Thursday, March 19, 2015

Labor of Love

My birth plan was pretty simple. 

Drugs. I wanted all the drugs. 

During nine months of pregnancy, I took exactly zero child birth classes. I read no books nor blog posts about labor and delivery. I basically entirely ignored the fact that I would eventually be an active party in getting my daughter's body out of my own. I truly figured I would go to the hospital the instant my water broke, immediately ask for the biggest epidural on the menu, spend a few hours unable to feel anything below the waist, and welcome my daughter into the world in a blissfully loopy state. 

My child, however, had other plans. 

It was an hour before the coin toss on Super Bowl Sunday, and I just Off enough to warrant a call to my doctor, who suggested I swing by his office. He assured me it likely was nothing, and I'd be home by kick off. That “nothing” turned out to be the very earliest possible signs of labor, which meant I wasn’t going anywhere. I sent Justin home to get some rest, anticipating he'd need it for what was sure to be a long next day. Mum came in and sat with me and we spent the next 12 hours gossiping and laughing in a seriously slap happy state when we really probably should have been sleeping.

Around 5 a.m., my water broke. Two hours of manageable discomfort after that, I opted to get my birth plan under way and requested many drugs. Just as the anesthesiologist started sliding that needle into my back, Justin, a.k.a. "Mr. I Generally Hate All Things Hospital-Related," came strolling through the door. I couldn't move, but managed to croak out a, "Leave. Now!" before he saw some things he couldn't unsee.

By the end of it, the sight of that needle piercing my spine wouldn't have even made the top 10 list of terrifying things he saw that day.

For the longest time, I stayed at just a few centimeters but finally, around 7 p.m., Doc announced it was time to push. I'd been napping most of the day, and the epidural was doing its job nicely, so I was ready to do the damn thing. Mum grabbed one leg, the nurse grabbed the other, Justin grabbed my head and I pushed and pushed and pushed and....


Turned out that while I thought I was really throwing myself into this whole pushing business, the epidural had made my body so comfortable, it wasn't really interested in listening to any demands. So while my brain was thinking, "I'm pushing really hard!" my body was on a beach in Mexico sipping a margarita with its phone off.

The only solution, Doc explained, was to back off on the drugs.

"OK, let's try it," I remember saying.

Every memory from that point on only comes to me in the form of PTSD-like flashback. I remember waves of pressure, as though my guts were trying to turn themselves inside out. I remember agony, like a vice around my midsection, pulling tighter and tighter until even drawing breath became sheer torture. I remember making noises usually reserved for wild animals.

Turned out "back off on the drugs" meant pulling my epidural entirely. So the chick whose only birth plan was "Be Numb" ended up having a natural, drug-free child birth and delivering a 9 pound, 4 ounce baby who was in no rush whatsoever to enter into this world.

This is what I looked like when we checked into the hospital:

This is what I looked like after the birth:

I can honestly say I lost all sense of myself. The pain made me so crazy, I couldn't think. I just remember looking at Justin, who was doing all he could to help while memorizing the wallpaper pattern on the wall behind my bed rather than look at anything happening south of my waist.

"I can't do this," I said to him again and again.

"You can," he'd say. "I know you can."

I loved him for trying to help, but I couldn't believe him. I told the doctors as much over and over again and begged for a C-section.

"We're so far past that point," one doctor said. "But you can do this! I know you can!"

At this point, I gathered every ounce of strength I had, sat up and made eye contact with him.

"Listen to me," I said as calmly as I could. "When I tell you I can't do this, I mean it. I'm not being dramatic. I don't need a pep talk. I'm telling you my body is not capable of this. I'm going to die. I know it. This is what dying feels like. I. Can't. Do. This."

Everyone went silent for a moment. Then another contraction wrenched me back into the world of pain, and another doctor said, "Just a few more pushes!"


But he was right. A few pushes later, her head popped out. I heard a doctor start to say her shoulders were stuck. That was unacceptable.

"GET HER OUT OF ME!!!!" I screeched, and praise God, he did.

He placed her tiny body on my chest and I pawed at my sweat-soaked gown, now bunched up in a ball around my neck, so I could get a look at her. I was just able to register the feel of her warm body against my own when the doctors scooped her up and took her to be weighed. I watched as Justin studied her, then stepped back and announced her name: Libby Renee. 

When I finally could hold her again, I remember having this feeling of, "Oh, right, there you are." It was as if I'd been waiting for her my whole life to meet her, and now she was finally here.

That being said, I will never, ever forget how awful that pain was. I know many women who have said they instantly forgot all about the labor the instant they saw their babies. Eff that. I love my daughter more than I could ever imagine, but I will think long and hard about giving her a sibling without expressed permission from my doctor ahead of time to get an elective C-section, if that even is such a thing. Or maybe I can get him to sign some kind of contract promising to never utter the words "back off on the drugs" in my presence ever again.

People have asked me if it was worth it, and of course, the answer is yes. I mean, look at this face:

She's amazing and capable of making me feel happier than I'd ever imagined.

Then again, so was the epidural. 

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