I’m so pleased to say that getting the epidural was nowhere near as traumatic as I had expected. Perhaps it was the freezing, perhaps it was the relative pain compared to the contractions, perhaps I was just being delusional but I only felt a few soft taps before I was allowed to recline again.
The next few hours sort of meld together for me. After a few initial tweaks, the epidural had taken effect and I couldn’t feel a thing. I napped, I ate a Popsicle, I listened to the thub thub thubbing of the monitors and then napped some more. I didn’t have much to complain about except for my heavily bruised hands, arms and elbows that had been poked and prodded. A series of nurses came in to check in on me but for the most part we were left alone to rest. And so we did.
After a shift change, a new nurse came into our room, held my hand, and said in the sweetest most cheerful voice, “My name is Mona and today we’re going to have a baby.” A baby? Haha, oh yeah, that part! As far into labour as I was, it still hadn’t completely sunk in that I would be leaving this room with a baby. My baby.
The OB/GYN came into the room shortly thereafter for another internal exam. This time I felt absolutely nothing apart from a bit of pressure. No tears, no crying. What a difference modern medicine makes. She said I was 7cm dilated and was surprised at how quickly I was progressing especially with this being my first child. She thought this baby would be born before midnight. It was starting to become very real.
Less than an hour later it was time to push. The OB/GYN was there with her resident along with a Respiratory Therapist (for the baby). Danny was on one side, my nurse on the other bracing my legs on their hips. We were a team and we were going to do this!
I felt excited but I also wanted to do a good job pushing so I focused on that task first and foremost. I couldn’t feel my contractions nor could I feel the ‘urge’ to push so I relied on the nurse and the monitor to dictate when to start and for how long. I focused all of my energy downwards and pushed with all my might. It was hard but I just stayed present. I remember them coaching me along and saying ‘yes like that again’ but truthfully couldn’t feel the difference between a ‘good’ push and a ‘less effective’ push. But we kept going.
I was really pleased at how calm everyone in the room was. The last thing I wanted was a team of over-zealous cheerleader types. That being said, the atmosphere wasn’t totally solemn either. At one point between contractions the resident decided to style the baby’s visible hair ‘just like Daddy’s’, which I thought, was cute. Even when it was discovered that the umbilical cord was wrapped around the baby’s neck (twice) the OB just referred to it as a pearl necklace instead of using language that would likely panic a first time mom.
At 2339h and with one final push our Benjamin Alexander arrived. Immediately after Danny cut the cord Ben was placed on my chest for some skin-to-skin time. There was this little creature all puffy and swollen but all ours. I choked back some tears as I studied all his little features. His curly dark hair, long finger and these wonderful brown eyes. This was the little rib-kicker living inside me for the past nine plus months? This will be the boy I take care of and tuck in at night? We created this little boy and he is ours to keep? I couldn’t stop staring in awe.
After a few minutes the respiratory therapist took Ben aside to clean him off and assess his vitals. The OB/GYN and resident were nearly done stitching me up and my nurse had collected the cord blood. I was relieved that the process was over but also couldn’t believe how fast it had all happened.
For the next few hours the three of us were allowed to stay in the L&D room. I tried getting Ben to latch on, the lights were dimmed, I was brought a tuna sandwich (much to Danny’s dismay as he was starving too but hates fish) and my nurse popped in for the occasional update. But, for the most part we were left alone to enjoy the first few moments of being a new family.
When I regained enough sensation and strength in my legs I was transported to the recovery unit on the tenth floor. Riding in the wheelchair holding our bundled boy in my arms was a feeling I’ll never forget. Exiting that dark quiet L&D room where all the action took place behind closed doors into the bright noisy halls of the hospital for all to see was almost like our debut into reality. We passed the nurses station where I received smiles and congratulatory messages. I tried to convey a look of encouragement to a labouring mother walking the halls. It felt like a lifetime had passed in just the span of a few short hours.
When I got settled in my recovery room shortly after 3am I sent Danny home for some much needed food and rest. Although I knew that sleeping was the smart thing to do, I found myself checking Facebook updates on my phone. Perhaps I was craving some semblance of ‘normalcy’ in this day of overwhelming change. The nurse came in to help me to the bathroom but unbeknownst to me I ended up peeing all over the floor on my hobble over. Glamorous right? Luckily she took it all in stride and got me cleaned up and re-settled in bed.
As I lay in bed I reflected on the events of the day. How much had happened. How much had changed. I recalled the way Danny held our first-born son with such natural confidence and pride - as if he had been prepared for this moment his whole life. I knew he would make a wonderful dad. You see, not only did I fall in love with my new little boy that day but I also fell deeper in love with his father. I watched Ben through heavy eyelids sleeping in a basket next to me and I finally drifted off too; a new mom, a new baby and a new life ahead.