Let’s get one thing straight about giving birth: It’s nothing like the movies.
:: THOUGHTS LEADING UP TO DELIVERY ::
To say that I was ready for Grace to be born would be an understatement. My stomach was huge and growing by the day, my feet started to swell at the mere thought of walking, and sleep was getting increasingly uncomfortable. Doug and I were ready, the house was set up, and her nursery was anxiously awaiting her arrival. All we needed was the baby. :: SATURDAY, JUNE 20 & SUNDAY, JUNE 21 ::
Rumor has it that the best thing to do to induce labor is to keep moving, so that’s exactly what we did. With only days left until my due date, Doug and I went here, there, and everywhere around Chicago. We went to brunch, took long walks, and met up with friends at the Taste of Randolph (where my bestie Jess snapped some cute photos of us – I’m so happy in hindsight that she captured those!) We even went to the Damien Rice concert in Millennium Park on Sunday with Kelly, her husband Mitch, Kit and Lauren.
After all that walking and a weekend full of action, I remember going to bed that Sunday night saying, “I feel like the baby will come soon.” I can’t explain exactly what it was, but I just felt different. :: MONDAY, JUNE 22 ::
4 am :: …That feeling was spot on. Early the next morning, I had quite a rude awakening as I started having contractions.
At first they felt like really bad period cramps. They started in my back and pulsed their way toward my abdomen, lasting anywhere between 20 seconds to 1 minute. I tried to sleep in between them at first, but they were so painful that sleep just wasn’t an option. I wanted to get the show on the road, but they were fairly far apart at first, happening about every half hour, so I knew I had some time to kill before things got more intense and the hospital was a valid option.
6 am :: What does one do when they’ve got a lot of time to kill and contractions to bear? Well, I worked. Yup, you read that right. I sent an email to my boss saying I’d be working from home that day, opened up my computer, and got stuff done. I know I sound crazy for doing that, but honestly, having a distraction was really helpful. In hindsight, I think that mentally tying up those last remaining loose ends was necessary for me to really be in the moment moving forward.
6 am – 3 pm :: More contractions. More work. Lots of pain.
Want to know the craziest thing about contractions? They hurt like hell while you’re having them – so painful that you physically don’t know how to bare it – and then when they’re over you feel totally normal. I’d be on my computer and a contraction would come, and I’d scream and cringe with pain, and then when it was over I’d go right back to typing. It is the strangest thing.
3 pm :: As the contractions got more intense and closer together, work quickly faded to the background. Instead, I was quite literally rolling on the ground in pain every time one came.
There really aren’t words to describe the pain to you, but I’ll try. Contractions feel as if your hip bones are being pried apart, paired with intense shooting pain that is so intolerable that it’s literally all you can do to breathe. I could barely even cry.
5 pm :: The contractions stopped. Like, just completely halted. Doug and I were more than confused as we wondered if that whole day was just false labor. I was not happy as I thought, “There’s no way I went through all that just to have to do it again. This baby has to come!” I started doing lunges and dancing around the apartment like a crazy woman, hoping that more movement would keep things going.
6 pm :: Doug got me really spicy Indian food. I devoured it.
8 pm :: The contractions came back. This time even more intense.
9 pm :: My mom and step dad arrived from Michigan. I was exhausted.
As soon as I saw my mom, I reverted back to a child. All I wanted was some sort of comfort from the crazy pain, so I curled up in my bed and my mom rubbed my back for hours. Every time I had a contraction she’d say, “It’s okay. It’s going to be okay.”
11 pm :: With the contractions still fairly far apart, although very intense when they did come, my mom and step dad left to go to their hotel room. Doug and I tried to get some sleep.
11:05 pm :: Sleep? Ha. Instead, I moved to the couch as the contractions got closer together and more painful. Every time one would come, I had to roll to the ground and arch my back on all fours to try and help the pain. (It didn’t help.)
:: TUESDAY, JUNE 23 ::
1 am :: It was go time. The contractions became so unbearable that I was literally throwing up and shaking from the pain. We grabbed our bags and raced to the hospital.
1:30 am :: We arrived at the hospital and were admitted. In the meantime, I was in the waiting room with a nice family who just so happened to get quite a show from my dear self early that morning. Let’s just say that at that point I wasn’t holding anything back and my screams/grunts were…loud. [Insert embarrassed-face emoji here]
2:30 am :: We were brought to our delivery room. They told me it was time for my epidural and I held myself back from kissing the nurse on the mouth. I was just so happy to have some relief after nearly 24 hours of labor.
3 am :: The epidural was administered. It has to be done in a sterile environment, so Doug had to leave the room while they did it.
3:30 am :: Doug returned to the delivery room and found a very happy Emily. I think I even gave a really cheesy thumbs up and a wink when he came back into the room. The cool thing about epidurals is that you don’t feel anything, but you are still 100% mentally present. It was like normal me was in the delivery room, waiting to give birth without a care in the world. We finally slept as we waited for me to become more dilated.
7 am :: I was more dilated, but not enough to start pushing. The nurse gave me pitocin to help move things along.
7 am – 12 pm :: We slept more and it was magical. I could actually see the contractions happening on the monitor but I couldn’t feel them. (I’m now convinced that epidurals are the most magical invention in history.) In the down time, I made a playlist for delivery, complete with Coldplay, Dave Matthews Band, and yes, Taylor Swift. #NoShame
1 pm :: Now fully dilated, it was time to push. A team of doctors and nurses entered into the room, and things happened really fast. I thought contractions were hard, but pushing is another story. You’re just so exhausted from everything, and even though I couldn’t feel the actual contractions, I could feel a lot of pressure.
The feeling in its entirety is how I’d envision a marathon runner feels while sprinting through the last miles of a race. So exhausted, but happy for that glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.
1:30 pm :: 10…9…8…7…Doug was holding one leg and was helping to count down the seconds for every long 10-second push. If you think the dad isn’t involved, think again. They’re right in the heart of the action.
I had always said, “There’s no way he’s going to be down there seeing everything!” But, when you’re in the moment, caring about what he sees or doesn’t see seems so silly. All shame goes out the window, and you become this team that’s determined to get your baby out quickly and safely. When we talk about it now, he says that seeing everything with the delivery was actually really cool, because it’s just so powerful to watch your significant other going through such an intense physical journey and also to see your baby being born.
2 pm :: I do feel the need to say that the actual pushing and delivery was – dare I say it – enjoyable. The doctors and nurses made it a really chill environment, which I was so thankful for. We played our music, and in between pushing, were chatting with the medical staff about concerts and favorite artists. All this really helped to put me at ease and I definitely think helped to make the delivery smooth because I wasn’t stressed about anything.
3:15 pm :: Grace was born.
Life as I knew it ended right then and there. Giving birth to her was the most emotionally intense experience I’ve ever been through. There’s nothing like seeing your baby for the first time. I heard her little cries as she entered the world and started sobbing. I was just so happy.
Side note: As Grace came out, “Gracie” by Ben Folds Five was playing, which is one of the sweetest songs as it has a father singing to his daughter named, yes, Gracie. My heart nearly exploded. I believe in signs, so I took it as one, and that pretty much solidified her name right then and there.
3:20 pm :: Grace was cleaned up, Doug cut the umbilical cord, and she was immediately brought over to me. I held her for what felt like ages. She became really calm when laying on my chest, and as she looked up at me, and I felt my heart completely melt.
Everything else faded away and it was just me, Doug, and our perfect baby. Our little family had just been through one of the biggest days of our lives and here we were, hugging each other and soaking in every precious moment. It’s something I’d relive time and time again if only I could.
:: TUESDAY, JUNE 23 & WEDNESDAY, JUNE 24 ::
From parents to best friends, our hours and days after Grace’s arrival were filled with visitors meeting her for the first time. We were so happy and proud to show her off to everyone, as we still are! I am still in a state of disbelief that our baby is here and that the delivery is over. It’s one of those things where you look back and think, “Did that seriously just happen?!” So much build up and then it’s over in a flash. (Well, for me, 38 hours of labor was a very long flash. But still!)
And that, my friends, is the story of how Grace was born. It was one of the most exhausting, but best, experiences of my life.