One week ago a mother of two was born. I have been nervously anticipating the birth of this new mother for a long time, even before there was even a pregnancy in place to make her a reality. I have worried about who she will be, if she will be kind and loving enough, if she will be sane enough to safely and successfully raise two children, if she will be brave enough. I have worrying about the pitfalls and mistakes of the past, and conjuring up new ones I haven't yet experienced. I've been looking forward to meeting her, getting to know her, learning to love her. As my belly changed and grew over time, I looked forward to experiencing again the perfect love that bonds us to our children, even as I feared what this change would bring.
Last Tuesday I woke up feeling like the change was about to happen. Little signs were beginning to appear. We had all guessed that the baby would arrive mid-week. At breakfast, Dora said "memember mommy, the baby is coming today". The three of us spent the morning out at Bent Creek, walking in the woods with the dog, eating peaches. We ran errands, had lunch and a little nap, and headed out for more fun - just Dora and I. We went on a wild goose chase all over town looking for a place to swim - the pool was closed, Dora didn't want to go creek wading at UNCA, so we ended up at Splashville, me sitting in the shade on a towel while Dora ran through the fountain with another little girl she befriended. I sat there feeling contractions start, casually beginning to keep track of them to see if they were coming as regularly as they seemed.
My friends Aurelie and Mandy came over for dinner while Brian was out at a rehearsal. About halfway through making baked spaghetti squash with fresh tomato sauce for them, I had to turn over preparations to my friends while I rested between contractions. I wasn't really sure this was labor - it was all starting so different than it had with Dora - and I was dreading what was becoming more and more apparent: a night-time labor. I do not like being up all night (which probably makes you wonder why I have kids at all) and I hated the thought of laboring when I should be sleeping.
I ate a bit of dinner, already feeling nauseated, and started getting very weepy and anxious about little Dora. Should I send her home with Mandy since this could be labor? Should I keep her and then have to wake her up later? I could hardly bear to see her leave. I had known this moment would be really emotional and it was. She was excited about sleeping over with our friends, so it was an unceremonious goodbye for her. For me, the bittersweetness and overwhelming emotion of that moment will stay with me forever. I ached watching her leave.
I called the doula, called my husband, waited on the couch with my friend Aurelie, dozing between contractions and noting how much more intense everything felt this time around. By 10:30 or so, I really needed help getting through each contraction. Brian and my doula, Stacey, arrived around this time, and shortly thereafter I said that we needed to go to the hospital. The night air was cool and I had the window open on the way there, Brian driving painfully slow as the contractions came one after another, only a couple of minutes between them. I was 5 cm on arrival, and I knew we did not have long before our baby would arrive.
Once in our birthing room I had to be on the monitor for 20 minutes, which I thought would be the end of me. I didn't really want to ask for drugs, exactly, but every contraction was so painful and so incredibly intense that I felt sure I could not go on. I thought if someone could die from pain, this could probably do it. I felt like I was being broken in half by the pain, and I couldn't even begin to communicate with Brian or the doula about what I needed. With Dora, I had been able to go into this very internal, almost animal place to meditate through the pain. I tried over and over to get there with this birth but had a much harder time disconnecting than I had, maybe because things were moving very fast.
I got in the tub after the monitor, and the first contraction in the tub was easy. I relaxed, I guess, and the ones that followed were even more intense and painful. I had only been in the tub for a few contractions when I told the doctor I would need to push soon. She checked me and I was 8 cm. Everyone left and just Brian, Stacey and I were in the room. All I could do was hold their hands tightly for each contraction. At one point, Stacey stepped out for just a moment, and I turned around in the tub. At that moment, my water broke with great force, and I felt the baby's head come down quickly. I went through transition in about 60 seconds. I was screaming, throwing up, pleading for help, and my poor husband was pretty scared I think, trying to find someone to help us. Everyone returned in a rush and said I'd have to get out and get to the bed, which sounded like being asked to run a marathon at that moment. I got to the bed and immediately began pushing, without even thinking about it - the body and the animal had taken over.
The doctor suggested I slow down, take breaks between contractions, but I could not. I made loud noises and in my mind hoped that no one else in the neighboring rooms had yet to deliver, for my vocals would probably scare them completely. I remember being relaxed, quiet, focused when pushing Dora out, and that it was intense but not truly painful because I just couldn't feel anything anymore. This was the opposite, other than the focus. I felt everything, and the pain was so intense all I could do was try to end it quickly. I pushed our baby out in 8 minutes.
The baby was placed on my chest and everyone was laughing. Brian and I were crying, and he told me that we had a son, a baby boy, which I had known in my heart all along. He did not cry instantaneously and was taken away for a moment to be roughed up, and I could hear him crying. He was brought back to us soon, lots of hair and bright blue eyes, just like Dora. He looked a lot like her to me, but bigger, rounder. His head was perfectly round, like a c-section baby, because he had been whisked through the birth canal so quickly. We named our son Oscar William Turner, born at 2:10 AM on Wednesday, August 17th, 2011, weighing 7 pounds, 13 ounces, and measuring 20 inches long.
And now I am that mother of two, born last week. I am muddling through this transition, trying to be everything that both of my children need and so far feeling fairly unsuccessful at it. Dora is incredibly excited about having a brother - when she met him she said, "I wanted a boy and we got a boy!" But she is angry with me, "sad" about me, missing our time together. I miss it, too - miss focusing on my little sidekick, doing things with just her, snuggling her in bed.
I was prepared for the intensity of the newborn days because we've done it before, and in many ways Oscar is an easier baby than Dora was (so far at least) - sleeping a lot and eating well. What I was unprepared for was the rift that would form between my older child and I, the way that not only would our time together be shortened but also the quality of the time changed. It is getting easier now that family has gone home and there is no audience to observe Dora's bad behavior, her screaming at me and slamming doors, but it's still there.
When Dora was born one of the things that I wrote about was how it changed my marriage, how it felt a little like a bucking wedge being driven into a fireplace log, splitting us apart so we could work together more strongly, burn more brightly for our new family. Maybe this is what has to happen to Dora and I. Maybe our relationship will be made even stronger through this, by being pushed apart this way we'll be drawn even closer together in some new way, joining forces as the women in our family, taking care of the boys, doing girl things together, having our special "girl" time that only she and I can share.
I know that having a sibling will be a wonderful thing for her, and I know that my family now feels whole and complete, as if a final missing piece has been added to our little puzzle. I always thought I wanted another girl but now that Ozzy is here I see how perfect it is that he is a boy. I know that what I heard is true, that our capacity for love is endless, that I love these two children completely and fully. I do not know how my relationship with Dora will evolve but I do know that we will find a way to always be close, and that though I may be an imperfect mother of two, all of us will be bonded together by a perfect love, even as it changes and grows over time.