Jenna Wolfe: With Steph and baby Harper Estelle, 'I have a family now'
There are certain events in our lives that help shape who we are, why we are, and where we’re going. A brush with death, a lottery win, a long lost relationship reignited. For me, it was Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013. That was the day I became a mother. I know that mothers are made every minute of every day of every year, but for me, it was soul-shaking.
If you want delivery details, read on. If you prefer to skip them (Dad, I’m talking to you), jump to the next paragraph. So, here’s how it happened. I was admitted to the hospital Tuesday night at 8 p.m. to prep for pre-induction. (I’ll spare the medical terms for fear of spelling them wrong.) I started having contractions by midnight. My lack of delivery knowledge was humorously apparent right away.
ME: Steph, my stomach hurts.
STEPH: It hurts?
ME: Yeah. What are the chances I have a terrible stomach ache while I’m waiting for my contractions to start.
STEPH: Um… are you sure you’re not actually having contractions?
ME: Oh. Never mind.
By 4 the next morning, my water broke (doesn’t happen like in the movies where there’s drama and boiling water and suddenly a smiling baby appears and the mortgage is paid off. Water breaking is as off-putting as it sounds). By 10 a.m., I was ready to be induced. And the waiting began. My acute fear of needles already documented, the IV in my arm, the epidural in my back, the blood test taken, and so on and so forth were enough to sink me into a deep, dark well of anxiety, but I somehow managed to keep it together with Steph’s constant reminder that this all leads to the birth of our baby. For every four times she reminded me, I cursed her out twice. I felt we had a pretty good average going.
ME: Holy &%*$%# this HURTS!
STEPH: I know, babe. Just let it out. It’s OK. It’s gonna be great.
ME: (looking at Steph with devil eyes)
STEPH: Um, I love you?
Over the course of the day, the doctor would come in, check on my progress and head out to deliver other babies. Ask me if I was getting competitive with the two mothers in the two rooms down the hall also in labor on this day. OK, don’t ask. We know the answer.
By 6:30 p.m., I was ready to start pushing. For all the medical technology we have at our disposal -- the monitors, the ultrasounds, the drugs, the tools, the intricate and delicate equipment -- when it’s time for the baby to come out, we all still go back to the one thing our foremothers did before us: P-U-S-H.
And so I pushed.
It was, after all, the only thing I was actually good at (because it felt like a workout. They could have told me to get on the floor and do 100 push-ups and I would have been overjoyed at that point … anything to distract from the needled mania).
Turns out the biggest distraction of all: the 10 minutes right before I gave birth. There was an unexpected calm that came over me. I blocked out all the machines, the monitors, the beeping, the scurrying, the calls to push, to move my legs back, to breathe. I blocked out everything and found myself in the deepest of thought. In a matter of minutes, my life would be changing forever. I looked around, breathed in my last 39 years and breathed out some perspective.
I looked at Stephanie, so lucky to have her by my side and in my life. I was about to give her her first child. I was about to give my parents, anxiously waiting outside the delivery room, their first granddaughter. And I, myself was about to do something I never really thought I would or could.
I thought about Estelle, my grandmother, after whom Harper is named. I imagined the tears joyously dancing down her cheeks at the thought of this baby. I imagined the pride swelling up inside her as the clock ticked down to birth. And I imagined her walking around her Florida community weeks from now with a picture of Harper, showing anyone who’d lock eyes with her. She would have savored this moment. She would have lived for this moment. But now she’s watching it all from a better place. And now her responsibilities of loving and doting over this child on Estelle’s behalf, fall to my mom, the most amazing woman I know.
It was time. The last few pushes, and the last few seconds of pregnancy. I looked at Steph. She looked right back at me, and through buckets of tears, managed to squeeze out the words “You got this, sweet girl, you got this.”
At 7:31 p.m., Harper Estelle was born.
The next few hours were a little hazy. My family was there, Steph was there, doctors were there, nurses were there. All I saw was Harper Estelle. For the rest of my life, she will be my first thought when I wake up and my last before I go to sleep. For the rest of my life, I will look into this child’s eyes and see my mother, my grandmother, a little bit of myself, and Stephanie. (Yes, I know it’s not biologically possible. Please refrain from reminding me on Twitter.)
I have a family now. We’re not the first and certainly not the last, but we built something pretty incredible this week, something big enough to withstand navigational troubles and strong enough to quiet the naysayers….. We built “us."
Steph, Harper Estelle and me, the luckiest girl in the world.