So below is an excerpt of an essay written about the birth of my first child. I laughed as I read it because I think it might be the most complete description of that very long moment that I have.
Untitled Personal Essay
by Ranee` S. Clark
Written March 2007
When I think about the less-than-blissful hours I spent in labor with A.J., I don’t just wonder, I seriously question how I actually came through it alive, or for that matter, why I’ll even consider doing it again! Nobody wants to hear a story about thirty minutes of labor and a six pound baby. Nine pounds, six ounces, that’s a good story. A kid with a head as big as his chest (fourteen inches)? That’s something people’s ears perk up for. Twenty-one hours of labor that climaxed in a full two hours of pushing? That is a good story.
I start measuring big around five or six months or so. Please tell me, it can’t be twins. The doctor says it’s not twins, there’s only one heartbeat. A lady comes into the place where I work and thinks I’m due any day. I still have two months left.
A week and a half before my due date, I go to the doctor. My husband can’t come, so Mom comes with me. Can’t see Dr. Bohlman, he’s in an emergency c-section, the receptionist tells me, you can see the nurse. Take a seat and she’ll be right with you. They told me everything was fine, but on the way home Mom didn’t think so. My feet are puffy, my hands are puffy, everything about me is puffy.
We’re turning around, she says, we’re taking you back and you’re going to see somebody. I don’t care who. A nurse practitioner agrees with Mom and tells me to go home and quit work because I have the beginning signs of preeclampsia, so I need to go home and do a lot of laying down on my left side. I see my doctor on Friday, a week before my due date and he tells me I’m measuring big. They estimate the baby weighs eight-six, and they can be off by half a pound.
So what you’re saying is that he could be nine pounds?
I’m saying he could be eight pounds, he says. I want to see you on Monday.
When I go in to see him on Monday, I pray in the bathroom before my appointment that he’ll decide we need to induce labor. Later, as we’re walking over to the hospital to check in, I prayed and said thank you, he’s inducing labor. But they made me go home, because there’s another woman there getting induced, because I just have pre-preeclampsia and she has preeclampsia and her baby is in distress. Babies in distress are more important than babies who are too big. I know they’re right, but I don’t feel too sure.
The nurse says we can come in Wednesday night, so Wednesday at 5 p.m. Mom and I are waiting in a quiet room because if we wait for thirty minutes or so then room 32, the big room, will be open. At 7:30 they finally check me in. Sorry, the nurse says, sorry, we didn’t know it would take so long.
It’s okay, I wanted the big room, I tell her. I get into bed and they give me a pill that’s supposed to start labor. Dr. Bohlman told me that if you’re ready to have a baby, then the pill will start you. If you’re not ready to have a baby, then you have to go on The Pit the next morning to start contractions. If that doesn’t work, then you get a c-section. I just nod, because I don’t care anymore. I’m nine months pregnant, my feet are swollen, my cheeks are fat, my back hurts, and I have a nine pound baby in me that’s probably not going to be a picnic getting out.
The contractions start at ten and are about five minutes apart, and they go on like that all night. I thought sleeping when you were nine months pregnant was bad. You can’t sleep on your back because that hurts. For obvious reasons, you can’t sleep on your stomach, which happened to be my favorite sleeping position before I got pregnant. The left side is the best because the blood flows to the baby better from that side, but neither that side nor the right side is comfortable. After a lot of nights waking up every few hours just to roll over and try to fall asleep again I thought, it can’t be any worse when the baby comes. As the night wears on, I’m so tired I fall asleep in the two or three minutes between the end of each contraction and the start of a new one. My water breaks at two and it’s the weirdest thing I’ve ever felt in my life. The contractions are getting harder and closer, and the nurse suggests taking a shower and running hot water over my bulging stomach, which sooths the pain, especially the back pain, a little. Finally, at five-thirty, the nurse tells me I can have an epidural, do I want an epidural?
If I were the swearing type, this would have been the place to use expletives. Instead, yes, please, I’d really like an epidural. It takes the anesthesiologist until six to get there. I lean over the wheeled bedside table, holding the nurses hand with my right and Mom’s hand with my left.
Now tell me when the contraction is over, he tells me, and I’ll stick the needle in in between. I look over and my husband’s eyes are large as saucers because the needle is so long.
Okay, I breathe, it’s over. I don’t even feel the needle go in, and it’s amazing how fast the relief spreads. I lie back in the bed and fall asleep. I’m in and out the rest of the day, only waking up to throw up, get a drink of water, or listen to see how dilated I am. Sometime around noon I stop progressing and they put me on The Pit, and as the afternoon wears on, Dr. Bohlman starts talking about c-sections again. Before I was okay with that, but then I decide that I don’t really want my stomach cut open. I start praying again, and my dad’s sister calls every twenty minutes or so because everyone, including myself, expected that I would have a baby by noon, or one or two at the latest. And that starts to get annoying.
You’re a ten, the nurse suddenly declares after they check me at four, you can start pushing. Although it has been dragging on all afternoon, the sudden rush of action startles me. My husband plants himself on my left side, Mom on my right, and after two pushes I’m exhausted. Little do I know, I have another hour and a half. They have a monitor on the baby to monitor his heartbeat after being in the birth canal so long, and a monitor on me to make sure my contractions progress. Once or twice I don’t tell them I’m having a contraction so I can rest a little. Mom catches me and gives me a look and hides a smile. In the final stages, I think someone accidently got the address to a party wrong and ended up in my room. There’s the doctor, his student, two nurses, Mom, my husband, and my mother-in-law, who didn’t want to be in the room in the first place, is hiding in a corner. I don’t even care anymore.
One last push, the nurse says.
One last push, Mom adds. I push again. And then I push again.
One last push, they repeat. I put the remains of my strength into it. And then I have to push again.
One last push, Mom says.
I lose it (can you really blame me, I’ve been relatively good this whole time); That’s what you said last time! The nurse and Mom look at each other and smirk.
One last push and I can tell his head is out. One last push and the doctor looks up and smiles at me. One last push and I my son cries and I’m absolutely relieved to know that it’s all over.
His head is huge, Dr. Bohlman announces.
No kidding. They place him on the scale and everyone is guessing how far up the numbers will run. Nobody guesses high enough.
Nine pounds, six ounces, the nurse declares. This means that not only were they half a pound off when they estimated his weight, but that he grew nearly half a pound in not quite a week, and no wonder, as thick as the umbilical cord is. My husband wouldn’t cut it, and Mom has to use both arms to slice through it.
They place A.J. on my chest. Skin-to-skin contact in the first half hour after birth is very important to the hospital. I look down at this nine pound, six ounce, half-grown newborn laying on my chest with a, thankfully, head full of dark hair, and I feel guilty because all I feel is relief that it’s done.
It passes as I begin to study him and realize the wonder lying on top of me.
I close my eyes, begin to pray
Then tears of joy stream down my face
With arms wide open.
My husband leans over and strokes his head, and smiles at his little namesake.
We stand in awe.Done.