So I’ve always been a pretty big baby about having a baby. In my labor and delivery class, I was the immature one who gasped and looked away horrified during the crowning. It honestly doesn’t help that they seem to pick the hairiest women with the most anguished screams they can find for these videos. Still, everyone else in the class did not seem phased. Throughout my pregnancy, the anticipation of looming labor was a source of stress that I learned to suppress right up until the end. But during that final week of pregnancy, I must admit that giant baby heads were on my mind.
Being induced didn’t help with that angst. But I was ready to have our baby, and the doctor felt strongly that my body and the baby were both prepared. I didn’t sleep much the night before, which ended up becoming my initiation night to a sleepless existence (now with a two-week-old, four hours of consecutive sleep is a tremendous victory). Getting ready that morning, there was tangible tension in our house – all stemming from the apprehension brewing inside me, just knowing that this was the day I would give birth to our child. It would undoubtedly be the longest day of my life. And it was going to hurt.
So, as we were leaving, I picked a fight with Josh over something like how to screw the water bottle top on correctly and opted to stay mute on our drive to the hospital. All the while, my stomach was churning….which is probably why I didn’t notice the consistent contractions I was already having.
Sitting in the waiting room at the maternity ward, surrounded by women clearly in pain didn’t help settle my nerves. It was the first time I would hear the question I would quickly come to hate. “On a scale of one to ten, how much pain are you feeling right now? Ten being the most pain you’ve ever felt?”
How on earth are you supposed to answer that? I didn’t want to seem dramatic at the beginning, but I was also terrified of not ordering that epidural in time, so I stuck with three or four. Until the real labor pains started and at that point, the only way to communicate my discomfort level was by gripping the sides of the hospital bed. Now I will say that if I hadn’t had the promise of an epidural coming shortly, I may not have made it. Bless the women who do this without meds, I really have a new appreciation for their endurance.
Labor out of context really is a terrible thing. To me, who would classify stubbing my toe as meaningful pain, it has always seemed impossible. But really, all of the build-up was irrelevant. What I didn’t realize is that it is pretty much amazing. And the things you think you’re going to care about, you don’t. My squeamish husband totally stepped it up and was coaching me through the contractions and even cut the umbilical cord! This was the same man who earlier in the day looked like he might keel over when he saw my water break. I’m telling you, we were both blessed with strength beyond our own.
I was also extremely fortunate that when I arrived at the hospital I was already in early labor, that my water broke on its own, that an epidural came swiftly and was very effective, and that pushing took all of eighteen minutes. Apart from distractedly watching a few obscure Olympic daytime events, I really didn’t have much time to sit and dwell upon what was happening. I had been in labor for just over four hours when the doctor checked on me and reported, “You’re fully dilated so you need to get ready to push. Oh, and your baby’s hair is brown.”
And then it was over, and she was here. Our precious, beautiful baby girl, with a full head of dark hair. She knew my voice. Her crying stopped immediately when she nestled into my chest. She grabbed my finger tightly in her tiny grip.
Oh, I can’t even tell you how much I love her.
Everyone tells you it’s indescribable, that it’s so worth it, and you can do it because billions of women have done it before you and are doing it right now. But you don’t really believe them, you can’t really know, until you go through it yourself.
And I feel truly blessed that now I have a positive story to pass along.