I keep telling myself to sit down & tap out the birth story before I forget every moment or detail, to take a moment to savor every second of the entire experience. Fortunately for me (or unfortunately for curious readers!), I’ve had a wee little lad to learn & snuggle the past 6 days…& just as promised by everyone, I can no longer remember my life without him. & every moment of this story is already fuzzing around the edges, only leaving the parts of pure bliss. & replacing the parts of…well, non-bliss…with “oh, that wasn’t so bad.”
& even in remembering those non-blissful parts, he is so worth it.
We began the crazy journey on Tuesday, October 13th at 8am with a phone call, & a 40-minute drive to the hospital, full of hope, nerves, & smiles from ear-to-ear. Holy crap. We’re having a baby. Like…THAT DAY. 9+ months of waiting & here were the final moments. Intimidating, much? Thankfully, our charge nurse was a hoot that immediately settled our nerves — she joked that at the rate he was going, he’d be the kind that would still live at home at 35 years old, asking me to make him a grilled cheese sammich without crusts.
45 minutes later at 10:30am, I was strapped in a hospital bed, hooked up to two monitors (one for his heartrate, one for contractions), & being stabbed in the left wrist for my IV. At 11am, the doctor came in, shaking his head as he retracted his previous 1cm dilation. “A fingertip,” he diagnosed. “Maybe a little more, but I think I can get the hook in to break your water.” & so I laid back flat on the bed, grabbed Doug’s hand, & braced myself for the knitting needle up the vag. A few wiggles, a lot of lube…& nothing. Water-breaking attempt #1 = FAIL. & so began the Pitocin.
aka THE DRUG OF SATAN.
The next few hours…boring. Minus the part where my IV had to be re-done & they stabbed me in the arms four times, making me look like a heroine addict. A few wee baby contractions & by 3:30, the doctor came in to attempt water-breaking again. This time with three different tools of torture. Attempt #2: knitting needle again. FAIL. Attempt #3: This crazy wire-looking monitor that would attach to the baby’s head, thinking the probe at the end would break the sac. I side-eyed it, he shoved it up the vag…& attached it to my cervix. I promptly screamed “HOLY SHIT.” FAIL. Attempt #4: Finger condom. When your doctor is rolling a mini-condom down his middle finger, showing you the prick at the end, it feels like an out-of-body experience. So my cervix got fingered, but don’t worry, we used protection! & my husband watched! He pulled his finger out, I asked him if he wanted a cigarette, & we waited to see if it worked. I stood up & DISGUSTING BROWN FLUID gushed down my leg.
That would be merconium from the babe. Which meant the NICU would have to be present for his birth which makes every expectant mother feel awesome. Not.
& so the waiting begins. & the contractions intensify. I finally get to 2cm thanks to the sensation of my butt nearly falling off & back labor. & at 5pm, despite only beign 1 1/2 cm, I begged for an epidural. I wanted to hold off — really, I did. Which is why I took the “drunk medicine” in my IV at 1pm to take the edge off & try to make it at least to 4cm. But that only gave me reminiscent feelings of past Pi Kapp parties for 45 minutes, so the back-stabbing doctor was summoned.
Stab me he did. THREE EFFING TIMES DURING CONTRACTIONS. I sobbed. Clung to the nurse, bent over her shoulder, & bawled my eyes out while he repeatedly tried to shove tubes up my spine. Five-year-old crying, complete with sniffling, boo-hooing, & laced with a few choice adult words. Poor Doug looked like he was 10 seconds from fainting or beating up the anesthesiologist. Thankfully, he did neither & the epi was finally in place. Except only a few hours in, we realized it wasn’t working.
Eff my life. I endured three stabs in the back for NOTHING?! & I would have been pissed except the only thing running through my mind was “MAKE THE PAIN STOP NOW.” Because back labor seriously makes you feel like your rectum will eventually fall out of your body & onto the hospital floor with a resounding, “Eff that noise, I’m outta here.” So the anesthesiologist was called again & bless all that is holy, shift change had occured & it was a new Sherriff in town. Who got the epi with one try.
& the waiting continued again. The OB shift changed & at 9pm, my new doctor proclaimed 3cm and 70% effaced, vaginal birth still 100% likely. But at midnight, we were still only 3cm. I cried. 13 hours into labor & only 3cm. How is this possible?? I’m on the max amount of pitocin! I grabbed Doug’s hand & sobbed that I knew, knew, knew they were going to slice & dice me. There was no way I’d make it through this. Frustration. Discouragement. Exhaustion. Starvation. I wouldn’t wish those feelings on anyone, especially not all piled on at once. & when the cramping in the ribs began around 1am, I begged for a c-section.
Cramping in ribs, you say? Oh, indeed. You know that feeling when you run a mile in the cold on a full stomach? & you get this cramp in your ribs & lungs & the wind is totally knocked out of you? Welcome to my new stage of labor, compliments of Harrison’s in-ute positioning. Since the pain was mostly on the right, we rolled me to my left & shot me up with a boost of meds in the epi. Awesome, for five minutes until the kid switched & the pain moved to the right. So we rolled me again. This game continued for an entire hour until I finally nodded off to sleep, praising God for a working epi.
Doug, bless his heart, sat by my bed for two hours, watching the contraction monitor. & still maintains that his respect for me grew ten-fold watching me sleep through some of the big ones. I remember the pain of them in my sleep, but they were not enough to wake me up. I remember thinking, “I shouldn’t be feeling these” through the fog of sleep.
At 2:45, I woke up. Screaming. Because dear God, I swore my ass was falling out of my pelvic floor. & I couldn’t breathe. Doug quickly turned me on my left side, where I grabbed the bed rail. & began to shake. Violently. & if you’re questioning how badly I shook, picture a grand mal seizure. Multiply that by 20. I kept promising Doug is was normal through my chattering teeth — I realized then that my epi was shit & like it or not, I was in transition & delivery would be unmedicated.
THIS WAS NOT MY BIRTH PLAN, Y’ALL. My birthplan explicitly said stab in the back, have baby as safely as possible, drink a martini. NOWHERE IN THERE DOES IT SAY PUSH BABY OUT WITHOUT DRUGS. Mild panic on my part for a minute. But then the mother in me kicked in & said, “Okay, this blows. But there’s no fixing it, there’s no going back, & this is what we’re working with. SO SUCK IT UP.”
The nurse came skipping in, confirmed the 9cm. I promptly said, “I have to puke.” She & Doug stare at me. I yell, “I HAVE TO PUKE.” Doug holds out his hands…& I obliged.
I puked in my husband’s hands. Hell, he held them out there! The hell did he think I was going to do? God bless that man.
Five minutes later, my feet are in stirrups. I’m mildly panicking. “You’re going to teach me how to push, right?” I ask. Because I’m an idiot. & so the pushing began. It wasn’t that bad, at first. Until the cramping kicked in & SWEET JESUS, I couldn’t breathe.
NO REALLY, NURSE. I CAN’T BREATHE.
So an oxygen mask is strapped on for Harrison’s sake (his heartrate jumped) & we flip me onto my right side. I push on my side. Ineffective. We roll me on my back & in a spur of genius, I put my hands behind my head to push. Dude, that’s what my PE teacher told me in 2nd grade — get a cramp in your ribs? Hands over your head! & so I pushed as such. (oh, & I threw up again in the oxygen mask, quite in the fashion of the Excorcist).
& thus enters the part that is so sacred to my soul, so burned into my memory — Harrison’s birth. As easy as it is to write about the process leading up to his birth, I find words lacking as a way to explain the incredible wonder, pain, & excitement of finally delivering my son. The pain & pressure crack like a whip across your back, requiring every ounce of focus & energy. Every time I gave up & stopped pushing, trying to pull air into my lungs, my OB demanded more. She never let me give up, never gave up on me, & never gave up on Harrison. & I am forever thankful to her for that confidence.
After an hour & a half, I saw the most beautiful head emerge. Yes, I watched in a mirror. I wasn’t going to, but my OB felt it would let me see just how close I was to give me encouragement & confidence. With Nate holding my hand, I pushed one more time…& my son was born.
& in that moment, so was his mother. The ordeal of birth, the trauma of delivery, the pain…all forgotten.
Doug cried. I cried. Harrison cried the loudest.
Forty-five minutes later, I held my son for the first time. & said, “Hi, Harrison. I’ve been waiting for you my entire life.”