On the day my daughter was born, my bladder woke me just after 5:00 am. I was alone in bed; my lawnmower-caliber snoring had driven my husband away again. I was still over two weeks from my due date and not yet feeling any urgency about having my baby or feeling “done” with pregnancy. My urgency was the fact that I needed another week at work to wrap things up, but I had no doubts about getting that. I’d recently had an ultrasound and an exam, and the midwife said there were no signs of baby’s impending arrival. Back to my bed on that clear fall morning: by the time I exhausted my Netflix fix and finally got up, it was 8:00 exactly.
That was when my water broke.
Of course I did the logical thing and jumped into the shower. I hadn’t felt so much as a cramp, but I didn’t know how much time I had, and I wanted to look good! Meanwhile, my husband shuffled into the bathroom and saw my worried face through the glass shower door. When I told him the news, he started scrambling. In no time, the doctor was called, I was beautified, I had stuffed a giant pad down my pants, and we were on the road, 35 minutes down a blissfully clear I-95.
The atmosphere at the hospital was light. We were excited, and we joked nervously with the hospital staff. I called my parents, who immediately started down. Our excitement was put on hold when I was told that I would be sent home until I was in active labor. I was to return the next morning for an induction if contractions didn’t start by then. It was a total buzzkill, but I was relieved to have the chance to get a few things in order. We met my parents for a quick lunch and headed home to prepare.
I literally was pressing “send” on my last work email when I felt my first painful contraction. Before that I had been a little crampy – nothing worse than my period. I went upstairs and started to pace. I sat on my birthing ball, leaned on my bed, squatted, swayed. Nothing was helping at all, and after a few more contractions, I was in tears. It was so confusing. I was looking at my contraction-tracking app – 2 minutes apart? That can’t be right. My husband and mom joined me upstairs and started talking about leaving for the hospital. I though it was way too soon, but I was having trouble thinking straight and starting to vocalize (yell/scream/cry) through contractions. So we left.
Arriving at the hospital was very different this time. I was that lady who was making a scene and freaking everyone out. Upstairs in Labor and Delivery, nurses appeared out of nowhere. They asked me to get up on the bed, which I told (or screamed at) them that I was not going to do. I could not bear the thought of lying on my back. Like every other laboring woman ever, I moaned that I was dying. I pleaded for help. I remember one of the nurses saying, “Look at me, look at me,” and I was saying “Noooo!” I have no idea how they got me on that bed, but once they did and checked me, I was out the door to the delivery room. I was ready to push. I whipped my clothes off as they wheeled me down the hall.
All I really remember about pushing was that I wanted to be DONE. I knew that if I pushed hard, this horrendous experience would be over, the pain would be gone. I’m sorry to admit that I really wasn’t even thinking about my baby. I don’t think enough time had passed for my mind to even process that she was on her way. After a couple of final pushes (the last two were THE WORST), she arrived.
I was completely prepared for her to look like that shriveled, forgotten potato at the bottom of the bag, but my baby was perfect. I promise there is not an ounce of sunshine-and-rainbows in that, it was really the thought that went through my mind. You know how you spend all those months thinking and dreaming of what your baby will look like? Her face was so familiar, like I had known her forever.
We had checked into the hospital at 4:49 pm. My daughter was born at 5:48 pm. The nurse told me I had broken all kinds of records, especially for a first-timer. In a way, I was proud, and for about a day I basked in brand-new-baby, crazy-labor, can’t-believe-I’m-a-mom-ness. But the more it all sunk in, the more I processed it, the whole experience horrified me. It had happened so fast. I was so out of control. I did and said things that were so not me. I felt humiliated. This, along with difficulty breastfeeding, along with stitches and hormones and self doubt… It was a rocky start to motherhood. I feel kind of sheepish writing that since I know that other moms really have difficult deliveries and hard beginnings. I think this is just a testament to the fact that new motherhood is just really hard, and I think that is pretty universal even if our individual experiences are unique.
Today, almost exactly a year after my labor and delivery experience, I still have a lot of questions and concerns. They are well beyond the scope of this post at this point, but I’ll just say that I am finding myself thinking very differently about a hypothetical second birth. I’ll look forward to sharing that will all of you another time!