Gracie, or Miss Gracie, as we call her now, was born at nine-thirty on a Sunday morning–justs the time when most people were settling down to their kitchen tables with toast, eggs, or coffee (and I think, for the luckiest ones, a nice crossword puzzle and a bold inky pen). And she was perfect.

Labor itself had been long and a little boring; quiet, with my husband, Steve, and my parents sitting with me for hours in the middle of the night. They took turns napping on terrible chair-cum-cot set up for labor coaches and husbands. Dad read a book, Mom and I chatted through some of the worse contractions, and Steve was there holding my heart every second, constantly attentive. He brought water, summoned nurses, and held me, his eyes moist and voice quavering as he demanded that I focus on his eyes while I sobbed and shook through the insertion of my epidural. He was wonderful.

The contractions were bad but not terrible, especially tempered with the warm heat of a light epidural, which allowed me to feel the pain but took the edge off so they were bearable.

There were moments when we were all quiet. No nurses in the room, no one fussing or fluttering of checking my blood pressure. The lights were low and the room, at least in my memory, glowed softly green with the lights of the monitors drawing out the peaks and valleys of our pulses, one above the other. I hadn’t thought I was in labor when we first arrived–in fact by the time I’d called in and explained that I thought my water might have broken, I’d already convinced myself that it was a false alarm. We didn’t tell anyone we were going to the hospital, just drove down calmly on an open freeway and went up to the maternity ward. My water hadn’t broken, but as I waited in the examining room for someone to check me and tell me to go home, a long beep sounded and suddenly a dozen or so people crowded around the foot of my bed, all talking loudly and, as one of the doctors rushed to do a frenzied examination of me, all while demanding that I calm down. I was terrified, my heart pounding, until finally I saw my obstetrician appear in the doorway. A wave of relief washed over me, and within moments everything became peaceful again.

They told me that I had had a five minute long contraction that it had severely distressed the baby. They wanted me to go down to labor and delivery and get set up there, where they would strap a thick band around my belly to track her heartbeat. It would have to stay there until she was born, and that meant that I would have to stay in bed. So, hours later, there I was, lulled into a surprisingly sweet sleep by the pale greens and rhythmic sounds of the room, my ears always attentive to the sound of her easy, steady heartbeat. And we waited for her to come.

Fifteen hours after we checked in, after an hour of strenuous but empowering work, they laid our baby girl on my chest, her back to me. Exhausted and shellshocked I stared at her tiny back, the curve of her little spine still tucked into the little ball shape she had so comfortably lived in for the past few months. I was desperate to see her face but they still had to cut the cord. It seemed like hours before they turned her to meet me.

When I finally held her for the first time it wasn’t her eyes or her mouth that struck me, but her tiny fingernails, just the same shade of pink you find on the inside of a seashell. They were shockingly perfect, fully formed in miniature, and I suddenly realized that it had never occurred to me that her fingernails would be finished, her eyes already rimmed with lashes, all the details of her little body just so. It was miraculous. A sweet, new little person had grown from nothing inside me to this beautiful dark-eyed baby girl. She absolutely took my breath away.

From Jamie of Lovely Somedays.

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Note from Design Mom: for the duration of my pregnancy, I’ll be posting advice, memories and stories about pregnancy, childbirth, adoption and growing a family on Wednesdays. You can find them all by clicking here. I’d love to hear your story or memory or advice, feel free to submit it to gabrielle@designmom.com.