I was convinced that I was going to deliver my son two weeks late. I think because my mom had me late and everyone says that first babies usually come late, so I scheduled my 40 week check-up one day past my due date and spent the morning working from home -- I was not going to use up a moment of my Maternity Leave before having my baby if I didn’t have to.
It was a Friday, and my partner (Joey) and I hadn’t frozen any meals yet - again I was sure we still had time - so we were planning for our (probably) last quiet weekend at home where we were going to meal prep and watch movies.
Heading to the doctors that morning I was prepared for a conversation about induction- their policy was to induce at 41 weeks but I really wanted to hold out to 42, and I was pretty committed to not being induced - this might sound crazy, but I was more comfortable with the thought of a c-section than induction, so all of the concerns about the baby being too big for me to push out weren’t really mine - Plus I know a woman who delivered a 12-pound baby at home, so was not hearing size being a valid reason for induction. Anyway, my appointment started with an ultrasound and during chit chat with the technician we were talking about our weekend plans and she listened while taking her measurements, and then said (and I am paraphrasing here) “Well, good luck, but I don’t think you are going to be cooking this weekend,” and then we were taken into an exam room to talk to my doctor who told us that my amniotic fluid level was low and we needed to head to the hospital to be induced.
I pushed back, asking if this was definitely necessary, she said “Yes,” I asked I this was an emergency, she said, “Not necessarily, but you need to go to the hospital.” I told her I didn’t have my hospital bag with me and I wanted to go home with my partner and then we would go directly to the hospital, she said: “No, you go to the hospital now, and he can go home and get your bag.” I kept pushing back, “since this isn’t an emergency, why don’t I have time to get my bag myself,” she said, “You need to go to the hospital.” At this point, I gave in - with a stern look from my partner that said “Don’t be stupid/difficult, just go to the hospital and I will bring whatever you want.” — he has a very expressive face and can say all of that with a look.
I waddled out of her office, gave Joey a long list of everything I forget to pack into my hospital bag, and headed to the hospital (after grabbing a DELICIOUS buffalo chicken wrap at Dean & DeLuca since I had been warned the hospital wouldn’t let me eat once I was admitted — this was a big reason why I was hoping to go into labor naturally and wanted to labor at home for as long as possible. I was really freaked out that I would be hungry and not be allowed to eat. In hindsight, I spent too much energy on this fear).
A good friend met me at the hospital (hi Jane!), then my sister Carolyne, and then Joey. We were all so excited the baby was so close that I think we forgot that I had to actually push him out. It took a while to get things going, but eventually, I was examined and told that I was only 1cm dilated, so given Cytotec & a foley balloon (ouch!). The anesthesiologist came and introduced himself, and I confidently told him that I would not be needing him as I was planning to go au natural and skip pain meds — I actually really wanted Nitrous Oxide, but my hospital didn’t offer it. If you are considering an epidural-free birth then I recommend looking into this option. After he left, my nurse told me that she respected whatever I wanted to do, but in her experience, very few induction patients actually made it all the way to delivery without pain medication and to know that if I changed my mind she could get him back at any point. I appreciated it but wasn’t ready to throw in the towel just yet. And then the roller coaster started, but instead of ups and downs, it was just a lot of ups.
Everything you read about contractions is about how they come and go, and while they keep getting closer together you do still get breaks in between. Well, let me tell you that when you are induced - at least when I was induced - they never stop coming. Like, maybe intense contractions are followed by less intense ones, but I wouldn’t say there were breaks and I finally understood why so many people opt for the epidural. I think I lasted three hours pain med free before I tapped out. I remember thinking “you are supposed to be in pain, but not suffering,” and I was close to suffering, especially since I was still barely dilated and felt like I had the choice of continuing on without medication and exhausting myself before it was time to push, which would probably end in a cesarean or vacuum assistance, or I could get a walking epidural to take the edge off, and rest up for when I really needed to activate. I choose the epidural and don’t regret it with even an ounce of my body.
Now I was feeling good and could get back to my hospital slumber party with my friends. We watched the movie Friday and hung out with my night nurse, told funny stories about our pets, and eventually decided to get some sleep. Carolyne and Jane went home and Joey and I settled into our beds.
Things are a little fuzzy here, at some point during the night my doctor popped my water hoping it would help me progress and I think very early in the morning they decided to add Pitocin into the mix to help speed things along. I felt my contractions getting more intense and noticed that the left side of my body was feeling them much more than my right - or vice versa, what’s important is that as my contractions got more intense, it was like half of my body felt them muted and the other half was getting the full force. This freaked me out because I knew it wasn’t right, but my day nurse from my first afternoon was back and she explained that gravity can play a part in where the drugs sit in my body and began a series of rotating me into different positions to help open my hips and try and move the medicine around/make me more comfortable.
We called the anesthesiologist back to look at my epidural and decided that they needed to give me more medication. Unfortunately, the only way to get the seemingly unmedicated side medicated was to make the already comfortable side suuuuuuuper numb. So I had the same(ish) problem, just more comfortable.
My sister and Jane came back, we watched a “Don’t Be Tardy” marathon on Bravo and finally settled on a name for the baby. And then it was showtime! Time to push.
I was moved into the standard pushing position that you see in movies, on my back, in a bed with my partner holding one leg and a nurse holding the other — leading up to this moment I was interested in alternative pushing positions, but since I couldn’t feel/move one leg they were definitely not available to me. My doctor instructed me to bear down and push while holding my breath. This was the #1 thing in all of the labor research that I read that you shouldn’t do, so I ignored her - which I generally do not advise, but this entire thing had gone so far from the “my body was made for this, lady in the woods who trusts her instincts and the baby will come when they are ready” birth that I had wanted, that I chose this moment to stand my ground and do what felt natural, so I pushed on and exhale, and used my breath to add power to my pushes.
My doctor was amazed at how much progress I was making with these early pushes, but when she noticed that I was exhaling, would keep telling me to hold my breath. She was the professional so eventually, I listened. I stopped following my instincts and trusted the person in the room who had been there before and things slowed down dramatically. I ended up pushing for 1.5 hours - this is the only thing about my labor that I regret, but whatever, we live we learn, right?
From induction to delivery, the entire process took 27 hours, and it still felt like the moment a person came out of me happened really fast. “Suddenly” the doctor was holding a baby. I looked at my partner and he was happy crying, I looked at my sister and she was beaming, and I looked at my baby and he was looking at me like a grumpy old man who had been rudely woken up and I thought, “What the fuuuuuuck?? How did a person just come out of me?”
I cannot overstate this enough - it took me at least 12 hours to wrap my head around the fact that I grew a person inside my body and then pushed him out of my vagina. Everyone tells you that the moment you see your baby you will be filled with overwhelming thoughts of love, and I do believe that happens to some people, but for a lot of us it’s a real Twilight Zone moment.
From that moment on to being moved from Labor & Delivery to the Mother-Baby floor is a blur. I don’t remember delivering the placenta, but I did ask them to show it to me and had someone take a picture so I could really look at it later. I drank a Coca-Cola and it was delicious. I went to the bathroom and my nurse gave me all of the supplies that entailed and showed me what to do with them. Then we were moved to a very small room to share with another new family for the night - shared hospital rooms after having a baby are a special NYC experience that wasn’t ideal, but I am happy that I had because it made for some entertaining memories that I will tell you about another time!
** I did leave one thing out. Everyone wants to know if I pooped. Well, I did, but not when you think. When I get nervous I have to go, and, in those first few hours, I was very nervous. I told my nurse that I needed to use the bathroom so she could unhook my IV. She tried to tell me that I probably didn’t need to go, but that it was common for people in my position to feel like they did. I told her I definitely had to go and she humored me by helping me into the bathroom. Well did I prove her wrong, because I did, and I clogged the toilet in my room and had to be escorted to another bathroom down the hall so I could go again. So if you are really concerned about pooping on your baby, just get diarrhea about 24 hours before you push and you’ll have nothing to worry about!