Sunday, August 28, 2011

On my birthday - a birth story

I started writing this three nights ago, on my birthday eve. My own birthday eve got me to think about Ellie's and the story that followed.

And because I actually do enjoy reading other birth stories, let me recount the story of our Eleanor's birthday.

Backing up a couple of weeks, I was around 37 weeks pregnant when the doctor declared me ready to go "any day now." These three words raised the red flags like I couldn't believe - my dad was cancelling business trips, my mom couldn't eat or sleep and my poor husband was nervous every time he walked out the door that I'd explode and push out a baby before he got back. My big sis, living 3 hours south of us, came up for what was supposed to be a weekend trip on the afternoon of May 5th, but hearing the declaration of my impending "any day now" status, decided to stay. On the couch in our living room. The first couple days were fine - we filled them with nesting and cooking, pedicures and shopping. Towards the end of the week our enthusiasm for waiting started draining as I was getting fatter and itchier and generally so uncomfortable. By Sunday night, we were done. We looked up recipes for labor induction and found one for Eggplant Parmesan and another for spicy cookies. We made them both and followed the directions to the letter.

Sunday night I could not sleep and at 3am I was awake. Uncomfortable (and in hindsight, probably in early labor), I tossed and turned and tried not to wake up Peter to no avail. I was absolutely certain and convinced that my water would break before I got out of bed to start the day and while I lied there I waited. And waited. Eventually, the sky started lightening and the birds started chirping and my water was still fully in tact. At 6am our alarm went off and Peter got out of bed as usual, ready to start the day. And, sure enough, my intuition was correct. At 6:02 I felt a jerking sort of pop and seconds later the gush followed. By 7am, Peter, my sister and I were checking into the hospital and I was being examined by my doctor. Around 7:30 or so the family started trickling in and by 10 my mom, dad and aunt were in the room with us, waiting.

Certain parts of this day I recall with absolute certainty - others are a blur of sights and emotions. Going into labor, I knew I wanted to give a natural birth a shot. I believe in the female body and I believe in my own body. Not knowing how the day would progress, I wanted to be fully present in every way to witness the birth of my child, including fully feeling the whole experience. Further, I believe that mothers-to-be take so many precautions against anything that could potentially cause damage to their fetuses, staying away from even the smallest amount of alcohol, caffeine, pain killers, etc... yet, on this day, will accept painkilling serum pumped directly into their blood stream. For me, taking this risk seemed a lot scarier than simply dealing with the pain. Needless to say, this was my plan.

By noon, my early labor was starting to turn the corner and active labor was starting. My contractions had gotten progressively more painful to the point where, after my family had left to have lunch, I tearfully admitted to Peter that I was afraid of continuing with this pain. At the time I didn't know how much longer it would go on and was terrified. By 12:30, I had requested an epidural and was told it would be there in ten minutes. I gave instructions to keep my family out of the room until the pain was under control. I believe it was 1:15 when the epidural team finally came into the room (at that time, those 45 minutes waiting were the longest of my life). After sterilizing my back, the beepers of the anesthesiologists went off and out they ran to an emergency c-section, leaving me to continue laboring in pain. About twenty minutes later, another team of anesthesiologists arrived to finish the job.

To receive an epidural, the patient is supposed to be perfectly still. So I sat on the side of the hospital bed, in very active painful labor, while they attempted to administer the dang thing. And sat there, and sat there. I believe both doctors attempted at least 6 tries between the two of them before declaring that I must have scoliosis (news to me!) and that they couldn't get it. By far, sitting upright and still throughout this was the most painful and longest 45 minutes of my life - far, far worse than laboring and pushing was. The room was spinning and my world kept fading in and out of blackness. The pain was excruciating. During the whole day, this was the most difficult part, by far.

So the doctors left (to get another team of docs) and I was checked and declared to be about 7 centimeters. Two contractions later, I found my body spontaneously pushing and bearing down.They checked me again and I was complete and ready to go. At this point, I was clearly going to get the natural birth I had originally wanted, and truthfully I was so ready for the whole thing to be over that I was fine with that. The rest of the labor was a blur. Someone went to get my sister, who held one leg while Peter held the other. My family had been waiting for several hours (since noon, it was now about 2:45) without any word of what was happening in the room. My doctor arrived along with a neonatal team to inspect the baby (who had passed meconium in the amniotic fluid). I pushed hard for about 45 minutes (the most physically taxing thing I have ever, ever done) and finally, through the pain, at 3:38 (or was it 3:36??) a body emerged screaming. I remember someone (a nurse?) telling Peter to look down and declare the gender, as we hadn't found out yet. Poor Peter, so overwhelmed by the experience, missed the chance when I looked down and exclaimed that our little baby was in fact, a baby girl. 

The flood of emotions was absolutely indescribable. Relief, pride, joy, more relief, disbelief, pain. I don't remember when she was handed to me, but I do remember seeing my sister's face wet with tears, my husband's eyes brimming, my own overwhelming feelings and absolute, total, all-encompassing exhilaration for the living, breathing, baby girl all of our own placed in my arms. Her eyes locked into mine. Her face was absolutely perfect. We had lived for 40 weeks wondering who would arrive on this day, so to experience a culmination like this, in the form of a perfect baby girl, was the highest moment of my life.

The rest of the day was bliss. Family in and out. Feeding her for the first time. Extreme exhaustion. Hunger like I've never experienced. The purest love I've ever felt. And the sweetest, cutest baby in the world, who absolutely transformed my life.

Welcome Eleanor! The gang's all here!


  1. I get goosebumps reading this story all over again! What a day! Good retelling, Sweetie. I love you!

  2. That's a gorgeous picture of you holding Ellie in your hospital bed. You look like a prom queen with an up-do. How can anyone look that beautiful just minutes after delivering a baby?