With the new baby on the edge of the horizon, I’ve been thinking a lot about Otto’s birth. It’s a story I’ve wanted to write for almost two years now. Read the first part of the story here.
It was a strange sensation; I could feel it happening before I actually felt the water, and in that microsecond before the gush, my primary concern was for my pajamas.
I believe Jill’s exact words were “get over it,” when I cried about how I wouldn’t be able to wear them any more. We needed to get to the hospital and our bag still wasn’t packed.
My contractions were pummeling me, one on top of the other. Jill was scrambling all over the house, up and down the stairs, in and out the door, trying to help me work through the pain, then disappearing, reappearing to put pressure on my back, then running off again. I seriously considered calling 911; I wasn’t sure I would be able to get myself to the other side of the house, out the door, into the car, and all the way to the hospital. The pain was so intense that the thought of walking anywhere overwhelmed me.
Finally, Jill returned with an ugly set of sweatpants for me, and helped move me in the direction of our car. At the car, I tried to climb into the hatchback so I could lie down. Sitting seemed out of the question. But so was lifting myself into the trunk. The front seat it was.
By now it was afternoon rush hour. Not that there was much of a traffic problem, but it left speeding to the hospital out of the question. Jill called our doctor to tell her we were on the way, and I wailed wildly— partially as an effort to convey the severity of the situation, and partially because the pain left me little else to do.
When we pulled up to the hospital there were approximately 498 cars waiting to be valet-parked before us. I told Jill to just ditch the car and deal with it later, but somehow she managed to get a valet ticket.
As she raced in for a wheelchair, I moved at slower-than-snails-pace to open the door and start moving my legs toward the pavement. A woman who was clearly very high—by the looks of it on heroin— asked if I needed help.
Only later would I learn that during the time it took me to get my legs out of the car, Jill was in the hospital struggling with the wheelchairs. She plucked one out of the lineup, and rather than taking it out through the regular doors, she tried to wheel it through the rotating one, slowly getting stuck in the turn every few inches. And just as the door revolved to the outside, she realized she actually had a child’s wheelchair, so was forced to continue shuffling through the rest of the rotation back to where she started.
Eventually, she emerged to help me into a wheelchair. She then began unpacking the car, slinging bags over her shoulders and back. She didn’t want to forget anything in her desperate attempt to pack the hospital bag, so ended up bringing—and I promise I am not exaggerating—six bags. Not like major luggage or anything, but there were six separate pieces. All of that and I’d later discover, I didn’t have a single pair of shoes.
Seeing the obvious struggle, a woman who was not on a heroin high, rushed to help. Her name was Bridget. She pushed me on the long journey to L&D as Jill scrambled behind her with the bags.
I remember three things about the journey through the hospital: 1) The constant excruciating pain that had me yelling the whole way; 2) Bridget pausing to comment on how pretty the hallway artwork was and me thinking, both “keep it moving, lady” and “wow, she has bad taste;” and 3) The elevator doors opening to the L&D floor where people scattered fearfully to get out of my screaming way.
Triage was full, and the nurses could see I was clearly ready to deliver soon so they wheeled me into the room where I was to give birth. I was overcome by the sense of relief and accomplishment and stepped out of my clothes, took of my glasses, and climbed into the bed. The pain was relentless, but finally I knew I would be ok, and I was free to, well, relax, because I was where I needed to be.
It wasn’t long before I felt the urge to push. I was terrified. I suddenly felt incredibly vulnerable and not quite ready to surrender control of my body. I remember trying half-heartedly to push through one contraction to see how it felt and then immediately giving myself the go. I was going to push hard.
And push I did. I also yelled so loud my throat and ears began to throb. Between contractions I remember hearing a little kid’s voice in the hallway and thinking that surely I had completely traumatized him or her.
After about a half hour of pushing, I was told I could feel the top of his head. It was so soft and squishy that I really, honestly didn’t believe it was a head. One more contraction and one more push and I felt his warm, wet body slip out of me in the most astounding sense of relief my body has ever known.
They laid him on my chest, and I turned to Jill with shock. “That wasn’t so bad!” I exclaimed.
She laughed, thinking I was referring to the whole, painful ordeal, but what I meant was about that last, big push. I’d spent months worrying about how on earth a big head and shoulders were going to get out of me. Little did I know that would be the easy part.
So there he was. In one second we became parents. We had a son. I didn’t cry, like I thought I would. I was just so happy to have made it through, to hear him cry, to watch him figure out how to nurse, that I couldn’t do anything but laugh and smile.
That’s where birth stories usually end. You never hear about what happens next. But what happens next is that there is still more pushing to do. There is a placenta to deliver. Then there are, at least in my case, stitches to be sewn. And then you have to stand up and make your way to the shower. And then, well, then you have a kid to raise.