Hi. Hi there. I have… Not been writing. But here I am. Writing. Because MY BABY IS TURNING ONE TOMORROW. A whole year. It occurred to me that I never wrote out his birth story. I kind of want to document it before it goes all sepia toned, you know? On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman is one of our bedtime story staples, so I was like “what a great idea, to tell a story about the night you were born.” This post is way more journal entry than adorable children’s book (sadly, no dancing polar bears), but it’s what was in my brain. So read it or don’t, it’s probably TMI, but not exceptionally graphic. It’s not at all book related, despite my half-hearted attempt at a tie in with the title.
The young sir was due on August 15, 2017, a date that came and went with little fanfare and no baby. I’d read extensively during my pregnancy, mostly just “real talk” mom blogs and the like, so I’d have some kind of idea what I was getting myself into. (I intentionally sought out the “I Wish I’d Been Warned” kind of advice because I find knowing the ugly bits helps me deal in case things go haywire.) I didn’t crack an actual “parenting” book until I was desperately sleep deprived, and even then I fell back on the expertise of a blogger turned author. Go figure.
In any case, I knew that babies, particularly first babies, tend to run a bit late. And I knew that if my life up to that point were any indication, I’d be waiting. In fact, I saw somewhere early in my second trimester that a full solar eclipse was going to be visible across a large swath of the US on August 21, and I figured my kid would wait until then to make a grand entrance. I said this in jest while hoping against hope that I’d be one of those week-or-two-early types, because being super pregnant in August in the Northern Hemisphere sucks. I’m pretty sure being super pregnant in any weather is terrible, but like, I was swollen AF and it was too hot to even consider anything so glamorous as compression stockings. Me and my sausage feet woke up on eclipse day in a foul mood, watched the eclipse on TV in a foul mood, and waited for my doctor’s appointment that afternoon in a foul mood.
At the appointment, I asked my doctor to set an induction date, seeing as I was nearly a week overdue already. I desperately needed to know that they wouldn’t just let me stay pregnant forever. We set an induction for the following evening and I went home. A couple of hours later I started having some cramps, then figured out they were contractions. I called the doctor and she told me to head to the hospital to get things checked out. I’d been warned by friends that you’re not allowed to eat once you go into labor, so before we left the house, I ate a PB&J, pausing to utter such eloquence as “this suuuuuucks” during the contractions. Because they did suck. *My husband heard me utter “this suuuuuuuuuuuuuucks” at literally every single contraction for hours and hours and hours. I never swore. Just bemoaned the suckage that is labor pain and crushed the bones in his hand. Again and again and again.*
I wasn’t the type of person who went into labor and delivery with a birth plan or expectations. Given the long and frustrating path we walked to even get to this point, I honestly didn’t give a crap how the birth went down. I knew I wasn’t going to attempt a drug free birth and that I fully intended to take advantage of pain relief options as soon as they were offered. The rest, I figured, would fall into place. (I say I didn’t have a plan, but obviously I had some kind of plan. I would not have been prepared for the baby to be in such a rush that I had to deliver him on my bathroom floor. I should be more appreciative of Sam’s patience.)
I arrived to a packed ER, since it was past normal maternity ward hours, and was escorted to a wheel chair. My husband had to drop me off and park the car because all the close spots were taken. As it turns out, celestial events seem to have an impact on sending women into labor. Well, that, and the fact that August is the most popular time of year to give birth, but I digress. I was wheeled up to L&D and waited in a hallway for a while before they could get me into a triage room. I have no idea how long. Time had ceased to be meaningful. Eventually I got into a triage room and was given a hospital gown. Through my entire hospital stay I could not figure out how to wear these effing gowns. They had all these snaps on the arm holes and ties in the back and I just got all tangled up. Had I been more lucid I’m sure I would have worried that my inability to get a gown on was an ill omen for my future as a parent, but all I remember is that Dirty Dancing (I carried a watermelon!) was on the room TV when I got there, and it was no longer on the TV when I was transferred to a regular L&D room. I’d gone into labor at about 5, gotten to the hospital around 7 or 8, and was in triage until 11 or midnight. Because, as I mentioned, every woman in the tri-county area had gone into labor at the same time. There simply weren’t any rooms at the proverbial inn. (Ba du bum)
During my time in triage, I hadn’t progressed much. I was worried that they were just going to send me home to fend for myself, since I was obviously a huge wimp for thinking I was in THAT MUCH pain while only being one centimeter dilated. The baby had shown some signs of potential distress though, so I was allowed to stay. At the time I was assured it was probably nothing to worry about, but it was a good idea to keep monitoring things in the hospital. I was so relieved. I’m pretty sure I begged for pain killers the entire time I was in triage. A nurse gave me a couple of pills at one point, but they might have been candy. I mean, they literally did absolutely nothing for the pain. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that they were indeed placebo, reserved for annoying pregnant women who have a low pain tolerance.
Once I was installed in the regular room, I was like “soooo about this epidural.” And they were like “you’re not really far enough along for an epidural how about this other thing?” And I was like “I’ll take whatever you’ve got.” I have no idea what they gave me, other than that it took the edge off the pain. I’ve never really understood the phrase “take the edge off” until I was given this medication. Like, everything still hurt, but it felt more dull and less stabby. An improvement, to be sure. Eventually that wore off, and when I asked for more they were like “your only option now is an epidural” and I was like “I’ve been waiting to hear you say that!” A lovely anesthesiologist named Joel came and administered that sweet, sweet spinal relief.
I was able to doze a bit after that, so I removed my contacts and settled in for whatever was to come. At some point my doctor came in and broke my water (I’m like, REALLY good at retaining water. And amniotic fluid. The indignity of it all…) There were several more distress signals from the baby that resolved themselves. It was just like “OK, body, hurry up and do something.”
Until approximately 7:30 the following morning. An attending physician came in to give me the “you’re not progressing and it’s been like 14 hours, we might need to consider some other options” talk. Then the proverbial feces hit the fan. Some alarms went off, and my room was suddenly flooded with doctors and nurses. It was like an episode of ER. We went from “we may need to consider some options” to “you’re getting a C-Section right now and we’re not sure if we’re going to be able to keep you awake for it.”
I am extremely grateful for the fact that I’d had Joel give me an epidural in the wee hours because the means to administer the medication that would allow me to remain conscious was already in place. I’m also extremely grateful that the baby’s heart rate stabilized enough so that by the time I was wheeled into the OR (like 8 minutes later) we were in a slightly less frantic situation. (I’m pretty sure they’d have put me under regardless if the baby’s heart rate was still in dire straits.) Scrubs were literally thrown at my husband, and they told him they weren’t sure he was going to be allowed in the room (that was contingent on my consciousness, apparently.) They weren’t sure if my doctor was going to be there. It’s a damn good thing I didn’t go in with any expectations, because if I had, this would NOT have been part of the plan.
I remember being terrified, saying “I can’t lose him!” into an oxygen mask, and then devolving into repeating a looooooooooong chain of Hail Marys aloud. The repetition and chant-like nature of Catholic prayer is soothing in a crisis, and I was way beyond being bashful. So I made it to the OR, my doctor, luckily, made it in time, my husband was allowed in the room, and a few minutes and some weird pulling sensations later (probs my organs being all removed and whatnot. C-Sections are crazy) I heard my Samuel start wailing. Best. Sound. Ever.
Now, because I’d been in an emergency situation, my arms were strapped to the table. And, because I’d been an emergency situation, I hadn’t bothered to grab my glasses and I’d already taken out my contacts. I was told to look to my left where Sammers was being weighed, but everything was fuzzy. Eventually Jim brought the baby close to me, but I couldn’t hold him, because arms strapped to the table. I could, however, see him much better and proceeded to give his tiny face so many kisses that my lips were covered in the antibiotic ointment they put on newborns’ eyes. Seeing as my guts were still out and the baby was doing fine, I sent my husband away to follow the baby to whatever newborn testing stuff needed to be done and the staff sewed me up.
At this point, since the tension was broken and I had a healthy perfect baby boy, I started chit chatting with the folks holding the scalpels and stuff. The staff commented that Joel had done a great job placing my epidural, but I think the anesthesiologist who ended up doing the actual surgery part was a little salty when I referred to Joel as “my new best friend.” Sorry, anesthesiologist whose name I don’t remember. You did great, too. I didn’t feel a thing, other than the pulling stuff that I was supposed to feel.
Fun facts for you. Did you know that if your baby is “sunny side up” (meaning head down, but face up) it can make even early labor stupid painful and result in a prolonged and difficult birth? Also, a “nuchal cord” where the baby’s umbilical cord is wrapped around their neck is usually NBD and resolves itself, but sometimes it IS a big deal, like, if it’s in a weird position because your baby is facing the wrong way and it gets all smashed by contractions and messes with the oxygen flow? Those are things! Unpredictable things!
I am very grateful. Grateful that I had an epidural even though I was only like 3 cm dilated. Grateful that I was in a hospital with an excellent team of doctors and nurses and techs who know how to put guts back into people. Grateful that my doctor made it in time (although, I’m sure the attending would have done a great job too, but it was nice to have a familiar face wielding the scalpel.) Grateful that I was able to remain conscious. Grateful that my husband got to witness the birth of our son. Grateful that I had a pretty easy recovery. And most of all, obviously, grateful for the tiny human person I love so desperately to be here and healthy and hearty. Whew.
Time was rendered meaningless while I was in labor, and it never fully came back into my cognition. I have no freaking idea how this was all a full year ago, or how my once teeny fragile baby has grown into a babbling, mobile, toothy, autonomous person. I still know just enough to realize that I know nothing, and thus we stumble through, delighting in the joys and trudging through the obstacles. Happy start-of-labor day, Sammers. You are my greatest joy.