I’ve tried to write Scout’s birth story a few times. Each time, I sit down, I start to type, and I get weepy. I can’t believe that she is already pushing a month old. Four weeks ago, I had never seen her perfect face, and now, I can’t remember how I went nearly thirty-six years without it.
I’ll tell ya, though, there ain’t nothing like a 24-hour labor to make you question every life decision you’ve ever made.
I spent that Thursday morning (January 9th — also my due date!) bouncing and wiggling on my exercise ball. We took my forty-week picture, and I remember wondering to myself whether she’d come without being induced. I had an appointment scheduled for the following day (Friday, January 10). My doctor told me at a previous appointment that she wouldn’t let me go to forty-one weeks (like she would with non-geriatric patients), so if nothing had happened by Friday, we’d set an induction date (most likely, coming in on that Sunday evening). If you’ll recall, my birth plan post stated that I didn’t want to be induced if I could avoid it, so I decided to spend all of Thursday running through the old wives’ list of natural labor inducers.
After Dale took my forty-week picture, I started on my ball and doing some basic yoga poses and stretching, and then I drank my red raspberry leaf tea. I had a little coffee that morning, but hadn’t been super hungry, so I had a snack and decided to wait to eat. Around 1:00, I gave Dale the look — you know the one … the look … and if you know what is supposed to naturally induce labor, you’ll put two and two together — and as I was standing in the hallway between the living room and our bedroom, I felt a trickle.
Now, I’d had a few trickles prior to this, but they had been trickles I was able to write off as either run-of-the-mill pregnancy goo (TMI? don’t care) or a small accident. Try though I might to categorize it as one of those two, this was not one of those trickles. I stopped in my tracks. Literally froze. Dale, who had gotten in the habit of asking me if my water broke every time I made a weird move, asked me if my water broke. To his surprise, I said, “I think so.”
I looked at my watch immediately. 1:04pm. I don’t know why I thought to check, but I was happy I did — I think I was asked twenty times over the next 24 hours.
I think we were both a little stunned. We knew this moment would come, but I’ll be damned if I still felt totally unprepared for it.
We decided to run up to the hospital to check it out, but to not make a big fuss about it until we knew it was actually the time. I texted my parents and sister to let them know what we were doing, but that I very likely peed my pants and would have nothing further to report. Dale showered and put our bags in the car, I made us two protein shakes for lunch (we hadn’t eaten, remember), and about an hour after it happened, we left for the hospital, which is about five minutes from our house.
I know I was quiet in the car. I think the gravity of the moment was setting in: I spent almost a year of my life as an incubator, helping to grow this tiny little life, about whom I knew absolutely nothing, and now, I might be on the verge of actually meeting him/her. It was overwhelming. We may only live five minutes from the hospital, but a lot of introspection happened in that five minutes. I spent what seemed like an eternity wondering what kind of mother I would be; would I be any good at this. I’ve spend my entire life just taking care of myself, and that has lead to an accidental bout of selfishness. Would I miss only needing to look out for myself?
I was even more quiet walking in to the emergency room entrance. With every step, I was reminded that it was happening (well, maybe — see above). We decided to leave the bags in the car until we were told that it was go time (I had nightmares of being the first-timer who left the hospital hauling all the bags and no baby because I was wrong about her water breaking). A friend of ours from church works for the hospital and when he saw us, excitedly asked us if it was time. It was really nice to see a familiar face when I was so nervous. The nurse was making small talk as she wheeled me up to the fifth floor, and to be honest, I’m not really sure what she said. Was it my first, when is my due date, etc.
We got to the room and I was asked to change into a hospital gown. Because we hadn’t brought up the bags, I didn’t have the pretty gown my mom bought me (I wouldn’t get to put that on until later), so I used the itchy sheet-with-arm-holes that the hospital issues you. I begged for a snack (because I was too stupid to eat Taco Bell before we came and made a protein shake instead) and was give water as a substitute. Then, about an hour and one long Q-Tip swab test later, my water had officially broken.
We were having a baby.
It was time.
And here’s where it started going awry.
At this point, it had been about two and a half hours since my water broke, and I was barely dilated a centimeter. Because of the risk of infection, I would only be given 24 hours from the time my water broke to deliver vaginally. If we weren’t into the pushing stage by then, I would need a cesarean. With all that in mind, my doctor told me we were starting Pitocin immediately.
If you read my birth wishes, you’ll know this wasn’t in the plan. I wanted so badly to labor without assistance or drugs, but that simply wasn’t in the cards any longer. The Pitocin was happening, and I could either accept it and embrace it, or be miserable about something I couldn’t control. As only a enneagram 7 can do, I chose to be Mary Sunshine and move forward with the Pitocin. After I cried, of course.
I was up and moving around for a while, either walking or swiveling on a giant ball. The contractions were pretty rough, but the ball seemed to help more than anything else. My doctor came in to check my cervix and confirmed I was still only dilated one centimeter. She did say that my water hadn’t broken completely, so she took what looked like a giant crochet hook and broke the rest of it.
Now, earlier in this story, I said I wasn’t sure if my water had actually broken because it was just a trickle. It was just a trickle because all that fluid was still inside me and it suddenly came out in this moment. It stunned me and I think Dale wanted to pass out. I wish I was the photographer in that moment because I’d love to show y’all his face!
I made it until about 8:30 before I called uncle with an epidural. I vastly underestimated the severity of Pitocin contractions. This was another piece of the labor story that was nowhere in my birth desires. I wanted to badly to labor unassisted and unmedicated, but I also knew my body, and my body was telling me that I was missing a lot of the joy because of the pain. I don’t know that I ever felt much of the pain in my belly — just tightness and pressure — but Lord Almighty, my back felt like my spine was snapping. I’m not sure that I would have ordered the epidural without the back labor, but who’s to say. I’ll say this, though — I asked not to be offered any pain relief unless I asked for it, and the entire staff 100% respected my wishes. Once I asked, they ran a bag of fluid through my IV and called the anesthesiologist.
huge fan of this gown
The epidural didn’t scare me nearly as much as I thought it would. I figured the giant needle in my spine would terrify me and I would second-guess myself. The anesthesiologist was wonderful, and I think that was a big part of why I was so calm. He had a very easy demeanor and talked me through everything he was doing.
With both the Pitocin and the epidural, I was forced to make a hierarchy of reprioritized thoughts. I didn’t want Pitocin, but if I wasn’t dilating, I was at a high risk for a c-section. I’d rather have the Pitocin than a surgery, so Pitocin it was. With the epidural, my body has tensed up to the point that I had lost all productivity. The stress level was affecting both me and Scout. I knew that if I had some way of managing pain, I’d be better able to relax, and in turn, I’d be more likely to stay out of the operating room. Weighing out my options, I chose the epidural. None of the options were what I wanted, but some were better than the others.
Giving birth tested my adaptability fo’ sho.’ As a lawyer, I’ve become very accustomed to having things my way because of detailed preparation (lololol), and goodness knows that a baby doesn’t have to abide by those rules. Given the same set of circumstances, I would make the same decisions.
The down side was that I was now tethered to a bed. With a catheter. I’ll be damned if the catheter wasn’t more uncomfortable than the giant needle in the spine. It ached going in, it was uncomfortable as hell while in, and ached coming out. I was bummed that I was no longer able to get up and down (especially when we were crossing hour 21 and I’d been on my back for twelve straight hours), but ultimately, the relaxation was worth the trade off.
Funny story about the epidurals: did you know they can affect one side of your body more than the other? I felt numb on my right side; I straight up couldn’t move the left. Like, Dale had to sling my left leg around every time I needed to move. It freaked me out a little, like when you drink a little too much and you feel like maybe all of your faculties aren’t in your control. I could wiggle some of my toes, but I couldn’t bend my knee or left my leg.
Now that we were in it for the long haul, we tried to settle in and get a little sleep. Dale brought a Roku so we could watch my stories — Always Sunny and Twilight Zone, mainly. The nurses brought me a peanut ball and situated me on my left side (which was handy because it faced both the window and the TV). We tried a few times in the night to switch to my right side, but always turned back over because “the baby didn’t like it.” I wasn’t super sure what that meant; I’d find out a little later that morning.
Around 7:00 Friday morning, the nurse checked my cervix and I was five centimeters dilated. On one hand, PROGRESS! On the other, only halfway there with six hours to go. I was still trying to stay positive, but I got so overwhelmed that I cried again. I had tried to be so laissez-faire with my wishes not being a possibility (the Pitocin, the epidural), but at that point, it seemed like absolutely everything in my preferences was falling out of reach. Keep in mind, if I wasn’t pushing by 1:00pm, I was being rolled in for surgery.
At that point, they supercharged the Pitocin, but again, “the baby didn’t like it.” They unhooked me from the external fetal heart rate monitor and they placed an internal monitor inside my uterus. Y’all, I had no idea this was a thing. It’s incredible, that doctors can snake up a little cord through my vagina and attach it to her head. Not the most comfortable experience, though. Admittedly, that part scared me. Laboring for 18 hours already, and being so exhausted, anything out of the ordinary was terrifying.
So we’ve gone up and down with Pitocin levels, varying it based on what baby was tolerating. They decided to try to move me to my right side again. They flop me over and the nurse leaves the room. I look at Dale and he’s staring at the heart rate monitor. I was having a contraction and he was telling me to just breathe deep, but I could see on his face that something was wrong. He was on his way out the door to grab a nurse when a few of them hurried in. Like a pit crew, they turned me back on my left side and gave me oxygen. Later, I was told that Scout’s umbilical cord was on my right side, and when we turned, it pressed it to the point that her poor little heart rate plummeted. No one will tell you that at the time, though. Everything is sunshine and daisies when talking to a laboring mother.
Around 10:30am, a nurse came in to check my cervix. I could already feel the tears welling up in my eyes, because I just knew I’d still be at a 5, and the disappointment was already creeping over me. I told the nurse, “Please tell me I’m at a 7. Just give me a 7.” She finished checking me, and asked, “Would you settle for a 9?”
I was so happy I could have started my period.
We fist pumped and cheered.
It was happening! I was moving forward. Cue up the Dumb and Dumber scene … “… so you’re telling me there’s a chance!”
About forty-five minute later, I was at a 10. We were gonna start pushing soon. I cried again (surprise). It hit me so hard. This tiny human that lived inside me for the last ten months was on his/her way out. After nearly 24 hours of laboring, it was time to meet our baby.
I’ll be honest, I really didn’t think the pushing was too bad. I’m not sure if it was the epidural or the excitement or the adrenaline, but all I felt was some pressure. The nurse rolled a huge full-length mirror in front of me (I asked for it!) … it helped my motivation so much to be able to see progress, and watching that tiny little head crowning was such an incredible moment. At one point (and I think every mom knows this point), I was so tired of screwing around. I was officially over it. Dale said I narrowed my eyes and took and deep breath and growled, “I got this.” And then it was all over.
I pushed for about 45 minutes before baby was born. 12:48pm on January 10, 2020.
Dale told me our baby was a girl, and I’m not sure that it registered at first. I felt so much relief that it was all over that I don’t think I felt much of anything for the first few seconds. Until I realized I hadn’t heard her cry. Then, in my first act as a mother of a kid on the outside, I began to worry relentlessly. I asked Dale over and over if she was okay.
And she was. She was perfect.
Seven pounds, twelve ounces. Twenty inches. All perfect.
Dale got to go out into the waiting room and tell everyone that baby Dilly was a GIRL!
The only bummer to the day was that because of flu season, the hospital wasn’t allowing children under twelve on the L&D wing … so Nora had to wait out in the lobby. It broke my heart for her because she had been so excited about meeting the new baby. We had a special meeting for her once we got home, though, and she didn’t seem to mind waiting a little bit longer.
So there it is. The story of Scout. She took her time and threw me some curveballs, but almost immediately after birth, she latched (and believe you me, she’s had no issue latching since then). She lifted her head up around the same time. I’ve cried almost every day since her birth, either from overwhelming exhaustion or overwhelming love or overwhelming hormones. It’s hard to put into words (I guess, unless you’ve been there), but man. It’s so worth it. The entire experience, out of my control and nothing that I “wanted,” was perfect.
Was the experience what I planned? Absolutely not. Would I do everything the same if it got me to this point with this little girl? Absolutely.
Well, okay, almost everything. I’d skip the ‘giner stitches. Definitely.