Apologies to those who are squeamish about birth stories, or who are preparing to go through childbirth for the first time (I'm looking at you Little Mama C!)
Some things you never forget . . . .
The day dawned sunny, warm, and sticky - late June would not be forgotten or ignored. I was heavy with the humidity and my body's nine months' work. I was ready to be finished with gestation; I was done with all of the dull throbbing, the aches, the burning muscles, the sweaty neck, the itchy skin so impossibly stretched beyond its usual girth.
I was scheduled for an induction, and I was not thrilled with the prospect. I wanted to be done, but I wanted to be done on my own terms, my own schedule. I still had not relinquished my grip on the dream that I had control over how and when my child would be born. I had been induced with The Boy - aka The Child Who Applied For Permanent Uterine Residency - and everything went very well. So well, in fact, that I figured the Wheel of Fortune was bound to spin around and land on Heinously Long and Painful Labor Induction. I am nothing if not an optimist.
My fears were not quelled by the fact that we had to call the hospital four times to see if they had any room for us. Apparently, people were pushing out newborns like it was going out of style, and since I was not in active labor, I was persona non grata. I told Rob that if they told us to call back one more time, then he could tell them to forget it, I wasn't coming. Then I rolled over and sobbed into my pillow, because I was upset that the induction I didn't want was not going to happen after all. Stupid hormones. He called one more time. This time they said, "Sure , come on over. We'd love to have you." As if they had been hanging out there, breathing on their nails and buffing them on their scrubs all day, just waiting for someone to have a baby to liven up the place.
We left my mother with Older Girl (who back then was Only Girl) and The Boy, and drove into the hospital to have the baby. Since I was already four centimeters with nary a contraction, and this was my third baby, everyone predicted a swift labor. I came perilously close to punching people in the mouth, just knowing that they were jinxing me - dooming me to an eternity of stalled dilation. I was scared that the pitocin was not going to work, or that it would work too well and my uterus would just explode from the force of the contractions. Either way, it sounded uncomfortable.
My mood lightened when I met my nurse. She was funny, warm, and an easy talker, but not pushy or nosy. She knew when to chat and when to just slip in, get her "numbers," and slip back out. I liked her so much that I wrote I heart Cindy on my bag of pitocin. When she told me I had pretty hair, I may have asked her to go steady, but I'm not sure.
We started out at with low level of pitocin around 2 pm, since I was already dilated and even the hospital janitor seemed to think I would have the baby in about 3.7 seconds. While everyone chatted about how we'd have a baby in time to get a dinner tray from the cafeteria, I prepared myself for a lengthy labor resulting in a c-section. Again with the optimism.
To take my mind off of the fact that my veins had been slurping up pitocin for an hour and I still wasn't having any real contractions, I turned to the quality periodicals that I had packed: People and US. There is nothing like looking at photos of celebrities with $5,000 handbags walking down the street with their children and nannies in tow under a caption that reads: Celebrities! They're just like US! to distract you from dwelling on your situation. Then I brushed my hair (because Cindy said it was pretty) and talked with Rob and applied some lip balm, all of which took about three and a half minutes.
Cindy kept cranking up the pitocin, and I was feeling discomfort, but not anything that I considered hard labor. I hung out in the rocking chair, breathing and chatting and sometimes squeezing Rob's hand. My doctor, who had been stopping in regularly, thought we (meaning her) should go ahead and break my water. She felt like things would really go fast since the baby was so low, and I was already halfway to the full ten centimeters. I was hesitant, because I knew that breaking my water was The Point of No Return. Once the water was out, that baby was coming out by whatever means necessary. Up until this point, I had been harboring a fantasy that if the pitocin didn't work, Cindy could just turn it off, remove my IV, and I would skip back home to try another day, tra-la-la-la-la.
But who was I kidding. I knew this was it, so I agreed and the doctor reached for the ten foot long knitting needle they use to break your water. Oh, wait that's just what it feels like, it's really only about eight feet long. I could feel the warm rush of fluid and I knew it was the beginning of the end. (time check: 5:30 pm)
With my water broken, I was pretty sure that something would happen to let me know I was in labor. I was not disappointed, because the moment my water was gone, my brain apparently registered the fact that I was a bucket full of synthetic labor accelerants and telegraphed a message to the uterus that maybe it should get the show on the road. My uterus, whose motto is I live to serve, got right on the Labor Bandwagon and I was hit with some contractions that felt like I was in a vice grip. It was at this point that Cindy suggested the epidural and I might have tried to kiss her. (time check: 5:50 pm)
I had had epidurals with the first two, and they worked well, and I asked God to bless the person who discovered anesthesia. I don't consider myself a real wimp, but my first two labors were long, both involving overnight laboring until the baby showed up the next morning. I didn't know how long this labor would be, but I did know that pitocin should be marked with CAUTION: CAUSES INSANELY INTENSE CONTRACTIONS. There was no mild build-up of pain; it was more like la-la-la-feeling pretty good -la-la- OH SWEET LORD I AM GOING TO SPLIT IN HALF SO THE BABY CAN JUST CRAWL OUT ITSELF!
So I opted for the epidural. Cindy, who was wearing something akin to the BatBelt, was all loaded up with gadgets, including a phone. She called, but the anesthesiologist couldn't come, he was in a c-section. Apparently, C-Section trumps Raging Pitocin Fueled Labor, what with all the cutting and stapling and whatnot. I can see that now, but I remember thinking it was mighty cruel to dangle an epidural in front of me and then tell me I couldn't have it. I think it was at this point that I first begged Rob to hit me in the head with a hammer. (time check: 6 pm)
Not expecting any Happy Juice any time soon, imagine my surprise when Dr. Feelgood strolled in with his cocktail cart. He had someone who could step in for him on the c-section, so he thought he'd just pop over. He got me all set-up with my handy catheter, and assured me I would be feeling good in fifteen minutes or less. I knew it would be less, because I am highly responsive to pain medication and my other epidurals started working immediately. I laid back on my pillow and waited. And waited. And waited. The only thing that was getting numb was my left leg, and having done this twice before, I was pretty sure that was not a crucial part to have numbed. I grabbed Cindy and panted, "It's. Not. Working!" (time check: 6:15 pm)
Cindy, not wanting to die by manual strangulation, gently removed my hands and consulted Dr. Feelgood, who suggested she give me an extra big dose of his secret recipe Super Numbing Agent. She did this, and nothing happened. My left leg was so numb that they could have cut it off and I would have been none the wiser until I tried to run away. But I could feel everything else. All of it. En todo. (time check: 6:30 pm)
Dr. Feelgood said it sounded like the catheter was crooked and not delivering the medicine to the right spot. Gee, you think? I really wanted to kick him with my good leg. He said that he could come back and take it out and start from scratch. I remember thinking that it wasn't worth it. I also remember that I started crying and praying the Rosary because I was tired and scared at this point. I still didn't know if I was dilated enough, and I was afraid that the monstrous contractions would cause my body to turn inside out. Rob told me it would be all right, and I looked over at him and said, so sweetly and with such love, I think I might throw up. Rob and Cindy looked at each other and said, in unison, Transition! I knew that it really was too late for Dr. Feelgood's do-over, but I didn't care. (time check: 6:50 pm)
All of a sudden, I felt like I must push or I would die. Cindy took a look below-deck, and she was practically shaking hands with the baby. My doctor came running in, and threw her arms in a gown and some gloves. I started pushing at 7:01 and Baby Girl was in my arms at 7:06. The fastest, smoothest, most painful birth of the three. I heard my doctor say "It's a girl!" because we had elected to wait to know her gender, and I was crying, saying "I knew it!" I felt like she was so small in my arms, a tiny little bundle of dark hair and red lips, but when they laid her on the scale it read 9 pounds 3 ounces. Maybe not such a tiny bundle - no wonder I was so uncomfortable at the end!
As they were cleaning her up, and putting everything away, my dinner tray came. I really did make it in time for the dinner tray, and I put that food away like I had been stranded on a desert island. It wasn't pretty, but no one was looking at me anyway. My leg was still numb, but otherwise, I felt great. I was so awash in endorphins that had someone suggested I get up and jog around the post-partum wing a few times, I would have reached for my running shoes. I think euphoric is the word I'm looking for.
Now, almost one full year later, I still love looking back on that day. I have been looking through Baby Girl's (sparsely filled) baby book, running my fingers over her hospital bracelet and holding her tiny cap up to my nose. I can't believe a whole year has passed; that my season of growing her is so thoroughly behind me. She is now a raucous, joyous, almost-toddling ball of fire, but at this time of year, I'm always taken back to that little bundle of swaddling clothes, still so fresh from heaven. And I'm thankful and humbled by my blessings.