The morning of July 25, 2009, a day passed my estimated due date, I awoke very early to what I thought was just more back pain. The previous night, we had celebrated my brother’s birthday at the Hofbrauhaus and I was blaming Germans and their hard wooden benches for my discomfort. (Pregos are allowed to be irrational, don’t judge me). When Zach woke around 6 am, I told him that I didn’t think he would be playing in his golf tournament that day. He immediately started doing stuff to keep himself busy: he SCRUBBED the kitchen floors, he finished packing his hospital bag, and before he left to take the dogs for a run, he made me a contractions chart, insisting that I was tracked every twinge. I’m not joking:
After a few hours, we called the doctor and I was really bummed to learn the ONLY doctor I had not met was on call the entire weekend, but I tried telling myself it was no big deal. I labored at home, mostly in water, from about 4 am – noon. Finally, as I was sitting backward in a chair, trying to focus on my breathing while Zach put counter pressure on my lower back, the pain and anticipation got the best of me. In retrospect, I think it was more the excitement and wanting to meet my surprise baby (we never found out if we were having a boy or girl!), and I wish I had stayed home longer. But because we are an hour from the hospital and we knew we were driving right into construction, we opted to leave around 12:30.
My brother came with us because my parents were already at a graduation party, one they would soon leave so they could join us at the hospital. I parked my pregnant self in the back seat of our car and positioned a softball between my tailbone and the seat, and leaned back hoping it would give me some relief. It didn’t. Ouch.
I was 5 centimeters when I was admitted, and although I had dreams of a natural child birth, my back felt like it was splitting in two. I never had “normal” contractions; all of the pain was in my lower back and butt. At one point I remember thinking, “I’m going to vomit all over this nurse.” I accepted the invitation of the epidural shortly thereafter.
Hindsight is 20/20: I wish someone would have slapped some courage into me and suggested I wait a little longer before getting the pain meds. I couldn’t feel a THING. My nurse, who was very lovely and helpful at the time, kept telling me to “hit the button.” So I did. Do you know what happens when you “hit the button?” Another dose of pain medication is doled out and if you’re a clueless first timer, you hit the button when your nurse tells you to hit the button.
My labor slowed, and I didn’t know if/when I was ready to push because I literally couldn’t feel a thing. At this point, it was nearing 9pm. I thought I felt pressure, so I asked if I should push. I was told to wait until the doctor checked me. I waited for an hour. The doctor finally came in, checked me (I was 9 centimeters), and then informed me that she had to perform a c-section on another patient. I was told to wait for her before pushing.
After another hour, around 11pm, I begged to begin pushing. I thought there was pressure, I wanted to meet my baby–I was ready, dammit! When my less-than-stellar doc came back and announced that she hadn’t even started the other patient’s c-section, I told her I could not wait. She checked me again (“Just about 10 centimeters, but not quite”) and, to appease me, said I could “practice pushing.” This made me angry: practice?! What if the baby was ready and the doctor wasn’t? My nurse assured me it was perfectly safe, so we practiced pushing. I couldn’t hoist my own legs up, so my husband and the nurse had to hold them for me, but I pushed with the power of a thousand mothers. And I pushed when my husband yelled he could see the baby’s head. And I pushed some more when the nurse said, “I see blonde hair!” I pushed FOR THREE HOURS. That little blonde head kept slipping back inside each time a push was over, and I would soon find out that practice, or premature, pushing is not a good idea; in fact, it can swell the cervix and after 180 minutes of it, necessitate an emergency c-section…
When Doctor of the Year returned, it was 2 in the morning and she was YAWNING. The nurse told her I had been pushing and without another thought, doc emphatically stated, “We’re going to have to perform a cesarean.” My first instinct was to punch her; I felt like she had let me down and completely betrayed my birthing wishes which, of course, she knew nothing about because she didn’t know me from Eve. Instead, I cried. Our families came in to wish me luck, and I remember feeling like they were bidding me their final goodbyes instead. Totally freaked me out. My mother scolded me for having the epidural (because that was why I was being wheeled into surgery…), my brother looked terrified, my dad had tears in his eyes, and then this walked into the room:
That’s my husband lookin’ all creepy in his scrubs. At least it gave me a good chuckle before being cut in half.
I was pumped so full of meds that I barely knew my own name. I was shaking so badly on the operating table that Zach later confessed he thought I was going to die. Apparently I was pretty pale and more and more nurses kept appearing to fill bags with fluid or whatever. Poor guy.
Fortunately, I did not die and this, our first family photo at 3:30 on July 26, 2009, was the end result:
I had a son! This was mind-blowing because the entire 9 months I carried that child, I called HER Mia Rose because, obviously, I was having a beautiful girl with beautiful dark hair and beautiful olive skin and that was going to be her beautiful name. I had all the classic “girl” symptoms: I was ginormous, my face broke out, the ever-reliable Chinese gender predictors all pointed to GIRL. Those old wives tales got nothin’ on me. When the doctor announced it was a boy, I yelled (loudly and inappropriately), “LIARRRR!” I never did do well on meds…And here HE was: Brady blonde hair, blue eyes, and porcelain white skin. Shut up! He was perfect. And he was mine.
Later, when my doctor visited me, I asked her point-blank if I would be able to deliver my next baby. She told me no. I resisted the urge to yell “LIARRRR” again, and right then and there decided if I couldn’t call her one, I would just prove her one: I would have a VBAC, oh yes.
Overall, it was not the experience I had hoped for, but if parenting has taught me one thing it’s to be flexible. I admit, though: I had a very difficult time coming to terms with the fact that I had to have a c-section. I felt as though I was less of a woman somehow. Everyone I shared my feelings with just kept telling me to be grateful that I had a healthy baby. I was grateful, but I was also dissatisfied and I refused to apologize for feeling that way.
A couple of months after having Brady and a not-so-easy or swift recovery, I tracked down my doctor at her office. I asked to review my post-op charts and upon reading through them together, I discovered, as I thought I might, that there was no physical reason I had to have the surgery. In fact, she told me, I would make a fantastic VBAC candidate. I simply didn’t “progress fast enough.” I immediately remembered her yawning when she came into my room. I told myself not to jump over the desk and strangle her. But when she said, “You can deliver vaginally, but I don’t know why you would want to put yourself through the ‘unnecessary pain,'” I promptly switched practices.
I hope I don’t sound like a Debbie Downer recalling my son’s birth. Looking back on the whole experience, there were definitely some cool parts. For instance, my mother-in-law’s name is TERESA and her sister is JULI. Our nurses in the hospital were THERESA and JULIE. The letters that differentiate the spelling of their names: H and E. He! What a hint! And, because I was tied down like a mental patient circa the 1800s, mine and Brady’s first kiss was of the”Eskimo” variety. And ya know what? To this day, we still “kiss” like that. AND my dad was in the room with me when my water broke. I thought I peed myself and said, “Ooops! I think I just peed on myself, Dad!” When the water went gushing all over the floor and he realized what had happened, he ran for the door! I’ve never seen the man move so fast in my life!
The best part was finally getting to see the little person who had been having a party in my belly for so many months. Brady’s eyes have remained the same crystal clear blue, despite both of his parents having hazel, and we’re continually asked if he is adopted or if he and Ella have different fathers. For the record: no and no.
If there is a theme to my beautiful boy’s birth, it’s certainly that good things come to those who wait. I wish I had waited at home longer, I wish I had put off the epidural or gone without it completely. I wish I hadn’t begged to push–or I wish someone would’ve just said NO!–since my body wasn’t ready, and I wish I had waited before chugging that apple juice right after the c-section because it came back up real quick and my father-in-law witnessed the whole thing. Truth is, I wouldn’t change one thing about Brady’s birth. I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason and Brady was meant to enter the world exactly the way he did. And for as chaotic and emotionally charged as the entire birth was, the kid is incredibly chill and easy-going like his Dad. After waiting 9 months plus two days, Zach and I became the proud parents of a perfect little guy, and regardless of the overall experience, we were madly in love. And still are.