How I Became A Mother, Part Two: Labor

I was convinced that my baby would come early. When we had our ultrasound at 32 weeks to see the baby’s size, we were told he was already looking very big, with basically a giant head. I’m gonna be really frank here, I’m a tiny woman and this TERRIFIED me. J also took this time to remind me that when he was born, he had the biggest head in the nursery at the hospital.

What the hell did I marry?

Between the fear of my giant baby coming early, and the fact that J and I are meticulous planners and over-preparers, we had our hospital bag packed weeks before my due date. I dealt with my anxiety by going into nesting overdrive. We got the nursery together, I washed, organized, and put away all of the lovely hand-me-down baby clothes (and the adorable new stuff we got at our shower), and we had our car seats professionally installed. My parents flew in a week before the due date to make sure they wouldn’t miss the birth.

And then we waited. And watched a lot of HGTV.

On February 28, two days before my due date, I woke up with some tightness in my lungs and pain in my back. I had felt a little achy the night before, but went to bed thinking it was just normal pregnancy discomfort. Now, it felt painful to take a deep breath. As the morning dragged on, the pain got so intense that it hurt to take a breath of any size. At around 2 p.m, I finally called my OBGYN’s office and was told to head to the hospital and check in to Labor & Delivery. I called J, who immediately headed home from work to pick me up, while I packed the last-minute toiletries into our hospital bag and waited.

When J got home, he came inside for a minute, then packed up the car and walked me out, got me in the car, and promptly lost his car keys. I sat there in the passenger seat, watching him sweat, running back and forth from the car to the house looking frantically for the keys like a perfectly executed classic sitcom moment. If it didn’t hurt so much to laugh, I would have enjoyed this a lot more. Finally, we were on our way.

When we checked in to the hospital, I was immediately put on a fetal monitor to make sure the baby was okay (which he was), and then a battery of doctors, nurses, and technicians came in to check my blood, my heart rate, and my vitals. Apparently when a 40-weeks pregnant woman says she can’t breathe and has chest pains, it’s kind of a big deal. I had an EKG, an ultrasound of my legs, and a terrifying CT scan. The doctors wanted to rule out a pulmonary embolism. Eventually, I was taken from L&D and admitted to the hospital for more monitoring and some antibiotics. One doctor thought I might have walking pneumonia. One thing was clear, though. I was probably not having a baby tonight. They decided to keep me overnight to make sure everything was good with my heart, my lungs, and most importantly, my unborn baby. The final diagnosis was Corona Virus, which is basically a fancy way of saying cold/flu, and makes no sense because I had exactly zero cold symptoms. Either way, the next morning, March 1, — the day before my due date — they sent me home from the hospital without a baby.

More waiting.

We tried everything. Long walks (or walking for as long as I could stand to waddle around the block), herbal tea, clumsy sex, and a local salad that is supposed to be well-known for inducing labor. Nothing.

Four days after my due date, we had a check-up with my OBGYN. After examining me, he let us know that it was time to induce. We were to check in at the hospital the following morning at 5:45 a.m. to get things started! That night we went out for a “last meal” of sorts with my parents and my father-in-law. I had a giant lasagne and a decadent chocolate cake, as I knew once I got to the hospital in the morning it would be ice chips and Jell-O for the foreseeable future.

Naturally, the night before I was meant to be induced, I went into labor at home. I started having mild contractions at about 1 a.m. and J and I dutifully breathed through them just as we were taught in our birthing classes. J drew me a nice, warm bath which felt really good and helped ease some of that early pain and discomfort. We stuck it out at home for a few hours, and at around 5 a.m., J grabbed the smoothie he had made and frozen for me the night before, to take in the car as my final meal before the hospital rules kicked in.

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On our way to the hospital!

We checked in to the hospital, let them know that I had already started having contractions, and settled into my delivery room. Once I had been examined, the nurse began to pump me with pitocin to move the labor along. The contractions started to get stronger and more painful. Hours went by. J was an amazing partner, cheering me on and helping me breathe through the tough ones. I ate more popsicles and Jell-O cups than I care to remember.

After 10 or so hours of contractions, which were now only moments apart, the nurses offered me the epidural. While I was in a lot of pain, J and I didn’t really want to do anything without talking to or seeing my doctor first. I can’t remember why now. Finally, after 18 hours of labor and with contractions so excruciating I thought I was going to pass out, my doctor came in, examined me and was like “Oh, my god, get the epidural!”

YES, PLEASE.

The epidural experience was not my favorite. I am one of those people who hate needles. Like, a lot. When I get blood drawn, I HAVE TO watch instead of looking away because the anticipation/surprise of the needle making contact is worse than actually watching it go in and feeling at least somewhat in control. So having a stranger come in and stick a giant needle into my spine, where I can’t see what’s happening is pretty much my worst nightmare. On top of that, they didn’t allow J to be in the room when it happened. Oh, and you guys, this is the worst — the anesthesiologist kept calling me “Mommy.” Like “Okay, Mommy, I’m just preparing the site.” or “Take a deep breath, Mommy.” I tried to politely tell him more than once, please call me Ali. He said it again. I said, a little more aggressively, “My name is Ali!” He said Ali once and then back to the mommy bullshit. Finally the nurse yelled out “ALI! HER NAME IS ALI!” Thank goodness for her.

Once the epidural was administered, I finally felt some relief and was able to get some rest, as the baby still had no plans of coming out anytime soon. At around 1:30 a.m. (now 24 hours into labor), I woke up to press the magic button for more of the epidural drug and noticed that the back of my nightgown felt wet. I asked J to check if maybe my water had broken, and his face said it all. He later told me it looked like a crime scene. We called for the nurse, who examined me and told me that I was only five centimeters dilated, and I should get more rest and we would check again in the morning.

It seems I would be spending one more night without a baby.

To be concluded…

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