It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. I can think of no better way to sum up my birth story. (Thank you, Charles Dickens.)
My little munchkin was “due” on September 27th. After nine months of counting down the days to THE day, I was a little sad when it came and went with no signs of his arrival. By the time 11 days had come and gone, I was downright depressed.
With each day that passed, I began to wonder if all the jokes about my swallowing a watermelon were true, after all.
On the morning of Friday, October 7th, I went in for a stress test and to have my amniotic fluid levels checked. Everything seemed to have gone well, and I was on my way out the door when the sonogram tech walked hurriedly up to my midwife. She whispered something into her ear.
I got a nervous pang, sensing something was wrong. A moment later, they told me that the baby’s fluid levels were low. I was to be induced on Sunday.
The news hit me like a ton of bricks. I had desperately hoped for a natural water birth and had always romanticized the moment when I would wake my husband up and tell him it was “Time.” Now, someone else was telling me it was time.
For weeks I had tried every trick in the book to get the little guy to budge—walking, eating spicy foods, etc. I got sore legs and heartburn but no baby. Now, ready or not, he was coming. Realizing there was nothing else I could do, I cried, then I resigned myself to the induction.
I spent the rest of the day making candy gift bags for the nurses with my sister. I tried not to think about the comment my midwife had made before leaving—that setting the induction date for Sunday would probably mean that I would go into labor that night. For the first time in weeks, I went to bed that night without the hope of going into labor.
A few hours later, when I awoke with cramps, I wrote them off as the result of a Mexican dinner. Then, with every minute that passed, they worsened. I finally got up to use the bathroom, and was shocked to see the “show” that I had checked for hundreds of times over the previous weeks. It was the only time that seeing blood has ever made me relieved, not panicked.
My labor had started naturally! My little guy was on his way out, and he was doing it all on his own. By now, I was in terrible pain, but I couldn’t have been happier about it.
Two hours later at 3 a.m., I decided to rouse my husband, Tom. After trying to figure out the perfect way to tell him, I finally just leaned over and whispered, “It’s happening.” (Romantic, not so much. Effective? Yes). He grabbed his iPhone, and we timed the contractions—three to five minutes apart.
After sharing the news with my sister who was sleeping in the next room (she had come into town a week prior expecting to help with the baby), we called the midwife who advised me to wait a few hours before heading to the hospital.
At 8 a.m., we were on our way. Though every bump on the road made me groan, I was loving every minute. Soon after arriving at Labor and Delivery, the nurse reported I was four centimeters dilated.
I spent the next few hours walking the hospital grounds, leaning on my husband and sister for support. By 1 p.m. after 12 hours of labor, I was seven centimeters dilated and feeling on top of the world. “I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t want to do this naturally,” I reported to Tom. “It’s so easy!” (Little did I know what was to come!)
To help with the pain during contractions, I stood in the shower for the next hours, singing old gospel songs and eating trail mix, while my sister and husband played Go Fish in the room. Life was good. So good, in fact, that my husband, sister and the nurses wondered if my contractions had stopped. To be sure, they checked my progress and found I was 9 centimeters dilated.
By now, it was 4 p.m. “We should have a baby in the next hour,” my midwife reported as I eased into the birthing pool. Though I hadn’t slept for 16 hours, I was too giddy to notice, thinking about how my little guy would soon be in my arms (and the pains in my belly would be over).
Two hours later, my midwife began to worry. Another check showed I had progressed just half a centimeter. I moved to the hospital bed from the tub hoping to speed things up, but by 10 p.m., I was still stuck in the transition phase. I wasn’t dying, but by now I wished I was.
I had become the stereotypical laboring woman, throwing all rules out the window. Before the big day, I had been adamant that I wanted no one in the room but my husband and midwife. Now, I found my sister Christy’s presence and the the bevy of nurses comforting. I pushed away my husband’s hand as he tried to offer comfort, then grabbed it again right away. I asked him to remind me to breathe through the contractions, then glared angrily when he did. I pleaded for him to count through the contractions then begged him to stop making noise. (Give this man an award!) Eventually, I reverted to cave man grunts and groans to communicate.
One exchange went something like this: Me: “Cooooount.” Tom: “Huh?” Are you saying ‘Ow’?” Me: “Cooooount.” Tom: “Ow?” Christy, walking in: “No, I think she’s asking you to count.” What I was thinking but couldn’t say: “Yes, yes, I was, but now that contraction is over, thank you very much.”
After hours of writhing, yelling, crying and throwing up, my progress had halted completely and my spirit was waning. I was exhausted and in a daze from the pain. Still, I was awake enough to hear tense whispers between the nurses, my sister (a postpartum nurse) and my midwife. I couldn’t catch much, but the word “C-section” came in loud and clear.
My midwife broke the news to me that my body was no longer cooperating and the baby was in distress. My natural childbirth wasn’t going to happen. I had two options: I could have a C-section or hope that a dose of Pitocin and an epidural would relax my body and speed up the contractions enough to push the little guy out.
Though I have an overwhelming fear of 12-inch-long needles (call me crazy), I have an even more overwhelming fear of knives. So, I opted for the drugs. Within a few minutes, I was fast asleep.
My nurse woke me up around 1 a.m. “It’s time to push,” she said. I never thought I would be happy to hear that, but after 24 hours of labor, I was finally about to meet my sweet baby.
Despite having an epidural, I never lost feeling in my legs and could feel the full force of each contraction, then the burning and the tearing. Strange as it sounds, I was so glad I would be able to feel my little one making his entrance into the world. (Call me crazy … again). The pain was mind-numbing, but knowing my body was doing exactly what it was designed to do was strangely empowering.
Finally, at 2:26 a.m. on October 9 (10/9/11!), after 25 hours of labor, I heard the sweetest sound I had ever heard. It was the cry of our son, Jacob Israel. Weighing in at 8 pounds and 14 ounces, he was the most beautiful sight in the world.
Though much of my birth plan had gone out the window that day, that didn’t seem to matter once I held him close to my chest and gazed into his big blue eyes. It had been a crazy roller coaster ride of ups and downs, but, at the end of the day, my sweet baby was in my arms, my loving husband was by my side, and, at that moment, it truly was the very best of times.