Somewhere around 2am on August 7, 2005, my water broke. My husband and I had just had our final round of pregnancy sex. When I got up to go to the bathroom, I felt a small pop, and then a stream of warm liquid. It was much more then a trickle, but not the gush I was expecting. I went to the bathroom to see what was going on. I cleaned myself up a bit and then went to tell Jim and call the doctor for advice. I never expected my water to break first.
When the ob called me back, she asked about my contractions – which were maybe 10-12 minutes apart - and pretty mild looking back on things. She suggested I try to get some sleep as I’d need my energy later. Of course I felt too excited to sleep, but I did lay down for a while. It was about 3:30 am.
I must have dozed off, because the sun was up when I got out of bed. I took a shower and got dressed. My contractions had slowed down by then and I was getting antsy. I went to the kitchen and started to make the birthday cake for our son who I hoped would be joining us very soon. I had read about a birth-day cake in a book called Birthing from Within and it struck me as a really nice tradition to start for my family. My husband looked at me like I was a little wacky, maybe he thought I was kidding when I first mentioned it a few weeks prior. Either way, it took my mind off of the anticipation of the next contraction.
Throughout the day, I paced around the house, watched tv, sat on the birthing ball. I thought about going outside, but really didn’t want to while amniotic fluid was leaking out of me. Looking back on things, I’m sure it would have been fine. Everything seems much more dramatic while you’re actually in labor. (Add that to the list of things people should tell you about child birth…) Of course, without a strenuous walk, my contractions were not progressing.
While my husband watched what seemed to be endless amounts of Dave Chappelle, I started to loose it. I was becoming very cranky. I can’t remember if I ate anything, though I’m sure I must have. I drank water, juice, and tea. I packed and repacked my hospital bag and tried to read. The day just seems like a big blur now.
By the evening, my contractions were still not progressing. As we approached almost a full day with no end in sight, I was starting to get nervous. The doctor reassured me it was fine and that I could safely wait out the night to see what would happen. But I had already begun to worry about the possibility of infection and something happening to my little boy. (Towards the end of my pregnancy, I had fallen on the stairs of our apartment building and had also been in a near-collision, so I was having awful flashes of dread from time to time.)
I couldn’t wait any longer. I called the doctor and told her that I wanted to go to the hospital. I think my contractions were between 5-8 minutes apart. She was willing to try to jumpstart my labor, so my husband and I met her there about an hour later.
We took a taxi into the city to drop off the dog with our cousins and then headed off to the hospital.
My choice to be induced meant that I could not use the birthing center at the hospital, which I knew would be the case ahead of time. In that moment, I was ok with it. My patience was gone. I just wanted the baby to be born. By the time I was hooked up to the IV, my contractions actually started to get stronger. After another hour, I was still only 1 cm dilated. Twenty-four hours of labor, and practically nothing to show for it. Still, I sat on the birthing ball, said mantras between contractions, and waited. And waited. After a while longer, the doctor suggested I try to get some sleep. Man, was I tired. When she suggested an epidural so I could actually sleep, I considered it. And where was my husband when I obviously not thinking clearly – sleeping. I was too tired to be angry and just said yes. And that was my big mistake.
If you’ve never had an epidural, spinal tap, block, etc… don’t. I’m sure others may say they’ve had less harrowing experiences than I did, but don’t believe them. The various, sadistic attempts at getting the needle positioned in my spine were way more painful than pushing my son out of my body. It was obvious to everyone that the resident did not know what he was doing. When the doctor inserted a catheter into me, I nearly jumped off the table. The incorrectly positioned epidural was not having any effect on me.
That was it. I became a sobbing, hysterical mess. I was begging the doctor to just get the baby out of me. It was so bad that she actually asked my husband if I needed a sedative. Ugh. The only thing that calmed me down was a nurse who told me that I was depriving my child of oxygen by crying so much. Who knows if she was lying or not, but the thought of my actions harming my baby was enough motivation for me to regain composure. And then it happened – my contractions kicked in full force.
With terrifying intensity, I went from barely dilated to ready to push in the span of 45 minutes.
All the while, the nurses were insisting that the epidural was working and I was just feeling pressure. Why doesn’t anyone tell you that pressure is code for some of the worst pain you’ll ever experience? Or that you don’t really have to take a shit – that feeing is just the baby making it’s way out? All very important pieces of information. I’ll know for the next time.
It was around 4 am and my baby boy was ready to be born. The burning was so intense, but I was exhilarated. I was now in the zone. Determined not to tear, I controlled my pushing at the doctor’s direction. She was equally as committed as I to avoiding an episiotomy. And it paid off.
At 4:37 am, my sweet Diego was born. I have never felt so much joy as in those moments just before and right after he came out. My life was forever altered by this strange, squiggly, slimy new person lying on my breast. At that moment, I realized the true possibility of unconditional love. I thank my son everyday for the wonderful gift his birth has been to me.
Diego is now three years old. It has taken me this long to be able to write his birth story. I was filled with mixed emotions about the actual process of giving birth – my hospital experience, how I did not stick to my original plan. It is only in the past few months that I have been able to let some of that go.
Earlier this year, I had a miscarriage that has put many things into perspective. I may not have had the birth I wanted, but I ended up with something so much better. As I write this, Diego has just spent his first night in a big-boy bed and is learning to use the potty. Soon he’ll be all grown up. I am acutely aware that I want to savor each moment I have with him through each stage of his life. He is my light. I can’t imagine my life with out this incredible, little person, for whom I have boundless amounts of love – Diego Francisco – born 8.08.2005.