My mother had quick labors.I wrongly assumed mine would be the same, quick and easy. When we arrived at the hospital at 5:30 am, I was sure we would meet our sweet girl sometime in the early morning hours. Morning, slowly and painfully, turned into afternoon. The afternoon, slowly and painfully, turned into evening. We were in a small town hospital, and an epidural was not an option, unless I would have had a planned C-section. I had never experienced pain that strong, and wondered how I would ever make it to meet my baby. After 14 hours the doctor finally agreed I was ready to push.

I pushed for two and a half hours. At some point I thought I would break with the pressure of my baby’s head coming out of me ripping my insides. I don’t remember screaming, but my sister, only eleven years old at the time, remembers hearing the screams as she waited outside the delivery room. She was scared.

After two hours, one of the nurses approached me and said, “Ellen, you have to push!” In disbelief I stared at her and yelled, “What do you think I’ve been doing for the last 2 hours!” I was so angry. That was the first push that made a difference. The doctor insisted I lay on my back completely flat. I wanted to squat, but he said no. At some point I realized he seemed worried, as he continued to change the pan that caught blood mixed with amniotic fluid. My baby was not crowning, and it didn’t matter how deep he cut my episiotomy, my baby wanted to stay inside. I could feel her foot digging in my hips, her favorite spot.

I felt as if I would faint, but I finally gave a last push. My baby, my first born, Ellie, came shooting out of me. The doctor was not expecting such speed and force, yet thankfully he caught her. Nurses gathered around to check on her, “Mom wants to hold her baby right away.” A nurse placed Ellie on my chest as I cried “My baby! My baby! My baby!” But labor was not yet done, and I still had a placenta to push, and I needed some serious work to be sewed back in. In all that, I did not miss the concern look on my doctor’s face.  This had been a traumatic delivery, for baby, and for mom. After the doctor had me put together, he asked me to push up form the bed, so they could change the blood-soaked pads. I couldn’t move, I had no energy left in me, and I felt scared. Andy, my husband, picked me up from behind my arms and pushed me up. That was when the doctor mentioned a blood transfusion, and my baby being transferred to a different hospital, and he used the terms NICU.

As we waited for the ambulance to come and take our baby, I held her on my chest, with little strength. We had run a marathon, and we were not done yet. Still, feeling her close to me gave me a determination to get better I had never experienced before. I was not the same young lady that walked into the hospital that morning, I was now a mom.

The birth of my second daughter was exactly how I would have planned the perfect labor experience. Yes, it was painful, but I felt in control of the pain, and I used the pain to ease my body to relax. When we arrived at the hospital at 7:30 am, nurses expected I would be there for a long time. Even Andy and I thought we would be there for a while based on our previous experience. We were shocked when the nurse that checked me announced I was at least dialated to a nine, she could feel my baby’s head, and, ” Whatever you do, do not push!” I had never seen nurses move so fast! By the time my midwife arrived, she broke my water and said I was ready to push. In no time Nichole’s head was out, one more push and she entered the world.

As I saw my baby’s body emerge form me, I noticed Nichole’s thick neck from the back and the floppiness of her body. I knew, before looking into her face, that she had Down syndrome. As if in slow motion, I saw her body coming towards me, Down syndrome about to be handed to me. I stretched my arms to receive her, yet deep fear gripped my heart. My husband, with tears in his eyes whispered into my ear, “I have been surprised by joy.” Yet I had been surprised by fear. Our NICU experience with Ellie suddenly felt so easy, so manageable. This new life we were about to be handed, was a different story. As I held Nichole for the first time, I looked into her face, and my fear was confirmed. I was not the same mom that walked into the hospital a few hours before, I was now the mother of a child with special needs.

Nina was shy, and the first few times we met her she did not let us hold her. Nina nestled against her favorite caretaker, or she sat on a little bike that kept her off our laps. Finally, on our third visit, she allowed me to pick her up and put her on my lap. I held my new daughter close, the smell of her wet diaper so strong I fought the urge to put her down. I could feel the wetness soaking into my lap, but I chose to dwell in the significance of the moment, when I was holding her for the first time. She didn’t care about me in a special way. I was only one more person coming into her life. She had no idea what it mean to have a mom and a dad. No idea of “forever.”

We had fought so hard for this child. We did the paperwork in record time and got to Nina as quickly as we could, not wanting her to spend one more day in the orphanage. We had prepared doctors and tried to learn as much as we could about cerebral palsy to help her out. I was not the same mom that that walked into the orphanage a few days ago, I was now the mother of a hurting child, and I had no idea what it would mean for us to fall in love, but I was committing myself to her, I was going to be her “yes.”

What was it like for you to hold your child for the first time?

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