Meet Virginia Rose
This is the story of Virginia Rose Bagwell-Mastrocola, born in Brooklyn on December 31st, 2018 weighing 7 lb 8 oz.
Virginia is named after Sal’s late mother and I chose Rose because it reminded me of the South where I was born. A mix of both of our beginnings.
The weeks and days leading up to my due date, I assumed, like most first-time mothers, that my baby would be early. So I started powering down early.
Sal and I set up the nursery, I scrubbed and organized every corner of our apartment, I wrote my out of office manifesto for Diana and wrapped up all my ongoing work early. I gave myself an eternity of time to fuss and ponder and journal and nest. Like most CEOs, I over prepared. And when the days crept by and my to-do lists were complete, I felt like a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
With nothing left to do but wait I was analyzing every Braxton Hicks, inspecting every inch of discharge, and aggressively trying to put myself in labor with acupuncture and long walks against all my better manifesting instincts. I know to truly attract something we have to let it go, but I was tired and fat and ready to burst. So ready to burst that my hands were swollen and puffy because my doctor said my blood had literally no other place to go.
On December 28th, my due date unceremoniously came and went. I felt like I was going to be pregnant forever. One day later I felt exhausted, but nothing out of the ordinary. Knowing my water could break at any minute, I rested. I spent most of the day in bed, and at 4pm I started to get contractions that were 15 and then 10 min apart. Sal and I got excited and texted our doula, Susannah, the update. Maybe this was finally it!
She told us wisely to rest, sleep, and do nothing. My parents, who had been waiting for the last ten days in the downstairs apartment unit in our building came over for a crock pot dinner. I went to bed early, waking up here and there when the contractions turned up a notch. I woke up the next day restless, feeling like I hadn’t slept a wink.
Sal and I continued to monitor my contractions throughout the day, but they just stayed consistent, getting ever increasingly more painful and closer together.
By late the afternoon of the 30th my contractions were getting closer in time and I was in more pain than I knew how to handle. Tiny tears sprouted from the corners of my eyes and Sal and I called Susannah for backup. I was getting closer, I could feel it.
Before Susannah arrived Sal told me he had a surprise for me. He took out his phone and played me audio recordings of Linda, Alicia, and Clara Villarosa, Annie Wang, Crista Freeman, Amanda Goetz, Diana Matthews, and Marie Forleo - the women of Dream, Girl. They all wished me good luck on my labor, said they loved me, and couldn’t wait to meet my little girl. I cried again. This time in gratitude for the moment. While planning my labor I told Sal that in times of fear or anxiety I picture my tribe surrounding me. I knew no matter what came next, I wasn’t alone.
Susannah arrived a few minutes later, ready to calm and soothe. Sal took a nap while I rested my head on our dining room table and Susannah rubbed my back as we went through some deep breathing exercises. After a couple of hours of breathing, stretching, and bouncing on my birth ball, the contractions started to increase and I was feeling ready for the help of an epidural. However Susannah wasn’t sure our contractions were coming on fast or strong enough, and I was terrified to go to the hospital only to be sent home. She suggested I lay down on my bed with my back arched to help move the baby’s head down and speed up the process.
With Sal and Susannah holding each of my hands I let the contractions roll through me. I had been able to curl up when they fired, but when I was on my back it felt like I was being broken open. Something shifted and the pain I was feeling before was nothing compared to what was happening to my body now. I surrendered completely and started sobbing hysterically. It felt like I had tripped into another dimension. I couldn’t talk or communicate, I was totally focused on my body. Sal made the executive decision to take me to the hospital and my parents who had been waiting anxiously downstairs came up to drive us.
I remember someone putting my coat on me, walking down the stairs, and struggling to get into the car. I don’t remember interacting or communicating with my parents in any way. My mom later told me Susannah had given me some chocolate chips to get the baby’s heart rate going, and that when she came upstairs I handed her a melted handful of chocolate chips.
We got to the hospital at around 9pm and I felt more zen. I was four centimeters dilated and they were going to admit me. I was still in a great deal of pain but I felt relieved, and I knew the epidural was in my future. If I was interested in it before, getting it now was no question.
Getting the epidural was a quick and relatively painless process. Once it was admitted, it took about twenty minutes to kick in, and I was able to fall asleep for a few hours. I could still feel the very small waves of the contractions but for the most part it was a much needed pain-free reprieve.
However, to my shock, after a couple of hours the epidural wore off. The blow of my contractions was fast and furious. I was mortified. I thought this was going to ease my pain- what the hell was going on?! The nurses topped off my dosage, which would sedate me for a few hours only to fade away and leave me in excruciating pain. I was also starving. I had been having intense contractions for over 24 hours and was physically drained. I secretly ate a chocolate chip powerbar and a couple of handfuls of trail mix when the doctors and nurses were out of our room.
This cycle continued for another few hours until I was 9 centimeters dilated. The doctors asked if I was ready to push. For the duration of my labor I felt an intense pressure on my pelvis - almost like she was stuck or jammed against my pelvic bone. In most labor cases people tell you they feel the pain in their back, or have the sensation that they have to take a bowel movement. I never really felt like that. I carried all the sensation in the front, and have never felt that kind of pressure before.
It’s also worth noting that during this time I had about five different doctors. Every few hours the shifts would change and I’d be greeted by a new person in scrubs, and every time I’d think “this is the doctor that will deliver my baby!” But by the third or fourth doctor my pain levels were so intense I stopped greeting them altogether, let alone try to commit their faces to memory. At one point in the night I was half naked on all fours screaming like a hyena when one of the doctors came to introduce himself to me. I couldn’t tell you what happened to him other than he didn’t end up being my doctor.
In what I hoped would be the final lap of a marathon I got ready for the final phase of pushing the baby out. A couple of my friends said pushing was their favorite part of the birth process, so I was ready to engage in some relief after this long haul. My legs were held in place by Sal on the left and my mom MaryAlice on the right. Susannah was by the ready with water when I needed it.
Pushing is basically like it sounds- you use your body’s core to push like you are taking a bowel movement except while you are pushing you are also feeling the most intense pain of your life. The idea is to use the contractions that are opening your cervix with actively pushing so the baby can come out. I remember pushing with all my might three or four times and announcing that I was done, that I couldn’t do it anymore. The Park Slope midwives were at the helm of this process, and assured me I wasn’t done yet. They had a good cop/bad cop attitude mixed with morning show banter that soothed me. However, at one point one of them said this part could take a couple of hours. A couple of hours?! We were approaching forty hours of labor, no food, barely any sleep, and Statler and Waldorf over here were telling me this could go on for hours?
I bore down, screamed bloody murder, and crushed my husband and mom’s fingers. While I couldn’t see anything that was happening, my birth team could- and every time I’d push really big they would start to scream with excitement. They were seeing the first glimpse of my baby girl. Their energy and encouragement kept me going when I thought for sure I was done for.
Towards the end of the pushing process when it looked like the baby was almost out, the nurses swapped out parts of the hospital bed, brought in a big surgical light, and the doctor came in to deliver. She gave me a small incision so I wouldn’t tear or hemorrhage and with a few final pushes Virginia Rose Bagwell-Mastrocola entered into the world.
The doctor cleaned her off in what felt like milliseconds, and all of a sudden this slimy baby girl sat atop my chest.
She was finally here.
The first thing I noticed about Ginny was that her eyes were wide open, and a beautiful dark grey, slate color. She was making all kinds of noises, and cooing like a hungry dove which surprised me. The other thing that surprised me was that she had light patches of dark hair, and the most rosy tan skin. She had my round moon face and long Barbra Streisand nails. She was and is absolutely beautiful.
It’s hard to describe the intense feelings of love that come from holding your baby for the first time. A wave of relief washed over me, and a joy I’ve never felt burst through. I felt euphoric and insane and invisible and grateful. I couldn’t believe the mountain we had to climb to get here, and that forever more she would be with us. I held her close and cried celebratory tears. It felt like no one else was in the room.
What seemed like a couple of minutes later my placenta was delivered and the doctor stitched me up. I was so numb from the overwhelming feelings and adrenaline, I didn’t notice either.
After an hour or so Ginny and I were wheeled out of the labor and delivery floor of the hospital to the recovery floor. I held her close as we embarked on our new journey as mother and daughter. I’ve never felt more proud of anything I’ve done in my entire life, and I remember not making eye contact with anyone else in the hospital on the way to our floor. I wanted it to be just her and I for a few more minutes before we stepped back into the big world.
Even though I’m a new mom, these last 17 days have been life-changing. Every day brings something new as I get to know our little girl. I’ve felt emotional lows I’ve never felt before, and a deep sense of love and happiness I’ve never known in my life. Being a mother demands from you in a way I’ve never experienced. You can have no plan or expectation- every day is truly unique and calls for you to be present while it evolves. It also maximizes the joy of the every day. All of a sudden a few extra snuggles here, a smile there, or a couple more minutes of sleep can change your whole day. Even brushing your teeth feels like a luxury.
When I look back on my birth experience, which is now just a few short weeks old, the memories of pain and the exhaustion are already starting to fade away, and in a lot of ways don’t really matter. For her, I know I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.
Written by Erin Bagwell
Copy edited by Diana Matthews