Forgive me in advance, this post is long. And the tone is perhaps more like the book I've been working on, rather than what I usually post. I haven't gone all intense, but the last few days have been really intense.
A friend of mine promised I’d have an easy birth. I had to. She said that since I had such a hard time getting pregnant and so many challenges throughout the pregnancy, that I’d have an easy birth and an awesome child. She was right about one of those.
There’s a stillness that 3:30am brings. The light is soft and the world is asleep. Noah and I were awake, trying to assess the situation. We thumbed through the birthing class books—charts of early labor, signs of water breaking. I paced the room, throwing last minutes items into our hospital bag. I knew this was it. She was coming. But I also needed dental floss. And seven different hair things. And five different beverages. You never know what you might be in the mood for mid contraction. We labored at home until I felt like I couldn’t walk anymore. We wanted to wait until 6am to call the doctor. Let him have a good night’s sleep. We didn’t know what was ahead. I was supposed to see him for a regular appointment at 9:15am— it was a week before my due date. I told him I could hold off until the appointment so he could tell me if I was actually in labor. He said why? Go to the hospital. So we did. By 7:30am we were checked in and I was checked out. I stayed in the dress I was wearing. Not sure why. I waddled around the room and bounced on the exercise ball. I answered simple questions. Did I want an epidural? No. Did I want a jug of ice water? Yes. The rest is a blur peppered by intense visuals.
Noah and I and two nurses watched my contractions on the monitor and couldn’t figure out why they were coming so fast and close together. The birth class lady said I should “rest between contractions” but I never had space. They came one after another and the nurse said, “everyone’s labor is different.” I remember looking at Noah desperately, crying, “I’m not getting a break! The lady said I would get a break!” As if I didn’t get the free cookie with the lunch special I had ordered. Where’s my cookie? So I breathed and Noah counted and reminded me that our baby was coming.
My parents showed up by late morning. Dad wanted to make small talk. Suggested turning on the TV as I wailed in low guttural agony. He ate some M&M’s as he tried to figure out if March 20th was indeed the first day of spring. I yelled at him to stop talking and that was the last coherent thing I remember saying. He was quiet from then on, and the air in the room became intense. An hour or so later our good friend and camera man showed up. Welcome to the shit show. Are we really going to document this? Our final ending is finally the beginning.
By mid afternoon I was 9 cm dilated. The rapid successions of the contractions perhaps helped me progress so quickly. The doctor was called. A table full of “instruments” was wheeled in, covered by a blue paper cloth. For a moment I wondered if there were sandwiches underneath.
Dr. G came in and I started to push. The expectation for a speedy delivery was evident. I was in position. It was just after 3pm. But the more I pushed the more that expectation dwindled. At about an hour in the doc took off his scrubs and said, “I’ll be right back.” “Where are you going?” I asked, thinking, aren’t we kinda doing something here, man? “I’ve gotta call my wife and tell her I’m going to be late.”
It had already been about an hour. How late for dinner was he going to be? I felt a little guilty— but I also felt a burning in my privates that cannot be explained.
Another hour passed and I kept going through the same routine. The doc would instruct me to push longer and harder, counting to ten. The nurses pushed my feet towards my head and I pushed with everything I could. Over and over again. Two hours in we discovered Momo’s head was turned funny and stuck in my pelvis. The head nurse and the doctor exchanged subtle glances that told me this was not good. I kept pushing. I asked what I was doing wrong—what I could do differently. He offered me pain medication, he offered to vacuum her out but I shook my head. I wanted this my way. Nothing has been my way, and the pain seemed like some kind of transformative physical manifestation of the last four years trying to make a family. Wanting it so badly. Being so close. Feeling so scared yet so determined. Thinking about her. Our baby that we didn’t know. That we couldn’t imagine. That we wanted so badly to come but couldn’t find. The whole labor experience seemed to be this physical manifestation of our journey. How it started with just Noah and I. Confused in the darkness at home, the stillness of the early morning light. Then we went to get help, we went for medical interventions. We had our expectations and then we learned to let it go. My family came to support. My parents have wanted this so badly too. Their first grandchild. They’ve been searching for four years too. Then it seemed like we were getting close, only to be told we’d have to keep pushing. By hour three a team of nurses surrounded the bed. There had been a shift changed, but the previous shift didn’t want to leave. They wanted to see how this was going to end. So did I. I was surrounded by 11 people. New faces popped into view in the rare moments my eyes were open. These women, holding my legs, cheering me on, telling me lies to keep my fight up—just one more push! These strangers came together to help me pull through, just like all the friends I’ve made on IF Island. Friends I’ve never met, who shared a piece of themselves and their stories, friends who have cheered us on these past few years. I heard one young nurse in training ask if she could stay, even though she needed to clock out. Yes, but she couldn’t do anything, she just had to watch. She nodded and became part of the cheer squad.
I thought that ring of fire moment was only supposed to last a few seconds, or minutes. I though that once the head had crowned, that it would pop out, like a ground hog signaling the first day of spring. Her head didn’t pop out. It wedged in and I pushed and cried and I saw the doc and nurse exchange glances again and I told myself to push her out before something bad happens. And I did. And the few things I felt strongly about on our “birth plan” fell apart. I couldn’t hold her right away, something was happening. There was a lot of blood, but isn’t that labor? Only parts of my placenta were coming out— what’s placenta accreta? The doctor apologized as he dug up into my uterus to scoop out what he could of the placenta and I screamed. From the corner of my eye I could see her. Momo, writhing under the warmer, greenish in color but moving. Noah talked to her, looked at her, put his finger in her tiny hand as the doc explained to me that I had to go into surgery. I had to have a D&C, possibly a hysterectomy. The room became chaos. We had to go now. Noah was given the choice to stay with the baby as she went into the NICU to have her breathing better checked, or to stay with me. He looked at me with love and terror and I said, “stay with the baby,” and then I was gone. I signed consents under twilight of anesthesia and then woke up freezing and shaking, alone until my sister showed up. She’d driven from up North, seven months pregnant and sat with me until they let me see Momo, for the first time. She was beautiful. 7lbs 8oz of sweetness.
I’m not really sure where the last five days have gone. Much of it was spent in the hospital. I couldn’t move for two days. I had a balloon in my uterus, that emptied blood into a bag, but I still had my uterus. My mantra that’s gotten me through IF Island continued to play in my head. This too shall pass, it’s not going to be this way forever, however painful it is now.
We were supposed to go home on day two but stayed for what end up to be two reasons. My recovery and Momo getting jaundice. She spent night in the NICU and I cried and cried as Conner Oberst singing You are Your Mother’s Child played on a loop in my head. The last day in the hospital was a nightmare, but then it passed. As I was wheeled out of the hospital by a man named Jose, he cooed over Momo. “She’s so cute,” he said, and she smiled, the little flirt. And Jose said, “She looks just like you when she smiles.” “Thank you,” I replied as I started crying.
Yesterday I ran around taking Momo to doctors and for blood work— I’ve been trying to figure out how to feed her and wondering if I’m a bad mother if I don’t use Honest Co. dish washing soap. I’ve been watching Noah fall deeper and deeper in love with his little girl. Last night I asked him if he felt anything about not being genetically related to her, and he said, “even though he didn’t make her, she was his.” He felt that 100%. But we did make her. We made her from our hearts and our guts and our love. She is 100% ours, and oddly enough looks like my sister and has Noah’s feet.
Today Momo’s poop changed from black tar to mustard seeds. My body is working, my milk has come in. I’m anxious about feeding her and sometimes feel insane and then I look at her, the little Buddha she is, and try to take a deep breath. I haven’t slept at all since last Thursday and my body is a wreck but I’m the happiest I’ve ever been in my life. Because Momo is finally here. Arrived on the first day of spring.