It took Cory and I over a year to conceive Everett. I know that doesn't seem like that long, but when you are in the middle of it and can't see the end date, it feels like forever. After trying and trying on our own, including acupuncture and some other random homeopathic remedies, I finally met with my doctor and was given a prescription for a fertility medicine. It was a hard decision to take it. For one, I was scared as heck that we would have twins. But I did take it, and got pregnant after the first round.
As happy as I was to be having a baby was how much I hated being pregnant. Of course I loved what everyone else loved; hearing the heartbeat for the first time, finding out the sex, feeling him kick...but the rest of it pretty much sucked. Heartburn, nausea, having random co-workers who I barely knew grabbing my love handles in the hallway and shaking them while telling me I looked thick (yes that really happened), all of that made the ten months go by very slowly.
I spent most of my pregnancy fixated on labor. Labor is crazy, right? I find the whole thing so fascinating. The idea that I would one day start feeling crampy-like feelings and then they would just keep getting worse and then I would realize it was labor and then God only knows how many hours later I would have a baby...now that is amazing. Unfortunately for me this is not how it all went down.
I promised myself early in my pregnancy that I would NOT expect to have him before my due date. I knew that if I did that I would spend the last few weeks of my pregnancy completely miserable because I thought I'd be done already, and I did not want to do that to myself. Apparently I forgot to give everyone else in my life the memo on that plan. Everyone thought I would have him early. Strangers would pass me in the aisle at the grocery store and tell me that I wasn't going to make in another week. People at work told me everyday from 36 weeks on that they couldn't believe he hadn't come yet. Even our childbirth class instructor told me that she had been doing this a long time and there was no way I was going to make it to my due date. Faced with all these well-intentioned opinions I became convinced they were right and waited expectantly for labor to start any second. The bag was packed, the toes were painted, the mama was ready. And I watched with my pretty toenails and my bag packed as my due date came and went with nothing to show for it.
Finally, I convinced my midwife TEN days after my due date to induce me. By this point I was ready by any means necessary to get him out. I was, however, bummed at the idea of being induced. From the very beginning I knew that I wanted to have a medication-free labor, and induction definitely did not fit in that plan.
Luckily for me, I had an amazing provider who completely supported and encouraged that goal. She gave me the option of being induced using a catheter instead of Pitocin right away. The hope in this method is that it is easier on the body to dilate slowly rather than using medication. Sounded good to me.
Cory and I checked in to the hospital at 8:00 on Tuesday, August 24th, 2010. We were a big ball of nerves and excitement and fear. They hooked me up to an IV and inserted the catheter. I spent the first few hours in anticipation of intense pain. They told me it wouldn't really hurt, and it didn't. It seemed to good to be true. I was supposed to have it in for 8 hours and then Lynn (my midwife) would come back and check on my progress. Now, the lack of pain was awesome, but because one associates pain with progress when talking about labor I had this fear I was going to sit around the hospital for 8 hours and find out that it didn't work and we had to start all over with a different method. The day went by pretty quickly. We ate some food, watched a lot of TV, and just kind of hung out together. 8 hours later Lynn came in to check me. Drum roll please....
I was at a 5! I could have kissed her! To be halfway to full dilation without an ounce of pain felt too good to be true. OK, now it was time to get down to business. They hooked me up to an IV and started me on a very low dose of Pitocin, which they would increase every half an hour until it reached an amount that was achieving results. It took about two hours for me to feel any painful contractions. At this point I was starting to think maybe, just maybe, I was one of those mysteries of modern medicine that have a completely pain free labor. And then she broke my water which was a sensation that is not similar to anything else I've felt. And then I felt my first contraction that felt like Everett was trying to burrow his way through my lower back out into the world. You're going the wrong way buddy! Yes, back labor. Painful, intense, excruciating back labor. The good thing about not feeling any pain up until that point was that the painful part of labor was relatively short. The bad thing was that I had no preparation for this kind of pain. There were no baby early contractions to prepare me for what I started to experience at that point. To be honest the next eight hours are a complete blur Here are some things I remember;
- Apologizing....a lot. Something about labor turned me into Miss Manners. I think I just felt so crazy, so out of control over my own body that my people pleaser nature kicked in and I felt like I must seem insane to everyone around me. So after every request, every contraction, I apologized profusely to my husband, my midwife, and my nurse. Cory told me to STOP apologizing but I couldn't.
- My amazing husband being there for me completely. I don't remember a point when he wasn't right there next to me trying to figure out what in GOD's NAME I wanted him to do in that particular moment, because it was constantly changing. Except for one time after a contraction was over when he told me he had to go eat something because he was going to pass out if he didn't. I think he grabbed some crackers out of the corner and scarfed them down quickly. Poor guy about fainted.
- The comedic nature of peeing during labor. Trying to get out of bed and into the bathroom while feeling intense pain and pressure in your nether regions, and while being hooked up to a million wires that all had to be untangled by your three helpers while you toddle to the bathroom. I think I came out of my haze just long enough to think about how funny it was.
- The awesomely bad idea it was to let my midwife try a fancy acupuncture technique of injecting saline water into my lower back to help with the back labor. Did it work? Yes. Was it the most pain I ever felt on top of the worst pain I had already been feeling for the last five hours? Why yes, yes it was. FAIL
- Throwing up many times
- Figuring out the particular circular motion of counter pressure and massage on my lower back that almost kind of a little bit helped with the pain and grabbing Cory's had and moving it over and over and over in that motion. And slapping his hand away if it deviated, even slightly, from that perfect motion.
- My dream angel nurse bringing me a rubber glove filled with ice water that somehow became my savior that I rubbed on my face over and over and if I dropped it I would grab desperately for the covers until I found it and when it turned warm I threw it and begged for another one.
- The sound I made. I wish I could repeat it for you. It was basically "wow wow wow whoa whoa whoa over and over. Cory and I repeat it to each other now and it feels hilarious but in the moment it somehow helped.
When they pulled him up onto my chest he was heavy and warm and HUGE. The first thing I thought was how it was possible that such a big baby fit inside of my small 5'3" frame. He was (is) perfect. After they were done fixing me up and doing the initial vitals on him they gave him back to me. I had thought about that moment a lot while I was pregnant. I had a secret fear that I would hate my baby. You hear so many stories of women who don't immediately love their babies and I wanted so badly to feel that instant bond. They gave him to me and we looked at each other and I thought "now what the heck am I supposed to do with him?" It wasn't that I didn't love him, but I think I was just hit with the reality that he was ours. That is was MY choice what happened next and I didn't know what I was supposed to do.
I lost a lot of blood during labor, I found out later. I think I was in shock because shortly after he came out I was shaking violently and ended up fainting. I can remember looking up from the ground at my husband scared face and a handful of nurses and thinking "am I dying, is that what it feels like," (I wasn't obviously, just blood loss and exhaustion) and they made me lie flat on my back with oxygen for two hours. TWO hours!! At that point I was so tired, so OVER that room that I had just been laboring in for the last 17 hours that I just wanted out of there. As much as I needed that time of rest it felt a little bit like torture. I couldn't hold my baby and I honestly don't even remember where he was during that time. Which is more proof that I probably needed that time.
My experience having Everett was scary, beautiful, empowering, and magical. I knew as soon as I thought about having a baby that I wanted a natural childbirth, but I couldn't really say why. Yes, I thought it was best for the baby, and yes I knew it was my best chance of avoiding a c-section, but those didn't like MY reasons. Now that I experienced it I can tell you why. Every woman should have the opportunity to feel that power within herself, to see that wall of fear and self-doubt and hear the voices in her head saying that she isn't strong enough, isn't brave enough, to overcome it. And to give that voice the middle finger and literally push the fear out of her. I am not the same person I was before that night. Being a mother is scary, and is a weight that I don't think we even comprehend. I am glad that I know my power, my strength, and can use that knowledge in the scary times when I doubt my abilities to do what' s best for my child, my family. I know what I am capable of and it is a blessing.
*I keep writing and re-writing this post, mostly because there are an infinite number of details I want to capture and write down for my own sake, but it is impossible to hold them all long enough. So this is the best I got.