After getting the official good news from the doctor that I was, in fact, pregnant, I was insanely excited. A few nights later I lay in bed, snuggled under the covers with Nala curled up against my side. I thought with glee about the 35-ish weeks ahead, wondering about how my belly would look, if the baby would be a girl or a boy; then I thought about the years ahead, of birthday parties, days at the park and getting him/her ready for school. Then it hit me: to get from pregnant to birthday parties, I’d have to go through childbirth. My eyes popped open in terror. How on earth could I get past my fear of childbirth before my estimated due date of January 16?!
I spent my pregnancy alternating between refusing to think about birth and rationalizing that I would be fine, especially considering how many times my husband reminding me monthly that women used to give birth in fields and then just keep working (I do believe this to be greatly exaggerated). Of course, lots of people ask about your birth plan and how you feel about the whole thing. When you respond that you’re terrified, they generally reassure you, by telling you that you’ll do great. Then they tell you every horror-movie-worthy birth story they’ve ever heard. This, surprisingly, does not help.
What was I afraid of? Hmm, what wasn’t I afraid of!? Not recognizing labor, going through labor, having a newborn. Childbirth class gave me loads of knowledge on labor and the different stages and the different ways to go through it. As it turns out, knowledge is quite frightening. I had no fear of C-sections until that class, when an animation showed how that worked. Gee, childbirth class, thanks for ruining animation! (Just kidding. I still love animation. Not childbirth animation, mind you. That’s still terrifying. But good old fashioned Disney and I are just fine, thank you very much).
As my pregnancy progressed, my tummy started measuring a week or two ahead of the week I was in. I knew I hadn’t been hitting the tacos that hard, which meant I clearly had a giant baby. The midwife didn’t believe me. Oh no, it’ll even out, they said. You shouldn’t have a giant baby, they said. Your body wouldn’t create a baby it couldn’t birth, they said. In December, 6 weeks before my due date, they ordered a growth scan. He (we knew that he was a boy already) was somewhere between 5 and 7 pounds, with 6 weeks to go. What did my brain say? Ahh, I’m having a giant baby! What did the midwife say? Oh, those scans can be a whole pound off, don’t worry. You probably won’t have a giant baby.
Finally, my due date arrived. I went to my doctor’s appointment, where I was measured at being less than 1 cm dilated. Because I’m squeamish, I’m not going to go into what that means. My baby still felt pretty dang huge to me. I was, again, reassured that my child would be too big to be born without the assistance of the jaws of life. I also had one of the worst colds of my life, and was coughing and/or sneezing a ridiculous amount.
That night, I ate hot wings for dinner, hoping those silly myths about eating hot food to start pregnancy would work. I woke with mild cramping that night, but that was pretty normal. I didn’t think anything of it. The next day, I thought I was experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions, because I hadn’t had them very much. I was being monitored for pre-eclampsia, and called the doctor’s office with a question. They responded with,” Well, it sounds like you’re in labor. You should come in and get checked. I’ll call the Maternity ward and tell them to expect you.” Huh. They also asked if I’d felt the baby move, but it wasn’t the time of day when he was usually active. I was instructed to eat and drink something, lay down for an hour, and count his movements.
I ate a few grapes, drank some apple juice, and waiting to feel him move. This is the equivalent of watching water come to a boil. He didn’t move the required 5 times, but we were going in anyway. The entire hour long car drive in, I complained to J that I feared we’d get sent home. I would be so embarrassed if it was false labor. My ‘false’ contractions were now 4 minutes apart, one day after my due date. Four hours earlier I’d told my mom to reschedule her flight, so we could guarantee she’d meet the baby.
When we arrived at the hospital at 5 p.m., I was so nervous I started signing my maiden name (we’ve been married for three years).Also, driving through rush hour traffic to get to the hospital when you may or may not be in labor is not nearly as fun as you’d think. J was extremely stressed, timing my contractions and driving. I was hooked up to a machine that showed his heartbeat (I could finally exhale), and showed that I was having real contractions. We’d been warned that depending on the contractions, you might not be admitted and would instead be advised to walk around town, eat dinner, etc. They checked to see how dilated I was, and I was at a 4. Oh, so I was in labor and I didn’t know it? After all those people said, “Oh, you’ll KNOW you’re in labor!”.
I was admitted around 7 p.m. We called and texted our phone tree, letting people know. My sweet sister cried at the news. Every member of our family lives in the Lower 48. It was my grandma’s birthday. Several horrible events have occurred on her birthday, including a fire at the high school and a factory explosion. Around 11 p.m. I was dilated to a seven and asked for the IV, so I could get an epidural in an hour. Shortly after midnight, I got an epidural. The nurses and midwife told us to get some sleep, as I was dilated to an eight. J and I both fell asleep and woke with a start two-plus hours later to a room swarming with people. The (still un-named) baby’s heartbeat had dropped from 150/beats per minute to less than 50. They were going to do an emergency C-section.
J was rushed from the room to be dressed in scrubs while forms were shoved in my face, an oxygen mask was put on and I was wheeled down the hallway. I was wheeled into the freezing operating room while J was slipping scrubs on over his clothes in the hallway. Activity was frantic around me, and my head felt like it was filled with cotton. I was moved from the bed to a table. An anesthesiologist named John told me he was upping the epidural for the procedure. I remembered from childbirth class that had I not already had an epidural, I would’ve had to be put completely under and J wouldn’t be allowed in the OR with me, and I was glad I’d stuck to my plan to get one despite some negative reactions.
The rush was lessened when his heartbeat bounced up some due to the activity. My arms were strapped down since I would be awake but numb.John kept checking where I could feel and where I couldn’t. I told every nurse that spoke to me as well as John that I was freezing. I was shaking uncontrollably. I started to feel sick– really sick.
“I’m going to be sick,” I whispered into the oxygen mask.
“You feel sick? That’s normal, it’s okay,” John said, and turned to answer a nurse.
“I’m going to be sick,” I repeated, turning my head towards the nurse on the other side of me. Then I began to get sick. But there was an oxygen mask strapped to my face and my arms were tied down. J wasn’t allowed in yet, because they were still prepping me. I was choking, and no one was noticing. In the flurry to save me and the baby, I’d been momentarily overlooked.
Finally a nurse noticed my sputtering from across the room and yelled at John, who swiveled and tore the mask off my face and began suctioning out my mouth. Thankfully he wiped down my face as another oxygen mask was replaced over my mouth. J was finally allowed in, and sat right next to me. I reminded everyone that I wanted to see no part of what was about to happen, just the baby. I don’t do well with blood, and I’d made that known in my birth plan. The blue sheet went up. There was lots of pushing on my stomach, as he was over to the side.
I’m not totally sure how long it took, or what happened, because all I heard were my own prayers. I got past the point of thought, and all I could think were the lyrics to two songs, intertwining with each other: My God is healer, strong to deliver, mighty to save.
J tells me that when the surgeon was pulling the baby out, she said,” That’s a big– that’s a big baby! That’s a big baby!” He was held over the sheet for me to see, and the first words out of my mouth were, “Thank you, Jesus.” My baby was safe. My prayers had been answered. I turned to J and told him he should go over with the baby while he was weighed and cleaned. I wanted one of his parents to be there with him, and even if J wanted to go, he would stay by my side if he thought I needed him. When he walked back over with our boy wrapped in a blanket in his arms, my first question (after being reassured he was okay) was, “are his eyes green?” I love my green eyes, and really want my son to have green eyes too.
Unfortunately, things did not get easier for me after that. Little man, though still nameless, was perfectly fine. He weighed in at 9 pounds, 5 ounces. So yes, I did have a giant baby. The surgeon said had he not gone into distress, I would have had to have had a C-section anyway, because he was simply too big to fit. I was wheeled to recovery while J and the baby were shown first to a room with just a chair and then to our room. I was told I could leave recovery when I could move my legs, probably in about an hour. So I laid there and wiggled my toes, and then my feet, and finally my legs. 15 minutes later, I was wheeled down the hall to join J and the baby in our room. I had an adverse reaction to the second epidural and the pain medicine, causing me to get sick to my stomach for the next six hours or so. I would nurse the baby for a few minutes, then hand him to J while I got sick. This cycle repeated for the entire 6 hours. Did I mention I still had a cold? I was coughing, which was very painful on the surgery incision.
Little man’s arrival may have been rough, but it doesn’t deter me from wanting another one someday. In a couple years. He is so sweet, and funny, that I would go through it all again in a heartbeat. It’s amazing how this little person can change your whole perspective.