Child birth is often touted as the most pain a person can experience and I can’t say that I disagree. I can say that it is a fortunate thing the body has no capacity to remember that pain. I remember it happened and that it was excruciating but I cannot call back the exact nature of the pain and that is FINE with me!
I went into labor early Friday morning April 27th. My sister is an amazing Photo Journalist and she was there to document the whole thing. I had contemplated a home brith, but given that the nearest hospital is almost a hour away I opted for a hospital birth. On my mom’s side the past 9 births over two generations have all resulted in C-sections, most of the emergency type. For my own birth; my parents and aunt went to the hospital and were told to go home. Upon their return, almost a day later the nurse couldn’t find my heartbeat. They had to give my mom general anesthesia to get me out. With my sister, our mom had another emergency C-section but this time only got local anesthetic. Again, after 22 hours of labor. I decided an hour is too far to go if there are complications. I am glad I made that decision.
At my scheduled Dr. appointment the day before I was 3 cm dilated but other than that not really bothered by my condition.
I had gone to bed with cramps and a feeling different than the now familiar sensations of pregnancy.
The dogs knew something was different even though I was still in denial.
My husband just made fun of me, par for the course in that regard.
When I woke up early the next morning, it was a whole new ball game. Ry had to leave for work before 6 am and my mom was on a red eye from California set to arrive around 11am in Maine. By 7 am I could honestly call the sensations contractions though they were not that bad, yet. When my mom walked through the door 4 hours later I was ready to get to the hospital. May poor mother had to get right back in the car, she was such a trooper!
On the way to the hospital the contractions had gotten so bad that I was unable to talk through them. All I could do was breath as they came at ever shortening intervals. Halfway to the hospital I had a revelation as the timing closed to 3 minutes. Hesitantly, I asked my mom “are these going to continue to get closer and closer together till there is no time between them?!”
The look she gave me said it all. This was not going to be a good time.
Apparently, there was a birth cluster and when we got to the birthing center all the delivery rooms down the hall were occupied so we settled into what would become our recovery room.
Since I was only 4 cm dilated they said I could go home if I wanted but knowing we lived an hour from the hospital and that I have a family history of complicated pregnancies, we politely refused. I had no desire to go away from the fetal heart monitor. I liked being able to see she was ok. We all did.
We started taking walks down the hall to help dilation along.
I WAS NOT A FAN of these walks. At this point moving at all brought on fresh contractions and the process of getting up and out of bed was my new least favorite thing.
My husband (though correct) was relentless about this.
Ry: “I know you don’t want to Babe, but you got to get up and walk.”
Em: “How about YOU go take a walk! You like them so much. Ow.”
(Every sentence of was ended in ‘Ow’ by this point).
After 5 hours of watching me labor in the halls and the suite my mom had had enough and asked that I be taken to one of the delivery rooms.
In keeping with my family history of difficult labors I was only 5 cm dilated about 12 hours in. Each new wave of contractions was becoming more than I could take. I was offered the Jacuzzi tub and I accepted in a fetal heart beat. It helped a little bit but, there really is nothing that compares to the pain of contractions. They are indescribably shitty.
It was no walk in the park for my support team. Ry and my mom had both been awake for a very long time and I had lost all my humor; rendering the whole clan devoid of a coping mechanism. All they could do was watch me writhe in pain. I made them order food for dinner and they ate it in guilty silence- since I was not allowed to eat.
The nurse we had was amazing! The Dr. was busy with emergencies and so she was the one who checked how dilated I was at about 8:30pm that night and said I was still only 7 cm.
At this point I had been in all encompassing black fugues of contractions for almost 10 hours and I knew that if it continued at this rate I was not going to be able to push when the time came. I can see how people die in labor, how you could just give up. Thanks to modern medicine I had a choice. I took it. It would have been one thing if I knew how much longer I had of the unmitigated pain but fearing I was not close to pushing, I made the call to get an epidural. I was about three contractions away from breaking the hospital bed rail.
It took a while for them to get set up for the epidural as I had hoped to avoid it. This meant I still had to wait while they gave me fluids through the IV and got everything else ready. For me, it could not come soon enough. If I never have another contraction again, it will be too soon. At around 9 pm relief came in the form of an anesthesiologist. He stabbed a huge needle into my spine and instantly become my favorite person ever!
Labor was full of weird moments.
After the that, everything was better. I could still feel the contractions but I could also relax between them instead of bracing for the next one. The day came to a close I encouraged everyone to try and sleep and as midnight approached it seemed apparent that PJ would be born on her due date. (Just like the boys had been telling her to do for months.)
My husband gave the cot to my sister and mom, while he tried to sleep between two chairs, not comfortable. It took about 5 hours after the epidural before I was ready to push.
A little while into pushing I stopped hearing Ry coach and I looked over to see him sleeping. We all thought this was pretty funny and he had been up for a LONG time! The nurse coached, my mom and sister held my legs and counted for me. After an hour of pushing I requested my sister count in foreign languages but with a Hugh Jackman accent.
She did pretty well.
Having regained my sense of humor; I spent my time telling one of the support crew to kick the others based on whoever had made the worst joke. It was a good time, all things considered. An hour later, Ry was back by my side and my sister was in full on photo mode.
Things got scary at the end.
I was three hours into pushing and while we were making progress her heart rate started dipping with each contraction. The Dr. finally entered the room and things got serious. She was not making any more progress even though I was pushing with all I had left. The Dr. got ready to “help her out.” A second and much more ominous nurse appeared in the room and brought with her a tray full of covered items.
The Dr. and Ry were awesome at being calm and encouraging, though they were both bracing for what might might have to come after the next few pushes. The Dr. said something about numbing me more for the next “step.” That step was to cut my perineum. Like the epidural it was something I wanted to avoid and would not.
For me, this was the most salient point of becoming someone’s mother. Some people describe “falling in love instantly” with their new born baby but for me, the duty to protect her was the most overwhelming feeling in those moments. All that mattered was her health and the prospect of her being on the verge of harm was to be avoided at all costs.
I had not even seen her face yet but all I could think was “cut me! GET HER OUT!” Never in my life did I think I could so flippantly endorse such a thing. Thank god for anesthetic! I could feel a sharp pressure as the Dr. made the cut and two pushes later we had a head. Ry and the Dr. quickly saw why she had stopped progressing, the cord was wrapped around her head and armpit holding her back.
The Dr. deftly freed her and a few pushes later her shoulders broke free and she was out! He handed her to me and I could hardly believe she was finally here.
We had done it!
Tears came then to all of us.
I was so worried she was ok, as she didn’t wail and only fussed mildly. Everyone assured me she was fine and healthy.
It was surreal to met this person I had been sharing a body with for most of a year. The room was becoming more calm, the scary tray of instruments and the second nurse disappeared. The Dr. was busy stitching me back together and I was holding my daughter for the first time.
The most overwhelming feeling for me was fear. I was so scared and focused on making sure I took care of such a little being.
I got her to nurse within the first ten minutes though I had little to offer her, she took right to it and I felt a little bit better. They asked to take her so they could measure and weigh her and we parted for the first time. She only went across the room; Daddy, Meemaw and Auntie went with.
She weighed in at 6lb even and 20 inches long. Since she was right on the cusp of being too small they had to do glucose testing on her every three hours for the first day of her life. This meant she got stabbed in the heal over 9 times on her birthday.
Poor little thing! Welcome to the world.
With her back in my arms; I read the room. I saw some very tired family members, all falling asleep on their feet, with smiles on their faces. It was a little past 6 am and I told everyone they could go home and rest, I was going to have plenty of help and I felt bad everyone had had such a long night. They protested weakly but all agreed sleep would be good.
Ry had to leave in a few hours to get the boys from down south so he needed a nap more than everyone else. A father’s work is never done. I was reminded how much he does for this family and now we had added to his long list of obligations.
They all left at the same time as the shift change in the nurses and I realized that PJ and I were on our own.
Just her and me.
I was still attached to any number of needles and tubes and so I set to work nursing her and marveling at her form.
The most overwhelming feeling was still fear. She was so small. But I could tell she was strong and the Dr. said she was healthy so I relaxed a little more. It kind of boggled my mind that all of a sudden I was alone with this little creature. They just assume because I managed to push her out that I would then know what to do with her. We both regarded one another for some time, coming to terms with our new ‘outside’ configuration.
The new nurses came in and helped my to my room. I ordered breakfast and was even able to eat some of it. As the pain medication wore off I was in a whole new world of agony, another special on the pain buffet. Sitting forward was excruciating and I don’t even want to talk about using the bathroom and GOD help me if I had to cough! It was nothing compared to the contractions of the day before and so I was just grateful that we had gotten through labor and delivery. We were both healthy, the only thing for the discomfort was time and breath.
My mom and sister came back and I was able to sleep for the first time in over 30 hours. I woke to the hushed voices of the boys cooing over her and my sister snapping photos. It was lovely to have everyone in the same room for the first time.
To say the boys dote on her would be an understatement. She is very lucky to have them, as am I. They refused to leave us at the hospital and so we all slept in that little room, they woke early the next day when she did and we celebrated her 1st full day of life together. They stayed with us all that day. Not leaving the room unless it was to make toast down the hall. They both declared it was “the best hotel EVER!” I think the unlimited room service and small kitchen down the hall sealed that deal. They really are awesome, always able to make the best out of things. The oldest beat me to changing diapers before I could I tell him he didn’t have to.
What a wild ride!
We have our little Persephone Jade Forrest. PJ for short, or sephy, or carnitas. ( A long story and this one is already long enough.) I am endlessly grateful for the overwhelming support we received from everyone, it has been humbling to have so many people care.
It is astonishing that in just a week this:
Turned into this:
Nine months in the making, a few moments of terror and now we have a whole new member of the family. It really is a miracle, one of those things that happens every day and it is easy to take for granted. I can’t believe the pregnancy chapter is over, I am so happy to have her home. There is a lot of adjusting to do on the homestead this year. We will hope she brings us good luck and bountiful harvest.
Be well and thank you for reading!