Last year’s last post of the year was a tough read. Sure I was hopeful because we had 1 pgd perfect embryo on ice but the year itself was so so rough. And here I am a year later writing my very own birth story. Wow.
Man, I wish I knew where to begin. I want to start with how I’m feeling but those feelings are just too complex to unpack right now so I’m just going to start at the beginning and just recount his birth as it went from start to finish. Just the facts. This is going to be a long post.
I wrapped up work on Friday the 15th. It was a relief but didn’t really feel real since it was a Friday. The weekend was pretty uneventful. Had dinner at my mom-in-law’s, Went to a Christmas party and Sunday we had friends over then N and I went to watch Star Wars as our last hoorah together.
On Monday I had the fullest schedule. In hindsight I wonder if I did too much. That morning I was feeling a lot of the contractions and I told N to keep his phone nearby but I’d been having them all the time so we both brushed it off.
9am: I had an appointment with one of the cats. All is well, just a check up and some shots.
10:45am: Chiropractor appointment in Providence. Set up a follow up appointment for Friday. He wishes me luck for the version the following day. Stop at Target to buy a baby book.
12pm: Get home and rest for a while but all the while I’m running through the laundry list of things we have to get done. I still have to finalise my and N’s bag. There’s no telling what could happen at the version the next day.
2:45pm: Go to last OB appointment before the version. Everything looks good. We set up an appointment for next Wednesday in case everything goes well with the version.
3:45pm: Head straight from OB to Orthodontist appointment to tighten braces. I’m feeling a bit anxious about the next day because that damned bag isn’t packed. why didn’t I pack it last week? It’s okay, I have all night to get myself calm. I’m just doing my checklist in my head but I’m also going through the things I haven’t done. Like I haven’t really taken the gentle birth classes seriously. I haven’t really listened to my hypnosis tracks. I bought my affirmations but haven’t read them really. Can I really do this? Shit is getting real now. But it’s okay, the version will go well and I’ll have time to get my shit together. There’s time.
4pm: Walk into the orthodontist office and check in. As soon as I sit down I feel a quick sharp pain in my vagina and warm liquid starts flowing down my thighs. WTF! Luckily my pants are dark and there’s only one other lady in the waiting room. I make a mad dash for the ladies room but I know this is my water breaking. It stops when I get to the toilet. I check and there’s nothing red or brown. My heart is racing and I’m suddenly very excited. This is it. But what the heck do I tell the receptionist? and how wet are my pants? I check and it’s not too too bad. I could leave without a big scene.I text my girlfriends back home to tell them what’s up. One is the best nurse in the world so I’m hoping she has good advice. They all just say to go home and get my ass ready to go to the hospital. As I pull my pants up to contemplate and exit strategy another big gush. There’s no time to think. I stick my head out the door, the receptionist desk is right across from me. She looks at me curiously. “I’m just going going to leave if that’s okay, I think my water just broke”.
“Um, my water just broke, I’m gonna go, if that’s okay.”
“What?!! Yes Yes go go oh my god go!”
“Okay, everything is okay in there, I’ll reschedule the appointment when I…”
“Oh my god it’s okay just go!!!”
I run my wet ass outta there as quick as I can and I hear “That’s so exciting!” as I close the door behind me.
I call N on my way home. He’s at Home Depot looking at trim. He’ll drop everything and meet me at home. Not to worry, we have time. Contractions shouldn’t really start for at least an hour. I’ll go home and shower and pack that damned bag in the meantime.
I call B to recount the story and have a laugh. She also says to go home and take a shower I have about an hour to kill. While I’m talking to her I feel my first real contraction. Like what I’ve been feeling before but way more painful. But bearable. Hmm, I thought they only start a little later. No worries, that was a little one. I have time.
I call another friend to have another laugh for some company. Another contraction during that call. Hmmm.
4:20pm: Walk into the house. Parents are laying on the blow up mattress in the tv room
“Okay guys, please please don’t panic. Please don’t panic. My water just broke. I need you to not panic and go to the car and please wipe my seat down for me. I’m going to jump in the shower and then I’m going to need help packing my bag”
They both jump up simultaneously and panic ensues. I leave them behind and jump in the shower.
Two more contractions while I’m in there and the stuff just keeps coming out of me. It is really cool how it all works. The heat of the water on my back is great and I’m able to collect my thoughts. I’m excited. N walks in and he sticks his head around the curtain and we chat about our feelings and stuff. We’re both calm but we both say we have time. But I tell him I’ve now had 4 contractions. I should probably time them.
I tell him to text the doula even though she’s at a resort with her family and she likely won’t make it to the hospital. It’s okay. We’ll text the backup doula, L.
I get out of the shower and instruct everyone to eat. N says I should probably eat too and he’s right but I have zero appetite. Everyone is eating, I’m standing in the bedroom looking at the closet… What the fuck do I wear?
“What do I wear??!!”
All the while I’m texting my friends to keep them up to date. Consensus is wear any damn thing. I’m opting for pyjama pants, nursing sports bra to labour in maybe, a sweatshirt and slippers, no socks. Another big contraction. This one is big! I yell for N to come and put pressure on my hips. One of the techniques the doula taught us.
I’m starting to panic a little. I’m not dressed yet and the bag isn’t packed!
I put mom on bag duty but I’m remembering little details that are putting me in a tail spin because I’m now on a steady schedule of contractions but there’s not rhyme or reason to the severity. Some are small and quick, some are long and painful, some are short and painful. 3 to 5 minute breaks in between. This can’t be right. It’s not been an hour yet has it?
N gets in touch with doula L who will meet us at the hospital but we should call ahead and see if we can talk to our doctor.
At this point I realize I have no phone numbers for the doctor or the hospital. I’m in full blown panic mode right now because these contractions hurt and I am not ready for this to be happening so fast.
My husband is shaving and is then going to jump in the shower because the last time we spoke I was the picture of calm. But he hasn’t seen me since I got out of the clothing debacle and that one big contraction.
While he’s in the shower my mom is now on hip duty since I need someone to put pressure on these hips when I’m contracting. I’ve also for some reason instructed my dad to cut my toenails because that’s clearly what’s important right now.
So, I’m laying on the bed googling a number for the hospital while breathing, my dad is cutting my toenails and my mom is running around like a chicken with it’s head cut off because I’m barking orders at her about what to put in that damned bag.
I get through to the hospital but I don’t know what to ask for. I ask for maternity and then the mother of all contractions starts and I’m up off the bed screaming for my mom who has a million stuff in her arms. I throw the phone at my dad and stand up leaning on the bed yelling for mom to push on my hips. My foot still in my dad’s hands who is still calmly clipping. He calmly picks up the phone and takes over with N telling him what to ask for. Apparently Dr L isn’t on call but we should go in.
The contraction passes and my mother is flipping out.
Mom: Let’s just go, I don’t understand why we haven’t left yet
Me: Mummy just calm down
Mom: *Not in English* Don’t tell me to calm down!!
Dad: Okay okay *still clipping nails* Your nails are done. I think N should finish shaving, not shower and let’s just go.
All three of us: N! Don’t shower, Let’s just go!
5:45pm (I believe): I don’t know how but we’re all in the car even that damned bag! I’ve stopped timing contractions but last I checked they were 2 – 3 minutes apart and ranging anywhere from 20 seconds to 1minute 10 seconds.
6pm: N drops us at the entrance. I have another C (I can’t type contraction anymore. I will refer to them as C’s from now one as there are lots of them) as I get out of the car. The 3 of us walk in while N parks the car. I’ve been to this hospital. I think I know where the maternity ward is but we stop at reception anyway to ask.
The oldest man in the whole entire world is sitting at the front desk with and another old lady who’s on the phone.
He leans forward scrunching his face, ever so slowly.
“Maternity??!!” I shout
“Rezendes?” He asks
My mother and I look at each other incredulously and swear in Afrikaans. The lady gets off the phone and points us in the right direction. When we get to the elevator N is right there. Then N’s mom is there too.
We find the ward and drop the parents off at the waiting room and we make our way in.
There’s obviously no one at reception because why would there be. Eventually a nurse strolls in and says they’ve been waiting for us.
6:15pm: We are checked into triage in the maternity ward. Intake Nurse N is asking me a million questions that I have no time for. She warns me that she has a lot of questions and she understands but they’re necessary. In the meantime she has me strip down and put on the Johnny. Then I remember the damned bag. Everything I need for my perfect labour is in the bag!! The bag is in the fucking car! The pretty pusher johnny I bought so I wouldn’t have to wear the hospital one. The fairy lights. My affirmation cards. My Birth Plan!! The bluetooth speaker for calming music! Oh my god another C! Fuck it. Put the hospital Johnny on. Fuck everything.
I’m on the bed now and Nurse N need to test the amniotic fluid to make sure that’s what it is. Oh you mean the stuff that’s pouring out of me right now as I’m contracting that’s definitely not pee? Sure go ahead. I feel a little bad for her because we all know it’s amniotic fluid but there’s also that hospital policy. I ask when we’ll get results through gritted teeth.
I look up at N in desperation and start doing C math. That’s at least 4 more C’s. She walks away and that’s the first time I show weakness. I tell N I don’t think I can do this, it hurts too much. Where is Doula L? I don’t know if I can do this. N looks me in the eyes and says that I absolutely can and I will. He obviously doesn’t love me and wants to see me die. I’m alone here and I’m going to die alone.
Doula L is at the hospital but they won’t allow her into triage. Are you fucking kidding me? Only one person allowed in. It’s okay, we’ll talk to her in a bit because the on-call Dr is here.
Dr H… A tall woman. A bored smile. She introduces herself and proceeds to do a scan. “Oh I see a little butt down here, someone is breech… Okay we’ll have to do a c-section. Let me check your cervix”. I’m protesting a little bit. Let’s just do the damned surgery, just don’t check my cervix!
Cervical checks are awful. This one in particular was horrendous. It feels like she was in there for hours and up to her elbow I’m sure. I’m kicking and moaning. When she pulls out I have another huge C and as I roll over I see her pull and exasperated face to Nurse N. I don’t think she got a good reading on that. She leaves without a word.
Things are ramping up now. 2 more nurses come in with forms that need signing and more and more questions that need answering. N and I are trying to wrap our heads around this new outcome. Should we protest? Why can’t we wait? But I’m in so much pain. N looks scared. He did not want this for us. It being major surgery and all. We decide that he should go get Doula L for a talk and maybe swap out. I’ll be okay I think. They’re putting an IV in.
Once I’m alone Nurse N asks the personal questions about whether I feel safe with my husband. Am I being abused etc etc. While she’s asking another C comes and I beg her to rub my back. She obliges. When it’s done I ask her if the c-section is absolutely necessary. Can we wait til her turns? Can we try an ecv now? She says now because I likely don’t have enough amniotic fluid to turn him and best to get him out sooner rather than later. I’m sad now because I’m having a moment of clarity between C’s. My first in a while. I’m able to get my wits about me.
In all that craziness I’ve assessed the C’s. It feels like small, small, big, really big… small, small, big, really big. And if my calculations are correct I have two small ones coming. That means I can do this!! As Doula L walks in she throws her coat and bag on the chair because she sees my face contorting. She comes over to me really quickly. She bends her whole body over mine holding my right hand and rubbing my lower back and whispering in my ear “You’re doing so awesome! You’re doing a great job!” over and over. Where has she been all my life? It’s like she was sent from the angels. That C was bearable again. Okay we have small, then big then really big coming. I have time to fill her and in answer questions and sign forms. Oh the forms.
The anesthetist comes in to explain what he’s going to do. While he’s going through his spiel I realise my calculations were way off or my body is changing the rules. It’s big.. It’s really big and it’s fast. I roll over to my side and I can’t see straight through the pain. I’m remembering to try to keep my eyes open and not scrunch them. Breathing isn’t helping so I’m now loud moaning. Doula L is still whispering in my ear but she sounds far off. I only feel pain. Why is it lasting so long? It feels like hours. I want to climb the walls to run away from the pain but I can’t move. Finally it’s reached the peak and it slowly (I mean slowly) calms down. “What the hell?!”. I hear the form filling out nurse say “Wow that was long”. Doula L tells me that breech babies make irregular contractions. I’m very frightened now. I definitely can’t do another one of those. Thankfully, the next 2 C’s as small and small again but with 30 seconds spaces in between.
Doula L asks me how I’m feeling. I’m feeling sad and relieved. I feel a bit like I failed. She reminds me that I’m in labour right now. I did it. I got to experience labour. I’m in good hands here and c-section is not the end of the world. We’ll see our son soon. I feel a little better. She says she’ll stick around until after he’s born but she’s going to swap out with N again. She grabs her coat and bag and looks back at me and it’s time for another big C. She drops everything and runs over to me and for some reason both of us are laughing a little through this one. Just a little because it still hurts.
Okay she’s off. While I’m waiting for N to come back. Dr H sticks her head through the curtain “Hey do you want some painkillers?”…. “Hell yes!” I say, forgetting that point #1 on my birth plan was Please don’t offer pain killers, I will request them.
This was really a mistake. I’m given Stadol through the IV. N comes in and I am incapacitated. The Stadol makes me completely woozy and speaking is very difficult. My head seems to be lolling about. But it doesn’t take the pain of the C’s away. It’s worse now because I can’t tell N what I need. I need him to whisper in my ear that I’m doing great job. All I can get through the next few C’s is “Say something nice to me”. He chuckles and tells me I’m beautiful and kisses me. It works.
It’s just N me and Nurse N. N asks her about the c-section and how it’s going to go. The hospital is supposed to offer gentle c-section so N asks if that’s what we’re getting. She assures us that it is. They’ll do delayed cord clamping and I’ll get skin-to-skin and we’ll get him very soon after he’s out, etc. etc. N won’t be allowed in immediately though. He’ll stay behind and get changed into the full zip-up outfit and they’ll come get him once they start cutting.
OR Nurse B and another Nurse come to get me for surgery. I’m still not really able to speak and I don’t remember saying goodbye to N. Nurse B and her friend are bubbly and lovely and telling me things that I don’t remember. I’m so woozy. But nurse B has a very pretty rose pin on her shirt. I’m so focused on this pin. It’s all I can see and think of right now.
We’re in the OR now and I’m asked to sit up. They’re talking about the epidural or spinal block or whatever. I have to curl over a lot and push my lower back out as much as possible. I still can’t really believe I have to have a c-section but there’s no turning back now. People are saying things but it’s just me and my thoughts. How is this happening? I’m starting to freak out and here comes another C. A big one. I can’t curl my back!! Nurse B has me rest my head on her shoulder. I see the pin again. I strongly believe the pin is keeping me alive because it’s the only thing I can see and focus on. Why is the epidural taking so long? I can hear them saying things to me about curling my back but I’m moaning loudly over their instructions and focusing on the beautiful pink petals on the rose. I’m now on C number 2 moaning again and there is still no epidural in. What’s the hold up?!
C number 3 has started and I hear them say they’re all set. Really? I didn’t feel a thing. I thought he was just digging his thumbs into my back. They lay me down and I think maybe the stadol is wearing off because I’m feeling a bit better. Nurse B is telling me how well I did through those C’s. But now I’m panicking because I’m about to have major abdominal surgery and where is my husband?
Stay calm, stay calm. They’re talking to me about what I should be feeling. The anesthesiologist says something about no more C’s. I realise he’s right and my legs feeling tingly. Someone says they’re going to put the catheter in now and I can feel them doing so I’m really panicking now. I frantically tell him I can feel things. I can still feel!!
He assures me that I’ll still have a bit of sensation but no pain. I don’t like it. Where is N?! I don’t want this. Stay calm. Stay calm.
They put the draping on my chest and start pulling it up so I can’t see. I really don’t like that. I’m the IVF patient who watches them draw blood. I’d like to see what you’re doing to my body please. But do I really want to see them cut me open and not feel it? Better leave this to the professionals.
Dr H walks in. Where the fuck have you been all night. She’s different now. No fake smile. All business. “Okay, I’m going to poke you and you tell me if you feel it”. Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes. “Okay we are good to go… Agree?” then everyone in the rooms says “Agree!”. But no! no! I said yes to all your pokes!
I look at the only person who’s talking to me. Larry the anesthesiologist. “But I said yes to all the pokes”… “Not all of them” He smiles. I’m not reassured. I want my husband.
The room goes very quiet now and it’s just me and Larry but I can’t see him without craning my neck. I smell something. They’re cutting! or cauterizing! Finally N walks in stage right and sits down and grabs my hand. He looks calm. That calms me down. “What’s that smell?” he asks.
I chuckle. I’m okay now. We’re okay. It’s still deathly quiet. No one is talking. Waiting to feel that tugging but it’s not coming. I look at the clock over N’s shoulder. 8pm. Then I feel the tugging. It’s weird. Then someone says “Look up mama”. I look up and up pops a little head with a hand on the forehead then it’s gone.
“Oh he just peed again”… Everyone laughs.
So that’s it, huh? I just had a baby. Boy, is he screaming. Poor guy. I wonder what they’re doing with him. Aren’t I supposed to get him for skin to skin? What’s taking so long? I look over N’s shoulder again. 8:05 I think. What’s taking so long? N is also starting to worry. He leans over to ask where the baby is. Everything is fine they’re just cleaning him up. But aren’t they not supposed to do that really? This doesn’t feel very gentle c-section to me. It feels cold and harsh. N asks if they did delayed cord clamping. Dr H snaps back “No.”
N’s face changes to irritation. But as he’s about to protest Nurse B’s friend brings over our little bundle and places him on my chest. He’s warm and squirmy and difficult to get a good hold on. He’s laying across my chest and crying. I can kind of see his face. So this is the baby I just gave birth to. He’s cute and little but I can’t hold him. He keeps slipping up to my face. I tell N to take him and do skin-to-skin. The nurse says no at first because N would have to take his t shirt off. He unzips the suit they gave him to reveal no t-shirt “Way ahead of you”. She laughs and moves Lucky to his father.
His father. My husband. A father. To my son. Our son. I look over at the two of them and he is beaming. A beam I’ve never seen before. It’s beautiful. I could look at them forever.
Okay I want him back now. I think I can handle it. N puts him back on my chest and we let him try to rooting around and crawl to maybe find my breast. He finds his way but never latches but it’s okay.
I’m not sure how much time has passed but they tell us that N and Lucky have to go to recovery so they can finish up with me. I’m still feeling like this isn’t real.
I hear counting. They’re counting the swabs or whatever. Just like on Grey’s Anatomy. I look up at the bright lights and I catch a glimpse of my incision in the reflection. Cool!! I can’t tell what they’re doing but the fun part is over. Everyone is talking about vacations to Cancun. The drape comes down and Nurse B is including me in the conversation but I’m just smiling. Did I really just have a baby?
Eventually they’re ready to wheel me into recovery. I’m enjoying the ride I keep hearing babies cry as we pass rooms. Then I hear my baby’s cry! Why are we going passed it? “Stop! stop! I know that voice!”
Both nurses laugh at me. They were just turning me around. I see N leaning over the baby in the warmer bed thingies as I’m wheeled in. He’s still beaming. Baby is still crying and I am still trying to understand how this is real life.
N comes over to be with me while the nurse swaddles up our little bundle. They adjust my pillows a bit and we try to get him to latch. It’s not very easy but we got him eventually. But he’s lazy and probably tired from you know.. being born.
While I’m watching this little person familiarize himself with his surroundings I notice that the nurse has my leg in her hands and I can’t feel her holding it. It’s freaky as hell so turn my attention back to the little person.
Once we’re all settled our family and doula L are allowed in to come say hi. I only vaguely remember this because I’ve been given some morphine before they come in. I know that my mother is crying big mom tears and my dad just has the biggest smile on his face. I don’t remember much about the conversation. They don’t stick around for very long but doula L stays for a bit to drop a few words of wisdom. Again, I wish I could remember all that she says but it’s similar to her words in triage. I do remember that she is holding my hand and squeezing it lightly and reassuringly. I’m sad when she leaves. I know I’ll likely not see her again and she was pivotal in this story. I’m sad.
10pm: We’re a family of three now. N and I are in my hospital bed in room C210, holding this little body watching him sleep. I’m trying to take everything in. Wondering if I should be feeling a certain way. Shouldn’t I have cried by now? Shouldn’t my heart have grown three sizes? Aren’t I supposed to be experiencing a love I’ve never known?
None of that is happening but I can’t take my eyes off him. He’s so fuzzy. He has so much hair. I knew he would have lots of pitch black hair. The way his little top lip sticks out looks exactly like his ultrasounds. His eyes look like my nephew’s. His perfect little nose is… perfect. Is this really my child?
I don’t know how long we stared at him while he slept. I don’t know how the night ended actually but I remember we just stared and stared silently at this person we made.
So the birth didn’t go as planned at all and everything is not how they said it would be. I thought I wouldn’t be able to get over the fact that it didn’t go as planned, but 2 weeks in and I’m feeling much better about it. My incision is healing nicely and my baby is breastfeeding with the best of them. And while I didn’t feel that instant love that you read about when I saw him the first time but, again, 2 weeks in and I find that I worry about him constantly and I can’t stop looking at him and kissing his little fingers. It makes putting him down to sleep very difficult. I would be happy if he could sleep on me or N forever thank you very much. Maybe that’s the love they’re talking about?
My favourite part of all of this is watching my husband as a father. He does a lot of things better than I do. He’s so patient with Lucky. He can’t seem to get enough of him. It really is the best thing in the world. I hardly recognise this man but I love it and I love him more and more because of it.
Okay, it’s 2 minutes to midnight here. My parents are sleeping on the blow up mattress at our feet. N is playing Zelda on the Nintendo Switch and I’m typing this while little Lucky is sleeping on my lap.
Life is fucking fantastic at the end of 2017.