Today marks the end of Emily’s first trip around the sun, and the beginning of her second astral voyage.
A year ago, I went into the hospital on a Tuesday night so my OB could prep me for induction. I had vowed never to be induced, but I could barely walk. Emily was squashing my sacrum, and I was anxious about using even a second of my meager maternity time sitting around and playing the waiting game. I had embraced and cycled through all of the wives’ tales about self-inducing labor. After eating a ton of pineapple, walking laps around our block, getting a vigorous pedicure, and taking hot showers until my skin was parched, all to no avail, I agreed to be induced.
My husband and I dropped Jack off at his grandmother’s house and said an emotional good bye. It struck me that it was our last moment as a threesome. We headed over to the hospital. I hesitated in the parking lot. Maybe this is a mistake, I thought.
Inductions are grisly. I had been induced with Jack due to my water breaking and not starting with my own contractions, and I’d ended up having an epidural and pushing for two hours before my baby boy made his way out of me. I glanced at my husband, rolling my little suitcase behind him. He smiled his reassurance. We proceeded up to the Women’s Care Center where I was admitted, changed into a hospital gown, and hooked up to a fetal monitor. The nurse noted that I was having small contractions every six to ten minutes.
I began to cry. I wanted to go home. The nurse and my husband calmed me down, unable to understand why I felt like a failure for being induced instead of going into labor naturally. “I suck at child birth,” I wept.
My doctor applied some medicine to help ripen my cervix. The plan was for me to take some ambien, get a good night’s sleep, and begin the pitocin around 7 a.m.
Our nurse assured us nothing would happen in the wee hours of the night, so my husband went home to get a good night’s sleep. I wanted him to be rested for the long day ahead of us. It took me a long time to fall asleep alone in that sterile and chilly room.
About 4:30 a.m., I woke up feeling crampy and queezy. I got up to use the bathroom and came back to bed to try for some more sleep. As I was gingerly settling, I felt a sluice of warm liquid burst between my thighs. I paged the nurse who confirmed that my water had broken. I had a contraction. Then another. The nurse checked me and confirmed that I was four centimeters dialated. I was in labor.
Thankfully, I resisted the urge to let my mom and husband get a few more hours of sleep. I called them and by the time they arrived a half hour later, I was going through transition.
The contractions sucked me into myself. I was in a little tunnel in the back of my head. All around me it was dim and fuzzy. I recognized this place as my reptilian brain.
Someone urged me to open my eyes and focus, so I did. I found a poster on the wall which said, “Skin to skin,” extolling the importance of that first contact. Instinctively, I began to breathe in a fast-paced rhythm. The nurses firmly told me not to push.
A nurse checked my cervix and found it fully dialated. She gave the go ahead. It felt like a bowling ball was trying to come out of my ass, and I think I might have said this out loud. I pushed, and heard myself grunt in a primal way that didn’t sound like any noise I had ever made. Someone took my hand and placed it between my thighs so I could feel Emily’s slick little head as it crowned. I pushed again and the only thought in my head was, “Get this baby out of me.” With one more push, there was a delightful release.
I peered up between my thighs, and there she was.
“Oh,” I sighed, “She’s here already!” From start to finish, it was less than an hour and only three miraculous pushes. The cord was wrapped around her neck twice, but she was pink as a little piglet.
I grabbed for her. A doctor had materialized, although not my doctor. He removed the cord and handed Emily to me. The sun had risen and was shining into the room. My placid baby nuzzled against my chest, and looked up at me with incredibly round, dark eyes. She was not crying, just looking at me as intently as I was looking at her.
Because it happened so fast, there was no pitocin or epidural. So, I was alert, energized, and inexplicably, not in any pain. Emily weighed in at nine pounds, seven ounces. Bewildered, I looked at my mom and asked, “I just had a nine and a half pound baby in three pushes?” Dude. I felt like a freaking rock star!
I could go on about her tiny, delicate fingers, and the way she latched on like a champ for her first nursing, but there are a few things I would like you, gentle reader, to take away from this story.
First, the birthdays of our babies are like national holidays within the country of family. Celebrate them with all your heart! Second, do not be scared that a “big” baby will mean a difficult birth. I went into that experience thinking that “I sucked” at giving birth. As it turns out, I was amazing. So, don’t doubt your awesome mother power.
I had resolved to never tell my children that their births were horrible, or how much pain they caused me. As it turns out, I couldn’t tell them horrible birth stories even if I tried. Their births filled me with the most insane amount of endorphins that I have ever felt in my life. Seeing their round, luminous faces for the first times were like out-of-body experiences. In fact, when I am down and need to feel better about something, I will often find myself meditating on their births.
Some birth stories are in fact really hard and scary and painful. But mine were not. And for this, I am so very thankful. When we help Em blow out the one candle on her cupcake tonight, I will be able to savor exactly how blessed I am.