked in.

On our way to the hospital!

We checked in to the hospital, let them know that I had already started having contractions, and settled into my delivery room. Once I had been examined, the nurse began to pump me with pitocin to move the labor along. The contractions started to get stronger and more painful. Hours went by. J was an amazing partner, cheering me on and helping me breathe through the tough ones. I ate more popsicles and Jell-O cups than I care to remember.

After 10 or so hours of contractions, which were now only moments apart, the nurses offered me the epidural. While I was in a lot of pain, J and I didn’t really want to do anything without talking to or seeing my doctor first. I can’t remember why now. Finally, after 18 hours of labor and with contractions so excruciating I thought I was going to pass out, my doctor came in, examined me and was like “Oh, my god, get the epidural!”


The epidural experience was not my favorite. I am one of those people who hate needles. Like, a lot. When I get blood drawn, I HAVE TO watch instead of looking away because the anticipation/surprise of the needle making contact is worse than actually watching it go in and feeling at least somewhat in control. So having a stranger come in and stick a giant needle into my spine, where I can’t see what’s happening is pretty much my worst nightmare. On top of that, they didn’t allow J to be in the room when it happened. Oh, and you guys, this is the worst — the anesthesiologist kept calling me “Mommy.” Like “Okay, Mommy, I’m just preparing the site.” or “Take a deep breath, Mommy.” I tried to politely tell him more than once, please call me Ali. He said it again. I said, a little more aggressively, “My name is Ali!” He said Ali once and then back to the mommy bullshit. Finally the nurse yelled out “ALI! HER NAME IS ALI!” Thank goodness for her.

Once the epidural was administered, I finally felt some relief and was able to get some rest, as the baby still had no plans of coming out anytime soon. At around 1:30 a.m. (now 24 hours into labor), I woke up to press the magic button for more of the epidural drug and noticed that the back of my nightgown felt wet. I asked J to check if maybe my water had broken, and his face said it all. He later told me it looked like a crime scene. We called for the nurse, who examined me and told me that I was only five centimeters dilated, and I should get more rest and we would check again in the morning.

It seems I would be spending one more night without a baby.

To be concluded…

How I Became A Mother, Part One: Backstory

Let’s start at the very beginning, shall we? (I hear it’s a very good place to start). After my first date with my now-husband, I knew that something important was starting. It wasn’t long until we went from talking every day and seeing each other a couple of times a week to seeing each other just about every day. Things moved pretty fast, but in a totally natural way that felt just right for us. I was 35 at the time, and I had no more time for suffering the fools and the man-children I had wasted way too much time on in my late twenties and early thirties. Fortunately, J was the antithesis of the emotionally unavailable skid marks of my past. I had finally met someone intelligent, kind, funny, and refreshingly open. We could talk about anything and everything, including — steel yourselves, ladies — our feelings. From the very start, there was zero game-playing or second guessing. This man straight-up told me what he was thinking and feeling all the time. And it didn’t scare me one little bit. It was about fucking time that I found a real live grown-up who not only was crazy awesome, but who got just how crazy awesome I am.

The more time we spent together, the more I became that 7th grade version of myself, literally writing his name in my notebook and doodling little hearts. I would have rolled my eyes at this type of behavior, but I was just too damned heart-eyes emojified by this point. But I also had some real concerns. I knew that J had briefly been married once before and that (obviously) it did not work out. What if he was turned off by the idea of ever getting married again? So of course, when one night, a couple of months into our relationship, J said to me “I think I’m falling in love with you. No, I know I am… I am in love – I love you,” I paused. J later told me that this pause felt like an hour, but it was only a few seconds so that I could get my thoughts together. My response? “We need to talk about a few things.” So romantic, right?

I told him that clearly we were at a point where we were both really invested in this relationship, and I wanted to make sure that we wanted the same things out of life. This was the most difficult and scary conversation I’ve ever had with another human being. I took a deep breath and I asked him if marriage and children were important to him and if he saw any of that in his future. And then I waited for his answer and almost threw up in my mouth because, fuck – what if he said no? Could I walk away? That was the whole point of me asking, right? Like Marisa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny, my biological clock was ticking away and this was the do-or-die moment of truth. His very honest response was that with the right person, yes – he could see himself getting married and having kids.

Filled with relief, heartburn, and pride in myself for having a very responsible conversation, I finally felt safe enough to blurt out “I LOVE YOU, TOO!!!!”

We were married 18 months (and one week) after the day we met, and we started trying to have a baby immediately after that.

Our honeymoon was two weeks long – first a week in Scotland, drinking ALL THE WHISKY, and then a week eating our way through Paris and enjoying our first Christmas as husband and wife in the City of Lights. I was so over-eager and optimistic about the whole baby-making thing that I actually bought a pregnancy test toward the end of our stay in Paris because it had been two weeks from our wedding, and it was possible to get an early positive.

Little did I know what was ahead. Months of peeing on a stick that would tell us when I was ovulating, scheduling sex for optimal fertility, and waiting two weeks for another disappointing negative pregnancy test became the new normal. That’s a lot for a new marriage. After four months of crying every time I got my period, we went to see my gynecologist, who also happens to be a fertility expert. We spent the next month or so doing all the requisite tests and discovered that I had a low egg reserve, being 37 at this point. I also should mention that I suffer from endometriosis, which can cause infertility issues (not in all cases) and can at the very least make things more complicated. There were some issues with J’s tests as well that combined with my stuff meant that we were looking at a very rough uphill battle. The last test I had done was the worst. It involved me lying on a steel table (seriously, there wasn’t a bed or even a gurney available?) in a hospital, while a male doctor I had never met stuck a catheter inside me and shot some dye into my lady business to see if there was any sort of blockage in my fallopian tubes. On the form my doctor had filled out to order this procedure, the cause was listed as “infertility.” She gave us another month to try on our own, because we needed to wait out another cycle anyway before we started making plans for treatment, like IUI or IVF, but we understood that it would be nearly impossible for us to get pregnant on our own.

We set up an appointment for the next month to make a plan to go forward with IVF treatment, and we went back home to our routine of waiting for my “prime” days and giving it the old college try.

The Sunday four days before our appointment was scheduled, J was out running errands and I was bored at home. We had so many of those cheap, tiny pregnancy test wands that come with the ovulation kits in our bathroom. One hundred percent sure that it would be negative, I took one of those into the bathroom with me and did my business, more out of habit than hope. I left it on the counter and went back to folding laundry. Five minutes or so later, I remembered and went into the bathroom to throw it away. And that’s when I saw two lines on the stick. I literally did a sitcom double-take. And then I grabbed one of our expensive, digital pregnancy tests and peed again, convinced there was some sort of mistake in the cheapo wand I left out for too long. I stared at that stupid stick for three minutes while it blinked…until finally the word “PREGNANT” popped up, almost screaming at me.


J was still out and I had this HUGE news and I could barely keep it together. I called him to VERY CASUALLY ask him when he thought he’d be home and he didn’t answer. I took a shower because I didn’t know what else to do with my body. I wrapped the digital pregnancy test in tissue paper and put it in a gift bag. I brushed my teeth. I waited. Finally, J came home with bags of groceries to put away and some thrift-store treasures he found. He’s really good at thrift-shopping. I helped him put away the groceries in a manic state and completely lost my mind when he said that he wanted to try on some of his new clothes for me. I dragged him upstairs and practically threw the gift bag at him. He was like, “When did you go shopping?”


And he did. And we hugged and cried and then went out for pizza.

The end.

The Beginning.

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