I had a feeling I was going to go into labor early, though I’m not sure why. The anticipation of labor always plagued me- with both of my pregnancies. I had too many unanswered questions- Was my husband, Justin, going to be reachable? Was there going to be a blizzard that made it impossible to get to the hospital in time? Was labor going to come hard and fast with me in cab by myself, screaming, in rush hour midtown Manhattan traffic- to the hospital? Was my water going to break in the grocery store and splatter across the floor like a dropped watermelon?! All of these things. My friends with babies so far all had very different experiences. I had no idea what to expect, and the unknown always drives me bananas! That is except for the baby’s gender.
We did not find out what we were having. We wanted the surprise. To me, it’s one of life’s last great surprises, and I always had that cliché image of J in my head, walking into the waiting room and exclaiming “It’s a boy!” A boy, yes. J is one of three boys, high energy, active and brilliant, and my brother certainly gave my mom a run for her money too- so I figured with those genes, we’d be having three boys. My nursery was mainly gray, with aqua and orange touches here and there, a few Narwhal accents. Mostly, it was just an adorable whimsical room. I have never been a huge fan of pink, and also didn’t want to get 1000 pink outfits, if we were having a girl.
Anyway, back to business. It happened none of those ways I worried about. Twelve days before my due date I woke up one morning and just couldn’t get settled. I was soooo antsy and anxious all day. I could not concentrate on work, could not get comfortable and could not relax. At around 6pm I noticed a little extra fluid, and that continued to drip here and there. I had a feeling it was my water leaking- not fully breaking. I called my doctor’s office and they said to let it progress and come in either by 2am or come in when contractions are coming regularly and close together, I was officially in labor. Holy shit this was really going to happen. Of course, I still could not relax, though there were no serious contractions and no massive water breakage, just slow leaking. I took a shower, shaved, checked my go bag, tried to eat some dinner, and waited for J to get home.
We attempted to get some sleep, which was just silly. Or at least it was silly for me, J had no problem falling asleep. I eventually woke J up because I couldn’t wait any longer and just wanted to get to the hospital and get settled in. We drove down in the frigged cold and admitted ourselves.
I’d like to throw in here, that my nurse, Nurse Rachel, was the bomb. She was exactly what I needed for my first childbearing experience- Strong personality, assertive, sarcastic, slightly sassy and totally in control- all the time.
Our Birthing Classes always discussed “making your birth plan”. I am one of those people who if I have a plan set in my head, and it goes awry- it upsets me more. So when I settled into our delivery room, and was asked if I have a birth plan- my answer was “Get epidural, have healthy baby” – oh and “J would love to cut the cord.” Nurse Rachel’s response was a hearty, sassy, “well thank you for that!” She had also found that some birthing plans caused more harm than good simply because childbirth is so unpredictable that you have to be prepared for it to not go as you intended. [I’ll insert here- If you want to have a birthing plan, I fully support that. Talk it over with your Doctor, Midwife or Douala before you get to the hospital, just know depending on what happens, it may not go 100% according to plan.]
Since I’m writing this three years after the fact, all the minor details have gotten a little blurry. Basically, they had me walking up and down the halls trying to progress labor. I had contractions, but nothing crazy, I was mostly just uncomfortable and wanted to get this show on the road. By the time the sun was coming up the next morning the doctor discussed moving the labor along by administering Pitocin. I think it was around 10am that they did so. The doctor asked if I wanted the epidural before she gave me the Pitocin. My response was “I didn’t know that was a thing- you mean I can have the pain killing drugs BEFORE the pain kicks in? How can that be a thing? That feels like cheating.” She laughed and said yes, it is an option. For whatever reason I said I’d wait a little before getting the epidural. Contractions started coming a little more frequently but still nothing crazy. When the doctor came back in to check, she decided to actually break my water and that pretty much did the trick. The contractions started coming harder and more frequently then.
First time mom’s- Please note, the follow epidural experience is NOT the norm, and all the mama’s I know that have had them, had zero issues. When we called for the epidural the main anesthesiologist appeared with a resident. At this point the contractions were close together and hard. I was basically able to nod responses to the doctor, unable to form sentences. J was remaining calm but I can tell he hates that I am in pain, and it’s cute. The doctor asked what my pain level was and I said, “maybe a 6?” His response was “I would say you are at least an 8 judging by the face you are making.” That “what level of pain” question was asked so many times during this whole adventure and it’s my least favorite question. I haven’t experienced anything in life that was so incredibly painful that that I didn’t think I’d survive it- and that’s what I would call a pain level 10. So with no real high end to compare it to- how the F am I supposed to know what my pain level is?!
Anyway, back to the epidural. I’m sitting on the bed, concentrating on just breathing, while the resident puts the epidural in. It’s not fun, but you are a bit distracted by the pain happening everywhere else. The hardest part is sitting in the position they need you in and remaining as still as possible while pain is bearing down on your pelvis. In my experience the whole process takes maybe about 15 minutes (though time is never realistically measurable at this point). 15-20 minutes go by and the epidural is still not in. I can feel him trying to get it in the right spot and it’s not happening. The senior doctor has him take it all out and start again, in a new spot- still no luck. At this point the doctor apologizes, asks me to hang in a few more minutes, and tries it for himself, and even he can’t get it. Fourth time was a charm, and after probably 40+ minutes, I was finally on my way to sweet sweet oblivion.
Once you get the epidural you are confined to your bed, so they catheterize you at this point. This is something I always felt squeamish about- but you feel nothing. Nurse Rachel took care of in in about 15 seconds, remarking “Thanks for shaving, makes my job so much easier!” That produced a much-needed laugh from both my husband and I.
The Doc on call was one of the doctor’s in my practice- I petite little human smartly dressed in riding boots. She came in to check the status of my expanding vagina and told me she’d be back in about three hours. Until then, I could sit back and relax (ha). My mom, sister and her boyfriend came in for a little visit- I figured the distractions were useful.
The epidural while awesome, wasn’t 100% effective for me on my right side. I still had shooting pain down my back, pelvis and butt for every contraction. At some point the pain was getting really really uncomfortable and I kicked everyone out. I was going to ask the doctor if we should be adjusting the epidural when she next appeared. Instead she had barely glanced at my vagina when she laughed and said, “Get me the table! It’s go time!” She motioned for J to come take a look- he did (he is not the least bit squeamish and no matter what he saw that day, it didn’t faze him, and I love him for that). The baby was already crowning.
I have this funny image of her standing between my legs, with her gloves on, hands up in the air, as the nurses buzzed quickly around getting all the necessary whatevers- to catch the tiny human that was about to arrive. I had barely any time to prepare myself for what was about to transpire as she rapid fired instructions to me for when the next contraction came about. Something about hold my legs here, push there, breath in at some point and push on the exhale. I have no idea. But I could not figure it out in time for the next contraction. I said “wait wait wait, I need that all again” and had barely enough time to grasp it before the next contraction came at me.
I pushed with all my might. As I was mid push the Doc suddenly tells me to stop pushing. What is harder than pushing a baby out? Maybe having to STOP pushing a baby out once that little life force is ready to come out. The Doc then apologized to J that he would not be able to cut the cord, then calmly says “little one is wearing two necklaces” and takes the scissors from the nurse, and snips away the umbilical cord from the baby’s neck before I’ve even processed what she had said. She then tells me to get ready and go again, so one big push and out pops the rest of our tiny human!
They were passing that little purplish creature up to my chest (and I am still trying to grasp the instructions for pushing a baby out, and certainly hadn’t fully processed that I just HAD the baby) and as it’s flying up to my head, something in my brain clicks a little and I said “Holy shit is that a vagina?!” Everything had happened so fast that the doctor hadn’t announced the baby’s gender. I was completely shocked. It was hilarious really, we had settled on a boy’s name and had a girls name picked out just in case, but we both thought we were having a boy.
I think only about 10 minutes had passed since I had kicked my family out of the room before this little bundle of chalky cuteness made her entrance. The nurse stuck her right on my boob as we sat together in shock and exhaustion, skin to skin. Me and my new baby girl. My husband and I stared at each other in disbelief, tears in our eyes. A few minutes later, they took her off my chest to do her weight, measurements and quick check up. Nurse Rachel took her little feet and printed them right onto my husband’s shirt (with permission). I’ll never forget that look on his face as he got to peek over her during the exam. He turned to utter mush, full of happiness and pride. I still sat there exhausted and shocked, but I loved him even more for that look on his face.
I then told him he should probably go out and tell my family that we’re all good and healthy and the baby had arrived, etc. I’ll admit that I had a little bit of FOMO when he walked out to tell them the news, I would have loved to have been there to share that moment as well. J said the look on my mother’s face was one of slight terror when he appeared only about 15 minutes after we had kicked them out of our room.
Back in the delivery room, baby H was once again latched onto my nipple, working hard to get the milk process going. The Doctor stitched me up, cleaned me up and gave me some instructions that I definitely didn’t absorb. I still couldn’t believe that it was all over. The baby had arrived and I could walk away thinking that it wasn’t nearly as bad as I had expected. I got really lucky. This child had essentially crawled out of my vagina on her own once she was finally ready. Weighing in at only 5lbs, 14oz certainly made it all a bit easier.
So that is how our first tiny human entered the world!