the arrival of Dax

Mary Dougherty

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I'm a fine art film photographer living in the mountains and traveling to tell beautiful stories

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dax_newborn

Dax Hamilton. You are almost two weeks old and your name fits you well, even if it baffles one of your grandmothers. Your dad and I are both delighted and surprised that you are a boy. He thought we would have two girls and while I started to think you were a boy I remained happily unaware until you came into the world. Now you are here! You are perfect and we couldn’t love you more. The story of your arrival is a good one, so here it goes…

I tried to stay away from the anxiety that pressures most expecting moms in the weeks leading up to their due date, but it chased me down and cornered me. Anticipating your arrival started much earlier than I expected, when at 36 weeks I was informed I was 3cm dilated. I wasn’t exactly surprised but from that point on there was a heightened level of awareness. Being the procrastinating parents that we were for our second child, we relied on our past preparation. We didn’t consult the many books we purchased until a few days before you were born. Had I re-read one of my favorites, I would have been comforted by the fact that I got so far so easily, and remembered that getting to 3-4cm in the weeks leading up to your arrival was not an accurate sign that I would immediately go into labor.

Instead I spent the next three weeks trying to ignore the anxiety that came in waves. There seemed to be multiple hurdles to get over : make it to 37 weeks, make it through the 24 hours my mid-wife was away, make it past Daphne’s birthday, and make it through one of the multiple snowstorms that would make travel treacherous should we need to leave in the middle of the night.

At 38 weeks I had another appointment and this time I was 4-5cm. However there was something that concerned my midwife so she sent me to get an internal ultrasound and make sure that the umbilical cord wasn’t prolapsed. A few hours later, everything checked out okay and I returned to her office to talk things through. She had mentioned sweeping membranes and I decided to go for it, and she noted that I was now at around 6cm and the baby would be born in 24 hours. I left the appointment with her words ringing in my ears as I called my parents to share the news. They decided to come visit and I went on a long 3 mile walk through the snow to ensure labor could move forward. After 48 hours I stilled had not gone into labor and my parents pulled in the driveway. I had irregular contractions but that was it. My parents came and I both hoped that you would be born while they were there and struggled to relax with the pressure of them around. They went home on Monday and we carried on with waiting.

The next week I saw my midwife and was still at 6cm. I was a day over 39 weeks and she confessed to no longer being able to predict when the baby would come. I agreed and left at ease knowing that I had made it this far and past the tension and build up of the weeks leading up. The next morning I started to feel small contractions regularly, but was able to easily to distracted myself from them. I couldn’t help but think back to my past experience, which involved waking up in the middle of the night in labor, so I was convinced I would have another long night with you and lamented the fact that you would be born on Friday the 13th. After lunch things picked up and by dinner contractions were 3 minutes apart and one minute long. They required more focus but there was enough going on at home that kept me unaware of how far along I was.

Going to the hospital meant a 45 minute drive, so I called my midwife at 9 to check in. She suggested we come because I was already so far dilated and I agreed, even though my last words to Matt as we walked out the door were “it’s not bad that we’re going now, is it?” If you think I’m crazy at this point I can assure you I had every intention of making it to the hospital in time… I just didn’t want to spend a lot of time there. It was more relaxing for me to be at home so I intended to only go to the hospital when it was really time to have a baby. With Daphne I arrived 8cm dilated but spent 8 hours in the hospital working on the last two – and that included having my water broken at 9 and get me to the final stages. This time it was hard to anticipate something different.

The bumpy car ride was not very fun and by the time we got to our room in L&D it was clear that things had become more serious. I caught the nurses off guard by asking to wear clothes I brought instead of the scratchy hospital gown and declined being hooked up to the monitor. My midwife came in and after checking where I was at informed me that I was 8-9 and almost fully dilated during contractions and that she could break my water and we could have the baby in 20 minutes.

That scared me. As ready as I was to have a baby I also wasn’t ready to go to that place mentally. The first time I had my water broken things got really intense and there was at least an hour of really painful contractions and an hour and half of pushing. It made me realize why people choose to not have a natural birth – or at least not un-medicated. At the same time, after Daphne was born I felt like I accomplished more than I ever had in my life.

After a quick break to talk with Matt and re-group I had my water broken and essentially pushed twice before it was announced “look what you have” and Matt said “it’s a boy!”

There is so much more that is summarized into the sentence above. Giving birth still required that I reach into the deepest reserve within me but it surprised me that it was essentially so fast – and in comparison to the first time so easy. I hesitate to even say that because I wouldn’t ever describe labor in that way, only in relation to my other experience. We had arrived at 10 pm and you, Dax, entered the world at 11:03.

You have features from both your dad and I and you are distinctly different from your sister. It has been wonderful to spend our first days together as a family getting to know you and reveling in the wonder of new life. As sleep deprivation has set in we have certainly had our ups and downs (mostly with your sister) but I keep reminding myself how short this time actually is. Your little life is a gift from God, one that has been entrusted to us for the time being and yet one that we in many ways have so little control over. We have a beautiful baby boy and my heart is overflowing.

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