We walked to Palmisano Park Thursday night to see the latest installation in the Ten Thousand Ripples Project. I stood in the center of the circle of Buddha heads as the sun went down in the west. We had dinner at a neighborhood Italian place, then stopped at the bar where we had drinks on our first date. We’d stopped in for dinner a few weeks earlier and saw another expecting couple due a a week and a half before me – they were there again that night, now at least a few days overdue. When we crossed the bridge on the way home, we walked through a film set, the crew warning us to protect our eyes from the kleig light shining down on the river.
It was our last night as a family of two.
In the morning, some kitchen disaster left me in tears, bent in half at the sink as my contractions started, the first around 6:30am. It was Friday, and I had a day-long webinar ahead of me, and an important final meeting that afternoon, and a case study and documentation to finish before I could go on leave. There was no way I could miss work, so I went in, resolved that this would be my last day.
I started timing my contractions around lunchtime, thankful that the chairs in the meeting room reclined enough to give me some relief. I had a ham sandwich with avocado. By the end of my 3pm meeting, my contractions were regular and 5 minutes apart. The last 90 minutes of my work day was a blur, and probably the most productive 90 minutes of the entire year. Some women “nest” when they’re in labor – I wrote documentation, registered for two conferences, compiled and double-checked statistics, and saved files in multiple locations.
At 5pm, my contractions were 4 minutes apart. I called Nicolas to talk it over, then called Labor and Delivery, who told me I might as well come in. I packed everything up, walked to my car, and drove around the corner to the hospital, parallel parking between contractions. By the time I checked in at 6pm, my contractions were 2 minutes apart. Three other women arrived within 10 minutes of me.
N hopped in a Lyft car and arrived shortly after I was admitted to triage, my labor well underway. I was hooked up to a bunch of machines, which made climbing around to get comfortable difficult. N massaged my back and calmed me during the contractions, just as we’d practiced. Nurses were in and out checking my vitals and taking my blood. One nurse bumped my foot with the table I was leaning on during contractions. When the contraction passed, I asked for a bandage for my bleeding toe. She was apparently so mortified that she couldn’t come back into the room.
A resident scanned my belly and confirmed that the baby was still breech, and still high up. Over the next two hours, they checked my cervix several times to make sure that my labor was actually progressing before making the decision to send me to surgery. Each check was more agonizing than the last. At some point, they determined that I was staying, and the baby would be born that night. N texted my family as I went into surgery, and was given surgical scrubs to cover up. In the rush to surgery, I was asked to take out my tongue stud; I forgot all about it until several days later, by which time it was too late to put it back in.
I don’t remember exactly how I got back to surgery – did I walk? I must’ve walked. We were at a teaching hospital, and the one time this was problematic was during the epidural when the physician critiqued the resident’s work in placing my epidural – not what I wanted to hear while hunched over waiting for the pain to stop. I could still feel more than I expected to feel, and when I said that I go through anesthetic fast, the doctor said, “this will be interesting.”
My doctor was out of town, so a doctor I’d never met performed the surgery. I was strapped to a table with the drape raised when N was brought in. He sat by my head and talked to me about the baby on the beach, about how we were about to meet our child. I felt a lot of pressure, pulling back and forth, and then they told N it was time to stand up and see the baby. The doctor said, “you grew a lot of baby!”. Our son was born at 10:49pm.
The aftermath of surgery is a blur. It wasn’t clear to me what was happening, but N and the baby went to an adjacent room for the newborn procedures, and I could only occasionally see the baby through the crowd of people attending to him. I kept asking what was happening, whether his eyes were open, what color they were. I could hear him crying, and wanted to hold him, but had to be put back together first. The doctor assured me that if I waited two years, I would be a good candidate for a VBAC.
We spent a long time in recovery. I was very sick, and N was very worried. The nurse was very kind. The baby was with us for part of the time, and then we waited a very long time for transport up to our room. There are a lot of things I don’t remember. I think we were both in shock. I think it’s best that I don’t remember.
I wanted so badly to have a natural birth, no drugs, no interventions. The birth I had was the opposite of that. I’m glad we had time to make our peace with this change of plans. Given the way my surgery went, and the way the baby was positioned, it was the safest option for both of us. I’m grateful that I went into labor on my own, and that I had the opportunity to labor before surgery. I’m grateful for the care I received, even though I don’t remember much of it.
Most of all, I’m grateful for the healthy and safe arrival of our son, who we named after our grandfathers. He’s beautiful, and we couldn’t be happier.