I like to be prepared. I like to make plans and look ahead and be as ready as possible for the future. This is how I approach everything in my life, and motherhood was no different. I read book after book about pregnancy, never limiting myself to a single perspective. I did research about pregnancy, childbirth, those first weeks with a newborn – and, as a librarian, I’m very good at research. I even skimmed through books for new fathers, just in case my husband had questions.
I watched video after video all about what to pack in your hospital bag. This, I quickly realized, wading through search results, was an entire genre. Everyone had advice, and it was necessary, first of all, to pack a bag, because what if you forgot something? What if there was something you needed? At the hospital, where I planned to have my baby, it wouldn’t be comfortable or feel like home. Shouldn’t I bring a few amenities? Wouldn’t that lessen the stress of something so momentous and unfamiliar and frightening?
I bought the necessities ahead of time – car seat, stroller, bassinet, a few bottles, a few cute outfits – and even had a few non-essentials from my baby shower ready to go. I was ready with a birth plan, and I knew what I wanted if things had to change. I felt confident – and scared, naturally, I had never had a baby before, but I was reasonably sure that I’d done everything in my power to prepare.
And then my daughter came, and predictably, it was like nothing I could have expected.
A little more than two weeks before my due date, I stopped feeling much movement. My baby had never moved a great deal, but to feel so much stillness after getting used to the occasional kick and flip was scary. I went in to the doctor for a stress test, and of course everything was fine, I’d worried over nothing – she was doing excellent the doctor told me – but at least my mind was at ease. I continued on my schedule as normal. The baby was fine, I was fine, I had two weeks left. I could make it.
I had to work a few days after the stress test – it was a Saturday, so it was a short day at work, but I felt fine and overall it was a good day. I felt so good, in fact, that I went with my husband to put some things in a storage unit early that evening. We didn’t have much room in our apartment, and all the things for the baby had made the space uncomfortably cramped. I wasn’t allowed to lift, of course, so I was mostly there for moral support, and to handle a few smaller, lighter boxes. We’d gotten most of our things out of the trunk of the car when suddenly I felt something strange. There was an odd feeling in the pit of my stomach, and then my water broke.
I didn’t understand what happened at first. To be honest I was mortified, because after nine months with no problems I’d thought I might finally be having problems controlling my bladder. So I didn’t say anything and tried to ignore it. At the back of my mind, though, I think I knew. As we were driving home I felt something again and mentioned it to my husband. He was worried, but while I allowed the possibility that maybe it was my water breaking, I think at that point I was officially in denial. Two weeks isn’t really that early, but still it felt early. And after all my preparations, surely my baby would wait until she was supposed to be here, right?
Of course not. Nothing works out quite that easily.
A friend was having a birthday party the next day, and we were hosting and making her a cake. I was relegated to the easiest tasks, so I just sat at the kitchen table watching as my husband baked. (He’s great. Seriously, the man knows his way around a kitchen.) And I started feeling cramps that I told myself – in a complete disregard for, you know, reality – that they definitely weren’t contractions. It was totally manageable, though, so I thought I’d wait it out. Whether that meant until the feeling passed or until I had to go to the hospital I guess I didn’t really think about.
I had been feeling contractions off and on all night, and they were getting worse. Finally at around 2 AM that night, I had to admit that this baby was coming. It had gotten so bad I could hardly walk during the contractions – which I was willing to admit they were – so I told my husband we had to go to the ER. My doctor was the on-call doctor that night, which was a bit of a lucky coincidence. But that’s where my luck ran out. I was 2 cm dilated and I hoped that things would go quickly. I was ready. Or, I thought I was ready.
I had planned to have a natural birth (if they would have let me, I would have fought off the IV, too), but after several long hours – very long hours – the nurses said they were going to give me pitocin to help speed things up – which I absolutely did not want, but when they said “prevent having to have a c-section” well, I agreed. And I’d heard horror stories about labor with pitocin so I sucked it up and asked for an epidural. I really, really wish I hadn’t, because it didn’t work! I felt everything anyway! There was some numbness on one side, but it didn’t last long. Just some nice, natural pain.
It took until four the next afternoon – more than 12 hours after going to the hospital – for my baby to come. I had no idea what I was doing, and it took four hours of – really inefficient, I’ll be honest – pushing. They had to use vacuum extraction to help, though once she started coming that little girl came right out.
When she was born, I cried.
I had never felt so much, been so overwhelmed. And it took me a little while to feel it, but I was happy, too. Of course I was. They handed her to me and I was crying and laughing and I couldn’t believe I had something so perfect in my arms.
In pregnancy preparation literature and blogs and just material in general, you hear a lot about how labor and birth are what our human bodies are designed for. I was built capable of having a baby. But it really does seem like a miracle when it happens. And it was worth it. Every second.
(Of course, I immediately swore I would never have another baby, so don’t think the pain left no effects on me. My stance on that has significantly softened since then, and I think I would like another baby one day. But I sure never, ever wanted to go through labor again right after it happened!)
My birth story, while special to me, isn’t really all that unique. But there’s something that compels us, isn’t there, to share our stories. I think it’s because it’s such an overwhelming experience. I think we want to share, to have a community that understands what we went through. I think, really, we can’t help talking about it. It’s almost like being admitted to a special club. Even if you don’t have a traditional birth story, becoming a mother is a life changing experience no matter how it happens to you.
Feel free to leave a comment or link to your story! I’d love to hear it.