On June 8th at 2:50 AM, I woke up to what I thought *MIGHT* be my bag o' waters leaking. I'd suspected this was happening a few days before this, but when I called the nurse on call, she told me a few things and said not to worry, so I didn't. And then I did because I decided to trust myself and that new motherly instinct I was supposed to have, so after a call to the nurse again, I woke Mike up and we drove to OB triage and arrived at 4 AM. While we waited for them to test the fluid, I was trying to decide how I was going to go to work that morning--thinking that I'd drive up to Cleveland and get the project I was working on and then return home to work there because I knew I'd be tired. I fully, completely expected to be told that I was just worrying, and soon we'd find ourselves back in our own bed at home .
Annnnd then the nurse returned to the dimly-lit room and said that the fluid tested positive as amniotic fluid and that they were working on getting us a room. AKA I was going to have this baby I'd been incubating for 9 months. All I did was look at Mike and then totally lose it. The world felt like it was crashing onto me--I mean, sure, rationally I knew that the baby would have to come out at some point. I'd been wishing for him to come out for a few weeks--my body was tired and I was tired and all the struggles to put on pants and get out of bed and bend over and just drive the car were getting old--but I so wasn't ready. But, like everything else that followed in this experience, that didn't really seem to matter. And so, Mike hugged me while I sobbed and tried to get it together, and then I was admitted and set up in the room where I would stay for the next 31 hours.
That's right. 31 hours. And in those 31 hours, nearly EVERY SINGLE THING that I did NOT want to happen, happened (with the exception of a c-section--that's the one thing I avoided).
Anyway. I was settled into a really hard, really uncomfortable hospital bed by about 5 AM and after paperwork and other stuff, pitocin found its way into my veins. The first cold shot of it filled me with another great wave of anxiety: I did not want to be induced, but the thing was that I didn't have a choice. Amniotic fluid had been leaking for nearly a week now, and I was positive for Strep B, so the risk of infection to the baby was high. In other words: my body wasn't ready, but it was go time anyway. Once activity in the room diminished, Mike went back home to get our bags. Because I was totally convinced that we'd be sent back home, I convinced Mike, too, that there was no way anything was going to happen, so we arrived at the hospital empty-handed. My anxiety shot through the roof the second Mike walked out the door. Being alone in a sterile hospital room wasn't something I could handle--and even though the nurse I had at the time had told me to call her if I just needed someone to hang out with, she wasn't my rock, and she wasn't who I wanted. So, I called my parents, knowing I'd wake them up, but also knowing they'd be at the hospital pretty quickly after I called to tell them what was going on, and I knew I wouldn't feel alone. And I didn't once I heard my dad's tired voice on the other end of the phone. After getting to my parents, I called my sister-in-law, who was also asleep, but quickly turned her sleepiness into great excitement which made me relax a little more. And then a call to my MIL, who made me feel a little bit better too, and by the time I hung up, Mike returned with our bags.
My parents arrived with my brother a little later, and the black hole of time started. Did the 31 hours feel like 31 hours? Sometimes, yes. Sometimes, they felt like infinity hours. By the end of the whole thing, I think I was only half in the waking world. The other half of me was floating off somewhere, sleep-deprived, freaked out, and high on oxycodone. Did those 31 hours suck? Yes. But they were special--so very, very special. I don't think I've ever needed the strength and support of my family more in my life--and they didn't leave my side a single second during the whole experience. Having my husband, mom, dad, and brother by my side while I was in the pain tunnel meant more to me than anything because I know it was terrible to watch and difficult to witness.
My body fought induction hard, just like it fights every dang thing it doesn't feel like doing (letting pain killer give me relief, allowing sleep aids to give me sleep after countless nights of no sleep, etc.). This meant that while on the monitor I was having a contraction like every SINGLE minute for 7 hours, I wasn't feeling them at all. And this led to the increased dosage of pitocin over and over again. I don't know how much that is exactly, but I do know that they started me at a level 2 and had me up at level 10 in a few hours--and apparently 10 is the most they will give a person. And I still wasn't feeling anything. I kept thinking that maybe I was one of those insane people who just doesn't feel pain and is really lucky and just gets to sneeze the baby out like it is no big deal, but I knew better. After 7 hours of nothing really, my mom and Mike pushed the nurses about whether or not my water was FULLY broken and why no one had even checked to see if I was dilated. Yeahhhh, that's right, none of those things had happened still. There was some kind of lapse in communication between the different nurses. Once they finally did check things out, which made me want to DIE, by the way (apparently this should not be such a painful thing, but I guess I am one of those lucky people!), they found that I was only at 3 cm dilated and my water, in fact, was not completely broken. So, naturally, they broke it. And of course, because I'd been getting the highest level of pitocin possible, as soon as my water was broken, I felt the contractions.
Honestly, I can't even describe how bad the pain was or what it was like at this point. It was like...I don't even know. Getting run over by the period cramp truck 9 BILLION times and being struck by lightning simultaneously? I don't even know. Honestly, I think my brain blocked it out because I can't remember what it felt like, and it's only been a month since I went through it. Suffice it to say, I felt the damn contractions. All that wondering I did while pregnant about whether or not I was feeling contractions was put to rest: I was not. And then I was--and because I am me and get to do everything the hardest way possible, I got to enjoy the contractions in my back, not my stomach like most people. Back labor. I'd heard about it, and I dismissed it. I mean, why would I have back labor? WELL, I DON'T KNOW WHY, but it was a horrific thing. It hurt to be in bed. It hurt to stand up. It hurt to squat, it hurt to sit on the ball, it hurt to live. And while I knew it would all ultimately end--because either I would have the baby or die (yeah, that's where my head went)--it was hard to imagine it ever ending. By hour 20, I was only 5 cm dilated. The checks made me want to murder someone, and they were so painful that every time they did them, I had to have my mom hold one hand and Mike hold the other and then try not to kick people in the face while I writhed in pain and sobbed. No joke. Anyway, hour 20 was when I started being really done with everything. I hadn't slept since 3 AM the previous day, and I'd been laboring through horrific contractions for 13 hours, and I was just exhausted. I remember shaking uncontrollably a lot at some point, and Mike and my mom talking to me about drugs and the epidural. Did I want either? No. I was pretty sure I didn't want these things. I'd read about them and how they could affect the baby and cannot stand being on heavy pain meds or not in control of myself physically. With a history of surgery and exposure to sort of similar situations, I had a ton of anxiety and hang-ups about both options and wanted to avoid them . I wanted a speedy labor and birth like my mom had, but now that I had been induced, everything was all messed up, and I was completely exhausted and beside myself. I couldn't think clearly, and at hour 20, I said, "Screw it, give me the morphine," except it was more like "wah wah wah okay, fine, I guess I'll try that morphine."
Now, I don't remember parts of the time after the morphine. Apparently, right after they gave it to me, I was sitting in bed and my dad walked in and I pointed a pretend gun at him and grinned. Apparently, I was feeling pretty awesome, ha. It didn't last, and morphine doesn't get rid of the pain, but what it did do was allow me to quit shaking and give me a little time to relax and think clearly. Though probably not extremely clearly, because I don't remember most of the time I was on morphine. The next thing I remember is it wearing off, being in extreme pain again, and shaking in bed with my mom holding my hand and asking me if I was shaking because I was cold or because I was scared. I told her I was scared, and she comforted me about having the epidural, because I guess I must have already been talking about it. At some point, my dad came in, and I was standing at the side of the bed. Mike and my mom told him I was going to get the epidural, and I was shaking like crazy now and crying, and when he came over to me and put his arm around me, I just let go and sobbed. I hate doing stuff like this in front of my parents because know how worried they get about me, but dad's arm around me elt strong and reassuring, and I needed him so much in that moment. He told me he thought I was making a good decision, that I would be okay, and that I was strong and could do this. One of the scariest things about the epidural for me was that everyone I'd needed so badly around me up to this point was suddenly going to be gone. However. I had a nurse at this point, the third one of the experience!!!, who was incredible and just the biggest comfort to me, so it wasn't completely terrible to just have her in the room. I cried when her shift was over and she left.
Getting the epidural wasn't so bad, really. It was scary, yes. It felt like a big bee sting in my back, and then I had some kind of crazy reaction in my leg that made it jump, which was freaky, and then--sweet, sweet relief. Now, I wasn't completely comfortable because unlike other people, the epidural totally rendered my bottom half of my body useless to me. I couldn't move my toes or even just scoot myself to the side in the bed at all. Another worst fear: being completely out of control of my own body. It was so disturbing to me that when thenurses would come in to move me, I would cover my face so I didn't have to see my legs falling and things. I hate that disconnect so very much and that weird spongy feeling that your numbed body parts take on when in this state. But yes, the epidural worked--a bit too much--and I was incredibly scared that when I finally dilated enough to push the baby out, I wouldn't be able to feel anything to do it. It took more hours, but they backed off the epidural, and I got a little control back.
Being stuck in bed for the rest of this ordeal wasn't so bad since I couldn't feel the contractions. I'd like to saythe epidural let me sleep, but it didn't. If my body doesn't want to sleep, it just doesn't. And it didn't. So Mike caught a little sleep while my mom and I watched like 9 episodes of Gilmore Girls and talked on and off. About what, I don't really remember. All I know is that her constant presence was exactly what I needed, and I would have been so much more of a mess without her and am so thankful she was available.
At some point, I think around 9 AM? I finally was dilated enough to push. The room transformed. I don't really remember that happening, the room transformation. I sort of remember them saying I was at a 10, and then crying because I wasn't ready. Once again, however, I wasn't ready for any of this, and it just didn't matter. It's weird to have one of the most--if not the most?--important and intimate events of your entire life going on and feeling like you aren't a big part of it, really. You are, but you aren't.
The room transformed, and there were like 10 people in there somehow--residents and people learning stuff--and honestly, I didn't care about any of them or who looked at what or whatever. I stopped caring about all that pretty much the second I was admitted. Giving birth is no time for modesty, and seriously, who. cares. I don't get caring--we all know what's going to happen, the staff at the hospital has seen everything there is to see already, and as long as they were helping, hey, be my guest, I figured. So, there were a bunch of people in the room, then there weren't and there were just three. My OBGYN, a nurse, and some other person--another nurse maybe? Maybe someone training? I seriously have no idea. It was just these three women plus my mom and Mike, and for 2 hours, I pushed. And those two hours were the most pleasant hours of the whole ordeal. I am pretty sure that's not supposed to be the case, but whatever. I was so thankful to not be feeling the pain of pushing and terrified that the epidural would wear off that I pushed as hard and as fast as I could. I just told myself it was a WOD, and honestly? Birth and pushing didn't hurt. I knew some terrible things were going on down below, but I couldn't feel it and did my best not to think about it. And so I was smiling between pushing, even though I could feel the blood vessels breaking in my face. It was a cute look postpartum for a few days. The postpartum experience in general is really cute--naturally, there is quite a bit of damage done to a woman's body during birth, and I was no exception. Once again, I greatly feared tearing and the episiotomy, annnnd as nearly everything else in this experience, both of those things happened. But let's not talk about that right now and instead get to the good stuff.
At 11:18 AM on June 9, 2016, his due date, Joseph Michael cried his first quiet little cries in this world, and my world changed forever. Cliche, I know, but sometimes cliches are the best I can do. The second the two of us became separate people, the second they handed me this larger-than-expected warm body that was...mine...and totally his own self all together, that second is one that is permanently seared into my heart. And my husband's and my mother's and a whole lot of other people's, but probably mine the most. I was completely overwhelmed with love and relief and fear in that moment, but what I remember most about it was the warmth that radiated between my skin and his--it was warm and soft and quiet, and I remember the way he quieted the second they put him on my chest. Joseph is only and an entire month old as of yesterday, and I am still getting to know him and him me--and at the same time, we have always known each other, and that is powerful. There's so much more to this story, but I'll stop here for now with the birth story. This first month has been full of ups and downs and things I had hoped we wouldn't have to experience, but we are still here, alive, healthy, and learning our new lives as best we can together.