My dear Aria,
I tend to think I have the perfect memory. There are so many things I can remember with great detail. And then at other times I am shocked when I try to recall something and the memory seems dim. And I fear the times when memories ultimately fade away into some abyss only to be pulled back up by random happenings. The story of your birth is one of those memories I believe nearly impossible to forget. But my fear of losing the remembrance of any small tidbit from that day is motivating me to write it all down. Every detail. Might bore some. Or seem a bit “too much”. But, this is for you, not them. And if you’re anything like me, you’re going to want to know the whole story. So. Here it is, Sweet Pea. The story of the most incredible day of my life. The day I met you, face to face. 

The doctors predicted your due date as December 15, 2011. However, in early November after a brief scare of a false labor; it was suggested to me that I make sure we were ready for your arrival sooner than mid-December. It made those last five weeks drag on and on. Every day I walked into the office and heard “Still pregnant?!?” For the last three weeks, you decided to practice labor every night. Every night for three weeks I would have 1-3 hours of “practice” contractions. At first I spent every evening thinking that you were about to arrive. Then, it became routine. A very annoying routine.

Thursday, December 15 arrived. It was my last official day of work and I thought for sure that I would walk out that door at 4:00 and labor would just start. But, it didn’t. It was an evening like all the others. Just “practice”. I had been sitting on an exercise ball whenever I was at home, bouncing and talking to you. Trying to convince you to come out and meet me. I went mall walking for hours. I ate spicy food and eggplant. All of the myths. But, you were content to simply stay inside and practice.

Friday morning I woke up at 5:30am. I didn’t think anything of it as you generally woke me up at that hour anyways. However, when I returned to bed after a brief visit with the bathroom, I knew something was up. I was uncomfortable. I couldn’t find any spot in bed that worked. I lied there. I fidgeted. Until at 7:00 I decided to go take a shower and try to relax you. Stood in the hot water for a while until I decided to turn the shower into a bath. At 8:00, while soaking, I decided I would begin timing these contractions, just in case. But I thought for sure that you were just practicing again. By 8:30, the contractions were 6 minutes apart and beginning to become more intense.

I walked into the bedroom and calmly woke your daddy. I asked him to wake up and shower just in case today was the day. He thought nothing of it. Got out of bed and went to take the longest shower he’s ever taken in his life. By the time he came out of the bathroom at 9:30, I was pacing like crazy.

Contractions were 4 minutes apart and I was quite uncomfortable. I asked him to call the bakery and finish packing our bags while I called the doctor. That was when it hit him, “Wait. This is for real?!?” He called the bakery (we had a prearranged agreement with them for announcing your arrival, yet they tried to tell daddy that the order wouldn’t be ready until the next day. I had to help him convince them that we needed the order by that afternoon! They worked with us and did it.) The doctors office asked me to come in to them first and they would check me out. I had just been in earlier that week and heard the words I was dreading: “no progress.” I was horrified of hearing those words again.

Your Aunt Liv had an appointment scheduled to check up on your cousin at 10:15. I sent her a text asking if she was on her way in to the appointment. Her response was “should I bring my bag and meet you at the hospital?” And I can only imagine her face when I responded that I thought that was a good idea.

We met at Dr. Tripp’s office and both saw Peg, the PA. Peg’s words to me were “You’re definitely doing some hard work. But you’re only a couple centimeters and 80% effaced. They may chose to send you home, but I’d like you to walk to triage and have them monitor you.” So, with the ladies at the office cheering me on, that’s what I did. I asked them to send my sister down after she got done at her appointment.

The walk from the office to the birthing center took what seemed like forever! I had to stop every 5-10 paces and hold onto the wall as the contractions became more intense and more frequent. Once in triage, I was hooked up to the monitors and they began to track each contraction and your little heart’s response to each contraction. Your Daddy sat in that room with me and advocated for me. All I wanted was to walk. I wanted to speed up labor and it was really the only way I was somewhat comfortable. Lying in the bed was torture. But, after twenty minutes, they told me that your heart wasn’t responding well to some of the contractions. So they shifted my position and had me lay there for twenty more minutes. Daddy and Aunt Liv took turns sitting with me (they only allow one guest in triage). They were both so great. I got nauseous and the contractions became harder and harder.

After the forty minutes passed, they examined me. I was now three centimeters and the contractions were between 1 1/2 -3 minutes apart. They finally let me walk, but asked me to come back in 40 minutes to get examined again. Daddy and I lapped the birthing center several times. Stopping every minute or so to grab onto the bar on the wall and breathe. Soon, squatting at the wall was the most tolerable way to manage each contraction. Just as we were making our final lap and heading back to triage, one of my worst fears manifested. During one of the contractions, while I was squatting by the wall, I puked. On the carpet. Directly in front of the nurses station. I was mortified, but they were so sweet. Just very quick to send me back to triage with a bucket.

The triage staff made the decision to admit me at 2:00 because I needed to be on an antibiotic for 8 hours if I was going to deliver you naturally. And though my body wasn’t progressing quickly, the antibiotic took precedent and I was not about to go home with those contractions so close and my pain becoming excruciating. Aunt Liv sent the text to our list of friends who were anxiously awaiting the message stating that you were on your way. Nani and Papi D’Angelo were there within moments. And Nana & Papa DeGroat, Uncle Jer and your cousins weren’t far behind. I made sure to walk out to the lobby to see your cousin Ella. She gets concerned very easily and wanted to see me to make sure that you and I were OK. She gave me a big hug and sent me back into the unit to go meet you.

I had great plans of delivering you naturally, without medication. I had dreams of lapping the birthing center and laboring in the jacuzzi tub until you were ready. However, the pain was crazy. As soon as I was admitted, I asked our labor nurse, Olivia, for a shot of nubane. I wanted to simply relax for a couple hours so that I could regain strength and be ready for the big moment. After the shot I was fast asleep for a couple hours. After that nap is when things start to get pretty fuzzy.

I spent some time in the jacuzzi tub after the nurse was sure that the nubane had worn off. Daddy sat by the side of the tub while I continued the contractions every 60-90seconds and fell fast asleep in between every contraction. Olivia said I was very focused, that she had never seen a more focused laboring mother. I remember breathing, very controlled breaths, during every contraction. Then I remember needing to get out of the tub because of my “sleeping” and needed to be monitored again.
The next several hours are a blur. I know that your Daddy and Aunt Liv were in the room and I apparently asked them to talk because I liked listening. I know our nurse, Olivia, was wonderful. I also know I was asked to lay on my right side, as that was the only position where they could keep your little heart beat consistent through the contractions. I remember grasping the side of that hospital bed and shaking it every time the pain would start and then “passing out”, still gripping the side of the bed, in between every contraction.

Olivia explained to me that I was having back labor, that you were “sunny side up”, which is why squatting and walking was the most comfortable. However, she also explained to me that you must have some issue with your cord since they were having trouble keeping your heart consistent, so I could only lay on my right side (one of the most uncomfortable positions for back labor). She explained that they were hoping you could turn naturally.

At some point they decided to break my water. I remember asking if it was gong to hurt. It didn’t.

At midnight, the midwife, Corinne, came in and sat at the end of my bed. She told me that they needed to let me labor longer, to see if you could work these issues out on your own. She also recommended that I get an epidural. She provided a good logical explanation; knew just what I needed. The main reason I didn’t want an epidural was so that I could labor in the tub and while walking. However, because of your little heart/cord issues, they couldn’t let me out of the bed. Because of the way I was laboring- “be it self-hypnosis or shock from the pain”- they were worried that I wouldn’t have the strength to push or be awake to meet you when you arrived. I figured I had tried naturally long enough and was ready for the epidural. Somehow, somebody got me to say “yes” and I am so very grateful I did.

I slept through the administration of the epidural and within 15 minutes I came back to consciousness! Olivia was amazed, she said she felt like I was a completely different person than who she had been with for the last ten hours. Corinne told me that they needed me to labor longer to see if you could work your self to where you needed to be. She said they’d be back at 3:00am to check, unless I really needed to push sooner.

This was not what I wanted to hear. Three more hours?! AND- Olivia’s shift ended at 3. I didn’t want a new nurse just when I was going to start pushing! I wasn’t happy.

I decided to let everyone who was in the waiting room come in to say hi, since they had been patiently waiting for so long out there. I had missed the Falco’s who had stopped by earlier. We thought you and Levi might be born on the same day! (But, it didn’t work out that way). I had also missed Marlize and Chloe who had stopped by earlier in the evening. But, your grandparents, Uncle Jer, Aunt Meg, Aunt Bec and Aunt Rach got to come visit. Poor Ella and Josiah had to keep waiting in the lobby. They were such troopers! We have a video of the waiting room that I can’t wait to show you some day. Everyone sharing their opinions of if you were a boy or girl. The intense game of Words with Friends. And the anxiousness to find out who would win the birthdate competition. (Aunt Bec won, by the way. NOT the Words with Friends game, believe me, but the birthdate guess.)

When Aunt Bec and Aunt Rach came in to say Hi we asked them to grab their cameras to be ready for your big reveal. We had planned on one of them being there to capture your first moments, but you planned your arrival time for the only time both ladies were actually available- so we have shots from two views during your birth. I treasure those pictures.

3:00AM arrived and they came in to check me. Corinne explained that we would do a practice push. Your heart was still acting inconsistent, so they wanted to make sure that pushing would be OK. If the practice push didn’t go well and your heart didn’t respond well, we’d have to discuss a C-Section. I was determined to push well and I prayed that you were too.

Actually, in my desire to always be transparent and my fear of being wrong; I actually discussed my pushing skills with the nurse and midwife. I had a fear of pushing wong. I don’t like to be wrong. They told me to push like I’m pooping and I responded “Well, I’m an excellent pusher, then.” (Oh, Arie. May you never inherit that trait from me, the incredible fear of failure.)

But, my statement rang true. After your Daddy got positioned at my right leg (which he wasn’t planning on), Olivia at my left leg, Becca near my feet, Rach near my head and Aunt Liv assisting Daddy- I did one perfect push :) They told me that your heart rate dropped a bit, but that if I was on oxygen between every push, we could start pushing! Because, I actually was an “excellent pusher”. They said I was like a veteran laboring Mom. That helped my pride quite a bit!

It was go- time!

I began pushing with everyone in the room cheering me on and rooting for you. Your Daddy was my biggest cheerleader- looking right into my eyes and encouraging me with with his smile. But, a bit into the pushing his face changed a bit. I had a horrible fear that he would pass out and miss it all- so I told him to take a break. He grabbed Aunt Liv and traded spaces. After a brief bathroom visit for him, he was back and ready to coach (but near my head this time!).

Finally, after an hour, it was time for the big push. They went and got the doctor. Within minutes, at 4:04am on Saturday December 17th, I heard everyone’s gasps of delight, watched their faces beam and heard your Daddy say “Aria!!!” I was shocked and said “What?!?” Through his tears and huge smile, Daddy looked at me and said “Aria!”

We cried. You were finally here- with your cord wrapped around your abdomen three times and through your legs once. We hugged for a moment while they cleaned you up (you pooped on your way out!).

And then I met you. They handed you to me and I fell in love. I just kept saying “You’re really here.” You held my finger from the beginning and stared at me all wide-eyed. You were finally here. And you were an “Aria!” I was shocked.

Your Daddy and I stared into those gorgeous eyes while I heard your Aunt Bec tell the nurse your name and how to spell it correctly. Your Aunt Liv was overjoyed. Aunt Rach was such a huge support and hung right there with me and Aunt Liv while they took you across the room to get cleaned up and measured. Your Daddy stook over you, examining your every move and greeting you saying. “Hi Aria. I’m your Daddy and I love you.”

And our nurse, Olivia, was there to welcome you and congratulate us. She stayed overtime to meet you. And when she left the birthing unit, she told your crowd “I cannot confirm or deny anything else, but I can tell you a baby has been born.” Olivia came back to visit the next day. She wanted to be sure to see what she called her “miracle baby” after being born with your cord the way it was.
After a successful first attempt at nursing and 14 stitches later- Daddy went to tell the waiting room about your arrival. He walked the long hall to see faces plastered to the doors, so anxious to see him and find out what was in the box he was carrying. The doors opened and he opened the box to reveal sugar cookies, frosted purple and saying “Aria.” The screams of delight were enough for a nurse to come scold them for being too loud!

They took shifts coming to meet you. You stole everyone’s heart from the moment they met you. You were perfect. Greeting your public with those wide, discerning eyes and perfect rosebud lips. You looked identical to your Daddy. I couldn’t take my eyes off you. I couldn’t hold you close enough. You were finally here. You were mine. All mine.

So, my dearest Arie. That’s the story, long story, of your arrival and the day that changed my life forever. It’s the story with as many details as I can remember, though I still feel that there is so much I forgot. It’s the story of the 23 hours I would repeat in an instant just for that first moment our eyes met and your little hand held mine. It’s your story. It’s our story. And I love it.