By: Gloria Miles
Every mother, every child, has a birth story. This is mine; this is the story of my firstborn, the story of transformation into motherhood. Birth, motherhood, all of it, transforms people into clearer versions of themselves. I learned things about myself through the pregnancy, labor, and the days that followed. I was stronger and more vulnerable, impatient and more stubborn than I thought I was.
Labor began hours after I thought it had. I was sitting playing a card game with my husband and his friend as gentle contractions moved through my abdomen. I could feel them coming and going, but I didn't focus on them.
Later that night, I couldn't sleep. At this point I'm not sure if it was discomfort or excitement or both. I advise women to go to sleep when contractions begin, but I know that most first-time mothers will ignore the advice. I was also the excited first time mother who could not possibly sleep with the thought of holding my brand new baby on the horizon. Of course, actual labor was hours away, and the actual birth wouldn't occur until later the next day.
At the hospital, I was contracting away, but the first vaginal exam gave me bad news. I was only four centimeters, almost fully effaced. The obstetrician told me I had a choice: pitocin or I could go home.
I chose pitocin. How could I go home?
I had heard terrible things of pitocin, especially how severe contractions could get with it. With bated breath, I signed consent forms and a bag of pitocin was hung next to the IV fluids. I smiled broadly at the addition and looked at my husband. "Are you ready?"
He laughed and told me, "I hope so."
Six hours later, I was fully effaced and only at a five. The pitocin had strengthened the contractions, but they were very tolerable. The nurse stated it was time to break my water. I didn't want to, but I felt that since I had agreed to pitocin, that what followed needed to be agreed to as well.
Two contractions after my waters were ruptured, the pain intensified in the center of my pelvis. My eyes grew huge and I looked over at my husband for help. The pain is still something I can't really explain. I squirmed on the bed, not knowing I could have stood up or walked around, even attached to the bags of fluid. After an hour, I was in tears and begging my husband to find the anesthesiologist.
Mercifully, the anesthesiologist walked into the room ten minutes later. The epidural was placed and my husband almost passed out after seeing the needle. He was carefully led to a couch where he sat for a few minutes to recover. I didn't care at all. The medicine ran through my back, my abdomen, my thighs. It felt warm and wonderful. I started drifting off and fell asleep.
I was woken up a few hours later by a nurse. Another vaginal check. I was at a nine! Party time! I didn't realize that it would be a few more hours before I'd be ready to push. It took almost another hour to reach ten centimeters and then even more time for baby to "labor down."
When the nurse stated I could begin pushing, I was energized. It was time to meet my baby! The first forty-five minutes or so, I pushed with intensity and for as long as I could hold my breath. The next forty-five minutes was much harder. I had napped for a few hours earlier, but aside from that, I had been awake for a day an a half. I hadn't eaten as per hospital protocol. I was very tired.
"I can see the head!" my husband proclaimed.
I looked up at him, hopeful.
"Yeah! When you push, you can see," he paused and held up his hands and made a small gap that could probably fit a quarter, "about that much. And then it goes away."
I wished that I hadn't had the epidural. Then, I could have kicked him.
This kid is never coming out, I thought.
I pushed and pushed and pushed. It was only for an hour and a half, but I worked hard that entire time.
"Do you want to feel the baby's head?" the nurse asked.
I paused, reluctant to feel such a small area and discourage myself. When I reached down and felt around, though, I felt so much of the baby's head. The term is crowning and the nurse was buying time for the OB to arrive. I looked at her and grinned. He was almost here! I actually was moving my baby. The worst part of having had such a heavy dose of epidural medicine was that there was no feed back of my progress. I could not feel anything aside from a general pressure that felt like it had always been there.
The doctor walked in at that moment and smiled at me. "Looks like we're having a baby!" she exclaimed as she put on her gloves. "Give me just a second and to sit...and alright, go ahead and push with the next contraction."
At this point I could tell when to push due to the tightness of my abdomen. A few more pushes and she asked that I stop pushing.
My husband told me that it was the weirdest sight, the doctor grabbing his son's head and (from his perspective) pulling until the body was somehow dislodged.
I felt the strange relief of a body sliding out and heard a loud cry. I didn't even look, I collapsed back and closed my eyes. The cord was clamped and he was placed onto my chest. The abrupt placement of my baby and rough toweling roused me and I looked down. Dark gray eyes looked around and he cried again. I wanted to bat the women away.
Leave us alone.
The pediatrician entered and looked at my baby while the obstetrician delivered my placenta. What a strange and hectic time! He immediately declared my son too pale and wanted him under the warmer. After some negotiation I bought about ten minutes to try skin-to-skin before resorting to the warmer. He left. By the time he came back, my son had pinked up and was beginning to root. This satisfied the doctor and I was left alone. Well, as alone as someone in a hospital can be postpartum.
My husband and I gazed at our first-born. We thought he was perfect, cone-head and all. I couldn't believe that I could create such a beautiful creature. I didn't realize how perfect little newborn toes and fingers were, how delicious they smelled, and how arduous a process it could be. It couldn't always be that involved, could it? I let that linger in the back of my mind until I became pregnant with my second.
The birth of my first was such a learning experience for me. I love it also, because it is the day that I met one of the first people that have changed my life in such a profound way. I didn't realize that while a mother is a teacher, a child teaches more; I'm still learning.