I had been doing my fair share of Googling and was waiting for this. YES. All in. When could it happen?
My due date was November 19th. One week later was Thanksgiving. The doctor recommended choosing a date before Thanksgiving, so that we wouldn’t be rushing to the hospital on a holiday.
As a first time Mom, I preferred having as much of my pregnancy planned out as possible: my husband and I found out the gender at 16 weeks, we took every available test to determine the health of the baby, we chose a name early and I was all for an epidural and anything else that could insure as easy and painless a delivery as possible. In my opinion, there are enough unknowns that come with child birth and rearing, I’d like to stay as ahead of the game as I can.
I walked. I ate spicy foods. I tried all the old wives’ tales I could find to put me into labor (minus the castor oil – gross.) November 19th and my doctor appointment came. My cervix was about 50% thinned out, but nothing else had changed. So, I was told to come to the hospital around 7:30pm that night. I WAS SO EXCITED. Partly to meet my little baby, partly to not worry about my water breaking at an inappropriate time and mostly to not be pregnant anymore.
We showed up at the hospital at 8:10pm. My fault. I am perpetually late, why would my baby have been on time? There was no waiting. Nurses immediately ushered me into my room and had me change into a hospital gown. I was hooked up to an IV, which took forever as my stubborn veins weren’t making it easy. They also put monitors on my stomach to track the baby’s heartbeat and my contractions. Then it was time for action. The nurse inserted Cervidil at 10pm to finish thinning out my cervix and prepare my body for induction the next morning. I was also ordered to eat, as I hadn’t since 2pm that day… oops. I mean really, WHO CAN EAT AT A TIME LIKE THIS?? But the nurses were going on the assumption that I could potentially be in labor the entire next day, when I obviously wouldn’t be able to eat and would need a lot of energy. Ok, fine.
Hubs and I ordered delivery from an Italian place down the street. I had baked ziti. My last meal ever as a non-parent. If I’d been under less stress, I might have made a wiser decision… but I digress.
Around midnight, we settled in for the evening and tried to get some sleep. The pullout couch in the room for Ryan wasn’t as terrible as expected. Some husbands go home for this last night, but I think we were both too scared to leave each other alone.
Thank goodness he stayed.
Around 2am, I woke with contractions. It was like bad menstrual cramps. I knew the Cervidil had the potential to start my contractions but I hadn’t expected it to happen to me! I called in the nurses and they asked if I wanted the epidural. Why I didn’t say yes right away, I don’t know. I guess I was thinking that it wasn’t the plan for me to get the epidural until 6am and I had to stick to the schedule. I asked if I could have painkillers instead. Nope. The doctor had ordered an epidural or nothing. So I waited and tried to get some more sleep.
Let me take this moment to express my awe for women who give birth without any medication. I don’t know how far along I was at that point in the evening, but I was miserable. After sobbing to Ryan for another 30 minutes or so, we called in the nurses again and I asked for the epidural. They ordered it and said the anesthesiologist would be in as soon as possible. The longest minutes of my life ticked by and I tried coping by watching my contractions on the monitor. At least that way I could be prepared when one was coming. Ryan held my hand and we waited (and I cried in pain) for about 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, the woman in the room next door was screaming. I mean SCREAMING. The nurses had told me she was giving birth naturally and “that’s what 10 centimeters sounds like.” Good-NESS. It was terrible to hear and I realized right then and there that it was never going to be an option for me and waited even more anxiously for my epidural.
After what seemed like forever, the anesthesiologist walked in, silent and expressionless, and started setting up his cart. I was instructed to sit up and swing my legs over one edge of the hospital bed, back to the anesthesiologist and facing my hubs. The nurses had told us that most men are fine during the actual childbirth but pass out when their wives get their epidural. So, Ryan was to sit right in front of me, hold my hands and stare at my face during the procedure. I started crying. I have no idea why… just exhaustion, pain from contractions and fear of the unknown, I suppose.
People had worked me up about how the epidural was the most painful part of childbirth. It really wasn’t terrible. Three shots surrounding the entry spot in my back felt like bee stings. Then numbness… and pressure. Within five minutes, it was all done. I swung my legs back onto the bed and leaned against the pillows. Now, to wait.
I woke up a couple of hours later at around 6:30am, happy to discover I had gotten a little sleep. My doctor had arrived! The longest night of my life was over. He checked me out and discovered the Cervidil had done its job and I was well on my way to being fully dilated. He said he would be back in a few hours to check me again. More waiting.
I poked at my numb legs. Such a weird feeling! They felt like cold rubber to my fingers. I watched my contractions (much stronger and closer together now) on the monitor, so relieved I could no longer feel them.
A few hours later, the doctor came in and checked me again. I was fully dilated! 10 centimeters! Showtime. He was quite possibly more excited than I was. He told me he had cleared his schedule for the entire day, but that it looked like this baby would be out by early afternoon. HOORAY! He then said he was going to come back to break my water. Everything was going so smoothly! I was pumped. Mostly to be able to see my feet again… but also to meet my daughter.
Then came the bad news. The doctor broke my water and… meconium. I saw his face drop as he told me. For the first time, I was worried. This meant Baby Girl had passed her first bowel movement in the womb and was not only floating around in the feces, but inhaling it. The doctor informed me that this meant she would have to be brought over to a warming table immediately after she was born to have any meconium sucked out of her nose and lungs. I understood but was disappointed. I had read so much on the importance of skin-to-skin contact as soon as the baby was born and was sad I wouldn’t get to hold her right away. But that was the least of my worries now. I just wanted to get a healthy baby delivered.
With my water broken, the doctor instructed the nurses to prepare for the birth. Lights, tools, action. The delivery room was suddenly a flurry of activity as nurses set up. The doctor left the room to scrub up. I just remember watching the contractions come stronger and faster on the screen next to my bed. It was so exciting! I was about to experience the miracle of childbirth that I now know one cannot fully comprehend until they have gone through it.
As we prepared for labor, Ryan’s plan had been to stand at my head and hold my hand throughout all of it. When the doctor strolled back in, he notified Ryan that he would be holding one of my legs, instead. Probably better this was thrown at him last minute. It was 11am, my water had been broken for an hour, so it was time to get things going.
I’ll spare you the details, except to know that trying to push a baby out without feeling in your lower half is quite a challenge. In between pushes, I was told to breathe from an oxygen mask, which I never realized would be so necessary. Near the end, I nearly vomited from the intensity of my breathing and the overwhelming strain of pushing. As ridiculous as it seems, the cheerleading from the nurses, doctor and Ryan seriously kept me motivated through the hour and a half that it took for Mackenzie to make her appearance. The doctor had prepared for her arrival about 20 minutes earlier, but her shoulders that he likened to her Dad’s (yikes!), slowed things down toward the end. The craziest moment for me was when the doctor said it would take just “one more push” for her to be out and I could still see her feet poking out above my ribcage. Baby was going to have her Daddy’s height, as well!
At 12:29pm on November 20, 2013, Mackenzie Alice Zimmerman joined the outside world. All 8 pounds, 5 ounces and 22 inches of her. As I had been forewarned, her umbilical cord was promptly cut and she was immediately whisked over to the warming table in the room to have the meconium removed from her little lungs and get an overall review of her health.
As I mentioned in a previous blog, Ryan and I opted to have her cord blood and tissue saved at the time of birth, so the nurses packaged this up as I waited to hold my little girl. When I saw my baby I had never been so glad we chose the banking option. The thought that we have that much more of an opportunity to save her from harm in the future gave me peace of mind.
Finally – FINALLY – after what seemed like an eternity but was really only 10 minutes, the nurses brought my little girl over for me to hold against my chest. And as ecstatic as I was about the whole scenario of the day, it was the weirdest moment ever. Going from non-parent to parent in a matter of minutes was really hard for me to wrap my head around. This was my baby? Wow. Just, wow.
Sun was streaming through the windows. The nurses were excited and smiling. Ryan was overwhelmed and smiling. The epidural made me feel somewhat drunk, so I was feeling great and smiling. WHAT A FABULOUS MOMENT.
The doctor was finishing up his snipping, sewing and cleaning from the birth. He grinned and told me how he had told his daughter that he wasn’t sure he was going to be home for dinner, but that the birth had been so quick, he would be able to pick her up from school! This made me even happier! What a moving, glorious, surreal, incredible few minutes it was from 12:29pm until around 1:00pm. Afterward, the doctor and nurses turned off the bright operating lights, moved their tools and tables out of the room, and congratulated us. The delivery room was cozy again (as much as one can be).
And so a new chapter in our lives had begun!