I was 39 weeks pregnant and absolutely miserable. My ankles were swollen, my back ached constantly, and every night I was plagued by horrible Braxton Hicks contractions. Needless to say, I was ready to have my baby girl. So when a friend and co-worker suggested I ask my midwife to strip my membranes at my next appointment to possibly kick-start my labor, I wanted to sprint (not that I could even run, much less sprint) to the office and use whatever bribing and begging I could to have this miracle method performed.
The very next day, Tuesday, I went to see my midwife for my 39-week check up. I casually asked Donna, my midwife, if she would strip my membranes. To my surprise, she had no issues doing so and it only took a second. She did inform me that the process would only work if my body was really ready to go into labor and, at two centimeters dilated and 80 percent effaced, I could be ready for labor any minute or in two weeks.
“Awesome,” I sarcastically mumbled. I drove home feeling as if my labor-inducing tactic had failed me. I somehow expected to go into labor right there in the office, Donna rushing me to the hospital and delivering my daughter in a matter of minutes. Of course, if that had really happened, my husband Ben would never make it to the hospital from his work for the birth. In retrospect, I hadn’t really considered him in this whole “get this giant turkey baby out of me” plan.
I went home and spent the afternoon like I had spent pretty much every day the past two weeks, planted on the couch like a walrus, only getting up to waddle to the kitchen or bathroom, which was approximately every 7.2 minutes considering my enormous appetite and miniscule bladder control. By the time Ben arrived home with my stepdaughter Delia that evening, I had given up hope of ever going into labor, assuming they would induce me when my daughter was ready to start college.
After a very typical evening, Ben and I put Delia to bed and proceeded to our queen size bed, which had been entirely too small for my enormous belly for months. As expected, I started having what I assumed were my nightly Braxton Hicks contractions. My back ached and I was extremely uncomfortable. Unlike the previous few nights, however, these pains did not subside. In fact, they kept getting worse. I was certain it was finally happening. I started timing the pain and it was coming every nine minutes. In our birthing class, we were instructed to wait until contractions were every five minutes apart before going to the hospital. “Yeah, right,” I thought. “If I wait that long, I will certainly face an untimely death.” (I should mention here that I had never once considered natural childbirth. I do have a high pain tolerance as I have over a dozen tattoos, but not when it comes to my lady parts. Triple ouch!). An hour of the pain I was feeling was enough. I told Ben to call my mom to come get Delia because I needed to get to the hospital to get pain medicine IMMEDIATELY.
My mom had always told horror stories of the back labor she had when she gave birth to my younger brother. I should have known I would have the same fate. My back had ached throughout my entire pregnancy. Why would labor suddenly take that back pain away?
The 20 minute drive to the hospital was anything but pleasant. When we arrived, I wanted to be whisked into a room where I knew everything would suddenly be okay again. Unfortunately, this is not how things in labor and delivery work. After checking in at the front desk, I was taken to triage where a nurse had me put on a totally hot (insert sarcasm here) gown and then hooked me up to two monitors. I believe her exact words were, “We have to monitor your contractions because you could just be in false labor.” My only thought, in between crippling contractions, was “Lady, there is no way I’m leaving this hospital without a baby in my arms!”
Luckily, I was in real labor. I was given some pain medication to take the edge off (or that was the intended effect) and admitted to one of three delivery rooms. The contractions were horrible. At any given moment, I could be found walking the hallways, on all fours in the room, on a birthing ball, or kung-fu gripping the side of my bed. All the while, Ben patiently rubbed my back. I’m sure his fingers were numb and possibly broken, but he didn’t say a word. He knew how much pain I was in and did everything he could to help.
The next few hours were a complete blur. Both Ben and my mom remained at my side. Donna was in and out of the room for most of that morning. She broke my water at one point, told me I could get my epidural (Alleluia!) at another, and both her and the nurses checked my progress every hour or so. The epidural provided relieve for my contractions and I was able to relax for a few hours before the real show started.
At seven centimeters dilated, I realized the epidural had only worked on my midsection and my lower half could feel everything. I had the incredible urge to push, but had to wait until I was ten centimeters dilated. It was absolute hell. The nurses checked my progress every fifteen minutes or so because I was so miserable and desperate to push out my baby girl.
At around 4:00 that afternoon, the nurse checked my progress and I heard the words I had been praying to hear all afternoon, “You are ten centimeters.” I was finally ready to push. I was finally going to be a mom.
While I knew the media never portrayed labor and delivery accurately, I never realized just how inaccurately. On television, a woman pushes a handful of times and like magic, a beautiful and amazingly clean baby appears. This would not be my reality.
Before I mention the fact that I pushed for three hours and the fact that my brother arrived in the delivery room at the exact wrong moment not once, but twice, I should mention that I was extremely lucky. My delivery was free of any real medical concern. My baby never showed any signs of distress and there was never a mention of a Cesarean section. I never had to wear an oxygen mask and Donna never busted out those scary forceps or the weird vacuum tool where a baby comes out with a giant circle atop their head. I feel truly blessed that my delivery was complication free.
With that said, I did have to push for three hours. Early in my pushing expedition, my brother arrived to me screaming in pain. After attempting to grab a seat across the room and hearing me scream, “Don’t go that way for the love of God!” my mom informed my brother that it would be awhile and he was sent to get my husband dinner. Yes, my husband was thinking about eating spaghetti and sausage (what he requested) while staring at the gaping hole formally known as my lady parts. Although he was thinking about food, Ben never took his focus off of me. I hear stories all the time about women who want to kill their husbands, but Ben was my rock. He stayed positive and his face became my focal point for each and every push. I really would not have made it without his encouragement.
As the pushing continued and continued … and continued, I begged Donna to tell me how many more pushes. Her expert training provided her with the only answer that wouldn’t get her killed, “It will take as long as it takes.” I was still pushing and my brother returned with Skyline Chili, which he attempted to bring into the room for Ben. I very gently reminded him (SCREAMED) that I was in labor and to kindly leave the Skyline outside of the room (GET THAT STUFF THE F*** OUT OF HERE!). Soon after, my dad arrived. I am pretty sure my girl was waiting for her grandpa to arrive, because maybe ten contractions later, she finally made her appearance. We had waited to tell anyone her name, so my husband announced to my family that Lydia Lee had made her grand entrance into the world. She was born at 7:04pm, weighing 7 pounds, 9 ounces, and measuring 21 inches long.
The nurses quickly wrapped her and placed her on my chest. Everything else in the room disappeared and it was just me and my baby girl at that moment. She wrapped her tiny hand around my finger and she was mine. It was perfect.
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