First, let it be noted that I debated for quite some time about whether I should blog my birth experience. One, because it seems kinda cliché. Every woman on the planet who has given birth seems to have also written about it. Women who have never felt the urge to put two words together on paper and their only written communication consists primarily of phrases like “omg” and “lol” over text message will find the ability deep within themselves to blog out their birth experience. We all know I avoid clichés like the plague. Two, because birthing a child involves lady business. I have a deep-seated conservative, Catholic ideology that I will never be able to shake. Try as I might, sometimes I cannot help being embarrassed/ashamed/confused about the womanlyness that God has bestowed upon me. I DO NOT talk about my parts. Especially on the internet. Thanks Eve.
I quickly realized that as long as I am a mother, I will never completely avoid being a cliché. I have found that we mamas cannot stop behaving in some kind of predetermined pattern. Apparently this is called instinct and most women are born with it. I’m planning a trip very soon to JC Penny to try on some Mom Jeans. Also, once you give birth you realize that there is no discretion involving your lovely ladyness. Everyone and anyone is up there and you might as well get over it and save yourself a lot of grief.
So here it is, three and a half months after little Luke came into this world, I’ve finally wrapped my head around the fact that I am indeed a giver of life and here is the story of how he got here:
I think I was pregnant forever. There was a point when I couldn’t remember there ever being a time when I wasn’t pregnant. When I first went to see my midwife, she gave me a due date of January 15. My first ultrasound put my due date at January 27, but throughout my pregnancy my midwife maintained that she thought the baby would be born around the 15th. Since she accurately guessed that the baby was a boy just by hearing her heartbeat, I chose to trust her majestic earthy years of experience over medical science. I adamantly told everyone that the baby was due on the 15th of January, I was going to have a little Capricorn. After January 15th came and went I woke up every morning thinking that that day would be the day only to sadly watch the minutes tick into midnight babyless. When January 27th came and went I got outwardly impatient and started doing everything I could think of to urge the baby to come on out. By the way, sex does not work. This must be a myth that men came up with because they know that once the kid is here you will be off-limits for a good two months.
I REFUSED to carry the baby until February.
When February rolled around my midwife encouraged me to induce labor. Partially because the baby was looking BIG. I had one final ultrasound that estimated he was around nine pounds. Mostly, though, because I was looking big. I was not one of those cute, glamorous pregnant women. I had the distinct pleasure of being pregnant at the same time as the outrageously beautiful Penelope Cruz, and the paparazzi could not get enough of her looking like a stunning curvaceous mamacita flaunting her bump on the beach. I looked more like a gordita. I was so swollen that my face turned blue. I had neck rolls. It was disgusting. I had a very detailed birth plan and inducing labor was not part of it. I really wanted to have a drug free natural birth but I was so tired and I just wanted the kid out, plus the midwife assured me that I could go without pain meds, even if we induced, if that’s what I really wanted.
We decided to induce on February 3, which happened to be the coldest day of my entire life. This is not an exaggeration. It was so cold that the heater cracked the windshield on our family-friendly station wagon and the entire state suffered a natural gas shortage. I arrived at the hospital fully prepared for the journey at hand. I brought my birth plan printed in triplicate, with the finer points also reduced to 3x5 index cards, as well as an iPod loaded with soothing music for welcoming my son into the world and an entire bag full of supplies I had packed weeks ahead of time and deemed absolutely necessary.
I was adamantly opposed to using pitocin, the drug often used to induce labor so I agreed to use a drug called misoprostal, which is a drug normally used to treat ulcers, but somehow they figured out that if you stick it up there it makes the baby come. I would really like to know what led that experiment: “Hey what would happen if we stuck ulcer drugs up pregnant women’s vaginas?” I got my first dose of miso at around 11 am, and after hours and hours of walking around the hospital with no progress I was given another dose around 8 pm and I dozed off, trying to save my energy for the long night ahead. At around midnight I woke up and I was FINALLY having contractions around 4 minutes apart and I lost my mucus plug (yuck). Yes! I was in labor! The nurse came in and I told her what I’d discovered and she told me I wasn’t dilated enough to be in labor and that I needed another dose of miso. So, because apparently this nurse knows more about my body than I do, I let her go ahead with giving me another dose of the drug even though I felt like it really wasn’t necessary. She also readjusted my fetal monitor because they baby was moving away from it and they kept losing his signal. I practiced breathing and I was super proud of myself for getting through the contractions like a champ. They were painful, but not skull crushing painful. This wasn’t going to be so bad after all.
Around 3 am my water broke and I was even more excited. The baby was coming! The baby was coming! I called in the nurse who became concerned because the baby still kept moving around too much and she and the midwife on duty decided that they would need to put me on an internal fetal monitor. As they were setting this up, the contractions suddenly, without warning, got intensely, thereisnowayimgoingtolivethroughthis painful. My whole body felt like it was in a vice and my legs could not stop shaking. So this was labor. Holy fuck.
The internal monitor did not remedy the “baby is moving too much situation” and they determined that that his heartbeat was actually stopping – they weren’t just losing a signal, luckily it would quickly recover. So they put me on oxygen and started making my try different positions “to get the baby off the cord”. As I was on my hands and knees, trying to support my massive pregnancy weight on my shaking legs and not pass out from the pain, the baby’s heartbeat stopped completely and did not recover.
The situation quickly went from just a midwife and a nurse to what seemed like the entire hospital staff in the room. I don’t know how everyone got there, but there was a lot of running. I couldn’t keep track of faces or hear what anyone was saying. It was chaos. I was being poked by a seemingly endless series of needles and people kept shoving papers in my face for me to sign. The OBGYN seemed to appear out of thin air and told me that we were going to have to deliver the baby via c-section. For reasons I will never understand, possibly because of the blinding pain and confusion I was going through, or maybe just a genetic predisposition to stubbornness, I still thought there might be a way to salvage my carefully thought-out birth plan and I asked the doctor if I could have five minutes to think about it. The doc gave me probably the most serious look I have ever seen in my life and said “You can have five minutes to think about it, but I’m going to go prep the OR. You have less than 20 minutes before you lose this baby.”
This was when I just let go of everything. I knew that I had absolutely no control over the situation and whatever was going to happen was going to happen. The only thing I could think of doing was pray the Hail Mary over and over again while I was being wheeled to the OR and I decided not to say a word until the whole ordeal was over. I was convinced that my body had failed me and quiet was the only thing I knew for sure I was capable of.
I was given a massive epidural and I didn’t even have time to think about the giant needle being jammed up my spine because the drugs instantly calmed me into a painless oblivion I had not planned on needing. I started having all sorts of blissful thoughts and was only vaguely aware that I was about to become a mother. It was absolutely hilarious that the nurses forgot to shave me and had to go the razor from the nurses’ station. Apparently they have one razor for all the patients. It was delightful that they were missing a crucial legal document and there was a scuffle between the doctor and a nurse as to whether they could proceed with the surgery without it. (The doctor won and I signed the document later). I was vaguely aware that my body was being cut open and that the tools that the doctor was calling for were responsible for this they sounded sharp.
I became aware of the fact the radio was on and that Hotel California by The Eagles was being played and I this seemed like the perfect moment to break my vow of silence so I said, “I fucking hate The Eagles.” This was a great joke because I was quoting the The Big Lebowski and everybody loves that fine piece of cinema. However, nobody else thought it was funny as this was also the moment that my son stuck his little hand out and was then pulled from my body into this world. There were a lot of OH MY GODs from the operators and a small bundle was passed to a group of NICU nurses who began to work furiously over it. What the hell just happened?
Then a tiny cry filled the room and reality hit. I was a mother. I was shown a tiny little human, who was already asking for food via his trademark 'milk face' and I loved him forever. All of the waiting, planning and song picking, and I had just become a parent during the vocal styling of Don Henley. And it was the most amazing moment of my life.
I later learned that when they cut me open they discovered that not only did Lucas have the cord crisscrossed over his chest, but when he dropped into the birth canal he took his hand and some of the cord with him and had it stuck between his hand and his head. Hand in birth canal = bad. Cord in birth canal = bad. Both = very bad. Every time I would have a contraction this combination would constrict the cord and cut off the baby’s oxygen, and that is why he was in distress. We got him out just in time. We got very, very lucky.
Despite a scarily low initial APGAR score, Lucas turned out to be a healthy, hearty 8lb 2oz eating machine and doesn’t seem to have suffered any ill-effects from his dramatic entry into the world. He is also the most amazing thing to ever happen, ever and everything he does is unique and wonderful. He might be the only baby that was ever born ever as I am the first mother to ever be a mother ever.
His mama, with the aid of some healthy doses of Percocet has also recovered. Although she still cries every time she hears Hotel California. She’ll probably never get over that.