As Told To essays allow members of our community to share their stories, often for the first time, with the help of mater mea. Here Joy Harrison tells Tomi Akitunde her birth story.
I have never believed in the phrase “timing is everything” as much as I believe it now, after giving birth to my daughter.
July 10, 2013. The plan for this day was to finish painting Marley’s room and take maternity pictures. Simple enough. The painter arrived on time and I was packing my bags to head out for the photo shoot. Unfortunately, it started pouring as soon as I got into the car—I say “unfortunately” because the pictures were to be taken outside. I had hope, though, and we headed to the location anyway. The photographer (and Marley’s dad) were a little doubtful we’d be able to take pictures, and we almost considered rescheduling, but I convinced him to wait a few minutes to see if the rain would let up. When the sun came out blazing, the photographer said, “It stopped raining just so you could get these pictures done.” I absolutely believed him.
After the shoot was completed, there were only two things left to do: go home and check on the paint job, and jump in the shower. Number one on the list was done so I headed straight to the shower. But before I could get into the bathroom, my sister made a point to tell me about her dream from the night before. “I had a dream your water broke,” she said. “Hope I didn’t jinx you.” We laughed it off and I took my shower.
But just as I was stepping out, I realized I had been jinxed: “What is this running out of me? Is this really happening right now?!”
Needless to say, my water had broken. This was not a part of the day’s plan. I called all who needed to be called and got my dad—who had canceled his trip to Louisiana because he “had a feeling this was about to happen”—to drive me over to the hospital.
Marley’s daddy beat me to the hospital and it was a big relief to see him there. We got sent to a room where it was confirmed that my water had indeed broken. The day’s plan had taken a complete left turn.
In the room, we decided to have both grandmothers and the jinxer—a.k.a. my sister—in the room with me. It was about 5:30 p.m. once we had gotten settled in. I didn’t know that I was in for a long, long, long night; I had no evidence of contractions and I was not dilated one bit. My body needed some assistance getting ready for labor, and it wasn’t a pleasant process.
Now I had heard many different versions of what a contraction feels like and honestly, I think people should stop trying to put words to that feeling—it’s an indescribable pain, simple as that. I thought I had it made in the beginning when I didn’t feel them, but boy, when they hit, they hit HARD. I literally had to keep a bucket at my bedside because the intensity of the pain made me vomit throughout the night. Our parents were very attentive and did everything they could to keep me comfortable.
When the doctor finally said that I could push, panic tried to set in, but I remained focused.
I went in not knowing if I wanted an epidural or if I would fight my way through it. After fighting the contractions for about eight hours, an epidural was finally offered to me and I took it without hesitation. And of course, I’ve heard those horror stories as well. It wasn’t so much painful as it was uncomfortable—I hated the process.
It was about 4:30 a.m. when I finally got some relief. By that time, I was still only 3 centimeters dilated. I was checked again at about 8 a.m, then again at about 12:15pm. Surprisingly, I was still at 3 centimeters. I asked for another dose to be added to my epidural three times, but after a certain point, it couldn’t help me anymore—1:30 rolled around and I felt as bad as I had in the beginning. The doctor checked me again and I had gone from 3 to 9 centimeters in an hour!
I was not prepared to hear that. Everything suddenly started moving way too fast. The doctor said, “You’re a tad bit away from 10. If I you want, you can push through it.” No better time than now, I thought. “Let’s push.”
The entire time I was in pain, I stayed pretty quiet and remained as calm as possible: I needed to stay in my zone. When the doctor finally said that I could push, panic tried to set in, but I remained focused. I was ready to finally see my girl. The doctor said something that gave me a bit of motivation, and I’m not sure if she even knew it. “Don’t worry,” she said. “Most first-time moms can take up to two hours to push their baby out.”
That totally was NOT happening! Approximately 30-40 minutes after I started pushing, she was here. I can’t remember the pain at all, but I know it was there. I was just so focused and so determined to get her out that I didn’t allow it to get to me. The moment she came out, I felt like I could breathe again. The second they placed her on my chest, my life was complete. There were tears of happiness and love around me and Marley was in my arms. The feeling was so overwhelming that for the first time that long night, I cried.
Nice to finally meet you, baby girl.
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