My husband and I had been trying to conceive for some time, when, on Father’s Day 2002, I got yet another positive pregnancy test. After five miscarriages in the past 15 months, I had very mixed feelings. Only the tiniest bit of hope, much fear and trepidation, and anger. I wasn’t ready to lose yet another pregnancy.
Many women count their pregnancy in weeks, or even months. I counted mine in minutes, every trip to the bathroom an exercise in the strength of my heart. Unable to even voice my innermost thoughts, I bore most of this in silence, alone. At eight weeks, we got to see our first glimpse of our desperately-longed-for baby, kicking tiny leg stubs, heart beating just as it should. I began to let myself hope, just a bit. I’d gone over three months with my first pregnancy, even seeing her little heartbeat as well. But, each successive pregnancy was shorter and shorter, so I allowed myself that tiny glimmer of hope.
Apart from intense morning sickness, I had a very healthy pregnancy. At 20 weeks, my baby was measuring several weeks ahead of the curve, something that surprised our ultrasonographer. At 32 weeks, we had another ultrasound, this time a 4d one in which we could see facial features and real-time movement. It was an incredible experience. Again, our ultrasonographer was shocked at the size of our baby — at that point, he was measuring 6 weeks ahead of time, with his head measuring larger than a full-term infant’s.
At 34 weeks, however, things went rapidly south. I developed pre-eclampsia and began to swell dangerously. Over the next three weeks, I gained a total of 30 pounds, despite being on bedrest and medications. At my next routine prenatal appointment, just prior to 38 weeks, my ob decided that it was too risky to allow the pregnancy to progress.
Induction at any time isn’t fun, but induction while being under a massive dose of magnesium is especially “un-fun.” I was caught in waves of pain so profound I could only manage to close my eyes and sink beneath them. My husband annoyed what little of my sanity remained, by watching football and biting his nails.
It’s funny how little annoying traits become capital offenses when you’re in labor. After tolerating several hours of increasing waves of pain, non-stop vomiting, and tubes and wires everywhere, I’d had enough of football, and I told him so. I won’t repeat exactly what I said, but suffice it to say, it would have made a sailor blush. He turned the football off.
I had a very successful induction, in some ways. In 8 hours, I’d gone from barely a cm. dilated to the full ten. My doctor and nurse told me to push when the urge hit, and oh, let me tell you, there’s no urge. No, it’s more like a freight train of desire, and you push or get swept under as your body does it on its own. I pushed as if my life depended on it, and I suppose in a way, it did.
Unfortunately, after three hours of pushing, I was exhausted and drained. I was terrified that I’d never get him out, and yet, I did not want a c section. In an ordinary labor, a mom should be able to get up, walk about, push in a squatting position, do whatever she needed to do to get baby positioned right and have gravity help her out a bit. But, because of the magnesium, I was confined to bed.
My nurse told me to stop pushing and rest for a bit. I physically was unable to stop, although I was so tired my legs were trembling. My ob ordered an epidural, so that the urge would be lessened. Lessened, not ended. While I was supposed to be resting, I was still sneaking in small pushes whenever I felt a contraction. It wasn’t deliberate defiance; again, not pushing would be like me trying to stop a freight train with my hands — I simply could not do it.
After a short 30 minute rest, I wanted to really start pushing again, so everyone got back in place for another hour’s worth of pushing. Four hours of pushing total, and my son hadn’t even moved past my cervix. Everyone could see his head, but it wasn’t going anywhere. Because his heart rate was beginning to drop, we made the decision to have a c section.
I would never advise a c section for convenience, and I often have felt defensive of our need for one in the years that have gone by. However, I know in my heart that he and I most likely would have died without one. Even after my ob got me opened up, it took quite a bit of effort to birth my son, because his head was firmly wedged in my cervix. His cord was wrapped around his neck twice.
Memories of after the birth are foggy and vague. I was so ill that I was not allowed to be with him for several hours afterwards. I only remember crying that I wanted my baby, and finally, a nurse took pity on me and brought him to me, with orders that my husband was not to leave my side as I held him. The softness of his skin, the brightness of his eyes, the smell of his head, the feel of his cheek against my lips, the fuzz on the top of his head, the papery nails on the tip of each digit, the vernix still in all his creases … it’s all like yesterday, in spite of the drugs that enveloped me in a haze.
Few things are as indelibly etched into a person’s memory as birth. Maybe that’s why, when you have a group of new moms in the room, birth stories are the order of the day. Even older moms haven’t lost the desire, the need even, to share their birth stories and hear new birth stories. Television programmes such as A Birth Story and A Baby Story are so popular because we can all identify with them.
If you are pregnant, or perhaps only wanting to be pregnant, remember to chronicle both your pregnancy and birth. Yes, you will remember it for many long years, barring any extreme circumstances, but having it written down allows you a different perspective. You will be able to reread it, tears glistening in your eyes as you recall the emotions you felt during that precious time.