I have another daughter.
Juliette Marie Boose. She was born on Father’s Day, June 17th, 2012 at 9:02pm.
Here’s the story:
I can’t help but begin with this quote that I found years ago in an essay online: “If I’ve learned anything in ten years of motherhood, it’s that the way our children are brought into the world means very little for how they live in the world. Nor do the intense hours in which we become mothers shape the months, years and decades of our actually being mothers. And if the experience of childbirth is in fact a crucial process, then let it be the process of teaching us that our children will emerge in ways varied and complicated, not necessarily in times or manners of our choosing, neither made in our image nor as proof of our prowess. Let birth remind us that, with children, so little goes according to even the most well-drawn plan.”
I also want to start by reflecting back on the entire pregnancy. Getting pregnant this time around wasn’t very intentional. It came with just one time, during a period when Greg and I were still debating the idea of having another child (something that only four days into Juliette’s life now baffles me). I found out I was pregnant the weekend I came home from a trip to Sedona for some work on my second book.
I was shocked to discover that I was pregnant, and I’ll admit, I was also initially quite sad and scared. I cried a lot that first week, not feeling ready for the nine months ahead of me and all the changes that pregnancy would bring to my life and my body. I was dismayed to think about going on book tour pregnant. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to go to Australia anymore. I was devastated to think about the toll pregnancy would take on my writing efforts. I was also really scared of the idea of being a mom to two children and all the ways that a second child would impact my marriage and my relationship with Veronica.
Nonetheless, my body took over and before long all those things I was worried about were happening and not happening. I went on book tour pregnant and it was fun and crazy and probably saved me from some serious post-book-party-hangovers. I still got a lot of work and writing done, managed to start up a private practice here in LA and still work on my new book, while promoting my first one. I still stressed a lot about all the coming changes, and only time will tell how it will all turn out, although only four days in and I already know this new addition is only going to enhance our family dynamic.
Pregnancy this time around seemed long (not that it’s ever very short), and by the time May rolled around I was feeling quite done with this whole experience, not to mention dealing with a certain amount of anxiety about giving birth again. I knew it would be really different from Veronica’s birth, mainly because I would be giving birth in a more traditional setting, without the support of my amazing Chicago doula. I also remember distinctly how painful and intense (and amazing) Vera’s birth was and it was different this time around to go into it all, really knowing what I was in for.
The last few weeks of this pregnancy really dragged out. I tried to keep busy, spending time with friends in from out of town, seeing clients right up until the week before my due date, and even hosting a reading at the end of May. Even though my due date wasn’t until June 12th, I experienced some pending labor signs on June 7th and felt sure that the baby was only days away from arriving. Greg’s parents even changed their flight and came a couple of days early, to ensure that they’d be here for the birth.
After they arrived though, the days came and went. Each morning I woke up, sure that this would be the day, but alas, labor kept itself at bay. Each day I found myself surprised to be doing whatever it was I was doing — hosting a fifty-person party in the park for Vera’s third birthday, running around Hollywood with my mother-in-law and even making an appearance on Extra TV. It was all starting to really drag out though. By the time a week had passed with Bill and Rita in town and no baby I was really feeling dismayed and anxious about when it would happen.
On Sunday morning, June 17th, I woke up early, remembering that it was Father’s Day. I’d assumed I’d either be in the hospital or home with a newborn by this time, so I had nothing planned for the day. I hopped out of bed to try to pull something together and by 7:30AM I was on my way to Trader Joe’s to get supplies for brunch. On the way there I felt this surge of annoyance that this baby hadn’t come yet. As I drove down Pico Boulevard I thought to myself, “Enough. I’m having the baby today. That’s just the way it’s going to be. I’m going to make brunch for Greg and his dad and then I’m going to have this baby.”
I felt so serious about it that I even made the declaration public (note the caption):
After brunch I went for a walk through the neighborhood with Greg and his dad and Vera. Along the way I thought I noticed something funny. My doctor had told me that if my water broke it would be just a trickle since the baby’s head was so low and would basically act like a cork. Nonetheless, we kept walking and even after I got back I couldn’t really tell. Besides my water never broke with V, so I just didn’t think it was going to happen that way.
After the walk Greg and his parents took Vera to the beach to look for sea glass and I stayed on the couch, finishing a book. After a while though I suddenly just had a funny feeling. Partly it seemed more obvious that perhaps my water really had broken, and partly I just had that feeling. I started cleaning the house, organizing Vera’s room, and even posting this blog post about how I was overdue. By the time Greg and his parents got back I was certain that my water had indeed broken, and at the urging of my doctor brother-in-law, we all made the executive decision to go the hospital.
Even though my water had broken I wasn’t having any contractions and just felt really calm about it all. I couldn’t help laughing about how Greg and his mom were buzzing around with nervous excitement, getting everything ready. Meanwhile I took Vera into her room and sat her on what was left of my lap, carefully explaining what we’d been talking about for weeks — that it was time for mommy to go to the hospital to have the baby. Even though my heart was pounding in this moment, I kept a calm smile on my face and used soothing tones to talk her through it, even though she was already crying and asking me not to go.
My biggest fear throughout the whole pregnancy had been centered around leaving Vera to accomplish this intense physical experience. All of my mother-loss issues rose to the surface like a thousand tiny bubbles every time I thought about it, and my fear of abandoning my beautiful daughter became really overwhelming. However, when it finally came down to the moment when I had to hand her over to her grandfather and walk out the door, I managed to do it calmly and without her seeing my apprehension.
Greg drove and Rita sat in the back. I documented the occasion, naturally.
At the hospital I was checked out and told that my water had indeed broken. However, I still wasn’t experiencing any contractions. After a discussion with the midwife, we decided that I would start a pitocin drip to bring on the contractions and get the labor going. I had a lot of mixed feelings about this. I had a natural birth with Vera (meaning I didn’t use any drugs, epidurals or medications to enhance labor) and I very much wanted to have a similar birth this time around. I also knew that once your water breaks you run the risk of infection if you don’t give birth soon after, so even driving to the hospital I knew it was likely I would have to use pitocin to get things rolling.
I was scared but tried to be brave. I knew it was possible to still give birth without an epidural after using pitocin — I have a few friends who’ve done it, but I also knew it would be more challenging since the pitocin often makes the contractions and labor much more intense. At 5:30 the nurse started the IV and as soon as she left the room I burst into tears. I told Greg how scared I was and how much I was already missing Vera and worrying about not being home to put her to bed like usual. I stared out the window at the Hollywood Hills in the distance and listened to Greg’s soothing voice tell me that it was all going to be okay. I took deep breaths and tried to find the determination to see myself through this no matter what, if only to do it so that I could get home safely to my little girl.
By 6:30 the contractions were rolling along at a steady pace and I was feeling good. Greg’s mom had joined us in the room and while I quietly labored in my bed, they played Words with Friends and Greg kept an eye on a muted basketball game on the TV in the corner (all at my urging since I just wanted to kind of do my thing).
By 7:30 the contractions were getting pretty intense and I was beginning to really remember what it had been like last time. The nurse made me a little stress ball and I squeezed the hell out of it each time a contraction rolled by, breathing through the peak and drop off. I knew I had a potentially long road ahead of me, having been only 5cm dilated when the pitocin was started, and again, I kept trying to be brave and strong.
At 8pm I was getting a little overwhelmed. The contractions had become incredibly strong and frequent. I was having trouble getting comfortable and was starting to reach my pain threshold.
By 8:15 I was starting to cry and scream through the contractions. I asked the nurse to check me and when she revealed that I was only 7.5 centimeters dilated, I felt a wave of fear. I knew I couldn’t take much more, but if I was only 7.5cm dilated then I had perhaps an hour or two ahead of me. I told the nurse I wasn’t sure I could do this and she said if I wanted an epidural we’d have to bring in the anesthesiologist right then. I nodded and told her to come.
By 8:30 a somewhat dour anesthesiologist had arrived and had begun a lengthy explanation of all the risks of epidurals, as well as a long questionnaire about my medical history. The situation was practically laughable as, at this point, I was really screaming and sobbing through the contractions and could hardly answer her. There were tiny windows in which her voice came through and I felt dismay at having asked for the epidural, but I also knew that I just wasn’t going to make it through contractions like this.
During my labor with Veronica the contractions had reached the same peak levels of pain, but because they had come on naturally, they followed a pattern that gave me a one-two minute break in between each one. With the pitocin there was no break. The contractions rolled like waves, coming and coming and coming, with no break in between in which to catch my breath or center myself. It was utterly overwhelming.
By 8:45 the anesthesiologist was finally wrapping up her spiel and preparing to prep me for the epidural and I was still screaming. Greg’s mom left the room and the nurse had just given me half a dose of some kind of pain-killer that I never even felt when suddenly the undeniable urge to push came over me.
The baby was coming.
I screamed that I was starting to push and the nurse checked me again, declaring in surprise that I was at 10 centimeters and ready to go. The anesthesiologist headed out, with no work to do after all. The nurse called for the midwife and everything happened incredibly fast after that. Within minutes they’d broken open the bed, my legs were up in stirrups, and two and a half pushes later the baby was out. Greg was the one to shout that it was a girl, and before I knew it she was on my chest and crying and the contractions were gone and nothing mattered anymore, not epidurals or pitocin or endless months of being pregnant; I had become a mother all over again.
Greg went outside to get his mom, who was still just in the hallway, having left only minutes earlier. He said, “It’s here,” and she said, “the epidural?” Greg replied no, “the baby!” She was shocked.
Back in the room, Greg and I peered down at our tiny daughter squirming on my chest and looked at each other in shock and delight. Another girl! Everyone, absolutely everyone, including myself, had been certain I was having a boy. But here she was, Juliette Marie, all 7 pounds, 13 oz of her, making us the parents of two little girls.
That night, going to sleep in my hospital room, Juliette in my arms, my mind raced, trying to take it all in. Greg was already asleep in his cot in the corner, and Juliette sighed in her own slumber, nestled in against me. Who was she, I wondered, this new little person who had just joined the world? Lying there in the dark with the softly lit IV machine next to me, I felt an enormous sense of wonder about the world, and so, so much gratitude.
I have witnessed death several times over, and I have now given birth twice, and while I still remain unsure of how this life works, I know for certain that there is something large and wonderful and more magical at play than I’ve ever believed before.
Welcome to the world, my sweet girl. I wish you a lifetime of wonderment. I am so honored to be your mother.