I had a baby last week.
I gave birth to a little child that my husband and I had been anticipating for nine months. It was a somewhat complicated birth, but also good in comparison to the problems that many experience. I began getting contractions on a Friday and we started timing them that evening. After about three hours of consistent contractions (we passed the time by playing Monopoly), and another hour of definite one-minute-long-every-five-minutes, we left for the hospital. When we arrived, I was monitored for a while, but we were told that I was only a centimeter dilated and that we needed to go home. The problem was that the contractions were so horrifically painful at this point that returning home felt impossible. As we left, the nurse gave us a discharge paper with notes on “Knowing When to Go to the Hospital,” which included having one-minute long contractions every five minutes. I told her, “How do we know when to come back? We came when they were this far apart.” She smirked, “When they feel like they’re knocking you out of breath.” I said, “I do feel that way,” with tears in my eyes. She said, “Go home and try again.”
Go home and [fucking] try again?
We went home. We tried again. By "tried again," I mean I laid in bed in excruciating pain all night, trying to get some rest, but I was actually just in tears, yelling out each time one of the vicious contractions came on. After laying awake for hours and getting no sleep, I got up at 4 am to take a bath, hoping the warm water might provide some much-needed pain relief that I imagined women having glorious, natural water births might feel. Nope. It didn’t help. The contractions were now just warm. Warm, squeezing contractions.
I'm not sure how to adequately describe how contractions felt for me. It sort of felt like a band around my belly that tightened each time as my lungs were being smashed, making it hard to breathe.
By morning, I had never felt anything so bad in my life and I didn’t believe it could get worse, but it did. We finally were able to get ahold of my doctor, who was at the hospital, and he told us to come in immediately. As soon as I got there, he admitted us. The next few hours were fairly uneventful, except for the contractions and the popsicles and my doctor accidentally breaking my water during an exam. We found then that she had passed meconium in the womb due to stress.
Around 3 pm, I couldn't hold out any longer and I decided to get the epidural, which slipped the important parts of my body into a much-needed state of numbness. The experience at this point had become maybe, dare I say, enjoyable even. My husband and I were able to happily watch the Food Network (I am crazy; I was starving) and nap for an hour or so. One of my best friends visited. Unfortunately, as the evening went on, I got an infection. I didn’t know in the hospital what it was (Chorioamnionitis) because no one really explained it to me or how serious it was, but the baby’s oxygen levels were dropping, her heart rate hitting 180, my temperature at 102 by the time I had to push.
At midnight, the doctor hadn't come back to the room yet, but the nurse said it was time to push. She instructed my husband to hold my right leg for me while she held my left. I had previously imagined how this scenario was going to go, and my husband being south of my waist was not a part of the plan. But at this point, I didn't care, and I was even happy that he was helping. He didn't care, and I felt blessed in that moment to have him.
During delivery, I laid there, being instructed to push. I don’t know about you, but trying to push (i.e. using the same muscles you would use during a bowel movement) while lying down is not a natural or simple action. It is actually very unnatural and difficult. I asked them if I could try a different position and they obliged, and the whole process got much better.
As she was crowning, they offered me a mirror and asked if I wanted to look. I had planned not to, so I said, "No." But my husband looked at me and said, "It's actually really amazing and cool. You should." So I did. And he was totally right. It wasn't gross or disgusting and it didn't scar me forever. I feel like I have seen plenty of terrible things in my life, and a baby coming out of my vagina was not one of them. It was amazing, and it even gave me the motivation I needed for those final pushes.
She was delivered at exactly 1 am on May 3rd. They took her quickly and began doing measurements and all the standard stuff, but because she passed meconium and now had a temperature of 103 from the infection, I knew she had to go to the NICU. They laid her on my chest for 10 seconds and said ‘Here is your baby, mom.’ My husband was able to take a couple of pictures and then she was gone. He went with the nurses and the baby to the NICU; he told me he cried the whole way there.
I tried to not have a birth plan. I thought about it for months, and I decided that I would choose what felt right for me in the moment. I knew many women had done this before me and, as scary as it was, I also felt confident because of that fact. I didn't want to put unnecessary restrictions or expectations on myself, especially when I read many articles about birth plans and how they go right out the window the day of. When I think about her birth, the part I focus on most is her going to the NICU. I wonder sometimes, if certain things had gone differently (how long the labor was, my doctor breaking my water, the multiple exams I had after), whether or not we would have had the same outcome. It's kind of futile to have those thoughts because we'll never know, but I wish more than anything that could have been prevented in some way.
Still, we were blessed with a beautiful 7 lb. 3 oz. baby girl, with dark blue eyes and a head full of black hair. And oddly enough, I can't wait to do it all over again.