A Different Decision

We face decisions everyday.  Some are those types of decisions that are made without even thinking: Starbucks coffee? Pants or shorts? Dinner in or dinner out?

But what about those decisions that feel impossible to make?  Those decisions that seem to have no right and no wrong choice? Each choice is equally good and equally bad… So the decision becomes an impossible one to make.

Or maybe there is a clear right and a clear wrong to the decision, but you are just unable to elucidate which is which.  There are those times when the wrong decision feels like the right decision and you get fooled into making the wrong choice.

Has this happened to you?

My maternity leave is coming to an end.  I specifically chose to only take 5 months of my full year leave because I didn’t want to put myself too far behind in my training.  I don’t want my surgical skills to wane, I want to write my exam on time, I want to stay with my cohort of colleagues, and part of me misses work.

The trade-off: I could spend a whole 7 more months at home with my kids.

I don’t feel ready to go back.  The time I have had off feels like it has been stolen from me because I’ve had to deal with work problems while I’ve been off.  We are losing our nanny and my husband doesn’t want a new one; therefore, our childcare situation going forward is rather precarious.  I feel, deep down inside of my soul, that going back to work in two weeks is going to cause my home/family life to spin out of control.

Lately I have been thinking more about extending my leave and taking off my full year.  The reasons I made the initial decision haven’t changed, but I feel like priorities have shifted.  Despite this shift, I find this decision is still impossible to make.  There is no clear right or wrong, and the advice I get from everyone I talk to is the same: Do what’s best for you and your family.

Unfortunately, I feel like what’s best for me and my family is not very clear right now.

Unravelling

She sat at my kitchen table with her foot resting on the chair and her knee pulled up to her chin.  Her blond hair perfectly placed in a messy bun, juxtaposed against my un-purposed messy morning hair.  We planned a coffee date for first thing in the morning, after she dropped her kids off at daycare.  We picked my house because the baby likes to sleep late.  She had a lunch date with another friend later that day: she was trying to fit in as many visits as she could.

“What can I get you to drink?” I asked as I instinctively placed a mug under the coffee maker. “Coffee?”
“No thanks, just water,” She replied. “I’m changing the way I eat.  No coffee, nothing processed.  I want to make my body as strong as I can.  I’m getting ready to fight this.”
I wasn’t sure if she wanted to talk about it.  I said I was going to take her lead.

We met the year before at Taekwondo.  Her oldest son was in my youngest son’s class.  For weeks we would sit and talk about the superficial realities of life: Work, kids, husbands, weather… Slowly, our friendship developed and we would occasionally meet up outside of the gym.  I’m always happy to make new friends.

“So, when did this all start?”
“Remember back in February, when I had pneumonia?”

She was gone for weeks from Taekwondo, I remembered.  She came back and it seemed to take ages for her to fully recover.  When the snow started to melt, I ran into her in the neighborhood, walking with her husband and two boys – it was the first time I had ever met her younger son, who wasn’t more than three.  We vowed to have a playdate with the kids once the weather was a little nicer.

“The chest pain never went away, so they did an x-ray and they found two spots.  I had a biopsy.  Then I had a CT scan.  Then they wanted a PET scan.”
I listened intently, trying not to ask too many questions.

A few months ago we all went out together for a friend’s birthday party.  Our friend was turning 33.  Just like me… and just like her.  We joked that 33 would be the best year; it had to definitely be better than 32! And we toasted to that, them with their wine glasses and me with my diet pepsi (since I was pregnant and all).  We vowed to have more get-togethers after that – but we didn’t

“They found a few spots in my hip bones and in my leg bones.  I’m going for my first appointment with the oncologist on Wednesday.”

Wednesday was my birthday.  There would be not be another toast to 33 on my birthday.  No this time.

“I’m going to tell her that I don’t want timelines and I don’t want numbers.  I’m going to beat this.  I know I will!”

I painted a reassuring smile on my face and placed my hand over hers.
“Of course.”

I waited until she left to feel the sadness and the heartache – for her and for me.

I don’t think I could ever be so strong if I was diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung Cancer.

 

Tempered Expectations

Every year I dread the arrival of my birthday. It is such an anti-climactic day and for years it always felt like something was missing. 

Maybe it’s because when I was a kid, my birthday was a big and special day – and now there is nothing special about it. 

Maybe it’s because my husband is not the kind of guy who celebrates anything, my special occasions included. 

Maybe it’s because I have this idea that everyone around me has more exciting birthday experiences than I do.

Maybe I’m just getting old. 

Whatever it is, I always feel like it could be more. 

Today was different, though. I had no expectations. In fact, I expected that it would be nothing special and nothing more than any other day. And because of this tempered expectation, I was not disappointed when there were no big hugs and kisses and home-made cards from my kids. I was happy to spend the morning getting some exercise and getting to know a new friend. We had a nice family dinner at my favourite restaurant,  and I was pleasantly surprised when my husband gave me a birthday card with some thoughtful words written on it.  The only birthday gift I got today was a free birthday drink from Starbucks. 

It wasn’t exciting and it wasn’t spectacular, but I wasn’t disappointed – and that’s better than most birthdays. 

Finding Myself

“One of the greatest tragedies in life is to lose your own sense of self and accept the version of you that is expected by everyone else.”
K.L. Toth

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Image Credit: Google Images

How do we know when we are on the right path in life?
How do we know that we made all the right decisions for all the right reasons?

I have come to a crossroads, perhaps a crossing of paths like the one famously described by Robert Frost’s most quoted poem.

I’m acutely aware of a dissonance in my life – the two largest parts of my life suddenly seem to clash with each other.  I am not a happy mother because I know that when it comes to my kids, I have sacrificed more of what they need of me than makes me comfortable.  I am not a happy resident because I’ve come to realize that perhaps the amalgamation of my parts – the very aspects of my life that make me the person I am – does not completely fit the criteria of what my superiors want to see.

I cannot take more away from my life at home – from my children; from me – and force myself to become someone who isn’t really the person I am meant to be.  If I continue down this path, I know that at the end I will be more unhappy than I am right now.

Unfortunately, the other path is scary, unknown, and not what I ever imagined in my life.  I don’t know what the end will look like or what I have to traverse to get to that end.

What I do know is this:
I am a mother to three beautiful children, and that should be celebrated.
I am a physician who is caring and compassionate, and that should be valued.
I work hard to bring balance to my life, and that should be what matters most.

I love my job, but do I love my job enough to let the other pieces of myself wither away?

Start From What You Know

b0446333f9307d0fc1fb22570b6c6885Over a year ago, when A. was diagnosed with autism and I took a month off work, I bought a puzzle because it “spoke” to me.  It was my goal to finish the puzzle that month.  Unfortunately, it didn’t happen: The puzzle was more challenging than I anticipated and I just didn’t have enough time. I stored the partly completed puzzle under my bed and worked on it when I had time.  A few months ago, though, the kids had some friends over and they were playing hide and seek – and under my bed was a perfect hiding place.  The puzzle was ruined.  I packed it up, preserving the assembled parts as best as I could and stashed it away.
A few weeks ago I decided to re-start the puzzle.  I started by counting pieces and I was disappointed to realize that I was missing 10 pieces.  I counted again.  Still missing 10 pieces.  How could I possibly think they would all be there?  I was saddened, as the message of the puzzle spoke to me and there was something inside of me that felt a sense of disappointment that this puzzle would never be completed and eventually hanging on a wall in my house.  I remembered buying it at a local bookstore, so I set out for a walk with baby El to see if they still carried it… but they didn’t.  I eventually found it on their website, on clearance for $10, so I snatched it up.  That small part of my inner being felt satisfied.

The puzzle arrived yesterday and I was eager to start working on it.  I began sorting the pieces and I immediately remembered how challenging the puzzle is.  I felt disheartened thinking about all the work I had done before that was now wasted:  There was the actual assembly of large chunks of puzzle, but there was also the immense work of sorting pieces.  There are only 2 colours: black and off-white, so sorting came in the form of the size of print.  Hours of sorting – gone.

With the new puzzle, I knew there was only one place to start – placing everything out in the open.  I proceeded to filter out the edge pieces… the only pieces that have a definite position in the puzzle, and the only pieces that are almost predominantly black.  And so, I put all the sadness of what I had done and lost previously behind me and I started again.  I started with what I knew to be true and I will only work forward from there.

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MEternity Leave? Really?

Over a week ago, on June 1, I sat down to start writing a blog post.  I wrote one sentence of that post and I have not been back to WordPress since then.  It’s not because I haven’t wanted to blog, and it’s not because I have nothing to blog about… it’s because I’ve quite literally had no time to myself – at all.

This phenomenon of having no time to myself, despite being home from my 80-100hr+ work week, reminded me of the MEternity fiasco from a few months back.  For anyone to think that a maternity leave is a “sabbatical” or “vacation” or anything that resembles an opportunity for “me time” has got something seriously wrong.  If I’m going to be completely honest, I would say that I haven’t really been enjoying my maternity leave that much.  Before I divulge all the reasons I’m not enjoying it, I’ll state the few things that I do enjoy about maternity leave (just so I don’t seem to be complaining all the time):

  1. I love baby El and I love to spend time watching her grow and change.  I want her to stay small forever, but I know she won’t.  I’m cherishing the time I get to spend with her now.
  2. I get to see my other kids more often than I did when I was working.

Yes, I think that’s about it.  Here are all the things I dislike about my maternity leave:

  1. I am always tired – I am lucky to get 6 hours of broken sleep a night, and the sleep I do get is far from quality as I am paranoid about my baby and her ridiculously low risk of SIDS (this is where I say that, contrary to all advice on how to reduce SIDS, I can’t abide by t all.  Baby El refuses to sleep unless she is right next to me, with easy access to her precious boobie – All. The. Time.)
  2. I almost always have a little human being attached to my body.  This is either in the form of breastfeeding or babywearing.  Baby El usually needs to be nursed to sleep.  And, she doesn’t really like to stay asleep unless someone is carrying her.
  3. I am always yelling at the boys: Either they aren’t listening to the Nanny, so I get mad at them for that.  Or, they aren’t listening to me, so I get mad at them for that.  Or they are too loud and running around every part of the house and waking up the delicate baby that I just FINALLY GOT TO SLEEP.  I feel like all the time I spend with my kids involves yelling.
  4. I miss adult human interaction.  You can only text message people so much before you get bored.  Plus, everyone is working while I am home, so there is no one to go out with during the day.
  5. I have fleeting thoughts of finishing that book I started weeks ago, or working on the cross stitch birth announcements (for E first, before I can start El’s), or blogging, or even getting some exercise.  However, those thoughts are vanquished by one of the three kids that are demanding my attention at any given time of the day.  If I’m lucky, I can get outside for a walk with the baby in a carrier (she won’t even stay settled in a stroller)… but not before getting the 10th degree from A, who wants to know where I’m going, when I’ll be back, why he can’t come, am I sure he can’t come, and what kind of punishment I will get if I’m not home when I say I’ll be home.
  6. I miss my job… dearly.  If it wasn’t for my baby, I would go back tomorrow.
  7. I’m sure there is something I’m missing.

So there you have it… My maternity leave is far from relaxing, enjoyable, or a life changing revolution.

And, I’ve gotta go… baby El is awake!

Half-Marathon Year

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On a Friday at the end of last May I went into the OR to have my IUD removed.  That same night I drove 4 hours to the mountains to run my first half-marathon the next morning.  On a Saturday at the end of last May I ran my first half-marathon (see old post below).

I almost did’t run the race – I had encountered a few obstacles in my training and I didn’t think I was prepared.  Despite everything, I made the choice to run the race and enjoy the experience.  As I ran through the mountains and enjoyed the views of the nature around me, I remember wondering what the next year would bring:  I daydreamed about pregnancy, and about hopefully welcoming a baby girl into my family… I let my mind relax and reflect on what everything in my life meant to me, where I was going with the different paths in my life, and how I was going to try and “let things go” and enjoy the little things in life.

When registration opened for this race again back in January, naturally I felt inclined to register.  I didn’t want to commit myself to something that wouldn’t be reasonable or healthy so close to giving birth, but it was important to me to go back to this place, participate in the race, and reflect on the last year.  Therefore, I chose to register in the 5Km run/walk that takes place the day after the half marathon.  I figure that is reasonable for 3.5 weeks post-partum.  This coming weekend I will be walking this 5Km with one of my very good friends, and hopefully, with my baby girl strapped to my chest.  What a way to mark this little anniversary!

Posted on The Old Blog, May 25, 2015

I did it.

I ran my Half-Marathon.

For weeks I feared that I wouldn’t be able to finish the race.  I worried that my disrupted training schedule would make it utterly impossible for me to survive the distance, especially since I read that it was a challenging course.  Right up until the day before the race (I’ll write about this day in another post), I contemplated changing my registration to do the 10K race instead.

There was a part of me, however, that knew I had to run the half marathon. No. Matter. What.

I have been working hard since the beginning of 2015 to make positive changes in my life.  Most of those changes have been working well, but there have been a few set-backs.  With those setbacks, I’ve been beginning to feel like I’m not as strong, determined, or capable as I thought i was.  I feared that if I gave up on my goal to run this half marathon, I would only be letting myself down and reinforcing the negative thoughts and attitudes that I’ve had recently.  So, I had to run this race… even if it meant that I walked most of it… even if it meant that my goal of completing it in under 2 hours was no longer a goal… even if it meant it was just an excuse to spend a few hours with myself in the beauty and splendour of the mountains…

On Saturday morning I showed up at the race site prepared to run (or walk) the half marathon as planned.  My new goal for the race was to complete it… no matter what.  My other new goal was to enjoy being out in the mountains, alone, and with my own thoughts.  I decided to run the half marathon without any running apps to tell me my distance, pace, or interval to ensure that I didn’t get distracted from my goals, push myself too hard to keep up to my usual pace, or to feel disappointed in myself for being too slow.  So, I shut off the little voice in my ear and set off running with some good music and beautiful scenery.

As I crossed the start line, I felt a wave of emotion come over me and I almost started to cry.  Right then it was confirmed that running this race meant more to me than just running 21Km straight; it had everything to do with proving to myself that I could do something that I set my mind to and that I am not someone who gives up.  Throughout the race, I walked when I needed to, I looked up at the mountains and trees around me.  I watched the water in the river flow past me.  I felt the trails and pavement under my feet.  I even stopped at a port-a-potty around the 15Km mark… because after all, this race was about being comfortable!

The last 6Km was the greatest challenge because it was almost all up-hill.  The start line was on the side of a mountain, which I ran down in the first part of the race to get to the river path.  I was sure I had nothing left in me when I saw the last sign on the route: “1 Km Left to Go!”  Ahead of me, it was still an incline.  I pushed through and when I saw the pink arch that marked the finish line, I picked up the pace just a little more.  I saw my boys shaking their white cowbells and my husband poised with the camera.  I saw the chip readers above my head, and then I watched my foot strike the ground on the other side of the finish line.  After the flurry of people putting a medal over my head, congratulating me, handing me my swag bag, and giving me a refreshingly wet towel, I finally looked at the clock.  Somehow, I had completed the race in less than 2 hours and 15 min.  Later, when I looked up my official time, I was in awe: 2 hours, 10 minutes, 21 seconds.

Without proper training, on a mountainside course with a 300m elevation change (150m down and then 150m back up), and with a goal to “just finish” the race, I clocked in at only 10 minutes and 21 seconds past my original goal time.  Unbelievable!  I still cannot believe that I accomplished this amazing goal.

I am so proud of myself.

I needed to do this, and I am so glad that I didn’t give up on myself.

A Good Tree Cannot Bear Bad Fruit

A few weeks ago, I was in the midst of “the perfect storm.”

I was still pregnant and close to giving birth to my (first) daughter.  I had just received yet another insulting form of rejection from a person whom I have kept in my life for far too long.  I spent that week’s therapy session discussing the role of this person in my life, the emotional importance her relationship served, and how welcoming my daughter into the world would likely change how I felt about that relationship.  Then, at the end of that week I attended our new church where the message of the sermon was about Matthew 7:18 – “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit.”

I listened closely to the pastor that Sunday.  He said, “When things aren’t what they used to be, you have to change what you’re used to doing.” 

People love truth, and people love authenticity.  There is a low tolerance for the inauthentic in our society.  The tree that bears fruit is the perfect example of the difference between the authentic and the inauthentic.  Just as a tree grows and develops fruit over time, we as people grow and develop our habits and behaviours.  Just as a person would stop picking and eating rotten fruit from a bad tree, they would also stop dealing with or interacting with a person who routinely showed poor or inauthentic behaviours.

I used to think that I was the person with the poor our inauthentic behaviours: Why would someone be so hurtful towards me and make such an effort to exclude me from their life?  I have worked hard over the years to overcome this thought, attributing it to my low self-esteem that developed from my difficult childhood and poor relationships with my parents.  It may have taken years to believe this truth, but I am not a bad tree – I am a good tree that bears good fruit.  I really am.

However, even good trees have branches that are heavy and burdensome – branches that are overgrown and don’t produce any fruit.  These branches take up the resources and energy of the tree and prevent it from producing abundant fruit.  This idea reminded me of the advice I received from a fellow gardener last summer when I asked her about her fruitful tomato plants.  She told me to trim off all of the branches on my tomato plants that were not growing tomatoes.  This way the plant would stop wasting energy on the branches that weren’t growing fruit and instead would use that energy to grow bigger, more healthy tomatoes.  I used her advice and sure enough, my tomatoes grew bigger and faster.

If a tree is a metaphor for my life, it is only natural that I would have these heavy, burdensome branches that are weighing me down.  It is only natural, then, that I should need to prune my own boughs with the hopes of removing those parts of my life that are only causing me grief, so that I can concentrate more on the best parts of my life.  The pastor continues on in his sermon, addressing the need for pruning in our lives.  Like the gardener’s advice for my tomato plants, he quoted another part of the scripture: “The farmer cuts off branches that bear no fruit and prunes the ones that do bear fruit so that they will be more fruitful.”  He continued on, addressing all of us and saying rather matter-of-factly: “Most of us know exactly what areas of our lives need to be pruned.”

Despite all this advice, pruning is not easy; It is the targeted removal of something from our lives.  It isn’t fun – it cuts to the core, it is invasive, painful, and it is cutting something out of your life that needs to be removed.

For 18 months I have let myself hold onto the idea or illusion that Kay would come back into my life and that we would, gain, have some kind of friendship.  The timing of this sermon immediately after the mix-up/rejection from Kay was nothing more than perfect.  And, what better time to prune something so heavy and fruitless from my life than right before I prepare to welcome my daughter into my life.

My relationship with Kay initially sprouted from a need to fill in the missing mother-daughter relationship in my life.  It may have worked for a small while.  But there is never a replacement for the real thing – and now I am at the beginning of the best most real opportunity to develop this type of relationship… With my very own daughter.

 

 

The Oxytocin Effect

If you google “Oxytocin,” you will learn that it is a hormone that has many functions.  Primarily, it is the hormone responsible for contractions during labour, as well as for milk let-down while nursing.  It also plays a major role in human bonding – between newborns and mothers, between men and women, and even between friends.  It is quite an amazing and versatile hormone, and all of these hormonal effects has me thinking about what can happen when the different hormone effects cross paths and boundaries.

After giving birth 9 days ago, I immediately felt strong feelings of kinship and admiration towards the doctor who delivered El.  I found that in the days immediately post-partum, I was sad to think that I wouldn’t be going to see her anymore for my weekly appointments.  This seemed like a strange response for me to have, given that most of our appointments were a quick 5-10 min and were really just about the “business” of my pregnancy.  I did choose this doctor out of all the obstetricians in the city because she has a good reputation of being liked by her patients, she is one of the few people who does all her own deliveries 24 hours a day, and I also really enjoy learning from her and working with her as a resident.  Despite these reasons, my feelings towards her after my delivery felt out of proportion to what they should have been.  You could almost say that the feelings I had were bordering on those of maternal admiration, and I was mourning the loss of this type of care and concern in my life.

Interestingly, I don’t remember having such strong feelings of maternal admiration towards her before going into labour.  They only started after my delivery.  The timing of these feelings got me thinking about how the hormonal changes in my body may have affected my emotional attachment towards my doctor while she delivered El.  I also thought about how my feelings and admiration towards my old friend Kay developed after she delivered A all those years ago.  Finally, there is the most important consideration in all of this: the lack of close maternal bond and relationship with my own mother throughout my life.  All of these factors got me thinking about how the high levels of oxytocin in my body while I was in labour may have affected the “relationship building” pathways in my mind; perhaps my subconscious mind was trying to lay down or replace the maternal bonding-like relationship that I never really had growing up.  It makes me wonder if I would have had this response if I developed a normal mother-daughter relationship with my own mother as a child.

I have been trying hard to reflect on how I’ve been feeling in the last week and a half.  Specifically, I have tried to separate out logical from illogical feelings and evaluate what would be considered “appropriate” or “inappropriate” in terms of “normal human behaviour.  I have also been reflecting on what parts of my subconscious still need work and attention.  It is a little disappointing to think that after all my years of therapy trying to overcome the issues surrounding my childhood (and my relationship with my mother specifically), deep down there is still something missing.  Perhaps the fact that I am able to identify this change in feeling and attribute it to “something” suggests that I have made some progress in my therapy, but I’m not really sure.  Regardless, I will continue to reflect on my feelings and figure out a way to navigate through this mess and make it meaningful – both for my emotional recovery, as well as my future working relationship with my doctor (who will continue to be a teacher and mentor for me in my training).

The Birth of Baby El

I shouldn’t be surprised that El came into the world with a relative fury – she is my third baby, after all… and my first girl.

She came early on a Tuesday morning, but her decision on when to arrive seemed to be a few days in the making.  For the entire weekend preceding her birthday, I experienced contractions that would start and stop every few hours.  Sometimes they would get worse, but they would always just stop.  When Sunday night came, I was anxious about whether or not to work the next day – or even for the rest of the week, given that my maternity leave was scheduled to start the following Monday.  After weighing the options, I opted to listen to my body and I sent an email to the necessary people advising that I would not be in the next day.

I spent Monday feeling guilty about my decision to stay home from work.  I moved my prenatal appointment to the morning with the hopes that talking with my Doctor would make me feel a little better about my decision.  She didn’t seem phased by my decision to take  the day, or even the rest of the week, off work.  I was, for goodness sake, 38+ weeks pregnant.

She checked my cervix and told me it was 3cm and 50% effaced.  “Do you want me to strip your membranes? ” She asked.  I gave her permission (I preemptively took  two extra strength tylenol before my appointment, in anticipation of this possibility).  It was more painful than I remembered and I made more noise than I expected myself to make.  Then, I left her office with hopeful anticipation that labour wouldn’t be too far away.

The day passed uneventfully, with nary a contraction to bring up my hopes.  I went about the usual business of taking the kids to their activities, and given the beautiful weather, we even walked the short distance to get where we were going.  I took the boys for frozen yogurt after taekwondo, and if I could go back now knowing that would be the last thing we would do together without the baby in our lives, I would have been kinder and more patient with them.  We went home, prepared for bed and I tucked them in as usual.

I was getting ready for bed around 10:00 and the same contractions that had plagued my weekend showed up again.  They were mild and not even painful.  I shrugged them off as more of the same, non-productive, braxton hicks.  Thirty minutes later I went to the washroom and noticed a significant amount of “show,” and for a second I though that maybe these contractions were different.  Regardless, I made an effort to go to sleep.

Sleep didn’t work for me that night.  By midnight the contractions were still coming regularly and they were starting to get painful.  I suggested to my husband that, “maybe it’s time.”  He groaned in his sleep and rolled over.  By 1:00, things didn’t seem to be improving, so I made the decision that we needed to go into the hospital.  I called my nanny and woke up my husband, who begrudgingly had to go and pick her up.  By the time she arrived at our house and we drove across the city to the hospital where I was checked in, it was 2:30.  Somehow, Baby El got the memo that we were at the hospital because contractions started getting a whole lot worse!

The nurse I had was kind enough.  She didn’t immediately recognize me, and I was okay with that… until she presented a rather inappropriate plan to observe the progress of my labour before admitting me: “You’re only 4cm, so maybe we’ll get you to walk around for an hour and then we’ll re-assess. Do you want anything for pain?”
I turned down the morphine and said I would wait for my epidural.  She tried not to raise her eyebrows at me, but she didn’t do a good job.  When she disappeared behind the curtain, I expressed my frustration to my husband:
She obviously doesn’t recognize me… This is a stupid plan. She didn’t even look at my prenatal sheets.  I would never send a para 3 woman who is obviously contracting and uncomfortable away to walk, especially when her last labour was only 5 hours.”

The nurse came back after a few more contractions had come and gone.  The contraction pattern on my NST was impressive, to say the least.  Thankfully, one of the other nurses must have told her who I was, and maybe also discussed a better plan with her.  The new plan was to admit me right away and get me an epidural… Oh, and she also mentioned that she “realized how she knew me…”

I walked down the hallway to my labour room, stopping twice for contractions.  I placed out my arm eagerly in anticipation of my IV start… step one to my epidural acquisition.  The nurse missed.   She couldn’t find another good vein, so she decided to wait for the anesthetist.  He couldn’t find a good vein either and it felt like an eternity before he finally decided to retry the hand where the original attempt failed.  My contractions were close now, and more intense than I could tolerate.  I asked for the gas – I needed something and I didn’t even have an IV yet – I began to fear the possibility that I would be delivering this baby without any pain medications on board.  Breathing was barely working. I may have swore.  That moment reaffirmed for me that women who gracefully deliver their babies without pain medication are my silent heroes.

The IV was finally in and we wasted no time in positioning for my epidural.  I was starting to feel pressure and the sounds I made with the contractions were the audible evidence of that.  Whatever was going on behind me didn’t matter, but I had seen so many of them done before that I could picture the steps as he was doing them.  I knew when he was threading the catheter into my back, and despite the pain of a contraction, I was relieved to know that the medication would come soon.

It took a few contractions to feel the effects of the epidural, but once it was effective enough, my nurse checked my cervix again.  9cm.  It was 4:15 and it was time to call my doctor.  I didn’t know who would arrive first: my doctor, my baby, or my mom – who was driving frantically from 3 hours away.  Baby El held out- I could feel the pressure of the contractions and waited for my water to break with each one.  My wonderful doctor arrived after 15 min, and my mom was 15 minutes away.  I asked her if we could wait to push until my mom arrived – and as wonderful as she is, she obliged.

Baby still held on and by 4:50 the party was ready to start.  My epidural was fantastic – maybe too fantastic – because I couldn’t feel a single thing, not even the urge to push.  But with great coaching and some determination, baby El came into the world at 5:15 Tuesday morning. With her tiny little peanut body, her head full of black hair, and her tight double nuchal cord (which we would have never guessed from her heart rate strip, but explained my need to push for 20 minutes), she was placed on my flattened belly for me to see.

There is no way to put into words that moment when you see your new baby for the first time.  She was beautiful and I loved her immediately.  Her cord was cut and I slid her up onto my chest, where she stayed for the first hour of her life.  We took many pictures while my placenta delivered, and I received the final piece of wonderful news: no tearing at all.  I could finally sit up in my bed and I cradled my beautiful baby El up against my breast.  She was eager to suckle and I helped her latch.  It was so surreal to be nursing my baby only 10 minutes after she was born.  After only 4 hours of strong, active labour.  Just barely longer than a day after I decided to listen to my body tell me that it was time to take care of myself and my baby.

Tomorrow Baby El will be a week old and my mind is mixed with one paradoxical feeling: it has only been a week of having her in our lives… but how has it only been a week?