Birth Story, continued.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

He grabs everything and gets it all into the car. All the coconut water. All the muffins. 

We’re not timing anymore so it just seems like I’m consistently contracting at this point. Things begin to blur here. My memory fades in and out and time speeds up.  I can no longer manage the pain in an effective way. We manage to get to the hospital without getting into a wreck. God’s grace.

We screech in on the wrong side of the road. I’m groaning and contracting in the parking lot, on the way to the entrance, in the lobby. A wheelchair appears. I’m contracting while waiting for the elevator, then again inside the elevator. Again at the nurses’ station. I’m hunched over in my nightgown, bleeding. Basically making a scene. They ask me to sign some papers and I scribble where the x’s are. I think it’s insane that you have to sign papers in this state. I don’t know what I’m signing, I can barely hold the pen. I want to throw it across the room. Instead, I drop it on the counter. I am the picture of self control. I’m destroying the marshmallow test. 

Lars has to leave to park the car while I wait to be seen in triage. It’s quiet there but not for long! I’m announcing my presence with every contraction. A friendly, smiling doctor/nurse/someone I barely register comes to check on how far I’ve dilated. This is it, I thought. This is where I find out I have to go home or walk around at some 24 hour store until I can be admitted. 

“You’re 9 centimeters!” Fully dilated is 10 centimeters, so I am stunned and make her repeat that back to me. We can’t chat for long though. She has to call my doctor and have someone prep a labor and delivery room, immediately!

I don’t remember how I got to that room, but suddenly, I’m there. Lars is back, with all of our things. A nurse walks in. She is petite and has beautiful nails. Her badge is clipped with a tiny, crystal encrusted panda. The panda is smiling. This woman is a woman who pays attention to details and I find that I trust her implicitly. We learn that we should have counted those small bursts of pain as contractions, that they were probably only 3 minutes apart by the time we called my OB. We also find out that I have back labor but she knows where to push against my lower back to get me through them. 

She is magic.

There are other people in the room and someone asks me what my birth plan is. I don’t have one, I tell them. And there really isn't a plan, per se. Just the general understanding that I will do the best that I can, on my own, and when things move beyond my own abilities, I will ask for and accept help. I was close to the point of needing help- I had labored for about as long as I could stand and was almost fully dilated. They ask me if I want an epidural. I wasn’t sure. Decide soon, they said. She’s coming. 

Trying to make a decision when the contractions were coming every minute was a very intense experience. 

Could I do it without meds? Probably. I had made it this far. I could see from the look on his face that Lars believed that I could get there. But it had been a marathon of a day. It was about one in the morning and I was so, so tired. You could rest, the doctor said. She hadn’t descended far enough, so we would have to wait for her to do that. It could take a couple of hours. My water hadn’t broken yet either. God, this was taking forever. 

I became a mom the moment I learned that I was pregnant. I was a mom when I found out about the gestational diabetes and at every single meal. She ate what I ate. I took care of my blood sugar so that her tiny pancreas wouldn’t have to. And when I could no longer control it with diet and exercise, I was grateful for the insulin shots. My emotions affected her development so I added meditation to the list of to do’s. It just wasn't about my own physical and mental health anymore. So when it came down to deciding on an epidural, I realized that this was a moment where by asking for help, I could protect my baby. 

The anesthesiologist prepped me quickly. My contractions were so close together that one started coming as the needle was going in, and I had to stay still for it. I grit my teeth. This was the last one, I said to myself. Everyone placed their hands on me and for a moment, save for my shaking breaths, the room was quiet. My body imploded.

Now was the time to rest. They shut the lights and leave. Lars lays down on the couch. It had been an intense day for him too. I closed my eyes but sleep was impossible. The adrenaline and the efforts of the day caused my body to shake uncontrollably, so I laid there with my eyes closed. Be still be still be still.

Except for this brief moment when I took creepy photos of ourselves in the dark.

An hour later, I felt her slowly moving downwards and a warmth slowly spread around my legs. 

Lars, I said, waking him. I think my water just broke. 

It’s time to get the nurse. She arrives to check on me and we hear a loud pop and a gush. The doctor is called to come back to the room for the delivery. In the meantime, the nurse suggests that I do a few practice pushes.

Here we go! I got into position and pushed.

STOP! She said. No more practicing. Lars’s eyes were wide. They had both seen the top of the baby’s head. I’ve got my meds but no visual so I have no idea what is happening. The nurse runs out to find the doctor. Lars and I wait. My legs in the air, baby crowning, pressure pressure pressure in the birth canal. The most grateful I’ve ever been for modern medicine and the numbing embrace of my epi.

We wait.

The doctor (finally) arrives and I’m given the go ahead to push again and I do. 

The room erupts in shouts of “keep pushing keep pushing look down she’s coming.” 

Suddenly, 252 days after that faint pink line appeared, after a thousand blood draws, fetal non stress tests, ultrasounds and hospital visits,

there is a tiny, gray, living, slippery thing on my chest. The smallest (and the most impossibly perfect) fingers I’ve ever seen with fully formed nails were clawing and pinching at my skin, gurgles that turn into wailing. She blinks her dark eyes wetly in the light, her pain is my pain and our sobs dip and rise together. 

Lars stood there beside me. He pressed a blade against the cord and held us both.

Several hours later: our first family photo.

/ / /

It’s been about four months now. She is sleeping beside me. Her lower lip is folded inward, at the center, tucked neatly underneath her upper lip. The way only babies’ lips do. Everyone tells you that you’ll have amnesia about the physical pain. 

They were wrong. I remember.

It wasn’t just that it was painful. It was that and fear (so much fear) and anticipation, woven together and wrapped around that taut, aching belly.

You remember the pain because you remember the fear. 

I look at her mouth and her eyelashes and all that hair and know that I'd do it all again, a hundred thousand times over, just to watch her sleeping like this.

Previous post: Birth Story, part one.

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