On May 10th, at 1:40 pm, I welcomed my fourth child into the world. It was a beautiful experience, one of my best birth stories. And it’s going to be long and detailed.
The weeks leading up to his birth were torturous. Each day dragged on, despite my attempts to fill each day with fun and productive activities. I’d made a bunch of freezer meals, taken my kids to museums, parks, and gardens. I’d met with friends for lunch and bought all the necessary baby gear items I needed. I’d washed and folded all my old baby clothes. Everything was ready to go…even my body. The doctor told me at 36 weeks I was 2 cm dilated and 80% effaced and had a good chance of going into labor “any day.”
Don’t listen to them. Don’t get your hopes up. Because ‘any day’ can also mean ‘full term–possibly overdue…probably overdue.’ When they say ‘any day’ then each day that it doesn’t happen is frustrating and eternal. And you start dwelling on all the physical ailments…the hip pains on each side of your body that leave you flipping yourself like a very pregnant pancake several times a night. The round ligament paints. The false labor. The back pains, the sciatica, the hugeness of it all. The list goes on and on. I am an extremely physically active person (not in like a ‘works out a lot’ way but in a productive DIY way) and it is very frustrating for me to not be physically capable of most of the things I used to do. I spent each day being a little bit ticked off.
This ultimately led me to my decision to be induced. Early on, the doctor told me as a VBAC candidate, they would induce me at 39 weeks if I was 3 cm dilated. Since I was already at 2 cm by 36 weeks, he thought for sure I would be 3 by 39 weeks. But then we hit a snag in the planning of my life. My son, who had just turned 8, was preparing to be baptized into our church. I was going to wait until June to do it, since our local church only has one day each month dedicated for baptisms, but it turned out that the exact time and day of the June date was also the same time that a very dear cousin of my husband’s is getting married. So we had to plan it for the May date, which was just four days before my due date. Which meant I couldn’t really do the induction early. (The baptism was great, by the way.)
So for a long time I decided to just try and go into labor on my own. Seeing as I couldn’t be induced very early anyway, why not give natural labor a try? It happened with child #2 and for some reason I can remember that experience so clearly. It was exciting to suddenly get the extremely painful contractions that send you running to the bathroom in the fear that your bottom half might explode. And the epidural didn’t seem so bad compared to the contractions when dilated to 6 cm.
But if you go back and read paragraph #2 of this essay, you might remember why the idea of being pregnant forever was getting less and less appealing each day. And by the way, when I’m pregnant, I’m VERY pregnant. My baby is all out in front. I’m ginormous. So I went and read back on the birth story of child #3 which was an induction also, and reminded myself of that experience. And after pondering for awhile, I decided to make the appointment to be induced on May 10th.
Best. Decision. Ever. I’m certain that this is why I had such a great birth experience, because I was able to start labor after a decent night’s sleep rather than laboring all night and pushing in the morning, as I had with my other two VBACs (my first born was a scheduled C section because he was breech.)
We went in at 7:30 am after leaving the kids in my Mom’s care. I laid in the delivery room bed while the very sweet nurses hooked me up to an IV. Why do IVs always pinch? They are so super annoying. Then I decided to go ahead and get the epidural first, listening to the advice of my BFF. I had gotten the epidural after they broke my water with #3 and it was just gross. I was oozing water the entire time they were fishing the needle up my back. This time, the epidural was a bit better (never fun for me) and I wasn’t oozing water. So after I got numbed up, the doctor came and broke my water and I didn’t even feel it. I was feelin’ fine.
Until I wasn’t. Something happened and my blood pressure dropped drastically and for a few minutes I felt like dying. I was wavering between passing out and throwing up. The nurses adjusted some things and I felt better soon. But man–it sucked for a minute there.
The hours passed. My husband worked at his computer next to me while I watched some Hulu on my phone, also recalling how I had a phone that allowed me to watch TV on it now when just a few years ago I didn’t. I’m a fan of technology. This was my favorite part of labor…the part where for the first time in nine months I don’t hurt somewhere and am completely relaxed. But a few hours later, it was around 1:15 and they checked me. I was at 8 cm.
I told the nurse how with my last birth I was at 8 cm and the doctor said I should try to push during the next contraction and he would stretch me to a 10. And he easily did. I was hoping to hint to her that I can go from an 8 to a 10 easily, but she just nodded politely. But then a few minutes later, the epidural decided to crap out and I felt horrible pain AND the urge to push. I told her and she checked me again. Yup. 10 cm. I told you.
Suddenly nurses were everywhere, getting everything ready for the birth. They fetched the doctor and removed half of the bed (I didn’t know hospital beds did that!) They pushed my legs up and started to coach me. It was happening so fast and I said to them “just so you know, I’m really bad at pushing!” With my last two, I pushed for over an hour and nearly gave up the ghost both times. They had to vacuum my sons head out. Well this doctor was very encouraging. The nurse told me to put my head on my chest and push for 10 seconds. I pushed for 5 seconds and then felt like my head was going to explode and somehow continued pushing for 5 more seconds. I grunted and groaned loudly, becoming uninhibited for perhaps the first time ever in my life. I was having a baby, people! I could sound however I pleased.
I did that about 6 times and suddenly I could feel his head right there, trying to fit. It seemed inconceivable that a human being was going to exit my body, like something from a science experiment. Yes, I know this was the fourth time I’ve done this but it was more miraculous than ever. I pushed again and he was out. The overwhelming sensation of a huge weight lifted rushed over me. My body relaxed, and despite my tears and cries of relief, I looked through the crowd (there were about 10 people in the room, it seemed) at this purple alien being.
This was just in me? This slimy little thing? I thought I knew you, kid. I talked to you all the time. You moved inside me and we felt so connected. But yet I don’t recognize you, like I thought I would. I had to remind myself over and over “This is your child. This thing is part of your family now.”
They wiped off his little body a bit and then handed him to me. They helped me tuck him inside my gown so we were skin to skin. I held him so close and then it hit me…the instant and overwhelming love that a mother has for her child. I do know you. You are me. You are mine. And you are so perfect. He had hair. He had 10 toes and fingers. All my fears for the last nine months calmed as I met my boy and saw he was healthy and fine. He was crying and I soothed him. He stopped crying and snuggled with me. And I knew that I would be able to calm this child, that this child would have a happy and relaxed nature. I knew this because my last child was not this way and I kept joking that if God sent me another child like Ellie, I would be done having kids. So He sent me a quiet kid. Thank you for that.
We cuddled for awhile and suddenly my dad and uncle were there, by happenstance. They only stayed a minute so I could rest for a moment and eat something and take some pain medication. I only tore a little bit, thankfully. Those contractions at the end…wow. Those were real and raw. Thankfully the anesthesiologist had rushed in at the last minute and given me something a bit better. It helped. But pushing, no matter how you slice it, is hard. And I had only had to do it for 10 minutes. I was super proud of me. I didn’t give up. I wasn’t completely exhausted. I was happy.
A few hours later, I got up to move rooms. My epidural had mostly worn off and I could walk actually pretty well. The nurses were impressed. I felt pretty darn good actually. And I had been able to nurse this baby and he latched right away. Things were good. They didn’t stay good. They got harder when I went home a couple days later and had to return to the ER. I couldn’t lie down without my blood pressure shooting up. It felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest…I couldn’t breathe, my head felt like it might pop open. I was retaining so much water and my uterus was still too big–it was like a massive tumor compressing my major veins. I was scared for awhile that something bad was going to happen. But they ran all the tests and I was normal. And now, one week post partum, its starting to resolve itself. Just a reminder that giving birth is not a walk in the park. And neither is recovery.
I was right about my baby boy though. He is a little angel. He is a quiet kid. He sleeps well, eats well. He can sit for hours quietly, just looking around at things. I joked that he was ‘in denial about being born.’ Because for the first 36 hours in the hospital he basically just slept and would not wake, even to eat. I’m sure he will become more vocal the older he gets, but right now it’s easy to enjoy my angelic one.
Having a baby this time feels so miraculous and special to me. With my first three children, I was young and naive and didn’t really know anyone that had had anything truly bad or hard happen to them. But after my third was born, things started to happen. My Grandma died. My sister-in-law died. My mother-in-law died. My grandpa, my friend’s baby, my cousin’s baby…the list went on for awhile. So many people passing through this life to the next…some expected, others not. But each life so special and cherished and precious that we still grieve every day for those we’ve lost. And it made me really aware of how amazing of a gift I have to be able to bring a healthy life into this world. I feel guilty about it sometimes. I wish that these things didn’t have to happen to the people I love. To know that each day their heart breaks again as they are reminded of those they have lost. I wish so much I could bring those babies back to their sad mamas. That makes me cry now, as I look at my new baby and know how much my heart would break if I lost him. How I could never really heal from such a loss.
But for now, I have to stay focused on the positive. I would go through it all again to have my baby here. And that’s all that matters.