It’s “Birth Story Week” here. AKA if we don’t get it down in writing, we’ll probably forget it eventually. We have five births to document, and we’ll be going in order of when they occurred.
I’m hesitant to use the word “emergency” in front of c-section when I sum up the story of Julian’s birth. While the surgery was not planned in advance, I had several hours of warning from my doctor that if things didn’t progress, I would need to prepare myself for a c-section.
To back up a bit, everything had gone as expected, though a bit late. Twelve days after my due date, I was still sitting on the couch every night like an inflated balloon, wondering if the start of labor would be like a pop or a slow leak. Every time the phone rang, I thought it was the baby — or at least someone in the know — calling to tell us when this party would get started.
That night, shortly after I laid down in bed in my favorite enormous sweatpants, I got my answer. With a distinct click, my water broke and leaked all over my beloved lounge wear. I hopped in the shower, knowing people would be all up in my junk for the next day, and that my time was precious. Within ten minutes, contractions started with intensity.
Whoever says that labor contractions are “uncomfortable”, not painful, is really misguided. And lying. Real contractions are excruciating and mind-numbing. I felt out of my body. I thought that I might not survive. The short car ride to the hospital was miserable and if anyone had suggested I use a word other than pain, I might have bit them, without remorse.
The bright side was that my contractions were so close together, about three minutes apart from the get-go, I knew my body must be doing it’s work. I believed that the torture would be over soon. I went into this experience with a “maybe” next to epidural, but in the car, I told my husband I was already down with the epidural as soon as he could make that happen. And when could he fucking make that happen?
The next ten hours were textbook labor. I was comforted by the medication coursing through my nervous system and my cervix seemed to be progressing by a centimeter every time they checked me. My husband half-slept on the couch for a few hours until the sun came up. I was mildly uncomfortable, but no longer wretching. Surely I’d be ready to push by breakfast time.
When the nurse called my dilation “nine and a half centimeters”, however, time began to stand still. The heart rate monitor on the baby showed that he or she was experiencing stress with every contraction, yet I wasn’t getting any closer to ten. Hours were passing without progress. They invited me to have a C-Section, and I declined. “Can I have another hour, please?” I asked.
I had been coached that it was my birth and I was the boss. No one should talk you into a c-section because you’re taking too long.
But apparently taking too long is not good for the baby. Late that afternoon, they told me it was not good for the baby to endure this stress and I should consent to the surgery. My cervix was completely dilated on one side, but there was a tiny bit remaining on the other side, and I felt no urge to push. The baby was sunny side-up and a bit diagonal and was simply not able to descend any further. I signed the forms.
Everyone started acting all Emergency Mode at this moment and I was whisked into the O.R. before I could say anything else, such as “I want my mommy.” My husband was prepped and the anesthesiologist started his work. He administered a spinal block and they began tapping on my abdomen.
“I feel that!” I warned them.
Another spinal block was given, but I still sensed the doctor’s touches. I felt like a beached sea lion on the table: naked, heavy, and unable to move my legs due to the epidural I’d been nursing all day. Finally, the anesthesiologist gave a another, stronger epidural and I pronounced that I felt nothing. Now I couldn’t move my arms either. It was like being in outer space.
My mind was so alert and excited to see this baby who was emerging in less than five minutes, they promised me, while my body seemed to no longer exist. My husband stood next to my head, which was the right place to be, because as far as I knew, I was now headless. He was probably trying not to vomit and pee in his pants at the same time.
When the perfect, crying baby was held up above the sheet that separated my head from my listless body, I heard the female voice of a nurse announce, “It’s a boy!” I cried with relief and hoped that someone would reattach my body to my head now.
Later I learned that the high-pitched exclamation of the baby’s gender actually came from my husband’s mouth. I guess that I never before heard him speak while crying.
We named our son Julian on the spot, as we had planned in advance. And the rest is history.
Or perhaps the rest is his story.