As soon as the nurse went to fetch the doctor, Husband turned to me with the biggest smile on his face and I promptly burst into tears. He had not expected that. He asked what was wrong and I sputtered out that I was scared. And it was the sort of scared that couldn’t be logic’d away, though husband tried. Yes, all the birthing classes. Yes, I read a lot of books. Yes, I’m still terrified.
Suddenly the room was full of people. Since it’s a University hospital, lots of future doctors come to watch. I didn’t really mind, I had a lot on my mind right then and they were all plenty busy transforming the bed and getting supplies and turning on special lights so it didn’t really feel like an audience. More like a pit crew.
And so, we started pushing! And even though I had an epidural, I could feel the urge to push and sometimes noticed it before the doctors saw it on the monitor. Sometimes they’d say to skip a push if the contraction was small. This was so exciting! Pushing! That’s what labor’s all about right?
It didn’t seem like long at all before my husband and the doctors began to excitedly exclaim that they could see the baby’s head! Wow!
The doctor asked if I wanted a mirror to see what was going on down under. That was a strong pass. But pushing is weirder than I thought it’d be. It’s a little different than a bowel movement, which is what it’s usually compared to. Sometimes the doctors would praise a push and other times they’d ask if I was really pushing – rude! But with all the coaching and trying different things, I still had no consistent idea of what made a push good or bad, and I didn’t know how to improve.
The doctor tentatively suggested the mirror again, not just to sneak a peek at the baby, but to get a visual on what muscles were doing what. I’m admittedly pretty unfamiliar with the muscles between my legs and I’ve never needed to coordinate them to do anything like this. I looked at my husband, who looked down below thoughtfully before saying “You’ve seen worse on YouTube.” So sure, bring on the mirror.
This was both good and bad, and the pros and cons were things I’d never thought of in all my preparation.
The pro was that it really did help me push effectively to see the muscles in action.
The con? Well, everyone had been going on and on about how much of the baby’s head was out. I thought we must be getting close to the forehead. But they set up the mirror and WHAT? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? There’s like a square inch – MAYBE – of baby head. Yes it’s thrilling that it has a full head of brown hair. BUT THAT’S IT?? At this rate I might not even get a New Years baby, and it’s only 1:00 in the afternoon! I’M GOING TO BE IN LABOR FOREVER.
I knew, of course, from all my classes and books and videos that once the head’s out the rest of the baby pops right out, but in my mind the head came little by little. In actuality the head kinda comes out all at once too, which makes “progress” pretty much invisible to the untrained, sleep-deprived, overwhelmed eye.
And about here is where I became much less enthusiastic about everything. This was work, not miracle of life magic. I was starting to feel a bit odd, sort of a flu-like exhaustion in my chest. My epidural was wearing off slightly which was good, because I could move my legs a bit better. Now we could use some of our positioning training– sort of.
Around this time we discovered our pup was sunny-side up. That name is compensating for how NOT cutesy and delightful its definition is. Baby was face up instead of the optimal face down position, which meant it would be a more challenging push. “Challenging” is a nice word for “painful.” But it’s ok, I have an epidural. An epidural that’s slowly wearing off.
This also meant that most of our knowledge of positioning wouldn’t help much. I found myself in positions that weren’t even in the books. This added to my general feeling of “I have no idea what I’m doing.”
All the while, progress is still disappointingly not visual.
My chest still had that tired feeling, and now the doctor acknowledged it – my oxygen levels were no bueno. Now I was glad to be in a hospital. We got an oxygen mask on which I guess helped, but it made me crazy thirsty and almost impossible to understand when I tried to talk.
Not that I was saying much, because I was still pretty put out about how little of the baby was showing. Everyone else was still pretty excited about it so instead of saying “ARE YOU KIDDING THIS IS CRAP” I didn’t say anything at all.
But soon, my epidural was completely worn off and I had some f***ing things to say. I led off with saying I needed another epidural and then asking where the epidural guy was every minute or so.
Things were getting serious. There was almost no time between pushes (who exactly sleeps between pushes, labor books?) and I was exhausted. Between pushes, there was just enough time for husband to give me a spoonful of ice chips. This became my incentive for every push. As soon as it was over I crashed back on the pillows and yanked off my mask to demand ice chips. It was amazing to me how long it took husband to realize this was a pattern and that yes, I wanted ice chips EVERY. PUSH. I was like a really angry baby bird.
I will END YOU.
And then came the crying. I tried “vocalizing” during pushes but it was too out of control, so I just ugly sobbed inbetween pushes. I was tired and hurting and SO DONE. My mom and husband encouraged me to reach down and feel the baby’s head, but I refused. I was so sure touching anything anywhere would hurt. Because everything hurt. AND WHERE THE EFF IS THAT EPIDURAL GUY?!?
And all of a sudden, I got to experience unmedicated childbirth.
The baby came out and I all but passed out. As the baby was born, epidural guy arrived, hooked me up, and promised I’d feel better in about 15 minutes. There was some meconium present so they didn’t stimulate the baby to cry right away. It didn’t take long for me to hear it though. Apparently the cord was loosely wrapped around his neck but it was so not a big deal that I didn’t even hear about it until later.
Husband cut the cord and tearfully announced that it was a boy. I smiled and cried.
I was beat. Because of the meconium I couldn’t have immediate skin to skin. I thought I’d be heartbroken over that but honestly I was glad to have a moment to close my eyes and get a break from the chaos and feels. To my surprise, my husband just rested his forehead on mine and whispered all kinds of sweet happy things to me while tears ran down our cheeks. We had agreed he’d follow the baby everywhere but I was touched to be shown attention. I gently reminded him that he ought to go talk to our baby so he wouldn’t be frightened, and away he went.
Assured that our boy was in good hands and watched over by daddy, I rag doll’d. The epidural was in, so I couldn’t feel the two little stitches I had to get. I asked to see the placenta once it came out, and was happily surprised when I was given a full tour of the organ and how it worked. This was a huge upside of having a small army of enthusiastic med students present.
Our pup was born with a little fever and needed suctioning but I wouldn’t hear about any of it until later on.
Finally, my baby boy was placed on my chest. And I cried of course, and I cannot possibly explain how it felt except that my hand covered his entire tiny back and I didn’t even roll him over to see his face at first, I just loved him.
So at 3:12 PM on New Years Day our little Junior was born. Birth plan-wise, he was born as naturally as possible. He just happened to come a week early on a major holiday in a hospital I’d never been to before. And really it was perfect in its own weird way.
A song from Shrek the Musical comes to mind:
“This is how I pictured it,
more or less, I must admit.
A thumping in my heart,
a life about to start!
I knew this day would come
and you would find your way.
At last my dream comes true!
I knew I knew I knew
It would be