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  • Writer's pictureKelsey Petersen


A good year before I became pregnant I was sitting on the living room floor scrolling through my news feed when I saw a picture my Dad posted of his little sister. Elise Marie Jones was born with a heart defect sometime in the sixties and passed away at only two days old. As I stared at the black and white picture of my aunt, I thought of the extensive grief my grandparents must have felt at loosing her after such a short time. I felt sad for them, and then sad for me—The pain I was feeling from going month after month on fertility meds with nothing to show for it was starting to make me feel hopeless. I remember thinking that the name Elise was pretty  when I was suddenly overcome with the strongest and warmest feeling that I was going to have a daughter, and that her name was going to be Elise. It was so real, and it gave me so much comfort knowing that motherhood was going to happen for me someday. God was so good to give me a moment like that.

And then I was pregnant. For what felt like a very long time. Near the last week of my pregnancy I started to itch like crazy. I mean, itchy bellies are to be expected during pregnancy, but the itch started spreading to my legs and arms and even my face. I was itchy everywhere! After googling I found that all-over itchiness could be a sign of a more serious liver condition that sometimes resulted in still birth. Of course I, being the worst-case-scenario gal that I am, was certain that this was what I had.  So the Saturday before I delivered (as my Mom was making her way into town) I called the on-call doctor and told him about my itchy self. He told me that it could be that liver condition, but he highly doubted it. He also told me that he had delivered a girl that was set up for an induction on Tuesday, May 31st so there was now an opening if I wanted to take it. It took me approximately zero seconds to tell him that, “Yes! Yes! I’d love to take it!” I called Michael to let him know that his birthday was going to be extra amazing this year.

The Monday before I delivered I didn’t know what to do with myself. Like what do you do the day before you know your life is going to change forever? I spent the day with my Mom, washing the last few things and making sure the house looked good. I took a nap and mostly just anticipated the next day’s events. When Michael got home from class my mom took us out to The Hickory to celebrate his birthday. When we got home Michael gave me the sweetest blessing and we called different family members to have them guess the time the baby would be born and her weight and height. Then we watched a couple episodes of Fixer Upper. It was already after 11 PM and I knew had to wake up around 5 am to call the hospital to make sure they had room for us, (I assumed we’d be going in around 6 am because that’s what almost everyone I knew that had been induced at Madison’s told me they did.) but I was dreading going to bed because I knew there would be NO WAY I was going to get actual sleep.

I took some Benadryl hoping that would help, but sure enough, I laid awake for most of the night. When 5 am finally came I called the hospital, expecting them to tell me to come on in. I was sad when they told me to call back at 10 am because, “They would know more then.” I remembered a friend of mine telling me that on her induction day they kept having her call back every few hours until they finally told her they had no room for her, and I was pretty sure that would be the case for me. I laid back down to try to catch some sleep but it was pretty useless, but I remember feeling weirdly calm and at piece that everything was going to work out just the way it should. I started making plans for the day as if I wasn’t going to be able to get induced.

Michael decided to go to his 9 am class and after I dropped him off I played some soothing music and tried super hard to get some more sleep, but it didn’t really happen. I kept getting the feeling that I needed to call the hospital back even sooner than 10, but didn’t want to be pesky. Around 9:30 Michael texted me that he couldn’t focus and he wanted to know if we were going to have a baby that day or not (which I found amusing because I asked him before I dropped him off if the anticipation was killing him and he told me that he felt chill about it. Ha!) So I called back half an hour sooner than I was supposed to and the nurse that picked up said, “Yes, we were actually wondering if you could come in at 11 am.” I tried to play it cool like, “Yeah, mmhm. We can do that.” I went and picked Michael up (and found that my excitable self was driving like a maniac) and we hurried home to finish getting ready. Michelle came over to snap some pictures of us leaving, and then we headed over to the hospital!

Now, the whole hospital experience is a blur. The day just went by so fast. We got there at 11, answered a billion questions before they let us back into the birthing room, and then around noon they hooked me up to an antibiotic that I would be needing (for group b Strep) and a small dose of Pitocin. They had a hard time keeping the heart monitor for the baby on my belly because my belly was so round. Well, that’s what they said but I think “round” in that case meant excessively gigantic. The poor nurse was in every few minutes trying to keep that sucker in place. The contractions were painless, just like the ones I’d been experiencing at home. We anticipated a loooong day of waiting, so my Mom went home to start baking some banana bread  because she’s amazing and a thinker and knew the hospital kitchen would most likely be closed by the time I delivered. Michael and I watched some episodes of The Office and he fell asleep so I started journaling a bit.

It seemed like no time had gone by when  at 2:30 the nurse came in to let me know that the doctor was going to come in and break my water. In the doctor came  with his long pokey water-breaking tool. I had to pee at the time, but the nurse told me to wait until after. It was a pretty bizarre and confusing time in my life when warm water started gushing out of me. I stood up to go to the restroom and wondered why in the world the nurse wanted me to wait until after the water broke because I made a mess and didn’t know if I was peeing along with it or what in the Sam Hill was going on. I got back in the bed and they checked me again but I was still only dilated to 3cm, (which is what I was at my appointment the week before.) The doctor told me that I didn’t have to wait for a magical number but could get the epidural right then if I wanted. I told him that I felt like I needed to experience some pain before I got it. The nurse gently prodded me by telling me that it could take up to 30 minutes once I wanted one before the anesthesiologist was available, but I told them I would be fine. HA!

The contractions started to hurt. BAD. Back labor. Pain. I don’t even have words. If you’ve been there, you understand. If you haven’t, I’m sorry, but I have nothing I can give you in way of an accurate description. I remember wanting people to describe contractions to me in detail so that I could imagine what they were like, but no. There’s nothing I can say other than women aren’t lying when they say it’s the worst pain ever.  My mom came back and  Michelle came to snap some more pictures for us. Michael stood by my side the whole time and I kept looking him in the eye and saying, “Michael! It hurts so bad.” And then I mumbled how much I loved him over and over and I moaned a lot more than I anticipated. (I was counting on being classy and refined whilst I labored, but nope.) The anesthesiologist was in an emergency c-section and couldn’t come to my aid. Curse me and my foolish pride for rejecting the epidural earlier!

The good news is that those almost two hours of painful contractions went by so fast I thought it was only like, half an hour. I remember the way it felt when I knew a contraction was about to start. I remember everyone suggesting different positions but I knew there was nothing I could do to relieve any pain. Standing, sitting back, sitting up, it didn’t matter. I wanted to crawl out of my skin. I remember telling them all that I couldn’t breath, and the nurse telling me, “Yes you can. Yes you can.” I remember my mom squeezing my foot and looking really sad. I remember how worried Michael looked the whole time. I remember everyone telling me how good I was doing and me thinking they were such empty words! I remember hearing the anesthesiologist’s cart making it’s way down the hall and the nurse saying, “I think that’s him!” I remember when he walked in the door telling him that I loved him! But then he took forever to get the drugs in me, and home boy made way too many jokes. I thought I would be scared to get the epidural, but I just wanted it so bad that I felt nothing but relief that the pain would soon be gone. I kept asking him when it was going to kick in and he kept telling me it wasn’t in yet.  Everyone kept telling me how amazingly still I was being, which made me feel like a little kid. Gold star for me! I sat still without wiggling!

Y’all. When that epidural took. Glory, glory, hallelujah! That atmosphere in the whole room changed from intense and awful to relaxed and amazing! I was so glad that I could still feel pressure in my back during contractions and wiggle my feet and move my legs. I tried to nap, but I felt so relaxed that I was kind of afraid I’d stop breathing. I know that doesn’t make sense now, but in the moment, it seemed like a legitimate concern.

The shift changed and two new nurses came in named Nancy and Kylie. Again, what felt like no time went by and I was telling Michael and my mom that I was feeling a ton of pressure in my tail bone. Like… a weird amount of pressure. My mom was like, “I’m going to get the nurse.” and I was like, “No! What if I just need to poop!” My mom was like, “Yeah, no. I’m getting the nurse.” So Nancy came in with Kylie behind her to check me again. She said, “I’m going to check you and then I’m going to have Kylie check you because she’s still learning.” So Nancy checked me and whispered, “It’s time to have a birthday party!” Just so I could hear her. Then Kylie checked and was afraid to guess what I was at. She said, “What if I’m wrong?” Nancy encouraged her and finally Kylie was like, “I think she’s complete!” Nancy was like, “Yep!” and Michael and my mom were so excited! Nancy called the doctor and he told her to let me “labor down” until 7:30. I can’t remember what time it was, but I think it was shortly before 7. The nurses explained that waiting helps the baby to move down on their own and reduces pushing time. I was all for that!

We just sat and talked excitedly about how I was about to push our baby out. My mom warned me that pushing could take a first time mom up to three hours, so just because I would start pushing soon didn’t mean the baby would be there super fast. Michelle came back to take more pictures and was super weirded out by how we were all just sitting there chatting (when she heard I was complete she rushed like  mad woman to get there in time!)

I didn’t start pushing until 7:45 pm. Putting my legs in those stirrups was a pretty surreal moment. I remember getting really emotional because I was so happy that I would soon be meeting our little one. I kept crying and saying, “I’m just so excited to meet our baby!” and I kept telling Michael how much I loved his guts. I was also so happy that I had my mom and Michelle there. I just had such an amazing support system! The nurses asked me if I wanted a mirror and I was like, “Yeah, no thanks.” I didn’t think I would want to see anything that was going on down yonder. However, after my first round of pushes everyone was gasping and oohing and awing! It made me jealous. Nancy the nurse told me she was going to go get the doctor. She was like, “You still have time, I just want to make sure he’s close.” When Dr. Codd came in the room I gave another round of pushes and found that I was trying to see what was going on in the reflection behind him. I decided I did want a mirror and in the meantime they had me touch the baby’s head. The baby’s head? Like, it was showing, people! It was the weirdest thing seeing the top of my child’s head!

Before I went into labor I was so concerned that I would be a horrible pusher, however, pushing was my favorite part of the whole experience. I felt so productive! Plus, there were tons of breaks between each set of pushing, so it really didn’t tire me out at all. The doctor was joking about how steady the baby’s heartbeat was. He said it was like, chilling at the bahamas good. He said he’d never seen such a chill heartbeat during labor!  Shortly after the mirror was brought in the doc told me to look away for the episiotomy (he hadn’t planned on doing one but it became necessary. Sorry if you didn’t care to know that!) Right after he did that he told me to give him one slow and easy push. I was so glad I had the mirror at that point, if I didn’t I wouldn’t have thought that push was even doing anything, but I could see my child sliding out of me! Dr. Codd said something about the cord being around her neck and acted quickly. Now, that dang cord being around my baby’s neck was my biggest fear my entire pregnancy, but Dr. Codd acted so fast and it wasn’t tight so it didn’t end up being a big deal at all.

And just like that, I had a 7 pound and 10 ounce crying baby on my chest. The next few moments are a blur, but there are some mental pictures that I will never forget as long as I live.  I remember clearly the first time I saw my girl’s face. The moment I had been waiting for for so much longer than 9 months was actually happening, and it didn’t disappoint.  I couldn’t believe how PRETTY she looked! I was stunned at her beauty. She felt so warm and soft on me. I kept asking the nurse that was toweling her off, “Is she okay? Is she alright?” but the nurse was so calm. “Yes, she looks perfect. She looks great. She’s got great color.” I’ll never forget the way my mom had her hand clasped over her mouth and the tears streaming down her cheeks. But the thing I’ll remember most of all is Michael’s face, his eyes, and the way he kept saying, “Aww.” He was in love from the start, and I knew that I had never loved him more than in that perfect moment.

Then there are snippets, my mom pointing out her dimples, Michael commenting that she had his toes, a nurse shouting out her weight. I sat on the bed in disbelief that I was a mother. This baby was ours. She was my little Elise. The one I had known was going to come the second I laid eyes on that black and white picture my dad had posted to Facebook. The one I had been waiting for. I missed her before I knew her, and she was most definitely worth the wait.

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