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


  1. Your words.... They leave me without my own.

    Thank you.

  2. lovely marisa. i felt that familiar prickling behind my own eyes as i read. simply lovely.

  3. as a tear rolls down my cheek, i am left wanting more and more of your story, marisa. please- keep writing :)

  4. so beautiful, marisa. looking forward to part two...

  5. Oh Marissa, how I love your writing. It is even more poignant to me as I am currently grieving the loss of my baby of 12 weeks. Even though I won't experience the birth of this child, I rejoice with you over the birth of yours. It is healing somehow.
    Thank you for sharing--this is lovely.

  6. "You moved me."

    You are an incredible writer. That section just stole my heart away.

  7. Wow...that was very captivating. There is just something incredible about readings someone's birth detailed it brilliantly. I got chills...can't wait for part 2! VLT

  8. this is excellent. really really beautifully written.

    my son is nearing his 1st birthday and am realizing i never wrote his birth story, nor shared it with blogland.

    you are inspiring me to jot it all down. finally.

  9. beautiful. your blog is a breath of fresh air!

    nice to meet you:)

  10. Amazing. As I knew it would be. Don't stop writing. *s*

  11. I'm sure you were absolutely terrified! I cannot even imagine...

  12. Ok I popped over to give you encouragement on trying breadmaking (it's not hard at ALL) after your comment on my blog but then when I got here and read your beautiful words it just doesn't seem appropriate...I have a 2 & 1/2 year old son and a baby due in June...your words resonate with me...that motherly fear it just overtakes you. I know. and I can't wait to read the rest.

  13. thank you so much for the sweet comment on my blog! i appreciate it & i'm so glad it lead me to yours because your blog is so gorgeous and you write so so well.

    i DREAM of putting myself out there and actually writing something worthwhile, but i am too much of a sissy to actually do it. you need to share some of your courage with me!

    seriously? advice?

  14. I have no children of my own yet, so no experience of any of this, but your writing makes me feel like I'm "there". It's beautiful, I hope you can post Part 2 soon.

  15. Your blog is so lovely. I love your story and will check back for more! :)

  16. wow! you are an amazing writer. what a beautiful story :) can't wait for the rest.

  17. thank you for commenting on my blog and allowing me to find yours- your writing is so beautiful.

  18. oh my goodness marisa, these are beautiful words. i'm a sucker for a birth story so i was hooked with the title but now i'm in tears. i can't wait to hear more.

  19. thank you, everyone! i appreciate your kind comments so much. i feel so lucky to have this little space to share with all of you. :D

  20. wow.. i just love that you're sharing this. thank you. am excited to let you know, you've won a giveaway for something special. please read my most recent blog post for details. thanks! xo. marta

  21. Well. I just found your blog and I already feel like I know you. I hopped over from Marta's post (mentioned above) because my name is also Marisa and I had to check out your blog. The first thing I read was this fantastically descriptive, extremely personal story. I had the same pounding heart and hot, prickling eyes while reading your story. (And really, I'm amazed that anyone could describe so accurately that feeling of tear generation.) Your story brought back all those terrors and insecurities of pregnancy. Can't wait for part two.

  22. Well, I came over to your blog after you left a sweet comment on mine. And, I must tell you, that I am hooked. Your writing draws me, the weary mother, in at 10:40 at night. You are an excellent writer. You captured the feelings of that moment with such clarity and depth of emotion.

    Thank you for telling your story.