After nine months of a spoiled, easy pregnancy, and three lovely baby showers, our due date approached. And we were ready! We had taken Lamaze classes, a baby care class, a breastfeeding class, the hospital tour, and Marco did a “daddy boot camp” class. My due date was July 25, 2013. Kim Kardashian had her baby 5 weeks early, which gave me hope for an early birth. Then my son would be a Cancer like me. Selfish, I know, but don’t we always hope we will share things in common with our children? Then Princess Kate had little Prince George in the middle of July, and I had no signs of labor. Then my co-worker, whose due date was a week after mine, gave birth to her little girl. Still no signs.
But I wasn’t worried. I had the moon on my side. I am pretty convinced a full moon helped when we got pregnant (along with the doctor, acupuncture, and fertility meds), and I was almost positive I would go into labor under a full moon. The full moon was July 22nd; exactly 40 weeks from the day I got pregnant (October 29, 2012). I kept walking and timing contractions with an app on my phone (which was basically a wasted effort; the app was never helpful) and hoping something would happen. Sure enough, on Monday, July 22nd, something felt different. I was convinced it was time. Marco and I were very excited as we called the hospital and were told to come in. I was definitely having some type of small contractions! We headed over to Kaiser’s Anaheim Kraemer Hospital and we got admitted.
The nurse called us in and had me change into a hospital gown. She strapped monitors on me and checked a number of things. Our excitement and anticipation grew. This was really going to happen!
No luck. False labor. We were sent back home, but they told us to call and come in if there were any more signs.
Nothing changed for the rest of that week. I saw my doctor on Thursday, July 25th (my due date), and she said she would let me go another week or so, but then we would have to start talking about induction. That was the last thing I wanted. I knew from my Lamaze classes that it was best to be as natural as possible. Any intervention can lead to the need for more interventions, which can lead to a C-section if the baby is in distress.
A funny thing happened that week with our mindset. Marco and I both felt like the day had arrived and the event had not occurred, so we stopped really thinking about it. It was as if we had somehow missed it, and this large beach ball under my shirt was not a baby, but just a strange condition that would somehow resolve itself.
And that is how we were caught completely off-guard on Sunday night.
I talked on the phone with a dear friend that night (July 28th). She lives in New Zealand and has two children, and we were talking about how her water broke with both kids. Around 11:30 pm, Marco was snoring, and I was arranging numerous pillows to settle into bed (on my left side, to coax the baby into a good birth position), and as I finally rested my head on my pillow, I felt two small but distinct pops in my stomach. They felt like gas bubbles, so I ignored them at first and closed my eyes. Then I shifted positions.
Oh my goodness! I was not prepared! I thought I knew everything about birth, after all my research, but I didn’t know this! The water poured out. I ran to the bathroom shouting, “Marco! It’s happening!!” There was so much water! I was giddy, and I couldn’t stop laughing with excitement. I called my friend back and told her she was magical, and that the baby would be born on her birthday (July 29th). Then we headed to the hospital.
Everything was exactly like reality TV. The midwives were awesome, and all the nurses were wonderful to us. We were quickly admitted, and we started calling family members. My mom and mother-in-law were there quickly. My dad and sister followed. I wanted a natural birth, and the hospital staff respected that choice. Marco, my mom, and my mother-in-law took turns using a home-made massage tool to get me through the contractions. It’s a sock with three tennis balls inside, and the contractions were bearable if they rolled it on my lower back REALLY hard and REALLY fast. They were all exhausted, because none of us had slept, and their arms were giving out as I shouted “faster!” and “push harder!” Marco was awesome. He coached me, just like we’d practiced in Lamaze, and helped me through the rough times.
Labor was a slow progression. The contractions never got closer together than about four minutes, but I was progressing. Suddenly, and too early (7cm), my body started involuntarily pushing the baby out. The midwives told me to stop, but I couldn’t. At that point, about 17 hours into labor, I decided to have an epidural. I felt that I had experienced enough of true labor anyway, and I was far enough along that they would not numb me completely.
What a feeling! Everything became calm. No more massage tennis balls. No more Lamaze breathing. And then it was time to push.
The baby wasn’t quite in the right position, but I felt it was time. After an hour of pushing, I started giving up. I told Marco and the midwife that it wasn’t going to work. The midwife said, “You can do it! Keep pushing!” and Marco echoed her. He said all the right things. He said I was doing a great job and I could do it. I asked him later about that, and he said although he was saying it, he secretly agreed with me. We both thought this couldn’t happen, and we would end up with a C-section. How CAN it work, really? It seems impossible.
And then it DID work. Much to my surprise, I gave the final push (after one and a half hours of pushing), and baby Diego Knight Montenegro was born at 8:19 pm on July 29, 2013. He was 8 pounds, 7 ounces, and 21 inches long. The midwife held him up for me to see, and he looked like all those squirming babies on “A Baby Story” or “16 and Pregnant.”
Marco cut the umbilical cord, they measured him, and then he was ours. He was always ours, I guess, but it wasn’t real until he was there in my arms.
One thing that will always stick with me was Marco’s ability to calm me down. He talked me through everything, helped me breathe, helped me relax, helped me push, and celebrated with me. Afterward, I was shaking from the adrenaline rush, and I couldn’t calm myself. He hugged me, and the shaking stopped immediately. It started again later, and he hugged me again, and it stopped. His hugs were instantly calming, and I am grateful to him.
We spent two more blissful days in the hospital, with a wonderful staff of nurses, midwives, and lactation consultants, and then it was time to go home. We were sleep deprived and nervous, but we had more joy in those three days than ever before.
Marco and I always said the baby wouldn’t be cute for the first couple of months, since all babies look like aliens at first, but we both agreed that he was cute from day one.