In addition to pizza and ice cream, my other guilty pleasure in the final weeks of my pregnancy was watching that cheesy show “A Baby Story” on TLC. I try not to watch too much daytime TV — a little “Today Show” here, an occasional viewing of “The View” and every once in awhile “The Nate Berkus Show” (RIP, “Oprah”!). But in those final weeks of pregnancy, when it was an ordeal just to tie my shoes, TV — especially the really guilty kind that exists at 1 PM — became a welcome comfort. So, I watched “A Baby Story,” telling myself it was like homework — I was picking up some tips and preparing for my labor. Mostly, though, I watched for the sweet emotional release I got every time I saw another exhausted new mom hold her baby for the first time.
And then it was my turn. Not for the TV show, of course, but to finally give birth. I say “finally,” but in reality, it was still two weeks before my due date. Any woman who’s ever been 38 weeks pregnant, though, knows you may as well be 48 weeks pregnant by then anyway, so what’s the difference? I guess the main difference is you maybe aren’t as on guard to go into labor at any second as you might be another week or two down the line. And so, when my water broke at 2:20 on the afternoon of October 8th, 16 days before my due date, I was sort of in denial about what was happening. Part of that is because it didn’t happen the way it does in the movies — or even the way it does on “A Baby Story” where it seems every other woman is induced or just starts having crazy contractions without any other precursor to the big event.
Drew and I had just gotten home from the Brooklyn Flea. It was a hot day and the two-plus mile walk had exhausted me. I lay down on the bed for a short nap, but before I could fall asleep, I felt a sort of “pop” in my nether regions and got up to check things out in the bathroom. I took a whiz and after I did my business, there was a slow trickle of something down my leg. Not sure if I was peeing myself or what, I cleaned up and crawled back into bed where I said slowly to Drew: “Something might be happening…”
Eight hours and about ten phone calls to my doctor later, nothing else had happened, save for soaking, like, five huge maxi pads.
“Shouldn’t I be feeling something?” I kept asking my doctor. And she kept assuring me contractions would likely begin within 12 hours.
“You’re welcome to come to the hospital now and wait it out here. Or, you can stay home where you’ll be more comfortable and come in once your contractions are a few minutes apart.
I opted to stay home.
At 10:45, I felt a small cramp.
At 11:00, I felt a bigger cramp.
At 11:15, we called our neighbor friend to drive us to the hospital just to be on the safe side.
At 11:30, we were on our way and my contractions were suddenly coming every two minutes.
At 12:00, we arrived at the hospital and spent the next few minutes filling out a few forms while I huffed and puffed and moaned and sighed.
At 12:30 I was changed into a hospital gown and lying in a bed screaming for someone to put me out of my misery.
“PLEASE!!” I screamed, “PLEASE! SOMEONE! COME HELP ME! PLEASE! IT HURTS SO BAD!!”
Somehow, the caps lock key doesn’t seem enough here. Maybe if I bold everything:
“PLEASE!!” I screamed, “PLEASE! SOMEONE! COME HELP ME!” PLEASE! IT HURTS SO BAD!!”
No, even that doesn’t begin to convey the agony I was feeling.
“GIVE ME AN EPIDURAL! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, PLEASE!”
But the nurses didn’t believe I could possibly be ready for an epidural. I’d only just arrived at the hospital! It hadn’t even been two hours since my first contraction. And by the time I finally convinced someone I was in enough pain to warrant some medication, it was too late.
“I think his head’s coming out!” I shouted to the anaesthesiologist who was taking her sweet time asking me a shitload of questions before administering the epidural.
“What?!” she asked, still waiting for me to give her my home phone number and the name of the street I lived on when I was three.
“I think his head’s coming out!” I repeated between agonizing contractions.
Suddenly, my doctor was in front of me, pushing my knees apart.
“She’s 10 centimenters and a 100%!” she yelled to one of the nurses. “It’s time for you to push!” she said to me.
Wait. Hold on, back the fuck up. This is not how it goes down on “A Baby Story.” Where are the ice chips? And the hours of hanging out? WHERE’S MY FREAKIN’ EPIDURAL???
“Oh, it’s too late for that!” my doctor exclaimed. “It’s time to push.”
And this is when my mind shut off and my body took over, and this is why — if the nine months before hadn’t already convinced me — I believe so strongly in the power of biology. Because if I could truly remember what those next 15 minutes felt like, I’m sure I’d never consider getting pregnant again. What I do remember about those next 15 minutes is feeling completely out of control and panic-stricken. I remember wanting to squeeze whatever I could grab — the bed railing, Drew’s hand, the nurse’s hand. And whenever someone let go of me for even a second, I felt that much more panicky. I remember thinking I was going to die. Or that I simply wanted to die. And I remember screaming louder than I’ve ever screamed before, hitting high notes, low notes and everything in between. I growled, I roared, I moaned and I yelled.
And then my doctor told me something that changed the course of the night. She said, “The next time a contraction comes and you feel like screaming, don’t. Hold your breath instead and push. Push as hard as you can.”
Finally! Something I could control — a direction I could follow. A second later, another powerful contraction shook me. And instead of screaming like a banshee, I took a deep breath, grabbed hold of Drew’s hand and pushed with all my might. I pushed and pushed and pushed. And at 2:06 am, I pushed one last time and became a mom, just like that. A second later, Jackson was placed on my chest and the world finally stopped spinning. It took a moment for it all to come back into focus, but when it did, there he was — this beautiful baby I’d been waiting for for so long.
Drew snapped a photo of that moment when it all came back into focus, and it’s posted up on Babble as part of “That Very First Photo” project (thanks to Monica for including me). It’s definitely the most graphic photo I’ve ever shared of myself publicly, but if a picture is worth 1000 words, then it probably does a better job telling the story than I ever could.