Jordan and I went to see Spiderman 3 on May 28, 2007. I was having contractions, but they didn’t amount to anything. Suzi was a week late. We were staying at my parents’ house, and every night I hoped we’d be going to the hospital before morning. At about 2:00 am on the 29th, I woke up with contractions and they kept coming. I woke
Around 2:00 pm Jordan and my parents wanted to go to the hospital. Since it was half an hour away and I didn’t want to be in severe pain in our little Corolla, I agreed to go. Everything was still so casual when we arrived that I went to tell my friends at work. Then I saw my doctor and he said I was dilated to 3-4 and he would admit me. I figured I could walk the halls while I waited since the contractions weren’t that bad.
When we got up to the room, they immediately made me change into the ugly hospital gown, so leaving the room was not an option. I gave them my birth plan, which I had carefully typed up weeks in advance, and they informed me the doctor would be up shortly to break my water. I don’t know why he didn’t mention this when we were in his office. They said the contractions “weren’t strong enough.” When your water doesn’t break on its own (as in at home) they use a long instrument resembling a crochet hook to do it for you and it speeds labor up.
The nurses wanted to start IV fluids, but I didn’t. I told them I wanted to try for a natural birth and would not need an IV; it would be much easier without a bunch of needles hanging off me. When I said the word “natural” they looked at me like I had three heads, but agreed to wait. We waited and the contractions became worse. I had visitors in and out for a few hours and eventually had to stop talking during the contractions, pick something across the room to concentrate on and breathe through them.
Around nightfall things got ugly. With every contraction, my lower back felt like it had a truck parked on it.
At this point I wanted an epidural bad. The anesthesiologist was still available and I only had to wait about 20 minutes. They put in the IV I had tried to avoid and, after reading me a long disclaimer and having me sign a form, finally put the epidural in. It was amazing. My agonizing back pain melted away in seconds and I felt so good my mom dared to snap this picture of me:
We had to wait several hours for Suzi to descend further, and then it was time to push. The staff began setting up the things they’d need. They took away the lower half of the bed and at my request a mirror was brought in. I looked at the clock and it seemed Suzi would be born on May 29th, a Tuesday. The epidural had seemed like a good idea until my first push. I couldn’t feel what I was doing and had to ask if I was pushing hard enough. At this point we let the epidural wear off. Since I couldn’t feel the contractions, they had to tell me when to push. I started to fall asleep between contractions. I would close my eyes and when I opened them everyone was still gathered around waiting. When Suzi’s head got close enough, one of the nurses looked and told me she had long black hair and I was so happy.
I kept watching the clock and it became more and more obvious that Suzi was going to be born on Wednesday the 30th. Eventually the doctor decided we should try for a vacuum delivery, in which they stick a device that looks like a shower head onto the baby’s head and pull while the mother pushes to get the baby out. He tried several times (I lost count) but it didn’t work because Suzi’s head was too hairy and the vacuum wouldn’t stick. A resident who was assisting said, “We may have to shave that baby’s head.” I didn’t realize she was joking and yelled “NO!” I didn’t want to picture my beautiful baby girl with a reverse mohawk. I worried that after all that work the birth would end in a c-section.
Finally, at 1:13 am on May 30th, I pushed as hard as I could and felt Suzi slide out and all my organs begin shifting back into place. She didn’t cry right away, so I asked if she was okay and after a second she answered. She cried and I noticed how sweet and girly her voice was. They laid her on my chest. She was all white and flailing her tiny arms and legs. Even though she had been with me for ten months, I had seen her in three ultrasounds, and had felt her kicking, it finally became real as I felt her warm, damp body against me. It was my favorite moment of my whole life.
What would have happened if I had stayed home longer and not had my water broken? Would the fluid have cushioned my contractions and allowed me to have Suzi naturally? Could a doula have helped me manage my pain and avoid an epidural? I am glad I didn’t have a c-section, because I may have my next child in a birth center (for several reasons). Many people say everyone leaves with the same prize: a baby, and they don’t hand out trophies on the way out of the delivery room. They don’t get it, do they? What’s at stake is worth more than a trophy. It’s your birth story, the first chapter in your life as a parent. You get to write it, you only get one chance, and you can never change it. Next time I’m going to defend my adventure.