Everyone told me that the moment I held my new baby in my arms, everything I had endured during labor would fade away–that I would forget the pain. They lied. How I could completely forget about the most arduous 16 hours of my life is completely beyond me. I remember every second vividly, as if it were imprinted on the front of my brain. They were right about one thing, however. It was worth it. And I would do it again a million times over.
My water broke at around 5 p.m. on the night of my due date. I was in the bathroom, brushing my teeth and getting ready to go to Sausagefest while dreaming of funnel cakes (which I never got to eat), when I felt a trickle down my legs. I froze, feeling slightly uncertain and slightly panicky at the same time. Was this it? Had the moment arrived? Had I just peed myself? Hesitatingly, I called for Brian.
“I think my water just broke,” I told him.
“Are you sure?”
I really wasn’t. But as I paced and debated whether or not we could still make it to Sausagefest–Brian insisted we give it a pass–it became increasingly obvious that my water HAD indeed broken. The more I walked (at this point I had begun to obsessively clean the house), the more I leaked, and the longer I waited, the closer the leaking came to a flood. Gross, I know.
After a lot of Google research and a phone chat with my mom, we decided to call the doctor who told to come in, even though I wasn’t having contractions yet. After more research and talking with our nurse friend Theresa, we decided to ignore that advice and wait a little longer. We were afraid that if we went in too early, before labor had started, we would be pressured to induce, and that was something both Brian and I wanted to avoid.
We packed up and decided to go hang out at Theresa’s house for awhile (they were a lot closer to the hospital). On the way, we stopped by Brian’s mom’s house to tell her the news. She fed me spaghetti and cantaloupe. I wasn’t very hungry, but I accepted gratefully and forced down as much as I could manage. I didn’t know how much longer I’d be allowed to eat solid food, and knew I’d regret if if I didn’t try to eat something.
We left and drove to Theresa’s house 20 minutes away, me sitting on a towel I’d brought along so I wouldn’t ruin the seat.
Jake, Theresa’s husband, was surprised when we got there because we hadn’t called ahead to let them know we were coming, but he let us in and we chilled on their couch while he put the kids to bed. When Theresa got home with one of her nursing friends we talked about babies and pregnancy and giving birth. Eventually, when I still hadn’t started contractions, Brian and I decided to pack up and head to the hospital.
We got to the hospital at around 8 o’clock. Walking in was probably the most surreal part. As one of the nurses later commented, “most women have never been patients in a hospital setting until they’ve given birth.”
At the same time, it was a lot less dramatic than I had thought it would be. I wasn’t being rushed inside in a wheelchair, screaming in pain like every movie ever had taught me to expect. We walked in calmly, checked in, and chatted with the receptionist for a few minutes before Brian headed back to the car to get my insurance which I’d forgotten outside, and I was led to triage to wait, fill out paperwork, and get some tests done.
It didn’t take them long to determine that my water had indeed broken, and that I’d actually been having contractions for awhile, albeit really small ones that I couldn’t feel yet. Since my water had already broken, and that meant risk of infection, I wasn’t sent home even though active labor had not yet started. Instead, we were brought to our room to get settled. Little did I know that this would be my home for the next five days.
We were told by the doctor that we could choose, if we wanted, to wait for awhile before choosing induction, but that the longer we waited, the more risk there was for complications. We decided to wait it out a bit longer and I was instructed to walk the hallways to help speed things up,
Back and forth. Back and forth. One of Brian’s friends came to bring him food. I kept walking. Back and forth.
A nurse came several times to check my progress. I was progressing. Contractions were getting mildly uncomfortable. But it wasn’t fast enough. I walked some more, ate a sandwich brought by my nurse, received Communion from some friends who were kind enough to bring us the Eucharist, and eventually went to bed.
In the early hours of the morning we made the choice to induce. I cried. Not because induction wasn’t part of the plan–though that was part of it– but because once the pitocin started, I would have to be hooked up to the monitors and an IV for the rest of my labor.
I’d already discovered earlier that I hated being attached to the monitors. It was hard to move freely. They kept falling off, even if I so much as shifted my weight. With the monitors on for the remainder of my labor, I wouldn’t be able to use the shower–which I’d been counting on–for pain control, and it would be difficult to change positions or use the birthing ball.
Honestly, being hooked up was probably the hardest part of labor for me, mentally. I was uncomfortable and I couldn’t get comfortable because I couldn’t move. For the same reason, I couldn’t manage to sleep, and pain management techniques were difficult. Trying to walk to the restroom, dragging my IV behind me on a stand, was a nightmare. I had trouble dealing with the larger pains of labor because all the little discomforts were taking so much out of me.
I was in active labor for about 16 hours. I’ve experienced pain before. With my IBS, I sometimes get stomachaches that have me on the floor, sweating and sobbing and writhing. That pales in comparison to what I felt during labor. It was like nothing I’d ever experienced before. I’d expected to get breaks from the pain between contractions. That didn’t happen. The pain increased and decreased with each contraction, but it never went away. It just went on and on and on.
Eventually, I relinquished my pride and asked for an epidural. Boy am I glad I did. I didn’t know what was coming.
I don’t know what time it was when I started shaking. I mentioned it several times to the nurse when she’d come in to check my monitors and increase the amount of my epidural (I could still feel the contractions through it, and sometimes they were almost just as bad). She said it was normal, something caused by my hormones. When I later felt nauseous and threw up a few times, she said it was from the same thing. I’d read as much online, so I didn’t question it.
It wasn’t until I started feeling chills that I asked her to take my temperature. The nausea had gone away, but I was still shaking uncontrollably. She took my temperature, holding the thermometer under my tongue until it beeped. I had a fever of 102.
Apparently I had gotten an infection in my uterus because of my water breaking early. The worry now was that my high temperature would stress the baby, potentially causing his temperature to raise too high.
For both the baby’s sake and mine, my nurses decided to work on getting my temperature does (and stopping my uncontrollable shaking) before having me start to push. I remember them turning the temperature in the room way down, and nurses stuffing ice packs around me on the bed. I also remember them running around frantically, trying to get a cooling blanket. As it turns out, the hospital only had one, and it was at their other branch, some twenty minutes away. The blanket was sent for, and when it at last arrived, I was rolled onto it like a log. I could barely move myself, because of the epidural.
Brian was a champ through the whole process. From encouraging me, to holding my hand and letting me squeeze, to propping my legs up while I pushed–he did it all, and in a way that made me feel so much stronger and loved.
The baby came when I was sure I couldn’t go much longer. I ended up tearing a bit because the doctor’s hand slipped as he was coming out. Honestly, the doctor hadn’t been sure I’d be able to deliver without a c-section. I was too small, she told me, and the baby too big. If she couldn’t see the head by the time she came back, it would be time to head to the operating room, she told us. I pushed like my life depended on it.
The final push was pain, then relief. Then, some slimy, purple-white creature was slapped screaming on my stomach.
After a few minutes of leaving him on me, the nurses weighed him and measured him and cleaned him up. They gave him back to me then, for a bit of bonding and nursing before they took him to the special care nursery. I got to hold him on my chest and try to process this new little life.
We named him Clark.
I could tell a dozen other little anecdotes. I could fill pages with little moments, with short but vivid memories. But I won’t do that here. Instead, I’ll hold them in my heart–close and safe.
We stayed at the hospital for 5 days. Clark stayed in the special care nursery for most of it, on antibiotics, and later under a light for jaundice. I had to stay for 24 hours to complete a course of antibiotics myself.
We were blessed in that, once I was discharged, we were able to stay at the hospital as boarders until Clark was ready to go home. We watched movies and ate snacks and visited with family and friends. I went back and forth between our room, and the nursery to feed Clark. Eventually he was allowed to stay in the room with us. And finally, on Friday afternoon, we were allowed to take him home.
~ Newborn Pics ~
I’ve been having a lot of fun lately, playing with my new camera lens and taking pictures of Clark. I usually can’t do long picture sessions because he eventually loses his cool, but when he’s calm he’s a great model to practice on! Here’s some pictures I got of him when he was still super little (about 3 weeks old).