We did it. And it was a family affair. You, your Papa, and I worked like an Olympic team bringing you into this world. We had some amazing coaches and trainers too- Dr. Dwight and the nurses at Good Sam’s. We owe them a huge giant hug and thanks.
Your Bishop score determines your potential for a C-section. One means you most likely need one and 10 most likely not. We wanted a high number, obviously. Just the words c-section made me shake.
With that in mind, I did everything I possibly could to start our labor naturally. I was on a mission. Two acupressure sessions, two acupuncture sessions, hiking with Mimi and Brix, eating weird urban myth salads that are meant to induce labor, and writing you letters. I talked to you constantly, telling you how wonderful it was going to be out here when in retrospect I should have been talking to my cervix, as that was the culprit, not you.
But hindsight isn’t called foresight for a reason.
Monday rolled around, still, nothing. We went into Dr. Dwight’s office feeling slightly defeated but not nearly as defeated as we were when after he checked my cervix and your fluids he leaned back and with a very sad look on his face told us our Bishop score was a 3 and that he could not guarantee a vaginal birth. My eyes welled up but I refused to cry. I couldn’t look at your Dad right away. I just had to stare at Dr. Dwight and will him to say something more hopeful, but he didn’t. My will doesn’t seem to work that way, never has. I had to learn, this whole process wasn’t about my will, it was about surrendering it.
Surrender or be dragged, I’ve heard before. I was being dragged.
Dr. Dwight suggested we plan a nice dinner before we checked into the hospital at 10pm on Tuesday. So your Papa and I decided to make reservations at Little Dom’s- the first romantic date we ever had. It was the best date of my life, too, by the way. Your Papa arrived on my doorstep with a handful of white daisies looking dapper in a soft silky grey shirt and slacks. White daisies were perfect- how did he know? Not too pretentious. I had left planning up to him so when we arrived at Little Dom’s I was impressed yet once again. Little Dom’s is this fabulous cozy little Italian restaurant in Los Feliz with wonderful food. After a lovely dinner and delightful banter across a dimly lit table, we were waiting for his car at valet outside at valet when your Papa wrapped his arms around me and began to slightly sway. I asked him if he ever danced and he said something I will never forget and has become one of our family mottos- “I can get through just about anything.”
I started falling in love with him at that moment. I remember it so clearly, the moment when my heart first skipped a beat.
So Little Dom’s it was.
I felt resigned and in acceptance of the situation when I got home and then emailed our doula to tell her the news. That was when the wheels fell off the psychological truck for me. Our doula wanted us to go in with a higher Bishop score, for obvious reasons, and so she highly suggested we push back our induction date till the end of the week against the wished of our doctor.
I wish I had better resolution but I hate to admit I am still a bit of a candle in the wind and when she highly suggested we wait I went into a tailspin. It was one of the hardest nights of my life. Your poor Papa watched me vacillate back and forth trying to logically reason which would be best and why. Tuesday or Thursday- doesn’t seem like much a difference but it felt like an eternity that night. Do we risk you breathing meconium and trust our doula or do we trust our doctor and risk a c-section? There were no guarantees either way and it felt like one big giant chess game I was not emotionally mature enough to play.
Welcome to motherhood.
I sat up all night crying about it- which seems so silly to admit now but is true. I don’t know why a big decision like that brings me so much unbelievable angst but it does. I was physically torturing myself. There was all this logic and goodwill and then there was my gut that was telling me Tuesday, even though I was terrified of surgery. I was losing my mind when all I had to do was follow my heart, but I couldn’t. Not until your Papa sat me down in the morning and told me that all I had to do was take some action and see what happened. Just find out if we can even switch it to Thursday- then you’ll know and you’ll feel better- he wisely suggested. So I did. And Dr. Dwight said that if his doctor friend, Dr. Bochner gave me an ultrasound and said it was okay to wait until Thursday- then it was okay with him. I went to see Dr. Bochner right away. He took one look at the ultrasound and said not only was it not okay that I wait until Thursday he wanted me to go straight to the hospital right then and there.
He said my fluids were dangerously low and my placenta was looking haggard (not his words).
I told him and Dr. Dwight that I wanted to talk to my husband first but that I would check in as soon as possible. They both looked hesitant but said okay.
I left feeling super excited and relieved, not only were we finally going to be able to meet you but I didn’t have to make any stupid decisions anymore!
I went to your Papa’s office, we talked about it and decided to go home, get all our hospital gear, and go have lunch at Little Dom’s since dinner was out of the question.
We had a lovely lunch together, Papa ate hangar steak with arugula and I had ricotta gnocchi in a tomato sauce. Then we parked the car and walked into the hospital together at 2pm. It was totally surreal, going in this way, but I felt so good and happy I didn’t care. I finally fully surrendered to whatever would need to happen to get you out in the best way possible and all that mattered was you, not some idea I had about what birthing you should look like.
The labor and delivery room was bigger than we expected and quite nice, actually. Soothing blue wallpaper, a big open window, full bathroom with shower, and wi-fi. What more could we ask for? How about a better bed for Papa. That was sad. I don’t even want to talk about that. Poor guy.
We unpacked and got situated and then we waited for Dr. Dwight to come over and put in the first of many things into my body to get this show on the road.
A suppository called Cervidil was manually placed as far into my cervix as it would allow. Dr. Dwight did this at 5pm. It hurt like hell, I ain’t gonna lie. I’m not a big fan of things being strategically placed in my cervix, even if they are the size of a piece of Dentine chewing gum. I think it has something to do with how far up the cervix is. Just a thought.
Then we were told to wait, like 12 hours, in which something might happen, something might not. At the most, we’d love for contractions to begin, at the least, a softening of the cervix. But Dr. Dwight didn’t want us to get our hopes up so he told us to hang in there and stay positive. He wouldn’t be back until 7am the next morning and a nurse would remove the cervidil around 3am. It was only 5pm. Open up the laptops, break open the books, start distracting ourselves. This part was kind of fun, I’ll admit. Our first nurse, Lori, was great. She and I talked about traveling a lot and she had a really nice demeanor. She had no kids of her own but was recently married. Big soft nice brown eyes. At 7pm there was a changing of the guards and we met our night nurse, Amy. Amy was awesome. A total Echo Park lady who wore black rimmed glasses and had two small children and a husband who wrote music reviews. You can imagine how much we all had to talk about. She seemed like someone we would be friends with outside of this alternate reality.
The food was horrible. I don’t even know why they called it chicken because it wasn’t. So your Papa went out and scored us some California rolls across the street. He’s a good man! Then after dinner, he climbed into my hospital bed with me and we snuggled for a while. That felt really nice. I needed that.
We tried to watch an episode of The Wire but couldn’t fully commit, so we gave up. We thought we were going to be able to finish the final season, how wrong we were. We spent a lot of time listening to other women labor, some yelled, some grunted, and one doctor sounded like a football coach, all of which ended in a baby’s cry. I tried not to be jealous of the women I heard had come in hours into their labor, pushed for 30 minutes, then had their baby. I tried.
The night wore on, nothing happened, and we both decided to try and sleep around 11pm. It was weird trying to sleep in a strange hospital bed attached to a fetal heart rate monitor the entire time. They make you wear this belt over the monitors- one for your heart rate and one for contractions- to keep them in place but they are constantly needing to be adjusted because you keep moving and kicking around plus the belt itches like crazy- needless to say- I didn’t fall asleep. I laid there and fantasized about you. That was- until the contractions began. And yes- they began, with a vengeance.
Around 11pm something started happening, I didn’t know what it was, I just knew I needed to breathe through it. It felt like my uterus, beginning at the bottom and working it’s way up, was being put into a vice grip or through a meat processor. I’ve never felt anything quite like it. Your Papa heard me breathing first and asked if I was okay. I wasn’t sure. So he got up and started holding my hands and rubbing my feet. That was when they started coming right after another and for longer and longer periods of time. Amy came in to see how we were doing but she didn’t seem to believe me that we were having actual contractions because they weren’t showing up on the monitor. After about an hour of her watching us work harder and harder through each surge, she finally brought in a new monitor, attached it to my belly, and said Oh shit. Yes, you are definitely having contractions. No shit. I thought.
For the next 3.5 hours, your Papa was the most amazing birth coach I could ever ask for. He was right there with me for each one. When one would start, no matter what he was doing he’d drop it and rush over, grab my hands or feet and lock eyes with me counting breaths slowly- in two-three out two-three. That was until there was no time in between then he just stayed with me. I remembered this woman in a coffee shop telling me how she got through her hardest contractions by just knowing it was only gonna take three or four breaths to reach the end. These were taking 6 to 10 breaths. Not fair. I wanted 3-4 breath contractions really badly. There was no downtime. My right hand gripped the side rail and my whole body shook. I didn’t know how to submit and relax into them, they rocked my world. At one point we tried standing up and swaying with Papa behind me pushing on my hips but that felt stupid and I never wanted to do it again. I was attached to an IV at this point too- so you could be well hydrated, so wandering around the halls, taking long hot showers together, none of this was possible. I sat upright on the bed and endured the best I could while falling more in love with your Dad because he was so damn awesome and I’d never felt so vulnerable before in my entire life. If I started to panic all he had to do was tell me to look at him and I’d feel better. He was a total pro and cool as a cucumber. Except for that one contraction, he lost his cool and abandoned ship. But it wasn’t his fault. It was mine. I let out this giant medicated fart right before a huge contraction began. I tried to apologize to your Papa but there wasn’t time. All I knew was that by the breath count 6 his eyes began to water and he said he couldn’t, he just couldn’t anymore. He had to let go and step away. I had to laugh, even in that much pain, I laughed. So did he. We kind of needed it at that point.
By 4am I started to have doubts about keeping this up till God knows when. I remembered two conversations vividly, which I think saved us- one was when I was talking to Michelle about her birth with Matisse and how when I told her how amazing it was that she did it naturally she told me she’d wished she’d had an epidural. That is was a traumatic experience for her. That stuck with me because I admire Michelle tremendously. And then just the day before, I’d been walking around the reservoir with Nanna and Willow and Nanna was telling me that she wished she’d had an epidural instead of trying to tough it out because she was pretty sure it could have saved her from the c-section she had that was wrecking havoc on her body in recovery. With those two thoughts in my head I started to consider doing it, the big E. I looked at Tim and Amy and said I wanted to talk about it. Both knowing my intense desire to have an unmedicated ‘natural’ birth knew to try and distract me first. We made a deal, Amy was going on her break from 4-5am. Could we discuss it when she got back? Deep breath- ummmm…okay.
One more hour. I could do it. I was tough. I had Timmy.
At 4:30am a little Asian Elf came by. Her name was Meow. She was short and stocky and confident. She took one look at the monitor, one look at Tim and I breathing on the bed, and said, You know- if you want help. It’s okay.
That was all she needed to say. It was okay.
I said to Dad, “Get Meow and get me drugs.”
“What’s the code?”
“One Eyed Jerry!!”
“You got it.”
I don’t know why I picked One Eyed Jerry as our epidural cod when our doula asked it just came to mind. I worked at a coffee shop in Venice when I was 19 and there was a regular named Jerry who only had one eye. He was a Vietnam vet and I don’t think he knew we called him One Eyed Jerry, but we did, and my dear friend Katie and I even went so far as to name our fictitious all girl Twisted Sister cover band One Eyed Jerry. It just stuck.
So there it was. I said it. And I was really glad that I did.
By the time Amy returned from her break, Dr. Blasco, the epidural doctor, was already getting set up in the room. A man of few words he took his job very seriously. Which is good, I want a man who is sticking a foot long needle into my spine to be serious. I don’t need to be entertained at this point. The hardest part about getting the epidural was staying absolutely still during gut-wrenching earth shaking contractions so he could put the needle in my spine and not fuck any shit up. Amy held my shoulders. My whole body quaked. Papa didn’t look at the needle. I’m glad. Then it was over.
20 minutes and a few contractions later I was basically numb from the top of my uterus down. I did not like the feeling but I appreciated not feeling the contractions. It was strange having so many cords and wires coming out of me, me, who has never been to the hospital for anything before in my life. I was definitely NOT in Kansas anymore. But I slept. Thank God for that. I slept a couple of hours with the nurses coming in every once in a while to move me. I had to switch the side I was laying on every twenty minutes or so in the hopes that it would move your body down and into the birth canal. It felt so weird not being able to use my legs. So humbling. So was the catheter. Nothing sexy about that either.
We kept that up until 7am when another change of the guards happened and we said a teary huggy good-bye to Amy and welcomed Carla, the 5’11” volleyball player. She couldn’t have been more different than Amy and yet so perfect for this next phase of our journey. Dr. Dwight came in at 7 and checked my cervix. He was super shocked and pleased to hear that I had contractions yet I had only dilated 1.5cm. My heart dropped. That was all? Instead of using the foley balloon he was going to try he decided to just start me on Pitocin and up it every half hour. That was the plan. Fine with me. He still didn’t seem hopeful about a vaginal birth but he did seem committed to doing everything he possibly could to try, and that was enough for me.
So up the Pitocin and wait some more.
That was how we spent the day. Me being shifted from side to side and your Papa answering emails and making me laugh, as much as I could. The weird thing was that even though I had an epidural, my body kept shaking through contractions. It was really strange knowing what kind of stress my body was going through and not being able to feel it. So disconnected. But necessary as it was the only way I think my cervix was going to open if I relaxed, and since I couldn’t relax on my own, the epidural was key. I will forever be grateful for it.
At 9am Dr. Dwight came back. Not much progress. Back again at 11am but this time he when he checked my cervix he really went for it. I could feel some pressure as he told us he was manually going to try and open my cervix. The stubborn little cervix it was. I saw the look on Papa’s face while Dr. Dwight did this and it didn’t look fun. I am so glad I couldn’t feel it, just the pressure was enough. He left saying he thought he got us to 4cm! What wonderful news, only 6 more to go, and it only took almost 24 hours. This was looking like it would be a very very long day after all. Dr. Dwight left, once again, not very hopeful. But Papa and I secretly hoped for the best even if we didn’t say it out loud, it was there between us, alive and well in the room. Hope.
Then the strangest thing happened, I started to feel contractions again, not nearly at the level before, but I could definitely tell you when they were happening without looking at the monitor. I also became extremely nauseous and threw up bile. I thought it was because of the epidural. I had a digestive charlie horse on my left side that happens when I don’t eat enough for a long period of time and I thought maybe more epidural would help it but it did nothing. It just made me sick, or so I thought. Little did I know what kind of intense magic was going on in my body right at that moment. Because when Dr. Dwight came back for his periodic cervical check in at 1pm- just two hours after he got us to 4 cm- he went in and instead of looking disappointed this time he shocked us all by looking at us and said,
“You are fully dilated, kid. Get ready to push.”
With the biggest grin on his face and just like a PE coach. He was a proud doctor right then.
Wow. What? Wait! I’m not ready. I need to prepare…
No time to prepare. It was go time. Tim immediately called our doula and told her we were pushing.
I was actually going to able to push my baby out. I couldn’t believe it. It seemed too good to be true. It felt like a miracle had occurred. I didn’t even care when Dr. Dwight said we were going to turn off the epidural, I wanted to feel every push. I wanted to remember every single moment that was coming. I wanted to be present for all of it.
Dr. Dwight told Carla, our super nurse, to call him when I crowned. That was when she and Tim assumed the positions.
Since our doula wasn’t there it meant that Papa had to take her place at my feet- I had your Dad on my left, holding my foot against his chest, and Carla on my right, coaching me through each contraction and push. She was amazing. Having been a cheerleader you’d think she might get bossy but she was perfect. She was clear and direct. I listened to her voice and watched your Papa’s face. Especially since from the beginning, he had said he was staying North of the action and wasn’t necessarily interested in the activities down South. Well, now he had no choice. South he was and South he would stay, front row and center for the show. Best seats in the house. Now I really hoped I didn’t poop on the table.
As the epidural waned the pushing waxed. It actually felt good- in a relative way- to push with each contraction. The only hard part was when I would know that I’d wasted a contraction not pushing correctly. It was easily the most physically strenuous thing I have ever done- way more than running a half marathon in the hills. Because there was no backing out or pausing. I had to give each and every push everything I had in the tank and then refuel in between. I think I even fell asleep in between a couple of them. And it was challenging learning what where and how to push correctly so that your little noggin could get out from under my pelvic bone. I could tell when I’d had a good push by the tone of Carla’s voice and the look on Papa’s face. He’d look amazed as Carla would tell him that it was his daughter’s head he was looking at. I had to focus the pushing on the upper part of my uterus then move it down bearing down into my anus. That part was weird, she told me to push like I was pooing the biggest poo of my life. And when I did, pulling on the handrails, curling my body in, holding my breath for 8 counts, and bearing down like an animal, it worked brilliantly. If I forgot one part of the equation or got lazy anywhere, it was a wasted push and I hated that more than anything. Conservation of pushing was my goal.
That was when I smelled it. I knew it! I pooped on the table! They both told me I didn’t, but I knew they were lying. It didn’t end up mattering because after the next push Carla said I was crowning! I knew this meant the ring of fire, and I felt some intense pressure down there accompanied with a stinging sensation but it didn’t last too long as Dr. Dwight was swiftly procured and rushed in getting ready. For some reason when I saw him I erroneously thought, oh great, now my job is done, he just has to take her out of me. Phew!
I yelled- Okay Dr. Dwight, you can take her out now!
But that was not to be the case. The hardest part came next when they told me I couldn’t push for one contraction, that I needed to wait for Dwight. WTF? NOT push? Were they out of their minds? Okay, Carla conceded, little pushes. I pushed half ass. Nothing major happened except I felt better about it. That was when I looked at your father’s face just as Dwight was assuming his rightful position there to catch you. Papa looked utterly dumbstruck and amazed at the same time. There was such a sense of complete wonder and possibly confusion residing there in his eyes. It reminded me of when he first felt you kick. For a split second, I marveled at how lucky I was to share this incredible raw messy primitive experience with someone as brilliant and wonderful as your Dad and how I’d never felt closer to another human being then I did at that moment with you and your dad.
Then Dr. Dwight told me to push and to be honest, I don’t remember much of what happened next. All I know is that something primal took over my body and in two more contractions with animal-like sounds coming out of me I felt this incredible release and relief wash over my whole body and I regained consciousness fully. That was when they put you wet and wily on my belly, still attached to my body. I think I said Holy Shit and your Dad said What the Fuck. Nothing in the world can prepare you for that moment. It was 2:11pm, we pushed for one hour.
The nurses were quickly wiping you down and trying to get you to take a breath. It seemed like forever. You were dark and grey/blueish in color. My first anxiety attack (many more to follow) as a mother came when I worried you weren’t going to breathe. You took a tiny little gasp, then let out a sweet little wail, but not enough. Dad cut the cord before they whisked you away to the little warming bed so they could give you oxygen. Dad went with you and I watched as he put his face right up to yours and started talking to you. Immediately you stopped squirming and stared straight into his eyes. You definitely knew his voice. It was an incredible moment to watch. Your Dad talked to you and explained everything they were doing. He has such a calming reassuring presence. I watched his effect on you, the same as it is on me. That was when I delivered the placenta. Dr. Dwight wanted to show us how calcified the placenta was and Tracy Doula took a photo of it. It didn’t look like anything we wanted to bury, dehydrate, or eat. And then you were back, and you were nursing right away, and Tracy (who made it just as you came out) was taking photos, and your Dad and I were in total shock and awe.
It felt like such a miracle holding you in my arms after all that. I’ve never felt more blessed in my whole life. You were so little and helpless and fragile. I was so scared I was going to break you. I didn’t know how to hold you right away. I had to learn you. Dad and I looked at all your fingers and toes. We smelled you and talked to you. You looked at us with the biggest most beautiful alert baby eyes in the whole world.
They wheeled us right away into the recovery floor and it was like entering a whole other dimension. One floor down and another quality of room and care altogether. Tiny suffocating room. They kept coming in to check our temperature and my blood pressure and we thought for some reason we could leave in the morning, like first thing in the morning. We were wrong. We would have to stay at least 24 hours for them to check you for jaundice. Oy vey. Another 24 hours. We settled in. Then we met Sung, our nurse for the night. She was this petite Asian woman with a fairly strong accent, but we liked her. She was very attentive and direct. She made us watch a newborn care video and she liked to make jokes that weren’t that funny but she laughed anyway. The food was still horrible so Papa got sushi again. I could barely eat or sleep, my adrenaline was racing. All I wanted to do was stare at you, nurse you, and smell you. At one point in the night you slept next to your Dad, who was already a natural with you, and every time you made a noise your Dad said he’d look over only to see my eyes big as saucers with a huge toothy grin peering over my hospital bed making sure you were all okay.
I couldn’t help it. I couldn’t get enough of you.
They said we were breastfeeding pros. And I think we were too. In the morning Dr. Dwight came in and congratulated us. He said we had humbled him as a doctor because he really didn’t think we were gonna be able to do it, and we did. We proved him wrong. I don’t know how, I’ll never know, and I don’t need to. I’m just so glad he was our Doctor because he never gave up on us.
Okay- that is the story of your birth.
Next installment will be the story of taking you home.
That, my love, is a whole other adventure.
No one told me that along with this great gigantic tsunami size wave of love would be in equal measures morbid horrendous anxiety.
The story continues…