Since it’s Fertile Friday, and since it’s only been two and a bit years, so I guess this is as good a time as any to write Valentina’s birth story. Her birth date was the 11th October, 2013, but let me back up a bit to the very beginning.
Dave and I weren’t married when we got pregnant. Thankfully, we knew we wanted to get married and we knew we wanted to have children. I made sure to get that criteria established early in our dating life, not wanting to spend a couple of years with someone who ultimately wouldn’t share my desire for kids. So as he was talking about his brother and his nephews, I casually slipped in a question about whether he’d want kids of his own, and he was definitely keen. Whew, check, he progressed past date #3 given that we shared those common values.
Getting pregnant within a year of that wasn’t the initial plan – I was the traditional girl who thought it was so important to get engaged, then married, then pregnant! When I found out I was pregnant I was pretty shocked, so of course the first thing I did was rang my mother, who was thrilled and kept telling me what a blessing it was. When I told Dave (a full 24 hours later once it had sunk in a bit for me), he was very level headed, and didn’t seem upset at all. We just started making plans to bring everything in line with that new future. His parents were thrilled too – they had given up on Dave having kids, so it was a wonderful surprise for them.
The problem was, I had to have my IUD removed (yes, we got pregnant with an IUD) and so that created a 50:50 risk of miscarriage. But we did it, and prayed, and the little peanut survived that. At that point we knew she was determined to be on this earth with us.
We first were under the care of Dr Sean Daneshman at Scripps, and we loved him. But we realized we were being treated as a high-risk pregnancy, simply based on my age – whereas I felt super healthy and wasn’t worried about my age at all. Ultimately, and with Dr Daneshman’s blessing, we transferred our care to the midwives at UCSD.
I loved UCSD and loved the midwives. We were hoping to be able to deliver in the birth center there – to us that was a perfect blend of a having natural birth, but on a hospital site in case of emergency. That all went along fine until I failed my 2-hour glucose tolerance test, and was diagnosed with gestational diabetes. Despite six weeks of perfect blood sugar levels, I just couldn’t lose that diagnosis. I wrote more about that part here. Long story short, we risked out of the birth center because the ultrasound tech at my 38 week scan predicted that our baby’s head:abdomen ratio was off kilter and it posed a risk of shoulder dystocia.
Other than that I had a great pregnancy – I ran up until 25 weeks, then stayed active walking and doing Pilates til the end. I got chiropractic adjustments a couple of times a week, and prenatal massage every week or so.
We had chosen to do Hypnobabies classes to prepare for the birth – the classes were fun, and relaxing. In the end I’m not sure I could say it helped me that much, but oh well, it was worth trying!!
Valentina was due in the 3rd week of September. I had finished work a couple of weeks before my due date, firstly so I could rest and be ready for her, but also because by then it was too uncomfortable to sit all day!! I was excitedly washing her clothes and looking at them, knowing that we would have a baby soon to put in them, but it still felt surreal.
I had hoped that she would arrive close to her due date, knowing that I had limited time off work, and I wanted to make the most of it with her. Her “guess date” came along, no baby. A few more days went by, no baby. I was going to acupuncture, sweeping membranes, walking stairs, doing everything I could do nudge her along. A week went by, nada. Chugged the castor oil – urrrrghhgh. Still no baby. It got to be a joke at my office that every day I’d say I wouldn’t be there the next day, and the next day I’d waddle in anyway.
At the very end of week 42, I had seen the midwife that day. I had postponed three inductions already – being in the hospital setting, the midwives had to follow protocol which meant they had to recommend I get induced, even though I got the sense that they were supportive of my decisions). I was set against it though – I knew this baby had to come out eventually – and so long as everything seemed well on our twice-weekly non-stress tests, I was determined to wait and let it happen naturally.
The day she was born I went out for breakfast with my friend Nicole. We sat eating telling the baby in my belly that it was a good day to be born, but I certainly didn’t feel any signs of labor. Little did I know that she would be born less than 12 hours later.
I had seen the midwife around noon. They were really getting nervous, and weren’t going to let it go much longer without induction. We did the membrane sweep, and I chugged the castor oil again – at noon and more at 2pm. At 4pm I was sitting on the couch chatting with my sister, and was feeling a bit crampy. At six o’clock I was feeling it even more, so I lay on the bed and listened to a Hypnobabies track. I felt my water broke and called Dave who was outside doing yard work – “honey, can you please come here?”. He says “yes in a minute”. I’m like, “no honey, right now”! He came inside and we called our doula. My contractions were already 2-3 minutes apart. We told her this and she told us no problem, we’re just in early phases of labor, it’ll be a good while. She told Dave to have me rest, eat and sleep. I’m in the background thinking “are you effing kidding me? Did you not hear the 2-minutes apart bit?”
Things started getting hot and heavy pretty quickly. Poor Dave was trying to be there for me during contractions but still getting the tub filled, and liaising with the midwives at the hospital. After an hour or so of that, I told him I wanted to go in. Even driving to the hospital was hard at that point, I made him pull over every time I had a contraction (which was five times and it was only a mile away!).
We got to the hospital at 8.30pm and went to the ER since the main entrance had already closed. They took us up to a triage room, where the midwive told me I was already at 7cm and I’d be meeting my baby soon. The next half hour was a blur, but Valentina Elison Ducharme was born 31 minutes later at 9.01pm. They immediately took her to the corner of the room to work on clearing her airways, then a few minutes later she was brought over to me.
Some people report this blissful experience and overwhelming love in that moment. I was more like “holy smokes, what just happened?!” It was such a rapid labor and birth that I’m not sure by body or my mind ever had time to catch up, it was super duper intense. But then once things settled down and she latched to feed for the first time, my heart started to melt.
The most precious moments to me over the next couple of days in the hospital were the nights. Dave was sleeping in a very uncomfortable chair in our room, Valentina was in the crib between us. Although it was pretty much against the rules, I would pull into my bed with me, tuck her under my hospital gown, and we’d sleep like that skin-to-skin. It was the most settling and calming for her, and I treasure those nights as the time that the rest of the world was quiet and I got to bond with her.
We brought her home, and from the beginning she was a great baby – happy, healthy and sweet. Sleep deprivation was never a big problem in those early days, I would feed her at 10pm before going to bed, then again around 2am. In the first couple of weeks she’d nurse at 5am and then Dave would take her out to the living room, where I would emerge refreshed and feeling great at 8am! They would invariably be curled up sleeping together on the couch, so that was great bonding time for him too. It wasn’t long before she dropped the 5am feed, but Dave would still take her out and let me sleep. So I was getting 10pm to 8am with only one hour up in the middle of the night. We definitely lucked out.
The past two years have been the best of my life. I never thought love could be this deep, most days when I look at her I think my heart is going to explode. I’d love for her to have a sibling, but if we never get to have another child, I can honestly say that she’s all that I need and more. Dave and I feel like the luckiest people alive – we both doubted if we would have kids at all because we met so much later in life than most of our peers. When I look back now on that conversation with my Mum, when I first found out I was pregnant and she was telling me what a blessing it was – how right she was. Our lives have been blessed every day since and I thank God for bringing this very special soul into our lives.
Click here to see a video I created on her 2nd birthday to celebrate her life so far.