For 41 weeks and 3 days, I thought about, prepared for, researched, and dreamed about the birth and delivery of my daughter. I had a very thoughtful Birth Plan (you can read all about it here!). I refused to allow others’ birth stories (good and bad) to effect what I envisioned for my own. I honestly can tell you, I did not spend this much energy on preparing for the bar exam. Every moment I was not working, I was thinking about and preparing myself for a natural, unmedicated birth. I was well-aware of what could go wrong, but I chose not to dwell on those possibilities. All of my preparation and planning could never fully prepare me. For what you lack is the ability to foresee or feel the magic that is about to take place.
Here is the abridged version of my birth story, which is 9, single-spaced pages! My plan was to give birth at the Cambridge Birthing Center with my doula, the on-call midwife, and my husband. This was the plan when I went into labor, at around 9:45 pm, 9 days after my due date. I labored overnight and slept in between contractions to prepare myself for the long journey ahead. Early the next morning, my husband called our doula who he had been in touch with the evening prior. When she arrived, she was able to check how far along I was because she fortuitously is also certified nurse midwife (and registered nurse). I was 8 centimeters dilated. (I allowed myself from time to time to envision birthing at home. But I would quickly refocus and think of the birthing center. I thought as a first-time mom that I would want to be in a professional setting, steps from a hospital. I also thought I would want to have a water birth, and ended up being completely repelled by thought of water during labor! However, if I was true to myself, birthing at home should have been my Plan “A” from the beginning. But, sometimes plans turn out better than ever expected!) After it registered that I was 8 centimeters (and 8 is very close to 10!), I said to my doula, “I don’t want to go anywhere. I am not going anywhere.” She didn’t skip a beat and immediately started preparing for a home birth, including calling on an additional midwife to support us.
My birth was magical. I say that with all sincerity. My birth was MAGICAL. I labored exactly as my body and nature intended. I did not have an ‘easy’ or ‘quick’ labor (17 hours in total; 5 ½ hours of pushing), but as a first-timer I didn’t know what to expect. Time during labor was ‘wibbly wobbly;’ I had no concept of it. I was in an alternate state of reality, charged up with perfectly balanced hormones that allowed me to rest in between contractions or push for long periods when my contractions never seemed to stop. I pushed in every position imaginable, guided by my midwives and supported by my incredible husband. Although my bedroom was light (as it was daytime by this point), it was completely dark in my memories. It was like I was at the end of a very long tunnel. I could kind of hear and see what was happening, but was not completely present. I even said to my husband at one point, after really listening to myself, “I swear this sounds so much worse than it feels!” Birth is very primal, and I was no exception. It was the strongest and most empowered I have ever felt in my life. And at the end of it, my sweet daughter entered the world. Two hours later, it was just the three of us (me, my husband, and Tillie), snuggled up in bed with no signs that I had just given birth in the very same spot a mere two hours prior! A perfect ending to an incredible journey.
Welcome, Matilda “Tillie” Artemis Dzialo!
Fast-forward 15 weeks, and it was time for me to return to work. For all the labor preparation I did, it quickly became apparent that I failed to do any preparation for once she arrived, or my return to work. No amount of reading could have prepared me for the physical pain I would experience hearing her cry. Or the feeling I get when I watch her smile and learn new skills. Or how even more deeply I fall in love with my husband when I watch them together. Or the hormone rush I experience when I nurse her.
I have now been back at work for one week, and two days. It is amazing how quickly we are all adjusting to the new routine. I love my job and using a very different part of my brain than I had been using while on maternity leave. My daughter is thriving at daycare, where she is exposed to music, culture, and other infants (Kaizen is part of the daycare’s mission statement!) But I miss her. I feel like a part of me is missing when I am away from her.
The notorious Ruth Bader Ginsburg has famously said, “You can’t have it all at once. Over my lifespan, I think I have had it all….” I think about this often. When I am at work, I am without my daughter and my identity as a ‘mom.’ When I am with my daughter, I am without my identity as an ‘attorney.’ As much as I both want a career and to spend every moment with her, I realize that is not feasible. I had to make the difficult choice to return to work, and sacrifice countless hours and ‘first times’ with her. But I know in the long run, this is right for my family. I was lucky that I had the choice of whether or not I returned to work. I am thankful for a partner that would support me no matter what I decided. I am thankful for a boss that was so supportive before, during, and after my pregnancy.
Returning to work was not easy. My first day back was hard – harder than giving birth. I cried, a lot. But the second day was easier, and now a week and two days later, easier still. It will be hard at times, but overall this is the best for our family. I want my daughter to thrive away from us. I want her to be exposed to more than I can offer. I want to be a mom, and I also want to be a lawyer. I truly love my job and my firm. I truly love my child.
I have it all, but just maybe not all at once…and that’s okay.