The dog ate the umbilical cord: Reflections of pregnancy and the first 12 weeks of motherhood

A few years ago we found out that Casey had an issue with his pituitary gland. Doctors explained that this meant two things. One, we would start down a journey of tests and treatments. Two, we would never be able to conceive. As someone who always wanted to have children (and grandchildren) this was a devastating blow. We both tried to put on a brave face. We attempted to accept the idea that we could fill that void with traveling, being a great aunt/uncle to our niece, our careers, etc. However, the news loomed in our relationship as a dark, taboo subject. If I mourned the idea of not being a mother, would that mean that I was not supporting my husband? I would be lying if I denied weeping when my period came, hoping and praying that the next month would be different. Yet, it never was.

I came to accept the idea that motherhood simply was not going to be part of my path.

So, one can imagine my surprise when I was late. As someone who, in my later years, had menstrual cycles that you could set a clock to, being late caused immediate alarm. Something was wrong. I was going through menopause at the ripe age of 29. I needed to go to a doctor.
However, one thing would stand in the way of me expressing my terror to my doctor. The annoying question, “Are you sure you aren’t pregnant?”. Knowing that this could be the cause of emotional breakdown (past experience…), I went and bought a test.

Shock. Disbelief. Joy. Pure joy. Then more shock. And then, uttering the one word to my husband which had been banned from our vocabulary. Pregnant.

Pregnancy was an adventure all in itself. But, having been told I would never have the experience made each gut explosion, swollen ankle, and kick to the ribs a bit better. Yes, it was uncomfortable. Yes, at the end, I was waking every two hours to pee. Yes, my feet swelled every day like loaves of bread rising. I was sore, cranky, and barfed in more public places than I would care to confess. But, at the end of each day, the gratitude of having the experience far outweighed the negatives of pregnancy. And, it was nice that with the utter lack of hair loss, I did not have to snake my shower drain the entire 9 months!

Then came the birth. We decided to have a planned home birth. All natural. All in all, my labor was about 19 hours. About 14 hours into it, I was exhausted, crying, and leaning against our bathroom wall telling my husband, “I get it. I see why people want the drugs. The pain is everywhere.” The was, by far, the darkest hour. Sure that I was close to the end, I insisted to be checked. I was 5cm dilated. Time for a mental regrouping. I lay on the bed taking in the idea that I was only halfway there. And, then my water broke. Then began the real work. I was quickly moved back into our birthing tub and during the next few hours time stopped. Everyone in the room disappeared during contractions and Pain came to greet me. For me, Pain was a very real person that entered the room during contractions. She came and she went, but she was no longer unwelcome. With each contraction, I could feel the baby move down, giving Pain purpose. I remember coming out of the birthing zone a few times during this phase of labor. The first time, the midwife was trying to coach my breathing and I smacked her away and defiantly swam to the other side of the birthing tub (not my finest moment). The second time, I heard Casey’s gentle reassurance that I was doing a great job. I sensed his presence there, and was so thankful to have him by my side. When our daughter came out, she shot out with three pushes in a grand total of about 5 seconds. The moment I pulled her out of the water, I changed. As cheesy as it sounds, in that wet, slimy moment, my world shifted. I watched my blood pulse through the umbilical cord to this little squirming person and finally understood the phrase ‘love at first sight’.

The next few days merged together in a blur of tar-like poop, constant eating, engorgement (aka hard rock, gravity defying, porn star boobs), and admiring this little creature that used to be connected to me. I often woke in the night just to check that she was breathing. I stared down at her, still in disbelief that she was mine. There were no other people coming to be her ‘real’ parents. I was her mom. Her only mom. We began to experience ‘firsts’. First coo, first walk around the block, first pacifier, first grasp, first bedtime story. There were moments of confusion: “What is the dog eating?… Oh My God, the umbilical cord fell off!!!”, moments of fear: “I don’t want to cut her fingernails. You do it!”, and moments where I could feel my heart growing: “She’s smiling!!!”.

Now, as I sit here with her giggling on my lap, I am left simply with one word: