My last day of work was on a Friday and my 40 week appointment was the following Monday. I didn’t have high hopes going into that appointment. In my prior weekly visits, I had not dilated at all, despite my many attempts to get things moving. I’m talking bouncing on the yoga ball, drinking an absurd amount of red raspberry leaf tea, taking evening primrose oil pills. So, expecting nada, I screamed when my doctor said I was 1cm dilated. When she said she was going to strip my membranes to see if that would kick start anything, I was nervous. I mean, can the term be any grosser/scarier? I said, okay, let’s get on with it and envisioned her pulling a wiry mini broom out of the closet to swipe. She just used her fingers to swipe the inside of my cervix quickly and that was it. No pain, just some pressure. I walked out of the office thinking I was going to immediately start having contractions.
My doctor’s parting words were to have sex that night. I practically pounced Brad (in a slow, awkward, waddle pounce kind of way) when he came home from work. Suffice it to say, he was not into it. At all. But, you are dilated? You just said you had your (what?) stripped? I don’t even think I could perform. Whomp. I blamed him for not going into labor that night.
The next morning, Tuesday, I was in the shower and looked down to see I had lost my mucus plug. (Again, who thinks of these terms?) As disturbing as a mucus plug sounds, it was small and looked like a mini jelly fish. I had never seen a picture of one before but I just knew that’s what it was. Dr. Google confirmed it. Dr. Google also said that contractions could start immediately… OR up to two weeks. Holy shit, two weeks. Okay. The rest of the day went on normally.
3:00am, on Wednesday, I woke up with the sensation that something was dripping inside… almost like I was getting my period but could “catch” it before it hit my undies. I sat on the toilet and water trickled into the toilet. That’s weird. I peed and didn’t even try. I stood up and the water just kept on coming. And coming. And coming. It’s exactly how it is in the movies. I ran into our bedroom and screamed MY WATER BROKE!!!!!! Brad, my rock, the brains of this relationship, bless his heart. He jumps up and says, should we call 911?! We went to the class, we read the information. No, hun, we call the doctor. Brad was such a bundle of nerves that when he leapt out of bed to get ready to go to the hospital, he fell down the stairs.
It was 5:00am by the time we checked into the hospital and got hooked up to the Pitocin. Since my water had broken, Finleigh’s cocoon of protection was gone. I was still not dilated past 1cm and I hadn’t started contractions. It wasn’t ideal, but we had to get moving. I had envisioned Brad and I there solo for the first few hours… Talking, reading, and relaxing. We told Kath, (MIL) and my sister, Christina, they could be present during the delivery but wanted the first part for ourselves. Our alone time lasted five minutes. And both are chatters. My annoyance lasted a second, it was nice having them there as distractions and for support.
Noon comes around. My water is STILL flowing and I got sick of asking for more towels to sit under so I just sat in it. Awesome. I asked for a diaper at one point but the nurse thought I was kidding. I am still not dilating despite the Pitocin getting jacked up repeatedly. The contractions are growing stronger and Brad can read the chart and tell me when they’re coming. UHH OHHH, we’ve got a big one coming!!!! If his mom wasn’t sitting there I would have punched him in the throat for being the contraction emcee. Contractions felt like incredibly intense menstrual cramps. But unlike menstrual cramps, which gradually come on… contractions come on QUICKLY but dissipate just as quickly. They kept saying, wow, no epidural yet? You want to feel the contractions to see what they’re like? The truth is I was more scared of the epidural than the contractions. My allergist had shown me what an epidural needle looked like a month prior. (Um, why would she show me and why does she have an epi needle anways? But I digress.) Then it got to the point where I was like, fuck it, bring on the Big Needle.
1:00pm on Wednesday and I meet my Epidural man. Who was fantastic. Here’s the thing about epidurals, they don’t actually insert the ENTIRE needle. AND you get numbed. I seriously didn’t feel ANYTHING. I am living the life, laughing at the graphs… take that, contracting! All of a sudden, out of the blue, I feel like I am going to pass out…. My neck goes cold and I can hardly talk. I swear I thought I was dying. Kath sees the look of panic in my eyes as I mouth Help Me to her. The nurses run in and just sit me up in the bed and put a wash cloth on my face. I can’t remember what else they did. I think just the act of sitting up helped. The epidural had caused my blood pressure to plummet. After that it was smooth sailing. Lots of laughs and attempts to take pictures. GET-THE-CAMERA-OUT-OF-MY-FACE, BRAD.
5:00pm on Wednesday and I had only dilated to 4cm. My doctor said she’d stay with me and wait it out if I wanted to. She knew how badly I wanted to do a vaginal birth. I asked for her honest opinion about what I should do, and I also knew in my heart of hearts that the vaginal delivery wasn’t in my cards. So we gave the green light for a C-Section. I was so F-ing nervous. I asked a nurse for a Xanax. She looked at me like I was crazy. Really, lady, THIS is the craziest thing you’ve been asked all day? After getting shaved down there, with an actual electric razor, I was wheeled into the surgery room and was hit by the whiteness of the walls and silver of the tools… not the ounce of comfort. The nurses transferred me from my gurney to the surgical table (it took, like, four people to pick me up, ha-ha). When they lifted up my gown and exposed me, I felt… Exposed. It didn’t help matters when the second doctor, who was helping with the surgery said, “awwww even your little vagina is swollen!” Ugh, mortifying. Please cover me before Brad walks in. Yes, I am modest. Brad walks in. Poor guy is putting on a brave face but I know he’s freaking out on the inside. When he was putting on his scrubs a nurse had to stop him. Excuse me, sir, you don’t have to get naked. The scrubs go on OVER your clothes.
Before the procedure started, the doctor did a touch test. She lightly treaded her fingers on my belly. Can you feel that? YES, YES I CAN FEEL THAT!!!! Apparently that’s a good thing. Then she took the knife and scraped my belly. Thank God I couldn’t feel that. And so it began. Honestly, my worst fear was coming true, being awake during my own surgery. The worst part about it was the cold shakes I couldn’t… uhhh, shake. I was violently shivering and thought my teeth were going to shatter. I felt the pressure of the doctors pushing on my ribs to get Finleigh down and out. That didn’t hurt. It just felt like someone was sitting on my chest so it was difficult to breath. The actual process of Finleigh getting pulled out of me was akin to having someone tug on your belt while laying down. You can feel the tug and pull and the feeling of your back getting lifted up slightly off the table.
6:34pm I hear snips, clanking of tools, and my doctor say she is healthy and out. The relief washed over me. As I was being stitched back together, I could turn my head and see my girl getting prepared. (Since she didn’t come out of the birth canal, she had to get fluid suctioned out of her.) It was an out of body experience.
Since I was still violently shaking, I would have preferred not to hold Finleigh on my chest when being wheeled from the surgical room to the recovery room but that wasn’t an option for security reasons. The next hour or so is a blur. I think I was put into the recovery room alone. A nurse came in and said she was going to massage my uterus. Massage? Yes, please. Jesus… the pain. Even with my epidural still in. My nurse pushed down too hard. I’ve heard it shouldn’t have been that painful. I had to get a few more “massages” after that and they were not unpleasant.
Afterwards my doctor brought Finleigh and my family into the room and asked if I wanted to breastfeed. Yes, I did. With some guidance, her lips knew exactly what to do and she was a hungry little bugger. I felt like Mother Earth. This was what I meant to do. (That moment with nursing was fine… but it took a lot of practice before Fin and I became nursing pros.) Breastfeeding for us was difficult/awkward/painful/frustrating at first. But with incredible support from Brad, the nurses and the right nipple creams (thank God for nipple creams!!) we got through the hard parts and I LOVED LOVED LOVED IT. I nursed Finleigh for over a year.
We had the nurses keep Finleigh in the nursery during the nights and a nurse would bring her into my room every two hours so she could breastfeed. Something I quickly learned was that the two hour interval starts when Finleigh BEGINS breastfeeding. So if it takes her 30 minutes to eat, I would have to feed her again an hour and a half later. On top of that, a nurse is coming in intermittently to administer medicine, check vitals, etc. As I type this I think… wow… how miserable this must sound. But at the time, I was happy. Even the crazy amount of blood didn’t shock me. I’ve had an appendectomy before and the recovery was somewhat similar. My legs had been numb for so long because of the epidural that it took some practice to get walking again but I was able to shower and walk a little bit the following day.
The unknown of everything was scary going in. The contractions, needles, breastfeeding, a possible C-section and I was randomly concerned about the catheter (it was fine – can’t feel it go in or out). The anxiety and the pain wasn’t nearly what I expected it to be. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, it was a pleasant experience. It was the best day of my life. I didn’t even know there was a piece missing in our lives until we met Finleigh. Looking into her eyes I saw my past, present, future. A few weeks later I overheard Brad talking with a friend who was questioning his belief in God.