About 5 days before my due date, my doctor declared that there was “not much going on down there.” So the night I went into labor, I had what I thought were some Braxton-Hicks during dinner. My husband, Evan, was exhausted from work and fell asleep right afterward. I watched TV while he slept–everything was prepared for the baby who I didn’t expect to come any time soon.
And then the contractions started coming closer together. My cats looked at me like I was crazy as I leaned on things and breathed. By 2 am, the contractions were about 5 minutes apart. I woke my husband and said, “I don’t know, but I THINK it might be time.”
I felt guilty but called my OB at that hour anyway. He said, “It might be it,” and told me to head over to the hospital. We weren’t feeling particularly rushed because I knew first babies could take a while. My bag had been packed for weeks, but my husband decided that he should not only shower, but then to repack the entire bag.
We drove to the hospital, which was in New Jersey. Typically the drive takes 15 minutes. Tonight there was construction, which caused traffic. I was annoyed because I was having contractions. But I still was not convinced that “this was it.”
At the hospital, they declared me four centimeters. Evan called my mom, who lives in North Carolina. She immediately headed to the airport. Then he called my sister, Chrissy, who lives in Queens. She headed to the hospital.
As I went into the bathroom to change into the hospital gown, the contractions started to hurt more. I remember saying, “I don’t think I like this at all!” They asked if I wanted an epidural and I said I did. It took them forever to get the needle in. It kept breaking! The anesthesiologist asked if I was part Asian–I’m not–because apparently Asian women sometimes have smaller spaces between their vertebrae. I was worried that maybe I wouldn’t be able to get an epidural at all. But finally, it went in.
After that, the contractions didn’t hurt much at all. My sister arrived and did a bunch of funny things including obsessively updating our Facebook statuses about how much I was dilated. By 8 am, my mother arrived from North Carolina.
The hospital said I could have two “support people” at the birth--my mom and Evan. But I wanted my sister there as long as possible. So every time we heard a nurse approach, she’d hide in the bathroom. A few times we forgot to tell her it was safe to come out.
In the afternoon, the nurses said I had stopped dialating, so the doctor broke my water. I had heard that would hurt like hell. It barely stung.
Around 7:30 pm, they told me it was time to push. In all the commotion, no one told my sister to leave. So I had my mom, sister, AND husband with me. They each played a very different role in comforting me. Although, I could have done without some of the banter between Evan and Chrissy. They kept looking “down there” and saying things like, “My God. I didn’t think there would be so much blood!” “There’s blood on the floor,” and my personal favorite, “It looks like two gigantic cheeseburgers down there!”
At the foot of the bed, there was a huge clock and a crucifix. I had to keep asking people to pull the curtain to cover those. I didn’t want to be reminded of how long I’d been pushing and I certainly didn’t want to think of the crucifixion at this moment.
I pushed for about two and a half hours. I said the F word A LOT, so it’s probably a good idea that we curtained off Jesus. I’ve heard of women who don’t feel anything but pressure when they are on an epidural. Sounded heavenly, but they turned mine off because it was taking so long. So I felt everything.
After a while, the doctor said we might have to make a decision about having a C-section instead of vaginal birth. I barely had time to think because the next contraction came. I wasn’t particularly worried about the possibility. I just wanted the baby out.
Two nurses played the roles of good cop/bad cop. I cried something like, “Somebody help me.” The bad cop nurse sternly told me in Russian accent, “No one can help you. You are the only one who can push the baby out.” Perhaps my annoyance at that statement helped me push harder.
Finally, after 23 hours of labor and 2.5 of pushing, he was out. I’d watched so many videos of births and it looked like once the head was out, the rest of the baby sort of just slid out. Nope. The head comes out and you WAIT. Then it took more than one push to get the body out and the shoulder hurt. HARD.
I had expected my son to be immediately brought to my chest after birth, but he wasn’t. He was silent and they whisked him away. I was too dazed and afraid to ask, “Why the hell aren’t you giving me my baby?” So I just laid there, while everyone rushed to the baby.
Here’s where my pretty typical birth story becomes atypical. This was my second pregnancy. My first was a difficult one, a story unto itself. The baby's heart never formed correctly and we were devastated to lose that baby at 6 months of pregnancy. When my son was born, I had a reaction that is difficult for me to admit. At that moment, I felt extreme sorrow. It was as if I was mourning the first baby. The doctor (who had been my doctor for the first pregnancy), came to hug me. I just wept. I was happy that my son was here at the same time that I kept thinking, “But I want my baby.”
Finally, I heard a cry from across the room. Everyone cheered. I felt more than relieved to hear that cry, but also incredibly ashamed of my sorrow at that moment.
Then they brought Henry to me. My family was crying. Henry had an adorable expression, like he was trying to be brave, but also said, “Where the heck am I, and was why is it so loud and bright in here?” I nursed right away and we’ve been inseparable ever since. He is physically a part of me, and someday I’ll tell him about the older brother he never knew.
Henry is now four years old. He’s the smartest, silliest, healthiest kid I know, and he’s thrilled to become a big brother this summer. I’m considerably more laid back about this pregnancy. And my birth plan includes getting an epidural, covering up any crucifixes and having my family by my side.
Learn more about Jennifer Weedon Palazzo of MomCaveTV here.