I want to make it clear right up front that this is not a post about bodily fluids. I mean, I could write a novel about that, if you want — but I don’t think you do. If you are squeamish or simply not interested in the secretions of others, know that this is a safe place.
However, we’re coming up pretty quickly on my son’s first birthday, so I’m about to get very mommy-blogger in this bitch and reminisce about the day he was born. And, more specifically, what it was like for ME. (I’m only about six months removed from being a legit Millennial, so yeah this is about me. Duh.)
The funny thing about being in labor is the tricks your memory plays on you. Time kind of stretches out and loops back on itself, and it’s hard to keep track of what’s happening and in what order.
(Also, I don’t have any basis for comparison, but I assume this whole time-shifting, memory-warping experience is amplified if you’re on magnesium sulfate — which I was. Here’s my one-sentence review of magnesium sulfate: “I’ve never in my life been so unhappy to be so high.” Once magnesium sulfate gets a Yelp page, it will be hearing from me.)
So in the interest of family history, I feel the need to write down the few ephemeral labor memories I have left before they go the way of Brian Austin Green’s hip-hop aspirations, or Jordan Knight’s solo career. (Which reference is timelier? Neither.)
As a quick prologue: I read books and took classes and worked with a doula, all in the hopes of having a “natural,” drug-free labor and birth experience. Then I developed severe preeclampsia and had to be induced more than five weeks ahead of my due date. So I was not only in labor quite unexpectedly, but I was also having the exact opposite of the birth experience I had planned for — confined to a bed, hooked up to multiple IV bags, and anxious about having a preemie.
Luckily for me, I shut down emotionally during times of intense stress, so I was able to handle everything just fine!
1. I was a little relieved to get out of work that day. It was a Friday that started like any other … WAIT IS THIS HACK-Y?
I had been on bed rest for a few weeks when I went into the OB’s office for my semi-weekly check-in that morning. Fortunately, I have a job where I can work remotely as long as I have a laptop handy. So I was planning to go home after my appointment, get back online, and work a full day. In fact, it was going to be an extra-long day, and I was supposed to cover for another coworker who was on vacation.
I mean, basically it was going to be THE WORST, because I was so exhausted at that point in my pregnancy that I wanted to do nothing but nap and watch A Baby Story and Google “perineal massage” and then maybe take a bath in some nice warm cookie dough. So I do remember feeling just a little smug, as I waddled over to the Labor & Delivery ward, that I was getting an early start on the weekend after all. TGIF, bitches!
2. Both of my nurses were quirky two-namers. I was in labor for about fifteen hours total, and the nurses worked twelve-hour shifts. So I spent most of my time with the first nurse that checked me in — we’ll call her Tammy Lynn. She had a twangy accent and was very “hon” this and “sweetie” that. When she left the room after getting us settled, my husband leaned over and whispered to me, “I kind of hate her folksiness.”
My natural tendency is also to be wary of hillfolk, but Tammy Lynn gave me three popsicles during her shift (two cherry, one grape — none of that orange bullshit). For that alone, I’d give her a solid B+.
By some strange coincidence, my second nurse was also a two-namer. We’ll call her Sarah Louise, and she did not traffic in popsicles. At one point, my husband referred to her as simply Sarah. “It’s Sarah LOUISE,” she snapped, even though there were no other Sarahs in the room and we were all kind of distracted by more pressing issues? I’m just saying.
The defining quote from Sarah Louise came while I was in the middle of pushing (pushing a baby out of my body, just to clarify), and she was eyeballing a part of my underbelly that I hadn’t seen in months. “Does this hair always grow in here, or … ?” inquired Sarah Louise, rubbing the spot with a gloved finger.
I mean, honestly — does this seem like the time and/or the place, Sarah? Does it really? A generous C-, at best.
3. I felt like I would never actually have a kid. This is probably really relatable, right? Like you are mid-labor — maybe about a month earlier than you expected to be — and you are working your ass off but you cannot ever envision that you will actually get to the part where the baby is no longer inside your body? It can’t just be me.
4. I was accidentally keeping my contractions a secret. Pitocin gives you pretty intense contractions. At one point, mine were lasting about three minutes apiece, and I only got a thirty-second rest in between each one. I was laying on my left side — which helps to keep your blood pressure from skyrocketing — and breathing deeply through every contraction. It was about all I could manage, physically.
It was a quiet process, but the contractions were so intense and all-consuming that I forgot I was the only one experiencing them. People kept trying to talk to me mid-contraction, and I’d think “UGH WHY ARE YOU TALKING TO ME WHEN I’M OBVIOUSLY IN THE MIDDLE OF SOMETHING HERE? RUDE!!!”
In retrospect, though, it’s probably because I was just curled up and breathing, like a very sprightly coma patient. Maybe I even looked a little bored! Like I was lying around thinking, “Gee, I wish I’d brought some Mad Libs!” Or like I was dying for conversation, but just racking my brain for an icebreaker: “Say, ha ha, getting this foley bulb inserted reminds me of a funny story about my last performance review at work … “
5. For God knows how many hours, we were watching a marathon of The Next Food Network Star. I had the TV on the whole time I was in labor, even though I tuned out a lot of it. I just fucking love TV and wanted the background noise.
A new season of The Next Food Network Star was about to start up, so there was a marathon of prior seasons running on the Food Network. In one episode, a judge described one of the contestants as “unflappable — she could not be flapped!” (Thanks to the very thorough Anibundel, whose blog helped me confirm the specifics of this fever dream-ish memory.)
The words “SHE COULD NOT BE FLAPPED” broke through my pain-trance like a hot knife through Jacksonville’s offensive line. The intense earnestness and admiration of this sentiment made me laugh out loud in the middle of a contraction.
For the record, I can totally be flapped.
6. My eyeliner game stayed top-notch. This is something my husband told me — probably around hour nine? — that I will never, ever forget: “Your eye makeup still looks good.” I can’t even keep talking about it right now, or I will get too emotional. I’m sorry; it’s just that eyeliner is very special to me.
7. They made me turn off the TV — IN THE MIDDLE OF ROSEANNE. There came a time when I had to get serious and push. I was watching TV still — some women create elaborate labor-themed playlists on their iPods; I just watch whatever reruns are handy on cable — and Roseanne was on. And I thought, “How fitting that I’m going to become a for-real mom while watching the second-best TV mom of all time!”
But then Sarah Louise (C&C UGH FACTORY) told me we had to turn off the TV, because the NICU team was coming in to set up, and the noise would distract them. WHATEVER SARAH LOUISE, I DO WHAT I WANT, UNLESS I AM INCAPACITATED IN A HOSPITAL BED.
8. I was joking around with everybody mid-push. Specifically, I think I was lamenting the fact that the baby seemed to have inherited his dad’s somewhat generous skull circumference. Still wisecracking even while the kid was crowning! I just don’t have an off button, folks! (Am I unbearable? Be honest.)
9. I have never been so relieved as when I heard my son screaming. I knew, thanks to my weeks of intense, next-level Googling about preemies, that the lungs can be in a delicate place around week 34. So when my kid came out bawling, I immediately started crying with relief.
Update, though: “Relief” is no longer the emotion I register when my son starts screaming like a fox in heat. Now, my feelings can best be described by the Buddhist concept of dukkha. So, in conclusion — yes, I would say that becoming a parent has been a real spiritual experience.