Many moons ago, on Halloween 2009, my sister gave birth to her first child. Being the wise-cracking younger sister that I was born to be, I took it upon myself to start a mini blog to remember that wonderful day. I’ve combined all seven posts I wrote that night (most of which are very short) into one post on my blog, mostly as a way to share it with family but also to have it somewhere more permanent that its former location. Each titled section denotes a different post, and I’ve included my original subtitle to the blog as well. The only correction I have made is to change “inches” to “centimeters” when referencing Darla’s level of dilation. (So, for a more interesting read, just change “centimeters” back to “inches” in your mind.) Enjoy!
Bella Birthing Blog
A short blog following the birth of my first niece, Isabella, from a first-time-aunt’s point of view. Guest starring Darla, the mother-to-be; Mother, louder than ever; In-Laws, the calm yin to our crazy yang, and Baby.
Waiting for Isabella
Darla’s due date has been October 31, 2009, from the very beginning. But I was hoping she would be late.
Halloween is always one of the biggest nights of the year for my boyfriend, Chris, because he throws a huge party…as in a front yard full of cars and a back yard full of people, beer kegs, and bonfires. I had been planning to go for a while, but I guess my family and I had been planning for Isabella’s birth for even longer….
So, of course, Saturday morning, I get the call: Darla is going to the hospital. And as much as I didn’t want to go home this particular weekend, I swallowed the bitter pill of irony and drove the hour-and-a-half journey home.
When I got home, things were calm. My mom was watching TV and my dad was working on some Publix construction plans. The only news we had was that Darla was 3 centimeters dilated and thus too small yet to be officially admitted to the maternity floor. So I ate lunch and played with our dogs. I even had the nerve to express my boredom. As my mom started to pull a game out of the garage, the phone rang: Darla was now 4 centimeters and ready for the maternity wing!
Now things got interesting. The three of us set into motion, Mom putting the dogs away, me packing my computer and camera, and Dad…well, I’m not actually sure what Dad did, besides pee, of course, but we all managed to meet in the car without too many “Hurry up, Alan!” banshee yells from my mother.
On the way to the hospital we learned that the nurse had performed some uterus-wrenching technique that was “the worst pain” my sister had ever felt, but it widened the uterus from 4 centimeters to 5. No pain, no gain!
We arrived at the hospital and found Joey in the parking lot, unloading a suitcase and some pillows and his professional camera equipment. I couldn’t imagine him actually using it beforehand. I guess it’s for later.
We found my sister in her room, #228. She was bitchy as ever and writhing with pain every few minutes as the contractions came. It was about 3:52. My dad took care of the most important thing first: tuning the TV to the UF/UGA football game, much to the dismay of Darla and Joey. (FSU fans…poor things.) Next, we learned that Darla was now 6 centimeters, a figure that suggested Isabella would indeed be here in time for Halloween.
Only 5% of babies arrive on their due dates.
Around 5:00, the doctor came in (my old gynecologist…awkward…) and approved the epidural. So my mom, Linda (Joey’s mom), and I waited in the hall for about half an hour while the anesthesiologist rigged up the painkillers. The small talk was agonizing and nothing with which I could relate: my mom and Linda exchanged tales of their births. I wondered why they thought any of their information would be useful or timely, considering that none of them had had children in 22 and 27 years, respectively.
At 5:30, the anesthesia was in and we were allowed back in the room. It was about this time that the grandparents also arrived, and I took a few pictures of everyone with the tooth-chattering pillow princess. I offered that she looked like a crack addict needing a fix. Darla laughed, but my mom told me to be nice. To me, jokes are much more apropos at a time like this.
Since only four people are allowed in the room at once (including Joey, meaning only three in addition to him), I have now been relegated to the completely empty waiting room. The solidarity is comforting, and I’m reclining and watching the UF/UGA game.
It’s now 6:04, and I’m bored and alone, but at least I packed a proper aunt-to-be survival kit: Tom Wolfe’s I Am Charlotte Simmons, my laptop and its battery, and a camera. And we’re all waiting…and waiting…and waiting for the birthing to begin. I’m also looking forward to hospital food, especially the JELL-O, which I’m hoping is as good as I remember…
Hospital Food = Disappointing
Apparently, the cafeteria closed before 7:00, which is when we finally decided to venture away from Darla’s side to find food. The only place that was open was Volcano’s, a gourmet coffee shop that, as we learned, does not take as much care with its food choices as its coffee selection.
My parents, grandparents, Joey’s parents, and I all ate a disgusting dinner and downed some gourmet coffees to erase the memory of what we consumed before. My parents headed up first, leaving the rest of us to finish our meals…or gulp them down out of mere need to nourish ourselves.
A text at around 7:45 from my mom informed us that Darla was now 7 centimeters and ready for Potosin, a drug that would help induce the labor.
When we arrived back at her room, a nurse that could have been Cloris Leachman’s twin was buzzing around my sister, inserting tubes and fervently clicking a mouse around on the computer next to the bed.
The hospital will only allow four people in the room at a time, so Joey’s parents came in to wish Darla goodbye and good luck, as did my grandpa and mom, and Joey, Grandma, and I stayed behind to keep Darla company. My mom came back later to take my grandma away and bring in our Aunt Deena, who had just arrived from Orlando. Excited to be a great-aunt, she had left her own children to trick-or-treat with their father to come await Isabella’s arrival with the rest of us.
So now it’s 8:17, and Deena, Joey, my mother, and I are seated around Darla, quietly conversing and trying to keep the mood light. Deena is asking questions about the process so far and offering advice and wisdom. But at this point, Darla seems calm and relaxed, completely phased out by the epidural. We’re hoping Baby comes before midnight so she can be “on time” and be a Halloween baby. But the most important thing is that the baby is healthy, no matter when she comes.
Revelations from the Hospital Bed, by Darla
- “I feel like there’s something in my butt hole.”
- “I feel like I’m wearing no underwear and someone has something shoved between my cheeks.”
- “My butt’s so numb…I just tried to touch my butt cheek and I can’t feel it.”
Joey: She’s just telling you she’s going to be a pain in the ass.
- “I feel like there’s something in my butt!” (again)
- “I just farted and I didn’t even feel it!”
- “What if I poop on my baby?”
(Deena then informs us that there is a spot on the bed that moves out of the way during the birthing so that any poo, if it comes, will just fall out and land in a bucket placed beneath the bed. So she will probably not poop on her baby.)
Let the Birthing Begin!
It’s 8:52, and the powers that be (that is, my mother) decided that I am no longer worthy to sit by the queen’s throne. It is my turn to sit with the other discarded members of the family in the waiting room.
Under my sister’s FSU blanket (I swallowed my pride with this one: comfort outweighs collegiate ties), I am comfortable and warm in the waiting room.
It smells like a dorm in here, and I am reminded of my own dorm days: same green tile floors (cleanliness questionable), same generic smell of bodies and existence, same fluorescent lighting lining the hallways (and the cliche light that just can’t will itself to stop flickering)…ahhh, the glory days.
I took Deena down to the coffee shop, but it was closed. When we arrived back to the waiting room (9:05), my mom burst in with a mighty thunder and announced that Darla was now 10 centimeters! So let the labor begin! Labor can last a while, but at least things are happening now. Soon, great-grandmothers, grandfather, aunts, and great-aunts will be born, right along with Isabella Renee! Hopefully, we’ll have a Halloween baby ghoul!
So she’s in there pushing, pushing, pushing, and now all of us are in the waiting room—Mom, Dad, Grammy, Poppy, Deena, Joe and Linda (Joey’s parents), and me. With two TVs, reclining chairs, two vending machines, and a bathroom, we are preparing for an evening of waiting for the call…the call that will inform us that a new little life has blessed us all and upped the prefixes on our familial names.
Mom and Dad are trading off turns on the cell phone, calling family members that couldn’t be here tonight—Dad’s mom, Aunt Mary, Uncle Danny, etc.—updating them with the most exciting news we’ve heard all night.
Waiting Room Practical Jokes
We’re all sitting around laughing, figuring out where we fit in this poem—
Mondays child is fair of face,
Tuesdays child is full of grace,
Wednesdays child is full of woe,
Thursdays child has far to go,
Fridays child is loving and giving,
Saturdays child works hard for his living,
And the child that is born on the Sabbath day
Is bonny and blithe, and good and gay.
—and chatting in general. My grandma insists that she and my grandpa were both born on a Saturday, but I discovered, with a quick Internet search, that she is a Friday baby, like me. She doesn’t believe me and claims her mother lied to her her whole life, even claiming that I got the wrong calendar. My grandpa claims that now they can finally get a divorce.
Deena taps my arm and mouths, “Watch your mother.”
Then, she jumps out of her chair, points at the door (which is behind my mother), and shouts, “What’s the news?!” My mom LEAPS out of her chair and does a quick 180, only to find no one standing there. We all get a good laugh, and my mom smacks Deena on the arm. I point out that the door—a giant, extremely squeaky model—didn’t even make a peep, which should have tipped my mom off. But we’re all on edge, waiting for any sort of news.
Mary comes in on her break. She works in the ER of this hospital. My mom asks her to use her seniority to go find something out from the maternity ward. She comes back and pulls a similar joke to Deena’s, but the only news she has to offer is that Darla is indeed pushing, but nothing major has happened so far.
My dad leaves to pee and comes back with a third try at psyching everybody out: “It’s a boy!” I don’t know why, but my mom believes that my dad has brought us viable news, but then she quickly, and angrily, realizes that he is lying. We all get a good laugh.
Waiting Room Revelations
Mother: If I had to do it all over again, I’d put my children last. I’d blow all my money on me and maybe give them a little something.
And Bella Began…
It was the new grandparents who were summoned first to view and coo over Izzie. I took slight offense. I understood why my parents had been called in first, but I couldn’t quite understand why Joey’s had been too. To me, I was the third closest to Darla, and thus Izzie, and should have been chosen for the first group to go. But this is also Joey’s baby, and so of course his parents have just as much seniority as my own, enough to trump me all together and relegate me to group two.
They took an awfully long time, but when the rest of us (Deena, my grandparents, and me) finally made it in, we each had our turn to hold that tiny, warm bundle of joy. She even opened her eyes and seemed to make eye contact with everyone. She was quiet and ever so dainty already, with her little pursed lips, cheeks red from exhaustion, and bright blue eyes. She rarely made a peep, but when she did, the sound was heart-wrenchingly agonizing and beautiful all at the same time.
Deena asked Darla if, when she looked at Izzie, she saw her as her “daughter.” Darla hadn’t thought of it this way, and her eyes brightened as she said, “Yeah, she’s my daughter!” The only thought Darla had had up to this point (aside from “Get me Steak ‘n Shake!”) was, “I’m taking a baby home on Monday!” as if Bella were a special-order item she had ordered from a department store that, after several months’ delay, had finally arrived.