Well, not quite today.
My water broke at 2 am and woke me up with the urgent need to go to the bathroom. I knew my water had broken when I realized I wasn't actually in control of the stream. It was a week earlier than Caitlin's expected due date. I woke Eric up, of course, and told him the news. Then I noticed I wasn't actually having any recognizable contractions, so after calling the doctor's office and informing them, I went back to sleep.
Or tried to, at any rate.
Much later in the morning, the contractions started. You know, the easy ones that make you think, "Hey! I can do this! These aren't so bad!" They're the ones that sucker you in because at this point you have no idea how bad they will get later. And make no mistake, they get baaaaad later.
Hours pass by, with me pacing around the house and Eric timing me. We laugh and joke and I waddle around with the Walk of Extreme Pregnantness: it's the way you walk when you have a baby's head in your crotch. I'll have you know that I avoided waddling the whole pregnancy (big difference from this one!) and was very proud of that fact. I had gained 40 lbs but was convinced that the last bunch were related to the extreme heat we were facing. My toes were swollen up like Vienna sausages and no shoes fit anymore. I was a walking cliche at the office: barefoot and pregnant while roaming the halls at the offices of The Man. As it turned out, that weight came flying off because I peed it out over the course of the next few weeks. But let's get back to the issue at hand.
Finally, around 1:30 or 2:00 pm, I had reached the point where I had to stop talking during the contractions and they had moved to 5 minutes in between each one. Time to go to the hospital.
They assigned us a room, I got dressed in their fabulous hospital clothing and we began the long pacing up and down the hallways. Jenni, my sister-in-law came, since she was going to be with us for the birth. She was, by the way, 5.5 months pregnant with my very first nephew, Max and was very excited to get the Sneak Preview. So we hiked up and down the halls together, the contractions getting closer and closer together, the pain getting worse and worse. You could see the massive ripples as they flickered across my distended abdomen - it was pretty cool. They "checked" me to see how far I was progressing and I have to tell you, that whole "checking" thing? Sounds pretty simple but involves you laying on your back, while having contractions and having a nurse with possibly the largest hands on the floor insert into you and check you for dilation and effacement.
OW! FUCKING OW!
You know, it's very hard for a pregnant woman to move too fast, but you've never before seen me try to get away from pain like that! Damn! The result? The nurse announced that I was at 1 cm.
In case you didn't know, you have to dilate to ten centimeters in order to pass the melon-headed child through your birth canal. I had a long way to go. Keep in mind that my water had broken at 2 am and this is now somewhere around 3 or 4 pm on June 27th. So I continued walking, Eric continued massaging my lower back as hard as he possibly could with little blue handballs and the pain kept mounting. In my lower back. "Normal" contraction pain is supposed to be in the front, back labor is a lot harder to deal with for pain control, as it turns out.
I lost all sense of humor, but tried to continue to be polite to the Crunchy Granola Nurse that kept trying to tell me to appreciate The Moment. That I was Becoming A Mother and to Enjoy the Experience. I wasn't to bite her, but I was focused on the pain and trying to hold on for 10 centimeters and natural childbirth without pain killers. The contractions I was having were huge, but when checked again, I was still at 1 cm. I was nearing the end of my rope. The Crunchy Granola Nurse suggested that I get in the jacuzzi tub, which I didn't want to do since I didn't think it would help, but did anyway, because there was the possibility that she was right.
"How does that feel?" The CGN asked perkily after we plopped my no-longer-body-conscious naked and engorged, contracting self into the tub.
"Wet." I snarled. Eric sniggered, since this was me making an attempt at humor by referring to the line from The Producers.
The pain kept mounting. I told Eric at one point that I would never do something like this for anyone but him. It was my way of not reaching up and stretching his lower lip up over the top of his head a la Cosby's Fatherhood. He kept massaging my back, desperately, while his hands started cramping. I had never been in such mind altering pain in my entire life! and had no idea how much longer this would go on for.
When they checked me again around 6pm, to see how far along I was, I was hoping that they'd say 8 cm, because then it would be almost over. No such luck. One centimeter. I was fully effaced but still no dilation and unless Caitlin was in the shape of a pencil, she wasn't coming out that way. That was the moment that I started weeping with the pain and asked for an epidural. I couldn't take it anymore and was apologizing for not being able to hang in there as long as it would take, but nothing was happening and there was no escaping the pain.
As it turned out, the anesthesiologist on call was currently in surgery. The back up was at home having dinner. It was 6 pm. They paged him and I continued to weep in pain while Eric rubbed harder and harder, without making a dent in the pain in my lower back. I crawled around for another hour, way past the point of I-can't-take-this-anymore when the doctor finally showed up with needles (which I normally hate) and drugs (blessed drugs!). Then he told me to do the impossible: lay on my side, curled as tightly as possible into a ball and don't move.
Did I mention that I was shaking uncontrollably in pain? And had been for hours? Oh yes. Oh yes I was!
So I lay on my side, gripping Eric's hands, signed off on the Yes, I understand this this might kill me Waiver and curled up around my contracting belly and tried to stop shaking. I tried not to think about being paralyzed and focused on Eric's hands and that this would soon mean that the pain would be over. I felt the doctor cleaning the site with cold iodine and then Ow! the needle went in. Immediately after that, cold started streaming down my spine.
Icy cold liquid relief. The pain was immediately gone. My shakes went away, I relaxed my death grip on Eric's hands and announced that the anesthesiologist was my new Best Friend. My sense of humor had immediately returned! Well, as you may know, once you have an epidural, all though of a "natural" child birth are pretty much over. The monitors got broken out, pitocin drip started to continue my pointless contracting and I was stuck in bed, but no longer in pain. Oh and they spontaneous vomiting began.
Turns out that some folks get itchy from the epidural and others throw up, I was in the latter category. So they gave me another drug with an Irish sounding name (Finnergan? Finnegan?) and the vomiting stopped. Time passed. Nurses came and went. My contractions were crazy huge and when they checked me again: still at 1 cm. I tried to sleep, awaiting the time when I'd have gotten somewhere that looked like actual labor and woke up to bustling nurses around midnight.
Turns out that Caitlin was starting to go into distress, so they put me on oxygen. They watched for awhile and then the doctor showed up and said to me very kindly and gently that we needed to start thinking about a c-section. That Caitlin was in distress and that I was still at 1 cm and that it was almost 24 hours since my water had broken. It turns out that the hospital won't let you go past 24 hours after your water has broken because of the fear of infection. So, we were faced with a non-choice. I thought it was very nice that she made it sound like we had a decision to make, but we really didn't. I even asked, plaintively, "Are you sure?" as if there could be any doubt that Caitlin wasn't getting out in the normal fashion.
So they wheeled me out of my darkened room into the very bright hallway on the way to surgery, trailing a very tired Eric and Jenni behind me. Jenni was very excited to see a c-section up close since she was an EMT and because Max was turning out to be a Very Large Baby. (She would have a planned c-section in December as they expected Max to be around 9 lbs and she's only 5' tall. If she stretches.) Off we went. Things really started happening fast at this point. We were in the room, scrubbed and shaved and they turned up my epidural. They shoved really really hard on my stomach to see if I could feel it, but all I could feel was a distant pressure. I lay there, like a landed whale, arms spread out as if I were being crucified, while assorted monitors were clipped to my fingers and the blue sheet of You Really Don't Want To See This was draped across me, blocking the view of the horror that was about to unfold on my abdomen.
Jenni watched in fascination.
Then, zip! zip! zip! I heard the sound of newborn crying.
"It's a tape." I said to Eric who was gripping my free hand.
Jenni went into paparazzi mode with my camera and took fabulous pictures of all the things I couldn't see from behind the blue curtain. They called Eric over to cut the cord and Jenni came back to hold my hand. I desperately didn't want to be left alone, so there are no pictures of Eric cutting the cord. He returned a few minutes later with the freshed swaddled Caitlin, who had been poked, prodded, measured and scored by the nurses with purple gloves.
I'll never forget the look in his eyes. He was dazed, utterly stunned, as he stood there, exhausted, holding our newborn daughter. She was so tiny! She looked all red and frustrated with the craziness involved in getting born, but there she was: our baby.
The doctor's pronounced her healthy, hearty, hale, beautiful and a 9 on the Apgar test. She weighed in at 6 lbs 14 oz and 18.5 inches long.
Then they spent the next hour putting my insides back together. They massaged my uterus outside of my body so that it would start contracting and shrinking, reinserted it and sewed me back up properly. Then I was wheeled off to recovery. The next 48 hours were a blur of drugged exhaustion.
Blink. Attempting to get Caitlin to latch on to nurse.
Blink. Attempting to feed me water.
Blink. Taking my vitals. Taking Caitlin's vitals.
Blink. Visitors. Linda, my mother-in-law, had been there all night. She was in love with Caitlin at first sight. Doesn't appear to have worn off in the last 6 years any, either.
Blink. More drugs for itching and nausea.
Blink. Eric changes diapers for the first time.
Blink. Caitlin gets taken away for jaundice, Eric goes with her.
Time passed hazily. At one point, right as the drugs wore off, I was holding Caitlin in my arms trying to nurse when I felt this warm, heavy feeling settle onto my shoulders. This was the moment, I feel, that I fell in love with her.
And that hasn't changed in the last 6 years either.
Happy birthday, my little one! You are all I ever could have wished for.