When I delivered our first child, a perfect little girl we named Gabrielle Therese, my labor went on through the night and well into the next afternoon. It happened when birthing rooms were just becoming all the rage, although I didn’t plan on being in one. But Labor & Delivery was extremely busy when we arrived near dawn on that icy cold February day. The room was beautifully appointed, like a posh hotel, inside Long Island Jewish Medical Center.
My husband and I passed the time chatting and watching TV then we walked up and down the halls, trying to speed things up. But it dragged on and on. As we got closer to delivery, I was exhausted. When I asked my OB for an epidural he said “We’re in a birthing room, no drugs.” Whaaaaat?!? I didn’t sign up for that! Well, too late, we were in it now.
Mamas, do you remember being in labor and hearing the screams of others in the delivery room? Yeah, me too. It really frightened me and I didn’t make a peep after that. Or maybe I was just worn out. Finally, after two hours of pushing, Gabrielle arrived at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, moments after my husband, Guy, nearly passed out.
The nurse whisked her away to clean her up, then swaddled her and placed her in my lap on my propped up knees. She stared at us with those big brown saucer eyes, with her little beanie on her head, and it felt like she was sizing us up. Her look seemed to say “Oh, okay, you’re my parents.” We laughed and I said to Guy “That really wasn’t so bad.” He looked at me and said “Are you kidding me? Your eyes were bulging out of your head!” But I didn’t care. My baby was born without any complications and I was grateful.
Our first week at home was a blur of constant nursing, pooping, crying (hers and mine), and utter exhaustion. My dream of becoming a mother only took 32 years but we had a healthy little girl to love for the rest of our lives. My heart nearly burst every time I looked at her and we would literally just stare at her for hours.
Of course we were up at all hours of the day and night, bathed in spit up and leaking breastmilk. I had spent much of my teenage years babysitting but it really didn’t prepare me for the constant attention a newborn needed. I cried when Guy went back to work after 10 days with us. Why did I ever think I was capable of caring for a tiny human?
But we did it, she and I. Every day we learned each other’s rhythms and finally got into a manageable routine. I strapped her onto me and walked the neighborhood, got dinner on the table most nights, and plowed through the endless loads of laundry. And we fell deeply in love.
What is a mother’s love? Helen Steiner Rice wrote “A mother’s love is something that no one can explain. It’s made of deep devotion and of sacrifice and pain.”
By Kim Amato
Founder / Baby’s Bounty
Vice Chair / Southern Nevada Maternal Child Health Coalition