Life ascends gradually—just like they always said. I stop counting on immediate transformations—the overnight best-seller, instant enlightenment—and instead focus on what I can do: Writing a little each day and making it to Mass on the weekend. I even give up meat on Fridays. Sort of. Gone are the days of the get rich quick schemes and learning Italian in a fortnight. At least for me. Life gets just a little bit better each day. Which is why, subconsciously, I think I had stopped believing in some of the good things too. Like miracles and apparitions. Like love at first sight.
I met you in a hospital, of all places. But isn’t that just how it is with love? She cares not for timing or circumstance—and why should she? Aren’t the best writings those that take you where you hadn’t planned to go? No, love does not wait, she just appears—ta da!—and reduces you to rubble. “I used to be such a solid, upright person,” you think to yourself, but so you are no more. And that’s how it happened with you too. In the moment I first saw you the inner roads of my heart were given extra lanes to accommodate all that I received.
I took you in my arms, embraced you, kissed you, bathed you—how intimate an act for strangers!—and found you a purple hat from a box of crocheted hats. There was a wastebasket there in the nursery and so I emptied out my wallet. I emptied out all my plans and ambitions, anything that would take me away from the miracle of you, and I dumped them there with all the other love-drunk fathers.
As you lay there under the warming lamp, I whisper-sung to you, my sweet, my heart, my gorgeous daughter:
I can’t take my eyes off of you
I can’t take my eyes off of you
I can’t take my eyes off of you
I can’t take my eyes off of you
I can’t take my eyes off of you
I can’t take my eyes…
About the story: A few days ago, I was searching through Spotify to find songs for our Bonnie Mix. I was flipping through anything that had “girl” or “Bonnie” or “daughter” in the title, when I came across this song by Damien Rice called “The Blower’s Daughter.” This track was made popular—at least to me—by the movie Closer, which I saw either my freshman or sophomore year of college. I had always assumed it was a song about a love affair, but in the context of this search I saw it as a love song from a dad to his newborn daughter. It knocked me over. Now, eventually, I went on to learn that the inspiration for the song was not in fact Damien Rice having a baby. However, the sentiment remained. And if I’m holding my daughter and these lines pop into my head, I still sort of lose it.
One of Bonnie’s first gifts to me was getting me out of writing the 40 weeks post. I had a very ambitious post planned, going through the whole journey of my pregnancy, month by month, with pictures and memories and silly stories. I’m sure it would’ve been lovely, but the prospect was also really daunting, and so when I went to bed around midnight on Monday, July 6th, I was a little grumpy/stressed about the fact that I hadn’t even started writing it.
Luckily, Bonnie had other plans for my day.
The first contractions woke me up around 2:00 a.m. I had had contractions all through the 4th of July and some on Monday afternoon/evening but those were cake compared to these back-breaking spasms of horror. Suddenly, I knew the difference between practice contractions and the real deal, and I longed to have my ignorance back. When I first started having practice contractions on the 4th of July, I wasn’t sure how many I had or how to time them, because I could never quite tell if I was having a contraction or just stomach pain from all the spicy food. These contractions required no interpretation.
I moved to the couch for an hour to see if I could get more comfortable. After an hour, I gave up and decided to take a bath, thinking that it would at least calm me, if not make them feel better. I started timing the contractions on my own, and tried to remember everything we learned about back labor in our childbirth classes. This was around 3 a.m. and I was starting to get nervous, because I knew I couldn’t wake Steven up until at least 6:15. Steven needs sleep to function, so I had promised him that no matter what, he could get at least 6 hours of sleep so that he could be functional for the long crazy day of labor/delivery/first day with baby. I sat in the tub for 2 hours, until the contractions were too painful to sit through and I felt trapped sitting in a slippery basin of water.
I got out and decided to do my hair and put on some make-up, because surely we would be taking our “headed to the hospital!” picture in a couple of hours, right? My contractions were still annoyingly erratic, coming anywhere from 7 to 15 minutes apart. I spent the 5 o’clock hour feverishly pacing the living room, tidying things and putting more stuff in the hospital bag, just in case.
Finally, I heard Steven’s alarm go off and rushed in to tell him about the new and super painful contractions. He got ready for work and I paced around some more, waiting to see if they would get close enough together to warrant him staying home for the day. Luckily, Bonnie obliged and we got almost an hour of contractions at 5 minutes apart, lasting anywhere from 30 seconds – 1 minute. Unluckily, our doctor had told us not to go to the hospital until we had a full hour of contractions that were a minute long and 5 minutes apart, so we decided to stay home and wait it out. I rode with Steven to his office so that he could pick up work to work from home that day. The contractions slowed wayyyy down in the car, but then I had two rapid fire on the walk from the car to the house, so go figure. Lesson #1: contractions are erratic and way harder to measure than you think they’re going to be.
After the short walk and drive, and almost an hour of 5 minutes apart contractions, I was pretty wiped, so I decided to lay down on the floor hugging a body pillow to see if I could get them to slow down or ease up. We were only 5 hours in and I was already so very, very tired. The worst thing about the contractions was that I couldn’t sit or lay down through them – they were so painful that I had to stand up, so any rest was immediately negated by having to jump up and try to walk through them. I tried sitting on and hugging the exercise ball, like the nice people at the childbirth class taught us, but found that it made things exponentially worse. The only thing that really helped was the heating pad, and really that just made me more comfortable in between contractions. Steven had read that you shouldn’t go to the hospital unless you can’t walk or talk through the contraction, so he asked me the same two questions during every. single. one:
Question 1: Is it starting in your back?
Question 2: Can you take a step toward me?
This got very, very old, very, very, quickly, but I felt guilty every time I snapped at him, so it was a lot of me snapping, him looking sad, and then me crying and apologizing and him reassuring me that I was doing a good job.
So that’s what we did, for the rest of the day. It was too hot to walk outside, so we walked around our little apartment. I tried resting and eating and watching TV to distract me. I spent a lot of time on the phone with Betsy and Abby and Hailey, trying to figure out if I was getting any closer. We called the doctor’s office that afternoon, just to see if there was some other symptom that would mean that we could go to the hospital. I even did an hour of lunges and squats to try and get the contractions closer together, but they petered out around the 45 minute mark and stretched back out to a 12 minute average. At one particularly low point, Steven suggested that I was actually still in pre-labor and that I might have the baby in 2-3 days or 2-3 weeks. Weeks! That was the only time I really felt like hitting him.
At midnight, we finally gave up and decided to go to hospital, just to see if we had gotten any closer. I was convinced that they were going to send us back home, so we didn’t even take a picture before we left. My make-up was long gone and I was exhausted from the last 21 hours of contractions. We took all the hospital bags, just in case, tidied the house, and got in the car. We both felt guilty, like they were going to ask to see our contraction chart and send us home without even checking me since they were clearly not 5 minutes apart and were still super erratic in terms of duration and distance apart. The nurse checked us in to Labor and Delivery Room 3 (I remember filing it away, just in case it turned out to be lucky) and told me that if I was a 3, they would let me walk around for an hour and then check me again to see if I made any progress. If I was at least a 4, I would get to stay. I had been a 2 at my doctor’s appointment on Monday, so I started to feel a little more hopeful about my chances of booking a room at the hospital and ordering that sweet, sweet epidural. I got changed into a gown and the nice nurse came in and checked me and… I was a 6! I responded with an elated, “I get to stay!” and Steven ran down to get our bags out of the car. The nurse was so impressed with all my good laboring at home that she tried to convince me to go the rest of the way without an epidural, but there was no way I was falling for that trick. Finally, things were happening.
The next hour was a flurry of needles and paperwork and activity. One nurse came in and started an IV (always my least favorite part of being in the hospital). She blew a vein on the first attempt, which wouldn’t have been so bad if I hadn’t been contracting at the same time (ouch). The anesthesiologist came in right after that and started setting up the epidural while someone else came to take my blood, again, all while contracting. The nurse explained all the monitors to me, so I could watch the strength and frequency of the contractions and see how Nino’s heartbeat responded to them. By far the worst part of all the equipment was the obnoxiously tight blood pressure cuff that went off every 15 minutes (even during pushing – grrrr!). My pain was still mostly located in my back, so the epidural didn’t start working right away. My legs went numb immediately, but since they didn’t hurt at all, this mostly just made me anxious. Plus, I could feel where they put the epidural in, so now I had a new pain in my back and could still feel the contractions while I watched them spike on the monitors AND I was stuck in bed and couldn’t walk through them. I started to worry that the epidural wouldn’t work on these contractions and got really freaked out that I had just made the whole thing worse. Luckily, after about 20 minutes and what felt like 18 more contractions, it kicked in fully and I was completely numb. When the nurse came back to check me, I felt nothing. Heaven. Then the on-call doctor came in to break my water and I felt nothing. Heaven. Though, still odd that I have no idea what it feels like when your water breaks. Something for next time, I suppose.
By now it was about 2 a.m. and I was numbed out and blissed out and ready for a long and luxuriously medicated nap. The nice nurse brought Steven a chair that turned into a bed, so he was ecstatic about getting some sleep too. I was mostly too excited to sleep – too excited that we were actually at the finish line! Medicated! Admitted to the hospital! Water broken! At an 8! I got a little bit of rest in between blood pressure checks and text messages and tried to focus on what life would be like in a few short hours.
They came and checked me once an hour and started some Pitocin around 5 to see if they could get my contractions closer together. Even in the hospital, after my water broke, my contractions were still coming around 6-8 minutes apart. Lesson #2: your contractions might not ever get to 5 minutes apart. NO ONE HAD TOLD ME THIS EVER. In all the birth stories I read, I had never come across the fact that sometimes, for some women, contractions never get that close together. I was floored and annoyed but still numb, so whatever. Lesson for next time, I suppose.
At around 7 the nurses changed and the new nurse told me I was between a 9 and a 10 and that we would start pushing in the next hour or so. Whoa. All that entertainment I had carefully acquired and arranged in the hospital bag for weeks and it turns out we didn’t need a single solitary thing. The contractions were peaking sharper and faster on the monitor and I could finally start to feel the tightness in my back again. Betsy told me that she likes to turn off the epidural when she pushes so that she can feel something, so I tried to refrain from pushing my pain button for as long as possible. I think I made it 30 minutes before I started ramping it back up. Even though it was a Wednesday morning during business hours, they told me that the on-call doctor would be delivering my baby. I was a little disappointed, but mostly too tired to care at that point. Then, at around 7:45, I heard a man’s voice and my wonderful OB, Dr. Priddle walked in. I was so surprised and grateful that I’m pretty sure I cried. He checked me and said I was at a 10 and so 10 minutes later, we started pushing.
For me, there were 3 distinct parts of labor. First: contractions. When those first contractions started, I felt like such a wimp in the face of all those mamas who have done this 3, 4, 5, 6 times. How could they possibly do this again? Betsy told me she never even felt her contractions before her water broke. I remember looking through Facebook at all my friends who had babies and feeling so weak about suffering so much in the early labor process. I worried about being able to give Nino one sibling, let alone 5, like Steven and I had dreamed during the easy pregnancy days.
The second stage was the epidural. When the epidural kicked in and I got all warm and snuggly under the heated blanket, I reaffirmed my desire to have a whole litter of children, as long as I could get that sweet, sweet epidural. Seriously – the best drug ever.
The third stage was the pushing. The nurse described the pushing to me and I tried to listen and understand, thinking that my body would just instinctively take over. Then I pushed for the first time and I realized that no, no, this was actually going to be the worst part of the entire process. I would have one child, thankyouverymuch, and Nino would have lots of cousins to play with, courtesy of her much stronger Aunt Betsy.
All in all, I had a very easy time with the pushing, especially as a first time Mama. I pushed for maybe 40 minutes before the lovely doctor came in and suggested using the vacuum to help ease Nino out. Her head was just a little bit sideways and just a little bit stuck on my pubic bone (hence all the back pain) so despite my best efforts, she wasn’t sliding out the way she should. They gave me oxygen, I yelled at Steven for taking 30 minutes to count to 10, and after two rounds of pushing with the vacuum help, out she flew. Literally. They barely announced that the head was out before the rest of her came flying out. It happened so fast that they didn’t even do the typical “It’s a Girl!” announcement, but kept referring to her speed and then she was crying and I was crying because, man, that is a big time hormone rush, and I asked Steven if it was a girl and they all confirmed that yes, all those dreams about girls you’ve been having were correct – Nino is a girl.
They cleaned her and then held her up to me and she was screaming and beautiful with a head full of hair. They asked me if she looked the way I thought she would and I had no idea how to respond. A girl! A girl of our very own! A girl who was screaming and needed to be comforted, and was laid right on my chest right away so I could feel that impossibly soft skin. Steven and I sat there in total disbelief while Priddle and the nurses finished up all the rest of the after labor stuff and explained things to me that I will never in my life be able to remember. 21 hours of laboring at home, plus 8 hours in the hospital and there she was, Miss Bonnie Mae Miller, ready to take on the world.
When a woman is in labor, she is in anguish because her hour has arrived; but when she has given birth to a child, she no longer remembers the pain because of her joy that a child has been born into the world. -John 16:21
God wants us to rejoice in our newborns, because the gift they are to the world is worth any negatives people can dream up.
I thought maybe I was going to get out of writing this post. I started having contractions around midnight Friday and they were bad enough that I couldn’t sleep through them. They were still pretty far apart (at least 2 hours) so I didn’t think much of it. I finally gave up trying to sleep at 8 on Saturday morning and started feverishly cleaning out my desk and putting Betsy on high alert so she could get her army of people ready for a potential trip to Manhattan. I finished the laundry and vacuumed, asked Steven to clean the bathroom and kitchen, and we prepared for our last day before baby. The contractions continued throughout the rest of the day, getting as close as 30 minutes apart for a couple of hours. Then, around 8, they went back to an hour. We went out at 10 so that Steven could set off some fireworks and spent a couple of hours chatting with the neighbors. By the time we came back in, the contractions had completely stopped and we were both able to sleep until 10 this morning.
And so, here we are, all dressed up with no place to go, impatiently waiting for contractions to start again.
Fourth of July, as it happens, continues to be my least favorite holiday.
Blanket Update – The blanket is finally – FINALLY! – finished! I finished weaving in the last few strands on Friday night right before the contractions started and it seemed like Nino had been patiently waiting for me to finish the blanket before he arrived. It never did turn into a rectangle, but it’s soft and lovely and will hopefully be happily wrapped around Nino, and dragged on the floor and through the dirt and dropped in bushes and puked and drooled and cried on a million times over. I started the blanket over Christmas break and took far, far too long to finish it, but as I was crocheting the border, I found myself sad to be almost done. At the end, I realized how much I had enjoyed working on it, and learning to crochet, and seeing it come together. I can’t wait to give it to Nino, and to comfort him with it, and to see him reach for it, and drag it along behind him and to cry out for it when he’s tired. It may not be perfect, but it was made with love, and made just for him. I hope he loves it the way his cousins love theirs. I hope he never loses it for as long as Katie lost hers. I hope it connects him with his cousins in a special and unique way.
For me, it’s a symbol of this first foray into motherhood. Longer than expected, with so many unpredictable bumps and detours along the way. It’s not perfect, and it’s not like anyone else’s, but in the end, I have a finished product that was worth all the hours of work along the way. Precious Nino, I promise to always love you imperfectly, and to follow through, no matter how long it takes. Thanks for waiting for me to finish your blankie. You can come on out now. We’re ready for you.
Friday Fun – Steven and I both had the day off work on Friday, so after I finished the blanket, we went out for a celebratory lunch at Little Grill, our favorite place in Manhattan. One of the “natural” suggestions for inducing labor is eating spicy food, so we’ve been on a steady stream of fire food for the past week. It’s basically an excuse to get to eat all of my favorite foods, so it’s a pretty good deal for all involved. Does anyone have any other natural induction strategies that have worked for them? We’re trying to walk more, and eat spicy food, and… that’s it. I’m open to any suggestions that don’t involve castor oil. 🙂
After lunch we took Nino to Bill Snyder Family Stadium so that we could finally find our brick at the West Stadium Center and get some pictures. It’s always so crowded and we’re so busy on gameday that we’d never been over there to try and find it. We had a personalized onesie designed for Nino’s hospital outfit, so we got some pictures of the onesie and the brick, further solidifying it as our family motto.
Nino’s Nursery – Also on Friday, Steven helped me decorate Nino’s nursery so I feel like everything is finally in place and ready for him to move in. My natural inclination is to decorate with colors instead of a theme, so not knowing the gender didn’t really bother me in terms of decor. I really love how it all came together and the colors and mismatched pieces feel completely me and like a natural extension of the rest of our apartment. However, there are parts that seem a little girly right now, so we may need to switch things up if Nino is, in fact, a boy. A K-State football nursery would be really fun…
PUPPPDate – Don’t look now, but I think the PUPPP has finally left the building. I was able to stop using the steroid cream earlier this week and the rash is completely gone from my hands and arms and has faded quite a bit on my legs. My feet and ankles still look a little crazy, but as the rash has faded, the horrible swelling in my feet and ankles left too and now I find myself gazing in awe at my skinny, skinny feet. Surely they weren’t always that skinny, right? Maybe it’s just the gift of perspective, but I’m definitely enamored with them right now. Since the crazy itching finally stopped, I’ve been able to get a lot more sleep this week and actually sleep in my bed again for most of the night! It is the ultimate luxury.
Off to do more air conditioned mall walking! And maybe eat a pretzel. Y’know, since we’ll be right there and it’s important to feed the baby regularly, right? Right. See you (or maybe not?) at 40.