Monday, January 21, 2013

Your Birth Story: Part Two

Dear Em,
* This is a post about childbirth. It was not an easy childbirth. You may not want to read this is if you are about to have a baby or descriptions of childbirth make you feel uncomfortable. *
* This is the second part of a four part series, You can also read Your Birth Story: Part OneYour Birth Story: Part Three, & Your Birth Story: Part Four. *

Uncertainty is hard for me. One of my biggest pet peeves is when someone says, "I have a big surprise for you, but you're going to have to wait." I don't like waiting for surprises, feeling like something could jump out at you at any moment. Pregnancy is the ultimate "I have a big surprise for you, but you're going to have to wait." The beauty in knowing that I was going to be induced is I knew pregnancy was finally coming to an end. Soon I would be holding our precious baby that had been growing inside me for what seemed like forever.

I was filled with joy as I took my time getting ready that morning. I shaved my legs. I put on make-up. I fixed my hair (now, I laugh at myself at how I was thinking I was going to look cute for photos). Your daddy, on the other hand, was flustered. He ran around, buzzing with anxiousness. When my mom stopped us for one last photo as we left the house for the very last time as a family of two, I thought he was going to kill her.

We had left 15 minutes later than originally planned, & your daddy was worried we would be late for our 7am appointment. As we drove to the hospital, I wanted to quietly remind your daddy that they weren't going to start your birth without us. Instead I smiled & kept quiet. I know your daddy gets anxious in big moments, & what moment was bigger than this?

We checked in at the premiere birthing hospital in Providence, Rhode Island. We had heard that it can be a little like a baby factory, with less personal touches than some of the community hospitals. Although we lived closer to three other community hospitals, we had chosen our hospital based on the specialists affiliated with it. Both of us had had complications when we were born. We hoped for an issue free labor, but we knew we wanted to be near the specialists just in case. In the end, I'm so thankful we made the decision we did.

We checked in at 7am, & they quickly brought us upstairs to our room (another advantage of being induced). While I knew I was being induced, I wasn't quite prepared for all of the things that were being hooked up to me. I had hoped to spend labor walking around, but I had to call a nurse just to get unhooked to go to the bathroom. Before they put the monitor on me, they asked me if I had had any contractions. I shook my head. As much as I had hoped, I hadn't. "Do you know that you're having contractions right now?" Ohhhhh. That's what contractions are?! I had always thought they were searing and sharp pains. These were just little cramps, no worse than what I used to feel when I got my period. I had been having these cramps for weeks. Who knew?

A nurse introduced herself to us (I feel so sad I cannot remember her name...or any of our nurses names. They were all so great). She was going to spend the day monitoring us and another woman next door. When she came in, we never felt like just another couple having a baby. We shared stories about our families & our hopes for you. She was supportive & so kind. Chatting with her helped us through a whole lot of waiting. We also giggled as your daddy put all the gear on that was given to him, especially the funny cap. Photos may have been taken. There was a TV on in our room, & we watched a whole lot of HGTV.

While I couldn't eat anything (but really wasn't hungry anyway), I was aware of the time & the fact that your daddy should be eating lunch. "Are you going to have lunch," I asked him. "I can't leave you, & it's not fair to eat in front of you when you can't." I smiled at his sweetness. Sometimes your daddy just makes my heart so happy. I told him to go get lunch. He was going to need his strength & energy for this labor too. All we were doing was waiting, & I really didn't mind him eating in front of me. He was gone & back in moments, with no food to show. Apparently, he had rushed down to the cafeteria & scarfed down a sandwich on his way back up so as not to eat it in front of me.

Throughout the afternoon, I watched your daddy look over at my monitor. His eyes would grow wide & he looked at me expectantly in fear. When he saw I wasn't reacting at all, his body would relax. "That was a really big contraction on the monitor, did you feel it?" Not really. I was still just feeling little cramps. It was the same when the doctors & nurses came in & checked the monitor. The nurse came in & told me I looked way too comfortable to be in labor & upped my pitocin levels. I started to feel really proud of myself. Maybe I have super amazing pain tolerance? Maybe I wasn't even going to need the epidural I was so sure I had wanted during pregnancy.

Then the pain came, just enough to make me really uncomfortable. "OK, I'm ready for the epidural now, please." Because I had had a previous back injury, the head of anesthesiology came to give me my epidural. I was lucky that I didn't have to wait long at all. I wasn't prepared for them to ask your daddy to leave the room, though. I am absolutely needle-phobic. I cringe just thinking about needles, & when a large needle is placed into my spine it would be helpful to have my husband there for support.

Thank God your daddy returned just after, because the contractions got a lot worse. All of a sudden I felt mind numbing pain that seared through my whole body. So much for high pain tolerance. I laughed at how ignorant I had been only hours earlier. We had been told that it would take a few minutes for the epidural to kick in, but each contraction felt like an eternity. They kept asking me if I felt numbness. There was no numbness, only awful pain. I squeezed your daddy's hand as my body tensed with pain. He encouraged me to remember what we had learned during our one short class at the hospital. He acted out on of the breathing techniques & encouraged me to follow along. I thought "screw the breathing techniques." I hadn't really even paid attention during our class. It was something fun to do. I knew I would never actually need to do any of it. I had always planned to get an epidural, ALWAYS. I suddenly had a really scary thought, what if epidurals didn't work for me & I was going to have this baby...gasp...naturally?!

Luckily, the anesthesiologist came in & made some adjustments. The numbness they had described began to spread through the lower part of my body. The pain disappeared. Thank God for epidurals. Your daddy & I settled back into quiet waiting again. Our new nurse encouraged me to try to get some sleep. Seriously?! Today was going to be the biggest day of our lives. How was I going to sleep? I laid quietly, but sleep never came. I could hear a woman's screams in the room next door. Our monitors had been connected, & we could see her contractions on the monitor. We could hear that she was having a rough time. I said silent prayers for her & silent prayers for us.

At 7pm my midwife checked me, & I was 10 centimeters dilated. She asked me if I was ready to start pushing. I felt like there was nothing in my life I was more ready for. If things went quickly & smoothly, we would have just enough time to introduce you to our parents before the end of visiting hours (you were born in the middle of the swine flu epidemic of 2009, & visiting policies were super, super strict).

So, I started pushing...& pushing...& pushing. It was so strange. I couldn't really feel anything as I pushed & I don't think I ever really understood how to push anyway. I mean, it's not like you can practice & someone can tell you if you're doing it right. An hour passed. You still weren't out, & I was still pushing. I cried silent tears, knowing our family wouldn't be able to meet you until visiting hours started at 3pm the next day.

I'm not sure when it started to happen, but all of a sudden I was vomiting. The nurse was fast & caught my vomit in a bucket. After that it was your daddy, who was standing behind my shoulders & away from "down there," who caught my vomit as I pushed.

I had a midwife, but two doctors were there with us, as well as a nurse. One of them would walk in, look at me & shake her head, whisper something to the the other doctor, & walk out. I started to cry. While I still wasn't feeling any pain, I was exhausted, more exhausted than I'd ever been. I felt like such a failure. This was my job, & I was awful at it. I looked up at your daddy who was gently wiping my forehead with a cool cloth. "I'm so sorry. I'm just not good at this. You married me, probably thinking I'd be good at this, but I'm just not. I'm so sorry." In that delivery room, your daddy was everything to me that I could have ever needed. "What are you talking about? You're doing so great. You can do this, & you're doing great."

What I didn't understand is that the doctor wasn't shaking her head at my ability to birth a baby. She was looking at our heart monitors & was concerned about both of our hearts. They moved me in a number of different positions, to make things better for your heart. At one point they asked me about using a vacuum. They showed it to me as they explained what they would be doing, but I didn't really look at it. I don't think I could really see straight at that point, but I was interested in anything that would help get you out. We consented. They also lowered my epidural, hoping that if I could feel pressure it would help. So, we proceeded, me pushing & the doctor tugging.

At one point, I felt a great relief in pressure. "Is she out? Did I do it? Is she out?" No. The doctor had been tugging so hard on the vacuum that it had slipped off your head & the doctor had smacked herself in the face with it. Apparently, you were holding your hand to your cheek. Each time we made progress, you slipped back up. The second doctor kept walking in, looking at me, & shaking her head. I felt so defeated. I overheard the nurse talk to my midwife about it being time to consider a C-section. My midwife was harsh as she completely dismissed the nurse. "No, she's going to do this. She can do this."

When it comes to being naked, I am a very modest & private person. I've never even gone to the bathroom while your daddy is in it. I had never been so vulnerable & exposed, but somehow I didn't even care. At one point, a doctor asked me if it was OK if her student came in. I thought, "there are already 10 people (two nurses, my midwife, two doctors, 3 pediatricians, & 2 other people who were monitoring something that I can't remember now) I hadn't met until today in this room. What's one more?" I told her it was fine. The student sheepishly stared at the floor as he walked into the room, & I wondered if this was the first delivery he was witnessing. I couldn't help but think of my sister in law, who was a nursing student, & hoped that people were nice enough to allow her to witness this kind of experience too.

Somehow amid the exhaustion & vomiting, I pushed (& the doctor pulled). Finally, your head was out & I just had one more push. After the last push, I felt an immediate release in pressure. At 10:59pm on December 30th you were born.

I looked for you & awaited the skin to skin contact I had read was imperative, but they never laid you on my chest. In fact, the team of pediatricians rushed you into the adjoining room next door. Your daddy glanced to where they had taken you & back at me. I knew what he was thinking. He didn't want me to feel abandoned, but he was just as worried about you as I was. "No, it's OK. I'm OK. Go be with our baby," I said more strongly than I felt as he too rushed to the other room.

This was not how it was supposed to happen. Where were the baby cries that you hear in the movies? Where was the exclamation, "It's a girl!" (or "it's a boy" if our ultrasound technician was wrong)? I hadn't even gotten to see my baby, & fear filled my heart as I wondered if you were OK.

I love you so,


  1. Wow. This story was incredible. And so many echoes of my own birth stories. The disappointments and the unexpected pain and the moment where that big shift happens, when we tell our husband, "no...go make sure the baby is ok." and "I thought "screw the breathing techniques." I hadn't really even paid attention during our class. It was something fun to do. I knew I would never actually need to do any of it." I went through ALL of that. What a beautiful idea too, leaving these letters for your baby. (I made email addresses for mine, and write to them sometimes.)
    Count me your newest, avid reader. Thanks for writing this.

  2. I know, it's so weird how before I had Em, this was the type of story I never heard from women. Now, I'm learning that more and more women shared a similar experience. Another common thread is that we would all do it a million more times just to hold our sweet babies in our arms :) thanks for stopping by!


While my letters are addressed to Em, we enjoy hearing from all our readers. Comments are always welcome. The ideas, inspiration, & support we get from other readers is one of the reasons I write. I try to respond to all comments. If you click the "subscribe by email" button underneath the comment box, you will get notifications when I have replied. Thank you for stopping by!

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