I was talking to a lady (@NurturedChild) on Twitter a few months back and she suggested that writing my ‘Birth Story’ would be a good way to deal with the emotional angst I had towards the experience. I have been thinking about doing so ever since but I couldn’t figure out where to start. Then I realized I needed to start at the beginning so here we are. See My Journey to Mommyhood: Trying to Conceive , My Journey to Mommyhood: The Test I Had to Pass and My Journey to Mommyhood: Pregnancy to read from the start.
This is where it’s going to get really hard for me. I feel I should issue a disclaimer here that my husband is a very caring supportive man (in his own way, which sometimes doesn’t line up with my expectations). He loves me more than even I can comprehend and this post is in NO WAY meant to demean that. I just have to be true to this process and in doing so hopefully heal some of the hurt and anger I have towards my experience. In order to do that fully I have to be completely honest about my feelings and how I felt then in those moments.
So as you know we entered the final days of my pregnancy without any hope of having our family with us. We had opted against a doula because it hurt D’s feelings and we wanted to share our experience just between the two of us. I was okay with this going in but had a lot of fear about making the wrong choice. Even so, I felt prepared and ready after having attended all of our prenatal classes and touring the hospital. I felt comfortable there in the rooms where we would welcome our baby into the world.
I should probably mention before I get started that everybody thought we were having a girl. We did a baby pool both at work and with our families and the guesses were probably 90-95% in favor of a girl! This both excited me and terrified me. I always wanted a girl, maybe because I never had a sister, but I didn’t know anything about caring for a girl baby, maybe because I never had a sister!
Everybody always asks what the “plan” is when you are having a baby. How would you like things to go if you had your choice. Well for starters I wanted a midwife, or at the very least just about any doctor that wasn’t the one I ended up with. OK on to what we can control (yeah right). I knew I didn’t want the epidural. I was not opposed to using drugs in general but I have a huge fear of being frozen. Going to the dentist is difficult enough for me I can’t imagine not being able to feel the bottom half of my body. The mere thought of this would cause me to have an anxiety attack, and that fact is the only reason my Dr. stopped scoffing at me when I stated the no epi clause in our agreement. Yes I said “stopped” scoffing he actually did the “you don’t know what you’re talking about cough” when I told him I was opposed to it. I also didn’t want to have other things like an episiotomy or the use of the vacuum or forceps if it was possible to avoid them. D’s reaction to all this was that I was a bit crazy and he didn’t think I could get through it without drugs. I reminded him that I didn’t say “No Drugs” I simply didn’t want the epi and if the words C-Section came up I may just pass out on the spot. (I’ve never had surgery or broken bones and this was to be my first hospital stay EVER) So aside from the things I wanted to avoid, I was open to just about anything because really, you can’t plan this stuff, it just happens. If I had to give you a picture of what I had envisioned though, it would be like the movies where it’s hard but you have somebody there holding your hand and talking you through it, you survive and everybody goes home happy.
What ACTUALLY happened:
I worked my last day on July 5, 2010, as planned. I went home as I always do. Following routine I loaded the dishwasher and checked up with my friends and family online. I also went ahead and filled out the online application for my maternity leave. By the time this was all said and done, D was home and having his afternoon nap on the couch (apparently my pregnancy made him really tired). I decided that I would go lay down too so I snuggled up with my feet on his lap, turned down the volume on the TV, and rested my head against the pillow. Then it happened. About 3.2 seconds after I closed my eyes and exactly 5 minutes to 6pm I got a shooting pain through my abdomen and my stomach tightened up. This was NOT Braxton Hicks; this was the real deal. My baby was coming I just knew it! I laid there waiting, unable to close my eyes and sleep from excitement. The contractions continued every 10 minutes or so until D woke up about half-an-hour later. I told him something was different and that I thought we were going to meet our baby soon. He told me “No, it’s not time yet.”
We went about making dinner and I began pacing and tidying things around the house. I was anxious and excited and the contractions were stronger but not hindering me at all. I had heard that you should keep moving so I tried my best but looked silly to D who kept shaking his head at me. When dinner was ready we sat down to eat and the contractions STOPPED. I was extremely frustrated. I just knew in my heart that this was IT and they stopped? I began cleaning the dishes and started pacing like a mad fiend trying to get them going again. I tried squatting I tried lunges I tried everything. They just up and disappeared and I was mad but what could I do? I was doing everything we learned in the prenatal classes. When I told D that I’d stalled out he said “Well, I told you, it’s not time”. It took everything in me not to smack him upside the head with a frying pan. Seriously? I’m exploding with baby and beyond ready to have this over with and you’re gonna stand there all smug and say “I told you so”????
Okay I knew I needed to relax, so I suggested we watch a movie. After all it was starting to get late and I really didn’t want to be up all night so I told myself it was for the best that I didn’t have to do that and could get a good night sleep instead. I should have known I would be back asswards as far as how things are supposed to go and how things were going to go (story of my life much?).
The contractions started back up and by the time we were ready for bed they were every 5-7 minutes but mostly every 5, so I insisted we go to the hospital to be sure. It was around 10pm I think and D was not pleased because “It’s not time yet” and he thought I was being silly. I wasn’t trying to be silly, I was in a lot of pain and I knew I couldn’t sleep through it and who knows how fast I could go from this to pushing? I was scared of having it at home on the floor with no professionals around. First time mom here! It’s not like I know what’s going on.
He brought me to the hospital and we had to walk all the way down the block from where we finally found parking. Okay, I waddled, he walked. I couldn’t keep up, I felt silly waddling along behind him. We got to L&D and they put me in a room. They came and checked me and called the doctor to make the judgment call on if I should stay. I was excited to be there, I didn’t think for a second that they’d send me home, I was in so much pain and definitely in labor they had to keep me. WRONG. We were told that I was only 1cm (same as I was days before at the doctors office) and that they did think I was in labor but there wasn’t much they could do for me at that point. They offered to get me something for the pain but I didn’t want to be drugged up before it was even time yet. When the nurse left I looked at D with exasperation and wanted to cry and he said “See, not time yet” proudly, while I fought back my tears. He was kind enough to go get the truck and pick me up at the door, maybe because they had confirmed I was in fact in labor? Or maybe he was just having a “nice guy” moment. While he was gone one of the ambulance attendants talked to me about it and she told me I’d ‘know’ when it was time and that it would be okay. I wanted to scream.
We returned home around 11pm and I tried to snuggle on the couch with D and rest. Things had slowed down since we got to the hospital and I thought I might have a chance of getting some sleep but I really needed to be close to D. I was trying to draw on his strength to get me through and relax me so I could rest. About 5 minutes after laying down the contractions were back on full force and then some. Still only about 5-7 minutes apart though, and we were told to come back when they were 3-5 minutes apart lasting a minute each. I still tried to relax and sleep. I think I did for 20 minutes or so before the contractions took over and I just couldn’t stand it anymore. I began to moan and reached for D’s hand. Unfortunately he’d fallen asleep and when you wake him up he’s grouchy. I figured I’d be better off to let him get his rest so I went down the hall to our room where I tried to get comfy on the bed.
I spent the next two hours moaning and rocking in bed. The sounds escaped without permission. I found that letting my tummy hang was the most comfortable so I eventually stood up and leaned over my dresser. I’m surprised there’s no claw marks in it. At this point I pretty much lost touch with my surroundings. I know both the cats were in the room with me and it was dark and I could hear D snoring in the living room but each time I felt a contraction I just rocked and sobbed until it was over. I wanted to go wake D and tell him it was time but I couldn’t bare it if they told us no again so I kept waiting, and rocking, and sobbing. At about 3am I had the presence of mind to realize they were getting faster and tried to time them as best I could. I think it was around 3:30 when D finally woke up and came to our room. I told him it was time to go and he said he didn’t think it was but he didn’t look as certain as he had the first time. I told him I didn’t care I wanted to go NOW.
We left for the hospital and I tried to calm myself but all the sobbing had really done a number on me. I was dropped off at the entrance. I told him I would meet him there and he went to go park. I made my way to L&D for the second time and I prayed I wouldn’t be sent home. They took one look at me and put me into the room where they check you to see how far along you are. D met me in this room but he’d left all our stuff outside in the truck. He thought we were going home again. I was so frustrated but I couldn’t even think about it because another contraction was coming and I was crying again. The nurses asked if I wanted some gas and I agreed to try it. One of them checked me while the other went to get the gas. I was at 3cm. They were letting me stay. I was so relieved I cried some more. The gas arrived and they showed me how to use it. Between the awful taste and the way it made my mouth numb I thought I would be sick and pushed it away. They told me to try a couple more breaths. It would get better if I gave it a chance. It didn’t. Pain option one was in the toilet.
We were moved to my labor room quickly and D went out to retrieve our bags. The nurse asked if I would like to try being in the tub and I agreed. Anything to get me to dilate faster and get this over with. I was laying in the warm tub of water when D came back. The contractions got angry while I was in there. They got faster and harder. I told them I felt sick and they brought me a bucket. I laid with my face against the cold tub failing to keep the tears from streaming down my face. I felt something pop, it was just my plug. I don’t have any idea how long I was in there for, but it was long enough to warm up the water twice.
When I got out I felt better like getting out of the water helped. I had a few minutes where I could talk to D and ask him where my purse was. They asked if I wanted something to drink and I realized I was very thirsty. FYI – Orange juice is NOT a good option at this point in time even if it is your favorite. About 30 seconds after that juice hit my stomach it made the trip back out and OJ is a little too acidic for that kind of adventure. D held me up while I rid myself of that stupidity, then he helped me to the bed. He was sent to get me ice chips instead and the nurse went about preparing the room with the things they would need. By the time he got back I was clinging to the bed rail for dear life and sobbing again. They offered me a drug that would ‘take the edge off’. I agreed and the IV was quickly attached and the drug was given.
I’m not sure exactly when I felt the medicine kick in. I know I was in a lot of pain and that I assumed it wasn’t working. Looking back I know that it was but it made my thoughts really ‘fuzzy’ so I apologize but this is when it gets a little sketchy for me.
I don’t know what time it was. I know I laid on the bed with my arms wrapped around the bucket because I still felt ill and didn’t want to give it up. I know D was giving me ice chips and at one point he had the cup swinging against my arm (he’s a drummer so everything he does has a beat to it) and I shoved it away telling him to get it off. Apparently my incoherent requests to move it had gone unheard (understood?) and this surprised him. I know the drugs helped me rest a little but I was awake with my eyes closed the whole time. I know that I screamed and cried a LOT.
The nurse checked me around 6:30am I think and said I was “almost there” and we just had to wait for the doctor. I sobbed some more that it wasn’t going to end yet. Knowing MY doctor I’d be waiting till he took his sweet time to have his coffee before coming to my rescue. I think he arrived around 7am and decided he needed to break my water. Apparently it takes quite a while to organize this process because it wasn’t until after 7:30am that he actually came in to do it. I remember thinking “No, don’t it’s going to hurt” and nobody told me that it wouldn’t. Nobody told me what to expect it to feel like. The fear choked me when I felt the water balloon inside burst and gush out of me. I clung to the bucket in my arms like it was a teddy bear and screamed.
The next few hours went by in a blur. I guess I wasn’t ready yet and we had to do some more waiting for the doctor. They told me not to push. The nurse told me to make that “Bbbb” noise when you blow air through your lips when I felt like I need to push and I tried. I did it so much that my lips were numb. Eventually somebody took my bucket away, maybe because they could see it digging into my arms and forehead where I would later have bruises. I held the bed rail instead. When a contraction would come I would gasp and try to do the ‘Bbbb’ noise and I found myself clawing my way up the bed, screaming that it wasn’t working. Nobody was listening. Once in a while I opened my eyes and could see D sitting beside the bed and the nurse bustling around. I was alone in my head though and the contractions were so strong. I begged for them to let me push I couldn’t stop myself anymore “Please,” I was so tired. The only thing I heard besides my own screams was the nurse telling me to breath when the contractions started, she sounded like my mom would have if she’d been there.
I don’t know what time they told me to start pushing I think it was around 11am but I can’t be sure. I tried laying down, sitting up, the squat bar felt right but I was to tired to hold myself up. Nothing was working. I couldn’t do it. The doctor came and asked me with his smug attitude if I thought that maybe I wasn’t having any success because I was screaming with each contraction. I responded with a not so nice “probably!” Nobody told me if I held in the screaming that it would help.
My phone rang around 11:45am. It was between contractions and I was able to take a moment to laugh that my co-workers were trying to find out why I wasn’t at lunch with them. I wished with every ounce of me that I had been. I didn’t want to be in the hospital having a baby. I didn’t want to be pushing and in pain. I didn’t want to be dosed up with this drug that was making everything fuzzy and dull in my brain and doing nothing for my pain. I was exhausted and had nothing left to give, but the baby was still on the inside so as much as I wanted to be somewhere else I wasn’t and this was happening.
The doctor said something to the nurse, she then asked me if I would like to try sitting on the toilet because it might help the baby move into a better position. I got up and D helped me to the bathroom. While I was there I pushed three times on the toilet and the baby moved I felt it, we were ready. The nurse told me that she knew I was tired and that they thought they should use the vacuum to help me get the baby out. I didn’t want to, I was about to say no but then she said if I couldn’t get him out soon I would have to have a C-section. I didn’t even think, I just told her we could use the vacuum and D helped me return to the bed.
When we got there, we saw tables of instruments and my heart started to race with fear. My fuzzy brain filled with images of a babies heads being mutilated by the suction and I was sick with guilt. Why wasn’t I strong enough to push him out? I looked at D for strength, they must’ve stopped giving me the drugs because I could see him now, he looked worried. When he opened his mouth to speak I thought ‘finally some words of encouragement lets DO this I have to DO this’. What he said was “Did you hear that? They’re going to give you a C-section if you don’t hurry up.” Possibly not his exact words but that’s what he said. Why, WHY does everybody seem to think that fear tactics are the only way to get to me? I told him of course I HEARD and to shut up! I took a deep breath and got ready to make this baby move.
It took 20 minutes roughly to get him out. I remember when he crowned that I learned what pain really is. I remember them frantically trying to get me to HEAR them that I needed to STOP pushing when all I wanted was to be done. Sure why not just leave me stretched as far as possible and tell me to wait; no problem! I was angry and I didn’t know why I should stop, but when I looked into the nurses eyes I could see it was for my baby’s safety. I stopped, I waited in agony for the next contraction and the okay to go (it seemed like forever really it was probably a matter of seconds). I pushed a few more times and relief flooded my body. I lay back exhausted as a body was flopped onto me. I glanced at the top of a head and my eyes closed and I began to fade into the relaxation of my body.
Then three things happened simultaneously that made me come back to the room. I heard the nurse say “the doctor is going to cut the cord now” (D was supposed to cut the cord unless something went wrong), the baby was lifted off me and taken across the room, and D grabbed my hand. I looked at him and watched as his eyes darted from me to the baby and back to me several times. People were flooding into the room, we could hear them calling the NICU to come assess the baby who still wasn’t crying. I had no energy to panic. My brain was racing, which in it’s fuzzy state was probably more like a turtles pace, but I managed to find words. “What is it?” I asked my panic stricken husband. “I think it’s a boy!” he exclaimed in an unsure whisper. I then began reassuring him it would be fine, but that if baby had to go to the NICU then he had to go with him and I would follow when I could. He refused, eyes darting back and forth from me to the babe like he was questioning who should have his loyalty. I squeezed his hand and got his attention and told him he was going and I would be fine! Almost on that command from my heart to his I heard my baby cry. It was like he was singing to us “La-Laaaa-LA”.
Finally a nurse explained that he’d been breathing funny at first but that he seemed fine now and he could stay with us but they would monitor him over the next couple days to be sure. Then the Dr. came to deliver the placenta and began fixing me up. I was poked with a needle where no needle should ever go so I would be numb as the Dr. stitched up my small tear. He asked if I could feel it but when he got to the last few stitches and I told him I could feel it now and began to cry, he proceeded to stitch until he was done with no care at all that I wasn’t numb in that spot. I was left alone after that. The room cleared out and I saw D carrying our little boy around. He brought him over to show me and he was so perfect. I was just too tired to enjoy him though and lay back closing my eyes.
I didn’t get any rest though, we were moved to a new room and I was hooked up to an IV to help stop the bleeding. Did you know that redheads bleed more? Wish somebody had told me that before hand, would’ve saved me from thinking I was dying when I witnessed massive clots coming out of me. We were left alone for awhile and D laid down to rest. I can’t blame him but as I lay there holding my sweet boy and listening to D snore, I was jealous. I was also peaceful. I sat there for a long time staring at my baby, taking in every detail and setting them to memory. I couldn’t get enough. I never will.
D took some pictures in the hospital, something I asked him not to do, but he insisted that he was only taking them of the room. I vowed nobody would ever see this photo and to this day only my mother has. I add it here now only because I think it is part of my healing to let go of the shame. I look like I was in battle, and I was in a way, so I guess there’s no reason to hide it anymore.