I’m feeling nostalgic, what can I say? Graphic and honest, be warned.
5 years ago today I remember lying on a hospital bed, exhausted. I hadn’t eaten in over twenty four hours, and I had only gotten four hours of restless sleep the night before. I had been up for 22 hours by this point. I have never been more mentally or physically exhausted in my entire life. My entire body was shaking as the adrenaline coursed through me but I didn’t have the strength to even sit up. So instead, they brought my son to me, and I was able to meet him for the first time.
To be perfectly honest, I don’t remember much about that day. Stadol will do that to you, I am told. I remember walking into Labor and Delivery for my induction and the nurses gave each other a look and said “already?” It was 5am, still dark outside.
I remember watching animal planet on the TV in the room while we waited. They had birth stories for animals. I found it amusing. That is, until I watched the episode where none of the babies survived the mother Chihuahua’s traumatic birth. I don’t remember what I watched after that.
The train station was less than a block away from the hospital, if I stood up, I was able to see it from my room. I listened to the trains passing every now and then, but I tuned it out after a while.
I remember feeling under pressure because I knew my mother (who has anxiety issues) has been in the waiting room since 5am waiting for me to give birth, and nothing much seemed to be happening. My mother and father in law were down there, keeping her company. I think my dad came to visit as well, but left long before the baby was born. They were under strict orders not to come upstairs for any reason. I was feeling anxious enough having them there.
After eight hours of labor the doctor broke my water, and that’s when it started to hurt. Husband was worried. He sat on the side of the bed looking worried. He asked me repeatedly if I was okay, if there was anything that he could do, if I was absolutely sure I didn’t want any drugs. After two hours of that, I asked for pain medication.
Stadol. I hate stadol. It didn’t help. It made me feel like I had taken way too much night time cold medication. It didn’t help the pain at all, just made me feel too tired and too strung out to form coherent enough words to tell anyone how much it hurt. In between contractions, I laid my head down and closed my eyes, although I wasn’t really tired before, now I was absolutely exhausted. I slept for a minute or so at a time between contractions, and during contractions I curled into a ball and wished it would go away.
In retrospect, an 8 hour birthing class offered by a hospital is not nearly enough preparation. Hubby’s eyes were wide like a trapped animal. I’m sure I didn’t look much better.
After a couple hours of that, I asked for an epidural. It took what seems like forever to get the anesthesiologist into the room. The needle scared me, especially the thought of putting it into my spine, but I was too drugged out to really care at this point. I laid back down on the bed and closed my eyes and slept.
I don’t know how long I was out, but during this time hubby went to go eat something. He hadn’t eaten anything since the night before either.
I woke up and needed help to the bathroom a few times. It was dark out now, but I had no idea what time it was. I remember throwing up, a lot. I remember the nurses coming in every twenty minutes or so to tell me to move over so they could listen to the baby better. They put an oxygen mask on me, which seemed to scare the hell out of my husband.
Somewhere around 8pm, I felt the urge to push and so the nurses came in to assist. I pushed for two hours. I think this is why I didn’t have the strength to sit up, my muscles had worked harder than they ever have before. It felt as if I did about a thousand sit ups, and besides that I was absolutely exhausted from lack of food and sleep. My entire body shuttered and jerked, as if someone had grabbed my shoulders and shook me. It was the adrenaline pouring through me. I didn’t really care, I just wanted my baby. I just wanted them to give me my baby.
An hour and a half after I started pushing, the doctor came in. Just in time to catch the baby. Extract is more like it, as they had to use a vacuum to get his head unstuck. Just like his father, my son had a big head.
When I hear birth stories, I hear mothers tell me that when they first view their child they see it as the most beautiful thing they have ever beheld. Not my son. He looked like a salamander. His head was elongated and swollen. His skin was so thin that you could see the veins underneath and all of him was a very scary looking blue color. He didn’t cry. The doctor asked if my husband wanted to cut the cord. Husband said no. He was afraid of hurting one of us, so the doctor cut the cord.
They didn’t place him on my chest. They took him to an incubator to get him checked out. I was in a lot of pain still but it didn’t really matter. I just worried for my baby. As soon as they put him down in the incubator he started to cry. I think I did to, but I don’t remember. I was just so relieved that he was crying. There is nothing that would scare a mother more than seeing her first born come out all limp and silent. The anesthesiologist made another appearance, my meds had run out, he was here to give me some more. He went over to the baby and said something about how much vernix was on him. I remember being a little angry that he was able to see my baby and I wasn’t. Then it was time to delivery the placenta, and the nurses came to assist the doctor, leaving my crying baby all alone in the isolate. I was more than a little angry then. Why was my baby across the room from me crying? Husband didn’t want to leave my side.
After the placenta was delivered, the doctor asked if we wanted to see it. Eww. No, we did not want to see it. I had seen placentas before; they weren’t nearly as cool as they sounded. I wanted to see my baby. I was too weak to sit up on my own so they inclined the bed so I could sit up and they placed him in my arms.
Caleb Alexander Thaddeus
I wished I had something beautiful and poignant to say to him, but I didn’t. He lay there crying in my arms and I told him not to cry. “Mommy and Daddy have you.” I remember the doctor chiding me about saying that. It’s good for him to cry, he told me. Maybe he was right, but it was not good for me to hear
him cry. I was his mom; I was supposed to comfort him. Everything within me pushed me to comfort this little helpless thing that they had pulled out of me in such a traumatic way.
My husband made some nerd joke about my son having the “cry of a warrior.” I think he was quoting Dragon Ball Z. I love that man.
I remember the doctor stitching me up. I could feel every move he made with the needle, but it didn’t hurt. Not that I noticed anyway. I noticed very little beyond the crying child in my arms. I remember being a little disappointed as I held him that he didn’t look like his dad. I had expected a pale, bald baby. Instead there lay my red faced little guy with thick black hair. He looked like me. Ah well, he was cute regardless.
The doctor barely had a chance to put the blanket down after stitching me up before a crowd of people entered the room. My mom, my mother in law, and my father in law. I don’t remember who else. Perhaps there wasn’t anybody else, but it seemed like a lot of people. I didn’t have time to prepare at all. I will still lying there with my feet in stirrups, covered in blood and sweat and other unmentionable bodily fluids, and suddenly I had an audience.
I was bitter then. I didn’t like that I hadn’t had a chance to have any alone time with my baby, with my new family. It felt like they had just placed him in my arms and already there was a line of people who wanted to take him from me. I admit it, I’m still bitter. You guys suck.
Everything else is a blur. Sometime later everyone left, my husband included, they did not allow him to stay the night in a double room. I remember the nurse bringing something to eat, because I hadn’t eaten in such a long time. It was the best tasting turkey sandwich I had ever eaten in my entire life. That nurse must have been an angel.
I remember being wheeled to my postpartum room with my son in my arms. The nurse laid him in a bed next to mine and I laid there staring at him for a very long time. A nurse came in every once in a while to check on the baby, make sure he didn’t have a fever or something or another. I remember her chiding me, telling me to go to sleep, it was already the wee hours of the morning and I needed my rest. I had a long day. By that time I had been awake for over 24 hours, but I wasn’t tired anymore. I couldn’t stop staring at the beautiful baby next to me. It all seemed surreal. That baby was mine? They were going to let me take it home?
The next couple days were a blur. I remember people visiting, but I don’t remember what was said. I remember getting a blue balloon that said, “it’s a boy.” I remember that going to the bathroom hurt a lot. The first time I went I was unable to gather the strength to stand again. My legs shook uncontrollably and I was unable to get my legs underneath me.
The baby slept all the time. I remember that the baby wouldn’t nurse at all. A lactation consultant came in and told me ways to wake him up so he would eat. I remember changing diapers. I remember he didn’t pass his hearing test the first time, so they had to take two more. Finally they got him passed. I remember when they stuck his heel to get a blood sample and he cried and cried and it didn’t seem fair. Poor little thing.
I remember someone coming in to take pictures of him. Most of all I remember wanting to go home. I didn’t care how much pain I was in, it was getting better anyway. I just wanted to go home. On the third day the doctor was supposed to come in and sign my papers to allow me to go home, but he didn’t come all ay long. It was getting dark by the time he came in and I was nearly in tears by the time he did finally sign them. I wanted to take my family and go home and be done with the whole stupid hospital.
They wheeled me out to the car, and I strapped in the baby (I had been practicing) and we brought him home. The boys had cleaned the house while I was away and the church had sent flowers. I felt great. I was very confident.
After everyone had grown tired of holding him, I remember holding him while he slept and thinking, “now what do I do with him.” Sure the mechanics of it were simple: feed, change, bathe, etc, repeat. But that was just baby care. What about raising this child? I had to teach it values and manners and to speak and to walk and tie his shoes. How do you do that? Did they really trust me with that? Nothing seemed all that scary until that moment.
It never has become any less scary.