Something we women don’t really get to talk about is our birthing experiences. It shouldn’t be this way since it’s one of the single most profound experiences of our lives. We don’t talk about it because it’s not socially acceptable. It’s too gory for public discourse and you definitely aren’t allowed to talk about it with first time moms because you’ll terrify them (as if they aren’t already terrified at the prospect…).
I always knew I wanted to be a mother, but the act of delivering a baby was something I wanted to avoid. When I was nine my mother had me and my sister attend the birth of my youngest sister. To be honest it was too much for me and in retrospect I don’t believe I was mature enough for that experience. While it was effective at preventing a teen pregnancy, I spent the next 20 years dreading childbirth. My hope was that by the time I was pregnant science would find a way for us to grow our children outside our bodies and they could just be incubated. Needless to say, my opinion has very much changed.
When I was 28 I was experiencing all sorts of nasty side effects from Depo-Provera. I wasn’t quite done with school, but Hubs and I decided that it was better for my health to come off the contraception. My last injection was in January 2014 but my menstrual cycle didn’t return until August. Each month I eagerly awaited to find out if I was pregnant. Like women who experience the sadness of infertility I was heartbroken each time my period came. I began to wonder if something was wrong with me. I questioned why other women – ones in my addled brain I felt didn’t necessarily deserve a baby – would get pregnant and I wasn’t. I was mad at God/the universe because I did everything in the order you were supposed to. I didn’t get pregnant as a teen. I got married, we bought a house and we were financially stable all before we even considered pregnancy.
In January 2015, I went to a family reunion and found out that a cousin was pregnant. I was devastated. At home I cried with my whole heart because I wanted a baby more than anything in the world. Little did I know, I was already pregnant. It was just too soon to know. A few weeks later I left work early because I was severely irritable and just felt off. I took a pregnancy test and instead of two pink lines there was one bright pink line and one faint line. Hubs cautioned me from getting too excited yet. He very understandably didn’t want me heartbroken if it turned out to be nothing. But I got very excited. A faint line is a positive no matter how faint. After the second one came back positively positive a few days later I finally had the courage to call the doctor. We were officially pregnant!
I had a beautiful pregnancy. I was sick the first half throwing up and had terrible headaches that required medication, but I was the happiest I had ever been. I loved being pregnant. I loved having a life grow inside me and feel it move. Even before the gender reveal I knew I was having a boy. Apparently, I inherited this intuition from my mother. She said she too knew what gender she was having before it could be confirmed. I thought I would hate my belly being touched but I actually got to the point where I wondered why wouldn’t everyone want to touch my pregnant belly. I think I really just wanted to share my joy with everyone. My doctor was the best during all this. At my visits he’d say “You’re holding that belly again.” Not only wouldn’t he let me suffer from the headaches, but he knew I wanted to see the baby as often as possible. He had a hand held ultra sound machine that he would pull out during my visits. We would have a good laugh because I would point to the spots on my belly and say where I thought all the baby’s body parts were. I was amazingly accurate.
I finally graduated from college with my Bachelors and my due date neared. About a month out I started having really strong and powerful Braxton Hicks contractions. It would get so bad that at work I would have a colleague/friend rub my back or would call Hubs to come help. (It was very convenient that at the time we both worked on the same campus.) In the evenings, like clock work the sun would go down and the contractions would get intense. Hubs would draw a warm bath and help me get in – after all I had gotten really huge and could barely see over my belly. He would even sit on the bathroom floor just to keep me company. Then my due date came and went. We talked to the doctor and we decided to induce because it felt like life had been put on hold. Plus I had reached that point that all pregnant women get to, and you’re just done. On top of that, the entire pregnancy I was scared I wouldn’t have my own doctor deliver my baby. I didn’t want a stranger doing this. Since Doc was on call all weekend we knew this was better than waiting around.
We checked into the hospital on a Friday evening. When we were finally taken to the delivery room Hubs asked the nurse, “Is this THE room?” She laughed and said yes. She left to let me change into a hospital gown and I broke down in tears. I was terrified. I was face to face with my biggest fear in life. I had no idea how I was going to get through delivering a baby. Soon they had me hooked up and the Pitocin was going. They suggested I try to sleep, but sometime around midnight my water broke. I had just reached that moment where you were crossing the line from consciousness to sleep when I was wet all over. I screamed, “You’ve gotta get the nurse! It’s going everywhere! Make it stop!” They gently laughed at my sudden panic. We decided previously that since I don’t handle pain well we would request an epidural as soon as real labor began. We had to wait a little bit for the doctor on call to approve its administration. I was scared of a needle going in my back, but I was even more scared of the pain that was coming.
Unfortunately, the epidural didn’t work. They had to re-administer the medication every two to three hours. At one point I told the nurse anesthesiologist, “Kevin, all the women must love you.” He just laughed and said, “sometimes.” I was glad each time he showed up. I can only imagine how much worse the pain would have been had I chosen an unmedicated birth. I labored for something like twenty six hours. I lost count the number of shift changes we went through. Finally I transitioned into the final stages. It was awful. I was throwing up everywhere, and the pain became excruciating. I pushed and pushed for two hours. Every contraction I imagined myself a mama bear. In the midst of this I remember telling Hubs, “PLEASE DON’T LOOK!” The nurse made a sound of disgust at this but Hubs respected my request and even studied the monitors to know when I would have to push next. He coached me though telling me when the monitors showed the ideal time to push and holding my left leg. (The nurse had the right leg.)
Finally, Doc said I wasn’t progressing. He believed it to be an anatomical issue. He told Hubs we can let her keep pushing but that he really didn’t think I was going to get the baby out on my own. Right away he said, “Do the C-Section.” By this point I was out of my mind with so much pain. I remember yelling, “Please don’t let me die!” I don’t remember much about the next few minutes other than the room suddenly becoming a flurry of prep and I had to sign paperwork. They rolled me to the operating room and once there and on the table I remember asking, “Why am I naked, I don’t know any of you!” One really nice nurse yelled “Get this woman a blanket!” This was the same nurse that a few minutes later let me hug/hold on to her when “Kevin” gave me my spinal. I told him that I had heard that sometimes you could feel tugging and pulling during a c-section and that I wanted none of that, “That’s just not cool, man.” To this day I think that man was sent to be there at my birth. He stayed through the whole operation and talked me through it, keeping me calm.
On Sunday October 18th at 1:14 am the baby was born safely. I didn’t get to hold him immediately like I originally wanted, but Hubs stayed with Baby Boy like we had talked about while pregnant. I told him that no matter what was happening with me I didn’t want him to leave the baby. So, Hubs took it upon himself to make sure there were pictures taken and to make sure the baby was never alone while I was being stitched back up. (As an aside, do you know it takes less time for a doctor to get the baby out, than it does to stitch you back up?) Hubs, bless his heart, had never held a brand new baby and the nurses left him to hold the baby by himself. He later told me that he was so scared he was going to do something wrong and anxiously awaited for me to brought back. After a while I was reunited with my new little family. I finally got to hold my baby for the first time. Thank goodness Hubs was able to think more clearly than I was. By this point I was completely drugged and could only think about holding my baby – it was a very one track mind thing. I’m so grateful that he made sure to record the event. It was literally the happiest moment of my whole life. I had my baby and we both survived.
Unfortunately, things didn’t get better from that point. The happiness was brief. When we were placed in a family room, they took Baby Boy. I ran a fever during my labor so both me and the baby had to have antibiotics. They said they needed to put an IV in the baby for this. Hubs and I were exhausted at this point and trusting they knew best consented. I didn’t know they would take the baby for a long time. He was still gone when Doc came back to check on me. I was completely distraught by this time. He apologized for not warning me that they needed to take the baby but promised to get him back. Well the nurses stalled and stalled. I kept asking and kept being told “soon, just rest.” I asked where he was, and they said the NICU. I asked what happened to him that he needed to be in the NICU that he was healthy when I got to hold him. I was told that the NICU is better at getting baby IVs in. Finally, I snapped and said “How in the hell do you expect me to calm down when you’ve taken my baby away from me?” I got my baby back but was in total shock at what they had done to him. He came back with pin pricks all over his hands and IV tubes coming out of his head. I just cried and there was nothing I could do.
The post delivery hospital experience was just horrible. They wouldn’t let us sleep. They came in and out with lots of unnecessary visits. And they treated Hubs like he wasn’t even there; like he was unimportant part in all this. At one point the nurse left me stuck to an IV unit for more than an hour after the antibiotics course had finished and the hospital wouldn’t let my husband back in without my consent even though he had the obligatory authorizing tag on his shirt. It’s now why I understand why some do home births. We just wanted to celebrate and acknowledge this monumental moment in our lives, but also rest after such a traumatic birthing experience. We got none of that. I begged Doc to let me go home. I made my case that I would be much better off at home by showing him the schedule the nurses had me on. He promised that as long as my last round of blood work came back clear he could discharge me. Even with his approval it took FOREVER to be allowed out of the hospital. The oversight is ridiculous. You can’t just take your baby and go. They lecture you for more than an hour on different aspects of parenting, they escort you in a wheelchair to the pick up station not letting you get up, and they check your car seat and how you buckle your baby in.
It was a Tuesday afternoon and we finally got to breathe a sigh of relief once the hospital was in the rear view mirror.