So I had a baby.
And let me just say: pregnancy was weird. Not just my reaction to pregnancy, but everyone else’s as well. People get very excited around pregnant people. Then it’s all they want to talk about with you. Sometimes the comments are pleasant and appreciated, sometimes they are not. Either way, they just keep coming from colleagues, friends and strangers alike. The bigger you get, the more freely people drop comments and observations on you.
For the entire 9 months of pregnancy, I felt like it was not reality. Every kick, every doctor’s appointment, every beat of the baby’s heart, made me feel a little bit more like this might actually happen. Making it through each week, then month, then trimester was a small victory.
Then it got to the point that I was considered “full term.”Around the time when the baby is pretty much fully baked, though it could still be more than a month before he or she is born. I was ready to be patient at that point, fully resigned to going past my due date (as is rumored to happen to most first-time moms.) But the people around me were not prepared to be patient. Very early on the comments started of, “Any day now, huh?” And, “Wow, you’re still pregnant?”
It’s a mysterious and confusing time, the end of pregnancy. After getting to the point where I could go into labor, and discovering that there were no foreseeable reasons that I wouldn’t get a chance to have a natural birth, the waiting started. I began to feel like every moment I had being child free was precious and needed to be spent getting things done or getting some sleep while I still could.
It makes you anxious, the waiting. The not knowing. Any day now could be the day your life changes forever, but it could be now or it could still be weeks away. There’s no way to know. On one hand, I had those more knowledgeable about childbirth who were convinced I would go past my due date. On the other hand, I had all these non-experts telling me I had “dropped” and that I would give birth early, they just knew it.
My mind was doing the same back and forth. Sometimes I thought it would happen early, sometimes I was convinced it was going to be later. Thinking about it constantly was so exhausting. I almost felt like complaining about it, until I realized: this is perfect. It was exactly what I wanted. Mystery, surprise, suspense. The opportunity to go into spontaneous labor. I was ready to be patient, but at the same time, was hoping it would happen soon. Not because I was very uncomfortable or hating being pregnant (it had its pros and cons) but because I just wanted to know that the baby inside me was going to make it through the whole birth experience. To see and hold the baby as a real and concrete thing, not experience him or her as a wiggle or kick or an ultrasound image. To know that there was really a baby.
Also, I was excited for the birth. Not just to meet the baby, but to have the experience. I guess I saw it as a challenge and a rite of passage, and I hoped it was something I could handle and handle well. Trevor and I had taken hours of natural birthing classes, and my expectation and hope was to have a long, drawn-out labor where I remained calm and relaxed. I pictured low lights, a warm bath, lots of changing of positions and time spent laboring at home before heading to the hospital.
I had fears about labor as well. I feared that I would go so far past my due date that I would have to be induced. I feared that the baby would not be in the proper position to come out and then I’d have to have a c-section. I feared that any number of things would go wrong that would cause medical interventions, and I wouldn’t get a chance to even try and see how I did with natural childbirth.
Isn’t it funny what we worry about? When I actually went into labor, none of that happened. It was exactly the opposite of what I had expected, and had I known, I would have had a whole host of other fears. But I didn’t know, and that’s probably a good thing.
It all started one week before my due date. I had an appointment that morning with the OBGYN. I was struggling with the idea of letting her “check” my cervix. It’s pretty routine, but I had declined two checks already since they aren’t that informative.
But the not knowing anything was killing me and the wondering was exhausting. So I decided to get checked just to at least know if my body was progressing at all or if I should continue to count on going past my due date.
So she checked me. And the news was mostly good: Baby’s head was down, I was 70% effaced and 1cm dilated. For those who don’t speak cervix, that tiny bit of progress that was a good sign, but didn’t mean that labor was impending or anything. I was glad that the head was low and that things were happening. That was enough for me.
As I got in the car to drive to work, I felt a very tiny contraction. It was the first one that actually hurt a bit (not much). I had been having a few braxton hicks (practice) contractions that just felt like pressure and not pain. So this was new. But I had read that cervical checks can often cause contractions, so I didn’t think much of it.
These pains continued pretty much all day. I worked, went out to lunch, and talked to co-workers with the pains coming fairly often. In the early afternoon, I decided to time some of them. They were coming pretty regularly at that point, but I could still talk and walk through them. I figured it was a good sign, but could either be a false start or the beginning of a very long labor.
Since it was 3pm on a Friday, I decided I’d leave work and go home and rest. I casually mentioned to some co-workers on my way out that I was having contractions, but assured them it was no big deal. They seemed concerned. I explained that it was most likely just from the appointment that morning and would probably stop soon. And that even if it was real labor, it could be hours and hours or days and days.
I got home and I was about to text Trevor when he texted me.
T: “I have band practice tonight. Do you want me to pick up some Thai food?”
Me: “Oh. I might be in labor. But Thai food sounds great.”
T: “Should I leave work now? Should I cancel practice?” (The Thai restaurant doesn’t open until 5. At this point it was close to 4.)
Me: “Don’t leave work. I’m not sure about band practice, but I am sure about curry.”
T: “Ok. Maybe go for a walk or something.”
Ha. I thought to myself. I can’t walk right now. (That should have been a clue.)
For the next hour, I tried to get myself very relaxed as we had learned in our birthing classes. It wasn’t really working that well.
I decided to go watch Gilmore Girls.
Trevor came home with the Thai food, and I was STARVING. We watched Gilmore Girls while we ate. Usually we’d watch a show that appeals to us both, but I figured with the contractions and everything, it would probably be OK if I picked the show that night. I ate quick bites of curry and took lots of breaks to breathe through contractions. Trevor was timing them and I think they were 2-3 minutes apart.
I knew I just needed to relax enough to make the pain go away. So I kept trying. It was during one of these relaxation sessions that I felt a contraction so painful that I started to believe this was really happening. And also I started shivering.
I asked Trevor to call the doula and ask her to come. He called her, but like me, she was convinced it was due to my appointment earlier and she told him we should sit tight and relax as it would probably be a while. I told him to call her back and tell her about the shivering.
I didn’t know what was said, I only noticed that suddenly Trevor had a jacket on and seemed to be gathering things from around the house. She must’ve told him we should get ready to go to the hospital.
I put myself in one of the positions we learned in our birthing class to deal with a very strong contraction, and then (according to Trevor) I popped up and very cheerily started saying, ” I had some stuff I knew I had to pack at the last minute,” and I got up to look around the house. “What was it? Oh yes! Shampoo and conditioner!” Trevor says then he heard a series of loud moans coming from the bathroom as another contraction hit.
Our doula arrived and we decided to head to the hospital. Things were getting more and more intense and I started moaning through each contraction. Trevor and I drove in his car, the doula followed.
I probably was not great company at this time. My ability to be chipper in between contractions had gone, as it seemed like they were coming non-stop. I probably sounded like an angry cow most of the way. I could feel that Trevor was feeling tense and trying to get to the hospital as soon as possible. Every bump and turn was torture. I wanted to say, “Go slowly. Take it easy.” But talking was not my thing right then.
We somehow made it to the center for women and infants and went to check in at the desk. I sat myself down and started breathing heavily, like those women in movies from the early 90s who were practicing lamaze.
T (to check-in lady): Hi. We’re here to have a baby.
Lady: Oh! Do you have a scheduled induction?
Me: [Lamaze breathing/groaning.]
T: …. No, she’s in labor.
Feeling no sense of urgency whatsoever, check in lady started wondering aloud if there even was a triage room available for us and went to ask someone.
I began feeling like I was there but not there. The intense pain made me separate a bit from reality. It felt like those times when you get really drunk and then your friends have to take care of you (anyone?)
Next thing I knew, we were heading to a room. They strapped me in a bed in order to listen to the baby’s heartbeat and to know how he or she was doing. Things were looking good. I was asked a lot of questions like, “When did this all start?”
Talking still wasn’t my thing, and why did she ask me such a hard question? Nine months ago? This morning? A few hours ago? What do mean by “all this?”
Finally she decided to do the dreaded cervical check. She reached in, and right as she did, a very unpleasant contraction started. And also my water broke. It was one of the worst moments ever.
From then it was decided that I could be put in a labor and delivery room, since I was indeed in labor. I was told I could walk there, as it would probably “feel good.” (It didn’t.)
To my surprise, everyone started acting like it was going to be a while. I was confused, because I had a feeling it was going to be over pretty quick. But, just in case, I asked for the drugs. My doula suggested a bath instead, which I agreed to. I had been looking forward to the giant bathtub for my entire pregnancy.
As the bath was filling up, they hooked me up to all kinds of things and tried to get an IV in me, in several places, which didn’t work out too well. Someone tried to show me what all the lines meant on all the screens, and I could not have cared less. I am not sure if I was polite to that person.
I remained in my there but not there state, and a little while went by. They checked me again and declared it was time to push! There would be no bath. And somehow, at that point, my body took over and I had very little control of when/how I was pushing. My eyes were closed and I could feel about six people around me, and it seemed they each had a hand on me somewhere. I was coached and encouraged and cheered for, but there was really no point. My body was doing it all and I was just trying to hang on as best I could.
I screamed a lot, which was not what I thought I would do in the moment. It felt so nice to scream, but apparently you’re not supposed to. You’re supposed to keep your voice low. I tried.
It seemed like forever before they could see a head. Then it seemed like forever before the head was actually coming out. Then the doctor said she wanted me to get in a certain position so that I could reach down and grab the baby when he or she was born. “I don’t want to do that!” I said. Couldn’t she see I was dealing with enough already? Could she just do me this one favor and grab the baby when it comes out?
The head was out and then a second later, the entire body came out. Next thing I knew this tiny, slimy, hairy thing was placed on my chest and I was shocked. “What is it?!?” Everyone asked.
I was still trying to take it all in. It was over. There was a baby. A real baby who was pink and crying and had so much hair! And it was here. I could have drank in just that for at least a few minutes. But inquiring minds wanted to know.
Trevor looked to see what it was, and moved the umbilical cord out of the way. It was a girl!
We had arrived at the hospital at 8:00 p.m. and Edith McMorris was born at 10:14 p.m. I had left work at 3:00, eaten dinner at 6:00. And here she was.