Danielle’s story
of Alexa’s birth 2006

In August of 2005, at the age of 31, I was told by a doctor that due to my frequent cases of endometriosis that I would not be able to have children.

On 6th January 2006 I had a doctor’s appointment because my period was a week late. It was probably the endometriosis again. I was stunned to discover that I was five weeks pregnant.

The pregnancy flew by. I had only a few bad days during the first trimester. The second was more challenging. I had some swelling in my legs because I worked on my feet all day in a store. We needed to purchase a family car. We also did not want stay in our neighborhood. There was a shooting, a stabbing and numerous break ins in cars and homes. Despite the high real estate prices we did find a place in a better neighborhood. All this took place during the last trimester, which was also the hottest summer on record.

Out of sheer boredom and wanting to complete something of my life list before my child was born, I wrote a novel over the long weekend in September, three days before my due date. I will recommend to every pregnant woman to do something like that. It was a distraction.

My husband stayed closer to home. I was so afraid to stray too far. Flashes of Hollywood labors where the woman’s water broke in restaurants flashed in my mind. At that point I was so hot and huge I was anxious and impatient waiting for this child.

When I was eight days overdue, my back felt like it was going to rip apart. I could not do anything to relieve the pressure. When I could fall asleep my bladder woke me up three times.

On Thursday 14th September, I had show. I called my doctor’s office and they told me to relax since I did not have contractions. Then I called my husband to put him on standby. Within the hour the contractions started. They were every ten to twelve minutes. After alerting my husband but telling him to not worry, the intense gripping attack of panic of being alone overwhelmed me. I picked up the phone again to call him. He was already on his way home.

The contractions were still ten to twelve minutes apart until late afternoon. I thought if this was how they felt then it was not so bad. By mid evening, they were five minutes apart for an hour and fifty to sixty seconds in length and much more gripping. After a quick call to the hospital they said to come in.
We arrived at 7:30pm. By eight thirty I was only one cm dilated.

We got home and settled in for what was going to be a long night. Midnight rolled around so I sent my husband to bed since he needed to drive. All night the contractions were up and down in length. I could only sleep for minutes at a time. Early morning came and so did everything I ate the day before.

It was now Friday. All day the contractions slowed and speeded up to be more intense than before. I still could not eat much. The nausea was worse than the first trimester. I camped out on the living room couch once again for a long night. By Saturday morning, the contractions had increased to every five minutes. We got admitted to the hospital even though I was only two centimetres dilated. They gave me a shot of morphine so I could sleep a bit. Four hours later I had not even moved in dilation. Off we were sent home again. I had to suffer another long ride.

Once the morphine wore off I spent the afternoon dealing with more and more frequent contractions. When they heard my groans over the phone they told us to come in. That third ride to the hospital was the longest in my life. I gripped the seat so hard I think I broke some of my fingernails. Obviously I looked much more ready because we were rushed through the assessment area to a room. I was still only four centiemtres! We got set up with the ice chips and machines. I was asked what drugs I wanted. I had chosen the gas mask because it was the less invasive for the baby. My husband and I went in the shower to help relieve my back pain.

They kept asking me if I wanted an epidural. The contractions were really pissing me off. I felt like I was doing tummy crunches forever. For three and a half hours I breathed in the gas and talked briefly to the nurse. My husband closed his eyes for a quick nap. I still had not peed. I drank so much water. They had to put in a catheter. I would not recommend it.

At midnight the doctor came in to check me. I still had not progressed – the baby didn’t want to come out! I was now 11 days overdue. The doctor broke my waters and after a quick discussion they set me up with an IV of oxytocin and gave me another shot of morphine. I was asked again if I wanted an epidural. Do they get a bonus by how many they administer?

By 5:30am I was finally at ten cm! I barked orders at my husband who jumped up right away to get more ice and washcloths. (It calmed my anger by crunching to my heart’s content.) Fifteen minutes later the room was set up with all the equipment and I started to push. It felt like the worst bowel movement in your life.

One hour and ten minutes later our baby had barely moved. They could see all the baby’s hair. My husband, nurse and doctor kept telling me to push (like you can stop the whole process.) The doctor suggested that she help by forceps or vacuum. I heard bad things about the forceps so I asked for the vacuum. I kept pushing (all the while hoping it was the last one) until our daughter came out.

At 7:05 am on the Sunday morning of 17th September, after seventy hours of labor, our daughter was born weighing eight pounds twelve ounces.

Her cries and wide eyes filled the room announcing that she was here. That made it worth not taking any hard drugs. The nurses placed her on my stomach as my husband cut the cord. Then they had to bring her over to the bassinet to clean her and weigh her. I encouraged my husband to leave me while I was getting stitched up to go be with our daughter. When he went over to talk to her she turned to him and quietened down. She could not take her eyes off of him.

While the doctor’s were working on the placenta, the door opened to reveal the doctor who told me at eighteen that I should have a hysterectomy. I let the moment of redemption pass.

After our girl was cleaned up and swaddled Michael brought her over to me. He did not want to let her go. We still had not picked out a name. He looked at me and said Alexa Patricia. I loved it. Alexa was short for my middle name. Patricia was my Mom’s name who had passed away 22 years ago of breast cancer.

When he finally released her, I tried to breastfeed. I was apprehensive because I had a breast reduction more than 11 years ago. I was still determined to try. I was not going to settle for second best now. She latched on so well. The nurse came in with great news. It was time for a shower. I could touch my toes!

I hear women saying they are ready for another right after giving birth. Not me. I am not crazy to gamble again. This perfect angel is plenty – the baby I did not know I could have.

Since we were doing so well we were discharged after only one night. When we showed her our house, it struck us. Who allowed us to be parents? I was not ready for the awesome responsibility of being a mom!

The first week was hell. While I was trying to repair internally I had so much pressure to formula feed her. After only three days, the home nurse scared me by saying I was not giving her enough so I had to feed her with formula. Alexa had dropped three quarters of a pound. My milk had not come in yet. The nurse kept repeating that it SHOULD have been by now. I felt it was too soon. I was so burnt out from not sleeping for over a week that I gave in. I wanted to give her everything even if it went against my instinct.

The next day we went to the doctor for her first check up. Our doctor told us she was not worried about the weight loss as it can happen. She was still optimistic that I could breast feed. She gave me a prescription that would help speed it up.

Between the books, the nurse and my mother-in-law (who was out of town) I was so stressed out. I had not had a chance to sharpen my mother’s instincts. The books state ‘facts’ – which are not always the truth since no two newborns are the same.

Within two weeks I had gained a bit of the reins. I was not going to let our little girl cry without reason. They cry when they are wet, hungry, tired or need their parents. If their needs are met then they will always know that their parents are always there for them.

I did still struggle with depression. I did not feel like I had post partum depression. I heard many scary stories of women who fought the illness, but I did not feel like they did, just isolated and tearful. I still had a hard time keeping up with the household needs, my husband’s needs and my needs. I put that pressure on myself. I tried to be super woman. I know now that I will be forever in training.

 

© Danielle Christopher

“A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.”*

I’ve always been aware of gender conditioning and actively tried to combat any lingering prejudices or stereotypes in my own parenting, even down to encouraging dolls with my boys when they were little. It’s great to read people writing about gender issues they’re experiencing with their kids. For too long these subjects have been discouraged or silenced. I’d love to publish some more creative writing on this topic, especially if you are struggling with a child who actively tries to move away from gender normative preferences. A society where everyone can be themselves thanks Gloria for those aspirational words.

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* Gloria Steinem