A (belated) birth story

14 Mar

You know how they say you forget the pain of childbirth? Well, that’s fairly accurate, so it probably wasn’t ideal for me to wait, oh, eight months before writing any semblance of a birth story for my firstborn. But as they also say, better late than never. It will just be a little more vague than your average birth story. I’ll try to recall as much detail as is appropriate to share, but I could also just sum it up like this: Pain. Lots of pain.

I was a week past my due date. Throughout my pregnancy, I tried to brace myself for the possibility of being late so I wouldn’t be disappointed if I was, but it was still hard to be patient. There were also three other family members’ birthdays around the time of my due date, so when those days passed it was also a bit disappointing that we couldn’t have made it a double birthday (we joked that the baby must have really wanted to have his own day). I was anxious about the labor and new parenthood, but I was so physically uncomfortable and emotionally DONE with pregnancy that I was willing to face whatever came next.

My mom had come to stay with us and help out, and it was nice to have a week together before the baby came to get things done around the house (our apartment, which we had moved into only a month before, wouldn’t have been decorated without her). We enjoyed some mommy-daughter time, which we don’t often get considering we live on opposite coasts.

I made earnest efforts to nudge that baby out, including running up the Rocky steps. No dice–thanks a lot, Rocky.

BABYYYYYY!

BABYYYYYY!

Finally, around 4 a.m., I woke up to find that my water broke. Well, I wasn’t entirely sure, but upon waking my mom to get her expert opinion, we decided that it had. I called the hospital, and they said to come on in. I was a bit thrown off, because everything I read and heard about labor made it sound like I’d be laboring at home for awhile first, but I somehow missed the fact that they usually want you to come in once your water has broken. Since it was so early and I still wasn’t having any contractions though, we all took our time showering and getting ready, and headed to the hospital around 8 a.m. And yes, we took a taxi to the hospital. Because urban babies take taxis. But no, I was not like the pregnant woman you see in movies screaming and yelling at the driver, “Can’t you go any faster?!” because I still was not having significant contractions.

Before the hospital...

Before the hospital…

When we checked in, I was dilated a few centimeters (I don’t remember exactly how much… oh well) and admitted, though my contractions were infrequent and not very strong. I really didn’t want to have Pitocin, though, so the nurses gave me a few hours to try to walk around and get contractions going. Alas, they weren’t coming, and the doctor was worried about the risk of infection since my membranes had been ruptured for so long, so I was started on Pitocin around 11 a.m. Unfortunately, it kicked in very quickly and strongly. As I said: Pain, lots of pain. In particular, lots of pain in my back, which was probably the worst part of the process. (Runners-up for worst parts were having the IV stuck in my wrist for days–I asked the nurses constantly how soon I could get it out–and the pain and soreness in the days and weeks following delivery.)

Then the nurse informed me that the anesthesiologist would be gone for another hour or so taking care of an emergency C-section, so they were going to try to slow down my dosage of Pitocin. Gee, that would be nice, thanks. (For the record, the staff were great, particularly my nurse during the first part of labor. Also, we were pretty sure that the emergency C-section was for the lady next door, who screamed very loudly.)

In the time between starting to get strong, frequent contractions and getting an epidural, I managed pain with the help of my sweet husband and my angel mother. They took turns massaging my arms and hands, which really helped calm me down, and they continually encouraged me and helped me take deep breaths. (Fun fact: I was convinced by the Lamaze classes that only the special hoo-hoo-ha-ha breathing will get you through labor; as it turns out, simple, deep breaths work perfectly well if that’s what you prefer.)

Long before I got pregnant, I read all the books on natural childbirth and was pretty skeptical of getting an epidural. Once I became pregnant and felt worn down by the nagging discomforts of pregnancy, though, I began to doubt my devotion to a drug-free delivery. Ultimately I decided I wanted to try to go without an epidural for as long as I could, and decide from there.

In the end, I’m proud of the few hours of contractions that I went without an epidural. Even as I was experiencing it, I was surprised by my own strength, and I know that remembering my strength then will help me be strong in the future when I face challenges, of the baby-delivering variety or otherwise. But I also feel I made the right choice to get the epidural when I did. I was initially more scared about the needle used in the epidural than I was about any delivery-related pain, but it turned out to be fine. Yes, it was fleetingly painful, but it was totally worth it. (Also, the sensation of water rushing down my veins was super weird.) I still felt a good deal of pain from back labor, but it was certainly a vast improvement.

This is where the haze of time comes in again… Basically, I labored all through the afternoon and evening, and then in the late hours of the evening they said I was ready to push. The doctor was an awesome combination of encouraging and straightforward. Every time a contraction was coming up, she’d say, “OK, here comes the next contraction, let’s use it.” As they taught us in the Lamaze class, the pain of childbirth is productive, and the doctor’s attitude helped remind me of that.

I pushed for about an hour. It actually went faster than I expected. Then, he came. Just minutes before the end of the day–20 hours of labor–he came. I don’t remember all the details of what happened after that or all the emotions I felt. I do remember them putting him on my chest, and trying to latch him on. I do remember feeling dazed and sort of horrified by the fact that I could see the doctors stitching me up (again, grateful for the epidural) but distracted by the wonder of new life from my body, now resting on my body. I do remember thinking that he was perfect. I do remember love, because I still feel it every day that I’m blessed to live with my sweet baby boy.

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2 Responses to “A (belated) birth story”

  1. Karen H. March 15, 2014 at 3:47 pm #

    It’s been over 50 years and I still remember the pain. Don’t remember too many details. Mine was premature, so as soon as I felt contractions I told hubby we had to go to the hospital. They eventually did give me something for pain – don’t know what. Afterwards I realized my throat was really sore, and I figured it must have been from me screaming. As I recall I was in labor over 12 hours.
    Totally worth it!
    Thanks for sharing your story.

    • Holly March 19, 2014 at 8:33 pm #

      And thanks for sharing yours! 🙂

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