April 30, 2009 was a perfect day. In my memory, it is flawless. I remember getting a pedicure in a massage chair while reading gossip rags. I realized while in the chair that I had a whole WEEK before my due date and I could read for pleasure for a change. As an English teacher, 90% of my reading is student work, much of it very poor quality. They tend to write their papers at 3 in the morning before they’re due, after bitching about the assignment on Facebook for hours. It shows. Here I was with a week off before I became a mommy, and money to spend at Border’s. I drove over and bought 3 novels and Tori Spelling’s latest book, I think it was called “Mommywood.” I know what you’re thinking. Didn’t you just say you were tired of reading poor quality writing of the high school intellectual level? At the time I was into Tori and Dean (the Devil)’s reality show. I’ve since recovered.
I had an OB/Gyn appointment. I believe it was my 39 week appointment. Dr. O did the usual: measured my belly, listened to the heartbeat, checked my cervix and answered my questions (CAN’T I PLEASE TAKE MORE HEARTBURN MEDICINE?!). She said the baby was still very high up in my pelvis and I was not dilated at all, though I was 90% effaced (I still have no idea what that means). No contractions that I knew of. It looked like this baby was going to go to her due date, May 4, or maybe beyond. It was a Thursday. The doctor said I should come in Tuesday and we might be looking at an induction.
Unlike many mothers, this didn’t bother me. I’m all for medical interventions. I believe in Western Medicine. I didn’t take birthing classes because I knew the nurse would tell me what to do when the time came. I watched “The Business of Being Born,” and all it took to convince me to have a hospital birth and an epidural was the sight of Rikki Lake, naked, moaning in pain and wandering deliriously around her house. Oh, HELL naw!
I went to Carrow’s and had a sandwich with fries, ranch dressing, and a Sprite. Dr. O had patted me on the arm and said, “Don’t worry about the weight gain. Just enjoy your pregnancy.” So I didn’t. And I did. That night, when Odie got home from school, I reported to him that there would be no baby tonight, and we went to his favorite sushi restaurant where he proceeded to have two large Asahi beers. Afterall, there was no baby coming tonight…
Watching tv that night on my left side (my perinatologist had prescribed 3 hours a day minimum of bed rest since Baby V’s abdomen was measuring in the 12th percentile at 37 weeks), I felt some discomfort that I thought was Braxton-Hicks and heart palpitations. Odie had another beer or two. It’s not like he was going to have to go to the hospital tonight.
I cannot tell you exactly what time it was that I realized I was probably in labor. I assumed it was false labor. I was NOT going to be one of those women who got sent home from the hospital. I had gone to sleep around 9 pm along with Odie, and woke up some hours later, in pain. For the last few months, pain in my sleep was the norm, so I didn’t react to it more than gettin gup on my hands and knees and breathing deeply. But this was different.
I got up to have a cold drink and take some Tylenol, the prescription for false labor, and as I walked to the kitchen, I felt a trickle of fluid between my legs. I went back into the bedroom and woke Odie, saying, “Honey, I think my water broke.” He sat bolt upright and said “WHAT?” and then I felt the water come gushing out. “I’m in labor. I’m going to call the doctor and see what she says.”
We drove to the hospital in the pitch blackness, around 1 a.m. Odie had time to sober up, but he was not a happy camper, getting about 4 hours of sleep that night. I was too excited (and frankly used to no sleep) to be tired.
We checked in to triage. It was the most exciting thing that had ever happened to me. I was in labor! For real. They weren’t going to send me home because my water broke! It all went exactly as they showed on “A Baby Story” and “Birth Story,” except the part where they sent Odie away and asked me if I was safe at home, if I was abused in any way, if I was having this baby of my own free will, and not under any duress. I hadn’t expected that. It made me sad for the women who either answer yes, or wish they could, but are too afraid to.
In triage for about 2 hours, I was introduced to the pain of contractions. Wow, did that suck. I breathed and squeezed Odie’s hand and cried a little. The nurse assured me I was doing great, but I doubt they ever say, “Wow, you really suck at this. Booooo!” They said they had a room ready for me and I asked them to have the anesthesiologist meet me there. I was only half joking.
The nurse gave me a narcotic and let me tell you… after 9 months of no booze, no cigarettes, no Vicodin for my bursitis, the narcotic pain killer was the best feeling ever. Unfortunately, my contractions virtually stopped, so they brought on the pitocin and the epidural. Neither was a big deal. When the nurse first put in my I.V., she blew my vein, and that was fucking excrutiating. It was actually the most pain I experienced during my delivery.
I have regrets about my labor. I dozed and Facebooked and read a book, and I really didn’t interact much with Odie or have any friends or siblings visit. If I could do it again, if I DO do it again, I will play Scrabble and Dominoes with my husband and really enjoy our time together. He completed a pink hummingbird jigsaw puzzle that hangs on our nursery wall.
My labor was textbook. I dilated a centimeter per hour and by 2:00 or so the next day, I was ready to push. My doctor, Dr. O, is super fabulous. She sat on the foot of my bed in her designer blouse, pencil skirt and heels with her bangle gold bracelets and told me to push, and push hard. So I did, watching her face, and she didn’t show any reaction. She also didn’t gown up. Looking at her outfit, I concluded that we were going to be at this a while if she wasn’t worried about me getting my birth all over her couture.
Two hours and 40 minutes later, I felt a huge release of pressure and saw my husband go pale. “Did she just cut me?” I asked. He nodded bloodlessly. Later, he would recount it like this: “The doctor put on a gown and a visor, poured enchilada sauce all over my wife’s stuff and then cut her with scissors and my daughter’s head popped out like she’d opened a zipper.” That episiotomy would trouble me for well over a year, but I felt no pain at the time. Just relief.
Even with the epidural, I felt my daughter’s entire body slide out of my vagina. Truly, I remember thinking, “that was her butt, there go her knees, ohmigod, her little feet!” and she was out and on my chest. I wish that I had more of an overwhelming reaction to her little face looking at me. She was gray and squished and bloody and hairy like a little gorilla. I’d seen this moment so many times on tv and in the movies, that I almost felt like I was faking my reaction. What had just happend to me was overwhelming. The strain of pushing for two hours. My head felt like it was going to explode. The doctor had just cut my vagina open. There was my baby, and I was kind of like, “Okay, there she is. Whew. Glad that’s over.” I think maybe it was shock. In the video, I say, “oh my God! Oh my God” over and over, but honestly, I felt a bit dissociated from the whole thing. This was trauma to my body, and I had been dissociating myself from trauma since childhood.
They weighed her, measured her, told me she had a fever, put her on my chest to nurse for an hour, then took her to the nursery. She was 7 pounds 12.5 ounces and 21 1/2 inches long. And she was beautiful. Seriously. My baby was so beautiful. She had a full head of black hair, (surprising since Odie is a brunet and I’m a redhead) little pink lips with a hemangioma in the corner of her upper lip, bright blue eyes, and brown fuzz covering her whole body. A little gorilla baby. She didn’t take to nursing right away, and we’d struggle for a couple weeks with it, but we got it eventually. While I cuddled my new life in my arms, the doctor stitched me up, and I saw her exchange a look with the nurse that freaked me out. I was bleeding excessively, and the doctor ordered some sort of shot, which the nurse stabbed me in the thigh with, eliciting a loud “OW!” from me. “You felt that?” she replied, amazied. The epidural was wearing off, and my body was erupting in pain. My vagina, my back, my head, my throat… I was a symphony of pain, and unfortunatley I stayed that way for about 7 months. A few minutes after the shot, everything was okay. My Ob, with whom I’d bonded over 9 months, bid me goodbye, told me she’d see me in 6 weeks, and disappeared from my life, leaving me feeling abandoned and empty. Childhood stuff. Worse, they took my daughter to the nursery with her fever. Shortly after they took her from me, I vomited up all the cranberry juice I’d been sipping throughout my labor. I think I reacted badly to the shot they gave me to slow down my bleeding. Frightened, I asked the nurse between retches, “What’s happening to me, am I okay?” and she said, “I’m not sure. You’re fine.” It was a little unsettling how things changed after Baby V was born and in the nursery. The excitement was gone, replaced by worry. Odie and our friends from the waiting room went to go admire Baby V through the nursery window, and I was left with the most profound feeling of loneliness. My baby was far away from me. I couldn’t feel her under my heart anymore. Panic and depression seized me, and I cried uncontrollably while they wheeled me on a gurney from labor and delivery to the maternity ward.