Before I Forget, Part One

There's so much I want to remember about Genevieve's first hours and days, and my primary mode of memory is writing. And I've barely written a word. Pardon me if this is a jumbled, rambling mess; this is the archive.

I said it would be the 17th all along, though that was partially just an attempt at reverse psychology. By the time the 17th actually rolled around, I was mighty antsy. The last days of a pregnancy are slow like molasses, and the prospect of having to be induced did not appeal. So, after walking to and from church, I decided to get serious. A couple weeks ago I peeked behind our garage for the first time to discover a strip of ugly weeds. Weeds we never see, but that lined the meticulously-kept backyard of our neighbors. I decided that I was going to weed my way into labor. With help from my mom, we cleared out the whole patch in a half an hour. It was the beginning of the heat wave, but thankfully we were in the shade of the garage. Shortly after I cleaned up, the power went out. We'd been expecting it, what with the three ComEd trucks in front of our house. My mom and Juliette and I set up chairs in the front lawn to watch the workers fix the line. Around 4:00pm I started to feel a teensy bit of pain with the contractions I'd been having for weeks. By the time I went in to make dinner for everyone, it was more than a teensy bit of pain. Still, I made dinner, did the dishes, took out the compost, and otherwise continued with all my ordinary domestic activities. Then I repacked my bag, which had slowly gotten unpacked over the course of the many weeks it wasn't needed. I just kept going, and I have to say that those first few hours of labor were actually quite lovely. There's a story in Birthing from Within about an Amish woman who was painting her rocking chair when the midwife arrived to deliver her baby. The midwife assumed the woman was probably dilated just three or four centimeters. She was nine, and just about ready to push.

I took a moment to go into Juliette's room and look at her sleeping, and take in her last night of being our only child.

When we left for the hospital at nine 'o clock, I thought we were heading out a little early. On the way over I even sang along heartily to that new Taylor Swift song I can never get out of my head ("Why you gotta be so mean?") I really wanted the majority of my labor to be worked out at home. As it turns out, it was time: I was six centimeters.

By the time they got us into the labor and delivery room, I wasn't singing pop country songs or cheerfully offering to do the dishes. When I wrote about labor with Juliette, I referred to "a few moments that were frightening and unpleasant." That was probably an understatement. This time, there were more or less two hours that were frightening and unpleasant. Or, more precisely: excruciatingly painful. I was a little on the fence about an epidural this time; I was super grateful to have had one with Juliette since it was entirely back labor, and felt like the decision to have the epidural against my original intentions was an extremely good one. This time, the decision to get one was a huge mistake. They made Ben leave, and only told me that he would have to leave right when they were ready to do it (he didn't have to leave with Juliette). What had been a quick and relatively painless procedure last time was long and awful and smack dab in the middle of transition. I swear the anesthesiologist must have tried twelve times to get the thing in properly. And as it turns out, it wasn't in properly. It only worked on my right side, which is to say it was a total waste. One might think that half an epidural means half as much pain, but it doesn't work that way. Fortunately, it was time to push almost immediately after Ben was allowed back in the room. The time frame makes me even more frustrated, because if I'd known it was going to be so quick, I think I would have powered through sans-drugs. Especially since the drugs were not a peanut butter sundae this time.

But this is the part of the story where all of that becomes water under the bridge. Because this is the part of the story where all of my weaknesses and disappointments and frustrations about my childbirth experiences - and even the excruciating pain itself - are displaced by the sound of a newborn's first cry.

Genevieve Laverne.

I couldn't stop asking if she was okay. She was.

Juliette emerged wide-eyed and screaming. Genevieve was quiet. Easily comforted. Sleepy.

After the basics were attended to, the nurses and doctor left the three of us in the room, blessedly alone. The beauty of the second time around: I knew how to nurse her. And like her sister, she knew how to nurse.

Breastfeeding is my favorite and my best. Breastfeeding is my thing. Maybe what I lack in the capacity to handle the pain of childbirth gracefully I make up for in my unwavering love for making milk.

Juliette meeting Genevieve deserves a post all its own.

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