My birth story plays out like most – with a plan, and the reality of that plan. It’s rare to go through this experience without a few battle wounds, and mine is consistent.
I went into labor naturally after being 4 days “late”, but my baby’s birth was a medical one – inclusive of a small pitocin drip, episiotomy, and epidural. I’m not the home birth type nor love the idea of interventions, but I fall somewhere in-between. My doctor recommended an induction only 2 days after my due date, but I was adamant about giving my body (and baby) time to arrive. It felt like an injustice to speed things along, and I did a bit of research on what an appropriate (and healthy) gestational period realistically is. Studies prove that 42 weeks is OK if mama and cub are both healthy. Anything later is when a pregnancy is considered “post-term.”
Because of my age (36) and “size of baby” (she was charting in at over 8 lbs), the suggestion was not to wait. But I decided to do so anyway. A healthy baby can arrive anywhere between 37 – 42 weeks. It’s unfortunate that most doctors give us an expectation around one day. It looms over our heads from the minute we find out we’re pregnant and the $25,000 question is always “When are you due?” I--like most people--got anxious when that day came and went. And it didn’t help that my doormen would look at me daily with the same, “You’re still pregnant!?” expression on their faces. Fortunately with the help of an acupuncture induction specialist, I started contracting naturally at 40 weeks, 4 days.
In all of my life, I’ve never worked so hard to accomplish something. No one can prepare you for the intensity of birth and between contractions and the pushing, this was the most difficult thing I’ve done. I knew my physical strength needed the most support so depended on my mental self to get me through. With that, I reached into the depths of my soul and thoughts of the last two years raced across my mind. Everything that we had worked towards to create this magical creature was coming together, and the final moment of my pregnancy journey was here. I was ready.
I labored at home for 17 hours and an additional 14 hours in the hospital. By Sunday morning, I was ready to push. I almost passed out, threw up and died at the same time. And my wife Dina said she lost connection with me too. It’s almost as if I had to go somewhere else in order to find the strength to help my baby through to the other side. It was a challenge, and took every ounce of my mental, emotional and physical strength, but fortunately I was able to get there.
After an hour, my baby crowned. I was able to touch her head while she was both a part of me and her new world and it blew my mind. She was almost here. Five minutes after that, with one more final push, she was on my chest – beautiful, pure, wide eyed and alert. It seemed that she too was taking it all in. Despite being the most surreal moment of my life, what I remember most is her skin feeling so soft against mine. We named her Vida -- her name means life in Spanish and the miracle of it was something I finally understood.
The first 24 hours were tough because I spiked a fever during labor and Vida had to be in the NICU for a 24-hour observation. Her and I both were given antibiotics as a precaution. Because rooming-in, bonding, constant skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding were high up on my agenda, this killed me. As did the idea of her receiving unnecessary medication. I also lost a ton of blood so was kept lying flat in the labor and delivery room until stable. I wanted to immediately get up and visit her, but physically couldn’t do it. Dina went while I recovered.
Although I had expected glitches in my birth plan, having to separate from Vida was my biggest fear realized. I begged the doctors and nurses over and over again to leave her with us, but they couldn’t. While I’m appreciative of western medicine and top notch care, this was hard to accept. But I didn’t have a choice. Being in the hospital, I had to oblige by their policies, and unfortunately it was out of my hands.
A few hours later I stabilized and went down to see our beautiful (and according to the nurses, feisty!) little girl. I nursed her immediately. Being that breastfeeding is not a done deal for all women, I was over the moon when this connection was secure. It was pure bliss. We went back and forth during the 24-hour observation and by the next morning she was with us to stay. By Tuesday we were discharged, and on our way to start the next chapter as three. The level of gratitude for this new family of mine was (and still is) at an all time
No one could have prepared me for the type of intense and insane love that I’ve experienced with becoming a mama. While I thought I got it before, I never knew until I did which is the mantra I’ve been living by since Vida’s arrival. The past 3 months have been life-changing and I fall more deeply in love with her each day. My heart constantly feels like it’s about to explode. The love is indescribable. I am incredibly grateful for this beautiful gift who was beyond worth the wait. Vida is the new light of my life and I can’t wait to show her the world and experience life through her lens.
Photography by Lori Berkowitz.