Grandmas and Grandpas have gone home. We’ve (I’ve) changed what seems like a million poopy diapers. Uninterrupted sleep is a thing of the past. And wailing newborn cries seem to provide an unignorable 24/7 soundtrack to my new life as a mother. I am now the sole provider of nourishment for a newborn daughter, and I don’t know what the heck to do.
She’s beautiful. Little Maysen is the best thing that has ever happened to me. She has beautiful blue eyes that cross every now and then. She has adorable dimples that come out when she makes funny faces. She makes the silliest, most endearing little faces, especially when she’s trying to wake up. And she’s got a catlike sleep regimen; she dozes deeply all day and then wants to be up all night. When she’s not sleeping, she’s either eating or crying 99 percent of the time. The other 1 percent is spent being adorably charming and cute. I’ve taken about a million pictures of her and I can’t stop. I think it may be a new addiction of mine. Thankfully, Ronny bought me a new camera to satiate my desires for better-than-point-and-shoot photography.
Baby May is already nine days old today, and I’m already feeling a sweet sadness that she’s growing up too fast. I know it’s ridiculous, and I better get used to it. But I can already see her growing!
I won’t bore or disgust you with ALL of the gory details, but let’s just say that we ended up having a natural childbirth. You may recall that I really didn’t want to have an epidural, and I REALLY didn’t want to have a c-section. It turned out that I got my way, but my way of getting it was a bit of a surprise.
It started at 1:30am on February 13 when my water broke a little. It wasn’t the monsterous “gush” that I had been expecting; apparently little Maysie’s head was down low enough to keep me plugged up, so I just went back to bed, suspicious and on alert. Around 4 or so I started feeling a teensie bit crampy, which made me nervous, but didn’t really hurt, and then at 6 I woke up feeling the same. At about 8am the cramps were stronger, and I realized that they were coming and going, so I pulled out the stopwatch on my cell phone. From 8 to 9:45 it seemed that the “cramps” were coming every ten minutes and lasting for about 45 seconds each time, and the pain was actually quite manageable, making me think that if this was labor, I could make it through with flying colors. Piece of cake!
Because it just felt like period cramps, and because I wasn’t exactly writhing in pain, Ronny convinced me that this wasn’t really labor, that if anything it was pre-labor that would last a long time, so I should just get some rest. But at that time I knew inside that this was it. I called the hospital to ask if I should come in, and they said they couldn’t really tell me what to do, but that I could come in to test my “water” and see if it was what I thought it was. I decided to just wait it out a little at home.
Ronny’s mom and dad were downstairs and he let them know what was going on. I called my mom to tell her not to panic and jump in the car right away, but to be ready just in case we called her. I told her that maybe in a few hours she and my dad might want to hop in the car and start heading down, but that they may be hanging out at my house for a while waiting. I told my brother the same thing. They planned on getting down here around 3, which would allow my dad to finish selling coins at the flea market and then to get their stuff together and head down. But around 12pm my cramps had become real contractions, and they were 7 to 8 minutes apart. We called my mom and dad again and let them know that things were progressing faster than we thought, that we were leaving for the hospital by 12:30 and that they may want to come a little earlier. I had suddenly begun to worry that they might miss the birth if they waited too long. Being first-time expectant grandparents, they had already started heading down.
We got to the hospital at about 12:45, at which time my contractions had become so painful that I could no longer hold myself up. I had to lean on Ronny to make it down the stairs, and I got hit by 3 debilitating contractions in the 15 minute car ride to the hospital. No labor room was available when we arrived, so I went into a shared room to have an exam. The pain was so bad at that point that I was absolutely sure that I had already dilated to 6 or 7 cm. Wrong. At 1pm I was 100% effaced, but only 2-3 cm dilated. Crap.
So, I decided to ask for the epidural. I mean, if it hurt this bad at 2 cm, how much worse could it get over the next several hours? Any idealized notion of having a natural childbirth flew out the window, and in spite of Ronny doing what I wished and reminding me to wait a little and see how it goes before deciding on the epidural, I decided that I couldn’t handle the pain. Screw the breathing. Screw the massage. Screw the visualization. I wanted drugs.
But the anesthesiologist was in a c-section and I would have to wait one hour, until 2pm, to get the epidural — not a big deal, right, since I was only at 2cm? Wrong again. They moved me into my labor room, and as the nurse, Judy, hooked up my IV, and as my mom and dad arrived, I writhed and moaned in pain. Ronny, his mom, and my mom and dad were in the room with me, all trying to comfort me with ice chips, cool washrags, and breathing reminders. My dad left sometime during that first hour in the labor room, not wanting to witness more of his own baby’s labor.
At 2pm I asked where the heck the epidural was, and the nurse gave me a quick exam. “Wait, how far dilated did the nurse say you were?” she asked.
“And that was how long ago?”
“About an hour”
“Well, honey, I’m sorry, but you’re at 7 cm and you’re not gonna be able to get an epidural. This baby’s coming fast.”
I thought she was joking then, but I REALLY thought she was joking when, about 20 or so minutes later, she gave me another exam and told me that I was at 9 1/2 cm and I might have this baby before the doctor got there.
“WHAAAAT?!?!?” Oh…my…god…this was really happening, and it hurt so bad, and I was going to have to handle it on my own, which I was 100% sure I wouldn’t be able to do. Ronny & Mom & Linda all did their best to comfort me, but honestly I was in so much pain that I really don’t remember what they did besides remind me to breathe and feed me delicious ice chips. Whatever they did, I couldn’t have made it through without their help. They were the reason I was actually able to have this baby without medical intervention. The nurse gave me something in my IV to relax me a little, which sortof took the edge off but in no way took away the pain, maybe dulled it a little, but it friggin’ hurt like crazy, and the contractions were coming right on top of one another. I couldn’t even look at the monitor to see how strong they were, but they were strong enough to make me cry like a wimp. My pain tolerance was SO much lower than I had ever expected. I mean, I was prepared. I had read all the books, practiced several different breathing techniques, visualized the muscles contracting and coached Ronny on how I wanted to be coached.
Out of nowhere, the nurse sat at the end of my bed and told me it was time to push. Um, what? Already? it was only 3:00! So Ronny took his place by my side, holding my head, and Mom & Linda each took their positions at one of my legs. Despite all of my reading and being prepared (so I thought), Nurse Judy had to teach me how to push. Apparently you’re not allowed to exhale, you have to hold your breath through each contraction. You have to push like you’re taking the biggest crap of your life, and you have to push for a really, really long time.
I don’t think I’ve ever been so exhausted. Or frustrated. I kept pushing wrong, and the nurse told me I was a lazy pusher. At one point the baby’s heartbeat slowed down, so I had to NOT push, and just lie there for the contractions, which was absolutely miserable. Then, when my contractions seemed to slow down, they gave me a shot of pitocin to make them stronger. Then, they brought me a mirror to watch the action. That’s when I got the motivation I needed. I could see the tiny head peeking out. I started to feel that there was an end in sight, a light at the end of the tunnel. Ronny kept having to remind me to breathe in between pushes, to keep my chin to my chest, then to not breathe through each push. Mom & Linda had to remind me to relax my legs. And then, the nurse told me that the doctor was on his way, and that I’d have the baby within five minutes after he arrived.
She was right. Dr. N. came into the room, which I barely even noticed. They removed the bottom of the table and put up some stirrups. The rest is kindof cloudy, but he came and was like a drill sergeant. He’d have nothing to do with my namby-pamby lazy pushing. Some kind of miracle must have happened, because as soon as he got there I somehow found the strength to push even harder. It burned like hell. Seriously, like I would imagine hell to burn. And I couldn’t breathe. Over and over I cried, saying I can’t breathe. I whined, saying I couldn’t do it anymore. And I gave up. But he made me push, he said we’re almost there.
But he was blocking my view of the mirror. “I can’t see in the mirror! I can’t see the baby coming!”
“You don’t need the mirror,” he said. ” Just look down and push harder!”
I looked down, over my still huge belly, and suddenly saw in the doctor’s hands a purple, waxy, slimy baby’s head. Then with one final push, the baby was out, and he was holding it above my chest, and Ronny was asking, “what is it? Is it a boy or a girl?” The doctor turned the baby toward him and said, “Look, what do you see?”
It was a girl! A breathing, shivering, CRYING baby girl! Then everything was in a fog; I saw Ronny cutting the translucent, pearlescent umbilical cord, I delivered the placenta, and I cried, cried, cried. They took the baby, cleaned her off, and she was back in my arms before I even knew what was happening. The doctor stitched me up, which hurt, but hardly even compared to the pain I had just gone through. I don’t really know what happened then. I remember seeing the doctor shake Ronny’s hands, I remember pointing out that his shirt was inside out, and I remember seeing my mom and Linda’s faces as they saw the baby. I remember hearing the love in Ronny’s voice as he told me we had a daughter. And I was so, so exhausted.
The moms left the room, and Ronny and I spent a little skin-on-skin time with our new daughter, getting to know her, studying her, and looking at one another in disbelief. Neither of us could believe what was happening. After a while she was taken to the nursery for her first bath and to be warmed up a little, and all of our family that was at the hospital was able to see her first few precious moments of life. My brother and Justin were there, Ronny’s brother and wife were there, all four grandparents were there, and we all got to visit for the next couple of hours. It was like a little party as Ronny & I recovered in the labor & delivery room.
So, that’s the birth story. So much more has happened since last Saturday. There’s so much more to write about. But after nine days of taking care of a newborn baby girl, I’m exhausted.
Until next time…