As a notoriously nostalgic gal, I've been reflecting on my daughter's day of birth a lot lately. So I figured I'd might as well share.
To really begin properly, we must start with the conception. HAHAHA! No, not really, but kinda. My husband and I practice Natural Family Planning, which uses a woman's natural fertility signs (external observations and waking body temperatures) to predict ovulation. It's helpful when we are trying to avoid pregnancy, and it was equally helpful when we were hoping to conceive in the fall of 2009. As soon as I saw those two little lines on the positive pregnancy test, I scurried over to my NFP manual to find the section on estimating the baby's due date. According to my calculations, our little one would be born June 30, 2010.
Then I went to the OB/GYN, where everyone has 28-day cycles (since we're all on the Pill, right?) and ovulates on day 14. "June 24," the nurse announced after adjusting her little wheel. The next week, we had our first ultrasound, which confirmed my suspected date of conception (and, in turn, due date) to the day. I attempted to get the doctor to change my official due date: "My cycles tend to be a little on the long side," I said. "Oh, if it's within a week, we don't usually change it," he replied.
Even though I knew the reasoning was faulty, I wanted to meet my little one sooner rather than later, so I ended up adopting the June 24 due date myself when people would ask. Silly weez! I wish I'd stuck to my guns.
Not surprisingly, June 24 came and went without the slightest contraction. As did the next few days. I talked to my mom over the weekend, and she predicted that the baby would wait until July 1. My husband voted for June 27; my dad stuck with my original due date of June 30; I threw my hat in the ring with June 29. (Awesomely, nobody remembers this but me. Oh well.)
I had a doctor's appointment on Monday, June 28, which included a non-stress test since I was technically overdue at that point (so! wrong! sigh). I woke up around 7 that morning and had a lovely breakfast of blueberries and cantaloupe. Afterwards, I felt really tired, and decided to go ahead and nap, even though it felt a little silly to nap from 8-10 in the morning. (I'm really glad I did!) Then I headed out to the doctor's office. After weeks of stagnating in the dilation/effacing department, things were finally moving along; I knew it wouldn't be much longer. The baby performed admirably during the non-stress test, but the doctor noticed some dips in her heart rate, and decided to send me over to the hospital for some additional monitoring.
As I walked out of the doctor's office, I called my husband, who was holding office hours for the class he taught last summer. "Yeah, the doctor is sending me over to the hospital for some additional non-stress test monitoring, no big deal," I told him. "It shouldn't take long. No need to come."
I drove the (literally) 30 seconds from my doctor's office to the hospital parking lot, parked, and headed in. As I strode toward the door, it began to rain. I noticed some other folks sitting outside, waiting for rides, looking at my big belly. I wonder if I'm actually just going here to have her? I wondered. I wonder if they're looking at a woman who's arriving here to have a baby?
(Note: we're developing a family history of going into labor on the day of our last prenatal doctor's appointment. My mom was supposed to go to the doctor at 12:30 the day she had me, but she ended up going into labor around 4 in the morning and I was born at 1:29 PM. She went to an appointment the day she had my brother, and was informed that she was in labor and should go to the hospital immediately; he was born about 4 hours later. So it crossed my mind that I might follow suit!)
Once I got up to the L&D area, I was utterly confused about where to go, and ended up barging into a "no patients allowed" nurse's office to announce my presence. I'm still not sure what I was actually supposed to do, but luckily, the staff quickly figured out what to do with me and where to put me. I donned a hospital gown and got hooked up to some equipment. I called my mom to let her know what was going on.
Honestly, the next part it foggy in my memory, but I know the doctor came in, examined me, realized that I had progressed even since my appointment the hour before...and somehow concluded that labor should be induced. I had been dead-set against induction unless it was medically necessary for my entire pregnancy, but, naive first-timer that I was, I agreed to it. Lesson learned! (Again, of course I'm in favor of induction if there is a medical reason to do it, but there wasn't in my case, and I wish I would have just let nature take its course. Pitocin makes for some strong contractions, oh yes it does!)
As soon as the doctor left, I pulled out my cell phone. My husband had left a message saying his office hours had ended early and he was headed over to the hospital, which I found reassuring. However, I was hoping to intercept him on his way so he could go home first, pack my hospital bag, and bring it. (Yep, I had never done it, despite reading many books that said I should. By the end of my pregnancy, I felt like I was doing absolutely nothing but waiting on my daughter to arrive, and I just couldn't handle the thought of having everything ready. What can I say, I live on the edge.) I must have called him at least a half-dozen times, but he didn't pick up. I grew frantic -- but it wasn't really about the bag; I knew I was going to have the baby that day or the next, and my husband didn't, and I needed him to know! Now!
Soon later, I heard my sweet husband's voice outside in the hall. (That's the nice thing about State College -- everything is crazy close. The hospital is right next to campus; our home is a ten-minute drive at most from both.) "Did you hear that today's the day?" I asked him when he came in. He smiled and said yes. "Do you have like seven missed calls?" He looked; his stupid phone had turned itself off. (It still does that from time to time. We still haven't replaced it. Aren't we deliciously cheap?)
I made a list of items I wanted and sent my husband home to get them. I called my mom to fill her in. The nurse started my IV, and at 2 o'clock in the afternoon, she added the Pitocin. For a while, it was easy: the contractions were no worse than moderate menstrual cramps.
|"I can't believe women get all bent out of shape about labor!" -- ridiculously foolish, naive weez around 5 pm on 6/28/10|
It didn't take long for the contractions to ratchet up, big time. I was in agonizing pain, and I couldn't stop shivering. My dear husband held my hand, put his own hand on my stomach while encouraging me to take deep breaths, and tried rubbing my back (that just didn't help, so I immediately asked him to stop). Relaxation did nothing for me. Now, disclaimer -- we didn't take any prepared childbirth classes. (Me: "I'm not paying $125 for that!" Deliciously cheap, once again.) Instead, we both read Dr. Bradley's Husband-Coached Childbirth. I didn't even buy it; I borrowed it from the PSU Library. So it's entirely possible that, had we taken a course, I would have better understood what to do and fared much better. But we didn't.
I was frantic. I had maintained for a long time that I wanted to go drug-free, but here I was, in agony, unable to relax or go to my happy place or do anything but focus on how miserable I felt. We asked about my options, and the nurse unhesitatingly recommended an epidural. I hemmed and hawed for a few minutes (and asked my husband, "Will you think less of me?" to which of course he answered no), and then gave the word that I wanted one, imagining that it would arrive in about 15 seconds.
Ha! Not exactly. First, my doctor had to approve it (which was quick), then the anesthesiologist had to show up. He was busy with another patient, so I was told I'd have about a 45-minute wait. 45 minutes! I shrieked to myself. How am I going to survive?! But I did. And around a quarter to nine, charming Dr. Foster with the hot-pepper do-rag arrived on his shining white steed, asked me to sign a couple papers (I'd love to see what my John Hancock looked like at that point), numbed my back, and hooked me up to some serious painkillers.
Ahhhhh. Well, not right away. I can even remember pansily asking the nurse how long it was going to be before the drugs took effect. And for a while there, I availed myself the extra boost I was allowed every fifteen minutes. But after an hour or so, I indeed felt much better. I could actually relax, and I even slept some.
The hours ticked by. I watched my favorite Three Tenors concert because I love the music and it reminds me of the summer of 1997 when my brother and I watched portions of it pretty much every night. Midnight came and went. Finally, around 1:40 in the morning, the nurse said I could start pushing. Hooray! I thought. I figured that she would be born with an hour.
Soon after I started, the nurse wanted me to try from another position for a few minutes. I honestly don't remember exactly why, but I think it had something to do with getting the baby situated better. She requested that I get up on my hands and knees. The epidural had basically numbed the lower half of my body, so this was no small task, but I managed to do it (especially after I heard her tell another nurse that she didn't think I could -- it was SO ON!). Finally, I was able to turn back around, but my girl's heart rate kept dipping, so I had to start wearing an oxygen mask, which I deplored (I felt like I was getting less oxygen, even though I knew it wasn't true).
The night wore on. My contractions were coming every two minutes, the epidural was no longer disguising them, and I pushed for most of them. In between, I nearly fell asleep. When I tell people this, they sometimes reply, "Oh, that's nice!" It was not nice at all. I was still going on my fruity breakfast from the day before and nothing more, and I was completely exhausted. I wasn't falling asleep because I was relaxed, but because I barely had any energy.
I remember thinking, "well she'll be born at 2 something...at 3 something...at 4 something...at 5 something..." During the 5 o'clock hour, I started thinking to myself that I might have to give up and ask if they could do a c-section. I didn't want to, but I didn't know how I could go on much longer. "You have to do something," I pleaded with my husband. "I can't do this much longer." He smiled and reassured me, "It will be soon, I promise." "But you don't knoooooow that," I responded weakly.
He was right! Our precious little baby girl was born at 5:50 AM, June 29, 2010, after four hours and ten minutes of pushing. The doctor ended up having to use the little vacuum to ease her out, which I had wanted to avoid -- but after all that time, I needed it. We said a prayer for her just before she was born. And then, out she came! I will never forget the first incredulous thought that passed through my mind when I saw her: that baby that was inside of me...is a BABY!
Yes, that's right. I knew she was a person the whole time, I believed it with my whole heart and soul, but it was only on an intellectual level. Seeing her in front of my eyes -- a little, squirming, crying, perfect baby girl -- forced me to understand her humanity in an entirely new way. Nine months earlier, she had not existed; God created her right beneath my very heart, and she'd been safely growing inside me all that time. A person! Our daughter! It was unbelievable, but true.
As is the custom nowadays, the attendants immediately placed her on my chest. "I'm your mommy," I said to her softly.
The rest of the day passed like a dream. We watched her get her first bath, I nursed her on and off, my parents and brother drove in from Youngstown to visit us, and I finally got to eat. :) At one point, I waddled into the bathroom, and when I caught sight of my own face in the mirror, I stopped dead in my tracks. She looks like me! I realized. Her eyes looked like mine. The fronts of her cheeks were shaped just like mine. It was an incredible moment -- I have often looked in the mirror and noticed my resemblance to both of my parents, but here, for the first time, I noticed my resemblance to my daughter.
I didn't sleep the whole day, and by nightfall I was very tired. The nurses kept coming in to either check on me or have me nurse the baby, so it was a long time before I fell asleep. A few minutes before midnight, I stared at the clock, and I felt a stirring in my heart that I didn't want the day to end. Why? I asked myself.
The answer sprung up from the deepest, purest part of me: Because it's the day my daughter was born. It's the best day of my life.