Monica Bielanko
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On The Day You Were Born

Dear Violet,

During the whole of my very miserable pregnancy (sorry, but it's true, I've puked in cars, parking lots, work trash cans, mountain trails and my own lap) your Pop and I hoped you'd be born on January 20th, the day Barack Obama would be sworn into office. You, however, apparently weren't willing to risk a day outside the womb while President Bush was in charge and safely waited until the day after Obama took office to enter this world.

I had worked up until a week prior to your due date, Janaury 22. That last week before you came was tough. The only thing I could do was sit in the shower and beg you to come out already. Come on Violet, Mama's ready for you to get here already. I would sing made up songs pleading with you to come out and play with me.

Inauguration day, Tuesday, Janaury 20th. Your Pop and I head to our weekly doctor appointment. The doctor says it's time for you to come and asks if we'd like to have this baby today. Um, let me see.... YEEESS! Want to make out now, doc? She calls LDS hospital in Salt Lake City and schedules me to be checked in at 7pm to get started bringing you into the world.

On the drive home your Pop's chin quivers and his eyes tear up at the wonder of it all. He cannot fathom he will soon be meeting his little daughter. Me? I'm the hard ass. Pop heads back to work and I return home and clean as if Martha Stewart herself will be stopping by later to run her fingertips over my bookshelves in search of dust. I'll be damned if I am bringing my daughter home to a couch covered in black lab hair and oh my Gosh the ring of scum in the bathtub will surely affect your birth, right?

Although they have mostly been packed months prior I finish packing our hospital bags. I am in a zone, going through the motions as if in a dream, not able to fully comprehend how much our lives are about to change. Pop finally comes home from work and takes Max and Milo for a walk. We put your car seat in the car, load our bags in the back...all the things we'd prepared for and waited months to do and now we are actually doing them!

The drive to the hospital is a bit of a bummer. I'd always hoped my water would break in dramatic fashion, perhaps all over someone's shoes at work, maybe splattering a stranger at the grocery store. I would have to text Pop "IT'S TIME!" We would careen wildly to the hospital, tearing through red lights! Maybe we'd even get pulled over and Pop would dramatically explain to the officer, MY WIFE'S HAVING A BABY, earning us our very own police escort whilst I pant through contractions and am ultimately tossed into a wheelchair and pushed quickly into labor & delivery.

Not so. We arrive at LDS hospital at 7:30 on the dot, ride the elevator to the 4th floor and check in at the nurse's desk. This involves filling out pages of paperwork. Not exactly the thrilling experience I had expected. They set us up in the room in which you would be born and at 9:30 a very nice nurse came in and starts the IV that will drip Pitocin into my body - the drug that starts the contractions that will eventually evict you from my womb.

Again, unlike my preconceived notions of the birth process, our time together that night, our last night without you, is cozy not frantic. The room is dark, the television on the wall tuned to inauguration balls as the newly minted President and his First Lady make the rounds. Pop sits on one side of the bed and together we listen to the whoosh whoosh whoosh of your heartbeat being monitored on the computer on the other side of the bed. Throughout the night that little heartbeat will be a constant and I will never forget the comfort it brings me. Someone should market a noise machine, not with oceanic waves or waterfalls but the sound of a baby's heartbeat.

Right under the red line that traces the beating of your tiny heart is a blue line monitoring my contractions. The contractions kick in right away. Each time my belly hardens Pop and I watch the blue line steadily climb higher on the screen.
"Serge, look! Here it goes again!"
We have fun seeing how high the line travels in conjunction with the hardening of my belly. Soon an unfamiliar doctor comes in to break my water. Remember the fun water-breaking-at-the-grocery-store scenario of my dreams? Yeah. Well this fella sticks what looks like a knitting needle inside of me. I squeeze Dad's hand so tight it nearly pops right off his wrist and he looks like me might cry for me. Just when I think I might open my mouth and the doctor's hand clutching that needle will emerge, a gush of water floods the bed.

About a half hour later the contractions are very painful and coming every two minutes. I am positive, absolutely certain I am dilated to a five or six and your birth is imminent! The nurse checks and announces I am a two. A two! When you become a mama yourself I will fully support an attempt at natural childbirth, but darling, if that's what a two feels like I will wholeheartedly stand behind an epidural and will inject you myself should the need arise. So. Yeah. A two. Enough of that noise. At 11pm I ask for the epidural, which I am very scared about. Your Pop is a love. He and I clutch hands and play what is perhaps the most intense game of stare eyes in the history of stare eyes while the doctor cranks that giant needle into my spine.

By 11:15pm I am comfortable and ready for 7/11 nachos. Maybe a fish burrito from Betos. How about steak and mashed potatoes? Or ice chips. Yes, ice chips, dinner of champions. I am not feeling any contractions even though the monitor shows a blue line resembling Mt. Everest. How bizarre to watch my stomach hardening into a bowling ball yet feel nothing!

It really is a beautiful night. Me and Pop together, Salt Lake City's twinkling lights blanketing the valley beneath our window. I put on a DVD of Roseanne and the comfort of the laugh track and your heartbeats ushers me into dreamland. We sleep most of the night.
At 4am the nurse checks and says I am dilated to a 5 and 90% effaced.
At 6am I am dilated to a 7.5.
An hour later I am almost a 10 and ready to push!

I call your Grandma Elaine (yes, that's where Avelaine comes from) who is sleeping at our house with Max and Milo and tell her to pick up a couple newspapers on her way to the hospital. We want to save the headlines from the day you are born. And what amazing headlines! Obama takes office. Along with the Bielankos, America takes a giant step forward.
At 8:15 on the morning of Wednesday, January 21st the nurse announces I am dilated to a 10! We begin to push at 8:30. I say we because I think at times Pop becomes confused as to who is actually pushing out a baby. He is breathing (heee heee hoooo, HEEE HEEE HOOO!) and counting, holding up my left leg and I sometimes wonder if he should check his pants, he is pushing so hard. The nurse is holding my right leg and every time there is a contraction I push while Pop counts to ten. At one point your Pop makes me laugh so hard I can't push because he is so insanely focused on counting. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, seven, eeeiiiiggghttt, NIIIIINE, TEEEEEEEEN! You'd think he is in air traffic control helping land a jet piloted by a teenager forced to take over after the captain suffered a heart attack.

At 9:11 the nurse spots your little head. "She has a ton of dark hair", she shouts! I knew it! Exactly how I pictured you. A little peanut with big eyes and wild, dark hair. A few minutes after that she calls Pop over and he sees your head too! At this point I'm in the zone. Epidural wearing off a bit so I can really feel the pushing... Let's do this, let's go, let's meet Violet! And then Doctor Hinson calls and says she's held up at another delivery and I should stop pushing.

STOP PUSHING?!? Are you out of your mind? I've got a person lodged in my pelvis and I should stop pushing?

We stop. A room previously echoing with counting and heavy panting, and also the noises I was making, becomes dark and silent. Your Grandma Elaine sits on the couch in the corner and Pop stays close to me. I curl up on the bed and try to maintain as each contraction becomes stronger, the epidural weaker. A boxing match between contraction and epidural. LETS GET RRRREADY TO RRRUUUUUMBLLLE! In this corner, wearing the red trunks we have CONTRRRRACTION, weighing in at 500 pounds! In this corner, in the pink trunks we have EPIIIIDURRRRRRRAL, weighing in at 90 pounds.

It's no secret to anyone in the room with me who is winning.

I don't want more drugs. I'll feel absolutely nothing when it's time to push and although that sounds ideal, it isn't. You need to feel something to know you're pushing. Soon, it feels like my body is breaking in half and my ass just might explode into a thousand pieces. I call for the anesthesiologist and gratefully bare my naked back for another dose.

About ten minutes later we start pushing again although I have no idea if I am pushing out a baby or taking a giant dump on the bed because I can't feel a thing. Truth be told, I think it's a little of both although the polite nurses never say a word. Finally, just after 11am Doctor Hinson arrives and we start pushing. I tell Pop to turn on Phantom Eyes, my favorite Marah song. He puts it on repeat so your uncle Dave kind of serenades you into the world.

At one point the doctor tells me to reach down. She guides my hand and my fingers and I realize I am caressing the top of your head. A defining moment. You, coming out of me. It scares me. Not sure why. Perhaps because it is the moment I first touch you, when you actually become real.

The next two hours are Pushing Pushing Pushing and I can never really tell if your birth is imminent or there will be hours more of pushing. I just kind of buckle in for the rollercoaster ride and don't ask too many questions.

Pop stands to my left side and holds my leg for each contraction/push and counts to ten. Grandma sits on a couch off to the side, occasionally trying to sneak a peek until I yell at her to stop looking at the carnage of my vagina. While Grandma is instructed not to look a hospital janitor gets an eyeful. At one point she creeps into the room to take out the trash. When she spots me, legs splayed, giving it all I've got, she pauses. Oh hell, everyone else has seen the business, so I motion her in to do her job.

After more than four hours of pushing you are finally born at 12:35 in the afternoon weighing 7.5 pounds and 21.5 inches long. They immediately put you on my chest and you squawk out a few cries. I am in shock. Indescribable. When a group of strangers yanks a person out of your body and plops her on your chest, let me know how you feel. I can only stare at you, almost afraid to touch your tiny, fluid-covered body. I remember saying "look at her hair". They suction you, wrap you up and still, I can only stare.

Almost immediately they place you in my arms and you open those eyes, your daddy's eyes, and look right at me. It is the most momentous few seconds of my life and my brain, whirling like a top, cannot process. I tenderly touch your delicate skin beneath my fingertips. Your little legs, arms, fingers and toes. All the while I can feel the doctor sewing me up and vaguely wonder if she is using jump rope and a butter knife to merge my torn skin... All jerks, yanks and tugs. But it doesn't matter because you are finally here.

Pop puts his face down by yours and mine and we stay like that. Our new family. Breathing each others' breaths and absorbing the beautiful, science fiction of it all.