I last blogged in June 2016 to share the wonderful news of the adoption of our daughter, Mansi. Little did I know that 366 days after welcoming Mansi into our family, we would welcome a baby sister. Growing our family through adoption and pregnancy in one year has been a stretching joy. I have so many thoughts and emotions from the journey we’ve been on; it will likely take me an age to process it. I’m not sure where to start or where to end, so here is a snap shot from a life-altering day: Zara’s birthday.
April 5, 2017 was an emotionally-loaded date. It marked 1 year since we met Mansi and it was baby’s due date. I spent the day waddling about Hamilton doing errands, visiting the midwife and planning our “Family Day” party.
For “Family Day”, we had Indian food and cupcakes and showed Mansi a video montage of her first year in our family. My belly was swollen with life, and my lap was crowded with Mansi snuggles.
Around 3 a.m. on April 6, I began to feel rhythmic sensations in my abdomen. They weren’t painful and were 15-30 minutes apart so I slept on. I asked Varun to work from home–just in case. I walked Mansi to school, walked the 14 flights of stairs up to our apartment and called the midwife. She suggested I take Tylenol and gravol and sleep. After an hour of light napping, I woke up feeling restless. I bounced on the birth ball and watched The Office. I texted my Mom and sister. At that point, I didn’t feel anything–except sheepish.
By lunch, I was determined that baby should be born that day. I slathered on clary sage essential oil as it’s supposed to strengthen contractions and enjoyed the leftover Indian food with Varun.
At 1 p.m., I felt the first sharp pain. For the next hour, the contractions were 10 minutes apart. I called the midwife and she suggested I stop counting and wait; it’s a first baby and they usually take a long time.
I too had assumed that since it was my first baby, labour would be long. I had prepped snacks and a list of activities to do; productive (sweep, wash dishes, bake), distraction (list of funny movies) and Bible verses to meditate on. I had a 3 page list of pain management techniques for us to utilize.
<And then my body went from 0-100 in an hour. It got real.>
By 2 p.m., my contractions were 2-3 minutes apart. I couldn’t talk through them or walk and was starting to feel a little panicky: it wasn’t supposed to happen so fast! Varun was hovering and timing my contractions, despite my protestations that the midwife said not to. Varun called the midwife again and she decided to come examine me.
The midwife arrived to find me mid-contraction, yogurt popsicle in hand, leaning on a door frame. After examining me, she proclaimed that I was 7-8 cm dilated and that it was time to head to the hospital. I stood like an overwhelmed toddler as Varun helped me get dressed. I asked repeatedly if the baby would be born in the car as I felt labour was moving (too) fast.
As Varun drove, I sent a pre-written text to our families updating them. Sitting down felt impossible as my body contracted and surged. Each bump amplified the pain and I struggled to remain composed.
I texted my nurse friend Shannon, “Going to hospital. 7-8 cm. Worst pain of my life…U can come visit.” Apparently my extroversion was still going full throttle at that point.
We met Susie, the midwife, in the lobby and she walked with me as Varun parked. I clung to Susie’s neck while I had a contraction in the door of the elevator (Thank you, elderly Italian man who held the elevator door open while I breathed, eyes closed).
In the hospital room, I felt instinct taking over. I began groaning through contractions, and between them asked for water and whimpered that I was too tired. My sole focus was on riding out the pain. Varun stood calmly while I clung to him, slow dance position, during contractions. He helped me change into the hospital gown and was a steady, loving presence.
I had been bummed when I went into labour because my main midwife, Allison, wasn’t on call. During the hour that I was in the hospital room, Allison arrived, wearing scrubs and looking ready for action. Her unexpected presence gave me a renewed burst of hope and comfort.
After my water broke I felt the urge to push. Everything was overwhelmingly fast, yet in slow motion. I remember the bright lights, and turning to Varun to tell him we were ‘never doing this again’. I felt vulnerable and young, and asked ‘If everyone could please stop being bossy’. The contractions and urge to push were all-encompassing. It was almost beyond pain, or maybe I’ve forgotten in the 8 weeks post-partum.
In 3 or 4 pushes, the baby’s head was out. In that instant, I could feel her tiny, bony, wet body and it was very strange. I exclaimed, “Ah! I can feel her! Get her out!” (Classy, I know).
And then, someone was placing a wet and screaming, red-faced infant on my chest. I exclaimed, “Oh my gosh! It’s a BABY!” Everyone laughed, relieved and happy.
Someone noted the time was 5:29 pm. A midwife approached me with Advil and Tylenol, which I skeptically received. I just delivered a baby without pain medication, what was about to happen that I would need Tylenol?!
I felt exhausted and exhilarated, my body charged with adrenaline. I told Varun I was craving juice and a hamburger, and I stared in shock and wonder at the creature on my chest (who, incidentally, had peed on me). Varun asked me to turn and smile for a photo.
“Focus on your baby”, Allison encouraged me as she gave me sutures. So I did.
I held baby’s tiny fingers and marvelled at her dark, curly and matted hair. I inhaled a scent I had never known but instantly loved: newborn baby. Welcome to the world, Zara Grace.