Dear Zygote –
This is your birth story. Even though I, your mother, consider myself a writer, I had a hard time describing the monsoon of emotions that came up during your last few weeks in utero and your eventual birth. These are just the details. Maybe someday we will get to the emotional part, but I wanted to remember everything before it started to fade away. Also, I know my grammar sucks. And yes, this is hard for a writer. We’ll deal.
Your Due Date: June 2, 2009
Your dad and I went to see Dr. Fine at Harvard Vanguard and you were still looking very big and hadn’t descended. She sent us to get an ultrasound to check your size, and we drove across the city to Boston Ultrasound in Brookline through tons of traffic and ended up waiting for an hour to be seen. Two different people took your measurements. One put you at 9 lbs, 3 oz. and the other put you much over. An average of 9 lbs, 10 oz was determined. Dr. Fine was worried about you being over 10 lbs and me not being able to push you out. We spoke that afternoon and she felt that someone my height and weight could push out a 10 pounder. I was happy. I didn’t want to schedule a C-section.
Your dad and I drove out to Ayer and picked up your big sister, Jessica, from your grandparents’ house. We had pasta for dinner and watched The Simpsons, one of Jess’ favorite shows.
The Next Week
Over the course of the next week, I did everything that I could to get you to drop or get my cervix dilated and effaced. I went to the gym almost every day and took walks around our neighborhood. We also tried evening primrose oil, red raspberry leaf tea, spicy food—all things I had previously dismissed as “hippie shit.” Then we set up the breast pump and I would sit on the exercise ball and bounce, hoping something would happen. We looked at my belly in the mirror every day and convinced ourselves that you were moving. We also spent a lot of time going out to eat with friends, figuring we’d be pretty cooped up after you were born. Sol and Brandon came over for ice cream, and Matt, who was visiting from San Francisco, came over twice. Your Nana Bonnie called every day to check your status. On Sunday, we even snuck in some last meal out at Harvest, waiting for your arrival. On the menu – apple cinnamon pierogies, huevos rancheros and lemon semifreddo for dessert.
We did some chores around the house on Sunday and planned on eating light that evening, but we finally met our “new” neighbors and they invited us over for steaks on their back porch. Of course, we said yes and even joked that it was the sort of random thing that happened in other people’s birth stories. We were still hoping you might come out on your own. You had other plans.
Monday, June 8
We went back to see Dr. Fine. You were still pretty high and I wasn’t dilated at all, so we decided to do an induction on Tuesday night to see if we could get things moving. Your dad and I went home and finished our chores and errands. I told work that it would be my last day and happily put on my out-of-office response for the next 16 weeks. I also did laundry and gave the cats extra food. We then walked up to the gym for one last workout together in the hopes of exercising you out. No such luck.
We then decided on dessert before dinner and went for ice cream at JP Licks before picking up a pizza at Mike’s for home. I ate about a third of that pizza, knowing that I wouldn’t have much of an appetite for the next few days. Then we just went home and relaxed.
Tuesday, June 9: Induction Day
I slept late that morning and let Alistair, one of our cats, stay in bed with me longer than normal. Your dad had some work emails to finish up so I read some books and burned CDs for the hospital. It was a rainy day so I couldn’t go for a walk, but your dad and I decided we wanted one last adult lunch in Davis Square before your birth. We broke out the umbrellas and headed up to Blue Shirt Café and ordered our usual: a wrap to split and vegetable soups. I don’t remember what exactly we talked about, but your dad was probably talking me off the ledge as usual. I was VERY nervous about your arrival. As is my typical way, I was totally logistically prepared for your birth, but emotionally, I was a wreck. I was afraid of labor, scared of screwing you up and afraid of messing up the good relationship your dad and I have. I was worried about being a mom. Your dad has been through this before so he understood.
We decided to get something sweet and headed over to Mr. Crepe to split a chocolate and banana crepe and decaf café au laits. The guy working the counter was sweet, and when he found out I was being induced that afternoon, he told us he was happy we chose to spend our day there.
After lunch, we walked back to the house and double-checked our bags. More typical behavior for your dad and I. We always double check in the event that our items decided to make a break from the bags when we weren’t looking. At 3:30, I called the hospital and they instructed me to come over after dinner. They told me to eat at home where the food was better. We snuggled in the bed for a while, talked about what you might be like, and made some veggie burgers for dinner that we ate while watching bad t.v. on the couch.
We called our families and the doula to let them know what was going on and headed over to Mt. Auburn Hospital. We almost left our second bag in the car because we assumed that with your position, the induction wouldn’t work and that we’d be going home the next day. Our doula told us that happened frequently with first pregnancies so we worked out a preferred schedule of when we would go home and what induction methods we would try next.
In Labor and Delivery, we were assigned a room and I changed into my johnnie gown. Another doctor, Dr. Andersen, came in and explained how the Cervidil application would work, and then waited for the order to be placed. It came quickly and burned immediately. We settled in and watched the Yankees/Red Sox game. The Yankees played horribly; losing 7-0, Burnett vs. Beckett, and it seemed excruciatingly long. We needed to wait 12 hours to see if the Cervidil had succeeded or not.
The nurses were nice enough to find your dad a cot so went to bed, the last good night sleep we had. I was given and Ambien to help me get to bed and tried to ignore the beeping of all the monitors.
Wednesday, June 10: Laboring
When I woke up, I noticed that I was having minor contractions, and that I was really uncomfortable. Dr. Fine came around 8:30 a.m. and removed the Cervidil application. It was incredibly painful and burned so much that I started to cry. Her internal exam made me writhe in pain. It turns out that I was allergic to the medication and had a bad reaction that was causing me to swell and burn, very convenient when anticipating labor.
The positive? It worked! I was 2 cm dilated and 80% effaced. Dr. Fine advised that I start working with my contractions so your dad and I decided to stay in the hospital and not go home to labor as originally planned.
It was still early when I first started to believe that I might not be able to do this. We had originally told our doula to come after lunch, but after a few hours of whimpering, I asked your dad to call her. I took a shower in an attempt to relax. The water felt good on my back, but I started getting very sleepy. I wanted to lie down in the bed, but every time I did, I would get nauseous and start to gag. My back was in unbelievable pain, but none of the recommended back labor positions were working for me, so I just started to cry again.
I don’t remember how long I cried, but while I did, your dad put all of my focal points and pictures on the bed: a picture of the beach on Long Island, a picture of the beach on Longboat Key when your dad and I went to spring training in Florida, and a rock that had the word “grace” carved into it, a present from our minister, Dan, for when your dad was first dealing with his hearing loss. I sat on the birthing ball and tried to focus on them. The only two positions that seemed to give me any relief were the ball and sitting in the rocking chair where I was able to doze off for a little bit.
The contractions were hard, but in between, I was able to talk a little and walk around. I don’t remember when Ananda, our doula, arrived, but I think it was around noon. I was in the middle of a contraction, crying, with my eyes closed when I felt another set of hands on me. Ananda and your dad kept massaging me and helping me through back labor, one of the most painful kinds of labor (or so I read). They would push down as hard as they could on my back to apply counter pressure, but I was still in incredible pain.
Around mid afternoon, Dr. Fine came in for a status check. I was dilated to 5 cm, but you were still facing the wrong direction, sunny side up, and she wanted me to walk around to try and get you turned around. The next couple of hours were a blur, and I don’t remember time as much as just pain. Your dad figured out a system that helped me manage the pain a little bit better. He would watch the contractions on the monitor and shout out to me when they were peaking. I would cry and scream, “I need this to be over,” and he we would yell, “almost over” or “done, done.” That was the only thing keeping me sane.
They were also worried about me not eating and needing the strength to continue through. Months earlier, when we were at a “Meet the Doctors” session at the hospital, one of the doctors mentioned that women wouldn’t be worried or thinking about food while In labor. At the time, I couldn’t imagine any situation in which I would not be thinking about what to eat, but they were right. All the carefully prepared healthy snacks we had picked up before going to the hospital seemed disgusting to me. Against my will, I ate a banana that Ananda offered and your dad smeared with peanut butter. That was probably the worst banana I have ever eaten. Your dad left to make some phone calls, and Ananda helped me, still whimpering about wanting to go home, to the bed. I think I was lying down for about five minutes, when I suddenly shouted, “puke. PUKE.” Ananda grabbed a basin just in time for me to vomit up everything. Worst Banana in the World: 1. Me: 0.
We decided I should take a bath to try and deal with the pain. I took a pillow into the tub and sat in the water while your father poured warm water over my belly. It was relaxing, but I didn’t like being away from our “system.” The contractions seemed worse when I didn’t know that they would be ending.
I had another status check and had progressed to 6 cm, but things weren’t moving as fast as the doctors would like. You still weren’t descending. And the contractions just kept getting worse, with the back pain not lessening. Your dad and Ananda suggested I try another position to try and turn you. My most vivid memory of this part of labor was kneeling on the bed with my face and limbs wrapped around the top part of it, just screaming bloody murder and crying. I felt delirious and kept saying that I wanted it all to be over with and that I wanted to go home. I was pretty sure that we were nearing dinnertime, and I just knew that at only 6 cm and several hours into labor, that I would not be able to manage the pain on my own. I started begging for drugs, but your dad and Ananda told me to take it one contraction at a time. I don’t know how long I did that, but finally, I burst out crying again with an “I am not fucking around. I need some help. Please! Please!”
We called Dr. Fine and she went over our options. I still knew that I didn’t want an epidural. I wanted to be able to move around and to feel you, so I opted for a narcotic. The shot of Nubane must have been enormous because two weeks later, I still have a bruise, but it was such a relief. I could still feel my contractions, but they felt more like those from the early morning – the ones that I thought were totally not manageable at the time. I was able to relax a little. Your dad and Ananda ate dinner. We watched the second Yankees-Red Sox game. The Yankees lost. Again.
Thursday, June 11: Birthday
I don’t remember a lot of what happened next, but after a few hours, the narcotic started to wear off. The contractions were back and painful, but they hadn’t sped up. My labor was starting to stall out at 7 cm and I was feeling everything. Still, you hadn’t descended.
I managed through a few contractions, but then I asked Dr. Fine if I could get another shot. She wanted me to try and get things moving on my own and suggested I take a bath or a walk. Your dad and Ananda got me up and we did several laps around the L&D ward, stopping whenever I would have a contraction. One of the awesome night nurses kept telling me how great I looked and to keep going. We walked over to the post-partum wing and watched a little baby in the nursery getting cleaned up. Your dad kept me reminding me that you were coming soon, and we looked out the window at the Charles River at night. We walked back and I received my second Nubane shot.
At that point, we all tried to sleep. Ananda slept on a mat on the floor, and your dad slept on a chair next to me with his head on the bed. When he would hear me cry out during a contraction, he would grab my hand in his sleep. Dr. Fine checked me again, and I had progressed to 9.5 cm but still needed to efface more. You had descended a little, but not enough. At this point, she told me that we were probably looking at several more hours before being able to push. The narcotic was wearing off, and I was exhausted so sometime around 4 a.m., almost 24 hours in, I decided to get the epidural. I wanted the strength to be able to push and knew I couldn’t handle another few hours of contractions.
Your dad and Ananda had to leave the room, and I had to stay with the one nurse who had been brusque and rude earlier. When the anesthiologist came and expressed disbelief that someone would get an epidural at 9.5 cm, she immediately warmed up and said that I had been through enough and held my shoulders as I battled and shook through my next set of contractions, crying. We had problems getting the needle in, and he thought he might need to retry, but then everything came together. The relief was immediate. It was hard to remember what I had been so scared of. Your dad and Ananda came back, and we all went to bed.
Around 6 or 7 a.m., Dr. Fine came back and checked me again. I was exactly the same as I was a few hours prior. We decided to break my water to see if that would speed things up. Even that was problematic. She had to try a few times before the bag would finally break, and when it did, I was happy I was in the hospital. This was no small trickle. More like an endless gush. Dr. Fine started talking about the possibility of a C-Section if you didn’t descend more, but she wanted to give me more time to labor.
Her shift ended at 8, and I was turned over to Dr. Liau. She went through the same explanations as Dr. Fine and told me that I had finally progressed to 10 cm, but still hadn’t descended. She thought we should give you more time and then try to push you down. We waited. Your dad made some phone calls. The nurses prepped the room.
When it came time to start pushing, I was asked to roll onto my back. I had been on my side for hours in the hopes that it would move you face down and further into the birth canal. On my back, your heart rate plummeted and there was frantic activity to get me back on my side. We tried again, but the same thing happened. And again. They gave me an oxygen mask that stayed on for the duration of my labor.
Dr. Liau again explained our options. We could try to push, and then run the risk of an emergency C if you continued to get into trouble, or we could choose to get a C-section and give them time to prep the operating room and me. It my choice, but I desperately wanted someone to tell me what to do.
Your dad and I asked everyone to leave and I just looked at him. He started to cry which made me cry and said he couldn’t watch me go through any more pain only to end up in an emergency situation. I was so tired and afraid of you being hurt. I opted for the C-section.
We called everyone back in the room and they told us how things would work. At that moment, I really wanted to make sure I saw my parents before the operation and kept asking your dad if they were there yet. When they finally arrived, he let them in and I started to cry and said I just couldn’t do it anymore, that I needed to get you out. Your pop-pop told me not to cry and held my hand and kissed it. I was still holding the Grace rock. Your nana told me not to worry.
Then it seemed like we were waiting for hours. An earlier C-section was finishing up and the doctor preferred to wait until the main operating room was open instead of using the emergency back up. A woman scheduled to have a C with twins was bumped for me, and I felt guilty.
Then it was time. Your dad needed to stay in the room and change into scrubs while I was wheeled into the OR. It was then that I realized I was having an operation. I was staring at the bright white lights on the ceiling, and it felt like I was in a movie. The doctors administered my second epidural and did a number of tests. I was paranoid about feeling the cut and kept telling them, “I feel that” for every little twinge. They assured me that it was normal. They covered my belly with an antiseptic and then brought your dad in. He looked cute in scrubs, but I could barely listen to him talking because I was so scared.
He held my hand and stroked my hair. I forgot to tell the doctors that I wanted to hear what was going on, and they were so many people talking it sounded like everything was an emergency. It didn’t hurt, but I just felt a lot of pressure and discomfort. Then they told me that I would feel a LOT of pressure when they took you out. It felt like ten people were leaning on my stomach, and I may have cried. And then your dad and I thought we heard a cry.
The anesthesiologist told us he could see and said that we had a healthy baby. We asked if you were a boy or girl, but he couldn’t see so it was a few seconds before he declared, “it’s a girl!” Your dad and I laughed in shock because we were so sure that you would be a boy. And then we both started to cry. Your dad looked at you and he tearily told me that you were beautiful. I had my glasses on, but all I could see was your big shock of hair and squirming limbs. It old your dad to take a picture and show it to me and cried when I saw you. The doctors let him bring you over to me and I saw your big eyes, and he held us cheek to cheek. More tears. I didn’t want to let you go.
You were 9 lbs, 2 oz and 21.5 inches long, born at 11:47 am. The nurses had to take you to the nursery while I was getting sewn up. Your dad stayed with me for a bit before going to be with you. Under the lights, I got the post-epidural shakes and went through four warming blankets. I shook so badly that I needed to hold the sides of the table. I was exhausted, but channeling Lifetime movies and afraid that I might die and leave your father a widow with a new newborn if I closed my eyes, so I willed myself awake.
My stitches were in, and then I was sluggishly transferred back to my bed and wheeled back to the birthing room. Your dad, Ananda and your grandparents wheeled you in shortly after. We tried to nurse immediately and I felt your skin on mine for the first time and watched you root around, amazed that you knew what to do.
And then our adventure began.