Oh man, I’m a mom!
To preface this birth story (which I am writing out of total need for catharsis and no entertainment whatsoever) I’ll start with the end of my pregnancy. I’ll also state that I have always had an extreme fear of pregnancy and childbirth. I was fully anticipating a traumatic experience but it really blew away even my expectations. Ha! Also, a final disclaimer: this is not a fun or entertaining read and unless you’re just that interested, I’d skip over it. I wanted a written experience for my own benefit and that’s about it. You’ve been warned of the tedious horror of this birth story! Onward!
On my 30th birthday, which was the solar eclipse, I felt a total lack of fetal movement. It was worrying, obviously–he’d always been a fairly active baby. Allyn and I went to the doctor, who appeased me by performing an ultrasound. He confirmed the decreased movements (as well as some other stuff–fluid in his kidney, low amniotic fluid, a few complications) and ordered weekly NSTs until an induction was scheduled. They kept an eye on the kid, who had just literally decided he wasn’t going to move anymore. My health got poorer, with increased glucose and even worse anemia. I was so done that I didn’t even mind the fact that I was getting induced. Going into labor naturally wasn’t important; I just wanted to get this over with, I was so miserable and worried about his health.
So we check in, September 4 at 2030. I had told my OB as well as the nurse on staff that I have intense PTSD and any internal exam or invasive procedure was going to set me off–even things like the IV and catheters, they’re HUGE triggers–but right away my hopes for being understood and respected were dashed when it became obvious that my nurse was a total novice. She was more nervous than I was and I was the one about to have a baby. She blew out a vein in my arm immediately and I started crying.
The OB on duty showed up to break the amniotic sac and all I remember from that was hearing, after the burst of fluid, the word ‘meconium.’ I started to panic as everyone stupidly assured me “oh, it’s norrrmal, it’s noooothing. You probably read some bad stuff about it but it’s normal and we’ll just flush out the fluid with some IV fluid...” there are not enough unimpressed, eye-rolly gifs in the world to express my disdain…I hate being treated like a total fucking idiot by medical professionals. I got an internal fetal monitor, (yes, placing that hurt, as did everything else in this entire scenario) but despite the pain and now fear for my baby, it was “time to push”!
It’s such a strange and terrible feeling to believe you’re going to die and say goodbye to someone you love. I don’t even particularly enjoy living, but I’ve always preferred the idea of dying on my own terms and dying after a miserable non-birth while Allyn had to watch me writhe in pain, unable to provide any comfort, was not how I wanted to go. I just remember having the thought that he was going to take photos of me before I died, and I didn’t want him to be traumatized. I thought about what my son would be like and how he would be told about me, and how hard it would be for Allyn to bring up a kid himself. These are horrible, horrible thoughts to have and no woman should have to endure that fear and terror–I’m not blaming any one person for it, but just the system in general. It failed me here, during this experience.
Anyway, everything after that was literally a dream. I felt them undress me and move the bed. They were trying to reassure me that I wouldn’t fall off when they changed me from the bed to the crucifix (that’s probably not its name but that’s what I’m calling it) and at that point falling was the least of my worries. I’ve moved a billion patients, most of them bigger than me and I have no fear of backboards or gurneys or whatever, but I couldn’t vocalize this–that again they were pandering and reassuring me where they didn’t need to, and neglecting me where I needed reassurance–oh well, I was going to die soon.
My body was screaming in pain, I could almost sense some kind of panic coming from my son, and I couldn’t decide if I wanted Allyn there or wanted him to be away (someone asked and I eventually ended up yelling for him when I was sure I was dying and my last moments were upon me, haha) the doctor put something in my IV and I started screaming that I could feel it going up my arm. Everyone was frantically reassuring me that I wouldn’t feel anything to which I countered I FEEL EVERYTHING!!! I felt their hands on my body, I felt the pain of the epidural medicine prickling me, I felt whatever the hell going into my arm.
“You can ….feel that?”
“YES I DO!!”
“How strongly can you feel it?”
“I FEEL. EEEEEEEEEVERYTHING.”
-awkward medical procedure silence-
I begged to be knocked out and the doctor halfheartedly attempted to tell me that something could happen to the baby–yeah okay but the meconium is a non-issue, right?–and in some kind of demonic voice I uttered I DON’T CARE PUT ME OUT. If I verbalized that I just wanted to die, I don’t remember it, but the truth is that I would’ve loved the respite.
Aaaaand cue the voice of the damned anesthesiologist very near my head. I heard him say “I don’t think she’s going to stand it” (why the fuck does he talk about me in third person!?!??!) as he pushed MORE meds into my epidural and I felt the coldness trickle upwards (as it had nowhere downwards to go by that point, and I was supine) one of the last things I felt was that shitty medicine numb/tingle/sting EVERYTHING from my back up to my shoulders, into my arms, and finally my neck. Allyn said I fell asleep but the truth is, I passed out–either from exhaustion or pain, or both, who knows.
I woke up to a flurry of doctors and nurses and Allyn holding a bundle of something. I was so out of it I couldn’t talk but I just stared. I couldn’t see the baby’s face and barely remembered who I was, let alone that I’d “had” a baby. He and someone else asked if I wanted to hold him and due to the body-wide epidural, I couldn’t even lift my arms. I legit tried–nope. I shook my head and fell back asleep. At this time and many times since, it has “felt” like someone just took a baby off a shelf and handed it to me. I got no experience of birthing, I got zero skin to skin or breastfeeding. There was just suddenly a baby. It’s a strange and surreal feeling, and a little depressing when you compare it to the “magical miracle of birth” and realize you puked jello all over that horrible anesthesiologist and that was your final contribution before passing out.
I woke up again and it was quieter, and to the left of me was a clear hospital bassinet. There was a baby in it…again, nothing ever made me feel like this was “my” baby. Just “the” or “a” baby. I looked at the baby and the baby looked at me. Even though we were pretty far apart, a foot or two, he immediately looked at my face. He was as immobile as I was and we just faced each other and stared. Everybody always told me how “in love” I would be and how I would just know my baby immediately. I would say that what I felt was far more profound than love. Love is pretty ephemeral and mortal in the gist of things. I felt like the transcendence cat. I felt like I was looking at something more than a person, or a tiny human, I was looking at a piece of the universe, and a piece of my universe, and I was the universe, and we were both terrified and we had both died and we were both alive and we were total strangers, but we were closer than any two humans could ever be. Also, he had my eyes.
I’ve looked at him a lot since and he’s looked back and every so often I get a glimmer of that feeling again. I don’t know what to call it, but I’ll never get tired of it.