A week ago yesterday, in the early hours of the morning, I checked to see that our bag had everything it needed. I took a shower. I tried to eat a bowl of cereal but couldn't finish it. I looked at the clock. Oh no. Late already. Once in the car, I kept checking the clock. Who knows what worried me. It isn't as if we would get to the hospital and they would turn us away. Sorry, you don't get to have your baby today because you are ten minutes late. Maybe I just needed something on my mind to distract me. Leave it to Luke. "We have time to stop at Starbucks, right?" We pulled up to the window, greeted by the barista with the usual "What are you up to this morning?" Luke answered, "Oh, just going to the hospital to have a baby."
One week ago.
I settled into my hospital gown and got ready for a day of waiting. OK, I didn't just sit around playing Mahjong on the iPad or anything. Well, maybe I did for the first couple of hours. That and eat popsicles. And laugh at the birth jokes Luke read to me. It started so comfortably! Then the abrupt breaking of the water. Yikes. Every time I stood up from the birth ball I felt a RUSH of liquid. But that's just too much information.
Labor day had begun. 22 hours would roll by with nurse shift changes, my doctor coming and going telling me I was at 3 cm, then 4, then 5- can't really recall but the progression seemed slow to both of us. My habit of looking at the clock continued throughout the day and night. I marveled at how time seemed to RUSH along even though I was very anxious to see my baby and Bump didn't appear anxious to see me.
I kept drinking ice water without a thought to visiting the restroom. Then the nurse in training saw my oddly shaped right side. She RUSHed out to get the other nurse. They both looked me over and decided it was my bladder. Have you been eliminating OK? they asked. I said I hadn't felt the need. Off to the bathroom I went and returned without the massive lump!
Our birth plan may have started to crumble but my resolve to avoid an epidural remained strong. OK, so labor didn't start on its own; at least it started, I told myself. Bump was more than a week overdue and needed to enter the world.
Breathing became my most important activity, as any woman who has been through labor can probably attest to. Preparing for this moment hadn't been easy because every practice breath just seemed so phony. All at once I couldn't believe how important it was to breathe well and consistently through each contraction. The Pitocin started light and then at one point they stopped its drip dripping into my arm because they thought my contractions would do well on their own. Later into the day, however, I was upped to a 12 and this is probably where grunting and staring at focal points came in.
I had planned all along to use my husband's eyes as my focal point, but I was surprised to learn that I could not look anyone in the eye when I was in my trance. I desperately needed to stare at a small, inanimate object. I chose light switches, power outlets, and the ampersand between our names written on the board on the wall. If anyone came between me and the object, I felt increased distress but lacked the ability to tell the person to move out of the way.
My most awesome labor nurse who stayed with me almost constantly during her shift put on soothing music, rubbed scented oils on my face and the sheet under my nose, massaged my feet, and taught me to make deep noises through the toughest of contractions. She also put into practice nipple stimulation, which really started my body to RUSH toward the moment of pushing. She kept telling me, "You can, and you are," which caused me to say in my head, "I can, and I am," as well as repeat the word "baby" over and over. My nurse also showed me that being on my hands and knees in the bed would give me the most comfortable position. It even allowed me to joke, apologizing for mooning my sister. Darn gowns that open in the back! But when my arms would give out on me, back to standing it was. Lying on my back, the worst place for me, I reserved for when the doctor had to check me.
Standing worked best when I could lean into my husband or my sister, since they took turns supporting my weight and allowing me to squeeze life out of their shoulders. Sometimes we would sway. My mother near tears, trying to hold it all together in my presence, really became emotional watching her two daughters dance. I truly do not know how I would have survived without Luke and Sara.
As the urge to push increased, I told my nurse. She checked me and discovered that I was ready except for one little area of my cervix. She suggested helping take care of that and then she would let me push. I gladly consented. Then we got started with what I thought would be the hardest part of all, and it probably would have been if all had gone as it should. As it was, the pushing gave tremendous relief to my aching back. That, and, well, the fact that I vomited. TMI again?
Ah, but a natural birth just wasn't to be. My little baby had a big head, revealed the doctor when the nurse called her back because my pushing had done absolutely nothing. Suddenly there were many more people in my room going over what would happen for my c-section. I cried through the intensity of the contractions. Luke signed consent forms. Then they wheeled me away. "Take good care of my baby," mom told the anesthetist.
My second thought, after disappointment, was oh man, now some relief! My third thought was, oh no, will Luke be able to be in the room with me? We had carefully explained in our birth plan that Luke could faint easily- it's a family trait- and he would not be cutting the umbilical cord. Now I was going to have major surgery. How would he fare? But my hero, my knight, gowned up and sat at my side, holding my hand, joking with the anesthetist. He later told me he tried something his doctor cousin, afflicted with the same propensity to pass out and go into shock in medical moments, had learned- eat a ton of salt before the event. He downed a bunch of salty chips so he could be there to support me.
And then, as I was shaking like none other, I heard the cry of my newborn son. More shaking and teeth chattering and tears followed. "Annie," my doctor said from the other side of the curtain, "this is a big baby!" 8 lbs. 15.6 oz. and 22 1/2 in. long with a 14 in. head! But when I later held him in my arms, he was tiny to me. And beautiful. And ours.
Geddy Lee Hindman, born 5/29/13 at 4:33 AM to exhausted but exuberant parents