isaac's birth story: part one

This is part one of Isaac's birth story. To read the prologue, go here.

I have a habit of holding on to ordinary receipts from important days in my life, tucking them away for the same reason that people save special ticket stubs and theater programs.

I like the way they take me back.

Date. Time. Location. Items. Price. Total.

Utilitarian, to be sure – an impartial snapshot of a brief moment in time. But sometimes the facts are all I need; they are enough to remind me of the feelings that I might have forgotten.


It was Monday, and I was 34 weeks pregnant.

Five days before, I hugged my coworkers goodbye and drove out of the parking lot for the last time, towards my chosen life as a soon to be stay-at-home mom. I had a lot of plans for the weeks between leaving my career and birthing a baby – there were the mundane tasks (wash and fold baby clothes, buy diapers, clean the apartment) and the more personal aspirations (write in journal, spend alone time with husband), but suffice it to say, the ultimate goal was to be completely prepared for when baby arrived.

On that Monday, Operation Preparation was in full swing. I emptied out all of the kitchen cabinets and set about reorganizing them to make room for bottles and sippy cups and soft-tip spoons.

By the time Aaron arrived home from work in the evening, the contents of our kitchen were no longer actually in the kitchen. He surveyed the overflow with an amused look on his face, but wisely kept his smart-aleck remarks to a minimum. I’m sure he knew that crossing a nesting pregnant woman would be about as useful, and as dangerous, as poking a beehive with a stick.

I was exhausted. He ordered a pizza, our usual pepperoni-and-cheese (with jalapenos on two slices, for me) and flipped on the football game. His beloved Buckeyes were playing, and he wasn’t going to miss one minute.

Sometime before half-time, I stood up to go the bathroom. Something felt wrong.


Suddenly I felt stiff, and the routine movements of flushing the toilet and washing my hands were impossibly labored. Alarm bells were sounding, but I didn’t want to jump to conclusions.

There was no gush. There was no river. But there was a slow, almost imperceptible, leak.

I turned to the internet, of course, hastily Googling crude, unscientific phrases like “how do I know if my water broke” and “leaky bladder or water breaking?”

He was still engrossed in his football game when I approached him with a furrowed brow and tense muscles. I remember his calm voice. He told me everything would be okay, that there was no need to panic. He offered to make me soup. But the fear was gnawing at my stomach, growing and multiplying as every minute passed.

I laid on the bed and contacted the midwife at the hospital. Her authoritative manner quelled some of the anxiety I was feeling, and she instructed me to empty my bladder once more and then take a walk. In a calm but serious voice, she said: If at any point during your walk, you still feel like you’re leaking, come to the hospital immediately.

I remember thinking that her voice sounded a little unkind, as though she’d already fielded a hundred calls that night from nervous first-timers who couldn’t distinguish a Braxton-Hicks contraction from regular old indigestion.

I thought she thought it was nothing, and that made me glad.

I waddled to the living room and reported what the midwife had told me. Okay, he said. Go empty your bladder, and then we’ll take a walk around the park.

I waddled back to the bathroom.


The moments that followed are seared into my memory.

I felt the rush of water, it was unmistakable. It wasn’t a small leak; I didn’t need Google, or a pregnancy book or even a trained midwife to tell me what was happening. I knew.

I will never forget how it felt to stand there, alone in our bedroom, my body cold and tight. I will never forget the color of the carpet, or the feeling of my heart expanding violently in my chest.

My legs had grown roots into the ground. I watched the amniotic fluid spill down my thighs and calves and ankles and toes, like a torrent of unstoppable tears.


You moved me.

You were there the instant you heard the sharp panic rise in my voice. You swooped in and cleaned my legs, changed my clothes, brought me my sweater.

I will always remember the way your palm felt on my foot as you tenderly helped me into my shoes.

You knew I was crumbling because I was scared for our child. Because at 34 weeks, this wasn’t the way it was supposed to go. You were scared, too. But you never showed it, because you knew I needed you to carry me.

I can’t type these words without feeling the prickling hot behind my eyes.


Within minutes, we were driving to the hospital.

I didn’t know much about premature babies, but my mind was racing with fear. I thought of the translucent babies growing in incubators, babies who survived with tubes and machines, babies who were permanently disabled, babies who would ultimately succumb to complications.

It was my first brush with that certain brand of motherly fear – a fear I am now well acquainted with. It’s the one that catches in my throat when he knocks his head on the cement sidewalk or when he stuffs his mouth so full of graham crackers that I’m sure he’ll choke.

We held hands the entire way. The mess we left behind – the colanders and cereal boxes and spoons and muffin tins all piled randomly around the apartment, the half-eaten pizza and salad abandoned on paper plates – mirrored the chaos in my mind.

I felt precarious. Helpless, worried and entirely out of control.


On the afternoon of the day my water broke, I bought $12.42 worth of kitchen organization items from The Container Store.

The memory is clear. I see myself, clad in red sweatpants, a brown long-sleeved maternity shirt and tan moccasins, hair pulled back into a smooth ponytail.

The time on the receipt says 3:56 p.m. The sun had not yet dipped; the sky was wide and bright and blue.

I exited the store with my purchases, eager to get back home and finish the job I had started.

I inhaled a deep breath of cold air into my lungs and walked to the car with my hand on my taut belly, and the hope for all I had envisioned, all I was expecting, embedded confidently in my heart.

Click here to read the next installment: Isaac's Birth Story: Part Two

and the winner is...

Elizabeth, who said:

And what do I love most about myself? About the outside, my skin, how pale it is, how I've hated it almost all my life, but recently embraced it. About the inside, homebody Elizabeth, who likes to read a good book, cuddle on the couch, have a homemade meal.

Thanks, everyone! I loved reading your responses -- they were so inspiring. (Elizabeth, email me at marisawritesblog [at] gmail [dot] com so I can send you your little gifts!)

valentine's giveaway...

ends tonight at 9:00 p.m. PST! Don't forget to leave a comment on this post for a chance to win.

I hope you're having a sweet Valentine's Day. Mine has been really wonderful - Aaron and I went to a gigantic book fair this morning and then ended the afternoon with some out-of-this-world bruschetta + wine from a favorite local spot. Later tonight we're meeting up with the whole family for Korean food - yum!

beloved + valentine's giveaway!

"And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?

I did.

And what did you want?

To call myself beloved, to feel myself

beloved on the earth. "

- Raymond Carver

I didn't make any New Year's resolutions this year, but I think if I were going to have a resolution, it would be akin to Raymond Carver's uplifting poem on the importance of loving yourself.

Somewhere between the delivery room and his first birthday, I'd forgotten the things that I love about myself. It was frighteningly easy, the forgetting, because as so many of you know -- being a wife and a mother is a constant exercise in forgetting about yourself.

On the one hand, so much of the sacrifice is easy. I would happily endure a million more bouts on the changing table if it means hearing that silly laugh and seeing his sweet smile.

But there are darker moments: the sometimes debilitating inadequacy I feel as an inexperienced mother, the bedraggled emotions after a day of wrangling an unhappy baby, the I'm-still-wearing-pajamas-at-three-o'clock-in-the-afternoon-and-when-was-the-last-time-I-took-a-shower? days.

The darker moments always seem more visible. Which is why "to call myself beloved," to remind myself that I am still whole even though I have given away so many pieces, seems timely this Valentine's Day.


I'm proud of this little blog, and I am always blown away by your thoughtful and encouraging comments. They lift my heart and make me a better writer. So as a thank you, I went to Anthropologie today and picked up a few small but lovely things to send to one of you:

- Petite cabbage rose + citrus shea butter handcreme by Lollia (The scent is so light, you'll think you're wearing a flower.)
- Sweet ginger peach teabag by Revolution Tea (Revolution makes some of my favorite teas. This combo is so refreshing.)
- "a day for me" Kraft notepad by O-Check Design (Be still, my heart. I was so happy to find this - I've been eyeing it online for ages. Which means I couldn't resist getting one for myself, too!)

To be entered to win, tell me: What is one thing you love about yourself?

Comments close on Sunday, February 14th at 9:00 p.m. PST. I'll randomly choose and announce the winner on Monday. Be sure to leave a link to your blog or an email address so that I can contact you if you win. (P.S. I have a small readership, so your odds of winning are pretty good!)

petits riens

my recent accomplice + a sweet-smelling salve, two items that are always in my possession.

I don't speak french, but I read the phrase les petits riens de la vie in a book once, and it stuck with me. It means, the little nothings of life.

It's like jewelry, only for your life: not entirely necessary, but it brings the sparkle, the shine - that little something extra.

What is your favorite nothing?

olive branches

my love

I still like the way you look at me.


In the empty space between us, I feel the heaviness of our years together. They stretch backward and forward, invisibly gathering the peaks, valleys and plateaus of life with little regard for the toll they take on a person, on a marriage.

I am covered in spaghetti sauce stains and insecurity; my hair is knotted and so is the pit of my stomach.

Suddenly I am fragile. There are a few broken pieces on the floor.