At first, I didn’t write about my birth experience because of the two-week hospital stay that followed it. Then the first few weeks home I was lost in the fog of new motherhood. Then life slowly steadied itself, a routine developed and I started to think about getting my birth experience down in writing. But I kept holding off. Why, I’m not sure. (If I’m being honest, probably because I was too busy nursing and watching What Not to Wear). In any case, now it is Halloween, a celebration of all things scary. I can't think of a better time to start than now.
Let’s start with this little fact: never during my pregnancy did I consider having an epidural-free birth. Not once, not for a second. I was firmly in the camp of taking advantage of whatever pain-relief options were available. Nothing against women who choose otherwise, but I always knew that “natural” route wasn’t for me. I’d heard plenty of gushing from women who’d birthed with an epidural, women who raved about how they slept for five hours in the middle of labor, how they barely felt a thing, how the entire ordeal was -- while still painful at times -- manageable. I’d seen The Baby Story episodes where women birthed naturally, screaming and writhing around uncontrollably, shaking and convulsing with violence. It looked awful. No sir, no thank you.
And so, epidural, here I come, I thought, as I packed my bags on July 17th. Doctors had decided I needed an induction on my due date because they worried Luke suffered from Intra-Uterine Growth Restriction. In other words, they thought him on the scrawny side of normal, and apparently, that wispiness becomes more problematic the longer past your due date you go. And so, fully 40-weeks pregnant and with no signs labor would start on its own, I put aside my worries and accepted my fate with induction. That day – a Thursday – was a typical summer day in Michigan, swelteringly hot and bright. I tried to keep myself busy. I cooked a big dinner of pasta, assuming I’d need the carbs for energy and knowing I wouldn’t get to eat again for possibly a day or more. I cleaned, not wanting to return to a mess and feel overwhelmed. I checked and re-checked my lists of Stuff to Take. I had everything – my robe and comfy socks, snacks for Jimmy, my iPod, my hair-dryer for the day after, my ugly underpants that I wouldn’t mind seeing destroyed, and a carefully picked coming-home outfit for Luke. Preparedness is my game, and I was on top of it. Since Jimmy was working until midnight or so, my friend Jen had signed on to take care of me for the first shift. She swooped in at 6:45 p.m. to pick me up, and after a pit-stop at Walgreen’s for gum and a headband, I checked into the hospital at 7 p.m.
First stop was triage. It was a very quiet day, as far as I could tell, on the labor and delivery floor. Literally quiet; if there were other patients in triage, I didn’t hear them. I changed into the hospital gown and settled myself onto the table. A few nurses came by to fill out paperwork, do a quick ultrasound, ask me questions and check my cervix, which was still not dilated even a smidge. While the nurses came in and out, Jen and I gabbed as if we were out to lunch and not at a hospital for an imminent birth. At one point, we started laughing so hard that... um... I farted. Loud. That produced another round of hysterical laughter followed by a few tales of farts from our past. Yes, my birth experience was definitely off to a classy start. Eventually, a nurse came by to explain the way things would go down. My induction would start with a cervix softener, which would help me efface completely overnight. In the morning, I’d begin taking Pitocin, the drug – some would say controversial -- that mimics Oxytocin, the natural hormone that causes contractions. Pitocin is used in most deliveries today, either to induce labor or speed it up.
I would come to find out that sometimes it does both. And I wasn’t going to have to wait until morning to learn that lesson.
Check back for more in the coming days!