A year ago tonight, I was at the hospital, preparing to give birth to my son.
When we got there, my husband had to turn around and go back home because he forgot the camera. I remember that distinctly because, after nearly 12 hours of contractions, I was pretty irritable and annoyed. I told Kathy (my midwife), “That was his only job…to remember the camera. I have to do all this hard work, and all he had to do was remember the camera!”
My labor with DJ was the most intense and painful one that I’ve experienced. When we made the decision to go to the hospital, around 8 P.M., I’d been in labor for 10 hours and yet I was making very little progress, so my doctor broke my water shortly after we arrived. The contractions intensified, and soon they were coming back to back, strong and forceful, and difficult to bear, and yet I was not dilating. At only 6 cm, Kathy said the contraction pattern was what she typically sees during transition.
My body was working very hard, and I was quickly growing tired. When I was offered an epidural, Kathy said, “I think you should consider getting the epidural, because I’m worried that you’re going to become exhausted.” I took her advice, but the epidural only seemed to relieve pain on one side of my body. 5 hours after arriving at the hospital, I was finally dilated completely, and I was so relieved when they gave me the go ahead to push. I pushed and pushed, for what seemed like a million years, and I cried because I was in so much pain, and yet DJ didn’t move down. I kept asking the nurse, who was measuring the progress of his head, “Has he moved? Has he moved down?” and every time she would answer, “No. Not yet, honey. But you’re doing great!”
But….I wasn’t. I was exhausted and terrified. I remember turning to my husband and begging him to help me, and I’ll never forget the tearful, solemn look he gave me, because there was nothing he could do. He squeezed my hand tightly, and bowed his head to pray.
Finally, the nurse sent for my doctor, and when he walked in, I said, “Doctor, please! You’ve got to help me!” He looked thoughtful, and replied, “Well, I know you wanted a vaginal birth, and you can keep trying if you want, but if you were my daughter, I’d be sending you for a c-section.” (I’ve since learned that this doctor-speak is pretty much standard protocol in these situations).
We quickly agreed because after nearly two hours of pushing, DJ was still stuck at zero station.
I remember almost nothing after that, except for the glare of the overhead lights as I was rushed down the hall to the operating room. I remember a lot of people bustling around, and a woman announcing my name, followed by “failure to progress.” But as soon as I was given anesthesia, I pretty much passed out from pain and exhaustion. But I do remember when DJ came into the world, because of the reaction in the operating room.
When they called out his weight -“12 – 6!” – I thought that I misunderstood. I figured that I must be delirious from the anesthesia, because surely babies didn’t come that big. Right?
And then they took him away. I vaguely remember someone explaining to me that he needed to go to the NICU, and the next thing I knew I awoke, shivering violently, with a nurse stationed on either side of me. I managed to tell them, in between teeth chattering, that I was freezing, so they bundled me up and piped warm air under the blankets. I asked for my husband, and they told me he was with the baby, but they would send for him. I must have dozed off again, because the next thing I remember is his sweet, handsome face peeking at me under the blanket they had draped around my head. “Hi there,” he said, and smiled.
The rest of that day, I remember nothing but tears. I just cried, and cried, and cried.
I cried for my baby, alone in the NICU. I didn’t even get to hold him.
I cried because I thought I had failed everyone…DJ, my husband, myself.
I cried for the loss of my dream, for the perfect, peaceful home birth that didn’t happen.
I cried out of fear for what the future held.
I cried because of the pain, the gash in my abdomen, the staples holding it together, the agony of coughing or sneezing. Such simple things made so very difficult.
But the next day…. the next day was better.
First of all, I could breathe again. After more than a month of coughing, wheezing, and excruciating pain in my ribcage, I could once again take a deep breath, and eat a full meal, and sleep for more than an hour at a time. I realized how much I took these basics for granted until I couldn’t do them anymore.
My nurses were loving, supportive, and reassuring, and Kathy was more than a midwife to me. She was, and is, a friend. I was blessed to have her gentle care and wisdom throughout my pregnancy.
I got to see my baby boy. The first time I held him (though he was technically over the 10-pound weight limit after a c-section), I studied his face, trying to figure out who he looked like. I settled on Dom Deluise.
My girls came to see me, and I was enormously cheered by their obvious adoration of their baby brother.
My husband was by my side all the time, and his constant presence was a great comfort to me. I was touched by his love for his newborn son.
He was so proud of his big baby boy. He couldn’t wait to tell people how much he weighed.
When I finally stopped bawling, I was able to appreciate the amusing additions made to the whiteboard in my room by my husband and Bee.
(My husband makes reference to my dead-on impression of Margie from the movie “Fargo” which, incidentally, does not take place in Wisconsin (???), my Janice from “Friends” impression, and my penchant for speaking with a bad British accent because I think it sounds cool).
Friends and family called, and came to visit, and sent gifts, and you, my blog readers, responded to my announcement of DJ’s birth with an outpouring of love, support, encouragement, and clothes! Shortly after we arrived home, boxes started arriving in the mail, full of clothes – both new and handed down – (and ALL much appreciated), blankets, a gorgeous, handmade quilt, toys, binkies, diapers, picture frames. We were so blessed by your generosity, and I responded to it with – of course – tears!
The first few weeks at home with DJ were a little bit rough, as I recovered from surgery and adjusted to life with three children. But this first year with him has really been a joy, and a blessing. He is so funny,