max turns two / her birth story / by emily starr alfano

 max one month before her second birthday / photo by  becca brendler photography

max one month before her second birthday / photo by becca brendler photography

 max as a newborn / photo by  hello love photography

max as a newborn / photo by hello love photography

 max at her first birthday party / photo by  ruth eileen photography

max at her first birthday party / photo by ruth eileen photography

hooray! our sweet maxwell rose turns two today. well not until 11:48 tonight. of course our world was forever changed at that moment but her entrance into the world was also quite memorable. and so i thought i would take this opportunity to finally {!} share her birth story. it was a wild one...

wednesday, june 8th, 2016. it was 3 weeks before her due date and 1 day before my 37th birthday. max had been lying pretty low for awhile {fun times i tell you} and if we got to 39 weeks, my doctor wanted to induce as my blood pressure was bordering on high. i had a check-up in the morning and was dilated around 2 cm. it was assumed i would deliver early but despite being uncomfortable and swollen, there were no signs of impending labor. fast forward to 7p that evening. bill was out at a work event in east boston and i was grilling a pearl hot dog for dinner {important detail because said hot dog made a reappearance later in the night}. i went to the bathroom and, TMI, it felt like i just kept peeing. given we were 3 weeks from the due date and it didn't really compute what was going on. plus, water doesn't actually break on its own and at home, right?! without getting into it too much, having your water break naturally felt like a really slow drip...for a long time. it wasn't that dramatic type gushing you see in movies or on TV.

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i tried calling bill but he didn't pick up so i called the doctor's office to determine if what i thought was happening was actually happening. the nurse assured me that it definitely was. i was asked if i was having any contractions {i didn't} and i asked if i could take a shower {i could}. she told me that she'd let the hospital know we would be there no later than 8a the next morning and advised me on what to look for in terms of length and closeness of contractions. we weren't supposed to go in until the pain was unbearable enough that i couldn't talk through it {again, fun times}. i finally heard from bill and gave him the news that we were going to be parents sooner than expected. he started heading towards home and since i still had no contractions, i didn't think he needed to totally rush. so with a towel in my underwear, i called my mom, set about finishing packing and got in the shower {upstairs}. bill came home and started his packing {most of his clothes are downstairs}. shower went fine and i thought i'd dry my hair. 

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about 10 minutes into that, i started feeling something that was clearly a contraction. it was bearable though so i kept moving along. truly within minutes, i was crouched on the ground in so much pain that i could barely call the nurse back to say we were headed in. mind you, this was at 8:30. my water started breaking at 7. i screamed down to bill and told him, just kidding, it was time to go. we got our stuff together and got into the car. our poor pup bruno was so confused but thankfully my brother came and picked him up not too long after we left. 

we made some calls to our parents on the way and in all honesty, we both thought we were having a baby in the car. when we arrived at the hospital at 9, bill had to deal with the valet and the bags so i was wheeled into admitting and it's such a blur, i don't have a great account of it. somehow i gave basic info and max's pediatrician's name and was taken upstairs to triage admitting where bill met me. that was even more a blur and bill wasn't with me for most of it. i know i took my clothes off, they did some basic stuff, and checked me. just 2 hours after my water broke, i was at 7cm. for those not up to speed on the joys of childbirth, 10cm is when baby is ready. for many, especially first time mothers, getting to 10cm can take days or not happen at all {enter c-section}. so on a pain scale of 1-10, i'd say 7cm was around a 9 for me. 

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now let me just say, i have serious respect for women who want natural births. i'm just not one of them. i wanted drugs. in fact i pre-signed an agreement in the final weeks stating i wanted all the drugs. so when i was brought down to a delivery room, we reiterated that fact and they went to work. despite the attempts from TWO anesthesiologists, the epidural didn't take. i was simply contracting too much and was in such pain that i threw up a couple times {thank you to the nurse who held my hair while standing over the toilet with all sorts of fluids dripping out of me}. they tried physically holding me and eventually got the actual needle in but the meds didn't take. i remember them tapping my legs asking "do you feel this? what about this?" uh yup. i could feel it all. and because she had been so low, the pain was made worse. bill i think was in shock from the whole situation and it was clearly difficult to see me in pain knowing he couldn’t do much.

meanwhile in the midst of all of this, we were told that our actual doctor wasn't on call {which we knew was a possibility and it's why they have us see all the doctors in the practice beforehand but still a little disappointing mostly because i love her!}. the doctor from our practice who was on call came in to tell us that he was being called into an emergency c-section which meant...the doctor who delivered max was someone we had literally never met. i do recall her being very kind, and blonde, and she said something along the lines of "hi, nice to meet you. i'm going to deliver your baby." we had to ask the nurse's afterwards what her name was {dr. lacey} so we could write it down!

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ok so as they continued to try with the epidural, it hit 11p and i said to stop because i knew i had to push. they checked me, said i was at 10cm, and said to go for it. there’s both a desire and a hesitance to truly push. to have your body quite literally be forcing her out but emotionally being like WTF. to actually push from the right spot, from your core is just wild. bill and a nurse held my legs and gave words of encouragement that i'm pretty sure i ignored because i was practically in tears. i was offered a mirror and surprisingly i said yes. i looked for a little bit but i was closing my eyes when pushing so it was rendered mostly useless. bill watched though. lord knows what was actually going through his head. but let's just say he got confused by whose hair was whose {TMI?}. i'm just thankful my labor was so quick because i was exhausted just from the whirlwind of the past few hours...i can't IMAGINE how you mamas who had been in labor for a couple days had any energy to push. 

after just 48 minutes of pushing, at 11:48p on june 8th, 2016, this perfect, crying, swollen 6 lb 11 oz, 18" long baby with a wonky left foot emerged and the next thing i knew she was on my chest. we named her maxwell rose alfano, after my great-grandfather max starr and bill's great grandmother. because she had been low and smushed for so long, her poor foot was at this weird angle and didn't normalize until weeks after she was born. i honestly was in a bit of shock while they were taking her vitals, shaking and shivering, especially while delivering the placenta, getting stitched up, and with all the pressing on my uterus to shrink it. mostly i remember being excited that she had her own birthday and wouldn't be sharing mine! when my water broke in the evening on the 8th, the natural assumption was of course we would have the same birthday on the 9th. i'm thrilled she instead shares a birthday with one of my very best friends and the son of another best friend. i actually go back sometimes to look at the group text with all my best friends and love seeing the responses when i told them i was in {early} labor. 

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at around 2 or 2:30 in the morning, they let my mom {who had come straight from her school's prom} and bill's parents {who had driven up from connecticut as soon as we said i was in labor} come in and meet their new granddaughter. by the way, october 2015 must've been a very "busy" month because the hospital was literally overflowing with babies coming into the world. so much so that they didn't have a postpartum room for us until well into the following morning {including a false alarm that involved a mouse}. so we had the pleasure of staying up all night in the same room where i delivered which wasn't the most, um, pleasant. 

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the next couple of days were filled with family and close friends visiting, a hospital room birthday celebration for me {it involved rosé and my beloved party favors cake so i was good}, and taking in all that had just happened...and of course what we were about to embark on. we left the hospital on a very rainy saturday morning with max and i in the back seat and a very nervous dad driving. the doctors and nurses and lactation consultations sent us on our merry way with well wishes and sentiments of luck and bill and i talking about what all new parents must discuss...how INSANE it is that they just send you out into the wilds of the real world and it’s now on you to figure out how the hell to take care of a another human being who is completely dependent on you. it’s pretty crazy. 

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women are often asked for their advice or thoughts on childbirth. so here's mine. birth plans? don't get too attached to them. while we never put together a true plan {other than, you know, the drugs}, it's safe to say it would've been thrown right out the window. i'm not sure it's possible to ever be truly prepared for labor and delivery but 3 weeks early and a 4 3/4 hour labor clearly caught us very off guard! and i most certainly didn't expect to have a natural birth, despite my mom reminding me beforehand that she had one with me. and even though there's nothing i could've done, i do have regrets. i had grand visions of a birth photographer and gifts for the nurses. i assumed i'd have a typical first time birth experience...but i didn't labor at home. and i didn't labor at the hospital either. i didn't touch that hospital bag until well after max was born. it was just a total whirlwind from the get-go. 

but..i'm also grateful it happened the way it did. i was just getting into that super uncomfortable phase of pregnancy and considering it was june, those final few weeks wouldn't have been the most pleasant. plus i was starting to think about {aka worry about{ what giving birth would actually be like. like most women, i've blocked out the pain. if i dig deep i can recall the general feeling, like i couldn't breathe. but it's in a far away place i can't quite reach. which, you know, i'm cool with. and not having an epidural helped incredibly with recovery. the quick pushing period also helped too. i was able to walk upstairs to our postpartum room and the days and weeks that followed were easier on my body for sure.   

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at the end of the day, she was the best damn birthday present i ever could've received and was quite clearly ready to join the world earlier than was planned for. she was a force then and is a force now. happy TWO maxwell rose. here are some of your highlights at age 2...

/ you dole out "love you" on your own, not just when we say it first. 
/ thanks to dada, you finally are a good {ok?} teeth brusher.
/ you love bathtime even more than before, which is saying something.
/ you LOVE being tickled and ask for "mo teeeckles". your laugh is pure joy. 
/ when we leave a class or being with family + friends, you say "fun"
/ music continues to make you very happy and you love singing. we can't wait for your birthday party next weekend with stacey!
/ when asked what you want for breakfast, you answer "beef." every single day. 
/ your only means of getting somewhere is to run...with a big smile on your face. 
/ you are curious and determined and free-spirited.
/ you call me mommy 99% of the time except for when i give you something and you say "thank you mama" {cue the heart melting}
/ you light up when your dada comes home from work. and are currently very fond of his new car "jeep".
/ you quite literally charm everyone you meet...from your aunts and uncles to your teachers to the random people passing by at target.
/ as friendly as you are, you save your most special qualities and actions for us. never am i happier than when you take my face in both your hands and give me a kiss. 

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ps. starting day 1 in the hospital i started jotting down thoughts + memories in a note on my phone. it included everything from nurse's names to instructions on how to bathe max at home. and i admit i've had to review it to remember some of what happened when she was born...and fill in the blanks with stories from bill and my mom and in-laws!

pps. once we got home from the hospital i started a new note in my phone {appropriately called "life of max"} that is essentially a glorified and ever-growing baby book with milestones, stories + funny things max now says. i highly recommend doing the same! it means anytime she does something i don't want to forget, i can immediately add it. because let's be honest, being a parent really messes with your memory.