Four days away from the due date of our baby — who we referred to as the Velociraptor — and my partner and I made a run to the store to stock up the freezer. The place was as crazy busy as usual and I was starving. My partner had caught my nasty cold and it just so happened to be 108 degrees outside, so we were both a little out of sorts. I was trying to peruse the sample carts as much as possible, and while grabbing a granola snack I felt a warm wetness in my shorts. Looking at Chris I said, “either I just lost control of my bladder or my water just broke.” He asked me which I thought it was and I honestly admitted that I had no clue.
Eyeing a pizza sample across the aisle my hunger spoke up and I made my move to snag a bite, Chris grabbed my arm and said we should go now. I asked why and he looks downward and back up, “Your shorts are soaked.” I laughed and attempted to look down but because of the belly my view was limited. I looked like I peed myself while shopping for bulk items. Awesome.
We start heading for the checkout line discussing the probability of it being urine or amniotic fluid when a very skilled salesperson intercepts us and thrusts a package into my hand. Before either of us could react we find ourselves in the middle of a pitch about the greatness of these brightly colored nail polish kits. My first thought was “What in the world made you target me?” followed with, “This girl has no idea what is going on in my pants right now.” She asked if she could demonstrate the product on me, and I politely told her that we were in a bit of a hurry.
He beelined for the checkout line and I went into the bathroom. Thinking back to things I had read about signs of labor something flickered about amniotic fluid smelling sweet. Taking a quick sniff of the evidence I determined that I still had no clue what it was. How likely was it for me randomly start peeing myself? Urine incontinence is something that happens to women when they are pregnant but I had had 39 weeks of dry, pee-free pants. But I also hadn’t had any contractions or the much cited “bloody show.” Accepting that contemplating all this in a stall at Sam’s Club wasn’t getting me anywhere I returned to Chris, who was now checked out and anxiously waiting to leave.
Chris asked if I was supposed to call my doctor and I honestly didn’t know. We had only talked about what to do if contractions started and how to identify what labor feels like. Randomly wetting yourself while shopping wasn’t covered. Sucking up my pride, I called the answering service for my doctor’s office to see what they thought. The doctor on-call, who was our favorite to work with at the co-operative practice, called us back and said that if we thought the bag broke it’s time to go the hospital to get checked out. If the test said it was fluid then I would be admitted and in for the long haul; if not then I could go home and re-evaluate my bladder’s abilities.
While I changed into the ever flattering hospital gown, the nurse did a quick litmus strip test that must have told her it was likely my waters had broke. The doctor came in and checked my cervix — it was almost three cm dilated and effacement was good. It looked like the baby was ready to come out that day, or most likely in the wee hours of the next morning — it was a likely long, slow road ahead. WE got comfortable and switched on the TV.
I was finally cleared to order broth and a popsicle, which was better than nothing. Let’s just say that it was the best damn vegetable broth I have ever eaten.
They hooked me up to machines that would track the baby’s heartbeat, measure my contractions and randomly inflate a cuff to check my blood pressure. I had to have blood drawn and an IV installed. The nurse struggled with stabbing my veins several times when my contractions finally started up. I was still famished from eating barely anything that day and I begged for anything to eat. I was finally cleared to order broth and a popsicle, which was better than nothing. Let’s just say that it was the best damn vegetable broth I have ever eaten.
Around 7pm, the contractions were much closer together and increasingly painful. They seemed to have come out of nowhere. We hadn’t seen a nurse for a while, and knowing that there is a point of no return when it came to getting pain medication, I sent Chris out to the nurses’ station to request an epidural, now. The nurse came by and checked me again and said that baby was all the way down but my cervix still had a ways to go. At this point things are hazy, pain-filled and dark. I had my eyes closed, squirmed around a lot and squeezed all the blood from Chris’s hand. I tried to breathe through everything but breathing while exercising was never natural for me and I found myself gasping a lot.
The anesthesiologist came in and cracked jokes to ease the tension. He had me sit on the edge of the bed leaning into Chris. It took what felt like forever for him to get everything ready. He inserted the needle into my spine and asked if I felt anything or tasted metal. The nurse came in to install a catheter and that was a weird sensation. When she was done a numb feeling had started spread through my lower body. Laughing and relaxing back into the bed I was happy again. There was still a slight twinge of pain from the contractions but it wasn’t so much of a cramping as it was a dull presence of something going on in there.
Strangely, the contractions started to get stronger and I was suddenly very aware of my legs. They had started to tingle like your mouth does when your Novocaine wears off. I was confused and alarmed — I knew that the epidural wasn’t capable of removing all the pain but this seemed a bit extreme. The lovely blood pressure cuff had managed to time itself with my contractions and would uncomfortably inflate at the peak of the contraction. This of course set off the high blood pressure alarm.
Expecting that someone would come in and turn the alarm off I tried to make it through the contractions. It hurt too much and I didn’t know what to do. Finally a nurse came in to check in on us and I let her know that my pain level was pretty high. I felt a growing pressure in my pelvis and started to arch my back. The nurse instructed me to “bear down.” I tried but she barked at me to push with my butt. I tried that and it didn’t alleviate anything like she made it sound like.
She instructed me to push in rounds of three and then take a break. I tried what I thought she was referring to but clearly was not doing that. I can’t even begin to describe to you the sensation of which I was feeling at this time. But the in-between “pushing” time was getting shorter and shorter. A thought flew through my head: “if this is what childbirth feels like with an epidural, then what the hell does it feel like naturally?” I could feel everything, everywhere.
Apparently, I finally started pushing correctly because the nurse started cheering me on and complimenting my efforts. When you push correctly it sort of feels like you are attempting to turn your vagina inside out. I should also mention that I was not a silent birther nor were there well-placed grunts and heavy breathing like on TV. No, I was full-on yelling, groaning and screaming as I attempted to expel this foreign object from my body as quickly as possible. Suddenly, the nurse in a mildly panicked voice told me to stop pushing and turn on my side. In the distance I hear the nurse frantically calling for the doctor, delivery and anyone else needed.
Suddenly, the room is full and a buzz with activity. I am told to flip back and place my feet on the stirrups that have appeared. The bottom of the table is whisked away and I start to push again. My doctor arrived at some point in time and tells me to push now. I push and realize how nice the stirrups are for this and finally settle into a comfortable position — well as comfortable as you can be with something coming out of your crotch. As the baby begins to come out, I was pushing and yelling loudly. The doctor instructs Chris to put an oxygen mask on me because apparently I am not breathing enough and the baby is in distress. Having an oxygen mask on your face during all this was the second most unpleasant thing occurring after the damn blood pressure cuff.
The next thing I know, there is no more excruciating pressure in my pelvic area and a screaming, slimy infant was thrown on my chest. I think I matched his wails with my own noises of confusion and excitement. My brain chimed in that I should probably grab onto him so my hands started to rub him and my raw voice making reassuring noises. In all this mayhem, the doctor is still frantic between my legs commenting to a nurse that I am bleeding, a lot. The nurse asks if she can clean him up and I nod and lean back. The nurse does the abdominal massage to contract the uterus again and deliver the placenta. The doctor informs me that there are a few small tears that she has to stitch up since I basically shot him out.
The Velociraptor was born at 11:37pm at 8lbs, 15ozs and 22 inches long. It took him about half an hour to complete his journey. His head was so gigantic that it did a number on my body but I impressed the doctor with the ease of delivery on such a big baby. Thanks doc?
The nurses took him to get looked at and washed off while I was cleaned up and moved to the recovery side of the wing. I was able to hop off the bed and hobble to the bathroom to learn how to clean up and put on the diaper-like apparatus you wear after delivery. There was no trace of the epidural medicine in my system as my legs worked just fine — either he didn’t dope me up enough or my body processed it super quick.
When they brought the Velociraptor back in all pink and clean, I declared that the first order of business was to get me food because I was absolutely famished. I held the Velociraptor, now more conscious of the reality that I had a baby, that this was him and that I was responsible for his everything.