The birth of my child was a powerful event in my life that I will never forget. I’ve decided to publish this post detailing the 30 hours of events leading up to his birth, and I hope it may be of particular interest to those of you reading this who are expecting your first child.
I woke up at 04:30 on a Thursday morning, feeling like I really had to pee. When I went to the toilet, I started leaking a bit just before I sat down on the toilet seat. I was four days overdue. There wasn’t a lot of fluid, but I also don’t usually pee all over the bathroom before I sit down, so I quickly wondered if my water may have broken. Naw. Probably not. There would have been more fluid. Right? I went back to bed.
After maybe 15 minutes I felt like I had to pee again. As soon as I stepped back into the bathroom, fluids started gushing out of me. There could be no doubt. The baby was coming.
Terrified and excited all at the same time, I told Lemon to get out of bed and call the hospital. While he did I was walking around, leaving little puddles of baby juice in my wake. I grabbed a beach towel from the bathroom and stuck it between my legs. I was an out-of-control amniotic fire hydrant, dousing anything and anyone foolish enough to stand in my way. Take that, most of my clothes and underwear! Not so fast, living room furniture!
To the hospital!
At this point I started getting some mild contractions. They weren’t painful, just a little uncomfortable. The hospital told us to come in immediately, since my water had broken. We got in the car and went to the hospital. A nice young woman hooked me up to a cardiotocograph (CTG), which is a fancy machine that monitors fetal heartbeat and contractions. She did not check how dilated I was, because with the amniotic fluid gone there was an increased risk of infection.
They told me to monitor the color of the amniotic fluid, and that any hint of green or brown should be taken as a sign of infection. My baby juice was currently clear or pinkish, so they sent me back home and told me to keep track of my contractions and come back when they were more frequent, and more painful. They would have to be at most 5 minutes apart for at least an hour.
When I got back home the contractions quickly started getting more and more frequent, and a lot more painful. At one point they were as frequent as 4 minutes apart, but I didn’t feel as though they were quite painful enough yet. I didn’t expect it would be very long until I would have to head back to the hospital, but then suddenly the contractions took a time-out. For two hours they stopped completely, and I was even able to catch a few hours of sleep.
I installed an app called Full Term to help track the contractions. It’s great. I highly recommend it. It lets you log not just the duration, but the intensity of each contraction too. All you gotta do is start and stop a stopwatch as the contractions occur, and then rate the intensity once it’s over. Most of the other apps I tried were far more complicated, and did not have a rating system for intensity. Instead, you had to log any additional information as text. Fuck that. Get Full Term instead.
Over the next 9 hours, the frequency and the intensity of my contractions slowly increased. At 8 pm, fifteen and a half hours after my water had broken, I threw in the towel. They were painful as hell, and happening every fourth minute or so. We decided to head back to the hospital.
This time when we came in, the midwife did check how dilated I was. She looked at me with a smile and reported that I was doing great, and was already 2 centimeters dilated.
2 lousy centimeters.
I was crushed. It had been 16 hours, 16 hours of being hammered with painful contractions, baby juice leaking from every orifice, being tired as hell. I felt like I’d been beat to a Tropicana pulp. My only reprieve was that they were not sending me home this time. I was being moved to a delivery room, where I would be monitored until I was fully dilated. The next time I was going home, I was bringing my baby with me.
The contractions grew unbearably painful, and I graduated from yelling to screaming. I begged for painkillers. The midwife told me she would see what she could do, and left me for another 20 agonizing minutes. As she returned, she told me that they would be giving me an epidural even though I wasn’t really dilated enough yet. It could not come soon enough.
Pump me full of drugs
The epidural felt like manna from heaven. I wasn’t expecting this sort of effect. It was incredible. Every last bit of pain melted away. Couldn’t feel a thing. I was still able to walk, though somewhat shakily. I couldn’t even feel the contractions, although the CTG informed me that they were definitely still happening. As the pain subsided, I realized I was just about as tired as I had ever been. It had been 21 hours since my water had broken. I fell asleep for a few hours.
The nurse came into the room and asked me to go to the toilet and try to pee. I tried, but the epidural appeared to have deactivated the muscles I needed to empty my bladder. Nothing happened. Fearing that my bladder would grow too full, the nurses decided to stick a catheter up my urethra and drain my bladder manually. Gross.
Eventually the contractions got so painful that they started cutting through the epidural. It had been 26 hours since my water had broken. I was utterly exhausted, but at least I had Lemon there to hold my hand and keep me focused. Whenever a contraction hit, he would breathe through it with me. Still, the pain was getting more and more intense, and the nurses asked whether I’d like to try inhaling some laughing gas (nitrous oxide). “Hell yes! Pump me full of drugs!“. They hooked me up with a mask that I could breathe from whenever I felt I needed to. I put it over my mouth during each contraction until I couldn’t really feel the contractions anymore. Oh, sweet relief. I was surprised that I did not feel intoxicated in any way. The only effect was that the pain was gone.
During my stay at the hospital I had 7 different midwives attend to me. When we first arrived I’d be attended by one midwife, who would then go home because her shift ended. And then I would meet her again for a second time 16 hours later because, to her, it was tomorrow. To me, however, it just felt like a really long today.
At this point I had cables sticking out everywhere. I had one tube going out from my spine to provide a constant flow of that sweet epidural nectar. There was a cable between my legs monitoring the baby’s heartbeat (a sensor they attach to the top of the baby’s head). Then on top of that there was still the alien contraption around my waist monitoring my contractions. Whenever any of these would come undone, midwives would come running into the room to reattach them. They were monitoring me from out there. I was under surveillance by a throng of midwives, ready for action, waiting for their next midwife crisis.
I could feel the pain coming back. Not even the laughing gas was keeping it completely at bay anymore. One of my many midwives decided it was time to check how far along I was. “About 9 cm” she reported, “but the baby isn’t really in the right place yet. We have to wait for it to be located further down before we begin”. She suggested I stand upright as much as I could so as to allow gravity to do some of the work for me. Without the laughing gas, standing up would’ve been impossible. But with it, I was able to stand up for a little while at a time. They provided me with this weird sort of elbow-couch on wheels. I have no idea what to call it. I guess it’s a sort of walker? Leave a comment if you have a suggestion.
(edit: apparently it’s called a cardiac walker. Thanks K!)
Eventually, I couldn’t stand up any more. It just hurt too much. Everything hurt. One of the midwives checked me again. I was about 9.5 cm, but the baby still wasn’t ideally located.
I remember thinking that the pain at this point wasn’t really the sort of pain I had expected. I was expecting vaginal and maybe uterine pain, but this felt more like I had to take a basketball-sized shit. There was a big, hard lump inside me, and it was awful. I tried to fight it, holding it in with all my might. After maybe 20 minutes of fighting, the midwife casually mentions that if I feel like I have to poop, I shouldn’t fight it, because that’s the baby coming. “You couldn’t have said that earlier?“, I though to myself. Every minute had felt like a lifetime.
So I started pushing. This was a new kind of pain. This pain was fucked up. Nothing could have prepared me for this amount of pain. I have a grandmother who has 10 children, and they say it gets easier every time, but I cannot for the life of me fathom how anyone could do this ten times. And what’s worse, her births were all natural, and here I was on a cocktail of strong sedatives!
I was lying on my back with my feet on these little platforms, and I was holding on to a handle on each side of the bed. At first I didn’t really understand how the handles would work, but oh god did they help. During each contraction I used every muscle in my body to push as hard as I could, and the handles helped push my upper body forward. I had to take a deep breath, hold it, and just push and push until I almost passed out. The pain was so bad that it was difficult to tell when I was having contractions. I would think that I was having one and start pushing, but nothing would happen because without the contractions helping out it was nearly impossible to push.
Lemon was sitting next to me telling me how great I was doing, feeding me coca cola and water through a straw (two separate glasses, mind you). I was so thirsty from hours of pain, and I was so tired. The sugar from the coke gave me a much needed energy kick. If you’re reading this as a pregnant lady, make a note to pack some sugary drinks and straws in your hospital bag. Keep a glass of each, you never know when you need that extra sugar, or when you desperately need to quench your thirst with some nice, cold water.
The midwife kept saying that she could see the head, just one more big push would do it, but I was pushing for my dear life and the baby just refused to pop out. I felt so frustrated. Tears streaming down my face, I scowled at Lemon and said “fuck you for doing this to me“. He responded “it was your idea!“, and the midwife laughed.
I was spent. All I wanted was to give up, have them cut me open and pull him out of me. I was pooping and crying and breathing and pushing. For a moment, everything went blurry and my head fell limp. I knew it would be dangerous to faint, but I was so exhausted from lack of sleep and from breathing exercises. It was overwhelming.
Hairy, purple heartbreaker
After 34 minutes of pushing, I decided to pour all my effort into a single push, to push as if my life depended on it. I couldn’t handle any more of this, it had to end. As I did, it finally happened. I felt a wave of relief wash over me and I cried like a baby, letting out a loud sigh. I heard my baby cry. Holy shit, I have never felt so relieved. I looked at Lemon and saw he was crying as well. Lemon never cries. It was heartbreaking. It’s hard to describe just how I felt at that moment, but I’ll never forget it. I had done it. I was finally a mother.
They told me to unbutton my shirt, and then placed him on my chest after drying him off. And then I saw him. He was bright purple, with a thick head of hair. He was the most beautiful little creature in the entire universe.
It had been 30 hours since my water broke. It was Friday the 26th of August, and the time was 11:08 am. He weighed 4120 grams and was 51 cm long. We were the happiest two people on the planet.