Birth stories are my favorite. It doesn’t matter the type of birth—home, hospital, drug-free vaginal, scheduled c-section, surprise I-didn’t-know-I-was-pregnant TV dramatizations—I love them all. Before Gracie was born, those stories were a window into what my own experience might be like. Now that I’ve experienced three births of my own, I still read them to vicariously live the magic again. And yet … I haven’t written about mine.
I have a laundry list of excuses for all three unwritten pieces: I wasn’t writing creatively until after Logan was born, it’s too late now, I can’t remember enough, they really weren’t that interesting, I can’t write it for one and not the others.
I don’t remember every detail because, honestly, my memory is just not that great. That’s one of my favorite things about writing. It does so much more than just capture facts or freeze an image (though photos hold their own magic). Writing clarifies my experiences and reveals truths I miss in the day-to-day rush that is this life with littles.
No more excuses. The days my children were born are the most amazing and wonderful of my life. It’s time to write them down. Without further ado, birth story number one: the one where I puke in my doctor’s face.
We show up at the hospital at 8 PM for the induction I desperately wanted to avoid. I’m exactly 41 weeks pregnant and already having contractions, but can’t feel them. Those contractions change the plan of cervidil my doctor prepared me for to option B: foley bulb induction, which is every bit as uncomfortable as it sounds. Once the foley does its job, Pitocin starts flowing to get the show moving, slowly and painfully.
After a few hours, I give up the idea of being a hero and ask for the drugs. They give me the IV drugs first, which are nice but don’t last very long. Next, there’s an incredibly long hour and a half in between when those wear off and I finally get my epidural. Finally, I can labor comfortably. The problem is that the laboring hasn’t really been doing anything; and it keeps not doing much of anything all day long. I progress just one cm. Going from five to six in 12 hours. When my OB comes by to check on me at 6:30 PM, she makes it clear a c-section is imminent.
I didn’t want to be induced. In fact, I had dreamed of a birth with as few interventions as possible. All night and day long, I gamely went along with everything the medical team advised; a sweet, agreeable patient. The suggestion of a c-section puts me straight over the edge. The baby warmer is right there opposite my hospital bed waiting for my girl. I’ve been looking at it all day; the end goal literally in sight. That’s where she’s supposed to go. I’m supposed to deliver in this room, bond during the golden hour, then they’ll weigh her and measure her right there under the lights of that warmer.
A blue curtain separating me from seeing her come into the world isn’t the plan; my body being stitched back together while someone else holds her for the first time. Failing to not only go into labor but even deliver her on my own is absolutely, 100% not what’s supposed to happen. As soon as my OB walks out of the room, I lose it. A few tears escalate into full on sobs as I relay the update by text to family waiting for news.
What I don’t know then is that my mom and aunts start praying when they get that message.
Thirty minutes later, something doesn’t feel right. There’s an intense pain in my back, where my kidneys are. The nurse responds to the call button and checks me out. After more than 12 hours with almost zero progress, I went from six cm to fully dilated in 30 minutes.
My OB returns and delivers the plot twist: she tells the nurse to turn off my epidural. I try to protest and change their minds, but it’s done before I mumble half a sentence.
Within 45 minutes all the drugs are completely worn off and I. Feel. Everything. I beg them to turn it back on. They don’t.
For my whole life, intense pain has made me nauseous. Contractions are not an exception. I mention that I’m not feeling great to the crew gathered around my bed and get little to no reaction. When the next contraction comes and it’s time to push, I know I can’t without puking. I say as much, and I guess they think I’m bluffing since they tell me I have to.
So I do. It turns out you can’t hold in vomit and push at the same time. My OB is standing between my legs, exactly where my face is pointed. I guess she knows it’s going to be a while before I get the baby out because she hasn’t changed into her scrubs yet. She’s wearing white jeans and a camel rib knit sweater. It doesn’t take the pain away, but barfing in her face does offer some poetic justice.
Thirty minutes later, my OB is cleaned up and back in the room. I’m in agony. I’d give up, but that wouldn’t make the pain stop, so there’s no choice but to keep trying. My sweet nurse (who stayed past shift change at 7 when we realized it was time to push) is the most amazing cheerleader. I pray she’s telling the truth when she says I’m almost there, but I have no idea. All I know is all-consuming pain. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
8:45 PM. She’s out. I did it. I have a baby, a real baby, right here in my arms. I’m not so much overjoyed as just plain relieved it’s over. I can’t believe there’s a baby in my arms that was in my body just moments ago. I can’t believe we made a person and here she is. The pain finally starts to fade.
Gracie Lee is born on August 19, 2015 at 8:45 PM. After I soak her in for her first hour of life, they take her over to that warmer I stared at for an entire day to get her stats: 7 pounds, 1 ounce. 20.5 inches.
My welcome to motherhood four years ago didn’t go how I expected. For a while, I wanted to forget about the long hours before 8:45 PM, reducing the memory of her birth to just that single minute. When friends asked about it though, the words came tumbling out, and the trauma of the awful parts lost its power over me. The day has shifted from 24 hours of darkness with one minute of color, to a nuanced experience with fear, laughter, confusion, joy, pain, relief, and triumph.
This post was written as part of a blog hop with Exhale—an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs. Click here to read the next post in this series "Write Anyway."