Well, this isn't the story I thought I'd be writing. Let me save you any bothersome anxiety: at the end of this story, here's what I got.He is beautiful, healthy, and perfect, and his birth was an honest-to-god miracle. But as I imagine most miracles do, this one came about in exactly the ways we'd sworn it wouldn't.
My son was conceived last April and due on January 13th, 2011. I stopped working before Christmas, my mom traveled cross-country to be here for the birth on January 7th, and at 200 pounds with insomnia, carpal tunnel syndrome and a host of other discomforts, I was READY to deliver.
So much for that! I spent the month of January soliciting advice to bring on labor and subsequently eating spicy food, bouncing on a ball, drinking coffee, walking miles, driving an hour away (sometimes inconvenience is the key, I'm told), eating pineapple, and spending a little "special time" with my sweetie - all to no avail. On the 18th the doc stripped my membranes and assured me that I'd be in labor that weekend. We flew my dad out from South Carolina.
A week later, and nothing. Let me stress that having a healthy baby was my #1 goal, and I was prepared to let him come in his own time. The tests all showed that he was strong and healthy in utero and didn't need to come out, but by the 25th of January I was ready. READY for baby. We went back to the OB for more monitoring and to create a plan. We saw him on ultrasound for the third time and the babe was in the right position, moving and practice-breathing and looking great. We held our breaths as the technician estimated the birth weight:
TEN POUNDS, THIRTEEN OUNCES. TEN. THIRTEEN. TENFUCKINGTHIRTEEN.
At this point, I was a little more willing to consider induction than I had been. See, Josh and I were very clear about our ideal birth. We took classes from Amy Hoyt of Wholly Mama Birth Services, becoming versed in the Bradley Method of natural childbirth. We were prepared for anything, but hoping for a medication-free, powerful experience coached by Josh. We hired a doula, wrote a plan, and spent the pregnancy eating healthy and doing big strong exercises to prepare. I should have known things would not go according to plan.
So after taking castor oil and cohosh, walking forever, bouncing on the birth ball and participating in a theta energy healing session by phone, I was having weak contractions during the day that died out overnight. I saw the doctor one more time, consulted with the doula, and decided this was it: it was time to coax the little angel out. Bring on the Pitocin. And on Friday night, January 28th, we did.
That's a labor gown I bought from Amazon.com - it says "I dream of sushi," in case you were wondering.
They strapped me up around 8pm, Mom and Dad went home to get some sleep around 10, and Josh and I tried to rest and hoped the Pit would kick in overnight.
It didn't, of course. In the morning my crew (that's Mom, Dad, the doula, and a friend) returned as Josh and I were pacing the halls trying to move things along. Finally around 10:00 a.m. I asked my new nurse Lin to crank the Pitocin to 11, as it were.
That was when it hit. I was standing next to the bed sometime after 10:30 when I felt something break in my pelvis. It knocked me over and I was bent double clutching the bed before I knew what had happened - turned out that was my water breaking. From that moment on I had huge, painful, earth-shattering contractions every few minutes, and despite all the classes and practice and videos we'd been through, I was completely unprepared for that kind of pain. Here I am at 10:45:
and again at 11:00:I still can't believe how it felt. Women have tried to describe this experience for thousands of years, and all I can add to that record is that when I said I thought I was going to be ripped in half, I meant it.
After two hours, a lot of groaning and complaining, the removal of the IV and monitors ('cause boy oh boy, I didn't need any help contracting any more!), I felt the need to push at 1:00 p.m. Lin confirmed that I was fully dilated, and the real work started.
It's difficult for me to remember the first few hours of pushing. It took longer than I expected to learn how to push properly, and each contraction seemed stronger and more painful than the last. The pressure was so intense I thought for sure Lincoln was ready to be born with every push. Mentally and emotionally, I went down a rabbit-hole. All I could see was Josh's face, and I focused on him like never before.
Let me just take a moment to sing an ode to my husband. The man did not eat, drink, or rest from the moment we woke up on Saturday morning until we went to bed that night, hours after our son was born. He never left my side, never lost faith in my ability to handle the pain, and remained brave and strong when I was in utter despair. His face got me through the most difficult moments of my life, and I will never forget that. And he didn't flinch at the icky bits, either. Oh, I love this man.
Anyway, back to the pain. I pushed for hours on end. My doctor checked in a couple of times and encouraged me - the baby was at minus one station, my pushing was great, keep it up. When I told her I didn't think I could do it, she asked me to try for another hour. So I did.
Finally around 5:00, after four hours of pushing, I used my code word that meant I needed pain medication. The anesthesiologist came in and did an epidural, and for the first time that day I felt like a failure. Worse than thinking I'd lost my fight for a natural childbirth was realizing that the epidural had made my legs numb and my face tingly, and had done absolutely nothing for the pain of the contractions. Nothing. Nada. So I kept pushing for one more hour, when my doctor came to check me again.
The baby was still at -1 station. I'd been pushing, hard, for hours. My whole body was swollen beyond recognition, my face was covered in broken blood vessels, and my left eye had hemorrhaged and was bright red with blood. The doc, who I had been seeing for a year and a half and whom I immensely respect, told me that I needed a c-section.
At this point, I was too tired to do what I wanted, which was to sob with my whole body for the loss of the natural birth I'd dreamed of. I wanted a break from the contractions, just long enough to catch my breath and my brain and cry for a while. But since I couldn't have those things, I polled the room. Everyone told me to do what I knew was best - until I got to Josh. Terrified, angry, exhausted, and in pain, I looked into my husband's eyes as he told me it was time to have the surgery. I let the tears come and nodded at the doc, and they prepped us for the OR.Being wheeled from the labor room to the OR, and then having the spinal block anesthesia put in, was probably the hardest part of the whole experience. The contractions were still rocking through me like a Mack truck, but now I was flat on my back and couldn't push. Once the kind, calm anesthesiologist administered the block, I melted into the operating table and actually lost consciousness for a few minutes. Josh and the anesthesiologist stayed by my head and kept me company while my doc did the surgery, and then I heard them say "Daddy, stand up. You don't want to miss this."
And then I heard my baby cry for the first time.
And my heart burst open in a million pieces, growing in an instant and filling my chest, my body, the room, the world, with love.