Prepare yourself for a long story. I do go on.
It’s strange to be starting the story of Eva’s birth. I think I haven’t completely gotten to a place where I can even believe that she’s really here. I spend my whole days with her, holding her, feeding her, dressing her, bathing her…but every now and then her very presence completely catches me by surprise. She’s here. A daughter. I have a daughter. We have a daughter.
It all started with a room. About three months before Eva arrived, I had as near to a meltdown as I ever got during the pregnancy. For the vast majority of the pregnancy, I kept myself together and didn’t let the hormones get the best of me, but on one memorable evening I lost my marbles for a few hours and fell apart. The problem? The nursery.
We had a room that was designated as a guest-room-nursery-in-waiting, so when we found out that we were expecting, we knew exactly where the baby was going to go. As bedrooms go, it wasn’t the best room, since it was sort of small and had high awkward windows. There was also the fact that the room was the only access to the bathroom, which would mean constant traffic in and out of the baby’s room. However, at the end of the day, we liked our little cottage and didn’t want to give up our own bedroom, so we decided to just make the best of it.
I started out pretty optimistic about the nursery. Sure, we didn’t have a lot of space, but I was positive that I could IKEA my way into a fabulous little area for the baby. I drew sketches and browsed Ohdeedoh and started scheming a long list of DIY projects. And then I got kind of tired and busy…and then I was four months pregnant…and five months pregnant…and six months pregnant…and the room continued to house a motley assortment of furniture and an ever-growing stockpile of baby supplies. In short, the big plans for the room didn’t happen.
So, one evening, I looked at the stuff that I had bought for the nursery, looked at the long list of DIY projects that hadn’t been completed, and then I went bat poop bananas for a couple of hours and wept inconsolably because we might as well be raising our daughter in a STORAGE SHED and we’d NEVER be able to have people over to see the baby because WHAT KIND OF PARENTS didn’t even have a nice room to bring the baby home to and WE MIGHT AS WELL JUST GIVE UP NOW.
It was a good time. I think Kyle enjoyed it.
I felt better about everything after a few hours and a couple (dozen) chocolate covered raisins, but I was never really thrilled about the nursery after that. It went from “let’s make a beautiful room for the baby!” to “let’s just make this work so walking into this room doesn’t bum me out every day.” I bought fabric to make curtains and let it sit in a bag on the dresser for weeks. I also contacted Etsy sellers about getting a few custom pieces and then ignored their emails when they tried to get my shipping address. Honestly, I couldn’t even put my finger on what was wrong with the room, since it was a decent size and perfectly adequate for a newborn, but something about the energy just flattened out my nesting instinct and made me want to eat. (Less than awesome.)
Then, out of nowhere, this random and awesome thing happened. My lovely friend Jessica came over for lunch and took a first-time tour of our little house. I mentioned that we liked living there but that we were having some trouble with our landlord, who was being lazy about getting some repairs done, and Jessica told me that her sister-in-law was just a few weeks away from moving out of an awesome house and asked if we might be interested in it.
At almost seven months pregnant, I immediately dismissed the idea since we weren’t even sort of thinking about relocating, but then I found out that the place was a whole lot closer to Kyle’s work and not much more in rent. And we wouldn’t have to park on the street anymore. And it was within walking distance to a great shopping center. And it was closer to the freeway. And it came with landlords who actually got repairs done. And (perhaps best of all) the baby would have a room with great big windows that doesn’t have a bathroom attached to it.
Fast forward a few weeks and we found ourselves knee-deep in moving boxes. It was all exciting, but my stress level had really started to peak and didn’t look like it was going to come down any time soon. With two months left on our existing lease, we decided to get the move done ASAP, on a weekend that was about a month before our original due date and three weeks before our scheduled c-section. It meant paying double rent for a little while, but I really wanted to have the opportunity to unpack and make our new place feel like home before we became parents, especially since I was potentially looking at a rough-ish recovery from surgery.
Luckily, we had a lot of people who offered to help us move (big emphasis on my parents here) and even with all of the chaos, things started to look like they were under control. Every now and then, Kyle and I would look at each other and wonder out loud if we were completely insane for picking up and relocating, but the promise of a better place for Eva and a smooth move followed by a few quiet weeks of settling in kept us going. I just kept telling myself, “Everything will be fine by March 6th. If we can get to March 6th, we’ll be in the new house and we’ll have 18 whole days before the baby. Everything will be fine by March 6th. Just get to March 6th.”
Thursday (March 3rd)
I woke up uncomfortable on March 3rd, to say the least. Uncomfortable had become the new normal about a month before, so I was sleeping in the nursery on a twin bed where I wouldn’t bother Kyle with my constant flipping and flopping in bed. If you haven’t had the joy of trying to sleep during your third trimester of pregnancy, it’s a hoot. There’s pressure and pulling and soreness and joints slipping, plus the joy of feeling your little one kick you hard in either the bladder or the lungs, depending on which way she’s pointed at any given moment.
I was also fighting some new pains, only these ones were all my fault. A week of packing and moving boxes (against the advice of everyone around me), had wiped out my back and made my ankles swell up to five times their normal size. Since my body wasn’t really up for that kind of abuse, I decided to skip the packing on Thursday and had a list of errands to run instead. I got up, had breakfast, and then hit the post office, two banks, Target, and the grocery store.
I followed that with the interview for that newspaper in Omaha, which I gave while simultaneously having a non-stress test done at the hospital. I can guarantee that there are at least three women out in the world somewhere who remember me as the annoying person on her cell phone yelling about Disney media marketing over the sound of all those little heartbeats. What can I say? I honestly didn’t have any other time to do the interview. It was just easier to be obnoxious for ten minutes.
The non-stress test wasn’t very eventful. They mentioned that I still seemed to be having contractions, but reassured me that it was just my body getting ready for labor. I think I even asked if there was any chance that I might go into labor before the c-section that was scheduled in three weeks. The answer was no, for the record. Definitely not. Those contractions were just practice contractions. They weren’t going to do anything that would push the baby in an outward direction. Nope, no chance.
I left the hospital in something of a hurry, since we had an appointment to meet up with our new landlord and get our keys that afternoon and I had a few things to do around the house before then. I was wiped out when I got home, since I had been running errands all day, so I made a plate of chicken and rice, turned on some Netflix, and decided to take fifteen minutes to chill out.
And then, the poop hit the fan, so to speak.
About five minutes into my little lunch, I suddenly felt like I might have peed my pants a little. If you haven’t been pregnant, you might be a little confused about this, but if you have been pregnant, you’ll know that the whole last third of the pregnancy is spent thinking, “Did I just pee?” There’s an inconvenient decrease in sensitivity down south thanks to all the shifting weight and pressure and I was constantly paranoid about peeing on accident. I had actually accepted the inevitable fact that I would pee my pants in public at some point before the baby came. So, potentially having a bit of an accident while eating chicken on the couch wasn’t ridiculous or shocking, it was just a pain in the butt.
Problem: a bathroom check confirmed that it was not pee. We don’t need specifics here, but it was not pee, ok? It was also not that two-gallon gush that you see on television, so I wasn’t completely convinced that my water had broken. Or, in retrospect, I suppose I was in complete denial, because ultimately it was either pee or it had to be my water. And it wasn’t pee…but somewhere in my get-to-March-6th-mania, I refused to believe that my water had broken. It had to be something else…some other reasonable explanation that wasn’t going to result in imminent childbirth. Thus, this conversation:
My mom at her office: “Hello?”
Me: “Um, I need advice. I think maybe my water just broke or something.”
My mom: “Really? You need to go to the hospital.”
Me: “Well, I don’t know if my water broke…maybe it was something else.” (Insert details not suitable for blog) “So maybe I could just wait a while and see what happens.”
My mom: “It sounds like your water has broken. Have you called Kyle?”
Me: “Um…I don’t really want to bother him because I think this is nothing and I don’t want him to worry. So I’ll tell him later maybe, if I go to the hospital.”
My mom: “Ok, I’m going to call Kyle and pick him up and then we’ll come get you.”
Me: “Oh, no…there’s no reason for you guys to come down. I really don’t think I’m in labor…I have to pick up our keys in a couple of hours and then maybe I’ll stop in at the hospital.”
My mom: “No, we’re coming to pick you up.”
Me: “Well, you can come down if you want, but it’s probably nothing. There’s no reason for you to pick me up. I’ll just drive over to the hospital now and get checked out real quick before I pick up the keys.”
My mom: “You shouldn’t drive. Stay there and we’ll pick you up in fifteen minutes.”
Me: “Um…yeah, no I’m fine. But I have to go now so I can make it to meet the landlord. So I’m going to go.”
My mom: “I don’t think you…”
Me: “Yeah, I can’t talk while I’m driving. K, bye.”
We had worked out a plan, by the way. We had established that I shouldn’t drive if I was in labor, but since Kyle didn’t want to leave me without a car during the day, we had worked out an elaborate system of who would pick up Kyle and who would pick me up and how everyone would get to the hospital. There were about five different mini-plans that all ended up with Kyle and I getting to the hospital within twenty minutes, without me attacking the open road during labor. But you see, I didn’t think I was in labor. Hence, the hanging up on my mother and getting in the car.
The hospital is less than ten minutes away from our old house and I managed to drive there without incident, even though I probably shouldn’t have been driving at all. I parked in the short term visitor area (convinced that I was not in labor) and sauntered into labor and delivery, determined to be breezy so that they would know that this was all no big deal.
I had been to labor and delivery just a few days before when we had requested to have Eva’s movements monitored, so they didn’t have any trouble getting my paperwork together. I asked for a nurse to just do a quick check, but they led me back to the triage area and gave me a hospital gown and told me to change. I kept pointing out that I actually didn’t have much time, but they were pretty insistent about the hospital gown, which resulted in a repeated back-and-forth power struggle between me and the nurses as I tried to keep as much clothing on as possible. Eventually, I found myself in a hospital gown, stubbornly wearing my snow boots in a last-ditch effort to prove that I really had somewhere to go and they needed to get me on the road ASAP. They made me un-boot before they would even start my examination. Control freaks.
Mom and Kyle showed up right after they started monitoring my heart rate and contractions. Both were aggravatingly chipper, since they were both excited about the possibility that I was in labor. Kyle’s excitement was baffling (did he forget that we were MOVING in two days?) and he seemed a little more out of it than usual. It turned out that he hadn’t eaten lunch and had run a fair distance, since he was in the wrong hospital when mom called and had to sprint back to grab his stuff so he could grab a ride. I was berating him for not eating and telling him that he didn’t even have to be there, since it’s not like I was in labor, when Lonnie, my stepfather, showed up. Apparently, he had been on his way to my house to help pack up when mom had let him know that I had gone to labor and delivery. So, suddenly we were a party of four hanging out in the L&D triage.
I was checking the clock every two minutes, calculating how much time I had left before I’d have to leave to meet the landlord, when my doctor finally showed up. I told her what was going on and she said that they’d have to do a full examination to make sure that my water hadn’t broken, but she wasn’t too worried about it. Kyle and Lonnie took off to find a sandwich while the examination happened. It only took a couple of minutes and my doctor said that she didn’t think I was in labor, although I was 4 centimeters dilated. She said that they would send a sample to the lab to make sure that there was no amniotic fluid, but that in all likelihood I would be able to go home soon and rest.
For the record, this woman will not be my OB for any more pregnancies, because she repeatedly told me things (with absolutely confidence) that were completely wrong. Here’s a top five list:
(5) “We’ll have to keep doing these glucose tests because it’s very likely that you’ll develop gestational diabetes at some point in the pregnancy.”
(4) “Your baby is measuring three weeks ahead of schedule. You seem to have gained nine pounds of baby since I saw you last week.”
(3) “With your heart problem, you wouldn’t be able to tolerate labor.”
(2) “The fact that you’ve been having contractions for a week doesn’t worry me. If they were real contractions, you would know.”
…and the winner…
(1) “I don’t see you having a baby tonight. You should be able to go home within the hour. I wouldn’t worry about it.”
She did say that since I was so dilated and not experiencing any heart trouble, that I should start considering whether or not I’d want to make a go of it with a traditional childbirth if it did turn out that I was in labor. I hadn’t even considered that question, since we had been on the c-section plan for some time, but since I wasn’t keen on surgery, I agreed that if it turned out that my water had broken, I would want to try to have the baby the old-fashioned way. Again, all of this was all nonsense to me, since I was sure my water hadn’t broken and I’d just be back for a c-section in three weeks as planned.
Before Kyle and Lonnie had gone to get a sandwich, I had asked Kyle to find me a cup of water. He had returned with ice chips, after being told by the nurses that I wasn’t allowed to have water, since I might be in labor. For some reason, this made me very hostile toward the nurses, who had forced me to remove my shoes and now had me dehydrated and trying to melt ice with my breath, which is what I was doing when a new nurse came in and cheerfully said that the labs had come in and it turned out that my water had broken after all. I was going to have a baby!
She talked and talked and talked and I have no idea what she said. What I do know is that I handed the cup of ice to my mom, because I was struck with an intense urge to throw the ice at the nurse, and then I said, “Ok, I know you’re talking, but I don’t know what you’re saying because I’m not listening. So I’m going to need you to leave and come back in about ten minutes.” She was nice about it…or I think she was. I don’t know actually, because my ears were ringing and the room was spinning and all of that melodramatic crap. What I do know was that as soon as she left, I was trying to get mom to give me my purse and my shoes so we could sneak out of there because I was NOT about to have a baby two days before moving to a new house. Mom refused.
Kyle and Lonnie wandered in sometime soon after that. I had told mom that I wasn’t going to say anything to Kyle, since I was still on the how-do-we-get-out-of-here plan, so she didn’t say anything either. We just let them stand around and tell us what they had for lunch, until a different nurse came in and started talking about moving me to a different room and getting antibiotics going and all this other stuff, so I had to interrupt her, turn to my husband, and say, “Oh yeah…it was amniotic fluid so they want me to have this baby tonight so I guess I’m in labor.” Like I had forgotten about it and suddenly remembered.
I then ordered him to take Lonnie and pick up the keys, even though he wanted to just reschedule so he could stay with me. You might think I’m a mean wife for forcing my husband to leave while we were about to have our first child, but everything (EVERYTHING) was out of my control at that point except for the getting of the keys and it was incredibly important that those keys come into our possession. I don’t know why. I just needed to know that I had a definite handle on something. So, Kyle left and mom and I gathered all of my things and moved to a private delivery room.
The delivery room was large, but not as nice as I had hoped. Kyle and I hadn’t done the tour of the delivery rooms, since we thought we were having a c-section and therefore skipped the childbirth class we were signed up for. In my head, I was imagining a large room with soft lighting and modern wood paneling and maybe a big tub or an area with a birthing ball and a comfortable couch. Basically, I was expecting the Hilton. Unfortunately, this was more like the Holiday Inn circa 1996, before they got all fancy and rebranded themselves as a business hotel. There was some dated floral wallpaper trim and a lot of light pink, but mostly there was just a bed and a small table and a few chairs and a big scary bathroom with a toilet that wouldn’t flush unless you kicked it pretty hard. Not the Hilton.
I don’t remember too much of the settling in, probably because I was still in shock that we were still in Labor & Delivery. I do remember repeatedly telling my mom that there was no way this was happening, but mostly I think there was a lot of stunned silence. It was around four o’clock at that point and I could see contractions peaking on the monitor, but I didn’t feel anything but a growing sense of anxiety/dread about the new lease we had just signed and the four million things that hadn’t gotten done around the house.
Think about what your house looks like right now and what it would be like if you knew that your friends and family would have to go in and pack all of your stuff up. Think about all the things that they’d get to experience…your old leftovers that you never threw out, your dirty laundry that you haven’t picked up, the bathroom trash that has been overflowing for at least four days…all the things you’d normally take care of before you had people over to your house. This is what I was thinking about in the delivery room. Not the baby. Not motherhood. Not how much I wanted my husband there. I was thinking about the underwear on the floor that someone was going to have to pick up.
Kyle and Lonnie showed up pretty soon, since they’d grabbed the keys and rushed back to the hospital. I was at a 5 by that point, but I still wasn’t in any pain. I’d say that I was uncomfortable, but it wasn’t much more uncomfortable than pregnancy in general, so I didn’t feel the urge to get any pain medication in me. I was a little nauseous, but they put something in my IV and that went away immediately. In all fairness, the nurse that took care of me was pretty impressive. As soon as anything happened or I needed anything, she was on it like white on rice. It made everything more relaxed because I really felt like I was in good hands.
All in all, labor was turning out to be a breeze. Kyle and I chatted with my parents and my other parents (who had been called in by parent set #1) and we watched the Food Network and hung out while Kyle tried to make it through “The Birth Partner Handbook“. (He’d read the c-section chapter and skipped the rest. Unfortunately, he remained a consistent chapter behind the action throughout the labor. Something to think about for you dads-to-be…)
When I dilated to a 7, I met the doctor that would deliver our baby. My doctor had gone home for the evening (without even saying goodbye, mind you) and the on-call doctor was someone I hadn’t met, but someone that my doctor parents (parent set #2) were familiar with. We liked her immediately, because she was kind but very professional and on top of everything. She checked me out and said that they were surprised because I wasn’t in a lot of pain. She wanted me to start thinking about the epidural, which was a question I had completely forgotten to consider. The epidural was recommended by the doctor because they wanted my labor to be as low-stress as possible, to avoid putting me into any kind of heart trouble, so even though I wasn’t in a lot of pain, I agreed to have it done, even though I wasn’t too keen on the idea.
Turns out, I really needed to listen to that inner voice…the one that didn’t want them to put needles in my back.
What do you know about epidurals? Well, you probably know more than I do. I didn’t read too much about epidurals because I went from thinking that I would do natural childbirth (no drugs) to thinking that I would get a spinal block for the c-section. So, there was no reason to read up on the whole epidural process. I understood the general concept and I knew that people loved them and praised them and wanted to have them ASAP, but beyond that I was clueless. And nervous, since I don’t like needles and the idea of anyone messing with my spine gives me the heebie-jeebies.
The anesthesiologist was nice and definitely not a resident, which Margi had warned me about. Apparently residents are much more likely to screw up, which sounded like bad news since this was spine-related, so I was prepared to get rude and demand a “real” doctor. Luckily, this guy was as real as they get and he promised to have me fixed up in no time. So, I sat up, put my feet over the edge, curved my back, and held Kyle’s hand while my mom sat behind me and watched the doctor work.
I was told the first part would pinch a little, so I was expecting the pain that you get when you have a flu shot. It turned out that the little pinch was a pretty big pinch and it just kept pinching, but I held still and the doctor reassured me that this was a numbing agent and it would keep me from feeling anything else. He gave it a minute to work and then he continued, telling me that I would feel pressure, but no pain.
I don’t know when I started to feel like things were going wrong. The memory of the whole experience is clouded with bad feelings, but I don’t think I was completely freaked out when he started trying to put it in. I know that it hurt and that I was holding still and telling myself that I was being a baby and it didn’t really hurt and I only thought it hurt and that it would only hurt for another minute. Then there was a pop and it really hurt and I clutched Kyle’s hand and he told the doctor that he thought I was in pain. The doctor said that I shouldn’t be, but he stopped working and went back to giving me more of the numbing agent (pinch pinch pinch) before he tried again.
There was more pain and more popping and a lot more pain, but I did my best to hold still and muscle through. The doctor tried one side and then the other and then he just hurried up and finished so that he could get out of there and he helped me back down to the bed, since I was hurting pretty badly. I felt bad about being such a pansy, but I was looking forward to the epidural taking effect, since everyone had raved about epidurals so much. He said that my legs would start to feel heavy and numb, so I wiggled my feet and raised them a little and waited.
Ten minutes later, it was obvious that something had gone wrong. My feet and legs were not numb in the slightest and my back hurt so much that I kept rolling to one side so that I could get weight off of it. I hadn’t been in any pain before the epidural but now I was shaky and nauseous and trying not to breath too deeply so it wouldn’t hurt my back. The doctor kept coming in to check on me and he kept apologizing and checking my legs and checking the line and checking the machine and apologizing and saying that this had never happened. I felt bad for him, actually, because I think he thought that we all thought he was incompetent, but I’m sure he did his job. It just didn’t take, for whatever reason.
Once we established that nothing was happening, the doctor offered to try again. I really, really did not want him to go anywhere near my back, but I was supposed to get the epidural and he promised that I had so much numbing agent that it wouldn’t hurt as bad this time. So, I rolled over, too sore to sit up, and he started in for round two.
First, there was more numbing agent and when I didn’t go numb, he kept adding (pinch) and adding (pinch pinch pinch) until he had given me ten times the normal amount and he told me that he couldn’t safely give me any more. Then, even though I wasn’t numb, he tried to put the epidural in. It was a lot worse the second time around because I was already so sore, so Kyle had to try to hold my arms so that I wouldn’t jerk around.
It’s hard to explain what it felt like, because it was really weird, but it was like having a cavity in your tooth and then having something dig into it when you aren’t numb. That pain literally went from my shoulders to my tailbone and just radiated with that horrible, metal-on-your-teeth, feeling. As bad as it was, I think it was probably worse to watch. Kyle wasn’t able to look at what the doctor was actually doing, but he kept seeing me jump and cry out and he said that there was just a lot of blood and needles and it was all bad bad bad.
Finally, after trying one side and then the other, the doctor got it into a good spot and pulled out. They let me lay on my side for a little bit, since my back was so sore, and then I started wiggling toes and trying to raise my feet again. Luckily, this time I could feel my legs getting heavy. Unluckily, the heavy feeling traveled from my feet to my calves to my thighs…and then stopped mid-thigh. For the rest of the delivery, I was numb from the middle of my thighs to my feet
In case you didn’t know, those aren’t the parts that hurt during labor.
The OB was hovering during the end of the epidural experience because word had spread about all the trouble I was having. Once we were done with the epidural, she noted that my contractions were getting stronger and that I should be progressing. She wanted to get a sense of how strong the contractions actually were, so they decided to be an internal monitor in where the baby was, to get a good reading. It’s not a comfortable procedure, but since I had had the epidural I wasn’t supposed to feel it.
A nurse came in and tried to get the monitor situated (proving conclusively that the epidural was NOT working), but she couldn’t place it correctly because my amniotic sac hadn’t broken. I thought that when your water broke, it really broke, but apparently I had a “high leak”, which means that there was a tear at the top of the bag but not the bottom. So, they decided to break the bag so that they could place the monitor and, after an awkward interaction with something that looked very much like a crochet hook, my water was officially broken.
Almost immediately, the doctor became concerned with the baby’s heart rate. My contractions had gotten stronger, but without the fluid surrounding her, Eva had fallen on the cord and wasn’t tolerating the contractions. We watched her heart rate dip from 140 to 100 to 60 to 40 and suddenly the doctor was talking about a possible emergency c-section and how long the baby could be in distress before they were going to have to get it out.
I don’t remember too much of this clearly. I do remember staring at that heart rate monitor until my eyes started burning. I remember that they put an oxygen mask on me and people were talking to me, but mostly I just heard the oxygen coming in and listened to the beep of the baby’s heart rate as it dipped lower. The nurse started turning me from side to side, helping me as I tried to move my legs (useless from the anesthesia), so that we could move the baby off the cord. I know that she was calm and deliberate and she was the only one who didn’t try to reassure me or make me feel better. I loved her for that. Her seriousness was the only thing that kept my panic in check.
I have to give kudos to the doctor as well, since I feel like our regular OB would have immediately sent me to surgery to err on the safe side. The doctor that eventually delivered Eva was watchful, but very patient and obviously she trusted that my body would be able to fix the problem and everything would turn out ok. I’m sure that if surgery had been necessary, she wouldn’t have hesitated, but I really appreciate that she didn’t jump the gun when things started to take a bad turn. I was really starting to lose it and I know that if she had asked me, I probably would have told her to just cut Eva out because I didn’t want anything to happen to her, so it’s good that she kept control of the situtation.
In the grand scheme, it wasn’t the scariest thing that can happen, but I was terrified. Eventually, they decided to replace the amniotic fluid with some sort of substitute, which helped get the baby off the cord, but I remained on oxygen and we were all watching the monitor through each contraction. The nurse turned me away from the monitor after a while and I spent a long time holding Kyle’s hand and watching his eyes because I knew he’d tell me if her heart rate was good or bad.
My dad had left hours earlier, but he came back some time around then and he kept picking up my wrist and checking my pulse while all of this was happening. Even with the world narrowed down to Eva’s heartbeat, I remember thinking that it was funny how I was totally focused on her heartbeat since she was in distress and Dad was focused on whether or not the stress was going to put my own heart rate into arrhythmia. I knew he wanted me to relax, that everyone wanted me to relax, but once her heart rate started to dip there was no way I was going to relax until she was out. At that point, I would have done anything. If they had wanted to do a c-section right there with no anesthesia, I would have been game.
Finally, with the replaced fluid, Eva started to tolerate the contractions again and the contractions picked up in speed and intensity. To say that they did not feel good is an understatement, but my mood had changed a lot in the last hour. The scare with Eva’s heart rate had completely pulled my focus from “We’re not ready to have a baby!” and “How are we ever going to move on Saturday?!” to “I am going to get this baby out and she’s going to be healthy if I have to turn myself inside out to do it.” I never want to relive those minutes of watching her heart rate fall so low, but it was definitely the big fat shove into motherhood that I needed before she was born.
My parents left the room, including my dad (who basically had to be thrown out). I think that he thought his status as a doctor would allow him to stay, but I wasn’t having it. So, it was just me and Kyle and a new nurse that replaced the serious, capable nurse that had gotten me through most of the delivery. The new one was sweet and upbeat and probably what I needed during the end stage, although she got on my nerves by being a little too chipper. That’s a terrible thing to say, but there is a point at which “You’re doing soooo gooooood!” just gets really, really old.
The nurse worked on getting me into delivery position, which is exactly what it looks like on TV, and told me that she was going to teach me how to push. We had a quick lesson and I tried for the first time and she went, “WHOOAAA, stop!!” and went to get the doctor, which was a little terrifying because I thought maybe she had gotten a glimpse of our horribly disfigured child. Apparently I was just a lot closer than she thought I was and she had to pull the doctor away from another patient to tell her I was in business.
When the doctor came back in, she brought a lot of people with her. I think there was the chipper nurse, an extra nurse, maybe another extra nurse, and at least two people from NICU (who had to be there because our baby was four weeks early). They were all bustling around and I was starting to really, really hurt, when all of a sudden the chipper nurse said, “Do you want to see it in the mirror?” to which I replied, “NO!” Then she said, “Ok, well then don’t look up,” and pushed a button.
The next thing I knew, this giant mirror was unfolding out of the ceiling. Giant. Two panels that easily made up a mirror the size of a twin bed. To this moment, I have no idea what the mirror was for. Apparently it served some medical function and had to be there, since she unfolded it even after I told her I didn’t want to see anything, but I seemed to be the only person in a position to be using the mirror so who knows. All I know is that the mirror was large enough that I had two options: look in the mirror or shut my eyes. I couldn’t even look at Kyle, because to look at Kyle I had to look up and then I saw nothing but the huge mirror behind him.
I didn’t have a lot of time to contemplate the mirror though, because everyone got into position quickly and then it was time to push. I wanted to be a trooper, since I hadn’t complained much up until then, but man alive did that part hurt. I hit the epidural button about four million times, but my calves just got more and more numb and the rest of me stayed as alert as ever. I only had to push about five (maybe six?) times total, but I really didn’t think I’d make it through that part. I didn’t think I could do it. I told Kyle I couldn’t do it. I even started to panic because I thought we’d never get her out. It was just really, really hard.
At some point toward the end, the doctor asked me if she could do an episiotomy. Like I cared. Between Eva’s dropping heart rate and the very intense (and, dare I say, unexpected) pain, the doctor could have told me she needed to use a canoe oar to get her out and I would have been fine with it. I understand that women want to feel empowered and in control of their births, but I really feel like that part should be a don’t-ask-questions-just-freaking-get-‘er-done situation.
And then, in what will probably always be the weirdest moment of my life, Eva was born. And, I just happened to be looking in the mirror and got a full view of that whole picture. Let me just say, “ew”. Maybe “wow”. Kind of “wow”. Mostly “ew”. Definitely not “aww”. Because she came out and she was grey and slimy and there was other stuff and it was all pretty gross. And then she was here.
I wanted to be crying tears of joy and hugging Kyle and kissing her all over, but that didn’t happen. I feel a little bad about it, but for the first few minutes of Eva’s life, we did not have that picture-perfect moment that I had been anticipating. I had heard that you forget about the pain when the baby is born because you’re so happy and overcome with love. I didn’t. She came out and I still hurt and kept hurting and really wanted someone to stop it. So I was very distracted and wasn’t totally focused on the baby.
I was also not so overcome with love that I could ignore the condition that she was in. She was grey, very slimy, and yelling her head off. I thought they’d fix her up, but as soon as I flopped back onto the bed, someone dumped her onto my chest. Since the bed was reclined, my head was a little low and she sort of slid up until she was resting right under my chin. She was warm, sticky, and smelled like raw hamburger. As a result, the first words my daughter heard me say were, “Get her off of me, she’s gross!”
They took her away and the NICU people looked her over and pronounced her to be a healthy baby girl. Kyle tried to kiss me, but I pushed him away because I was feeling so sick and still hurt so much, so he went over to Eva instead and got some great photos of her first moments. I feel bad, because I think I kind of robbed Kyle of that whole movie-perfect post-birth scene, but I’m really glad that he was there with camera in hand to document what I was missing while I was struggling to finish out the birth and get it all over and done with.
Finally, after an eternity, the delivery was over and they had cleaned up the room and the people were gone and it was just me, Kyle, and our semi-cleaned baby. That was a good moment. Her tininess wiped me out and at the same time I couldn’t believe that she had actually been in my stomach just minutes before. Kyle and I just kept looking at each other and looking at the baby. It was insanity that she was there and out and we had a child and there she was. Just insanity.
During this quiet time, the nurse came in and said that there was a problem. Miss Eva had been born at midnight exactly, but in the state of Utah you can’t legally be born at midnight. I have no idea why, but you can’t. So, we had to either pick 11:59PM on 3/3/11 or 12:01AM on 3/4/11 as the date that would go on Eva’s birth certificate. We picked 3/4/11 eventually, since that was technically her birthday, and they got new paperwork filled out. I love that the first thing she did on this planet was legally problematic. I feel like that sets a good precedent.
After a while, someone went to retrieve my parents and everyone came in to see the baby. They held her and declared that she was less gross than I thought she was and then we made everyone go home to get some sleep, since they were all working the next day. Nobody else was at the hospital, because we had asked everyone not to come. I didn’t want the pressure of people waiting around for the baby and I also didn’t want to see a lot of people right after giving birth, so I was glad that it was just three of my parents and not a crowd.
All in all, birth was nothing like I thought it would be. There was less pain in the beginning, more pain in the end, and the whole thing was much more medical than it was emotional. Yet, I don’t feel cheated out of a spiritual birth experience. I was really, really glad that I was so monitored and I feel like the medical side of it kept me grounded when the emotional side threatened to make me fall apart. If I had been forced to deal with how scary it was to see her heart rate dip and how unprepared we were for Eva to show up, I think I would have been a wreck.
As it was, I spent most of the birth looking at monitors and numbers and getting ready for procedures and following the orders of the medical staff. And honestly, it was just easier and that’s what I needed. I thought that I needed to have a spiritual experience and to really feel the natural process, but I know now that with my personality and our history, I just needed to get through it and make it to the other side with a healthy baby. I couldn’t have handled any other kind of birth experience, especially under those circumstances.
Looking back, I get emotional about it now, but only because I can’t believe how lucky we are. So lucky to have skipped the c-section. So lucky to have not had any huge problems during delivery. And so, so lucky that she’s healthy, with everything that we’ve gone through to get here. I can’t think about how grateful I am for her tiny healthy body without tearing up and I don’t think it’s the pregnancy hormones. I just know exactly how bad it could have been and there is not enough gratitude or humility to cover how lucky we were.
Mostly though, it’s a miracle. I used to hate when people used that word when talking about babies, because it’s so cheesy and tossed around, but ultimately I don’t know of a better way to say it. She’s a miracle. It’s humbling to think that we’re responsible for her. It’s amazing that she’s a whole tiny person. And it’s bat poop bananas how much we love her.