Wednesday, March 15, 2017
When I was pregnant with Oliver, I read so many women's birth stories, searching for clues as to what I could expect in the delivery room. Of course, every woman's story was different, and my own was nothing like I expected.
I didn't plan to share our story on the blog, but as the first six months have zoomed by, my memories are already getting foggy, so I decided to write them down. I doubt this will interest anyone but maybe a few expectant mothers, and to you I just have this to say: Your story won't be anything like mine, but it will be one of the greatest stories of your life—just like mine is.
Oliver's due date came and went at the end of August, and I slogged through each muggy day, feeling desperate for his arrival. My doctor scheduled me for an induction September 6, and up until then I did everything I could to nudge the baby out—long walks, eggplant, herbal teas—you name it. Of course, nothing worked. We woke up at 5 a.m. on Induction Day and drove to the hospital, where I was checked in and shown to my room in the delivery ward.
My nurse came in and introduced herself—she was a soft-spoken redhead named Melissa. She gave me a gown to change into, brought me some juice, and answered my nervous questions as I crawled into bed and she hooked me up to the Pitocin drip, which was supposed to kick-start my contractions. If all went well, she said, I'd be holding my son by dinner time. I prepared myself for the intense contractions Pitocin is said to cause. But nothing happened.
Hours passed. I heard women in labor screaming in other rooms as I traced a small path up and down the hallway, awkwardly dragging the heavy cart with my fluids behind me. My doctor stopped in several times to check on my progress—though my discomfort had increased, I had dilated very little. They kept upping the dosage of Pitocin, and I started to swell up like a balloon animal. Todd and I played cards to pass the time.
When my doctor came in at 5 p.m., she breezily recommended that I prepare myself for a C-section. I cried after she left the room, feeling that the entire day had been in vain. Melissa unhooked me from the fluids for the first time that day and told me to go get something to eat (also for the first time that day). Todd and I slowly walked down to the cafeteria, where I got a sub and some ice cream. When we returned to my room and they checked me, I had dilated just enough for my doctor to feel comfortable continuing with the "natural" birth approach—natural being Pitocin-induced. I got back into bed, and Melissa hooked me up to the fluids again.
As my doctor went home for the evening and Melissa's shift ended, I met my night nurse and doctor. Surely they'd be the ones to help me welcome my son into the world? I prepared myself for action. And sure enough, my contractions quickly intensified, and as the hours passed, I experienced regular waves of full-body pain. At some point after midnight, I told the nurse I was ready for some help with the pain, and she hooked me up to yet another drip. I passed out immediately, and blissfully, yet stayed conscious just enough to hear the beat of Oliver's heart on the heart rate monitor. If it slowed or stopped at any point, I'd wake myself slightly until it got normal again. When the pain meds wore off several hours later, I had dilated quite a bit more, the pain was intense, and I was ready for my epidural.
The anesthesiologist entered the room, and I was instructed to sit on the edge of my bed, leaning over. Todd held my hands as the doctor stuck a giant needle into my spine—I didn't watch, but Todd's eyes told me everything I needed to know. The bottom half of my body went numb, and the nurse helped me lay down on my side—and periodically helped me switch sides. I'd heard that I wouldn't feel any pain after the epidural—just pressure. Unfortunately, that wasn't true for me. I laid in bed bracing myself against the waves of pain, wondering how horrible it would feel without the epidural.
Eventually my night nurse left, and Melissa returned, surprised to see me still there. I was beyond exhausted, but happy to see her sweet face. She told me I was close, then told me how to breathe through the pain, and how to time my contractions so I could tell when it was time to really push. It was then that I learned that pushing a baby out uses the same muscles as pooping, when she told me to push as if I was taking the biggest BM of my life anytime I felt a contraction. My fears of pooping during childbirth intensified. With that, she left the room and told me to call her in when I was ready.
When the pain got dizzying, and the contractions got very close together, I told Todd to get Melissa in there—now. She checked me and confirmed that I was ready to go. She sat on one side of me and instructed Todd to get in position on the other side. Todd and I had both expected him to sit quietly beside me without too much involvement in the action, but that wasn't the case. He was very involved, whether we liked it or not. He and Melissa held my legs up as I pushed hard against their hands through each contraction. I tried not to feel self-conscious, but I was at first, and I didn't push as hard as I should have. Still, it only seemed like a few minutes before my doctor came in and donned her gloves, ready for the final moments. I couldn't believe it when they told me it had been an hour and a half.
It was right around lunchtime, and I wanted to scream as several other nurses entered the room for assistance and started chatting about their lunch as I laid there spread-eagled, pushing as hard as I could. Instead, I worked hard to center myself, to strengthen myself, each push getting me closer to meeting my son after 42 long weeks and however many hours of labor. His head started to appear—I felt its searing pain, but as I watched the shock on Todd's face I couldn't help but feel a little bit amused. The head was the hardest, most painful part—once that was out, it just took one more big push for the rest of his body to slither out like a wet frog.
They immediately placed him onto my chest, and I struggled to focus through the pain, craning my neck down to see him while trying to catch my breath. I reached up and felt his tiny slippery body as he started to cry, and somehow I moved him to my breast and he immediately started to nurse. I felt so grateful that he latched on so naturally. I tried not to fall asleep as I cradled him. We laid like that for over an hour. I was barely aware of the cleanup going on around me, the stitches, or when they took him away for a moment to weigh him and make sure he was alright. I was told that he was in perfect health, and again I felt so relieved.
Before having Oliver, I didn't know if I could do it. I didn't know if I was strong enough for childbirth. It was the hardest thing I've ever done, but I would do it again in a heartbeat—and in fact, I do hope to do it again one day, if I'm lucky enough to bring a sibling into the world for Oli. I have a newfound admiration and understanding of my own mother, and all the other moms out there that I know. Pregnancy and childbirth is the most insane experience—I can't think of a better word. And I don't think you can truly comprehend how insane it is until you've gone through it. As painful as it was, I feel so lucky that I got to experience it.