My parents tell this story of a five-year-old me. I had been taking tap dance lessons fervently week after week. Our big dance recital was the day after a big roadtrip vacation, so my parents basically drove through the night so I could make the curtain call. The recital started by calling each child’s name as they walked out to center stage, found the spotlight, and then performed the short tap dance we had practiced over and over, before traipsing to the other side of the stage. When they called, “Rachel Stevens” I scampered out to the spotlight, paused, looked out to the audience, and gave a comical shrug with my arms out. All but two parents in the audience burst out laughing. My two exhausted parents were shaking their heads and saying, “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
I was empowered by the new story I was telling on that stage. People were laughing. I attribute my hunger for comedy to this moment—a leotard-wearing, spotlight struck origin story.
This story kind of reminds me of how my birth went. I went to classes, I read books, I had a plan, but when it came down to it, I looked out to the proverbial audience and said, “eeehdunno.” But I also felt super empowered. I was confident and excited about the birth, but there were other factors that made things scary.
My amazing doctor—Dr. Torvie—wanted to induce me at 39 weeks. I had a very scary bleed at 31 weeks that kept me in the hospital for five days and this led us all to believe that my placenta may be on bad behavior. I was not about an induction. I just didn’t feel like I would be the kind of person that got induced.
a) My mom didn’t get induced with any of her births and I want to be just like my mom. With me, her water broke in the middle of the night. She washed the sheets and made the bed and then went to the hospital and labored for about four hours before having me naturally. (Badass. I could be a badass, too, right?)
b) I took this birthing class that really leaned on the natural birth stuff. And our teacher said multiple times, “Inducing is like evicting your baby from their home.” So that idea was hard to shake.
c) I was already dilated 3cm at 38 weeks.
So my doctor wanted to induce and I did not want her to. We came up with a game plan: Starting at 38 weeks, I would go to the hospital to get monitored three times a week to make sure the baby was doing well and the placenta was hanging in there.
This was the beginning of March and soon COVID-19 really hit Seattle. It was getting scary. I spent my whole days just reading the news and stressing out. I had wanted my mother to be there in the birthing room, but that was one of the first restrictions to happen. Mom was supposed to fly out on the 18th and I thought I would definitely make it until then, but now it didn’t matter—she wouldn’t even be allowed in the hospital. Then there was the idea of going to the hospital over and over for testing, risking my and the baby’s health. But the main reason I decided to evict my baby was that my husband is a nurse. He was going to work every day and I was a mess thinking about his risk as this virus descended upon our hospitals. I called my doula and asked her thoughts, she felt great about it, so I posted a sign on the door declaring a notice of eviction—March 16th.
At 7am, we arrived at the hospital with enough bags to move into the place. Security guards stopped us to screen us for symptoms of coronavirus. We passed and got name tags deeming it so.
We settled into the delivery room (moved in) while the nurse got us all situated.
– Are you having a boy or a girl?
– We don’t know. It’s a surprise!
– Oh, I like it better that way.
Around 8:30am, they started a Pitocin drip. My body reacted well, getting the contractions going. I breathed through them and kind of just chilled with Evan, relaxing. Things were moving, but not at any alarming rate. My doula—Barbara— showed up a little before noon and suggested we get moving to get things moving. We did one lap around the hospital floor before my nurse stopped us and said that they were no longer letting patients walk around the floor. (Damn you, coronavirus!)
I bounced on a ball, I listened to my hypnobirthing tracks, I breathed, things were good—fine. The doctor came in and asked if I wanted her to break my water.
– eeehdunno. (shrug.)
I did want her to. She did! (This was point 1084 that went differently than I had envisioned for my birth.) The doctor broke my water and then let us to it. When she came back and checked me, I had dilated to 5cm—getting there! But we needed the baby to start moving down. I decided I wanted to get in the bathtub. So with the lights off and a running playlist going, I sat in the tub and the contractions started to get a little stronger. This scene was hilarious to me, because Barbara had put battery-powered candles all around the tub and got it ~romantic~ for me. I was sitting in this glorious tub. A Rihanna track was playing. And right over to my right, on the edge of the tub, were Evan and Barbara. They were both sitting on little stools, just staring at me. I told them…
– Y’all are being so great. Thank you. But it’s so weird that I’m sitting in this bathtub listening to pop music and you’re both just staring at me. Can I have like ten minutes by myself?
They chuckled. Evan gave me a kiss. They closed the bathroom door and left me to my tub to have a moment alone with my baby. This part sounds so dorky, cheesy, whatever… but there I was in the tub, breathing through these contractions, with my eyes closed, when Fifth Harmony’s “Down” came on. I know!
But knowing my baby had to move down and that’s all I wanted for them to do, having that song come on just sent me to tears. Laughing, loving, connected tears. I spent about fifteen minutes in that tub, crying powerful tears, really connecting and feeling supported by this being within me. I just felt like, “We can do this. I love you so much.”
Coming out of that trance, I continued a text conversation with my best friend, Lisa. She asked if I was feeling okay.
– the contractions are getting real. I’m feeling good head-wise, though. this is all a trip.
– Real contractions mean they are almost here! You are doing amazing I’m so proud of you 😘❤❤
– thank you!! I feel like I’m real close to an epidural.
This was the first time I had mentioned an epidural to anyone. Unbeknownst to me, Barbara was out in the delivery room asking Evan how set I was on a natural birth. He told her that I’m stubborn enough he could see me going natural, but also that I like drugs enough and don’t really feel like I have anything to prove that he could see me getting an epidural.
I got out of the tub. Went back to the delivery room and stood on the side of the bed. Without telling Barbara or Evan, I had decided I wanted an epidural. I had gotten the gist of what natural birth was about and I was good. But I really wanted Barbara to suggest it, not me. (This is where my stubbornness showed itself.) So thus began the game of chicken my doula and I played with each other. She wanted it to be my idea and I wanted it to be her idea. Like, “Oh, epidural? Yeah, I think I’ve heard of it. What the hell—let’s give it a go!”
Meanwhile, my contractions were HURTING. They were coming in earnest now. I couldn’t talk through them anymore. I was doubled over when they came, moaning and yelling. Between contractions, I danced around the word “epidural.”
– So would it make things faster or slow things down if I got… some… assistance… what’s that word?
– Oh, an epidural? Do you want one?
– I’m not sure.
– Well, do you want to be more present for the birth of the baby?
Of course the answer to that question is “yes.” And I thought that meant doing this whole thing without the good drugs. So I took a deep breath and said…
– Yes. I want to be present.
– Then get the epidural. You’ll be too worn out to be present if we keep doing this without an epidural.
I was elated to hear this news. (To be clear, I know women who have natural births have been present for the whole thing, but Barbara saw in me that I would be too worn out.) I was still kind of wondering if I could do it naturally. So we decided to get my cervix checked. If I was much closer to the 10cm I needed to be to push, maybe I would just do it naturally. So we decided if I was close to 8cm and the baby had moved down, I would keep going. If I was still around the 5cm (which I doubted), I would get the epidural. I called for the nurse, asking for someone to check me. The nurse came in and checked me. I was at a whopping 5.5cm and basically screamed for the epidural.
– LET’S GET THIS EPIDURAL GOING.
It was the longest ten minutes of my life. Once you know relief could be on the way, those contractions were brutal. The anesthesiologist FINALLY came in and I folded myself in two horizontally on the bed. I held Barbara’s hands tight as she helped me breathe through my fear of needles. She had prepped the doctors and nurses for this fear and helped me through this and was amazing. Evan was there telling me how incredible I was doing.
And then it was in! And then it didn’t work. It wasn’t working. It had made one side of me numb, but I could still feel the contractions. Basically this was the worst case scenario. Now I couldn’t move, but I was still feeling everything. The anesthesiologist came back and acknowledged this known problem. She redid the epidural and it instantly was better. Thank god. Thank god.
We were getting into the evening time and everyone decided I needed a nap and they needed a break. I said I was going to put my headphones in and take a nap. Everyone kind of assumed I was going to listen to my hypnobirthing tracks, but Evan looked at me and said…
– You’re going to watch an episode of the Office, aren’t you?
I responded with a tired grin/nod and he kissed me.
I woke up to a new doctor on shift. Dr. Lorentz was the doctor who treated me when I had that bleed and we all thought the babe was going to come via emergency c-section. I love Dr. Lorentz. She checked to see how dilated I was and I had quickly gone to 8cm! But the baby still hadn’t moved down as much as we wanted, so we just kinda stayed the course.
Evan helped move me from side to side or move my legs when the numbness was getting to me. This was a bit of a waiting game into the night. I really wanted to have the baby on the 16th, so they could be a part of our club. Their birthday would be March 16th; Evan’s is April 16th; and mine is May 16th. I figured, if I get to choose the date I give birth (induction), I’m choosing the 16th! But I should know by now that going with the current is the only expectation I should have.
The babe just wasn’t moving down. I got to 9.5cm around 11pm, but we needed more to start pushing. So Dr. Lorentz suggested we up the Pitocin and see what happened. I nodded. She left. I started crying. Evan asked me what was wrong.
– This baby isn’t ready to come yet and I’m kicking them out of their home!
Evan rubbed my head and told me…
– Our baby just loves the home you made for them so much. They are so excited to come meet us, but they are also so cozy in the nice home you made for them.
That worked. I settled down. Felt better. And took another nap. Around 1am, the baby was in the perfect position. I was dilated 10cm. We were ready to push. Our nurse—who was aptly named Lisa—got excited. I asked her if I was gonna be pushing for three hours and she told me…
– Hell no. We will get this baby out way before you push for three hours.
There were lots of “eehdunno” little-girl-shrugging moments throughout this process, but the biggest one was when it came to pushing. I was like, “Wait. I have no idea what I’m doing here.” And pushing a baby out of you is HARD. The doctor gave me a little pep talk before we started and I told my team…
– Okay, I’m gonna want my playlist. I want to treat this like a big running race and I’m going to need my jams.
The nurses, Dr. Lorentz, Barbara, and Evan were on board. We blasted music and they taught me how to push. Phew! What a workout! It took me a while to get the hang of it. The first 45 minutes were super hard. Songs would come on and Evan and I would smile to one another. Everything from the Decemberists to Cardi B played. The nurses were dancing. In between pushes, I sang along to Beyoncé lyrics. When I really got things going, Tom Petty’s “Time to Move On” came on. It was perfect.
I was getting exhausted. Why hadn’t I worked out a little more through pregnancy? This was so hard. Soon, everyone got so excited, because they could see the head! They asked if I wanted a mirror—yes! I thought it would be this little hand mirror or something, but they bring in a full-on “mirror mirror on the wall” kinda full-length mirror! I couldn’t wait to see what everyone was so excited about, but when I saw only a tiny sliver of hairy baby head, I thought, “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
We took a little break and Barbara set up this bar over my bed so I could try a different way of pushing. This was the ticket! I responded so well pushing this way—it involved me pulling up on a sheet with my arms. Dr. Lorentz told me to stay the course and keep going and she’d be back in a bit.
Lizzo’s “Like a Girl” played and I felt invincible. It was like I had a runner’s high. I pushed as hard as I could. A little while later, Baby Dayliner’s “You Push I’ll Go” played and Evan and I laughed. I was pushing. It was time to go.
Dr. Lorentz came back in and almost tripped over herself when she saw the progress…
– Stop! Stop pushing! The baby’s coming and I have to get my gear on!
She had me stop mid-push so she could suit up. Evan got down on the business end of things to “catch” the baby. Everyone kept telling me to look in the mirror—to watch the baby come! Lizzo’s Soulmate came on and it was perfect.
Evan yelling, the nurses encouraging, everyone saying…
– The head! Here they are! Oh, the shoulder! You’re doing great!
At 2:58am, after two hours of pushing, I pushed once more and Evan yelled…
– It’s a girl!
And he put her on my chest. Our daughter. She was so beautiful. She was so perfect. She had so much hair and was so chunky… just like I knew she would be. And she was a girl! Just like I knew she would be. She was 8lbs 10oz, 20.5 inches. I was instantly glad I was induced—she was a big baby.
As soon as she was on my chest, Drake’s “Started from the Bottom” came on and everyone in the room laughed. One of the nurses said, “Started from the uterus, now we’re here!” It was perfect. I held my baby girl close and Evan and I laughed—a scene she surely found familiar.
The next hour completely affirmed induction was the right choice. As I was swooning over my new baby, my placenta wasn’t budging—it wouldn’t detach. My placenta was on bad behavior. Dr. Lorentz told me she was going to go up there and get it herself and that it was gonna hurt.
Hurt it did. It was the worst part of the whole thing. Turns out I would’ve had to get an epidural anyways! They also gave me Fentanyl. And then Dr. Lorentz went in there and detached my placenta herself. I held on to my baby girl and just screamed curse words as it happened. But then it was over and we were all together.
A nurse asked if we had a name yet. I told her not yet. I turned to Evan…
– What’s her name?
He looked at me confused and smiled with a definite knowing…
Marcelline was my grandmother’s name. It’s my sister’s middle name. My niece’s middle name. It is the name I have always wanted to name a daughter. Somehow it felt too easy, which meant it was perfect. She was Marcelline. She is Marcelline Jeanne. Jeanne is Evan’s aunt’s name and we just love her and the name. Our daughter is Marcelline Jeanne. Marcie Jeanne. Marcie. MJ. There are many lengths to choose from. All of them feel like parts of us from all over the world. And they feel so much her.
She was born on Saint Paddy’s Day. It was the same birthday as her great-great-grandmother Della’s birthday. Della was the OG Marcelline’s mother, so I think everyone in Heaven is very pleased with this birthday, this name, this girl.
We FaceTimed our families. The scene repeated itself: the ringing noise, an answer, pitch black, with croaky/excited, “Hello! Hi! We’re here!”s. It was the middle of the night and we were calling to introduce everyone to Marcelline. Because—and I’m crying again as I type this—they couldn’t be there.
It was still a heavenly day.
March 17, 2020 also just so happens to be Evan and my ten year anniversary of being together. At a St. Paddy’s party back in Wilson, Wyoming, we decided we were going to be together. And in the instant we decided we were going to be together, I really feel like Marcelline was there with us. Throughout all the big and small adventures, the celebrations and the heartbreaks, the thousands of laughs, the countless dance parties, the love that kept growing—she was there. With us. And she decided to make her true debut a cool decade later.
We’re so happy to have you here, Marcelline. Thank you for making me a mother. I really like it. I really love you.