I wrote this for posterity, in honor of my son’s birthday. I’ll warn you now that it’s long. I purposely didn’t whittle it down because I want to remember it as it really was, long or not. If you choose to read it, I hope you enjoy it.
Tomorrow (Saturday) my baby boy will be one year old. I can’t even believe it. This time last year, I was in labor & delivery waiting for him to be born. It was an experience I’d not had before because my first pregnancy came to fruition with a planned c-section; something I had sworn to never participate in again. Suffice it to say, my first delivery was a wholly unpleasant experience that I will probably never write about because other than the moment my newborn daughter was put before my eyes, there’s not much about it I want to remember.
But the birth of my second child was completely different and something I want to savor forever. Sadly, I waited a whole year to write this story and my memory is already failing. Thankfully my husband, who can’t remember some of the simplest day-to-day things, has a pretty good recollection of it. Between the two of us, I’m pretty sure I got all the high points. So without further ado, I give you one of my fondest memories ever…the story of my son, P.
When we decided we wanted to have another baby, I was a little afraid. I’d had an inexplicable estrogen deficiency since the birth of my first child five years prior and had worn a small patch for hormone replacement ever since. I feared that maybe I wouldn’t be able to conceive because something in my body had clearly gone awry.
As it happens, my fears were unfounded. After the first month of trying, I invested in an ovulation scope and conceived the following month.
Because of my previous unpleasant experiences with obstetric practices and because I wanted a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean), I opted for an OB group that had a number of midwives on staff that was also one of the only practices in my city that would even allow a VBAC. The midwives were kind and caring and empathetic and best of all, they totally supported my wish to have a VBAC without an episiotomy. They totally GOT me. I was elated. I thought I’d died and gone to pregnancy heaven.
Being over 35, unaffectionately known as “advanced maternal age” I had to take all sorts of tests and screens and the results were very favorable so I declined having an amniocentesis. We found out we were having a boy and though I’d never imagined myself as the mother of a boy, we were very excited.
My 40 weeks of gestation flew by and other than leg aches and major carpal tunnel syndrome that impaired my already fractured sleep, I’d had an ideal pregnancy. As I neared my due date, I had to go every week to see my midwife and then, as my due date came and went, I saw them every few days. Every time, I was only dilated one freaking centimeter! I was getting nervous because if I were more than a week past my due date, the obstetricians would not allow a VBAC as the risks of a dangerous uterine rupture were increased.
On the morning of Wednesday, June 15, I woke up feeling crampy. It wasn’t all that unusual as I’d had cramps a few days before but today I felt different. And when I went pee, I noticed a very slight pink tinge when I wiped. Not wanting to be an alarmist, I decided to ignore it. I had a million things to do that day so I got dressed, got my daughter in gear and headed out.
I went to the grocery store, the post office and a few more places, still refusing to take the cramps seriously. As they became a little stronger, I started to wonder if this was labor. It didn’t feel like much more than a mild period cramp accompanied by a sort of heavy feeling in my lower abdomen so I decided not to call my midwives just yet.
By that night, the cramps were coming and going and I started to think maybe it was, in fact, labor. When I wiped after peeing and saw “bloody show” I knew for sure. At one point, between 10 and midnight they were coming every 40 minutes. Though I was getting excited, Hubz and I figured that nothing major would happen before morning so we went to bed around 1am.
At 2:30 am I woke up with what I believed were definitely contractions because they hurt. A lot.
I woke my husband up and he was really groggy and irritated. He didn’t understand why I didn’t just go back to sleep. I tried to calmly explain that the contractions hurt really bad, to no avail. His preference for sleep was really starting to piss me off. (To be fair, he claims he couldn’t get up because he was so tired).
I could feel myself becoming anxious and adrenalin was starting to kick in. I couldn’t sit still.
As the contractions got stronger, I became more agitated and couldn’t stop pacing around, talking and bugging my husband every 2 minutes.
I’m all “Hey! I’m gonna have a baby. Get your ASS UP!” and he was all “It’s not coming right now. Let me sleep”
I was so pissed. How could he even consider letting me hang out and have painful contractions ALONE???
We still bicker about that to this day.
Finally, he got up and accepted that I wasn’t going to leave him alone. We started to pack stuff up for the hospital and get my daughter’s things together so she could go stay with her grandparents.
At 5am, I called the hospital and told the midwife on call that my contractions were about 15 minutes apart and she was basically like “You’re a VBAC? Get here right away! You can’t wait!!!” Hah. Right. The baby would beg to differ.
So we dropped my daughter off at my in-laws house and arrived at the hospital around 6am. After the initial intake, I was taken to a small triage room where I changed into the gown that I would be wearing for the next 24 hours and proceeded to be poked, prodded, questioned and monitored while my contractions became stronger and closer together.
I was SO excited. I’ll never forget that feeling of anticipation; a feeling that something really special was about to take place. From my room, I could look out the window and see the sun rising over the water and reflecting off the buildings downtown. It was a fresh new day, so full of promise, and I was having a baby. Yay!
I finally wimped out and asked for my epidural because even though I was only 3 cm by about 7:30am, the pain was getting unbearable. Much to my irritation, I had to wait for an anesthesiologist to become available. If I’d known he would take so damn long, I would have asked a lot sooner, like five minutes after I arrived.
So while I was waiting, I got moved to my first labor & delivery room and some nurse came in and brusquely asked if I would mind having a military doctor training to be an OB observe.
I didn’t go to a practice full of nice, kind, mother-like midwives so some random guy I’ve never seen before could hang around and look up my dress.
So I said no and she got all snitty with me. “This IS a teaching hospital, you know” Uh no, actually I didn’t know.
And I replied, “Well, that’s the first I’ve heard of any of this and I really don’t want to do it”
Turns out they were hanging all their hopes on me because the other women in L & D at that moment didn’t speak English and couldn’t give permission. Oh, well.
I eventually got my epidural and was able to relax. Ahhhhh. Much better. An hour or so passed and ouch! I started feeling pain again. On ONE side. My epidural had become lopsided.
Another big long wait while I writhed in lopsided pain and finally, the anesthesiologist came back and tinkered with it and left. No change. I was BEGGING at that point for them to just do it again but they were really afraid to because of potential complications. I could have cared less. I pleaded and they said they would get another guy to re-do the epidural because the first anesthesiologist didn’t want to do it.
To chill me out while I waited, they gave me some Fentanyl. Why do people like that stuff so much? Seriously, it was awful. I itched from head to toe for thirty solid minutes.
After a while, I finally got a new anesthesiologist and another epidural. It worked and life was good again. Except that I was still 3cm dilated.
At about 1pm (I’ve now been there for 5 hours) the midwife broke my water with a thing that looked like a plastic knitting needle in hopes of moving things along.
The rest of the day was a blur of me looking at the monitor and watching the contractions of my uterus as well as the contractions of all the other women in Labor & Delivery and getting my cervix checked. Nurses went off shift and new ones came and I never got past 7cm. I stayed there all evening.
Finally, at about midnight (I’ve now been there for 18 hours) the midwife said they were going to give me a tiny bit of Pitocin because my labor had stalled and the baby had been without amniotic fluid for almost 12 hours. They typically don’t give Pitocin to VBAC candidates because it can be dangerous but because a C-section was starting to look like a real possibility and I was so vehemently against having one, she decided a small amount of Pitocin was warranted.
I fell asleep for the first time in 24 hours (remember, I had only slept about an hour the night before when the huz wouldn’t get out of bed) and when I woke up an hour or so later, I had the worst friggin’ back labor.
The feeling was indescribable and clearly something that the epidural wasn’t going to alleviate. The pressure was so intense, I almost felt like I couldn’t breathe. I asked for heat packs, which helped some, and realized that this baby would be here soon..but not as soon as I’d imagined.
More cervix checks and ice chips and monitor watching until about 4:15am (I’ve now been there for 22 hours). Then the midwife announced that I was finally 10cm and it was time to push!
I’d like to set the stage for you…
I was in my third room and second L&D suite at this point. This one had two beds, a TV and a shitload of medical equipment. But the whole time I’d been in this room, they’d never turned on the ugly, bright fluorescent lights. They used these soft, warm, cozy overhead lights above my bed and it was so nice, like being at someone’s kitchen table.
There were only four people in the room; Jan, the awesome midwife, a very awesome, young-ish OB nurse, Hubz and me. It was mostly quiet and not at all like the births I’d grown up watching on TV where the light is all bright and glaring and there are like 8 people in the room yelling at the woman to push. It was so mellow and low key.
The nurse and Hubz held my legs and every time a contraction started to come, I was to put my chin to my chest and push while Jan counted to 10 and then I rested until the next one. I stopped waiting for Jan to tell me when to push. I would feel the contractions, get in position and start pushing. This went on FOREVER!
They had put a mirror at the foot of the bed so I could see the baby’s head. He had a ton of dark hair and it was really cool to see but after an eternity of being told to push because “his head is RIGHT THERE. He’s almost out!! Just a little more” by the three of them , I just couldn’t do it anymore.
I was exhausted. I told them, implored them, to use the forceps or vacuum but Jan said it was too late, whatever that means. I told them they’d been saying his head is “right there” for so long. Why was he not coming out already?
I begged for them to just let me rest because I couldn’t do anymore and Jan said something along the lines of “Yes you can! You’re having this baby!”
I swear, the whole exchange was right out of a movie.
They let me rest for about about 30 seconds and then it was back to pushing for all eternity.
Tra la la…
And then suddenly things became urgent. I was being asked to push harder and harder; harder than I ever have. I would find out later that the baby was in serious distress and needed to come out right away.
Jan told me she needed to do an episiotomy and I was like “Nooooooooo!” but I felt the sting and she told me it was already done.
Again, I was told to push harder, harder, harder. “The baby has to come out RIGHT NOW!”
And then FLOOOOOP!
Like a big wet noodle, he was out!
I forgot all about the episiotomy and everything else and marveled at this gigantic baby I’d just delivered. The room was suddenly full of people and everyone was talking about how big he was. I heard someone say, “No wonder he wouldn’t come out.”
They weighed & measured him with more exclaiming from the nurses. He was 9lbs 6.5 oz. and 21.75 in. And his head was some number that apparently isn’t even on the chart, but most importantly, he was healthy. (And poopy. He’d pooped right after delivery. And in case you’re wondering, I pooped during the delivery. Yep.)
I looked over at him while they were doing whatever it is that they do to new babies and was awestruck, as all mothers are, at this little creature I’d grown inside me for nearly a year. Though newborns are naturally kind of funny looking, I thought he was a work of art, the most beautiful thing I’d seen since my daughter was born. And considering that I pushed for 2.5 hours, his head wasn’t even all that pointy.
I was smitten then and I’m smitten now. P started out as a grumpy baby with a scream that could shatter glass, who had trouble pooping and wouldn’t sleep unless he was being moved rhythmically while tightly swaddled and grew into a mischievous, curious, playful, friendly little guy that I love more than words can say. I am truly head over heels in love with him. We are so tightly bonded that honestly, I really miss and crave him when he’s not with me.
And as a disclaimer, in case my daughter ever reads this, saying how much I love P in no way diminishes the love I have for her. She is my firstborn and I love and adore her with an intensity that cannot be described.
While I may grouse about the dullness and lack of spontaneity and fun in my life, I would not change a thing. My kids mean everything to me.
In closing, I was technically in labor for 48 hours, from Wednesday morning when I awoke with mild contractions (that I called cramps…lol) until I gave birth almost exactly 2 days later after pushing non-stop for two and a half ass-kickingly hard hours. P was a week late and actually born on the day that I would have had a c-section if I hadn’t gone into labor. Holy crap!!!!
Happy first birthday, big guy!
Stay tuned for the postpartum installment of this story! Yeah. I know you’re excited. Thanks for sticking it out and reading the whole thing. YOU ROCK :)