A New Kind of Patience: Maggie’s Birth Story

The first half of this post was written two nights before Maggie was born. I had no idea it would be two nights before her birth, and I hadn’t quite finished my thoughts, so I didn’t post it. But the waiting was such a part of her birth story, I thought it would be appropriate to start with what I started writing not knowing when her arrival would be.

I am nearly 42 weeks pregnant with our second child, and this waiting has been a surprise to me. Griffin was born 11 days past his estimated delivery date, and I was definitely not expecting to go longer with this one. But here I am, 12 days past the estimated delivery date with no baby in my arms, and it is an hourly roller coaster. There are many things to be said about birth, due dates, medical pressure to induce, and all of the things that go along with our current culture’s views on pregnancy and birthing, but that’s for another blog, and perhaps personal conversation over tea.

But what I know and want to write about is that pregnancy (and waiting to birth) is probably the most public private thing that I have gone through, and I simultaneously want to connect with other women, and cocoon myself from the world while I wait.  The end of this pregnancy has been very different from my time waiting for Griffin. Today I feel really great physically, all things considered, and even went to yoga this morning where I stretched and squatted and felt graceful. Three years ago, I was experiencing agonizing pelvic pain for nearly a month, which kept me grounded on the couch and subsequently lead to incredible swelling and discomfort. Today, I have been experiencing pre-labor signs for weeks (increased contractions, cramping, dilation, prodromal labor) which lead me to believe I would be meeting this baby sooner. Three years ago, I experienced very little until 24 hours before Griffin was born. Today, I have to start each day with a game plan to include a very energetic three year old AND the thought that I could go into labor at any time. Three years ago, I had the luxury of scrapping plans with no consequences and no planning if I went into labor. Today I am 35, technically of “advanced maternal age,” and under a lot of pressure to induce (something I’d like to avoid for myriad reasons that are personal, as they are for every woman). Three years ago, my OB pushed to induce by 42 weeks, but I never got there.

I’ll be honest: I’m tired of waiting. I do want this baby out. I am concerned about the statistical risks associated with going past full term (which is 42 weeks, not 40). I’m tired of trying to encourage labor through means that, I’m increasingly believing, exist solely to make you feel like you can control something you have no control over. I’m tired of hearing about every Joe Schmoe’s trick for getting labor started, and I’m tired of being lead to think it’s something I’ve done or haven’t done.

But today, at this hour, at this minute, I have come to believe that my baby is doing something for me I’m only now just getting. S/he is my own personal Buddha, giving me the opportunity to cultivate a new kind of patience. This may be patience I need for this particular child; it could be patience I need as the stay-at-home mother of two children; it may be patience I need to become the best human being I can be. I read this very lovely post from a midwife in Duluth the other day about the waiting time being a place of in between, and it seemed to be written just for me. I am truly in between in so many ways.

. . . .

Maggie’s Birth Story

On Monday, April 23, Andrew, our doula Cynthia, and I spent a long time talking with one of the midwives at HCMC about what we were going to do next. I would be 42 weeks the next day, my amniotic fluid was getting low, and the baby was still not out (although looking very healthy by all measures). I really, really did not want to induce. I honestly didn’t think I would make it to the point where I would have to start thinking about induction, but there we were, and I just didn’t want to believe it or commit to a plan that involved medical intervention. I reluctantly scheduled an induction involving breaking my waters for the next morning, still with the thought that I could back out if I woke up not feeling right about it. I went home and cried and pleaded with the baby to please, please come out on his/her own. I called our doula, I called my parents, I made arrangements for Griffin for the morning, and I made sure everything was in order to leave for the hospital if we followed through with the appointment. I tried to surrender to this plan, one I hadn’t wanted.

I had experienced more prodromal labor (for the fourth time) that afternoon and evening, but the not-quite-the-real-thing contractions subsided by 9pm, and I went to bed around 11:30 feeling resigned to the fact that this baby was quite content staying inside, and I may just be the first person in history to be pregnant forever (ha).

Around 1am, I woke up with a very strong contraction that had me breathing hard and doubled over from the strength of it. It lasted over a minute, but it wasn’t the first time I had experienced a strong contraction in the last few weeks, so it was hard for me to let myself think that it might be the real thing. I timed it and stayed in the bathroom to see if another was coming. I waited for 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes. Nothing. Deflated, I crawled back into bed to try and fall back asleep. At 1:30, I had another that was so strong, I literally leaped out of bed, waking up Andrew. This one was even harder than the one I had at 1am, and after that, they started coming every three minutes. This time, it definitely felt like the real thing, and even Andrew knew it was time when he heard me moaning and saw my legs shaking.

Andrew called our doula and my parents, and I called the hospital to check in with the midwives. Having experienced a 14 hour labor with Griffin (4 hours of which involved me pushing), I probably wouldn’t have even called the hospital had it not been for the fact that I had started bleeding. I felt really in control of the contractions, and while they were close together, I figured I had a few hours of laboring at home before we had to head in. But after talking with the midwife on the phone, she kindly suggested that it sounded as though I was working pretty hard through the contractions and since I had started bleeding (a normal part of birth, of course) it might be a good idea to head in soon. Andrew called our neighbor, Anne, who had volunteered to hold down the fort until my parents could arrive, and as soon as she got to the house, we headed for the car.

I was still feeling very in control during the contractions. I would drop down to hands and knees during the waves to moan and breathe, but then I could carry on a conversation in the two to three minutes in between. It felt like the early labor I experienced with Griffin, but I was still glad to be headed into the hospital. I frankly was looking forward to trying to birth in the water! I knelt backwards in the front seat (it felt very wrong not to wear a seat belt, but the hospital was only a 12 minute drive from our house) and continued to breathe and moan through the contractions. I suggested to Andrew that he needn’t stop at the red lights, and I was truly entering into the laboring zone. We arrived at the emergency room entrance around 2:30, and the admittance desk nurse actually asked me to fill out a form. I said, “Are you freaking kidding me?” and gave him a look like, “Did you not just see me on my hands and knees in the street?!?” but scribbled out my information and promptly moaned through a contraction right there on the floor in front of him. Another nurse rushed down with a wheelchair as the admitting nurse said, “Skip triage and bring her to the Nurse Midwife Unit.” Damn straight.

We waited for the elevator and got up to the hallway with the Midwife Unit when another contraction came on. I told the nurse to stop and I got down on my hands and knees again to do my thing. The midwife and nurse on duty then saw me through the glass and rushed to greet us. (Andrew describes the experience as a huge warm hug, and I couldn’t agree more.) We got to the birthing room around 2:40am, where I had another contraction right there on the floor. The midwife, Kate, and nurse, Sarah, were so wonderful and made me feel like they knew I knew what I was doing, and had I requested to birth standing on my head, they would have been cool with it. Kate asked to check me for dilation, and declared, “You’re fully dilated!” which I just couldn’t believe. The contractions were heavy, strong, and close together, but I really had no idea I had been in transition. Not more than two contractions later, I felt the urge to push. At this point, our doula Cynthia arrived, and just in time.

The pain during the pushing was unreal and unlike what I had experienced with Griffin. Ring of fire, indeed, and my contractions were so close together, and the intensity was so strong, I had a hard time even knowing when I was having a contraction. It was the only time I felt out of control, but with the calming words of Cynthia and Kate, I was able to get back into the zone. My water exploded, and Kate encouraged me to feel the baby’s head. It was so soft and nearly out, I was able to muster the focus to continue. (Again, I had experienced four hours of pushing with Griffin, so I was not expecting to have a quick birth, but the baby wanted out NOW.) A couple of pushes later, out she shot, and she was born at 3:00 AM on the nose. I truly could not believe it. A girl! So fast! I just birthed a BABY?!?

She did not come out crying and lively, so there were about 5 minutes of mild worry, but she quickly was up to standard and was snuggled up on my chest. She latched on almost right away, and I spent the next hour or so saying, “I can’t believe this. I really can’t believe I just birthed my baby in an hour and a half.”

We had about two hours of bonding time before I sat up to go to the bathroom and had an enormous hemorrhage. Apparently, it’s not entirely uncommon for women who birth quickly to lose a lot of blood through hemorrhaging, but it was a little frightening to lose so much blood so quickly. Thankfully, the nurse, Sarah, was on it fast, and the kindest, gentlest OB came to the rescue. About an hour and a very uncomfortable procedure later, I was back to normal, still stunned to have Ms. Maggie Wren in my arms.




Origin of Maggie’s Name

Margaret Crutchfield Roy
Margaret Crutchfield Roy, 1928, with her husband, Andrew Tod Roy.

How did Maggie Wren Stocco Roy’s name come about? As with Griffin, the root reason is that Sarah and I think it is a beautiful name. Wren, in particular, has no special meaning. We love it’s sound, but “Wren Roy” didn’t quite work. So Wren became her middle name. We wanted one of her names to have a connection to her ancestors, so we weighed that while considering possible first names.

My paternal grandmother was Margaret Crutchfield Roy, oldest in a large family (eight siblings survived childhood). She was born in 1902 near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and had little notion as a young girl that she would spend much of her life in China, including turbulent years during World War II and the Chinese Civil War. She and my grandfather married in 1928 and moved to China in 1930. They lived there, except for a few years of furlough, until they were expelled in 1951 after the communist revolution. Margaret died in 1992, not far from where she was born.

Although as far as I know Margaret never went by the nickname Maggie, we love the shorter form so our Maggie is simply Maggie, rather than Margaret. But we were thinking of grandma Margaret when we named her, and trust that Maggie will adapt to the adventures and adversities of life with as much grace as her namesake.

As with Griffin’s name, we did a bit of research to see how popular the names “Maggie” and “Margaret” have been. Like any father, I plugged the info into a spreadsheet and graphed it. The graph below includes data for Maggie, Margaret, and Griffin (for comparison). The source of the data is the Social Security Administration.

Popularity of Names Graph

Popularity rank zero (or one, really) at the top of the chart would be the most popular name for that year. Thus, “Margaret” was very popular (top ten) until 1950 when it started slowly descending in popularity. When I first researched “Griffin” in 2009, I didn’t push the search back to 1880 so I didn’t know the name had scattered appearances before 1910. Then it faded to obscurity until the 1980s.

The name “Maggie” follows an interesting trajectory. Quite popular at the turn of the century but then descending steadily until a sudden resurgence from 1970-1990. The early popularity might be partly explained by steady immigration from Ireland at the time. (The biggest surge in Irish immigrants was after the potato famine in the 1850s, but it remained relatively high until the end of the century.)

Maggie Smith in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
Maggie Smith in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
Rod Stewart's "Maggie May"
Rod Stewart's "Maggie May"

Immigration can’t explain the 1970s surge. We’re open to hypotheses. Some explanations we’ve bounced around include Rod Stewart’s 1971 hit, “Maggie May” (or less plausibly, songs by the Beatles and the Doors in 1970) or Maggie Smith’s acting career (she won her first Oscar in 1969). The name’s popularity stabilized in the ’90s and has hovered around the 200 mark for the past decade.

In reality, of course, none of this data (or our pop-cultural musings) had any real impact on our naming decision. We had chosen Maggie as our top girl name before Griffin was born, before doing any research. We’re thrilled that little Maggie is here to inhabit the name (which fits her perfectly). We’ve had fun already with various unexpected nicknames that pop up: Magpie is my favorite, though I also like to call her Mag-nificent. Because she is. And we hope she knows it.