Disclaimer: The following is a rather graphic story of the birth of my Son. If you are frightened by words like placenta then this may not be something you should read. Actually there really isn’t much on this whole blog that you should read. pussy.
I had plans. Of course I did, I am OC fucking D after all. What I failed to plan on was….well, every motherfucking thing. I wasn’t prepared at all. My goddamned know-it-all, I can do anything, Hawkins approach to life really fell through for me on this one. I don’t know what I was thinking, what I was expecting or why I thought I had it all figured out. Twelve hours of intense labor showed me how much of an idiot I actually am. I am truly humbled by the power of my own body, an uncontrollable force of nature which taught me one of the most important lessons of my life, I am not a bad motherfucker after all.
My water broke around 4am on July 24. I immediately got in the shower, washed my hair and shaved what I could. After I finished applying my makeup and blow drying and bouffanting my hair I made sure my bags contained all the necessary items and everything was organized and ready to go. Then I proceeded to do what I had planned on doing for as long as possible, wait. I didn’t want to be one of those women who rush to the hospital at the first trickle of water just to get sent back home or worse yet get pressured into an induction.
Contractions had not yet started so I knew the wait might be awhile. I had no idea that I would spend the next 56 hours waiting. About 12 hours after my water broke and contractions had still not started I began to wonder if my water had actually broken. I may have been convinced that it hadn’t if it weren’t for the somewhat continuous flow of water that leaked from my vagina every time I moved.
I bounced on my exercise ball. I walked laps around the house and the backyard and eventually the neighborhood. I did the few yoga poses I could still manage with my overwhelming girth. I paced and stomped the ground tantrum style and all to no avail. I performed hours of nipple stimulation and even briefly considered clitoral stimulation but decided that was too weird even for me. I ate an entire pineapple and swallowed dozens of Evening Primrose oil capsules. No contractions here. Back pain, yes. Swollen feet, yes. Thunderous thighs rubbing together as I limp and waddle my way around the block, yes.
After 48 hours I was exhausted. I hadn’t gotten much sleep in weeks and the anxiety of not quite knowing if I was in labor or not, should I go to the hospital or not, am I putting my baby in danger or not, had taken its toll on me. Not to mention it’s the middle of Summer and hot as fuck. I am done with this shit, this pregnancy, this slow ass labor, this uncomfortable reality that is about to get really fucking weird and I know it, I feel it coming. An anxiety I had not planned on was creeping in and making itself at home, firmly planted where I thought my calm resolve would be, where my bravery and strength should be.
This wasn’t in my birth plan. What was in my birth plan was plenty of “will not’s”, “do not’s” and “only in case of emergency’s”. I had planned on a natural birth without any drugs, epidural or measures of induction. I had planned on self-hypnosis and breathing to help me through the pain. I expected to ease through each phase with grace and quiet acknowledgement of my body performing a natural act. I planned all of this on my own after reading a few books and some brief research on the internet about childbirth. I wanted to channel the inner tribal woman in me, the primal female surviving on instinct alone.
I had theories and dead set conclusions on the matter of childbirth and what was “right” and what was “wrong”. Epidurals were “wrong”. Why? Because it represented weakness? Yeah, that must have been my reasoning. Drugs administered to ease pain and help restore calmness were “wrong” because once again they represented weakness. And of course because I am after all an addict and obviously any possible interaction between opiates and myself will result in yet another torrid affair of pills and lies. Induction was “wrong” because it would ultimately result in a cesarean section. Episiotomy was “wrong” because it was unnecessary especially since I had been performing perineum massage for weeks to prepare the tissues. An IV being put in my hand in case I needed fluids was “wrong” because it was really there to tempt me into accepting drugs. And above all caesarean section was “wrong” because what does a surgical procedure have to do with having a baby? Women have babies they don’t have operations and babies come out of vaginas not incisions. I left no grey areas, unless the statement “only in case of emergency” is grey but really it’s more transparent than grey, more an admission of “I know I’m not really in control if shit goes south and you are going to do whatever you want anyways so go ahead”.
What was there left to be “right” after so much being boldly proclaimed as “wrong”? Being left alone was “right”. Breathing silently through the worst of the contractions was “right”. Trusting my body to do what it naturally knows how to do was “right”. Staying calm and alert was “right”.
I didn’t follow my fucking rules any more than I have ever followed anyone’s rules. My contractions finally came around 8am on July 26 and by noon they were coming every 5 minutes and getting fairly strong (or what I considered to be strong at the time). Time to go. At the hospital they told me I was 5 cm dilated and fully effaced. Ok, halfway there, I can totally do this. Around this point I get in the bed and I do not get out of the bed until the next day. I had planned on staying pretty mobile and active during labor, pacing the halls and experimenting with positions. I did neither of these activities.
As the hours passed and the pain increased I became aware of one thing and one thing only, I was not prepared for this kind of intensity and fuck it all, I was scared. I couldn’t admit defeat quite yet, at least not out loud. Silently I was begging for the epidural, I was waving white flags and falling to my knees in humble defeat. But on the outside I was breathing through the contractions like a good girl and pretending to relax during the intervals. I was sipping my water and feigning interest in a television program.
Then shit got weird. The contractions got fucking strong, like going through a meat grinder at 60mph strong. I sat upright in the bed propped up in a lobster crawl like position through the worst of it. I felt my body tensing, bending and extending like Reagan in the Exorcist. I even projectile vomited just like the lovely demon child. I was just short of jamming a crucifix into my vagina when the Doctor proclaimed, “Okay, you are at 9cm. We are almost there.”
Transition, the worst was yet to come but it was almost over. I could do this. Maybe? Oh, fuck, no I can’t do this at all because I can’t breathe, I can’t focus and I can’t even remain conscious. Everything goes fuzzy, black and weird. I hear voices that seem very far away. I am hot as shit and keep begging for the air conditioning to be turned up. I am shivering uncontrollably, shaking and trembling. Every muscle in my body seizes with the coming of each contraction.
One hour later the Doctor comes back and proclaims, “still at 9cm”. “FUCK!” I gutturally yell as he removes his hand from my vagina and my hope from my soul. And he leaves.
It is midnight and my screams are disrupting the entire floor. I am a spectacle. Nurses assigned to other patients are peeking in to see what the racket is all about. Apparently natural births aren’t all that common around here. My exhaustion is apparent and I am now unable to even pretend to breathe in an effective manner. I get through each contraction by screaming as loudly as possible and then quickly pass out from the pain only to be brought back to reality by yet another contraction even stronger than the last.
One hour later, still 9cm. I give up. And the baby isn’t happy. His heart rate is low. I am unable to help him, I am too tired and I barely know who I am or why I am even at the hospital at this point. I admit defeat and ask for the epidural. Due to my very clearly written birth plan the Nurse actually does her best to talk me out of it. I convince her I will not regret this decision.
It takes forever for the anesthesiologist to arrive, he’s a busy man. In fact everyone at the hospital seems overworked and exhausted. I had been all too aware these past few months that I was only one of many pregnant women waddling around town. In fact I can’t remember ever having seen quite so many rotund bellies before. I am so desperate for a moment of peace that I don’t care how dark the circles are under the anesthesiologist’s eyes just stick that fucking needle in my spine and make me happy. As I scoot my giant naked ass towards the edge of the bed I begin to have one of the strongest contractions yet. I am instructed not to move, that it is incredibly important that I do not move, in other words, “stop fucking moving bitch, there is a giant ass needle going into your spine”. I sit still through the bowel shuddering contraction comforting myself with the knowledge that relief is now only moments away.
A few minutes later and I am calm, I am still and soon I drift off to a short well needed nap. I awaken to the Doctor telling me that I am still at 9cm but we can go ahead and start pushing. Two deep breaths, push, push. Two deep breaths, push, push. Rest. Although my nether region is comfortably numb I can still feel enough to tell when I am having contractions so I am aware of what my body is doing and I know when to push and when to relax. Two hours of pushing and every muscle in my back, neck and head have congregated into one angry charley horse. Then it happens, the Doctor tells me he has to perform an episiotomy. Oh fucking fuck fuck!! There goes my vagina, done, mutilated for life. I feel the pressure of the incisions welcoming my newly formed vag-ass. This should be a lovely wound to deal with for the next month, a gaping slice in my tenderest of fleshy parts to cushion me every time I sit, lie down, walk or god-for-fucking-bid sneeze. Whatever, this kid needs to get the hell out of my body and if that means cutting me open and turning me inside out while at least half a dozen people stare into my bloody gaping cavities then so be it.
Deep breath, deeper breath, push, push harder…..and I feel a release. He’s out. It’s quiet. Really fucking quiet. The only sound I hear is my own voice asking if he is alright. He is not being placed on my chest as I had expected. My breasts exposed and waiting for the warmth of my son grow cold. They tell me that he is having a hard time breathing. I see his limp body in the bassinet surrounded by nurses, a tiny oxygen mask being placed over his little face. His silence breaks my heart, his bluish skin rips my soul to pieces. Half an hour goes by and still I have not looked into my Sons eyes, he has not felt my skin against his face. The nurses assure me that he is fine and I am at least comforted by the fact that he has not been taken to the NICU. If it were serious he wouldn’t be here in the room with me. At least I have that. I surprise myself with my composure. I am not a hysterical mess, I must be strong for my Son.
Finally, he is placed on my chest just as the last of the placenta is being pushed from my uterus. He stares into my eyes (his vision unhindered due to the fact that I insisted that they not administer the standard erythromycin eye drops which make a baby’s vision blurry for about 12 hours). I know his eyes just as he knows mine. We have known each other for a lifetime, for a hundred lifetimes. In our quiet contemplation I know that nothing will ever be the same again. A human being just came out of my vagina, or should I say my vag-ass. Of course I knew he was in there for the past 10 months, his kicks and squirms were impossible to ignore but I don’t think I had fully realized the enormity of the situation (if you consider 8lbs 15oz enormous). This boy in my arms was mine, my responsibility. His health and well-being depended upon my own health and well-being. Selfishness is no longer an option, my own body hardly belonged to me anymore, a sacrifice of flesh and a surrender of vanity. Well, not a complete surrender of vanity I do still have a full face of make up on and I have recently touched up my lip gloss.
During the next few hours as I hold my Son close to my heart I try to calm down from the delivery. I am shivering uncontrollably, a side effect from the epidural. My body temperature is all over the place, freezing and sweating at the same time. My legs and feet begin to tingle with feeling and I am anxious to use the toilet instead of repeatedly having a catheter inserted into my urethra. What I am not looking forward to is the effects of the epidural vanishing completely and facing head on the pain and discomfort of the episiotomy.
I drift off to sleep around 3am. I dream a soundless, colorless, weightless vision of calm nothing, a sort of surrender to the unknown. I am exploring this non-place with quiet enthusiasm. I don’t know where I am going but I am not afraid and I do not hesitate.
I awaken to the weight of my Son in my arms, a weight that feels right as if my arms have always been empty, waiting to be filled.