When the nurses came in and started talking about pain management options for the second time I didn’t mention anything else about my natural birth plan. We briefly talked through options and when I found out an epidural might be another thirty minutes out, the despair set back in (it sounds dramatic, but pain like that is dramatic). But when Jeff showed up just minutes later, needle in hand, I could have kissed him (except that I couldn’t talk and could barely move).
Jeff needed me sitting still on the bed, and in true ex-dancer form, I managed to get into a wide straddle, still working through long and frequent contractions. I remember there were questions about where I was from that I couldn’t answer.
Since coming home people have asked if the epidural was painful, if the needle was big, or if I was scared.
I didn’t think twice about the needle and I don’t remember any pain (I guess pain is relative). I do remember the hope and relief that set in long before the medication kicked in. The contractions still hurt, but there was an end in sight, a light at the end of the tunnel.
We were all giddy smiles and laughter for the next hour or so. I couldn’t stop grinning. I was having a baby. I could do this. I thought I wanted a natural birth because it would be empowering (and for the next one, I think I still do), but in that moment, being able to make a decision to take away such a huge amount of pain, I felt pretty empowered.
side note: I had an amazing epidural. I could move my left leg on my own and could move both my feet. I could roll myself over and reposition myself with only a little assistance. There was a point where I upped my own dosage because I could feel the strength of the contractions in my left hip but I was grateful because by the time it got to pushing, I could feel just about everything, but without any of the intense pain (just a little discomfort). Like I said, I could have kissed that epidural man.
It took two hours for me to dilate from a 5 to a 6 and by this time it was somewhere around 2:30 in the afternoon. I did the math – one centimeter in two hours – four centimeters to go – eight hours till this baby was going to start really coming. I decided to take a long afternoon nap. Ben pulled out a book and we settled in for the long haul.
You can imagine my surprise when half an hour later the nurses declared I was a nine and wanted me to push. They called the midwife and the marathon truly began. It lasted a bit over an hour and a half and I’m told the vomiting did more for pushing the baby out than anything else (it’ll be awhile before I drink green gatorade again). The fatigue, the effort, and the concentration were like nothing else. I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t take a break – but Ben could see the full head of hair and the baby was coming.
The pushing with an epidural was something I was completely unprepared for. While I’d take pushing over those pitocin contractions again any day, I have never had to work harder at anything and it seemed to last forever.
The relief at that baby’s cry was so welcomed. It meant I was done, it meant he was here, and it meant he was safe. And in that moment, contrary to what every birth story ever told me, all I wanted to do was close my eyes and go to sleep.
But, they handed me a screaming, bloody, blue baby and the magnitude of the moment was lost on me. He looked something like an alien … and I just wanted to sleep. I held him while I delivered the placenta, my midwife stitched the tear, Ben cut the umbilical cord (delayed cord clamping was one of the only parts of the birth plan that happened), and as I threw up another couple of times.
They tell you the first moment you hold your baby is magical, but for me it was the second. Maybe it was because he was no longer bloody or because I was no longer being sick, but the love came easily that second time. When my skin and soft voice soothed his cries, it was easy to love him. When I realized this was the life I’d been carrying for the past nine months, it was easy.
It is something miraculous to look into a tiny face and think that quite literally, your love made this. Ben and I made this little baby, this perfect little baby. Birth was hard (although it was actually much easier than I’d spent the past twenty years building it up to be), but loving this little life, that is easy.
A few more pictures – I’m grateful Ben snapped some right after baby was born even though at that point the last thing on my mind was a picture. The one’s with Lincoln dressed are from the day we left the hospital.
^It was so hard to listen to this baby cry those first few hours whenever they took him to the other side of the room to weigh him or wash him or change his diaper. Often, I cried right along with him.
^all of this hair and those perfect little ears
^a note on hospital food: other than the first night after giving birth (when everything sounded gross and it was hard to keep even liquids down), I swear it was the best food I’ve ever eaten.
^just to document where I lived for two days (oh so convenient to be able to push buttons and have your bed turn into a chair)
^right before we brought him home from the hospital
^a favorite of mine – the “Mom – be DONE taking pictures and pick me up!”