For a while I have wanted to put pen to paper, or in this instance fingers to keyboard, to chronicle the experience I had with the birth of my first, and currently only, child.
I had a relatively good pregnancy with the occasional anxiety here and there due to some situations that occurred during the pregnancy. All in all, I felt good. I looked good, ate well, and gained the minimum required weight for a healthy pregnancy. And, Sarah often kicked like a banshee.
After having watched videos and taken birthing and breastfeeding classes to ready myself for baby I was as ready as I was going to be for the arrival of my precious bundle.
Several times during the week of my due date I experienced Braxton Hicks contractions, and likely was in early labor, but did not progress to full blown labor. Therefore, my doctor suggested that I be induced at 41 weeks. My cervix at this point still had not dilated and I often joked that the shop was still closed. It appeared that Sarah was way too comfy and just not ready to come out.
So, on a Monday afternoon I felt like I was getting ready to go to a hotel or on a trip preparing to go to the hospital for an induction. We took last photos of my pregnant belly, played with our precious kitty, and off to the hospital we went. It felt weird. I knew I was ready but this became real. The next time we would come home it would be with baby in arm.
Once settled in my birthing room, which was really nice and calming, and my iPod stereo was set up and photos placed out for comfort, I was ready to get started. It was in that moment I had no idea at all what to really expect and how to exactly get started. It was as if what ever I read in the books just left my brain.
Once I was induced with the medication it was a matter of waiting and seeing what would happen next, and when. I will emphasize that I am no martyr especially when it comes to medication and birth. I communicated in my birth plan and with the medical team that I would be ready for an epidural when the time was right.
It became the following morning and still Sarah was not ready to come out. I also still was not dilated at this time. However, the contractions started to come on fast and furious. I would clench onto the bed post a number of times thinking I was doing well thinking, hey, maybe this isn't so bad. Yeah right. I looked into my husband's eyes and saw that he was concerned for my comfort and even seemed like he felt helpless.
Every hour a nurse would come in and ask if I wanted an epidural. Finally, when the pain became what seemed unbearable with contractions coming ever more frequently, I gave in.
I know why now people do drugs. This stuff was good, really good. While still fully alert and with the epidural the contractions continued and I couldn't believe that I did not feel pain. Then, I often had to ask the doctor to top me off with more medication as the pain became more frequent. It seemed like I was doing this a lot.
I started to dilate, but very slowly. So slowly in fact that the epidural wore off and I needed to get another one. The actual injection into the spinal column really was not fun, really painful in fact. But, I felt I was in great hands with the doctor. I even joked after the injection went in that he must get proposed marriage to often by women in pain gaining relief by his touch, and certainly with the medication. I even joked about it in my thank you card to him weeks after Sarah's birth. And, yes, my husband was in the room when I proposed. He got a good laugh out of it too.
At this point I was dilated, with contractions coming every one to three minutes and only became seven centimeters dilated. Nothing was changing except the pain. And, the anticipation of what pushing a baby out was going to be like started to get me concerned. I was thinking how on earth am I ever going to be able to do this. Well, it turns out I didn't get to find out.
About an hour before Sarah was born via emergency cesarean section I spiked a fever and the doctor's were not sure why. They were not sure if there was an infection in my body or in Sarah's. She needed to come out. At that point my doctor asked me to make the choice. I thought to myself, "I didn't read about c-sections. I passed over that stuff in the books thinking that it wasn’t supposed to happen like this.” My doctor asked if I wanted to wait a little while longer and see if I dilate further but all I wanted was to get my baby out safe and soon.
With my mother in the room as well, her having survived two heart attacks during my pregnancy, I was actually concerned about her health too and fear of her having another heart attack while this process was underway. It seemed that nobody was making any decisions. I shouted at my mom and said “please tell me you are going to be okay and know that I will be fine and Sarah will be here soon.”
Then I yelled "let's do the c-section and get my daughter out, please." I wasn’t sure that waiting was going to change much. Also, I was so doped up on drugs from the two epidurals, crying so hard watching the fear in my husband's eyes. It's strange. I was worried about everyone else including Sarah, but not myself. It was truly my first selfless act for my child and she hadn’t even been born yet.
Strangely, there was some relief in thinking that I didn't need to push her out and just wanted her out so badly knowing she was okay. Therefore, I was willing to sacrifice the emotional and awakening experience of a vaginal delivery to protect her, which clearly was much more important.
In the operating room as I was being prepped, I was completely out of it. I could feel, I couldn't feel. I could feel. I was so afraid staring at the door telling them they couldn't start until my husband was by my side. I needed him there with me to hold my hold and tell me everything was going to be okay. The doctor told me that they had to prep me first before Daniel could come in. Daniel later told me that he was never more scared in his entire life then when he saw me on the table and the fear in my eyes as well.
I had a wonderful team of experts on my side and an amazing anesthesiologist, who I earlier proposed marriage to in good conscience. He kept asking, as he was pushing in yet more medication for the surgery, if I could feel my legs and other parts of my body. All I could think of what that I wasn't sure what I could feel and said it was fine. I just wanted Sarah out of my body and healthy. I just wanted to hear her cry and be told she was okay. I was willing to suffer great amounts of pain just to know she was alive, breathing and pinking up.
While all this was happening I insisted that my iPod be brought in the operating room as I had my relaxing classical music playlist all set to comfort me. Too bad the volume was too low and I struggled to hear it. Nonetheless, my husband later told me that there were many people in the room and much hustle and bustle was going on. I was in and out of consciousness during the delivery anxious waiting for them to make the first cut. I had no idea at all what to expect. All I felt was pressure. At one point he told me that the acoustic version of Ave Maria came on the iPod and that the room went silent. He then said that some of the staff started to sing and hum the lyrics to the chorus of this classic. Then, when that was done everyone was ready to get started.
When he told me this all I could think of what that G-d entered the room at this point and knew everything would be okay. Shortly thereafter Sarah was born. I don't remember seeing her but do remember hearing Daniel tell the doctor her name when asked.
It turns out that while I have pretty good sized hips my pelvis was not big enough for my nearly eight pound bundle to come out. And, I could have pushed and pushed and she would have remained stuck. So, despite my fears and anxieties the c-section was the right choice as Sarah is here, and healthy.
Unfortunately, I did not get the luxury to hold Sarah until the following day nearly 11 hours after her birth as she needed to be whisked off to the neonatal intensive care unit more so as a precautionary measure since I had a fever and the cause was still unknown. The great news was that her Apgar scores were the highest.
While in recovery crying my eyes out and having sent my family home because it was late and everyone was tired, I laid there listening to other new mothers and families with their babies in the same room. The pain hurt so much not to see Sarah. I really don’t think that mother’s without their babies should be in the same recovery room as mothers with their babies. The physical and emotional pain was a lot to cope with.
I insisted to my husband that if I could not feed Sarah her first that he be the first to give her milk even if from a bottle. And, off he went with a kiss to my forehead and a tear in his eye. He knew in his heart, which he later told me, was that I should have been the one to feed her first. He felt so bad.
The following day I was able to see Sarah for the first time and all I could do was cry with joy and thank G-d that she was here, and that she was healthy. She also had a really healthy cry sometimes waking the smaller, sometimes premature babies in the NICU. I held Sarah and stared at her for what felt like hours. I couldn't believe what we had just been through but was thanking my lucky stars that she was now in our lives.
For days Sarah needed to remain in the NICU, again as precaution. During this time instead of nursing her on my breast I became one with a hospital grade breast pump. Not exactly what I had in mind. And, as new mothers learn, you don't have much milk coming out in the first few days except colostrum, the golden milk. I pumped hard and I pumped often to get out this special nutrition proud to get even a millimeter and maybe sometimes more. It didn't seem like much and I wanted to do more. While Sarah stayed in the NICU most of the time I was in the hospital they did enable me to take her to a breast feeding class a handful of times. This saved both of us. I was now able to bond with my baby.
I am happy to report that this process helped me get on track, and with the help of a lactation consultant as well at my home. I nursed Sarah for 13 months and feel proud of this accomplishment.
G-d has granted me the most incredible blessing in the world and her name is Sarah. She is my pride and joy and I love her with all my heart. Despite a challenging delivery and not so wonderful hospital experience, other than the great doctors and nurses who stood by my side, along with my husband and family, helped me through this process.
I am thankful, appreciative and blessed.