The first contraction happened at midnight, after a long, stressful day.
For thirty hours, I endured fever, vomiting, swelling, cramping, and back labor. At the beginning, the pain was lessened by excitement; towards the end it was intensified by impatience. The details are fuzzy, but all I know to say about unmedicated labor is it requires mental power. I had an epidural eventually since I was running on no sleep and had back labor, but it took the hospital seven hours after I asked to call it in- so I suppose I got a taste of natural birth (and respect the women who choose it IMMENSELY).
When, after what seemed like an unending dream, the doctor came in to tell me to push, I was ready. I was proud that I had pulled myself this far (with some help from my mother and husband, who never left my sides), and I felt that I had the strength to push my baby out and finally get to meet him. About six pushes in, my baby’s heart rate was 170. He was in distress and the doctor called for an immediate C-Section.
I remember taking comfort in the fact that I wouldn’t be able to feel the pain, and I would perhaps see my son quicker. In a large, echoey room, a team of anesthesiologists laid me out on a table and gave me pain killers. I could feel nothing, but when they put up that blue sheet and I saw the first streak of blood across it, I passed out.
Mentally I was in an out of the whole procedure. It was like watching a television episode- I wasn’t really there. I heard a woman yell “Baby!” but didn’t know what she meant by the call. I saw a team of doctors around a table, and watched my husband walk away from the table sobbing. I asked, “What color are his eyes?”
“Blue,” my husband responded with a tear-filled smile. Then I went under again.
When I awoke soon enough on the table, husband was holding the baby I assumed had just come out of me. I was on so many drugs I didn’t really realize what was going on. The baby was given to me to hold as we left the surgery room. I remember absolutely nothing of the first time I looked at him.
In recovery I was worse. My husband held the baby the whole time while I tried unsuccessfully not to fall asleep. I remember trying to cuddle with the baby and breastfeed, but I was so uncoordinated and kept nodding off that it was considered dangerous for me to do so. I recall quite little from recovery, other than basically leaving the baby to my husband. Quite the mother, right?
The drugs really ruined my bonding with the baby. I didn’t feel bad just yet, mostly because I didn’t feel anything. That night, when he was taken for some tests, the nurses decided to keep him overnight in the nursery to give him antibiotics. Though I wanted him to stay with us, this meant I could sleep- which pleased me. I woke the next morning with pain- and with feelings.
Feelings struck down by a doctor who said the baby had an infection and they didn’t know what. She informed us that she would be conducting a spinal tap on our day-old child. My husband and I quickly dressed and headed to the nursery to give him kisses before his surgery. When we arrived, we saw our baby, hooked up to an IV and heart monitor. It broke my heart that someone so small would have to go through so many painful procedures so early in life, and I left the nursery crying.
A half hour later, we went back to the nursery, where baby was held in an incubator to recover. I studied his tiny body in the little box and called to him. “Brady,” I said. And he looked up at me. He recognized my voice and for the first time, I made eye contact with my child. His eyes bore the question : Don’t you love me, Mom?
I remembered how I broke into hysterics when I saw at my positive pregnancy test. I remembered puking hot dogs out of a car window going 30mph. I remembered being depressed during my college graduation that I would not take the path my classmates would. I recalled sobbing to my mom while confessing my pregnancy, my dad excitedly asking why I didn’t tell him he was a grandpa sooner, my future in-laws taking my future-husband and I to lunch and saying they were proud of us. I remembered the first time I saw Brady bouncing like a bean on an ultrasound I went to without telling anyone. I remembered feeling ashamed when I went wedding dress shopping and the associates laughed at me when I said I was pregnant. I remembered breaking down in church, feeling unworthy to talk to God. I remembered times that I hated myself for getting pregnant. I remembered how many nights I cried into my pillow, praying that Brady wasn’t real- that he would just disappear and let me live my life the way I planned.
And I realized as those tiny blue eyes met mine that I have never loved anything in the world more than I love that little boy. If I could do it all again, I would. For him.