In honor of Labor Day, I'm posting my birth story. Read at your own discretion, all ye women in your thirties. It contains F-bombs. And poop.
I went into labor on November 17th, the day I took this picture:
I remember being struck by how huge my belly was in my shadow while I was walking Dan around the block that afternoon. 'I'm enormous,' I remember thinking. 'This baby needs to come out.'
It was about 9:00 that night when I started to feel the pains. They were dull and crampy, and mostly in my back. I tried to sleep, but these were not just-sleep-through-it cramps. I opened the pregnancy app I'd just downloaded to my iPhone, waddled downstairs, and sat on the couch to time my contractions and watch Avatar. I think part of me thought they would go away if I watched enough television.
By 3:00am, the contractions were intensifying. I knew the drill--don't go to the hospital until your contractions are five minutes apart-- consistently-- for an hour. I watched several episodes of Glee that I had recorded on TiVo, and by 7:00 in the morning I couldn't take one more minute of singing. L came downstairs, saw me on the couch and said, 'Is it time?'
By 8:00, it was.
Getting sent home from the hospital when you're in labor is humiliating, but that's exactly what happened. 'You're only 1cm dilated,' the nurse said. 'There's no point in waiting here.'
'But my contractions are five minutes apart!' I cried out. 'Less than that!' I held up my iPhone with the labor app open like it was vindication.
They gave me some medicine (placebo, as far as I'm concerned) to take the edge off the contractions and try to rest. I went home and tried to sleep, but it was no use. The contractions strengthened hour by hour, and by 8:00pm I was a writhing mess. All the yoga, all the breathing and meditating, all the 'you're a goddess' nonsense flew out the window. It was all I could do to use my iPhone app to time my contractions, but when I did they were less than two minutes apart. I could barely catch my breath between them.
L drove us back to the hospital and dropped me off at the entrance while he parked. I crouched in the waiting room on a chair, trying to breath, when a security guard came over to me. 'Praise Jesus,' I thought. 'This guy will get me some drugs.'
'First?' he asked me, holding a newspaper.
I looked up at him like he had twelve heads. 'What?' I said. 'Yeah. First.'
'My wife was the same way,' he said, shaking his head. 'You've probably got another twelve hours or so.'
Oh, the profane words I had for that security guard. But I couldn't say them-- it was at that moment that L flew threw the doors and lead me upstairs to the same birthing ward I'd been sent home from earlier that day.
By this point, I'd been awake for 24 hours. I was sure, based on the intensity of the pain, that once I laid down on that table, the nurse was going to shriek, 'Oh my god, you're 10cm! It's time to push!' But one look on her face as she checked me told me the truth.
'Tell me I'm more than 1cm dilated,' I said to her, panting and sweating. 'Tell me.'
She looked at me kindly, she really did. 'Do you want me to lie to you?'
A woman in her thirties should remain composed in difficult situations. She should channel Jackie Kennedy at all times and keep her head high and proud.
Except when she's in labor.
'What the F*%$!' I yelled, and fell back onto the bed in tears.
'Honey,' the nurse said, putting her hand on my head. 'Have you had a miscarriage recently? Have you had a procedure called an HSG?'
Had I? HAD I?
'Yes,' I sniveled, turning toward L, who was white-faced seeing me in such pain. 'Both.'
'You have a bunch of scar tissue,' the nurse said. 'I can feel it. That's why you're not dilating.'
As much as I was mad that no one told me this might happen, the truth was that I was relieved. I was in labor. This was real. And more importantly, drugs were coming. DRUGS WERE COMING.
And they came. I slept through the night, waking up only to get my temperature taken and tell L that my water had broken (a story for another post). It was a blissful, beautiful, pain-free night. By 8:00am on the 19th, it was time to push.
There is nothing glamorous about pushing out a baby. When you get down to it, it's pretty gross (and if you're wondering just how gross I got, the answer is yes, I did). But it was amazing. Ah-May-Zing. I asked for a mirror and watched it all happen, which is the single piece of advice I have for any woman giving birth. I was able to see Anna's first glimpse of the world, her huge brown eyes and wide open mouth as she cried out for the first time. 'Oh my God,' was all I could say, over and over again. 'Oh my God, oh my God.'
It's true what they say about how women forget how hard childbirth is-- if they remembered all of it they'd never want to do it again. I think a woman in her thirties might do that when it comes to a lot of things. What I do know is that now, when I think back on the story, there is one image that comes to the forefront of my mind.
And all of it-- even sitting through Avatar-- was worth it.