UPDATE: this is a more detailed version of my birth story. While it is not extremely graphic, it is still a birth story.
Childbirth was hands down the most exhilarating experience of my life. Was it painful? Well of course and yes I had an epidural! Though I found labor to be more mentally challenging than physically. Yet as I look back on this birth, the overwhelming feelings are pride and strength. I feel excited by the prospect of doing it again sometime soon! I’m truly in awe of the female body! So here it is, the story of two births...Mary Clare’s and the birth of a mother.
I felt like I’d been pregnant for so long that I had taken to telling people, “I’ve been pregnant every single day of 2017.” Needless to say, I was ready to get the show on the road and meet our baby. I did all the tricks to bring on labor. I ate 4 dates a day. I drank red raspberry leaf tea. I walked and walked and walked. Nothing.
So there I was, wearily waddling my way into my doctor’s office, four days late and utterly exasperated. I sat down to have my nonstress test after drinking a cloying sweet strawberry kiwi Capri Sun, YUCK! I thought “how am I going to make it through the next four days before my scheduled induction?” My doctor came in and gave me the low down. Nothing had changed down there. Plus he was headed on vacation in a few days, so if I wanted him to be the doctor to deliver the baby, I should consider inducing tomorrow. “SAY WHAT??? Tomorrow? Wait, like as in next time I wake up?” I thought. I was totally caught off guard but wasn’t this what I wanted? I walked out of the office and I headed for home because I knew Rob and I would need to figure out what to do.
We weighed the pros and cons, feeling incredibly unsure. We wondered...what if induction didn’t work and I needed a c-section...what if I waited and the baby got too big to deliver? There were too many what ifs and we felt that the stress of more waiting was not worth it. We also trust my doctor implicitly. So we decided the that if he believed it was a safe route to go, then it would be more than okay.
On Saturday September 16th, we woke up, had breakfast and headed to the hospital. It was not what I had imagined or seen in the movies but is it ever? Around 1pm, the resident on call inserted cervidil to soften my cervix. Rob and I hung out, watching Netflix on my laptop and unsuccessfully trying to nap. Our parents visited that evening and around 10pm we tried to go to sleep for the night. Though, it’s hard to get comfortable with the fetal monitor on your belly….or in Rob’s case, in those hospital “recliners.”
Around 2am the doctor started a very slow dose of pitocin, I didn’t feel a thing. At 7am, my doctor quickly and deftly broke my water. Then the contractions came and oh did they come. I used breathing techniques, changed positions and used pressure points to work through the pain. Rob was the best support - rubbing my shoulders, breathing with me and knowing just what to say. It must be impossibly hard to see someone you love in such pain. Then around noon, it was time, I asked for an epidural. I held off as long as I could, knowing I would not be able to get out of bed once I got it. When I had my epidural Rob left the room as it must be a sterile environment. I was very lucky that the nurse with me when they shoved a massive needle in my spine, was the mom of a childhood friend. I was a coincidence or maybe not, regardless it was comforting to have her with me when I was in some of my most intense pain.
I continued to labor for hours, feeling some pressure but almost no pain. Thank heavens for modern medicine, am I right? Then around 5pm I started feeling pain, big time. So I asked for a bolus. The anesthesiologist came in to give me more medicine and encouraged me to drink a protein drink for strength. Bear in mind, save for the tootsie rolls Rob was sneaking me, I had not eaten anything since 8am the day prior. I agreed and guzzled the metallic cherry flavored stuff and started to feel real nauseous. Almost immediately after, my doctor did an internal exam and it seemed I was stalling out at 5cm, I had been there for few hours. I started to feel even more nauseous as I began to worry. I know several women who did not progress when induced and went through hours of labor only to be cut open. I did a lot of comparing myself to these situations. Suddenly, I shouted, “get a bedpan,” and projectile vomited that cherry drink all over the place. I started crying.
I was at a crossroads. I was at my lowest point. I could continue to worry and probably have that work against me or I could choose to turn my thoughts toward the positive. My nurse, Rose, told me to focus on what my body was doing right, to actively decide that I could do this. It was no longer a matter of if, it was a matter of when. I began reciting a Joan of Arc quote in my head, “I am not afraid, I was born to do this.” Rob turned on the diffuser and calming music. Things picked up and I began to progress again. As I got close to 10cm, around 8pm, I was howling. I could not believe it. I tried to breathe through it but at the top of each contraction, I cried out “I can’t do this anymore.” Rob begged me to get more medicine but I felt I’d had too much already. I worried I would barf again. The pain only worsened, finally, I agreed to a little more medicine to take the edge off. Thank goodness, I did. It helped me when it was time for the big show!
At about 9pm, my doctor came in and said “it’s time to have a baby, Emily!” It certainly was not sudden but it felt like it. Suddenly, the bed rose up, my legs were in the stirrups and there was a light shining on my...well, you know. The room filled with people. Nurses, student doctors and who knows who else. The custodial staff could have joined for all I cared. I just wanted that baby out! The doctor coached me how to push properly. Rob and the nurse held my legs back. And then the real work began. What a relief it is to push, right? I felt like finally I could do something. After 30 minutes of pushing (I know, I am very lucky), out she came.
I’ll never forget the moment I saw my daughter for the first time. We kept the gender a surprise until she was born. So the moment she came out and the doctor held her up, I was searching for any indication of whether it was a boy or girl.
Even now, I can close my eyes and see, hear and feel it. Two seemingly giant hands holding up this tiny screaming body, backlit by that huge spotlight. Suddenly the doctors hand moved and I knew. “It’s a girl, it’s a girl, it’s a girl!” I shouted it over and over again through exhausted, joyful tears as they laid her on my chest.
It all happened so quickly. Yet from the moment she came out, to the moment she was laid on my chest it feels like I can remember each second. This is a memory I call upon often because it was so pure. And because it reminds me that no matter how I’m feeling in the moment, the feelings I had for her when we met earth-side are and will always be the truest love I have ever known.