{ Leo Grey. The birth story. }

I have been writing this story for a long, long time, before it even really begun. We mothers always do, we write stories, especially ones like these. We let our minds race into the future and play out scenarios of life events we are anticipating. I had so many versions of this story ready, before it really begun, but when it finally did, it was nothing like I imagined, cause it never is, life is wonderful or cruel that way, but at least it keeps us surprised every time.

So the wait... I even wrote a post about the wait... the more I waited, the more impatient I was getting for this whole story to be written, I wanted it to finally materialize into these words that I am writing now. It is a story that everyone knows the ending of, but at the time I couldn’t really see it, or imagine it. Now, with the perspective of time, knowing every detail of it, arriving at its glorious end that set my life into the new beginning, I can tell it is a great story, a long one for sure but these stories, the ones that transform one's life forever usually are…

Knowing the end, I want to tell the story from the beginning, mostly so I can remember it years from now. And maybe for Leo, who may be just crazy enough to want to read it one day.... so onto the story, please read at your own discretion.

 After I had reached the 39th week, I remember telling Cass that I would like the baby to have a cool birth date, like Simon does, one easy to remember, like Simon's. So initially, I wanted him to be born on 9/8 cause it descends, then I really wanted the 9/9 because it would be just the coolest like that, or 9/10 because it is consecutive, yet for some reason I sort of felt like it would happen on 9/11… I guess this way it can be remembered forever. Maybe it is not the happiest of dates, not like Simon’s with fireworks and parties, but a date with meaning, a date that is ready for its happy endings and new beginnings. Therefore, on the night of the eleventh, when the new date just rolled onto the calendars, a few minutes after midnight, I woke up with pains that were unlike any pain I ever felt. I knew, I was in real labor this time even though with Simon I never really felt it being induced. I welcomed them with excitement and curiosity. It was exhilarating to explore this new path of giving life, and this time just letting my own body lead the way. With Simon, I was scared and worried, my water broke early and the doctors feared of an infection and baby going into distress etc., there was no time for my body to do it, it had to be helped. This time it was doing it, it knew how! I was so happy and almost proud.

After about an hour of frequent and strengthening contractions I called my midwife. I told her what was happening and she said that since I needed the antibiotic to be administered in two doses two hours before I deliver and it is my second child, I could probably start getting ready and get to the hospital. By the time we packed and woke up my sister to tell her what is happening, it was after 2am. She moved to our bed for when Simon wakes up, so he would not freak out that nobody was there. My mind was at peace having her there, for some reason I knew I would labor at night and driving him in the middle of the night anywhere was causing me stress and worry. But yeah, sisters, they sort of make all that disappear and save the day or night when we need them to.

We drove through the quiet streets of Chicago, 2:00am is probably the only time when it is that quiet, when finally everyone went to bed and nobody got up quite yet. I felt a certain unity with the city; it was close to me and my baby boy, there, just for us, not distracted by much that wasn't going on. The night was warm yet the air felt brisk, I wore a black dress, a jean jacket, socks and birks, just as a hipster mom would, that, or a frumpy mom in labor going to the hospital would, you choose which that was. We parked near the hospital like royalty cause there was all the street parking in the world at this ungodly hour. We buzzed quietly into the hospital since reception desk was closed. After giving birth to Simon in the hospital downtown, one pretty huge one with its beaming lights and multi-level wards, this noiselessness was almost surprising, this hospital was much smaller and closer to home and obviously far less busy... We entered a dark lobby and went to the birthing center on the third floor, we had to be buzzed in again and someone was to meet us to fill out paper work for admissions. After an half an hour, my wrist band, hospital gown and I walked into the "waiting room" room. I shared it with another woman in labor, she was waiting to be admitted too, I could hear her baby on the monitor, and gosh it hit me... that sound, that one of the kind sound of the horses racing underground, and all the excitement for the joy of what was about to happen. All them feelings from when I was in labor with Simon became so close again and that sound, that sound is just the best sound there is in the hospital to be heard.

Since I was with the midwives, I wasn’t hooked up to the monitors just yet, it was all about not constraining my movements, which I was almost bummed about, because I longed for some sort of contact with this baby I was about to meet. By then my contractions were strong enough I had to breathe through them and make those silly, long pauses when talking, but it wasn't painful yet. The nurse asked me a bunch of questions, Cass went onto another bed that freed up as the woman was admitted to take a nap, and we just waited for the midwife, it was after 3:00 am. I called my parents on facetime to let them know, my mom cried a little and said she would pray for me and for that everything goes well and would spread the news around and tell everyone else to pray for me too, I said thank you, because it is always comforting when someone else is doing the praying for you too.  In the middle of our chat my midwife came, she was ready to examine me, so was I. I must say it was not the most pleasant of exams, I don't know why it hurt thaaat bad, was I already tensing up? does it always hurt so bad when you are in labor? My exams hurt with Simon, but again I was on Pitocin, so everything hurt so damn bad…  I think that the exam planted a very deceitful thought in my head, one starting its work against me, I started to ask myself if I was already so uncomfortable people touching me, how was I to push a cabbage head out from that very spot... but luckily my “worry about that later thought” kicked in... I sometimes am lucky to have that turn on, thus I could happily go back to my bouncing on the birth ball happy place, after all I was a 4cm dilated and 70% effaced and I was admitted.

We had to wait for the Labor and Delivery unit to be cleaned out cause apparently it wasn't as calm as it looked and all units were being used and other people were having babies, can one believe that? so we spent another half an hour just waiting to be transferred down the hall where the official birthing games were taking place.

When we did, we arrived at the "corner office" what I called it, a large room but with an awkward layout, the bed was diagonally across the room that looped, but I kind of liked it, the birthing stage was set and ready, like an ancient Greek theater in its half circle design. At that point, I had quite regular and strong contractions but still manageable, I turned on TV and caught the early news shows, Cass went to sleep and I kept facetiming and messaging friends and family, by the time the Today show got on, I had to start focusing on each contraction as they were getting more and more painful. I decided to take a bath to relax a little as lack of sleep and tiredness were starting to catch up with me. I opened the faucet with hot water, cause I like my water hot, hot until my skin turns red and started filling out the bathtub. I got in and started to relax, the warmth soothed the tensed muscles from the contractions and slowed down the progressing exhaustion. When the bathtub filled up I tried to close the faucet like I normally would, and everyone else would, but it would not move an inch and water started to over-flood... what a sudden turn of relaxing events? how wonderfully soothing this turned out to be? Where is my zen?...I quickly took out the plug, put on a robe and asked Cass to use his manly hands to turn it off for me. After all, I mean, maybe the labor took all my arm strength away already? So he woke up and came to save me but he couldn't turn it either, it was stuck! we called the nurse, she said it had happened before and she would send someone over to fix it and for now we would just have to enjoy the waterfalls....how wonderfully relaxing did that sound? Painfully annoying for someone with OCD, such as myself... I mean, white noise CDs and all, but it was so wastefully stupid, all this water... and giving me a headache. Finally, the whole not sleeping all night and hitting the 10:30 sleep crashing zone caught up with me and I got a migraine, contractions were getting stronger and stronger and my body weaker and weaker, at that point I was so tired I couldn't move much but the pain felt pretty corrupt if holding still.

And so I arrived at this place when your body sends you into a limbo of nothing feels comfortable, you want to relax but can’t, you want to rest your head but can’t, you just want to close your eyes for ten minutes but can't... it started to feel super real.

Also at that point the midwife on call has changed and now it was Rachel, a midwife that confirmed my pregnancy, for some reason it made everything more special and nicely tided together, also I just really liked her, thus it sort of elevated my weakening spirit that it would be her delivering with me.

She decided that since it has been practically 7 hours since I was admitted and getting really uncomfortable, it was time to check me again, I was really hoping to hear that the end is near and this whole thing would be over in an hour or so... after all I kept hearing those promising, reassuring stories of other women birthing their second babies, it happens fast, they come furiously quick,  wont have much time to think of an epidural, someone was done in two hours, she/he came out with one push etc. etc. After how long my labor was with Simon (27 hours total) I was really hoping, for once, just this once that one of these sweet stories would also come true for me. They never do, not for me, I hear them all the time about everything and they never do, but this time, please this time the odds have to be in my favor, I am so athletic, active till the very last day, labored a little for a week straight before, admitted at four, I should be at nine by now?! I better be! because maybe I can do this for an hour or so, but I am getting so tireeeerd, an hour max, longer I may just die.... I lay on the bed, it was hard to keep still with each contraction that had barely any breaks in between, the exam was even more painful and made me worried even more about the whole ordeal…. But all that aside, the most painful part was the verdict, I was barely at seven, the cervix still hard and high, baby high, probably three more hours of this, if I am lucky, cause 4 hours got me only up 3cm, or 2.5 if we were conservative!

This broke me, any sliver of confidence I managed to scramble, any attempt at the happy go lucky outlook vanished, I was defeated… the worst time to hear the bad news is in transition, in transition you are so tired, and I was sooooo tired, you don't see the end of the pain, 5 minutes may as well be a million lighting years, I was paralyzed, conquest by pain. At that point I was conveyed to bed, curling in discomfort, crying. I cried that I won’t be able to do it for three more hours and if by some miracle I would, I would have no strength left for any of that pushing part… they asked me if I want to walk around and see how it felt, I said I cannot cause I was too weak…

I felt too weak, my mental weakness and my physical weakness united in coalition against me, and my body felt like it weighted a million pounds, grounding me in non-movement, paralyzed in throbbing stillness. Two more contractions, 10 minutes, maybe 30, I don't know, time stood still, I bawled that I couldn’t do this, that I am giving up, that I was done and I wanted an epidural. The nurse said she would call an anesthesiologist to see me, it was sometime after 11:00am, another 10, 15, 20 minutes later, no sight of anesthesiologist and that running water! Dear Lord, I felt like I am in some underwater abyss and there is no help for me, and that I would never have this baby, I am just not able to stand this pain any longer, I was close to passing out, I was panicking. I told Cass to call again for the anesthesiologist.  

Finally, 40 minutes after the request and two hours of the bathroom water STILL running, the doctor finally showed up, she started her procedures, asked me how far along I was to which I responded that 40 minutes ago I was merely a seven, even though by now I should be close to 8, but with my pace it was probably just two milliliters. I told her that my body wanted to torture me,  and was not trying to speed things up but rather simply kill me. I could barely stand still for her while the needle kept sliding, she kept starting over probably at least five times, saying that I have bony vertebra and they are close together, with little room for the drip to go in, she also was getting really irritated by out Niagara falls in the bathroom and finally stopped the needle attempts and said she could not work like this. She picked up the phone and strongly and powerfully with this- I have worked here for years and everyone listens to me- tone, she requested immediate maintenance in my room concluding briefly "be here in two minutes, I cannot work like this". I don't remember when they came and fixed it, cause sitting still through each double peeking contraction was taking all I had, I was not really there, I was someplace else, my body wanted to twist in pain, my mind trying to calm it down, I desperately trying to escape my body to escape the pain, being away from everything....when the water stopped and she finally got the needle in, I woke up, all the sudden the contractions turned into a vibrating clench of my belly muscle, I could feel them, but not how they were treating my uterus.  Just minutes before they were burning with hot iron, now they felt like an orchestra of muscles shrinking and expanding rhythmically, like a blossom in the high speed video. I had this wonderful visualization that they tell you to try in all the books, I had a book-like birthing visualization! Ha! finally, how ironic is that... I am just not made for this, I guess, I sat there on my bed all numbed to finally start thinking of what is happening, and then it hit me, I am not made for this, I am broken, I am weak, something is failing me, why is it so long and so hard and there is so little progress, why am I not a birthing goddess? Why am I not empowered but defeated, am I a whimsy, am I not as strong as billions of other women, am I weakly willed, am I too comfortable, too easy with myself? I am worse, I am less, I am not as good nor brave? Am I just feeble and pathetic?...

With Simon I had an excuse for a medicated birth, my shield against the "I lost the labor battle", with Simon I was fully induced, contractions were artificially evoked by the Pitocin drip, of course I didn't stand a chance with their strength and their 16 hour IV marathon, I made it to seven centimeters then and felt like a hero, that was my reason, I couldn't, I didn't have to feel guilty, hardly ever anyone that is induced can do it all drug-free. So it was okay, sort of, but I felt like my will wasn’t tested and graded so poorly, because there were what ifs, like if it turned differently, on my own, I would be a champ...

And then this time...  this time, what was my excuse? it was all orchestrated by my body, my body I could not win with, it failed me this time too, just differently or I failed my body...and then I cried, I cried that I can never just turn on that womanhood on, that power, where is it when I need it, where is it? why can I be like other women? why is everything womanhood such a struggle for me, why can’t I measure up?..

The anesthesiologist was about to leave the room, but she pitied my whimsy face and gave me a pity prep talk, she told me that most likely if I try the third time, it will be as long and as painful, just like this, she told me that because of women like me they started doing what they are doing, for the women that want to do it but their bodies are just built a certain way that makes it harder. She told me that in the days without the epidural women like me would pass out during labor from the amount of pain and probably never have many kids at all, not every woman labors like a victor, we have bodies built differently and for some the way it happens is just prolonged and painful and I really should just get over it… I made it this far, I wanted to do it without but it was too hard, end of story, there was no way anything would slow down or cause complications - I did my best - so I should stop, because nobody gets a star for this whole thing anyway... I listened to her yet did not really listen, I felt like a looser, and weakling and I was sort of angry with myself but I was also so exhausted, too tired to be angry long… I will destroy you, you pathetic fool some other time, now I should think ahead and get some rest.... The whole luxury of the epidural was for me to rest, to sleep, oh to sleep! after all it was half past noon already and it has been 12 hours I have been awake, birthing. Cass went out to get some lunch and I just lay there, breathing, tuning into those contractions, now that the pain was taken away from them, I could admire their power, admire them like a member of a curious audience, without the noise of the battle to survive them, I could hear their rhythm and feel their beauty, their wave-like music.

Maybe ten minutes into this peaceful slumber, finally in tune with my blooming body, I felt a sudden tick, something broke inside of me as a tremendous amount of  pressure just unloaded, the water broke... so much of my relaxation with the warm blanket...  I need to call the nurse to help me clean this up... where the heck is the button when you need it?

And then I started to feel like pushing, it was a sudden pressure and my body was telling me to just do it, but what did it know? I didn't trust it, my body didn't know anything, it just can't be, I was to sleep for two hours, that was the point of this, wasn't it? so I can rest. I am paying for this a few hundred bucks and I am not getting a natural labor star, may as well freaking rest! what is going on? Why now? Why not in two hours?

 And then my midwife came to check on me, she cleaned the mess and checked what was really going on, she said yup, there is a head there waiting, all loaded up ready to go, he has some dark hair... now I have to go and get ready so wait and DON'T PUSH! I texted Cass, told him to get it to go and come back, drop his roll and his spoon, cause he had a sudden fast-forward event to tend to. The next few minutes were a blur, people started coming in and out, setting things up and I could not believe it was actually happening, it is done, already, I got here, I made it here, again!? maybe I could have waited with the epidural? or maybe I let my body finally take over and open up from all the compressing paralysis the pain was doing to it, who knows, from the perspective of time, I think it was all what it was meant to be.

So I was laying there, all excited that it would soon be over, my heart elated at the thought of what was coming next, the labor part was over, the hard part, the part I don't get, the part I fail at, the part my body struggled with, but now, it was the best part, the delivery part, my favorite part, my part, when I know what I am doing, when my body works well, the part that ends in the most rewarding way possible, the part with the miracle unfolding...

Minutes have passed and it was time for the first push, do I remember how to do this? don’t worry everyone, I am good at this, I got Simon out in 19 minutes total, okay! Lets do this! I think this is how it goes.... Nope, oh wait, nope, this time it feels like moving a brick wall.

And so it began, the wait for a strong contraction and pushing on it only to go back to where I started. He was big… the midwife was very encouraging and coaching me through each contraction, Cass reminding me that I know how to do this, that we did this before, that we were good at it, and this time it would be just as amazing... With that around, I managed to do a few good pushes, like a pushing pro should, since I claimed that title, I needed to do its justice.

Then, Rachel told me that on the next one we should get him out, but it had to be a very big one, cause he is a big one...a very big one. So we waited out a few milder contractions and I gathered my breath. Somewhere in the meantime, the room filled with people, the NICU team, someone told me that they would stay in there only until they make sure the baby was okay, if he was okay they would leave and leave us to our thing. I don't remember this being a case with Simon, maybe this hospital had different procedures or maybe Rachel wanted them in "just in case", after all he was pretty BIG and apparently big ones can cause trouble.

And so I pushed with all I had, still didn’t quite feel like he was coming out, it is okay, we should try the next one the same way again, and so I pushed again, but that time, it made history...

...that moment when it feels like an eternity and a nanosecond all at the same time. When the world is frantically spinning and then goes into slow motion, I hear a cry, I see HIM. He is here, my eyes trace him as if there is nothing else around, his face looks familiar, he is mine, he is ours. I have seen this newborn face before, in his brother before him, in that moment before him. And suddenly, I am taken aback to the moment I met Simon and in that very moment I am also meeting Leo. I feel united, I felt the extension of my motherhood, happening that very moment... the second time, yet just like the first time... familiar, and so unique, I have been in this love-drunk state before as if I have never left it...  it is unexplainable really, like unexplainable is giving birth to a beating heart, two beating hearts.

These seconds during the delivery are the Moment of Beating Hearts, mine, Simon's, Leo's, essence of family in the making, of my personal mankind, the essence of unity, of motherhood.

They put his body onto mine. He is so big and squishy and warm and fuzzy, he feels heavy laying on my chest, he is the most gorgeous, divine, miraculous thing to see and smell, he is mine. The possessory instinct in a woman right after the delivery must reach a gazillion percent units over the regular quota. HE IS MINE! People keep touching him when he is just lying there on my chest, calming down from his first cry.

I am holding my breath, first conscious thought that finally materializes after this outer body experience, is he okay? it seems like he is, checks come positive and he is still on my chest, nobody is taking him away, he still is there, Thank GOD, I am so happy. Maybe two minutes maybe a million later, I don’t know, the room suddenly emptied, it was just Cass and I and the midwife, finishing up all that delivery business. The baby boy is rooting, he latches on immediately and eats, we are both calm and so so so ecstatic, I feel like I am on a high, or at least a high should feel just like that. We are together, like we were but different, he is here, I can touch him, he is so soft and warm. His body feels different from the outside, yet there is still something so familiar about it and his movements, I am trying to savor it because I know with each minute of us separated that deep and close connection evaporates, with each breath he takes independently, he will feel less familiar and my body will forget how it was to have him living inside...

I think we stayed like this for a long while, we chatted with Rachel about what had happened,we all knew he was big, but didn't expect him to be that big. She mentioned that he got stuck with his shoulder and that is why it was so hard to get him out but I still did good and I can claim that I am a good pusher all I want, she said that, really, at least I am giving myself that. She had to pull him abruptly and there was more stitching to do so she did that for a while...When she was finally done, we wanted to know how big he actually was, the nurse was called to clean him up and weigh him,  9lbs 15 oz., one ounce short of 10 pounds, maybe if he didn’t poo when they were cleaning him, he would be 10 pounds officially. I got this 10 pounder out in under 50 minutes, so at least here, I somewhat feel proud of my performance.

So this is where this story sort of ends, it is too long anyway and probably filled with details even I will be skimming through. But the day didn’t really end there for me.

If you are still around there is some more quasi medical rambling. Birthing an almost 10 lbs worth of baby bears it consequences, so the story sort of continues later into the night and the next day.

The onset of the consequences happened when my sister and Simon came to meet Leo, they visited us still in the Labor and Delivery unit as we waited for the room in the maternity ward. I was already getting up as the epidural I had was the mastery of all epidurals and even though I didn't feel the pain, I wasn't numb too much and after 30 minutes, I was able to stand on my feet again and use the bathroom.


It was one of the happiest moments to see Simon meet Leo, he did so good, he was born to be a big brother to him but the moments of happy were disrupted by a sudden gush of blood, my blood… I almost fainted and someone quickly pushed me onto the bed, I think it was Cass, he called the nurse and Rachel also showed up immediately, they escorted Simon and my sister out and he seemed so scared and confused, it broke my fainting heart. I got hooked up to the oxygen monitor but the levels were good, so people stopped rushing, someone asked me if I am an athlete, I replied all confused that I did all sorts of sports but no athlete here, I was however pretty active, but nothing special…but I guess even a little does show in one’s blood stream. They did a bunch of medical stuff to me that I don’t even recall, and this story is not a Wikipedia for postpartum hemorrhage. Later that night it happened again and then again the next morning. During it all, my body went into some shock and was shaking uncontrollably when I was lying in bed with Leo, it scared us both… I felt so cold and restless, so the nurse brought me many hot blankets and ensured it was just my body reacting to the medicine I got for the bleeding. All in all, I survived, I was okay, it wasn't as easyy as it could have been, as I naively hoped for. I wasn’t looking like I came back from a brisk run, more like wasted from a New York Marathon, but I made it through, I am not made to birth quickly nor is it easy on my body, but that toll it takes is welcomed, I welcome it with pride and joy. It is like licking the wounds after a won fight, even the wounds are precious.

Leo was born on Friday, September 11 at 1:55pm, we left the hospital to go home on Sunday at 11:55am. And these three days will forever be my greatest adventure combined with the three days back in January of 2012. I am not sure if I get to experience this again, if it is meant for me to venture onto this adventure again, I am sure it will be just as heavenly and magical in its imperfect painful and surprising ways. and I will be honored to do it.


  1. I'm in tears! This is so beautifully written, mama!

    Love from Belgrade from a fellow mama of two kids :-)

  2. thank you so much, it means the world to me <3

  3. I've told you before how much I love your writing style, but this time... your birthing story made me both giggle and cry!
    I read so many birth stories, and usually they describe what's happening really vividly but now I got a little peek of what's happening in the heart, the train of thoughts, how you actually feel while it's happening...
    And you should totally feel proud of how both you and your body handled it, I myself had the " worst" kind of medicated birth, the infamous pre-scadualed C section (due to a heart defect I was born with)��
    Women like you used to faint during labour and women like me used to die, but we no longer have to because of how beautifully medicine has evolved...

    1. Thank you sweet girl!!! I was kind of reluctant of posting once I finally typed up this monstrously sized story ;) I didn't even want to read it myself to edit, too long :)) but if I have one reader such as you, just one, none of this is stupid or unnecessary and you have no idea how proud and happy this makes me! Also, you are amazing and strong and I am honored to be on this side of the birthing fence along with you... when what we would hoped for will not/cannot happen. What matters most I think in this story, and your story is that we both got the happy ending, the happiest possible <3 kisses xoxox

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