If your eyes have not succumbed to exhaustion or you have not “un-friended” me after my crazy, detailed pregnancy synopsis, feel free to read on and learn about Olive’s actual birth. FYI, it probably takes longer to read this synopsis than it did to actually give birth. Consider yourself warned.
After leaving sweet Weezy back at the house with Auntie Diana, we got checked into the hospital and things were so nonchalant. I was having contractions every 4 minutes and they lasted for a little less than a minute but they did not hurt a ton yet. Mellissa checked me and I was a 6, so I had dilated another centimeter from the day before. They did all my intake paperwork, brought me a labor ball, gave me an IV for fluid, and sent me to walk the halls. The hospital is located right next to the school I work at and I laughed when I could see my students playing on the playground from the fourth floor window. Brakes, who fancies himself something of a mathematician, calculated that if we walked up and down the hall 7 times, it was a mile. So we would power walk a mile, then go back and get monitored for a half hour, then we would power walk another mile, then go back. We did this four times and the contractions were not really picking up. After 3 hours of walking and chatting and flirting (we joked that it felt like a date because this was the longest stretch of uninterrupted time we had enjoyed alone together in months) without a significant increase in my contractions, Mellissa recommended we go for the nudge. As much as I was enjoying being wooed by my husband in my butt-less lingerie (ie: hospital gown), I decided I would not mind speeding this process up a bit so they added a little baggie of the pit to my IV. Since before I was ever pregnant I was scared to death of Pitocin. I had heard that Pitocin contractions caused the most unbelievable pain a woman can experience. As I had already experienced unimaginable pain during Eloise’s labor without Pitocin, I was not exactly thrilled about voluntarily signing up for worse pain at this stage in the game, but Mellissa was the boss and I had to trust what she said. After a minor freak out where Brakes sweetly kissed me and calmed me down I faced the demon without fear (well, maybe a little fear).
I got to say people, for me? Pitocin ain’t no thang. Whatev. My bods stronger than the P-devil. Mmmhmm. Other than making me speak in a strange vernacular and do poor Chris Rock impersonations, Pitocin had little effect. Even when they kept bumping it up (all the way to a level 6), my contractions only got slightly closer together (3 minutes) and just a bit more intense (I had to briefly pause the stand-up routine at the height of each contraction), but it really was not a big deal. It was so not a big deal that I became extremely smug and self-satisfied. We had been at the hospital for 4 hours already and I was still cracking jokes and I had barely broken a sweat. Brakes began to fret. He was like, “I don’t know Bug. You don’t really seem like you’re in labor. By know we had already had Eloise. Maybe you just think you’re in labor.” I got all pissy and righteous, “You don’t know my pain! Maybe this is agonizing and I am just being brave!” But then the nurse checked me again and I had only dilated 1/2 a centimeter more. That sort of took the wind out of my sails and I waited to hear what the boss wanted to do next.
The boss decided to break my water. She thought once my bags had ruptured I would take off like a rocket the same way I had with Eloise. She gave me two choices: she could break my water then give me the epidural, or I could get the epi, then she could break my water. After asking her one more time if the epi was really medically necessary, I agreed to the epi then rupture because I knew it would hurt a lot worse once my water cushion was gone and I figured why not avoid that pain. I may be brave (very) but I’m not stupid.
About five minutes after we called the anesthesiologist, I had my first extremely painful contraction. “Ah,” I thought to myself, as my breath left my body and panicked tears flooded my eyes, “this is the pain I remember.” This is what Eloise’s whole labor had felt like. Hot knifes stabbing me everywhere and there was no escape from the pain. And they were coming faster. Every minute on the minute. Hello transition labor, my old frenemy. So good to meet you again. Please allow me to introduce you to my new BFF, Dr. Epidural. He is going to annihilate your abusive ways! A handful of contractions in, I had the sweet relief of the epi. Just before I went mostly numb (I had a light epi, so I could still feel almost everything, it just took away most of the pain) I felt little Olive slide into position and that unmistakable urge to push came over me. However I was sort of enjoying the novelty of not being able to feel my legs, and Brakes was looking a bit piqued. The poor guy had not eaten since breakfast and it was past six already, so I sent him downstairs to chow down a quick dinner and kept my secret urge to push to myself. After calling everyone I know and telling them how highly I recommend an epidural, I drifted into a light slumber with Linda Ronstadt's sweet voice singing me to sleep. (What?! Linda relaxes me. Don’t judge.) The smell of cooked onions and green peppers jerked me awake rather unpleasantly . Brakes had made the poor choice of Philly Cheesesteak for dinner with garlic fries. Gag. And double gag.
Two teeth brushes and mouth wash gargles later plus some gum for good measure, Mellissa dropped by. She said she was going to break my water but she wanted to check me first. I knew before she even said anything that I was ready to go. She went to tell the nurses to start setting up the room and I suddenly remembered what I had read about magic babies being born in the caul. The caul is the membrane that holds the sack of water in around the baby. Occasionally a women will give birth without the water breaking so the baby is born still ensconced in it’s bag of waters; the caul. These babies are supposed to have magical properties and since I am: A. A bit of a hippy (have I mentioned I am a hippy?) and B. All about magic babies (as long as they are not like Harry Potter. I do not care for Harry.) I began to campaign heavily for a magic caul baby. Soon I had the nurse and Brakes on my side and we ganged up against Mellissa to try and let me have a magic caul baby. She consented and we got to pushing.
I tooted. My very first practice push, for probably the first time in the 10 years we’ve been together I tooted in front of Brakes (PS: Brakes assures me that this is not the case, but it is my story so I am telling it my way. I don’t toot. It destroys the mystery. So there.) and it reminded me of some ground rules we needed to review for this stage of labor. I’ve heard nasty rumors that sometimes women defecate during labor. I am appalled at the idea of this happening. And after a minor misunderstanding during Eloise’s birth (I accidently mistook her head for something sticking out of my rectum) I am especially sensitive about the poop issue. I felt it was prudent to establish a protocol on the off chance that the unmentionable occurs. The protocol was, we were all to ignore it. No one was to refer to it, make comments about it, or even sniff questioningly as I pushed. If I thought that there was even the slightest chance that I would poop in front of people (not including my 2 year old who casually inserts herself into my pooping sessions daily, “You got poop, Mama? Oooh! Nice poop!”), I would be rendered unable to push and that baby would be stuck inside me forever. So it was vitally important that everyone follow the protocol. And follow it they did! Every time a noise emerged from the south end of the bed Mellissa would joke about the frog in her pocket which made me laugh and consequently the frog croaked again. She also covered up my rectum with a sheet therefore eliminating any chance of confusion as to what hole my daughter would emerge from as I gazed in the mirror.
I was even further in Mellissa’s debt when on my second push, my water broke with a hose like stream directed squarely in Mellissa’s face. Mellissa was completely unable to block the spray as her hands were firmly planted on the sheet hiding my anus from view. Bless her heart. We all laughed while she wiped amniotic fluid from her eyes (I know. I can’t get over it either.) And Mellissa hollered for me to stop laughing because I was going to laugh this baby right out.
I looked up at Brakes, who smiled back at me and squeezed the thigh he was holding reassuringly. I noticed the sexy crinkles around his eyes and I was suddenly overwhelmed by how much I love him and how grateful I was to be in this position; pushing out another amazing baby girl, not blind with pain and reduced to an animal state, laughing as I brought new life into the world with my best friend by my side. I gave another mighty push and I heard Brakes whisper, “Not with you face, Bug,” when he saw my face turning red. With Eloise, I did not push correctly and I broke every capillary in my face, neck, chest, and eyes. I looked like a swollen monster for weeks. This time we agreed that he would keep an eye on that for me and when he noticed me turning colors he would direct me to change course. I took a deep breath and pushed again. I watched as a beautiful blond circle emerged from my body. Mellissa did some gentle manipulations then said, “Gas, bring your hands down and deliver your baby.” I was surprised as this was not something we had talked about but I did; I tucked my hands under her slimy shoulders and I pulled her softly all the way out of me. I slid her up my body and onto my chest where she quickly and fervently latched onto my breast. It was truly the most beautiful moment of my life. She was incredible. So gloriously healthy looking and full of vitality! She was bright red and she had soft blond wispy hair with the same kink in it that Weezy’s had when it was wet. She already had rolls on her belly and she was almost 8 pounds (7 pounds, 15 ounces). She had a hearty cry and a sweet demeanor and she wholly and completely captured our hearts. She also smelled like hot-buttered popcorn. She still does. I love her special scent.
I don’t know if it is because Olive is just that remarkable or if it is because her big sister is so amazing that her dad and I knew what we had to look forward to, or maybe it was because her birth was so calm and contained, but everything about Olive’s birth, recovery, and infancy has been easier. I was up and walking 2 hours after she was born. She was a breastfeeding star and my milk had started to come in the following morning. From the night we brought her home from the hospital she has slept from midnight to five am with only a handful of exceptions (not that I don’t feel royally screwed when she does have a bad night. I do.) She is a sweet and happy baby with just enough spice to make her interesting. She may not have been born in the caul but she is my magic baby all the same. She is my gift, she completed our family, and I know that she is destined for great things.
Her pregnancy might have been something of a trial but it is more than balanced by the sweetness and joy that she brings to our life today. It is my privilege to be her mother.