Wildling made her screaming debut into our lives four years ago today. I’d like to describe an easy labor and a quick birth and a sudden sweet bonding with a newborn snuggling against me, but Wildling was never easy.
She was born at 4:10 on a Sunday morning. In most cases, that would mean labor would have started on a Saturday, but no, not for me. I went into labor on a Thursday evening. Yes, Thursday to Sunday. 56 long hours. I just remember timing contractions for days and hoping they’d get close enough together to go to the hospital and get epidural relief. My contractions were agonizing and gut-wrenching, and ten to twelve minutes apart. None of the tricks I read on-line worked to speed up labor, so I was basically bouncing on an exercise ball and watching Netflix and checking the time for hour after miserable hour. As soon as the contractions hit 5 minutes apart, we called my doctor’s office and headed to the hospital.
I still didn’t get admitted right away – I was checked at triage and they made me walk for forty-five minutes to get more dilated, even though I really couldn’t and Will had to hold me up. It was horrible. But then finally, I was taken back to a room. The nurse looked at my chart and said “I see you plan on having an epidural. When would you like that?” I was like, “ummm…I really wanted it on Thursday, but right now would be great!”
Will was so relieved when the epidural went in. He hated seeing me in pain and knowing there was nothing he could do about it. I was hooked up to a contraction monitor, so he was able to see electronic proof that the epidural took effect. He was watching the monitor and told me a contraction was coming, and I couldn’t feel a thing. Such a relief. We were both able to rest and get a brief nap in, though I mostly just laid there with my eyes closed and thought about the baby I was about to meet.
When Wildling was born, she came out screaming. Actually, she was screaming before she was born. I had Will taking pictures to document the birth so that I could see what it looked like (don’t worry, I won’t post them ever), and we have an awesome shot of nothing being out but Wildling’s head and hand (because of course she had her arm up, she can’t make anything easy) and she is screaming. She maintained that scream through the rest of the birth and her first forty-five minutes of life. She wanted everybody in the vicinity to know that she had been safe and snug and warm in my uterus and now she was none of those things and pretty damn mad about it.
Some people talk about feeling an instant connection with their child, how at the moment of birth there is this sudden intense bond. A friend of mine who had two c-sections resents her birth experiences (even though they saved her life!) because she didn’t feel that sudden instant bond and she blamed the method of birth for costing her that feeling. I didn’t feel it either. What I felt was exhausted and overwhelmed and suddenly very unprepared.
I do remember though, the moment when I did feel that first burst of overprotective love, when my love and concern for my child overcame my exhausted brain fog and finally came to the surface. It was a moment when everything changed: I had planned to put her in daycare at six weeks so I could go back to work, and that changed. I had felt like I lacked maternal instincts, and that changed. I had been afraid I wouldn’t know what to do to care for my child, and that changed because I suddenly realized it didn’t matter, that I was her mom and I could and would take care of her, and that no matter what I truly loved her. I remember the exact moment that happened, and it was when the hospital pediatrician told us that he was calling in a cardiologist consult because there was something wrong with Wildling’s heart.
I never thought there’d be something wrong with my baby. I did everything right both while trying to conceive and during pregnancy. I took my vitamins. I gave up alcohol. I didn’t drink from plastic water bottles. I avoided sushi. I stayed in shape. I went to every doctor’s appointment. I had numerous ultrasounds that came out fine. I did everything that is supposed to ensure a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. And it didn’t work.
We were very fortunate though. An echo-cardiogram revealed that Wildling was born with two holes in her heart, but they eventually closed on their own. Heart problems run in my family. Jack had a hole in his heart that didn’t close until sometime in elementary school. I have cousins who have had to deal with worse heart problems in their children. I am so relieved that Wildling’s problems were so minor.
But still, I remember that moment when they told me there was something wrong with my baby’s heart, and I remember the feeling of fierce protectiveness that rose up in me in response. I just looked down at this tiny helpless newborn and that was the moment I knew she was completely mine and I was completely hers.
Happy birthday, my dear Wildling. Love always, Mama.