When something significant happens in my life, I often want to document and record the experience in the very best way possible. I want it to sound profound and poetic, be something I can reflect on and be proud of for years to come. Unfortunately, however, these self-imposed expectations more often than not create so much inward pressure that I end up paralyzed and write nothing. So I’m going to try and surrender to that doubting voice and just write my story because at the end of the day it’s worth documenting, imperfections and all.
Ben’s Birth Story
It all began on Christmas Day… I had reached my official due date and there was absolutely no indication that this baby would be appearing any time soon. After indulging in turkey, mashed potatoes and all the fixings my family and I sat around the kitchen table and we played Scrabble.
I had been wondering for months how and when this baby would arrive. I had researched the requisite baby books and websites, read various birth stories, talked to families and friends about their personal experiences and spoke with my OB/GYN. But I knew labour was something I would never be fully ready for and that I’d just have to deal with it as best as I could while it progressed.
During the final few weeks leading up to my due date I had felt a lot of aches, pains and weird twinges that constantly left me wondering, “Is this going to develop into something?” I worried that I’d go into labour the week in December when Danny was on call and wouldn’t be able to get away easily. Then there were days I was so tired of being pregnant that I wished, even begged to feel contractions and get this party started. But there we were on Christmas Day, my due date reached, playing Scrabble and feeling diddley squat.
Late that night Danny and I walked (or more like paced) up and down, up and down, up and down our condo. It seemed a little silly but I wanted to get things going and if that meant an hour of pacing at two in the morning then so be it.
At 0700h on Boxing Day I woke up with a very tight and slightly painful feeling in my abdomen. Hmmm, I thought, this definitely feels like something. And sure enough, my contractions began.
I spent the first few hours labouring at home, mostly in our bedroom. It wasn’t completely awful but it was definitely uncomfortable and increasing in intensity over time. We started recording my contractions. Twenty minutes apart. Twelve minutes apart. Ten minutes apart. Danny brought me a peanut butter and jam sandwich (girl’s gotta eat – who knows when my next meal will be?) and stayed by my side most of the morning rubbing my back or holding my hand while I tried to find a position to relieve the pain of the next contraction. My parents and sister were occupying themselves quietly in the other rooms but would come in from time to time to offer a glass of milk, a cup of chicken noodle soup or some encouraging words.
To my great surprise, time was going by very quickly. By around 1200h my contractions were averaging seven minutes apart. I wasn’t feeling desperate or completely out of control but I definitely wanted some thing to help relieve the pain. I didn’t, however, want to go to the hospital too early. The idea of leaving my ‘safe’ place, putting on boots, jackets, grabbing bags, driving to the hospital, walking through the building and being assessed by triage only to be sent home was not appealing. I only wanted to make that trip once. So I held out for a while longer.
At 1400h Danny said it was time to go. My contractions had consistently been five minutes apart for over an hour, I was very uncomfortable and there was little chance of things slowing down. Reluctantly, I agreed.
My dad drove us the short few blocks to the hospital. I remember wanting to minimize the number of contractions I had ‘in public’ (silly, I know) so we waited a couple minutes before I got out of the car. As soon as my last wave finished I stepped outside. My plan didn’t hold for long, however, as I found myself bearing down on a planter not thirty feet from the hospital entrance wincing in pain. My loving dad snapped a photo on his iPhone because ‘that’s what my uncle Ted would do’. Thanks Dad.
The admitting area was totally empty (hooray) but I swear the guy collecting my information was more interested in making small talk with Danny than hurrying things along. I had submitted my admission papers weeks ago so what was the hold up? Perhaps I wasn’t making enough noise?
We took the elevator up to the seventh floor for triage. Again, it was relatively empty. My contractions were about three to four minutes apart. I got changed into my dressing gown and we waited for an assessment. Because it was Boxing Day, a statutory holiday, there wasn’t a lot of staff on hand so we had to wait a while for the resident to come by. In the mean time, I had three failed attempts to get an IV started (did I mention how much I hate needles?) and was hooked up to the monitors. The contractions continued. I wondered aloud if this is what an exorcism looked like, retaining however slight, a semblance of my lame sense of humour.
The resident still hadn’t come by to see me so the ward nurse did my internal exam to determine how far along I was. I’m not going to lie, this was the most painful experience thus far and I burst into tears. Normally I would have been horrified at drawing attention to myself in this manner but I didn’t care. It was awful. I felt a warm gush of liquid – she had broke my water. No need to see the resident any longer; it was go time. Bring on the epidural.
Danny tells me that we walked over to my labour and delivery room a few doors down, stopping once for a contraction, but I honestly don’t recall this at all. All I remember is thinking, ‘this L&D room is huge’. It was all very surreal.
I felt a mixture of dread and relief when the anesthesiologist entered the room. On one hand… pain relief was coming but on the other hand… I had to get a big scary needle. I realize how asinine this sounds in retrospect but it was honestly what I was feeling. However, after a few rounds of very intense contractions and two more failed attempts before an IV was inserted successfully, my fear shifted from ‘how much is this needle going to hurt’ to ‘how the heck am I going to stay still through this procedure? I buried my head against Danny’s chest while they taped up my back in preparation.