Next Friday, April 29, will be 9 years since I gave birth for the first time. Most people would say that’s the moment I became a mom, but I felt like a mom from the instant I knew he was in my body. Even when the early tests came back negative I *knew* he was there. And I was right – he was. And he was precious and he changed my life.
When I think back to my pregnancy, birth and the first few months of his life I’m filled with a mix of pride & happiness and shame, guilt & regret.
Shame, guilt & regret? Yep. I could have done it better. I'm ashamed of myself for not knowing more or being more pro-active about knowing more. I hope I didn't screw him up too much. I would do things differently now than I did then. I should be clear - I didn’t actually do anything to hurt him (at least I hope not). But we struggled. Before, during, and after his birth there were difficulties. I didn’t know how to do it better.
Before his birth I had borderline preeclampsia. I retained so much water those last few weeks I could probably float. I gained 40 lbs and the last 15 were all water weight in the last 2 weeks. I was on bed rest for 3 weeks.
During his birth I was unaware of the process; I was scared and exhausted. I didn’t know or understand what to ask for, or even that I could ask for more than what was being provided to me.
After his birth I was sleep deprived and emotionally drained and scared and inhibited and I didn’t know how to make it better.
I just need to remember this: When I knew better I did better.
When I knew better I did better. When I knew better I did better.
When he was born I was 26. I knew what a typical 26 year old knows about birth & babies. I took the birthing classes. I read books like What to Expect When You're Expecting. I joined an online message board for moms that were due in April 2002. Some of the moms were first-timers, like me, and some were more experienced. I put together a birth plan based on what I had read. I wanted to incorporate different birthing methods and positions in my labor that would ease my pain and help with the delivery. I was open to having an Epidural if the pain got intolerable because I had heard how horrible the pain was and I was scared. I felt as prepared as I could be for something that was still largely an unknown thing.
On Sunday, April 28, my due date, I woke at 7:30 am when I felt a trickle of liquid. I flipped myself 180 degrees out of bed to a standing position (in an insane desire to prevent the bed from getting wet) and my water gushed out all over the floor. (Sorry if that's TMI for you. If it is, then maybe you shouldn't read this post. Consider yourself warned). I woke my husband, called my OB's office and posted to my message board that it was my turn.
It was a couple hours before we headed to the hospital. I wasn't feeling the contractions yet so everything was calm. We got all checked in to L&D at the hospital and began walking the track to try to get things moving. We walked and we walked and we walked some more.
After about 3 hours of this, and for reasons I can’t remember, they wanted to hook me up to a monitor. I should note that it’s around this time when my memory gets a little fuzzy. I don’t know why, but from about 1 pm to 9 pm I only have vague images or snippets in my mind of things that happened. I’m really, really hazy on a complete narrative of the day. Was it the pain? I don’t know. The Pitocin? The eventual Epidural? I just don’t know.
These are things I know happened:
- I couldn’t walk around anymore because I had to be in bed due to the monitor.
- I got an IV and, at some point, Pitocin, because I wasn’t progressing.
- As some point the baby’s oxygen levels dropped so they put an oxygen mask on me.
- I had the most horrible heartburn all day and, thankfully, they were able to give me Tums for some temporary relief.
- I threw up several times. Probably throwing up the Tums since I hadn't had anything else.
- The on-call OB came to check on me and, when she noticed I was in pain she asked why I hadn’t asked for an Epidural? Well, because I didn’t know it was time to ask for an epidural. The contractions and level of pain had increased so gradually that it wasn’t obvious to me that I should be asking for an Epidural. I don’t know how else to explain that.
- I had the shakes really bad before I got the Epidural. I think those calmed down after. At least I don’t remember them after.
The next part of the process that I remember clearly was when I was starting to feel the pain from the contractions again. They were going to give me another dose of the Epidural but they realized then that I was at 10 and started preparing for me to deliver instead. Since they wanted me to feel the contractions (so I would know when to push) I didn't get more Epidural.
I pushed for the next 3 hours. From 9 pm to 12 am. Pushed for about 30 seconds and then rested for 30 seconds. Rinse and repeat. For 3 hours. I threw up a few more times. The baby was crowning but that was it. That kid was not budging.
I have to say, my L&D nurses were fantastic. There were 3 of them there with me. One down between my legs who seemed to be running the show (you know, other than ME). She was particularly nurturing and encouraging and I wish I could remember her name. There was another one up by my head who kept helping me sit up, rubbing my back, encouraging me, wiping my brow, etc. There was another nurse floating around supporting those two.
My husband was on the other side of me and he was incredibly encouraging and supportive. I don't think I cursed at him even once.
3 hours. Pushing non-stop. No progress. I became incredibly worn out.
They decided to let me rest and asked the OB to come check on me. She had been delivering another baby so I hadn’t seen her much. When she came and examined me she gave me less than a 10% chance of delivering naturally and recommended a c-section.
I was exhausted. I just wanted him to be born already. Please, please, just make it be done and put him in my arms already.
I consulted with my mom and my husband. They were worried about me. They were worried about the baby. It was so easy to just trust the doctor and say, “ok.”
I don’t want to regret the decisions I made then but I can’t help but think that I should have questioned that decision more. I should have asked if they knew WHY he was stuck and wasn’t there anything else that could be done? Was he in jeopardy or should we wait it out a bit more? I didn’t know enough to ask the right questions. And did I mention I was exhausted? We were 16 hours in since my water had broken and I think about 11 hours in from when the contractions had become painful.
I got more Epidural. Around 1 am April 29, 2002 I was wheeled into surgery. At 1:47 am this happened:
I had a perfect, beautiful baby boy. He was gorgeous. I cried and told him he was beautiful for the brief second they held him next to my head. I was happily exhausted and relieved. He looked just like a miniature man.
Then they took him away from me so they could sew me up. My husband left me too and I felt tired and alone and a little disconnected to what was happening around me.
My husband washed him and fed him a bottle – because they needed to feed him, apparently, and I was in recovery and I couldn't breastfeed him yet, they said. I don’t know. I was annoyed they gave him a bottle, for sure, but I didn't have it in me to throw a hissy fit after the fact.
I was wheeled back to my room and had uncontrollable shakes for a long time. They kept piling warm blankets on me. Finally they brought my little angel in and I was able to breastfeed him for the first time. He latched on great and drank like a champ.
They told me later he was facing the wrong way in the birth canal and that’s why he had gotten stuck. He was “sunnyside up.” Even now, years later, I wonder how they didn’t know that? Or check for that? Couldn’t they have turned him over?
So that’s my first birth story. That early morning as I was recovering from the surgery and he was laying in my arms I felt the most vulnerable I have ever felt in my life. I wanted to put him back IN. At least when he was inside of me he was safe. Outside of me anything could happen to him. That’s when I truly understood what people mean when they say it’s like your heart is beating outside of your body.
The first few months were really hard – breastfeeding/milk supply issues, sleeping issues, etc. But I’ll save that for part 2.
Here he is, almost 9 years later:
Thanks for reading. :)