Visuals: Amanda McMahon Photography
“You’re not going home. You get to stay here for the night.” The doctor said those words to my boyfriend Daniel and I flatly. We looked at each other with what could best be described as sheer terror as we realized that our little girl would be making her debut at some point in the next day or so.
It was just after midnight on March 19, 2014, and from the dimly lit room in the maternity ward triage unit, I began to make all of the requisite phone calls: my mother, my best friend, my doula, and another friend to pick my doula up. I walked myself back to the labor and delivery suite, and drowned out the deep moans of all of the women going through the throes of labor by focusing on my own hands, which were shaking like leaves, and my heart, which felt like it had plunged into my big toe.
I got into the room with Daniel’s help, and as soon as I rolled onto the bed, the nurse started an IV. I didn’t want the IV, but I didn’t speak up soon enough. Just great, I thought. My mother, doula, and best friend soon showed up. By then, I was in a chipper mood: texting friends, tweeting, and relishing the calm before the storm.
I wasn’t yet in labor. I had been 3 centimeters dilated and about 25% effaced for two weeks, and felt no contractions, so I convinced myself I’d be in labor for at least three days. At 2:00 a.m., my flat-toned doctor walked in and proceeded to break my water bag. She informed me that there was meconium [the baby’s first stool] present, so we had to speed things along to make sure she didn’t breathe in any of it. I was adamant about not wanting Pitocin—I barely like taking drugs for my migraines, so I knew I didn’t personally want anything to augment my labor. She informed me that we’d be starting it if my labor didn’t progress the way she wanted it to.
My own hands…were shaking like leaves…
Labor hit HARD. It was unrelenting and merciless. The funny thing was, whenever my nurse or doctor would come into the room, my labor would come to a complete and grinding halt. It was almost as if my daughter knew the contempt I had for these people, and she had decided she wasn’t going to come into the world with negative energy around. I don’t blame her one bit.
I went from the bed to the birthing ball, from a chair back to the bed, and couldn’t lay down for any of it. My contractions were roughly one to five minutes long and were happening every 90 seconds for the duration of my labor. At one point, I even had a five-minute contraction. File that under “things I will never forget.”
Then 6:00 a.m. came, and with it, a new doctor, a new nurse, another old episode of SportsCenter, and the fresh onset of exhaustion. I moved from the birthing ball to the bed to squatting in front of the bed with my doula, best friend, and mom taking turns applying pressure to my back with tennis balls, but nothing was making me feel any better. I continued to labor, exhausted, for another 4.5 hours until I came to the realization—with the help of my doula and mom—that I couldn’t do it any longer. I asked for an epidural once I hit 7 centimeters dilated, after I was reassured that I wasn’t a failure for not having a completely natural birth.
The nap that I took after the epidural was the best nap I have ever had. When I woke up, my nurse offered me a Popsicle, and I would’ve hugged and kissed her if I could have felt my legs and gotten up out of the bed. Every hour, the doctor came to check me. I felt the pressure build in my lower abdomen and was certain I could feel her head bearing down. Turns out, I was right. Three hours after the epidural, I was ready to start pushing at 2:00 p.m.
My first attempts at pushing were absolutely terrible. My support team surrounded me, holding my legs up, and wiping the sweat off of my forehead. All of them—except for Daniel, since he had never given birth before—reiterated how I should be pushing, but I just didn’t get it. When the third round came, there was a bit of progress. I still felt like I was pushing and getting nowhere, but I was being told otherwise. With the fourth round of pushing, all I wanted to do was get her out. There was so much pressure, so much pain, and quite frankly, I was exhausted and ready for it to be over with. I took a small break, but told everyone that I couldn’t wait any longer, and with one last push, my daughter Zoe Danielle entered the world in one leap—literally, the doctor had to catch her—at 2:22 p.m. on March 19, 2014. All I could do was cry and smile and say, “My baby! My baby!”
Then I had a sandwich.
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