After waiting nearly two years before becoming pregnant, Nicholas and I were very anxious to meet our baby girl. At around 38 weeks pregnant, I was decidedly tired of being pregnant in the summer heat and would’ve happily welcomed Madeleine coming at any time then. Fortunately, Madeleine’s due date, July 16th, was the feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, so like any good Catholic, I began a novena to Our Lady nine days before Madeleine was due.
As the seventh and eighth days of the novena came, I assured my husband that I would most definitely need an induction. I was certain there was no way that Madeleine would decide to come before 41 weeks, and I was even more certain that I could not bear to be pregnant much past 40 weeks. Each day as I prayed the novena, I felt guilty. The novena was all about the blessings and graces of the brown scapular. While I have had many scapulars over the years, my chronic shyness and desire to avoid imposition had meant that I had never gone through enrollment in the brown scapular. Still, I kept praying the novena and begging Our Lady of Mt. Carmel for a timely delivery.
On July 15th, I woke up at 4:30 AM with cramps. The pain was erratic, and I dismissed it as wishful thinking. I went back to sleep. I continued noticing pain while getting ready for mass, and entertained the possibility of labor, but again thought it couldn’t be more than wishful thinking. As I prepared for mass, I expressed to Nicholas my regret and guilt at praying a novena to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel while not enrolled in the scapular. We went to mass, and during that time, I began to think that perhaps I was in early labor and the pain I’d been feeling was not my imagination after all. I had to sit down at various parts of the mass, and afterwards, when some friends came up to us and told us I had to wait until the 18th to have the baby so they could win the baby pool, it was all I could do not to snap at them. In hindsight, I now know I was having contractions while they were talking to me.
At the conclusion of mass, my guilt at not having been enrolled in the scapular was rectified. Our pastor invited anyone that wished to be enrolled to stay and receive a scapular along with the enrollment. Finally, after years of having a scapular I was properly enrolled, and I didn’t even have to personally ask the priest.
Nicholas and I went to breakfast and I called the doctor’s office. They confirmed I was in early labor and told me to feel free to go about my day. After breakfast, we went to an outdoor mall together and walked around. Nick was very excited about some of the items in Carhart, and when I did not share his enthusiasm due to pain at the moment, he remarked, “I’m sorry, I’m trying to remember that you’re not ignoring me and that you’re just in pain.”
We went home, and I took a nap, a shower, and did some stretching to cope with the pain while Nick cleaned and made final preparations. At around 5:00, we took a walk around the neighborhood. It became clear then, as I needed to stop every few minutes to work through the pain, that it was time to head to the hospital.
We made the thirty minute drive to the hospital, but before arriving, Nick talked me into getting Panera. I made the mistake of walking into Panera with him and trying to place my order between contractions. The person taking our order was very concerned about me until Nicholas informed her, “She’s fine, she’s just in labor.”
I had delayed going to the hospital all day since it was a thirty minute drive. I wanted to be absolutely certain that Madeleine was coming before going to the hospital. When we arrived, the nurses quickly confirmed I was in active labor and began setting up our room. I was still wearing the scapular I had been given earlier that day.
Our nurse was unhelpful. I had planned on not getting an epidural, and so wanted to use a birthing ball, different laboring positions, and the deep water tub for pain relief. The nurse brought something like a birthing ball, but then immediately left. She didn’t help with positions to alleviate pain during required monitoring. I immediately needed an IV because of some of Madeleine’s readings on the fetal monitor. Eventually, I was allowed to use the deep water tub, which brought my pain down from an 8 to about a 4. When they came to me and said I needed to get out for 40 minutes of monitoring, the contractions were about two minutes apart. I asked for an epidural.
Perhaps with a different nurse I could’ve endured 40 minutes out of the tub and on the monitor, but this nurse offered no help or guidance. I got the epidural at around 10:30 PM. Ultimately, it was a good decision. I think Nicholas was immensely grateful for the epidural as well. I remember he looked at me and asked, “So..wait. The contractions are still happening? But you just..don’t feel them?” I think I actually laughed at that point.
The epidural let me get some rest. Finally, at around 3:38 AM, the midwife told us it was time to start pushing. I remember thinking that perhaps it would still be a couple hours before we got to see Madeleine. Amazingly, 50 minutes later, at 4:38 AM, just twenty four hours after I first thought I had experienced labor pains, Madeleine Immaculata was born.
I don’t remember my exact words when she was born, but I remember saying, “Hello!” over and over again. The midwife gave Madeleine right to me, and I cried as I held her. I later reflected that while I was amazed to finally see my daughter in that moment, I didn’t feel an overwhelming sense of love. Nothing different than I had felt for her before. As I thought about this more, I realized it was because with every kick and somersault, I had fallen in love with my little girl, slowly and gradually. When I saw her, I knew her already. In the weeks to come, as I would watch her move, I would recognize her movements. I began to realize “that’s what that feeling was”.
I will never forget the amazement on Nick’s face when our daughter was born. When the midwife began calling in others for the delivery, Nick still hadn’t realized that Madeleine was coming in the next few minutes. He later remarked to me, “I’m glad I didn’t ask to be the one to catch Madeleine. I think I would’ve missed her.”