Quick recap: It’s been 4 hours and 30 minutes since my water broke, with no noticeable signs of labor leading up to it; 3 hours since we checked in to the hospital; maybe 2 hour and 20 minutes since we arrived in our room; and 2 hours since things started to get painful. And now I’m fully dilated.
Suddenly the mood in the room completely transforms from a dark, relatively peaceful, private space to a buzzing hospital scene. The resident, Dr. M, is back. The nurse anesthetist arrives and is sent away, annoyed. “So no epidural?” I ask, somewhat frantically. “What about the IV?”
They start the IV drip at some point unbeknownst to me. I’m still struggling with contractions as they bring in monitors for the baby, and my doctor, Dr. E, arrives, remarking at how surprised she is to be back so soon.
This is it. Someone straps an oxygen mask to my face and I scoot down on the bed. I’m told to hold my knees back, relax and push when they say to push. Waiting for them to give the word to push was not easy! I take short, shallow breaths like we learned in our birthing class. “Now?” I ask. No…. “Now?” No…
Finally, “Push, push, push, push!”
I push as hard as I think I can. My nurse, Kate, is right beside me on my right and Peter is on my left, both helping hold my legs and shouting encouragement. Dr. E coaches me on how to properly do it, but there are so many things to remember and so much going on as I employ all my strength and concentration. Suddenly they tell me to stop.
The first contraction is over and I apparently am not adhering to instruction very well, though everyone is supportive of my efforts. With the next contraction, I try harder to take a deep breath, then relax my legs, focus my strength, hold my breath, but I am still not being entirely productive.
Dr. E tells me there’s no time for me to learn how to push. The baby’s heart rate is starting to drop and I need to get it right and get the baby out quickly. This scares me and I refocus yet again, committing to pouring all my energy out. I imagine I’m at the end of a race and want to give it my all, hold nothing back and finish strong.
Peter, Kate, Dr. M and Dr. E are all shouting instructions and supportive words. During one contraction Kate counts as I hold my breath and push. During another, Dr. M takes over counting. The counting gives me strength and focus, and I am so grateful for all the direction I’m being given. There is just too much for me to remember on my own in the midst of everything.
The oxygen mask is driving me crazy. I’m sweating monstrously and clenching my eyes shut during each contraction. When I open my eyes, it is exactly like a scene from a movie. A bright light surrounds a larger-than-life Dr. E (despite her being a small woman) as she talks to me and explains relatively calmly what is happening.
I hear a word I hadn’t wanted to hear: episiotomy. “You’re going to cut me?” I whine. “Do you have to?”
Dr. E explains that we have to get the baby out quickly. Local anesthesia stings then numbs the incision. I feel like I’m finally pushing correctly and I long for the relief of the baby’s head emerging. They all tell me I’m close. They can see the head – the baby has lots of hair. But each contraction ends with disappointment. Finally Dr. asks me if it’s OK if she uses the vacuum – she thinks it’s necessary. I don’t care as long as the baby comes out fast and safe.
I feel like I have no more energy to push, but I have to push harder. I squeeze my eyes shut. I wish I could rip the oxygen mask off. Everything feels foggy.
Finally, they tell me to open my eyes and the sweet relief I’ve been longing for arrives. Dr. E pulls the baby out and I see right away that it’s a boy, just as Peter and she exclaim, “It’s a boy!”
I start to laugh immediately. “It’s a boy!” I say, over and over, panting and smiling. I expect him to be placed on my chest, but he’s taken away to the other side of the room after my initial glance. “Can I hold him?” I ask? Not yet. They have to monitor him after his traumatic entrance into the world. A tiny cry resounds. I see there are several nurses in the room that I hadn’t noticed before.
“Does he have a name?” Dr. E asks. Corban!
Peter kisses me and I send him to the other side of the bed where our little boy is being weighed and cleaned. He takes photos and returns to my side to show me. 6 pounds, 8 ounces and 19 inches long. Born at 10:45 p.m. I am told I was only pushing for about 15 minutes. It seemed like an eternity.
I am so overwhelmed. It’s a boy. I did it. It’s over. It’s beginning. I am so incredibly exhausted.
Meanwhile, Dr. E and Dr. M deliver the placenta. They ask if I want to see it, and then they hold it up. It looks like a huge rectangular muscle and I am completely disgusted, yet fascinated. I hear Dr. E explaining to Dr. M how she goes about stitching me up.
Finally, Corban is in my arms, with a tiny oxygen mask over his face. I always expected to cry in this moment, but instead I smile a lot, kiss his head and stare in disbelief. I am too shocked to cry. It just seems unreal.
My time with Corban is too short. He has to go to the NICU for more monitoring. Peter goes with him while I continue to be stitched and cleaned up. I feel like I’m in a dream state. I vaguely hear the nurses and Dr. M laughing at how Dr. E managed to squirt blood from the umbilical cord all over the entire hospital room. She laughs with them. Peter didn’t get the chance to cut the cord because they wanted to get Corban stabilized as quickly as possible. Dr. E talks to me, but I am so tired I barely have the energy to speak. Eventually she says she’ll see me in six weeks and heads out the door.
The anticipation of going to see Corban in the NICU keeps me from passing out in the now quiet hospital room. It’s just Kate and me, and I’m buried in my phone texting and emailing friends and family.
Kate wakes me from my dizzy text message haze and asks if I’m ready to go see Corban. She helps me into a wheelchair and asks if I’m feeling sick. “Nope!” I reply, only to immediately be struck a wave of sickness. “Actually, yes.”
Suddenly I’m glad I haven’t had anything to eat.
The ride to the NICU is long and slow. Finally, I’m with my darling son, his tiny body hooked up to lots of monitors, but looking good.
His face looks just like my last ultrasound picture! Only not scary. A nurse places him in my arms and coaches me on how to nurse him. He sucks a little. I just want to hold him and stare. Peter, Corban and I sit in a daze as a nurse snaps two photos which will become my favorites from the day.
Now it’s Peter’s turn to hold him, and I suddenly feel guilty realizing I’ve had the chance to hold him twice already, but Peter isn’t bothered. How could he be bothered by anything right now? It’s still just so surreal. This tiny human – a stranger to us now – is our son.
Eventually we go to our room to sleep before coming back in a few hours to nurse him again. But we don’t sleep, despite my feeling more exhausted than I’ve ever felt before. Instead Peter and I stay up talking, posting a photo of Corban to Facebook and reading the joyful text message replies buzzing on our phones.
The next 24 hours are a blissful daze of visits to the NICU, feedings, naps, doctor visits and happy messages from friends and family. Corban is moved into our room, where we can hold him and stare at him all we want. I swear, every time I look at him he gets cuter.
Corban’s birth story unfolded much differently than I expected, but it was the most incredible experience of my life. I’m still amazed at how quickly everything went, and in the end, I was happy I didn’t have the epidural. The delivery was painful, but I survived.
It’s true what they say about forgetting the pain of it all very quickly. Once you have in your arms the end result of nine uncomfortable months and however many painful hours, all the negative memories seem to fade away. Motherhood has it’s own unique struggles, but when you’re staring down at your sweet little snuggly baby, everything seems perfect.