Maisie Austen: A Birth Story.

Maisie was born the week the Magnolias started blooming - late for them, early for her.

But her story began long before that. She was wished for, hoped for, prayed for six months before a second faint pink line appeared on a pregnancy test (before then, even). In the month before Maisie began to grow in my belly, I woke up in the wee hours of the morning before a flight home from a business trip to take one of many, many pregnancy tests. A negative, again. And so I called Blake and wept into the phone in that tiny hotel room, not needing to say anything because he already knew.

I mention this because these are the labor pains we as women and as couples too often endure quietly, and in private. These months are, in short, agonizing, and I feel for anyone who has ached for a child born from their body or their heart. So while six months is nothing in the grand scheme of things, and compared to what many others endure, it was a mountain for us. I will never, never take pregnancy for granted.

Fast forward to April 22nd, 2018 - four weeks and one day from Maisie's official due date. I had been having some strong contractions on and off for weeks - which sent me to the doctor twice and resulted in firm instruction to lay low, work from home, stay off my feet as much as possible - but beginning at 4am on this Sunday, the contractions seemed to be coming closer together than they had been. I didn't think much of it until 6am when I went to the bathroom and realized that I was bleeding.

I went back to the bedroom and told Blake we needed to go to the hospital immediately. He called my mom while I tried to get my doctor on the phone (for the first time ever, I wasn't getting patched through). My mom arrived to watch Hugo around 6:30, and we drove to Yale. I was finally able to get my doctor on the phone from the road, and she agreed that I should head to the hospital ("Good. I'm around the corner."). At this point, contractions were much closer together, and I was confident that I was in labor.

Our hospital tour was scheduled for the following week, so we were a little clueless as to where we should go - Yale is huge, and Hugo was born in Norwalk. While Blake parked the car, I followed signs and direction from a few helpful security guards for the maternity ward. "How can I help you?" a nurse asked over the intercom when I arrived in front of the triage doors. "Ummm... I'm having a baby," I told her. Only now can I think of a dozen other hilarious replies to that question. Hindsight is 20/20.

In triage, the nurses checked me and I was dialated to a 4 and 90% effaced, which meant I could be admitted. At this point I was a little worried that the baby was coming so early, but was so thankful that Yale has a strong NICU team and lots of resources if we needed them.

I was moved to a (gigantic) delivery room, where two anesthesiologists arrived to get me an epidural. I had gotten an epidural when I had Hugo, and I was pretty confident that it was ineffective because of how much of the birth I felt. This epidural was much more effective, and I was actually able to relax a bit after I got it. Somewhere in this window (about an hour after arriving at the hospital), my obstetrician came to check me and I was 9 centimeters dilated.

Between 9:30am and 9:40am, Blake stepped out into the hall to grab a cup of coffee while the doctor checked me again. I had told her I wasn't sure I knew what the urge to push felt like because I'd never had that with Hugo. Not 2 minutes after I said that and after I'd shifted my position, I told her loudly, "Ok, I know what that feels like now!" Within minutes, a nurse, resident, and four NICU doctors and nurses (protocol for births before 36 weeks) showed up in the room. Blake came back with his coffee just in time :)

Four pushes and 10 minutes later, Maisie Austen Walker was born, weighing in at 6 lbs. 5 oz. - a great size for her gestational age. A quick assessment confirmed that she wouldn't need to go to the NICU, which was naturally a huge relief for us.

 And so we were four.

We gave our daughter names that she could grow into. "Maisie", meaning "child of light" - a name for a bold, unique spirit, and "Austen" after Jane Austen.

Both of our babies are named after great storytellers: figures who believed in their own agency and the power of words, but even more so in the beauty of mercy and social justice and sacrificial love. They're too little to fully understand these things now, but oh, what an adventure it will be to teach them (and to learn).

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