Here is my first birth story. It is as I wrote it at the time. I know it’s absurdly long – and you already know there’s a baby at the end, so I’ll understand if you don’t read the whole thing. 😉 But hey, the labour was absurdly long, so there you go. And I strongly feel that we should not abridge our birth stories. Like I said in my welcome post, this blog is about reality… and reality is unabridged!
Thursday, May 28th, 2009 – 40 Weeks!
Happy due date to me! Ha ha. I don’t think it’s happening today. I mean, it definitely isn’t, since most of today is already over. I must admit, I didn’t think I’d feel so far from delivering on my actual due date.
Today at the midwife’s, for the third straight appointment, I was told that the baby’s head still is not engaged. Before, it was a relief, because I had things to do. Now, I’m just hoping I won’t go super-late. We’re already discussing the 41-week ultrasound, and at what point I would need to be induced (forty-one weeks plus five days is the maximum in this medical community). Damn it, if I go that far, Sean will be mostly done with his time off by the time I get to have this baby!
C, the midwifery student who’s been present (with my permission of course) at a few of my appointments now, did check my cervix and said it was a bit softer than normal (she said it goes from being as firm as the tip of your nose to as soft as your lips when you’re effacing). It wasn’t at all open, though – she said she couldn’t get her finger through. That’s what they’ll try again next Monday if nothing happens by then: the Stretch and Sweep. That means she’ll put her finger through the cervix to begin detachment of the membranes behind. Given how uncomfortable it was to get just the preliminary version today, I don’t love the idea of the S/S. I know, it’s nothing compared to what labour will be like, but I know I’ll be going through that no matter what so I’m okay with it. Ah well, anything to help, because I’d really like NOT to be induced.
Monday, June 1st, 2009
Sooo… nothing’s working so far. Evening primrose oil, sitting on my birthing ball for hours… Sean and I even tried the supposedly tried-and-true traditional technique (i.e. sex), since the prostaglandins in semen are said to remind the cervix what it’s supposed to do… but to no avail.
My Stretch and Sweep was not quite what I’d hoped. C (the student) and S (the midwife) both checked me out (read: put their gloved fingers up my hoo-hoo and pressed as far as possible – not pleasant even though they try to be gentle). My cervix is supposedly softer again, but still not shortening. That means they couldn’t even get their fingers far enough to do the full procedure where they would strip the membranes – they could only get a fingertip into the external part of the cervix and “massage” to try to stimulate the prostaglandins.
I can’t help feeling slightly defective – not because I’m late, I know that happens all the time – but that my body isn’t even showing real signs of getting ready. There’s my cervix, blithely sitting there all normal, oblivious to the baby, who is equally oblivious to the fact that he’s supposed to be down in my pelvis putting pressure on the darn cervix!
It does make me wonder a teeny bit if my pelvis isn’t some weird shape that’s preventing the baby from descending or something… but I feel like someone would have noticed that by now.
Sean and I have made the conscious decision to make the most of this time, however long it may be. We know this is our last baby-less “vacation”, so we’re enjoying it… sleeping in, having leisurely breakfasts together, playing cards, taking strolls, working in the yard (I’m doing lots of squatting down and weeding, as advised by the midwives). The weather is nice, and we’re about to be a family. I really can’t complain. 🙂
Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009
Back to the midwife today, for more checking. This time we had a full appointment, with the blood pressure and the measuring and the Doppler. And talking with C and B (another midwife), which was great.
Let me tell you, I am so very glad to be working with midwives! They are so practical and sensible, as well as being very reassuring. We have a plan: I will stop by tomorrow for one more S/S attempt, because why not? Then on Saturday evening, assuming I still haven’t gone into labour, to give lots of time before the 42-week mark, I’ll go to the hospital (if they have room for me) and get a “gel”. That means they’ll insert a dose of concentrated prostaglandins into my vagina, in the hopes that my cervix will finally clue in and do its thing. They will monitor me and the baby for a couple hours to make sure we’re fine, and then send us home.
The hope is, of course, that I would go into labour naturally with all that magical hormonal stuff, but if I don’t (and let’s face it, my cervix is obtuse so that’s pretty likely), I’ll go back to the hospital the next day. They’ll check to see if I’m effaced enough. If no, try another gel, mmm delicious. If yes, they put me on a synthetic oxytocin drip (I’m pretty sure it’s called Pitocin) – that’s the hormone that starts labour. The same one my mom was on for me – except for entirely different reasons! (It’s hard to believe my poor mom was on bed rest for four weeks before having me, four weeks early – here I am, nine-and-a-quarter months pregnant, doing yard work. Honestly, if I had to pick, I prefer this.)
We also talked more specifically about certain things that could happen. For instance, they checked the schedule and found out that the doctor who will be on duty Saturday evening is Dr. N., the one I’ve heard bad things about. B told me, “He will take a look at you and say, ‘Honey, why go through all this? Let’s just give you a C-section,’ but you can just ignore that and tell him you want to try your other options first.”
The midwives are well-acquainted with all the local ob-gyns, and have learned how to work with them even though they don’t always agree with them. Imagine if I were just with a doctor – I would only have that perspective, and the tendency of certain ones, from the stories I’ve heard, is to give women the impression that they don’t have a choice. That their recommendation is actually the law or something.
We also talked about epidurals. If I go on the oxytocin to induce, it won’t be like natural labour. In natural labour, your body knows when it needs a break and gives you one. It gives you hormones in waves so you have time to adjust to each new level of pain before the next one kicks in. When the hormones are administered by machine, you don’t get breaks like that, and apparently many women find themselves fighting the contractions because psychologically they’re not ready for the pain. B said, if I end up getting an epidural in order to relax me enough to let the process happen, I must not feel bad, or think I’ve failed: induction is different. This, also, was very reassuring.
So now my big wish is that I can have the baby over the weekend, that this won’t stretch over into next week. I mean, last Thursday on my due date, I really didn’t think I would still be pregnant at this point, so I’m learning that I can go beyond all expectations! I can’t help thinking, maybe this baby will just stay in there forever.
Thursday, June 4th, 2009
It’s been a big day! I actually had three things on my agenda, figuring “Screw this no-plans technique – if I make myself a hair appointment I’ll either go into labour or get a haircut, and either option is good!”
So first I went to the midwife – S finally succeeded, at least a little, with the stretching and the sweeping. She said the cervix was softer again, enough that she was able to massage the opening and get it to let her in. What a weird organ (is the cervix an organ? A muscle?) – like a shy creature that you have to get to trust you before it will come meet you. It was not fun, there was pain, but I reminded myself that I ain’t seen nothin’ yet, and just tried to breathe and relax through it. She said she had a couple centimetres and was able to get her finger through to actually do the membrane-stripping (I’m guessing it was still on the shallow side, but it’s better than before!).
Then it was off to my hair appointment, so that I will look cute whenever and whichever way I have my baby. Ha ha.
Then I picked up Sean and we went to our 41-week ultrasound, to get a Bio-Physical Profile. Honestly, at this time last week, I really didn’t think we would be attending that appointment, but this just goes to show that it’s silly to have any expectations at all when it comes to delivering babies.
The technician, the same one from my first ultrasound, checked the placenta (aging but still working), the cervix (still not taking any hints, and easy to view because of how NOT engaged our son is – he still pops right up out of the pelvis), the baby’s movements (energetic and frequent), the fluid levels (still fine), and the baby’s muscle tone and practice breathing (doing well). So he’s lovin’ life in the womb, apparently. Good for him.
The measurements estimate that he’s 8 pounds, 2 ounces at present, and the tech did confirm that she found his testicles. We weren’t able to see those when she turned the screen for us, but we did see his heart, his bladder, one of his kidneys, a femur, his spine, each hand, a knee or two, his cheeks, and what appears to be some hair on his head. It’s actually harder to see things now because the bones are solid and they make shadows on the image.
Sean remarked how funny it is that we get introduced to our child from the inside out, seeing his internal organs before we see his face or touch his skin. But it was reassuring to know he’s all ready – he was even making sucking motions for a lot of the time we were watching. It was pretty cool.
Tuesday, June 9th, 2009 10:40 p.m.
Our son is now officially a day old – well, by now twenty-five hours and seventeen minutes old.
I’m writing this from the hospital, and we’ll be checking out tomorrow morning after two days and two nights – two days in which our lives have changed completely.
I’m almost too full of emotion to be able to put any of this into words. It has been a… see, I have no word here for what an experience this has been. To give birth, and then, to have a son. It’s too amazing.
Perhaps I’ll start from the easier part. Saturday night, we were supposed to go to our friends’ house for games, but we ended up just having a short visit because we were going to hospital. It was time to begin the process of… induction.
We went up to the Family Birthing Unit Triage, where a friendly nurse put me in a gown and a bed and called the doctor on duty. It turned out not to be Dr. N – it was Dr. J., who seemed nice, if a little businesslike. He efficiently put the gel inside me and then we waited for just under two hours to make sure there were no adverse effects for the baby or me, and then they sent me on my way.
The plan was to have an appointment the next morning for oxytocin, which would get my contractions going, provided my cervix was ready. As it turns out, there were two reasons that this was not what happened.
The first one was, my contractions started all on their own! Yay, a little bit of vindication. My body just needs some strong (chemical) cues is all. It took me a while to figure out that’s what was going on, because I’d been having lots of Braxton-Hicks contractions and at first I assumed these were the same. We were watching The Wrestler, and had to stop it in the middle because we realized we were going to have to get up shockingly early (compared to our recent schedule) to get to the hospital for eight o’clock.
C had said I needed to get a good sleep that night, but I can’t say I did. I was starting to really feel the contractions; and I had checked the internet and confirmed that the pretty scary diarrhea I was having that night was a side effect of the prostaglandins. That meant I was up to the bathroom several times, with cramps that radiated through my entire core. Not super-fun, and not very conducive to sleep.
Here’s the second reason: the next morning, the hospital actually called us, to tell us they couldn’t take any inductions right now, because the birthing unit was full… we would have to wait until the evening, most likely. We paged C and told her that, as well as the fact that I was now sure I was having real contractions – they were starting to hurt in earnest. I had hardly slept that night, what with being woken up by pain every – not sure how many minutes, but it felt like not very many in between. The midwives said they’d come check me out later.
Sean and I played a game of cribbage with me sitting on my birthing ball, literally riding out the contractions. I knew right away I could not manage any cereal, but Sean cut us some pineapple and I got several pieces of that. Then we figured we might as well go back to bed for a while because we weren’t going to the hospital. That didn’t last long because the contractions were getting to be definitely painful, and lying down didn’t help.
Much of the day is sort of a blur in my head, because I was so tired and couldn’t eat. It was basically a measurement of pain… Sean patiently timing my contractions for me (on a beautiful handmade spreadsheet), both in the kitchen with me leaning on the counter, and in the bathroom with me in the bath my sister E drew for me… Being in the bath, talking with Mama on the phone, and with E while she knitted and kept me company.
Sean tried to find something I might feel like eating, but nothing really worked – I maybe ate two soda crackers, three bites of lime sherbet, and a few sections of orange, plus some juice, all day. I had a fierce case of dry mouth I couldn’t seem to slake. I later learned this is normal – when you go into labour, your other systems go on a sort of hiatus. The thing that seemed to work best for managing the pain was kneeling and leaning my chest on the birthing ball, rocking through the contractions. I remember staring at the carpet and making patterns in it with my fingers to distract myself as I breathed through each contraction.
The midwives came to the house around four. It sucked to be examined because it hurt so much to have contractions while lying on my back, and they said sanguinely, “You’re in early labour!” Still early? Are you *!@#ing kidding me?? But at least I was finally dilating – by then I think I was four or five centimetres. And the baby had finally dropped! Hallelujah. And ouch.
We made a date for the hospital that night, where I could get checked out by a doctor to see how things were going, in preparation for birth I guess. By the time we left at around eight, I still hadn’t eaten anything, and even The Princess Bride hadn’t been enough to distract me. The pain was just getting worse. I was dreading getting in the car, because I’d be immobile, trapped. At home, whenever a contraction would come, I would search for a position to lessen the pain, since I couldn’t run away or hide from it (which is what I really felt like doing). But I made it through the car ride – it wasn’t as bad as I expected. I just clutched the sides of my seat and breathed.
We went into Triage and I was given a bed, though by this time the last thing I felt like doing was lying down. Sean put towels on the ground for me so I could kneel next to the bed. I said to the nurse on duty, “I was hoping you could get me some drugs.” Her perky smile, as she assured me she could, was a joy to my eyes. She gave me a shot of something called Nubain (gotta love narcotics) to ease the pain and relax me.
I knew the doctor was coming, a woman named Dr. E, because I could hear her exclaiming in a loving way that I was on my knees. She gently examined me – I think I was six centimetres dilated at that point. Things were well on their way. We also made another date to come back at twelve-thirty, since the shot would wear off, and we would meet the midwives. I was instructed to have some Gravol for drowsiness too.
It was nice to be able to doze on the way home: the shot made me all groggy and dizzy, which felt awesome. The pain was still there during the contractions, but it was not quite as sharp – and I was napping in between. That was the real treat.
At home I basically fell into bed, hoping I would sleep for real. The reality did not quite live up to my hopes, but I wasn’t fully awake either. I awoke at twelve-twenty-something and woke up poor Sean for another pain-fraught car ride. At the hospital, the midwives checked me out again, and said we would most likely arrange to come in the next morning when I was in active labour… for the real thing, it would seem. My pants were slightly wet, and C did a sort of litmus test on my underwear to confirm: yes, it was amniotic fluid. So my water hadn’t exactly broken, it was just leaking.
I had my lovely shot of narcotic, and C and S drew me a hot tub which I soaked in for half an hour, while Sean read or dozed. He’s so good.
We went back home and to bed, planning to come back in the morning. I was wondering when I would be considered in active labour, and could go to the hospital. I slept fitfully for a couple hours, perhaps. I remember looking at the clock at four a. m. and feeling the pain getting worse, and wondering how long I could take it…. Surely this must be “active” labour?? By seven, I was getting weary of hearing my own trembling exhalations as I breathed and writhed through each arc of pain. Hands down, the worst I’ve ever felt… I hesitate to use the word agony because it sounds so maudlin, but it did come to mind.
It’s weird about pain. I had been advised to think about relaxing things, things that open, circular and o-shaped things, to help me through labour. I didn’t have the presence of mind to remember to do these visualizations, but sometimes I actually found it helped to concentrate on the pain itself. The one good thing about contractions is that, for the most part, they come one at a time and there are breaks in between. (I did have the occasional marathon one that would start to ease off and then come back up, but those were not the majority, thank heaven.) So even with the long ones, I could concentrate on feeling the crest, and then the relief of the downward slope.
Also, there’s something about hurting a lot every few minutes for well over a day – you just get damn sick and tired of it. Cranky, and drained.
We paged C for the umpteenth time – I think it was around seven-thirty or so – and she talked to S, and we agreed to meet at the hospital at eight-thirty… which seemed an eternity away. I was wearing the same clothes I’d worn the day before, because it had seemed like too much work to get out of them and get back into some when apparently every move I made would bring on a fresh contraction.
Again, the ride to the hospital was not very fun, and getting to Triage even less fun. I remember being in the vestibule at the hospital entrance and getting hit with a wicked contraction, and just hanging off Sean for a few seconds to ride it out.
In the elevator to the sixth floor, a whole group of us were headed to the Birthing Unit – one mom whose daughter was in labour upstairs, and a man assisting a woman whose midsection looked remarkably like mine. We all wished each other good luck.
We didn’t spend long in Triage – I think perhaps long enough for me to get into a gown and maybe even get the final Nubain shot. Then they needed the bed, so at long last, we were taken to our birthing room.
Things were pretty blurry for a while after that. I lost count of the number of times I had my temperature and blood pressure taken. I seem to remember being told I was eight centimetres dilated – go cervix! There was a really nice nurse who hooked me up to the monitor so they could see how the baby was doing, and how my progress was; that is, they could see the length and strength of each contraction, and they could hear the baby’s heartbeat. I remember realizing that oftentimes the baby’s heartbeat would speed up in sync with my contractions. It was also kind of funny to hear people talking about my contractions: “That was a long one!”
Sean would periodically ask me to eat something, but I still couldn’t – I did manage to have some Gatorade though. He went to get lunch at the cafeteria at some point, but I’m not sure what he mostly did the rest of the time. I know he was there always, except for the lunch break, and if I needed anything he was ready. He was a comforting presence, full of love. I was grateful for him, even through the haze.
I was dozing in between contractions and actually feeling a bit better… and I found out why. I guess my body was expressing its frustration with the labour situation, and was insisting on a break by slowing down: my contractions were getting further apart (rather the opposite of what they were supposed to be doing). Soon they were seven, eight minutes apart. Which was nice for me physically, but was not gonna get me a baby.
They decided to break my water to speed things back up. For once, a quick and basically painless procedure… but it didn’t do what they hoped. I was still having lazy spaced-out contractions. (I was slightly relieved at this.)
So S explained to me that they would have to do the oxytocin drip after all, which meant contractions would soon be coming hard and fast. She said, “You can wait and see how it goes and decide later, or we can give you an epidural before the oxytocin, if you want one.”
By this point, there was no question in my mind. If I had wanted to experience pain, I’d done that and surpassed what I’d previously known I was capable of handling. I was bloody tired and just… pained out. I hadn’t really slept or eaten much of anything in thirty-six hours. I was toast. I said I’d take the epidural now, please.
I was glad no-one asked me, “Are you sure?” or seemed to judge or question that decision. S said sympathetically, “Yeah, you’re tired, you’ve had enough, haven’t you?” You bet.
It was a good thing I was having those long breaks in between pains. I didn’t think of this at the time, but my aunt later pointed out that if they’d been coming close together like before, the process of getting the epidural, in which you have to sit perfectly still as they tape stuff to your back and insert the needle, would have been brutal. As it was, it was a purely happy moment for me.
Soon I was all fixed up with my drug drip, an IV for fluids (I guess?), a catheter since I didn’t have so much feeling in my nether region, and then the oxytocin. I was fine with all of it, suddenly: I felt incredibly much better. I could still feel each contraction pressing through my abdomen, but the pain was gone. Ahhhh.
They tell you not to eat once you’re at this stage, but I cheated because I felt so much better and we figured I needed strength. The nurse said I could have a digestive biscuit – I had two, with some more Gatorade.
Then, things get fuzzy again. I had no concept of time during the hours of that afternoon, as the oxytocin kicked in and did its job. I just remember lying with my eyes closed, feeling the contractions come, and noticing as they edged back toward painful. I had been told to tell someone if I was having pain, and I did mention it, but the nurse seemed to think it was fine. The contractions never hurt as much as they had been, but I’m pretty sure my epidural was not the highest dose, probably because that would risk slowing things down again.
Then things started changing. The pressure was now coming very low down, and I finally came to understand the “urge to push”. The nurse said to me, seeing me tense up with the contractions, “If you feel like pushing, you go ahead.”
That felt odd, because I was not in delivery mode or anything. I was lying on my side with my knees bent, and when contractions would come, I would let myself push, even though part of me felt like I shouldn’t. Because it does feel remarkably similar to, well, taking a dump. Which you don’t want to do on your birthing bed, especially when the baby isn’t even on his way yet. But I came to the conclusion that, strangely, no matter how much I pushed in this manner, no dump was forthcoming – so I stopped worrying about that for now.
Finally someone checked me and determined that I was fully dilated. Insert dramatic music: it was time to push.
Now. I’ve always known that pushing was hard work. Much in the same way I knew that contractions are painful. For both, reality is still a wake-up call. Just like the contractions were not just painful but the worst pain I’ve known in my life so far, pushing is not just hard work – it’s hands-down the hardest work I’ve ever done.
So here’s how it went. There was a new nurse who had just come in for the night shift, my two midwives, Sean, and my mom (she actually arrived shortly after the pushing started). The nurse, V, who looked super-young and fresh and beautiful (especially next to me!), took charge from her position at the bottom of the birthing bed. She instructed me to tell them when a contraction was coming; then I would take a deep breath and hold it and push as hard as I could. I had to do that three times with every contraction.
You wouldn’t expect it, but there’s actually a lot to think about when you’re pushing. We had to try lots of different things to find what made progress. Some of the time they had me hold the handles of the bed, but most of the time I was told to hold onto my own thighs and pull up with each push. I had to keep the breath inside, and try not to put energy into anything but the birthing – for example, Vanessa kept reminding me not to push with my face. I could feel myself putting pressure in my face, feeling as if I was going to be purple, having burst all my blood vessels, but it was very hard to avoid that. First I was trying to press into the bed with my lower back, but then it was discovered that I made more progress by curling my pelvis up when I pushed, so C would tell me to “curl around my baby”. I couldn’t actually relate to there being a real baby at that point.
Sean was at my head, tipping it forward when I pushed. Mama and C and S were holding my legs, and V was watching my cervix and helping it along.
This is a fairly dry description. The actual experience was gruelling. After a few pushes, I was already feeling a bit desperate. I could feel that the baby was right down there in position, because there was enormous pressure. I was pushing as hard as I could, with Vanessa’s coaching… and she kept asking for more from me. “More-more-more, give me more, push harder, harder, down in your bum…” And I really wanted to do this properly and give her more.
But sometimes I could feel that I wasn’t pushing hard enough, I would feel my energy give out before I even really got a grip on a particular push. Then other times, I’d be in the thick of one and could feel a gigantic power, almost as if outside me, and suddenly I would be pushing much harder – those were the ones where my team of helpers said I was doing better. V would say “Beautiful!” and my mom would say “That was a good one!”
The hardest thing about it was how fast it was all happening. (Not how fast it was progressing, mind you.) It seemed like three pushes in a row lasted forever, and I would just get done, and take a couple of deep breaths, Sean would offer me an ice chip, and already the next one would be starting. Thank God (and my husband) for those ice chips, by the way. But many, many times, I felt like I simply couldn’t do another one. I could feel my sanity fraying, tears coming to my eyes, I would whimper that I couldn’t do another, I would beg for a break. They would say, yes you can do another, no there are no breaks… and somehow, I would do another. But there’s no question it was the hardest work of my life.
The weirdest thing about it was how you utterly stop caring about what people in the room are seeing and thinking. All thoughts of dignity go out the window when you’re splayed like a frog, reefing back on your own legs, grunting mightily as you let go of a hard breath, with five people gathered around, getting well-acquainted with your vagina and cervix. I’m pretty sure I didn’t crap on the bed (like we talked about in prenatal class), because my stomach had been emptied two days before with the diarrhea, and I had barely eaten since… but if I had, I honestly and truly wouldn’t have cared. It’s a totally different zone from everyday life, at least for me, my mother, and my husband.
I was so grateful Sean was there. My heart goes out to anyone who’s done this without that wonderful support, anyone who’s laboured alone – which was a lot of women back in the day. (I know my mother-in-law, with her first baby, was at a hospital where the nurses would come in to see how she was dilating, and leave. Husbands didn’t attend back then. She was alone for hours of pain.)
And it was special to share it with him. I know it was really different for each of us, but it was encouraging and motivating for me to have a little of his perspective. Although my eyes were closed through basically the whole delivery, he was dogged with the ice chips, and his words really did help me. He kept saying, “You’re doing so great, you’re amazing, honey. You’re a champ,” and somehow I could believe it. There was real awe in his voice. Then, hearing the excitement of his exclamations when they began to see the head of our son, complete with hair… it gave me hope that someday I would actually get this baby out.
It’s a good thing I couldn’t see what was happening down there. I couldn’t even really feel the progress, not to the point where I could tell how close I was to delivering. Apparently the head was visible for over half an hour, and would come closer with each push, and slide back in between. All I knew was what I could glean from the comments – and V never stopped telling me I needed to give more. It really seemed as if it would never end.
Finally the doctor arrived. (V had mentioned him as a motivator a while back: “A little bit more and we can call Dr. J!”) He was all business, and assessed straightaway, “She needs some help.” Apparently I actually said, “Yes I do!”
So it was time for the vacuum. I caught a glimpse of the white plunger-like thing that would fit over the baby’s head; Sean said it also had a pump mechanism, like a Super Soaker. Mama said he was quite gentle in his methodical efficiency, reaching in to fit the vacuum over the baby’s head.
The next push, I could suddenly feel the stretching – like my vagina was stretching to break… which it probably was. But that was the first moment it seemed like I was close to my goal. Then I felt a scissor-snip, which hurt just like you’d think it would – I remember saying “Oww!” which then struck me as kinda funny since I’d just been through two days of labour. With the snip, though, much of the stretching pressure was relieved, and with the next push, out popped the head! The rest really did follow with basically no problem – it was all slippery limbs and joints which seemed to almost tumble out of my beleaguered birth canal in a rush of warm fluid.
And then, there was our baby. A real baby.
At that moment, seeing a small greyish-pink human in the air at the end of the bed, two things went through my mind. It was somehow, after all those months, still a fundamental shock to see that he was real, a person fully formed, a baby. Inside, he never seemed real enough to prepare me for that. And… he looked huge. Well, not exactly huge, but long, as if he couldn’t possibly have fit inside me all that time. I believe I actually said, “Holy shit,” imagining that all that human had been folded up in my belly, the belly everyone kept telling me looked so petite.
And then he was on my chest, his face close to mine, his wide eyes a deep, infinite grey, wet wavy hairs stuck to his head, his little mouth open as he made little plaintive sounds. C was finishing aspirating fluid from his lungs, but still there was no big angry wail like there always is in the movies. I fussed, “Is he breathing all right?”, but he was. He was just a calm baby.
So many things about holding my baby for the first time were different from what I expected. His eyes were so fully open, looking around as if he just wanted to gather information. He wasn’t crying, but rather sounded like he was just getting a hold of his voice. And he was even looking up, using his newborn neck to raise his head even though he was only seconds old. He just floored me in his preciousness and brilliance.
Sean and Mama, at my shoulder to admire him, were likewise impressed by his demeanor – and how adorable he was. I was happy that the rumours were true: you can definitely fall in love with your baby at first sight.
I remember executing a final, mild push for the placenta. I had been warned, “When you think you’re done, you’re not! You still have to deliver the placenta!” but it seemed like really small potatoes after what I’d been through. Like a soft lump almost delivering itself.
The shocking part came after that, when Dr. J put his fingertips on my abdomen and pushed down… and a torrent of stuff gushed out of me. Sean and I were both stunned by the sheer volume of all that had been inside. I don’t know how it eventually got cleaned up, but it seemed to me like it must have flooded the birthing bed and run in rivers on the floor. (But I guess not. Nobody came in with a mop.)
I figure my epidural must have been a pretty low dose, so as not to slow down the oxytocin. I could feel every stitch as Dr. J sewed me up – pulling none too gently, it felt like. Though I guess that’s a job one wants to get done quickly.
After that, things were comparatively peaceful, though blurry. I was euphoric not to be in pain, and having a baby… well, of course it was overwhelming. Unbelievable. Suddenly it hit us: we have this whole live human being, and he’s all ours! And we wondered, What the heck?! We get to go home with this creature, no questions asked! No instruction manual, no test to make sure we’re ready. What are they thinking?! What are we thinking??
And at the same time… it was just wonderful. It’s hard to find the right word, because “blessing” isn’t enough and “miracle” sounds like a cliché. Our baby was heartrendingly sweet, perfect, and incredible. We were awestruck and helplessly in love with him.
(And at the time of this post, almost a year later, we still are.)
What an astounding, beautiful, crazy world it is.