BY: Cherry Maggiore – “The Freak of Nurture”
Chapter 12: Giving Birth at the Border of Crazy
MSP (Miss Sassy Pants)
The bluest, greyest eyes. With spider lashes that curl above and wink into my heart. I knew the moment you came through me, that you were the one.
What was I searching for when you were always there. Deep in my heart. Breathing. Waiting. For the moment for me to see you. To let you out.
I unleash you to the world and step aside, as your reign begins. Your sweet surrender is with strength and wit.
You let me lead.
But with knowing that you control me.
You are my master, my guide, my seer. I live for you.
You are not a child; you are ageless. Swimming through the ether with grace and kindness; you are the dream.
The world is better. Because you exist.
Written by Cherry Maggiore May 2015
The end of summer is here! It’s a time I both love and hate. It’s the start of a new school year, and there is so much to look forward to with all the holidays, but it is also the beginning of the busy season for my daughter at school and for me at work. MSP (Miss Sassy Pants) is about to turn nine in a few weeks and will be starting the fourth grade.
I wake up in a moment of reflection as I get myself ready to pick her up from her father’s house after not seeing her for two and half weeks. She was on vacation with him, and we are about to begin our week-long vacation in preparation for the new school year. I take this week with her every year so I can make her lunch, prep her supplies, and drop her off and pick her up each day.
It is one of my favorite weeks of the year. To see her off on her new adventure and watch as she walks in the front door of the school a little bit older, wiser, taller and more beautiful than ever.
As Livy (my 13-year-old cousin and fellow Daily Feels blogger aka The Lone Teen) and I get in the car, the air is warm with that fresh fall breeze, and the sun is peeking out of some big puffy white clouds. We open the windows and blast my road trip playlist; a compilation of anthem music plays as we exuberantly sing along. I’m feeling elated, lifted as I look at Livy and smile.
I am bursting to get there and smell her. To hold her, sniff her neck and kiss those pillowy cheeks that melt my soul.
I tell Livy how excited I am to see MSP that I feel like I’m going on a date…I’m nervous. MSP grew 5” this year, and she changes every single time I am away from her. Unfortunately, as part of divorce, you miss the daily growth, the little everyday moments. I mourn those moments but have trained myself to appreciate what I have with her. To treat our time together preciously and with sincere gratitude; I memorize every second.
Since there is no traffic, we are flying over the two bridges I need to pass to get to her. When we arrive at her Father’s apartment in Bensonhurst, I text him to let him know we arrived and then jump out of the car.
A minute later, my ex-father-in-law walks out of the house with his dog to take her for a walk.
I say “Hey, how are you?” My relationship with my in-laws is complicated, but I am always polite and friendly. I notice that he looks a little upset as he walks over to me, not making eye contact and says: “Cherry, you’ve been served.”
Then he hands me some papers…I take the documents and look him in the face and reply “What? What do you mean? What is this?”
With a devastatingly sad face, he replies “I don’t know what it is, all I know is that you are served.”
As my mind goes in slow motion, the exuberance I was feeling earlier is wholly halted, on pause. The line “you suckas got served” from the 2004 film, You Got Served, came to mind. I am a sucka, and I’ve been served AGAIN.
As my confused brain tries to process what is happening, MSP walks out of the door with her father. She runs out of the house toward me and excitedly says “Hi MAMA!!!!”
But then she sees my face and knows something is wrong. She stops in her tracks and asks “Mama, what’s wrong?” I muster all the strength I could and tell her “I’m all good Baby, just come here and give me a hug.” She runs into my arms, and with her face buried in my chest, I look right at him and mouth the words “You are a piece of SHIT.”
I am struck with a mix of hatred and appreciation. Because what I hold in my arms is a product of the two of us, but I hate that HE is the one. That I have to bear the burden of this man in my life who gets tremendous joy from torturing me. When the greatest joy in your life is intermingled with the greatest misery of your life, there will always be an intricate weaving of emotions. A tapestry of red-hot pain mixed with a vast ocean of deep love.
The thing that gets me is that he didn’t want kids. And we were married for almost four years before we had MSP.
After three years of being married, we bought a house on Staten Island and moved away from Bay Ridge. Our dream came true. We both grew up in apartments, and now we were homeowners. On our move-in day, he was a horror. Just a bundle of nerves, complaints, anger and throwing temper tantrums when something didn’t go right. He was having major anxiety attacks as of late, blacking out from them.
Alternatively, this is where I thrive…in change. I am eagerly at the forefront of pushing the envelope, always in forward motion. I led the home buying process from soup to nuts including managing the move. In addition to the nickname, Chupacabra of Joy, I started calling him the Mule. Just tell him what to do, and he would take on the heavy lifting.
After the move day fiasco, things got progressively worse. Eight months later, on Superbowl Sunday, I told him it wasn’t working and asked for a divorce (the first of four separations throughout our ten-year marriage).
His response was to rip apart every single photo of us and every photo album I spent hours putting together. He punched holes in walls. He yelled and screamed and scared the fuck out of me.
This went on and on for about four months. We didn’t have any children at the time, so when I went to see the divorce lawyer, we drew up paperwork that made the split very simple.
When I served him those papers, he went apeshit again. Then he had his friends calling and harassing me. Telling me how lucky I was to have him and that I was crazy to let go of the greatest man I would ever meet.
He wanted to make things work and he started to promise all types of things so we would get back together, including going on anxiety and depression medication. When he did, he began to have fun and lighten up. He was becoming a better man and making an effort to evolve his behavior.
At this point, I was 34 and was thinking about the prospects of finding another person to marry and then have a baby…there was NO way it would happen quickly as was getting up there in age. I was often reminded that I was nearly out of safe baby making range. So I convinced myself that he was getting better…and fuck, I wanted a baby. After a four-month separation, we reunited.
We started trying to get pregnant a few months after our reconciliation. It took a year to get pregnant…
The day we found out we were having a girl, he and his parents were firmly and overtly disappointed. But my dream came true again. They could steal the joy out of anything, but I would not let them take the happiness and privilege I felt at raising a daughter.
After my first trimester, he went off his meds without informing me, and his behavior quickly regressed.
He never touched my stomach. Didn’t talk to the baby who I called The Buddha. Wouldn’t make love to me (and by the way, NO ONE told me how much my libido would intensify during this timeframe. WTF!). He would barely come near me. He physically and emotionally abandoned me.
He took care of things, like renovating the room for the nursery, but he kept his distance from me. It was like I was in bubble wrap and he just worked around me.
Overall, I had a fantastic pregnancy. No morning sickness at all and I never felt better or more beautiful. The only challenges were a bout of indigestion or sciatic nerve issues in the middle of the night. I would sometimes wake up with Charlie horses…and in those moments he would pretend to be in a deep sleep, even while I cried out in pain.
I remember in my final month, I wanted to take the last picture of my belly, but he couldn’t or more accurately wouldn’t do it. He was angry at me for asking. He was embarrassed by my body for whatever reason that I still cannot reconcile. It still hurts when I see a man being attentive and loving to his pregnant wife. It breaks my heart. I am both happy and envious of her because unfortunately, I will never be able to experience pregnancy again. At nearly 45 years old, my baby making days are over.
When I was seven months pregnant, I started a new job. (Side note: I DO NOT recommend taking on two significant life changes at once. While I am glad I did, as I am still at the same company, it was a ridiculously horrific time adjusting to a new career and a new role as a Mom). Due to the stress of it all, I experienced Braxton Hicks contractions and given orders for bed rest by my doctor. During that time I tried to work from home, but I was getting cabin fever. The baby was now late, and I was on the clock.
My goal was to have a natural birth without medication. I wanted so much to experience the journey of giving birth to my baby and to avoid a C-section at all costs. The idea of having my stomach cut open scared the living shit out of me.
On Sunday, September 20th, 2009, I was home waiting for the Chupacabra to come home from his team’s football game. At the time he was coaching the JV team at the school where he taught (which also happens to be my alma mater). I was eager to get out of the house, now three days past my due date.
It’s important to note that no one tells you that you are pregnant for ten months. Not sure where this bullshit lie of nine months came about, but ladies I’m here to confirm it’s 40 weeks; that is ten months total.
When the Chupacabra comes home, he says “I’m tired, and I don’t want to go out to eat. Let’s order in.” You’re tired mother fucker? Are you kidding me?
With my back killing me, out of breath, tired and just plain bored. I told him to go fuck himself, and we proceeded to have a huge fight. At this point, I grabbed my pug Tiki and stormed out of the house into my car and called my cousin Deena (I still don’t know why I took the dog. I guess it seemed appropriate at the time.)
I asked her if we could hang out and if she would eat with me because baby Buddha and I were starving. We met at my all-time favorite pizza joint, L&B Spumoni Gardens. (For those that don’t know, it is the best Sicilian Pizza in all of NY, bar none)
With Tiki the pug in tow, we gossiped and hung out the rest of the day. After being all talked out, we called our moms, who are sisters, to see what they were doing.
We all decided to meet at a local Mexican restaurant for dinner. My mom told me that she read an article that eating spicy Mexican food brings on labor. One of the many tall tales I’ve heard throughout my pregnancy that turned out to be true. At this point, I would try anything to get this baby out. I was over being pregnant, and I wanted to meet my baby girl.
It was 11 pm when we finished dinner, and I still hadn’t heard from the Chupacabra, which made me even angrier. How could you not call your wife who is ten months pregnant with your baby while she is traipsing around Brooklyn with your pug? I was straight up furious. So I decided to go back to my aunt’s house to hang a bit more.
I wound up getting home to our house on Staten Island around 12:30 am and finally fell asleep about 1 am. I slept in the guest room as I refused to get into bed with him.
Just one hour later, at 2 am, I woke up out of a dead sleep when I felt a POP and then felt a pool of water flood out of me. This was IT!
I cried out to my ex-yelling from the guest room, “My water just broke, I know we are angry, but we’ve got to get over this and call the doctor!” The doctor told us to get to the hospital immediately, and so after I quickly showered, we drove at 3 am to the hospital with no baggage, nothing of what I had prepped. Once we got there, they told me I had 24 hours to deliver or there would be a C-section. I told the night nurse that I was determined to give birth naturally, so let’s get this going.
The second call I made was to my mom. It was time for the baby to be born and I needed her. My ex was not a fan of having my mother in the room for the birth, but I insisted. I wanted my mom there, needed her there. Mostly because I didn’t trust my ex to be present and take care of me. Secondly, because in the moment of becoming a Mom there was no other person more important than having my mother present. I was doing all the work, so I felt strongly that I needed my tribe around me during this extraordinary, scary and intense time. I wanted my Mommy. Get my Mommy!
At this point, I’ve had one hour of sleep. I refused any epidural and decided to walk around to move labor along. The contractions weren’t so bad, and I was able to breathe through them. With my mom by my side, I felt like I could tackle anything. With her support, I could get through this, and with her love, I would find the strength.
Suddenly, about three hours into labor the baby’s heart rate DE celled, and they made me get back into bed. When they checked my dilation at about five hours in, I hadn’t progressed much. So the doctor suggested getting Pitocin started which meant a catheter and being bed bound.
This was not good news. Once they started the Pitocin, which unnaturally advances labor and contractions, the pain was blinding. It was at this point that I began to vomit. While my mom simultaneously held a cold rag to my forehead, rubbed my back and held a bucket underneath my mouth to catch the vomit, my ex-was watching football and looking at his phone.
About seven hours in, I relented and requested the epidural. The only problem was that I had to wait two hours until the anesthesiologist finished a C-section. Lovely. Add insult to injury; the pain was so severe at this point I still hadn’t slept.
Finally, nine and a half hours into labor, the doctor came in to insert that insanely long needle into my spine and start the medication. As the first shot of meds makes its way into my spine, the pain subsides a bit, and I relax and tried to get some sleep.
Just as I started to drift off the contractions began to pick up again. The nurse said that I was dilating a bit more but still had a ways to go. As the initial run of medicine starts to wear off, I realize that only one side of my body is numb and I am now feeling every contraction full force on my right side, while my left is limp as a rag.
My God, this is insane. GET ME MORE MEDS! The nurse explains that I have to wait another two hours for the next dose of medication to come. And at this point, I am progressing quickly. The nurse, this angel in pink scrubs, literally never left my side, nor did my mother. The Chupacabra, on the other hand, sat there and watched this all take place, emotionally removed and wholly disengaged.
After nearly 12 hours of labor, I hit eight centimeters, and it was time to start pushing. Ok kids, game on!
Unfortunately, my uterus was not forcefully contracting. The doctor turns to me and says “You are going to have to do all the work. If you don’t want a C-section, you are going to have to push this baby out with almost no help from your uterus.”
I give him the death look, and then exhaustedly ask “what the fuck are you talking about?”
He goes on to explain, “The Pitocin advanced the contractions, and you’re dilating, but your uterus is just not cooperating. The baby’s heart rate is strong so we think we can do this naturally, but it’s all on you. You and your baby.”
It was at this point that my nurse turns to me and says “ok, we got this. I’ve had two C-sections, and I am not going to let you go through that if we can avoid it. You want this baby naturally?” I think to myself, is it natural at this point? Letting that thought go, I sternly nod “Yes.” She says, “ok, we are gonna get this baby out. I’m here and not leaving you for a second. I’ve got your back, and we are going to do this together.”
Somehow, her certainty and strength struck me, so I looked over at my mom, and she said: “you got this.”
So I was like, ok bitches let’s do this thing…I start to push. And push. And push. First I wasn’t pushing correctly…it was so hard because my legs were so numb when they administered the second dose of the epidural. But I kept at it.
After two and half hours of pushing, I am exhausted. Spent. Done. Remember, I only had one hour of sleep in about 40 hours at this point. I was going to give into the C-section…and then I started to crown.
The pain is so excruciating that I scream, “Get this baby out of me!!!!” The doctor looks up at me from between my legs and says “You need to be calm Cherry.”
“Are you fucking kidding me? Calm? A baby is coming out of my vagina.”
With my mom behind my head pushing me forward, my ex and the nurse on either side of me holding my legs back, I am basically an accordion at this point. Then the room explodes in a frenzy of activity, and the Nascar pit crew takes over.
They drop half the bed, about ten new nurses and doctors enter the room. New equipment is swiftly brought in for measuring and cleaning the baby. They completely transform the entire room in a matter of seconds, and then they all get quiet together and wait for me to get this baby out. At this point, there is no embarrassment that my vagina is splayed for all to see. I reckon they’ve seen thousands at this point and mine is no different.
It was overwhelming, to say the least…and in that moment, everything goes quiet and into slow motion. I turn to see my ex-yelling “PUUUUUUSSSSSHHHH”…I can barely hear the words, all I see is his mouth moving. My mom is screaming in my ear “PUUUUUUSSSH Cherry, Come on!” But it sounds as if she’s 50 miles away in a tunnel. The nurse is clenching my hand while holding up my right leg to help me brace. The doctor is at my feet flanked by the Nascar pit crew ready to catch the baby.
I’m pushing, crying, screaming and trying so hard not to shit the bed or vomit. The doctor looks up at me and says “She’s huge, I have to cut you.”
What the fuck?! “Ok, get her the fuck out of me…NOW!!!!!”
With two snips, she slides out, and I see my baby for the first time.
MSP and I make eye contact and then she starts crying. I hear her voice for the first time. It is the sweetest sound I have, or will ever, hear. My heart blows up. It explodes inside my chest. The tears fall quietly now. The pain a distant memory. I begin to sob; from relief, from joy, from pure love.
They immediately lay her on my chest to breastfeed and for bonding. I am beyond words. I look up and see my ex-crying. I see my mom crying. I see the nurse crying. Everyone is in tears. The baby latches and feeds for a few minutes. Then they take her away to be measured and weighed. They pump my stomach to get the placenta out and the next thing I know, the doctor pulls out sutures.
He begins to sew me up, and I could feel EVERY SINGLE FUCKING STITCH. At this point, the epidural completely wore off. He looks up at my ex and says with a wink of his eye “I put an extra stitch in for you.”
Oh. My. God. Is there no end to the misogyny? But I quickly refocus my attention on my baby. We name her, and they announce that she was 8 lbs, 8 oz., 21 ½” long with shoulders like her father.
My entire family is in the waiting room, and they all cheer at the news. My aunt Moomie witnesses her first bath and my baby girl is so calm in the water; my aunt predicts “She’s gonna be a swimmer!”
The aftermath was so intense and scary and crazy. It was a whirlwind. Every single blood vessel in my face and neck blew, and I had two black eyes from the sheer pressure of pushing.
After all the visitors leave and her father goes home to sleep, I’m in bed full of stitches, with a burning between my legs that felt like a forest fire. The nurses quietly bring in MSP so I can breastfeed her. Time to be a mommy. No rest for the weary.
I am all alone with my baby girl. Just me and her. As she stretches out on my chest, she looks into my eyes as her lips sweetly but eagerly pursue my breast. As she latches, I gasp from the pain and the pleasure of being the one to feed her as I did in my belly.
There is nothing else. Silence. And a single thought enters my head…love and pain are always intermingled. I experienced 15 hours of the worst physical pain I have ever felt, to now hold the love of my life in my arms.
And so, this is our journey. Even now post-divorce with a nine-year-old incredibly beautiful child. The pain I feel in dealing with her father is worthwhile because of the immensity of the love I feel for her. Pain and love together. Yin and yang. Forever and ever and always.
Cherry Maggiore is the proud single mom of her 9-year-old super-sassy daughter (aka Miss Sassy Pants or MSP) and 15-year-old pug baby (Tiki Barber); in addition to being an award-winning senior marketing executive at NBCUniversal.
Beside her side hustle as the Freak of Nurture, she also started a home design company after being inspired by renovating and designing her 1880’s home in NJ.
This insanely curious and passionate “multi-potentialite” can be found dancing the Argentinan tango, swing and Hustle every Saturday, cooking her family an Italian Sunday dinner, singing and air drumming at concerts or searching for her next adventure.