My due date, June 9th, 2011, came and went and I found myself lying in bed the following Monday night, June 13th, with Scott, 4 days overdue, round, uncomfortable yet ridiculously happy and in pure disbelief that tomorrow would be the day we’d finally get to meet her. Our daughter! At almost 41 weeks pregnant, my doctor and I decided I would be induced. And on the night before my induction, Scott and I made it a point to play with baby girl’s knee through my tummy one last time, to enjoy the kicks and the jabs because it would forever be the last night ever that I’d be pregnant with her, sharing my body, watching Scott smile when she kicked his hand through my side, wondering who this little one was just below the surface. I slept 3 hours that night if I was lucky in between bouts of nervous nausea.
The alarm woke us at 5:30am and I started my morning with a big cup of coffee, a shower and lots of love for the doggies knowing that it would be a few days before I’d be seeing them again. Scott was up and about, too, pulling together a few last things for the hospital bag, taking some things out that we had packed months ago but probably wouldn’t need, and we both enjoyed the buzz of anticipation in what was to become one of the most exciting days of our life. I kissed the doggies goodbye and we were hospital bound at 7:00am.
Months before, this was so not how we had pictured our trip to the hospital on the day I’d give birth. Scott pictured a mad dash, screams, contractions, threats of having to deliver the baby in the car, cops trying to pull us over and him yelling out the window, “she’s in labor! heading to the hospital! can’t stop!” I pictured something a little tamer, but still not this. Here we were, laughing at how light the morning traffic was, how uneventful and anticlimactic the 25 minute drive turned out to be. We arrived right on time, 7:30am, and took one last picture of me pregnant, upright, smiling, and not in labor.
We headed to the maternity ward and were checked in and taken to our room. I was given a gown, poked with an IV and was introduced to our nurse, Sandra, who ended up being the best person I could have ever imagined being paired with for the journey that would be that memorable day. Sandra was awesome. After I was situated in my bed, she checked me and I was still holding strong at 3cm…no change since my appointment the week before. She hooked me up to a fetal monitor and a blood pressure cuff and someone else came in and took my blood. Only a half-hour in and I already felt official. And when I had to pee, it was nothing short of a major broadway production unhooking me from the machines and dragging my IV pole with me each time. And I couldn’t have done it all without Scott…he and I were a team, we were in this together.
The pitocin was started at 8:00am and I started having regular contractions right away, yet while they were coming every 4 minutes, I was in no pain at all. I sat watching my stomach harden into a tight ball to the right just below my ribcage…nothing at all like what I was told contractions were like for other people. My mom had said hers felt like someone was pressing down on her belly, though my belly must not have gotten the memo because it was contracting up towards my right lung. Scott was enjoying watching my line on the monitor rise and fall with each one, enjoying being able to predict a second before I could when the next one was about to start. We could also see other women’s contractions on my screen (see the monitor in the picture below) and it became a bit of a competition for me, enjoying the fact that mine were coming faster and stronger for a while, trying to predict who would deliver first.
My doctor popped her head in the room and told me not to expect to have this baby until the next day, after midnight at the very earliest because inductions can take a while, especially for first babies. She also made it a point to say that I should hold off as long as possible for the epidural, to wait until I was really truly in pain because getting it too early could slow down labor. So Scott and I hunkered down, popped in a movie and prepared for a very long day.
At this point in the day, despite the fact that Sandra had already seen me completely bare naked, poked my veins with a needle and checked my cervix, there were a few times during the movie that I thought, “please don’t come in now, please don’t come in now,” afraid that if she walked in at certain times, she’d be convinced that we had brought a porno with us to watch during labor. Not sure why I was suddenly shy about sex scenes after all we had been through in a short few hours. Note to self, maybe next time bring a movie that you’ve seen before so you know what to expect. 🙂
It was also around this time that I completely 100% regretted not eating breakfast that morning and dinner the night before. When you know you’re going to give birth, other things just kinda become less of a priority, I guess. And the big bag of snacks that we brought with us to the hospital was taunting me in the corner because I was only allowed clear foods and liquids. If there was any fear of me throwing up that day, it would no doubt have come out in the shape of a large cup of strawberry jello.
At 2:30pm, 6 1/2 hours in, my contractions were about 3 minutes apart and I still wasn’t feeling any pain, just the pressure of my belly pressing into my ribcage with each one. My doctor stopped by and checked me again and unfortunately there was little change, so she went ahead and broke my water to try to get things moving a little faster. The procedure didn’t hurt at all, just a quick poke and it was done. With the first contraction came a warm gush, and with the second came the pain.
Oh. My. God. The. Pain. I will never ever forget it, like a shock of lightning through a vice grip trying to crush my entire core. Instantly, every contraction I felt after my water was broken was excruciating, a pain unlike any I’ve ever felt before. I couldn’t believe how quickly it took over, I went from 0 to 100 in seconds after my water was broken, and it came on with a fury – the day, the room, the bed, my body – they all took on a different feeling, a different meaning, after that. I was instantly thrown into active labor like a jolt from the flip of a switch. Sandra told me to breathe through each contraction and to focus on relaxing my body, yet every ounce of my being wanted me to do otherwise – to tense every muscle, to grind my head into the pillow, to curl my toes and clench my fists and squeeze back, to hold my breath until the pain was gone, as if not breathing would make time stop and take away the electricity that was spiking through my belly. It took all of my strength to tip my head back, relax my jaw, stare at a spot on the ceiling and breathe slowly.
I lasted through all of a half hour of contractions coming fast and furiously every 2 minutes and at 3:00pm I pressed the call button and told them I was ready for my epidural. Luckily everything was set up and ready for me in the room since I had told them earlier in the day that I would definitely be getting an epidural, so in no time Sandra and Dr. Matthews, the anesthesiologist, took care of me and my pain. They had Scott sit over in the rocker while Sandra stood in front of me, me hugging her waist as I curled my body forward over my belly so the doctor could feel my spine. The actual insertion of the epidural, even considering he had to do it twice to get it in all the way, didn’t even register on the pain scale for me compared to the contractions I had been feeling, and I would get an epidural 1,000 times again if it meant never feeling that pain ever again. I can honestly say that if epidurals weren’t available, I may have never again considered having another child in the future, it was that intense. And after feeling maybe 2 more contractions, the meds kicked in and I went completely numb from the waist down.
And that’s when it got weird. If you had told me a month ago that the numbness from the epidural would be the #1 thing that would scare me the most during labor and delivery, I would have never believed you. I was told that I’d still be able to feel sensations, to still have some control over my body, but that was not the case. I. Was. Numb. As numb as numb can get. I couldn’t pick my legs up. And although it doesn’t make any sense in writing, while I couldn’t feel my legs, to my mind and body, they felt cold. And it scared me even more when I touched my thigh with my hand and it was warm, even though my mind was telling me that my legs were freezing. I kept asking Sandra and Scott how in the world was I going to be able to push if I didn’t have any control over my muscles. I was afraid I’d end up pretending, scrunching up my face and clenching my fists, but doing nothing more than just making faces and pretending. Sandra assured me that 1. I’d be able to push, and 2. I did have control, that if I simply thought about moving my legs, they would move.
Only they didn’t.
And the only way I was able to reassure myself that I wasn’t completely paralyzed for life was by moving my foot back and forth – it was the only movement I was able to make. So I laid there for a few hours, wiggling my foot, and getting reassurance from anyone that would listen that I was ok and what I was or wasn’t feeling was completely normal, though I’m still convinced that the epidural hit me harder than it was supposed to. And at 7:00pm just before Sandra’s shift ended, she came in one last time to check me and see if I had progressed at all. She asked me if I had felt any pressure down below, like the feeling of having to poop, and I had not. I reminded her that I couldn’t feel a thing, no exaggerations, and I still don’t think she was convinced that I really couldn’t feel anything, nothing, not one bit, until she propped up my knee (which completely freaked me out even more because I didn’t know she had moved my leg until I looked down, and yep, there was my bent knee) and checked me.
Scott says that the look on Sandra’s face is forever burned into his memory.
Sandra turned her head and looked right at him with wide eyes, and said with surprise in her voice that oh my God I was complete and she had to prep the room for delivery because the baby was right there. She also wondered how long I had actually been complete by then since I hadn’t been checked since my water had been broken 5 hours before. Knowing how fervorously my contractions had come on, I’m guessing I had been ready for a while.
She wheeled in a table, laid out the instruments, and just like that, at 7:15pm, it was time to push. Sandra and Scott each took one of my legs…my complete inability to lift them immediately threw all of our plans to keep Scott up top by my head, holding my hand and cheering me on, out the window. Up until that moment, I was afraid he’d be scarred for life if he saw some things happen that I maybe didn’t want him to see, yet I had no other choice and at that point, I honestly no longer cared. We waited for the monitor to let us know that a contraction was starting and with that, I put my chin to my chest, curled around my belly, and gave it my best shot. I still had no idea if I was using the muscles I needed to use, but with Scott and Sandra’s encouraging words telling me I was pushing perfectly, I gave it my all with each 10 count. 3 pushes per contraction, I ran out of breath quickly with each one and hardly made it to a count of 5 by the last of the 3 pushes.
After a few rounds, Sandra had to go. I couldn’t believe she made it that far with us only to miss the end, but it was what it was. And as I was lying there with Scott by my side and my gown up to my waist, in walked Nina, my new nurse for the next 12 hours. Introductions were quickly made…Nina, meet my whole world…whole world, Nina…and she immediately took over where Sandra left off, picking up my right leg while Scott had my left, and we worked as a team. Nina was instantly shocked that this was my first baby considering how quickly we got to this point in less than 12 hours and how fast the baby was coming.
My doctor came in the room around 7:30pm and was pleasantly surprised to find that we were almost there. A few more pushes and my doctor told me that she needed to make a small incision to make a little more room for baby girl’s head to fit. She did her thing, I pushed again, 3 times with each contraction, and at one point my doctor told me to look down…I saw the top of the baby’s head and part of my swollen body that I had never seen by just looking down before. It was awesomely disturbing and disturbingly awesome. The look on Scott’s face was just pure and utter amazement at what was happening in front of him and he cheered me on with every push. I know I couldn’t have gotten as far as I had without him there encouraging me to give it my all. My doctor told me that with the next push, baby would be out.
She was wrong. 🙂
Though one more good push after that one was all it took, and as baby popped out, I felt the most amazing sense of release as she left my body, kind of like untying an overinflated balloon and letting all the air out. My body relaxed immediately and I felt my insides sink back into place as the pressure of her little body in mine was gone. It was the most amazing feeling I’ve ever felt. The doctor placed her screaming wiggly body on mine for a moment so Scott could cut the cord, then they swept her over to the warming station to check her, clean her up, and weigh her. 7 pounds, 7 ounces they said, 20 inches long, and surprisingly, no cone head. I’ll never forget the look on Scott’s face when she arrived. He looked at me in a way that I’ve never seen before – adoration, amazement, and pride. He was proud of me and it made me feel like a hero. That was one of my favorite moments of the entire day.
Oh, that look.
All of her vitals were perfect and I watched as Scott went to her, to adore her, to take pictures, while I laid there as my doctor pulled on my end of the cord to deliver the placenta, a vision I’ll never be able to forget. Seriously, it was actually like a ridiculous cartoon as she pulled and pulled, what seemed like half a dozen feet of the rope-like cord being pulled out, though I didn’t actually see the placenta because she discreetly got rid of it below my line of sight. And as she sewed me up, I marvelled at my numb lifeless feet as they kept slowly drifting down the plastic footholds, completely out of my control. It was an hour before I started getting feeling back.
And when I finally said something after what seemed like hours though in actuality was more likely 5 minutes, my first comment post delivery was, “I’m not pregnant anymore!” It was such a happy feeling, the long pregnancy journey was finally over.
I was anxious to get to hold my girl. She had such a little lamb of a cry, and I had barely gotten a glance before they had taken her off of me after she was out. Finally after cleaning and poking and weighing her, they brought her to me, a little ball of beautiful baby wrapped in the generic striped hospital blanket, ointment on her eyes, her lips and nails purple like a plum.
She looked lost and confused and bewildered and amazed and all I wanted was for her to feel safe. So I did what my momma instincts told me to do –
I held her tightly, so close to me,
I kissed her cheeks, her hands, her face,
I told her I loved her more than anything in this whole big world,
and I wished my baby a happy birthday.