Spread Love

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking since the attacks on Paris last Friday. Feeling confused. Disheartened. Angry. Lost even. And I can’t help but wonder:

  • Has the world always been this scary?
  • What’s the point of it all — the point of anything — if we’re all just on a journey to our graves?
  • How can we possibly protect ourselves in a world in which a stranger whom we can’t predict and we’ve never done any harm to is willing to destroy us?
  • What would I do if faced with such a horrific situation? Could I be heroic?
  • How can we all be human beings and yet not all of us value human life?
  • How in God’s good name do we win this war?

I don’t have any answers, but I do know it’s become so much harder to hear these stories since having children. I just want them to be safe. I want to send them out into the world knowing that they will come back to me. I want to go out into the world with them, knowing that I won’t have to shield their body with mine to protect them. I would do that if I had to. I would do it in a second. But I don’t want to.

And I know there are no guarantees. We could die in a car accident tomorrow. A tree could crash through the roof tonight. My daughter, when she fell off her bunk bed yesterday morning, could have hit her head just right and it could have all been over. No guarantees. But the thought that someone, an evil someone, could walk into a restaurant, or a school, or a movie theater or somewhere else benign and mundane and intentionally take my or my child’s life? No…sorry…I can’t live with that. I just can’t.

I suppose it would be easy to succumb to the fear. Sometimes, I want to. I want to stay away from crowded spaces. I want to stop traveling.  Avoid public transport. Go to our tiny little preschool and maybe the park (surely no terrorists will be at the park??) and home and that’s it. I want to hide away. Lock our borders. Build a moat around myself and my heart and keep all intruders out. But that can’t really be the right way, can it? No, the answer can’t be to hide away and turn inwards and live in fear of letting any foreigner in (and I’m not starting a political debate here; just talking about in our own individual lives). I think the thing we have to do is turn to each other. We are stronger when standing together, am I right?

I’m not sure what I hoped to accomplish by beginning this post. Even as I type it out, it sounds a little too Utopian for my taste. But nevertheless, if there was one message I wanted to put out there, it’s this: spread love. Go out into the world and give away as much love as you can. As we all navigate this minefield of terror attacks and school shootings and hate and even, dare I say it, the very personal battles and broken hearts we each encounter in our own lives, please don’t let the grief and pain and fear overcome the best parts of you. Love a little harder today. Forgive a little quicker. Look out for your neighbor. Wave at the jerk who cuts you off in traffic and smile at the b*tch who talks behind your back at work. Be good to one another.

And you can roll your eyes all you want, but it’s the only way, people.  I don’t think love will solve everything. It never does. But it’s a good start.

And good always wins in the end.

#MicroblogMondays: Over

I went to see my OB for my postpartum check-up today. I know Poppy was born a whole six weeks ago and the “fourth trimester” continues for yet another six weeks, but seeing my doc made me feel like my pregnancy and postpartum period is officially over. I’m sad.

I’m obviously so glad my baby is here, but I’m sad the magic, mystery, and anticipation of pregnancy is once again over. Sad that I won’t be back to visiting that office of wonder (and nerves and worry and stress) for another year, maybe more. Maybe never, if that’s what God and destiny decide. Sad that I don’t have an extra excuse to escape from my family once or twice or four times each month.

And sad that, soon enough, all of this will be over once and for all. Forever.

Moment By Moment: Defeat

Note: I’ve been thinking of starting a series of posts called “Moment By Moment.” These will give you a snapshot of a moment or two (or more) of our daily lives, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Let me know what you think!

I sit on the sofa, my newborn sleeping fitfully against my chest. His big sisters are nearby, my oldest one on the sofa calling out requests for “A croissant please!” and “I need some juice!” and her little sister (the middle child) works at their play kitchen, dutifully trying to prepare her sister’s meal. A tear slips down my cheek.

I have been crying lots of tears lately, happy, joyful, grateful tears, but this is not of those kind.

Today, I feel defeated. It’s early, but I’m tired and this is the first peaceful moment my children have given me. It’s 10:30 a.m. and already I am wishing my husband home and the day be done. Today, the final day of the first week on my own with my three littles, my oldest has cried because her shirt is itchy and she wants lotion on her skin. And after I put said lotion on, and asked if she needed any more, and put the lotion away, she cried because she was still itchy. And she doesn’t want to share today. Every time I turn around, she is snatching another toy away from her sister. And then her sister starts screaming. And all that screaming in between her whines and cries to “Eeeeeat. Pleeeeease eat. Mooooore eat.” She just ate. And the baby! Oh, this sweet, precious, snuggly baby boy who turns into a possessed, screaming monster when I try to put him down so I can prepare food for his sister to eat. Or so I can do laundry. Or just so I can pee.

It’s been this way most of the week, but today is the worst of the worst, and I am spent. Done. Defeated. It’s feeling hard to remember why I’ve yearned for this sort of chaos so long. It’s feeling hard to believe I ever thought I could handle three kids at one time. Just a few years ago, I would have given my right leg and both eyeballs to be in this moment. But now? I’m wishing they’d grow up. I’m wondering what my exact breaking point is. At what point will I become one of those mothers who slaps her child across the face or just walks out the door and never comes back? I’m crying because I feel regret, and guilt. I wanted this. I would have killed for this. I’m so ashamed.

The quiet moment passes too quickly. The girls start squabbling again. Screeching at each other. I put the baby in the Moby, but he moves too much. His legs push against me and, somehow, he works his shoulders and arms free of the wrap. I switch him to the Boba and he wails. I’m tired, and I need to make lunch and pick up the toys littered from one end of the house to the other, and while I do all of that I bounce him and he finally calms down. When I stop to catch my breath, he starts again. And one of his sisters starts begging for food again. And the other begins complaining that she doesn’t like chicken nuggets.

I sigh. I just have to accept it. Today is a day of defeat. It just is.


The baby is strapped into the Boba, my nerves are jittery, and I am cleaning the house when I feel it. My underwear are wet.

I had thought my postpartum bleeding was over. I’d put the pads away a couple days ago. I shouldn’t have.

I reach to grab some toilet paper only to find that my 4-year-old, who has become obsessed with wiping herself recently, has wrapped the paper around the roll in the most bizarre fashion that I can’t find the free end and start tugging, tearing, and shredding it in an effort to get some for myself. I am on the brink of a tantrum. I begin to whimper.

With the baby against my chest, I struggle to wipe my underwear with the shredded TP and then tape on my panty liner. My underwear are wet, but I don’t bother to change them. I’m too tired, and it would take too much effort with this baby on me. He is starting to stir and whine. I’m not moving enough. All I want is to rest, to breathe deep and hear nothing but silence and be free of anyone touching me.

I would also like to have a good cry. I can feel the tears coming and I fight to hold them back. Our house is falling apart. I can’t.

But I do. I cry.

“Please let the day get easier, dear God,” I pray as I bounce my baby and the tears fall quickly onto his head. I am waving my white flag of surrender. I am crying uncle. I need help.

For the first time, I wonder, What have I DONE? For the first time, I think, I can’t do this.

It seems pathetic to say it again, but…I’m defeated.


Nothing has gone right today. The baby waffled between fussing, crying, and going bat sh*t crazy every time I put him down. My daughters whined and fought and screamed and cried all morning long. I yelled back. I ripped toys out of their hands just as I was telling them not to do the same thing to their sister. I started bleeding and I wasn’t wearing a pad. Everything I picked up I seemed to drop and had to pick up all over again…while lugging around a baby in a Boba. The sky rained. The wind blew. My husband called and I thought it was to offer his sympathy, but instead it was with questions about our health insurance. He was cranky. He hates insurance companies. We received our hospital bill and it’s all wrong. Another insurance company to fight. And as I was writing this blog post, on a computer that we just bought and I’m still learning how to use, I accidentally deleted a long paragraph I had typed out and I had to type it again.

Yes, it’s a day of defeat. And I don’t know if tomorrow will be any better. It could be this way for a long time.

But one day, it won’t be.

There are always better days ahead, I’m told.

And I think I remember that being true.

Photo Vomit

Note: This post will include an overload of cute baby photos. You’ve been warned.

I am often told that I could be a spokesperson for professional photography because we so regularly have family photos of one kind or another taken. It’s true. Since having children, I don’t think we’ve gone more than six months between photo sessions. I expect this to change some as my children get older and stop morphing into entirely new people with every turn of the seasons, (If you have children, you’ll understand what I mean by this. They grow so fast! They change so quickly! Every cliche is true.), BUT I am still committed to having family portraits taken as often as possible. They are so important to me. These moments as a family, with our children so small, are passing us by. They are often gone before we even remember to savor them, cherish them, treasure them. And there is nothing at all to prove that they even existed, except for photographs and our memory — which is inaccurate and ever fading, at best.

And so I turn to the camera, both mine and that of a professional. I am often encourage by friends and family that I should take our own family portraits. You’re so talented, they say. You’re photos look professional already, they say. You have skillz!, they say. While that’s flattering, I don’t have the same faith and confidence in my abilities. And I don’t have the same resources (like the beautiful maternity gown provided by our maternity photographer and all the sweet little bonnets and wraps that our newborn photographer had). And also? What about me? I want to be on the other side of the camera sometimes. I want the lens to capture the love I have for and the unique relationship I have with each of my children. And yes, there is such thing as a timer. I could set it and run to join my family and hope that I don’t look like a disheveled mess when the camera starts clicking. Or I can hire someone to do it for me and enjoy the experience.

Every photo session we have as a family is an experience, a memory to be added to our collection of memories. A moment that is worth remembering.

See?! I really could be a spokeseperson for hiring a professional photographer!

But all of that to say, here I am again with another post of photos we’ve had taken. The girls were so wonderfully cooperative for this shoot (unlike two years ago, when Cupcake would just NOT take a single decent photograph with her baby sister) and our photographer is uber talented. Expensive, but worth every penny. One of the best and one of my favorites.  Poppy, who is a restless sleeper and does not particularly love to be fussed over, did make her work hard for her money, but she somehow still made magic. I regret that I can’t post most of the family photos since I’m still trying to stay mildly anonymous here on this blog (though my resolve on that has wavered quite considerably over the last few months), but here are at least a few beauties that she captured…

Robinson_NB-38 Robinson_NB-59 Robinson_NB-68 Robinson_NB-204 Robinson_NB-205 Robinson_NB-233 Robinson_NB-249 Robinson_NB-257 Robinson_NB-287 Robinson_NB-306

Which one is YOUR favorite?

#MicroblogMondays: If Only I Had Known

Note: It’s late in the day, but I feel inspired to write my inaugural #MicroblogMondays post right this minute. If you’re curious what this is, get the details here.

Three years ago today, my husband and I stepped foot into a fertility clinic for the first time. We had already fought and won the battle of bringing our first child into the world and we were ready for a second. It felt monumental to be there, at that intimidating place where people with REAL fertility problems go for monitoring and shots and consultations and bad news. I was scared to death.

If only I had known then where I would be now….

Life is full of surprises, friends.

Sometimes they freaking suck.

And sometimes, they are breathtakingly beautiful.

Checking In and Looking Ahead

I’m feeling a little “stuck” lately. I don’t know what to write beyond updates on my life. At this point in time, I’m not planning to sign off here as I did after Skittle’s birth. I have never intended to be a mommy blogger, but I have enjoyed coming here to connect with all of you from time to time over the last year, even though I’ve recently written very little about infertility and loss, which was the original purpose of this blog. I don’t anticipate that, in the months ahead, I will return here as regularly, and yet I DO hope to return, providing updates, as well as giving small snapshots of our life and voicing concerns, worries, and other feelings I encounter along the way. Things could change of course, but for now, that’s my plan for Waiting to Expand as I once again go about parenting a new baby and waiting for the next time when we “try” again….

For the moment, though, here is my oh-so-exciting update on life since Poppy’s arrival:

  • It turns out that Skittle and my mom did have the stomach flu. Two days later, it hit Honey and Cupcake. Six days later, I got it. It was awful. So far, Poppy is the only one in our home who has not gotten hit. I’m praying, and fairly certain, it will stay that way. There is a sort of magic in breastmilk, isn’t there?
  • Poppy is proving to be a fairly easy baby. Not as chill and blissful as Skittle was (and continues to be), but easy enough. He sleeps plenty and often seems pretty content when he’s awake. He does prefer to be held and will fuss, especially in the evenings, after being in his swing or bouncer for too long, but I’m still able to get a plenty of time unattached to a baby. And he usually lets me sleep for 4-5 hours at a stretch at night, which is awesome.
  • I’m bored. I never thought I’d say that with a newborn in the house, but I am. In the weeks before his birth, I worked hard to get ahead. And now my mom is here until November 8th and she does everything — from laundry to dishes to cooking and cleaning and getting my girls ready in the morning. Poppy doesn’t require much from me beyond breastfeeding, so I have a lot of free time on my hands. I know I’ll be yearning for that as soon as my mom leaves, but right now, I’m wishing for something more to do than crochet another baby hat.
  • My mom has been here three-and-a-half weeks now and we have nearly two more to go. Things are good mostly, but as predicted there have been difficult moments. It took us less than two weeks to have a screaming match, with her threatening to go home and me responding with, “Good! Go! You’re a bitch, Mom!” Not my finest moment. Thankfully, neither of us hold grudges and we both forgive quickly, so we have since moved on from that night. But I do find myself growing irritated with her more and more. Little, stupid things are starting to bug me. And she has it in her head that mothers and daughters should be best friends and NEVER have disagreements, which compounds the problem because she has unrealistic expectations. I love my mom and I am soooooo grateful for her help, and I am always aware that one day she will be gone and I will miss every one of these uncomfortable moments, but I am ready to have my house and family back. I think five weeks is just too long to be together like this. There are times when I start to forget why I even like her and I don’t like feeling like that at all. She’s amazing! Funny, and selfless, and hard-working, and so generous, and loving, and thoughtful, and she always thinks the best of me. She’s wonderful! THAT is what I want to remember. ALL that I want to remember.
  • Both girls seem to be doing pretty well with the new baby. I haven’t noticed any changes at all with Cupcake. She tells everyone we meet about her brother and loves to hold him. Our greatest challenge is getting her to keep her hands OFF of him because she loves to touch, hold, kiss, and hug him multiple times a day, regardless of whether he is sleeping or she has washed her hands or not. About two weeks ago, we did start to notice some changes in Skittle, but because they occurred just a few days after the flu hit, it has been difficult to determine whether her behavioral changes are because she was sick or because of the new baby. Regardless, we went through about a week of nearly constantly crying. She had a short fuse and nearly everything made her scream or wail (which is sooooooo unlike her), but that seems to have greatly resolved now. The only aftermath we continue to battle is that she has become extremely picky at mealtimes. Foods she has always loved are now pushed away. I know this is her way of controlling things in her life when she feels her life is out of control with all the changes and it’s fine by me if she wants to live on hot dogs and Annie’s bunny crackers for a while. I keep offering a variety of food and I have faith that, with time, she will begin to eat real food again.
  • My moods have been a bit unstable over the last week. There have been several days when I felt sad or incredibly irritable for no reason at all. I’m guessing it’s hormonal, but it’s made for a few not-so-fun days, with me crying or yelling at the drop of a hat. One thing that has helped a lot, though, is just getting out of the house. I took Poppy to the pumpkin patch when he was two days old. We’ve also been to the mall twice, downtown trick-or-treating, the movies on a date night with Honey, pedicures with my mom, and dinner with my friend Leigh. And we have plans for another trip to the mall, a big baby expo, and coffee with Leigh as well. I know some people like to understandably keep their newborns in a bubble these first weeks, but that could never work for me. Partly because I have two older children who beg to get out of the house and partly because getting out is so good for my own mental health. I feel so much better when I do!
  • So far I have lost twenty pounds and I have about fifteen more to go. This is the lowest weight I’ve been at 3-4 weeks postpartum, but I dread the thought of having to lose the last of this pregnancy weight. I’m hoping breastfeeding and pumping will work some magic, as it did after Skittle’s birth, but still… My sweet tooth is out of control right now and I need to stop eating so much! Can someone come put padlocks on my cupboards please?
  • Can I just reiterate how impossibly adorable my Skittle is? There is just something about her that is so irresistible. She makes me heart melt and swell over and over again every day with her sweetness. She’s just so easy to love. And the bond that I feel with her! Oh, my goodness, it makes every hard day of TTC and parenting worth it. If I could be guaranteed that every child would be like Skittle, I would have two dozen of them. (Well, if my ovaries would work like they should!)
  • I get asked a lot how I’m feeling and I always respond with, “I feel great!” And that’s mostly true. I’m usually quick to recover after birth, especially after a natural birth (which is one reason I know it’s the right thing for me). I have lots of energy and I feel as though I’m healing well “down there.” That being said, I am getting daily headaches, which are annoying. And my hemorrhoids are causing me off and on discomfort, more than they ever have before after a birth. AND I’m still bleeding. A lot. I don’t remember there being this much blood nearly four weeks later with either of my last pregnancies. The doctor seems unconcerned since I’m not hemorrhaging, but I hate it. I’m ready to put the pads away!
  • Not trying to offend anyone here…but I REALLY hate it when people ask me (or anyone) if my baby is a “good” baby. Because it implies that there’s such a thing as a bad baby. Babies aren’t good or bad. They’re just babies. And yes, there are easier babies and there are more difficult ones, but the difficult ones aren’t BAD, are they? They just have more needs, or needs that are harder to understand and meet. But in the end, they’re just babies and there’s nothing bad about them. Okay? Okay. [end rant]
  • There are a few minor health issues with Poppy. I think he has clogged tear ducts in both of his eyes. They are so goopy and crusty right now. And he’s developed a cough recently, which I think I can blame on my mom, who has a cold. I’m pretty sure she caught it from my husband, who caught it from me and my daughters, who had it a good couple weeks before Poppy ever arrived. Seriously, guys! The germs that little kids bring home. There’s no end to them! Also…Poppy does this weird gasping thing every now and then (like, multiple times a day), usually when he’s sleeping. It sounds like he’s trying to suck in more air than he’s able to get into his lungs and it’s unpleasant to hear. That, combined with the cough, makes for an anxious mama. I’m constantly jumping out of my skin with every weird sound he makes.
  • I’m already thinking ahead to the next time we try to conceive and to the next baby. I can’t help myself. I hate the TTC process, but I just love pregnancy, and giving birth, and these newborn days so much. And they are all gone so fast. And knowing that our next baby will likely be our last, I feel myself grieving already. I wish I could live in the moment more, and just treasure this time that I have with Poppy right here and right now. I try to. And I do. But a part of me is always longing to do it over again. To relive it all. And then I start to miss it before the moment is even entirely gone. It’s an endless cycle and will likely be lamented on this blog many times in the weeks, months, and years ahead. (And of course, it need not be said that this is all conditional, based on the hope and idea that I’m even able to have another child. Grieving over losing that would be an entirely different sort of loss and pain…)

I’m rambling. Sorry. And many thanks to those of you who stuck with this long post. I promise there are better things to come for this blog. Some day. Once I’m getting a full night of sleep and the hormones aren’t causing me to flip out and I’m able to put down my bowl of ice cream long enough to type it out. There will be a day like that somewhere in my future, right?

Poppy’s Birth Story

I’m sitting here breastfeeding my newly born, 10-days-old Poppy, watching Daniel.Tiger with my girls. Skittle, who celebrated her second birthday on Saturday, is recovering from twelve hours of almost constant vomiting (the flu? food poisoning? not really sure but it’s been awful watching her like this), as is my mom.  Not exactly how I imagined spending my postpartum period. And yet somehow, despite having to meet the needs of three children and my mother (Honey is back at work now), I am finding time to sit down and type out the story of Poppy’s birth.

It was beautiful, you guys. Magical. I almost feel like I have nothing more to say than that because it was really such a “textbook” labor and delivery. So “normal.” And yet, it was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. So happy. Profound. Transformative. It demands to be recorded, if for no one else other than myself and Poppy. And so I will, I will record every bit of it, every ordinary detail (please forgive how long this post is!), because I want to remember this forever…

My mom arrived on September 30th, just as planned. I had been praying that she would arrive before Poppy did and it was a relief to see her at the airport, to know she was here and Poppy was safely still inside of me and my girls would have someone I trust implicitly to watch them while I was in the hospital. Though there were some things I wanted to accomplish over the coming weekend (pedicures with my mom, one last date night with Honey, a trip to the pumpkin patch with the girls), I finally felt like, “Okay, precious boy, you can come now…”

The next day (Oct 1) was my mom’s birthday, but we went about the day pretty normally…taking Cupcake to and from preschool, house-cleaning, naptimes, and then cake in the evening to celebrate. The only things that were note-worthy were 1) I strangely, and suddenly, started doubting our decision to have a third child. I felt really afraid, my faith in my ability to handle the chaos gone. I wanted to cry at times because I was just so unexpectedly scared that I couldn’t do it, that I would fail as soon as I tried. That I would fail not one, but all three of my children. And 2) I was having a crazy amount of Braxton Hicks on that day. They were constant….a painless tightening of my belly over and over and over again, almost without any breaks in between. I mentioned it to my mom, my doula-friend Leigh, and Honey and they all said a variation of “Maybe this is it!” But my only response was no, no, no — partly because I really did have a few more insignificant things I wanted to accomplish, partly because I had my heart weirdly set on a 10/5/15 birthday for Poppy, but mostly because I think I had come to believe that my body was incapable of going into labor on its own. That I was forever doomed to induction after induction in order to bring my babies forth into this world. I just couldn’t even allow myself to hope for anything different, to think that maybe things could go another way for me. That would be dangerous because I knew there was just too great of a chance for disappointment.

It was around 10 p.m. that night, though, that I started to wonder… Over the previous hour or two, my painless “Braxton Hicks” had begun to sting, like an achy, crampy, pinchy sort of pain that came and went every few minutes. I could feel it strongest in my back, which seemed significant since I had suffered excruciating back labor with both of my girls.  As I was preparing to hit the hay, I decided to text my doula (dear friend Leigh) and our birth photographer. I assured them that I didn’t really think it was the real thing, but wanted them to be prepared “just in case.” As I crawled into bed that night, I was not in any notable pain, but I was uncomfortable. The contractions (I finally allowed myself to think of them in that way) were coming every 5-7 minutes. It was 11:30 p.m.

I slept restlessly, awaking every now and then to see if the contractions continued. They did, about every five minutes. They didn’t feel good, but the discomfort wasn’t enough that I couldn’t sleep. And so I dozed until 1 a.m., when I realized the contractions were getting stronger. I got up to pee and went back to bed, hoping to get a little more sleep. But I couldn’t rest. I was still in denial, still unwilling to admit that I was in labor and this baby was coming, but I felt a strong need to get prepared in the very unlikely chance that I was and he was. So I had a shower, I shaved my legs, and I woke my mom to ask if she could paint my toenails blue. Throughout these things, the contractions progressed until the point where my mom had to stop painting my nails with each one because I felt I really needed to focus in order to manage the pain. It was after this that she convinced me it was probably time to wake up Honey and contact Leigh and our birth photographer (Kay). It was 3:00 a.m.

Through texting, Leigh and I decided that she would come to our house until it was time to go to the hospital and Kay would meet us at the hospital when it was time. When I woke Honey, he got out of bed slowly, and I directed him to have a shower and a bite to eat and we’d leave when contractions were a bit closer together than five minutes. At which point, my mom said to me, “Sweetie, I think they’re coming a lot closer than five minutes apart.” That gave me pause, because they did seem to be coming fast. I hadn’t timed them in a while, but saying they were five minutes apart seemed safe. It allowed me to still live somewhat in denial…to qualify every statement I made with, “if I’m really in labor.” Anything less would mean this was real. This was happening. But despite my insisting that they weren’t that close together, Honey grabbed his smartphone and started timing. The contractions were two minutes apart.

From this point on, things happened fast. I texted Leigh to tell her to meet us at the hospital rather than our house. I texted Kay to say we would be leaving soon. I finished packing my hospital bag in a frantic rush (“I need my journal! Where’s my concealer? Can someone grab the laptop for me?!?! And my yoga pants!”). My mom made me a slice of buttered toast and fed it to me while I worked. Honey skipped his shower and just changed his clothes instead, then loaded the car. And I insisted on putting on some earrings and my makeup in between each contraction before I would walk out the door. And all the while, my contractions got stronger and Honey and my mom rubbed my lower back through each one.

As I put on my sandals and Honey and I prepared to leave, I said to him, “I’m scared.”

“What are you scared of?” he asked.

“I’m scared the baby won’t be okay. And that I can’t do this.” This would become a regular refrain for me throughout the rest of my labor.

“The baby’s fine,” he said. “And you can do this. You’ve done it before. You can do this.” His confidence in me was palpable. And then away we went into the night, leaving behind my sleeping daughters and wonderful mother. It was around 4 a.m.

The drive to the hospital was unpleasant. Sitting down was awful, the contractions didn’t lighten up at all, and Honey took a wrong turn on the way. Every bump in the road hurt. My friend Leigh told me that during her own labor, she made her husband stop the car for each contraction so that she could get through it. I was the exact opposite. I white-knuckled it and just wanted my husband to step on the gas and get there as f—ing fast as possible. I kept asking, “Are we there yet?”

When we arrived at the hospital, Leigh met us in the parking garage and helped me inside. We checked in at the ER and they called the Birth Center for us. My nurse came down to greet us and walked us up to the third floor. I contracted several times along the way, leaning against the wall or whoever was nearby and groaning my way through it. We trapped one nurse in the elevator because I was having a contraction when the doors opened and blocking her way to get out. There was no moving me and she didn’t even try. At the birth center, I was taken to triage, hooked up to the fetal monitor, and checked for dilation. I was 5cm and immediately whisked off to my labor and delivery room, which was coincidentally and beautifully the same room I delivered Skittle in just two years before.

Inside my room, I was again hooked up to the fetal monitor and asked too many admittance questions about vaccines I’ve had recently and cord blood banking and a million other things I felt incapable of fully answering. Honey, who had decided it was his duty to ensure that my birth plan was followed as closely as possible, gave a copy to the nurse. She was completely receptive to and supportive of it, which was a relief to us all. For each contraction, I stood by my bed and leaned on the bedside table, groaning in low tones and squeezing Honey’s hand. Leigh rubbed my lower back (sometimes with her hands and at other times with a wooden massage tool or a tennis ball) and squeezed my hips (which felt sooooo good) and told me how well I was doing. Sometimes, I would again say how scared I was and sometimes I would repeat over and over “I can do this.” At one point, I had Dan text Kay to see if she would be arriving soon and, moments later, she was in our room, snapping away with her Canon.

It was maybe 5 a.m. or so when I started asking to get into the bathtub. The relief of sitting in warm water called to me. But Poppy’s heartbeat was not responding to the contractions in the way they wanted, so I wasn’t allowed off of the fetal monitor yet. They suspected Poppy was being a little “quiet” because it was the middle of the night and, with the exception of the half a piece of toast my mom had fed me, I hadn’t eaten anything since dinner. Even though I was not at all hungry, they encouraged me to have some apple juice in an effort to raise my blood sugar and wake the baby up. I did and, soon, baby’s heartbeat began to rise with each contraction.

Finally, I was allowed to get in the tub, at first with the portable, waterproof fetal monitor and then eventually without it, and I felt better instantly. The contractions, especially in my back, became more manageable. I could breathe again. I could relax again. It was such a sigh of relief. At least for a while. And then…it wasn’t. The strength of the contractions returned. The water felt too hot and I started sweating. For each contraction, Leigh poured cold water over my belly, Honey rubbed my back, and I kept my eyes closed and moaned and groaned my way through. There were times when I felt myself losing control and my moans would turn to squeals, but Leigh’s calm voice always brought me back and grounded me. She reminded me to relax, to keep my voice low, to let the tension out of my facial muscles. She encouraged me when I was “in the zone” to stay there as much as possible. She reminded me that I could do this. I could do it again.

It felt like I spent a long time in the tub, but in reality, it couldn’t have been more than thirty minutes. Eventually, the nurse gave me the option of using the doppler to listen to Poppy’s heartbeat or getting out of the water to be hooked up to the monitor. I was fearful of leaving the comfort of the water, but I was feeling overheated and needed a break, so I chose to get out. As soon as I did, another contraction hit and I leaned against the wall and grunted and squealed and said, “I feel a lot of pressure.”

I crawled into bed after that, half-naked (with only my bikini top on), and let the nurse connect the fetal monitor and then check me for dilation. I was 9cm. Time and the activity in the room sped up then. They started setting up the tools for delivery. Baby nurses came into the room, ready to greet and check my baby boy. The doctor arrived and, with my permission, I let him break my bulging bags of water. “There’s meconium,” I heard him say and my heart dropped. I’d never heard a single good thing about there being meconium in the amniotic fluid and I felt scared. Panicky. “Is he okay?” I asked and everyone assured me he was and no one seemed overly concerned. It calmed me and, as the doctor stood up, he said, “You’re basically 10cm. If you feel the urge to push, do it.”

And with the next contraction, I did. They let me choose what position to push in and I chose to lay on my side as I had done with Skittle. I started screaming with the new kind of pain and pressure I was feeling as I pushed; I couldn’t help myself. I was embarrassed to scream, but it also felt good. Strangely, the doctor had left the room, so the nurse called for emergency back-up and then there was a flood of people who swarmed in, the doctor included. It’s surreal to me, because I had my eyes closed for the whole thing and I really had no concept of where anyone was, who was touching me, who was talking to me, if Leigh and Honey were nearby or far away. I just gave one hard, loooooong push and, as I felt the baby crowning, I took some deep breaths and naturally slowed the pushing. “Good, controlled pushes,” a nurse (I think?) said. And then someone told me to me to push harder.

“I am!” I screamed.

“You can do it harder!” someone said.

And I did and, suddenly, several hands flipped me to my back, told me to give a cough and another push, and then Poppy was here. He was here. And he was warm and soft and gooey and crying. An “I’m here and I’m okay” kind of crying. And I touched his cheek and said, “My sweet boy. My sweet, sweet boy.” And then I was crying too. Sobbing really.

And here is the most wonderful thing: I loved him instantly. There was no doubt that he was mine, and meant to be mine, and this was the beginning of our love story. Because I loved him instantly, and deeply, and fiercely. And I don’t know what will become of our bond in the months and years ahead, but right then and right now it seemed and seems laughable that I ever questioned my ability to love him enough. Because it’s obvious to me now that my husband was right all along: I give my love away in so many forms to so many people every day. How could I not love this little human that I created and carried? My love for him is big. Bigger than my heart can contain, which is probably why tears burst from my eyes multiple times a day when I look at him. He is perfection and the perfect addition to our expanding family.

And one more thing… It may be too early to know all the ways in which this birth experience has altered my perceptions of this world and myself, all the ways it has changed me and the life ahead of me, but what I do know is this: My body is not broken. I am still in awe of the fact that I went into labor on my own. That, with the exception of the meconium incident, this birth went exactly according to plan. That I did not scream for an epidural as I went through transition. I am strong. I am capable. And though I am as infertile as I was three, or six, or ten years ago, my body did not let me down this time. It knows how to birth, and feed, a baby. It is — I am — not a complete failure. And neither is my heart. I am capable of loving the most unexpected, foreign, strange little creature. And I am capable of being loved by him too. I see it in his eyes.

This birth…it transformed me into the mother of a boy. Which is exactly the same and completely different than being the mother of a girl, I’m finding. And while it did not push me to my physical limits quite like Skittle’s birth did, it did push my heart to its love limits. It showed me what love really is. What being a mother really is. It’s not based on gender, or on years of trying to conceive, or any of that stuff that has been all I’ve known up until this point. It is based on a connection that is created at birth (or for those adoptive parents out there, some other pivotal moment in a child’s life), something primal that can’t be explained, or qualified, or quantified. I don’t have to go looking for it. I don’t have to force it to happen. It’s just there. Period.

I love him. And he loves me in the only way that his little newborn heart can. And now…I get to spend the rest of my life hoping that I am worthy of that love, and proving it to myself and, best of all, to him.

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Holding my hubby’s hand while contracting just after arriving in our hospital room

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I remember saying a prayer while in labor, something of the “God give me strength” variety. This may have been that moment.

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Counterpressure hip squeezes = amaze-balls!

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So much pain relief was found in that tub!

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Holding Leigh’s hand while Honey rubs my back…I had so much loving support on that day!

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About to push a baby out of my va-jay-jay!

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Poppy is here and, after some snuggles, gets weighed…8lbs 6.4oz.

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Who can resist baby feet and teeny tiny toes?

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Skin-to-skin with Mommy…such a sweet and peaceful time.

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Being held by Leigh and looking straight into her eyes as she spoke to him…

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In Grammy’s arms…

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The girls each gave a gift to Poppy and then Poppy “gave” them each a gift…Skittle really loved her new doll! (And, as you can see in her arms, she also really loved the lullaby lamb that she brought for her baby brother!)