If you’re the type of person who doesn’t like to listen to women share their birthing battle stories [read: a man], turn back now because this post is about to get all kinds of birthy. I’m going to share what it was like to give birth to my daughter.
Elliott had no name until the day after she was born. Her dad and I were in agreement that we’d wait to see what she looked like before trying to name her. I have this philosophy about how naming someone is the first step in assigning them an identity that they will cultivate with your gentle guiding hand and, later, finish off on their own. How on earth can you assign an identity to someone you’ve never met before, let alone seen? Well, in my opinion, you can’t. So I didn’t name either of my children until I saw them, held them, smelled them, et cetera. But I digress.
Elliott had no name until the day after she was born. We were armed with a mental list of names that we kinda sorta agreed on when we drove to the hospital that November afternoon. I recall specifically that it was not cold during the day– Ellie’s dad was wearing a t-shirt and jeans– but that it got colder that night. My parents did not pack properly, so the memory of my sliver of a mom swimming in my pop’s big jacket when she went outside to smoke a cigarette sticks out in my mind. I don’t remember what I was wearing, aside from the fact that it must’ve been black slacks and a t-shirt with my name embroidered on it and the logo of the preschool where I taught.
We’d gone to the doctor for a checkup. We were ticking off the weekly checkups until my due date, but when we got there, the doctor couldn’t believe that I didn’t have any pain or pressure in my lady regions because I was five centimeters dilated– like a boss. When she told me to go to the hospital, the doctor laughed at me because I wanted to go back to work and finish the last three hours of my work day before heading to the hospital. She also told me not to stop anywhere because I could go into labor at any moment. Because I was taking an extended lunch break to have the checkup, I hadn’t had a thing to eat yet. I think we were planning to stop at Chipotle after the doctor’s office. So, no freaking food for me. It was around 4 o’clock in the afternoon.
I called a bunch of people during the four mile drive to the hospital. My mom and pop live in Louisiana and were waiting on pins and needles for my call. My mom had already told her boss that I could call at any moment and that she would have to walk out of the office whenever that call came and that is exactly what she did. She and my pop made the four hour drive in five (because they’re old people) and they didn’t miss a single second of the good stuff.
My best friend of ten plus years made the three hour drive to Houston from Austin. My best friend since my senior year of high school made the 45 minute schlep from the city out to the ‘burbs where I lived at the time. My ex’s family all showed up. At one point, there were maybe a dozen people just hanging out in my delivery room as we all waited for something- anything- to happen. They ate Schlotzky’s while I ate ice chips from a styrofoam cup. That part sucked. I was so hungry!
Finally around 10 p.m. or so, my doctor came rushing into the room and seemed genuinely surprised that I hadn’t gone into labor. No broken water, no contractions, no nothing. Just sitting around at 5 centimeters dilated– like a boss. Hungry, tired, glad to have my parents there with me, and probably a little cranky.
The doctor broke my water with what looked like a comically oversized crochet needle and within a few minutes, the contractions started rolling in. [Editor’s note: This is the part of the story where my mother would interject and tell you that the way I remember it is inaccurate. Apparently, I remember the whole birthing process as being way smoother than it actually was. I’ve always said that I had a pretty easy delivery but according to my mom, it was a total bloodbath.] The whole shebang- from induction to the baby on the table- took somewhere between two and three hours. I was induced some time between 10:30 and 11 and my daughter popped out at 1:50 a.m. The exact timeline is a little hazy for me because I had a shot of demerol when I started contracting since I skipped the part where they give you an epidural, but I remember it a little like this:
- The doctor broke my bag
- Contractions started and, after writhing around for a little while, I asked for and received a shot of demerol
- About two hours or so passed and I asked for another shot
- The doctor had to check my progress before giving me another shot and BOOM! the baby was crowning (so no shot for me)
- I pushed for around twenty minutes or so
- My daughter popped out. Easy peasy.
This is where my mom would jump in. She doesn’t agree with my general timeline of two hours, but the timeline she offered up doesn’t make mathematical sense, so I still go with my sequence of events. My mom somehow squeezes like, six hours into the wedge of time between 10:30 p.m and 1:50 a.m. No ma’am. That may be how it felt to her in that room, but that’s just not how time works. We had a very gentle argument about this in the delivery room when I gave birth to my son.
Another thing she’d interject about is the “easy peasy” part. According to my mother who, admittedly, had a different vantage point for the whole thing– namely, she could see my lady parts and I could only see the backs of my eyelids because my eyes were shut so tight that I’m surprised my eyeballs didn’t invert into my skull permanently– it was a total massacre down there. She says there was tons of blood everywhere and that as the baby came out, her umbilical cord was pretty tightly coiled around her neck. If my mom was telling this story, she’d tell you about how I didn’t see the doctor’s face so I couldn’t possibly know how real it got. Apparently, it got super real. Personally, I think that if it wasn’t life-threatening enough for me to be aware of it, that works for me. However, I’d be remiss to not share that tidbit. Also, my mom would note the severity of the fissures all across my most sensitive of organs. I refused to have an episiotomy, preferring instead to tear naturally. According to my mom, I had twentysomething stitches dotted across my lady region, which I never saw. I do vaguely remember seeing the doctor stitching me up sometime after I birthed what had to have been the world’s largest placenta. I’d never seen placenta in person before and imagined it was more of a liquid than the big, raw porterhouse steak-looking thing that the doctor held up to the light for me to check out.
Once we moved into the postpartum room, we set about agreeing on a name. We had this long, lean little girl with dark hair and dark eyes and I wanted to name her Marlowe Olivia, but he dad wasn’t feeling that name. While teaching at the preschool, I had the sweetest little blonde haired girl in my class named Ellie, and I loved that name. We both agreed on Ellie as a nickname, but wanted something more substantial for her first name. That’s how we decided on Elliott. I chose the spelling because I loved the way the name looked when I wrote it down in cursive. The Ls and the Ts are nice and scrolly and look feminine to me, which is a nice contrast to the traditionally masculine name. Since her dad had so much input on the first name, I didn’t compromise on Olivia as the middle name.
So, Elliott Olivia was introduced to the world.