You entered this world during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the joy you brought to our lives outshone all chaos. Despite everything around us shutting down, your growth reminded us to trust in the miracle of life. We saw your microscopic heart beating on its own at six weeks, your hand caressing your face at 10 weeks, and you yawning at 20 weeks. I first felt you flutter in me on March 3rd. I vow to remind you of the magic that continues to work despite the world sometimes feeling out of our control.
On Sunday, November 24, 2019, we discovered we would be your parents. That night we celebrated in downtown Boulder where the holiday lights were being turned on for the season. Pepper was excited by the news too! We began reading to you almost every night. Pepper practiced too!
On my 42nd birthday, February 11th, we announced the news publicly (which was also the day that the WHO named the virus COVID-19). Your birth announcement even made the UK news in the Daily Mail!
We loved watching you grow for nine months. I went from 118 to 146.5 pounds by the time you were born! The first pic in slideshow below was February 19th when I started to show.
For the last month before your birth I had check-ups twice a week to make sure you were healthy. Dad and I loved listening to your heartbeat and sometimes we called your grandparents and Great Grandma Nancy, so they too could hear it. Dad took time off work just so he could come hear your heart beat. We took walks around our neighborhood with your big sister Pepper to practice strolling with a baby. Grammy and Grampie came out to visit two weeks before your due date and stayed another two more after you arrived. We went on hikes together and worked on getting your room ready.
About a week before your arrival I got acupuncture to encourage your arrival. On the night before your due date, dad and I ate spicy Thai food (green curry for me) with Grammy and Grampie.
A four-year-old neighbor girl named Jaden came by with a card and a giant peacock feather for good luck. A psychic from Utah I interviewed for a story had told me that anytime I saw a feather it was a sign of your great-grandma Velda’s presence. Jaden said she wanted to name you Luna Petunia and she was ready to babysit anytime we needed a date night.
On the morning of your due date (Monday, August 3, 2020) I took a long hike up Mount Sanitas in hopes all the bumps and sways would encourage you to arrive. I had tried all kinds of tricks to encourage you to come in your own: acupuncture, raspberry leaf tea, spicy food, black currant gel pills. I went to the doctor’s office in the afternoon to have a COVID-19 test (since I was a scheduled induction, I had to be tested) and your amniotic fluid checked. The nurses told me your “pockets” looked good!
On the night you were due, we went fly fishing at the site of our wedding. Grampie gave tips to dad and me. I thought it was an appropriate place to be on the eve you were to be born—a little fish set free. That evening there was a full moon called a sturgeon moon named after the mighty fish. In the middle of the night I started feeling mild labor cramps.
The next day, August 4th, was my induction date and also Grammy and Grampie’s 47th anniversary. I took us for our last swim together at Spruce Pool. We celebrated their anniversary with flowers and cake and finished readying the house for Grampie to stay with Pepper, your big “sister.” Grammy, Grampie, Dad, and I gathered around holding hands while Grammy prayed for your safe delivery.
When I called the hospital to make sure they had a bed available (even though I had an appointment scheduled for 7pm) the nurse said they were pretty booked but I could come in and wait. She asked me, “Is your cervix favorable?” to which I answered, “How on earth do you know if your cervix is favorable??” After a bit further discussion, she encouraged me to come in anyways and said they’d find room. Dad and I left for the hospital around 9pm and by 11:30pm they’d started giving me a small white pill called Cytotec to “ripen my cervix.” I was only 1cm dilated before taking the medication.
The doctor on call said two things I won’t forget when I told her I was concerned that I had come in too early and should’ve waited for my body to work on its own without intervention. She said she was in her early 40’s when she gave birth to her son and she had a c-section scheduled ahead of time. She also said, “We’d have a lot more c-sections these days if it weren’t for Pitocin.” I was restless that night and totally uncomfortable trying to sleep in the hospital bed. They’d hooked me up to an IV of antibiotics in case my labor started and you came surprisingly quickly. They didn’t want you to contract any yucky bacteria I had.
I was torn between waiting for you to “come all on your own” and listening to what the medical community kept telling me: “Women your age, no matter how healthy they are, are at risk for a stillbirth. The longer you wait the bigger chance you have of having a c-section.” But, so many other people told me, “Your body knows. Trust your body to do its job,” and one nurse told me her daughter “came when she was ready.” This reminded me when I was afraid that morphine took away your great grandma Velda’s ability to die when she was “ready” and feared that the morphine sped up the process before she was ready to let go. I wanted to have a “natural” birth like those women I’d watched on videos laboring in a bath of water in their own home until they pulled their baby out of their vagina all on their own.
By morning (Wednesday, August 5, 2020), I’d had a total of three tablets of Cytotec broken up over several doses given to me throughout the night. I was disappointed when they checked and found I was only 1cm dilated still (although the cervix had thinned out some). My labor contractions still felt like menstrual cramps, but they were more frequent and stronger. I was told I could eat lunch and when I asked the doctor what would be ok, she said, whatever you don’t mind tasting again.
Around 2pm the doctor who I had been seeing periodically during my pregnancy took over and began the next step to try to encourage labor. She inserted a foley bulb, what looks like a deflated balloon, to sit right on top of my cervix. She then filled it with fluid. She suggested to the nurse to add Pitocin, but I said let’s wait and see how things progress first. I began contracting every 2-3 min, laboring on a fit ball while sucking on popsicles and in tub with electric candles. Meanwhile your father sent updates to friends and family and looked for a job that would afford him more time to be with you once you were born.
Around 4:30pm the “balloon” fell out! It felt like a success since I was told it could take 5-6 hours. But my excitement was a bit premature. I was only dilated 3cm. I continued to labor until pacing the hallway, swaying on the ball and dancing with dad in his arms until the doctor suggested we break your water.
Around 8pm she used what looked like a long plastic crochet needle to puncture your sac. I imagined there would be gush of water, but it was only a trickle. Was there something wrong, I asked. She said you might be positioned close to the hole she’d pricked and thus blocking the “gush.”
Contractions got stronger and that lunch revisited us at 9pm when I threw up three times. The nurse had given us green puke bags that looked like they were meant to fit a small town newspaper. Dad wisely grabbed the trashcan. In between vomiting in our now dark room, your father and I made shadow puppets on the wall and danced (which looked more like me hanging on him to hold me up as we swayed).
At one point, while I vomited, a tech came into the room to access stuff in the closet. “I’m Zeeshan,” he said. “I’m here to get the room ready for delivery.” I again became prematurely excited. Was I closer than I thought? Did Zeeshan know something I didn’t know? Zeeshan was the name of my senior year homecoming and prom date—a friend and cross country teammate. How many Zeeshan’s could there possibly be?
I moved back to the tub to labor for about an hour. I was then only dilated to 5 (“Maybe 5.5,” my doctor added to make me feel better, I think). “I don’t think we are getting a baby without a little Pitocin,” she said.
Ugh! I had been warned of this drug, a synthetic version of oxytocin. I had been told it made contractions much stronger than the body was prepared to handle. I’d also had friends say it did very little for them. At that point, my contractions were still coming every 2 minutes and strong enough I couldn’t pace the hallway anymore. I was going on 48 hours of virtually no quality sleep. I was worried my body had stalled out and I wanted to keep things progressing (for both of us). The doctor’s voice echoed in our heads, “There’d be a lot more C-sections these days without Pitocin.” Not that there’s anything wrong with C-sections. I just wanted to give you the best chance possible to come vaginally. While I was laboring those evening hours, unbeknownst to me, dad had been reading up on what happens if you wait “too long” for a female body to respond after induction measures. We’d tried a tiny pill, a mechanical technique, and a physical action. If we sat too long in the current state, it put both you and I at higher risk.
I agreed to start a Pitocin drip at 10pm while laboring in the tub, but I requested to be put on the lowest dose possible. Contractions got stronger and quicker. They were coming about every minute to 90 seconds allowing me very little recovery time. Every time one came, I squeezed dad’s hand and moaned through the wave of pain. The sound that came from me was one I’d never made before, and I’d only heard in movies in which someone was being tortured. I needed a goal. I’d wait for an hour and then have my cervix checked. I decided if I hadn’t progressed much in dilation, I’d ask for the epidural. Dad put himself in a place of non-emotion; he couldn’t have been supportive, otherwise. He didn’t want me to focus on his discomfort and feel obligated to support or soothe him, he later told me.
Around 45 minutes into the Pitocin, I asked the nurse if the amount could be lowered. She said she could drop it from 2 to 1. I expressed my anger in not being put on 1 to begin with when I asked for the lowest dose possible. I lasted about another 20-30 minutes at the lowest dose until I’d made up my mind to get the epidural (even before getting checked). I recalled two of my close female friends who I consider tough and talented runners. They’d both said, sometimes female runners have a harder time relaxing their pelvic floors. The epidural helped both friends dilate faster. One of those women had said, “You’ll know when you’ve met your limit.” I also remembered other friends telling me, “Just when you feel like you can’t go any further, you turn the corner and grow closer to delivery.” I didn’t see any corners to turn and I felt like I had met my limit.
Little did I know that Dad had been watching your heart rate monitor and grew alarmed when he saw it spilling into 170’s (a number we’d see you reach while crying many months later). At one point he had gone to tell the nurse he thought she should call for the epidural: “Please put the anesthesiologist on call so he can be ready AS SOON as Amanda says go.” It was only several days after your birth that he told me he’d advocated for both of us who struggled to communicate at that point.
The anesthesiologist had already been called into another birthing room so it would be about 30 minutes before he could help me, the nurse said. I got out of the tub for another cervical check. I was only dilated 6.5, and so I demanded more emphatically for the epidural. My savior arrived around 11:45 with the epidural. I sat on the bed and leaned forward into Dad’s arms who held me steady. At his first attempt to insert the needle into my spine, I jerked in between contractions. “Hold her steady,” the doctor firmly told Dad. The second attempt he nailed it. “I wish you a preemptive congratulations!” he said as he parted the room. I felt a wave of hope knowing someone else confidently anticipated your birth.
Because my pain was so advanced, it took about 45 minutes before the epidural numbed 95% of the pain. I lay in the bed continuing to squeeze dad’s hands through each contraction that rocked my body.
By 1:00 in the morning, things had calmed down enough I could rest calmly. A new nurse came into check on me. “I just want to do something right,” I told her. She turned down the monitor so I could sleep, but 15 minutes later I called her back in to turn it back up so I could pay attention to your heartbeat. I didn’t trust the nurses. I wanted to know you were resting easy at your usual steady heart rate of 130. Dad was lounging on the couch in the room (barely sleeping) and I remember wishing more than ever that he could lie with me in bed.
Around 2am another cervical check revealed I’d dilated to 9.5. Allowing my body to marinate in the contractions had helped it open up without my pelvic floor muscles’ natural instinct to resist (thanks to 28 years of long distance running). The nurse propped my body up on a kidney bean-shaped pillow which, she said, would encourage you to drop into place. The nurses then let me rest til 4am and then it was time to start pushing. On the table to my right rested the string of beads from over 40 friends and my book of encouraging notes from those women. Also on that table sat the stuffed dog I’d given your great grandma Velda in the hospital.
The main nurse returned and instructed Dad to hold my left leg (the one with the labral tear in the hip) while she held my right leg. I guess she wanted to make him responsible should something happen. “Take a deep breath in, then hold it and push,” she instructed. “Are you sure I should hold my breath?” I asked her. “That’s how my mom burst a blood vessel in her brain while giving birth to me.” She assured me I was fine. In retrospect, I would have asked the doctor several weeks before my induction for proper pushing guidance in light of my mother’s experience. After only three rounds of three pushes (push, relax, push, relax, push, relax), the nurse said, “Stop! She’s here. I’m going to get the doctor.”
Dad handed me your great grandma Velda’s lipstick case and I applied the ruby red color to my lips. One of the nurses volunteered to take pics when I expressed wanting Dave to have his hands free and be present to the birth (he didn’t want to watch you exiting the birth canal because he said he was afraid he would pass out watching the blood). The last thing I thought I’d be doing before giving birth is changing the security settings on my phone, so the password didn’t block a user. The nurses set up a mirror so I could see your head crowning.
My doctor came in to guide me through the final act. After only three more rounds of pushing (about 20 minutes), the doctor said, “Stop!” You were coming out quickly and the doctor noticed that the umbilical cord was wrapped around your neck and body. Then I was instructed to give one last little push.
You entered our collective world at 4:42am on Thursday, August 6, 2020, all 6 pounds 3.5 ounces of your beautiful body. You came out face down and were quiet for the first couple minutes before you let out a little cry. The nurses immediately placed you on my chest and you then army crawled your way to my breast for your first meal.
I didn’t cry. I just held you in awe. My first thoughts were: “Of course, it’s you! I know you.” Dad was grinning ear to ear gazing at you like the tiny miracle that you were—like he’d witnessed a supernatural event.
For a few minutes you were both outside of me but still attached to me. The umbilical cord looked like a long candy cane where the red pulsated brightly against the contrasting white. Dad cut your cord. He says it was like cutting through a tough piece of meat.
The nurse and doctors “mashed” (nurses’ word not mine) on my tummy until our placenta and your amniotic sac spilled out. When we were asked if we wanted to keep it, I said, “Of course!” I wasn’t sure what we’d do with it but also was not willing to let it go.
After an hour or so of recovery, the nurses moved me from the birthing bed to the wheelchair to move us out of the delivery room with you in my arms. My legs were still numb from the epidural. I earned my first gold star as a parent that morning when I sensed I was going to pass out and insisted on passing you off to a nurse. Within seconds of handing you over, I slumped over in the chair. With a whiff of some alcohol swabs, I quickly woke up.
That morning you puked and pooped dark blood and we were told it was simply you processing the amniotic fluid you’d ingested—remnants of your past life. Later that day I felt the most soreness in my throat from howling so loudly during labor, but I was surprised by how good my body felt (and continued to feel). Dad and I pulled the emergency red cord in the bathroom that afternoon because we thought you were struggling to breathe (this would be an ongoing fear for the first three months of your life). Three nurses rushed in, checked you out, and reassured us you were just fine. One of them patted you on your back and said, “Just make her cry. Then you’ll know she’s breathing.” Easier said than done.
That first night I felt so guilty for inducing labor to encourage your entrance into this world. I wanted to put you back in my belly. You seemed too vulnerable for this cold, dry, noisy environment where nurses came in while you were sleeping to poke and prick you. But the nurses taught us how to feed you, swaddle you, and burp and bathe your tiny body.
We stayed in the hospital for two more nights before coming home on Saturday morning. That morning before leaving, we could smell campfire in our hospital room. The Cameron Peak fire was burning in the mountains and there was ash falling from the sky. Grammy and Grampie were so excited to hold you and Pepper was first to sniff you.
A few days after your birth, Grammy and I made artwork with your placenta while dad rested on the couch (he doesn’t like to see blood and guts). Many people came to the porch (wearing masks) to see you and deliver meals. There were a steady stream of packages on our doorstep welcoming your arrival.
Moorea, you are named after a heart-shaped island in one of the most beautiful places your father and I have visited on earth. Our hope is that you always outshine evil and ruin and that you listen to and stay connected with your heart.