It’s been a long time coming. I have had this sitting in my Evernote inbox for over four years now. My son turns 5 years old this year in May. He will be starting kindergarten this fall. I have gone through birth trauma counselling, worked as a birth advocate since my son was about 16 months old, taken my power back and had an empowering homebirth. That homebirth baby turns 2 at the end of March.
I have written extensively about the trauma of my son’s birth and how many regrets I have over it. But right after I had him, before I had fully processed the full experience and extent of the buried feelings I had over all that happened, I wrote out his story. At the time I didn’t understand why it took me 3 days. At the time I saw the traumatic parts as “normal”. I thought I was “lucky” that I had “made it through, uncut and unscathed”. I felt it could have been so much “worse”. I hadn’t yet learned the extent to which I had been lied to, manipulated and coerced by the system. I hadn’t yet learned that I had the right of informed consent and refusal and I hadn’t yet learned that much of what was in my records was bullshit. I hadn’t yet sent a letter to the College of Midwives to register a complaint and had a response that basically boiled down to “sorry you feel so traumatized, but because your records say you were okay with a hospital birth there’s nothing we can really do. You know, because someone who wasn’t YOU wrote down how they thought YOU felt and it’s documented to cover their ass”. So yeah, nothing came of it. But I really didn’t expect anything to come of it; you don’t spend 4 years as a birth advocate, digging through the statistics and hearing the stories all too common and heartbreaking, to know that the system is rigged. The important thing is that now I have MY proof that the odds are not in my favor and that in order to change things I have to go directly to the mothers who get screwed over and I’m okay with that. I firmly believe that if I tell enough women to be on their guard, a lot of them will listen and say “this is bullshit! I’M in charge here, NOT the system! How DARE they tell me what I can or can’t do to birth MY child!”
But this isn’t about what I know now. I’ve gone over that topic so often that it’s ingrained in my poor husband’s brain and the first thing that pops into his head when he’s talking with other parents about anything baby related. No, this post is about the mom I was in the first few weeks after the birth, when I was still trying to figure out motherhood and was still high on the new mother hormones and hadn’t really examined all too closely what my real feelings were. It’s the mom that still felt that making a fuss over a vaginal delivery when other moms had to have csections would make me seem like I was ungrateful or selfish. It was the mom that still was “playing nice” and thinking her trauma wasn’t really “that bad”. I didn’t have the framework yet to really understand that “good enough” wasn’t actually good enough for me. I didn’t yet understand that I gave in when I didn’t have to, that I let someone else tell me what to do and that I hadn’t had to do THAT either. I didn’t know what I didn’t know; which is much like a lot of mothers and indeed it’s WHY so often birth advocates can hit a wall when talking to women who don’t KNOW that birth can be awesome. It’s NOT something to “just get through”. Thankfully (and I cannot express enough how grateful I am to her), my midwife gave me the words of wisdom I needed to help me unlock those feelings so that I didn’t go and “birth trauma” all over any other mother who might have told me that I deserved better. She said “it doesn’t matter WHAT happened; if YOU feel it was traumatic then it WAS.” So when I was thinking that maybe I didn’t belong at the birth trauma group session after the post-partum drop in, she helped me see that I DID belong there. I hadn’t realized until then just how much the birth had affected me. I hadn’t been able to process it fully when she had asked me 3 days post-partum how I felt. I had been too tired and too happy at NOT being cut to really put too much thought of introspection into why it was so hard for me to get certain images out of my head or why I kept saying “but next time I can have a homebirth so it’s fine. Really.”
And this was the outcome of all those unprocessed feelings. THIS was the birth story I wrote. And after I wrote it, I never looked at it again. I never shared it. In fact, even typing this now, I haven’t read it. I won’t be reading it until I copy and paste the whole thing in here and start adding pictures.
I have lost count how many times I’ve read and shared my daughter’s story, but I am so very aware that my son’s gets no attention other than to point out everything that was wrong about it. I just couldn’t bring myself to share it. I didn’t want to remember.
But he’s turning 5 years old. My daughter is turning 2 in March. I’ve done so much work for other women. I’ve probably healed about as much as I ever will. It’s time I read it, insert the commentary where it needs to go, and move on. Anything in bold type is my current thoughts as I re-read through this, knowing what I know now.
Hunter’s Birth Story
Thursday morning I woke with cramping that was dull and menstrual-like. I ignored them for as long as I could, but by 3:30 pm they were becoming very sharp and were about 9 minutes apart. I called my doula and she was on the phone with me from 4pm to 5:30 and by then my contractions were coming 6 minutes apart. She came to the house around 6pm to help me through a few hours and when they hit the 4-5 minute mark we went to the hospital to be assessed. I wanted to be assessed at home, but Jules was on call the next day and therefore needed her rest and I didn’t know at the time that cervical dilation means nothing so I thought I “had to” be checked. She advised us to just go to the hospital, and I was having such sharp pains that I had to lean over the back of the seat on my knees because sitting was just too uncomfortable. The 5 minute drive to the hospital was brutal. I thought for sure that this was it and he was coming that night.
We get to the hospital and I’m in horrible pain with the contractions still 4 minutes apart. But then things started to slow down to 6 minutes again because I didn’t want to be there and progress slows when I’m stressed or scared, and because I had a record of NSTs I had to have another one in the triage while waiting for the midwife. Eventually she arrived. I was checked by a midwife with her own practice who was filling in for one of the midwives I was seeing who had been on sick leave. She said I was at 2 cm, and I was like “WHAT?” Because I was at 2 cm Tuesday when I’d had my membranes swept. I could NOT believe it; I had been contracting all day long and had all that prelabor for almost a week, and NOTHING had changed at all! Or maybe I had been at 6cm and then closed back up because I was in pain and didn’t want to be there. I tried not to let that discourage me, and at her suggestion we picked up some Gravol, Tylenol, and ice cream for me to have later. Thankfully my fear of being in the hospital overruled any notions of being admitted in early labor. I took my Gravol and Tylenol when we got home, had a bit more pizza to eat, and then went to sleep. I would wake up every 2-5 minutes with a hard contraction that I would have to shake my legs and hips to get through. By about 5:30 I could no longer stand it; I couldn’t sleep anymore, they were back to about 4 minutes apart and I was feeling so much pressure and pinching on my cervix. So probably back to 6cm and had I stayed in the pool at home he would probably have been out by lunchtime. My doula stayed with us for a few hours but had to leave around 8am for her family’s fishing trip, and I was resting on the bed for a while, out of my mind with exhaustion. We got a few very nice pictures from my labor though.
Around 10:30 that morning we went to the hospital and Tyler had to get me the wheelchair and help me into it. While I was waiting I had to lean against one of the pillars between contractions just outside of the hospital. An older lady stopped and asked if I was okay, and I said “I’m just in labor”. She was very nice and rubbed my back, talking to me and asking me if I knew what we were having and if this was my first baby. She stayed with me until Tyler came back, and wished us luck as I was helped into the wheelchair.
We got up to triage and I was admitted immediately, getting a “room” with a window. I stared at the trees swaying and alternated between sitting on the birth ball provided and rocking on the bed. I was checked again, this time by Jules, and she told me I was 4 cm. All that hard early labor and I was only at 4cm! Well, I probably closed up again by going to the hospital and putting up with more cervical checks. I was seriously starting to wonder if things would ever progress, but she said that I was going to be getting a room soon and that things would progress. I begged for a room with a tub, because I wanted to labor in water. I honestly thought that would be enough, and that things would get better.
While we were waiting, Tyler had to go get our stuff from the car, put money in the meter for parking, and get the cooler with our food. I told him “RUN” because with our doula no longer helping me and everyone in the maternity ward being super busy, I was laboring on my own (Good! I need to be alone). I needed my husband (No, I just needed his protection). He was the only one helping me get through these contractions, and they were getting so hard to handle. I was in so much pain, and my back was starting to hurt on one side, which I thought was due to being hunched over (Nope. Back labor). I also had to squat down really low because there was so much pressure and with the contractions coming so hard and fast it was excruciating. I had NO idea that this was NOT normal. I thought I was just progressing really fast and that he would be out in a few hours (he probably would have been if I hadn’t also been fighting against labor-stalling adrenaline).
Anyway, Tyler gets back and we overhear the nurses saying that if I delivered “soon” it would have to be in triage because there were NO rooms available. Well that probably halted any progress I had been making and closed me right back up again! Apparently this was a very busy week for babies and there was another woman laboring hard next curtain away from us. And interrupting my rhythm/concentration. I prayed that I would get a room and that it would be with a tub. Thankfully my wish was granted. Jules came in around 11:30 or so and told me that they were moving people around, discharging some of the moms that had their babies the day before, and that I would have the room with the tub in about an hour because they just had to clean up. It was music to my ears. In the meantime, she also tried to get me to take a blood test. Correction: she intercepted the nurse on her way to do the initial routine bloodwork and had to get me to refuse it myself in order to get them to go away…but way for the hospital to add more adrenaline/fear to my labor. I said “I don’t need one. I’m O positive.” She explained it was to check my hemoglobin count, and again I said “I had one at the beginning of my pregnancy and the test for anemia at 8 months. I’m fine, they said it was high. I can’t take a needle right now; not with these contractions. I can’t relax enough.” Pretty sure I was bitchier than I sound here, and also very frantic/desperate to get them to go away. She let it go, and that was it. No needles. I was so grateful for that, because knowing NOW that my contractions really were that hard, there was NO way I would have been able to relax no matter how much I tried. I really could not handle anymore stress in that moment. I’m glad they didn’t force the issue on me. I’m glad they respected my informed consent and refusal after badgering me three times but really, once should have been enough.
So about an hour later, the tub room was available. Tyler moved our stuff over and Jules helped me walk down the hall. It was a LONG walk and I was in so much pain, but I managed to do it without stopping. I am amazed by this now because of how hard those contractions actually were. They weren’t, actually. The perception of being in the hospital made the pain far worse than it needed to be. Most women probably would have doubled over or fainted or something, but I got to the room and Jules and a nurse helped me into the tub. I stayed in that tub even though the water was not helping. The bathtub was too small and the water didn’t even reach my chest unlike the birth pool which was glorious. I was in so much pain and as the contractions got harder and my back was spasming I had to get up and move to my hands and knees. I still wasn’t handling things well; they were just so sharp and the pain in my back made it so much worse. I said “I want the gas. I need the gas.” Tyler asked me what the password was, because we had agreed that I would use a code word if I truly needed anything to help me through the pain. “Tuxedo,” I said without hesitation. “Give me the gas.”
They got me a huge tank of it. I thankfully knew just how to breathe it in. So the gas worked REALLY well, after only a few deep breaths I was feeling better. I could feel the contraction but the edge was gone. I could handle it. The gas IS awesome.
I don’t know how long I was in there for. Time had ceased to exist and all that was there was the hollow echo of my nature/instrumental CD, with the soft music and crashing of the waves. The gas was my ritual. I would breathe it in the second the contraction started, hold it for a few seconds, and then breathe it out slowly in a sigh of relief. “Remember to only breathe in the gas during a contraction, Honey” Tyler’s voice echoed from seemingly far away. I nodded my head to show I understood. But there were no breaks. I only would stop to take a few sips of gatorade from Tyler’s water bottle, which he offered me every ten minutes or so. As soon as I took in the oxygen, the gas would start to wear off, and the contractions were strong again. And I would remember where I was. I would quickly inhale three times to take it away, and then I was good. By 4pm (which I only know it was because there is a text on my phone from Tyler to my doula) I was asked to lie on my back in the water for another check. I sleepily maneuvered myself and nodded my head, gas tube still pressed between my teeth, and let my midwife check me. I felt hardly anything at all and only heard her say “she’s at 7 cm”. I sighed in relief. I was in transition. Nope. Things would go fast now, I thought to myself. I knew transition rarely lasted more than two hours…
…except in my case where it lasted four. Somewhere in the haze of timeless oblivion that were those four hours, Tyler told me he was going down the hall to use the bathroom (he didn’t want to disturb me by going in MY bathroom). I nodded my head sleepily, not really caring at that point. I was in my own little world where nothing could hurt, frighten, or upset me.
I started to feel pressure building up and checked myself (because I was curious to feel where I was at, and because I have no shame when it comes to my own body). I could feel his head, or possibly just the bag of waters, (bulging waters) and I knew I was close. I also remember that at that time the contractions were even harder and I would suck in the gas much faster, then let out a scream like “OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO” over and over again at each exhale into the tube/bottle. I was also bearing down, trying to get my son low enough that I might be able to “trick” the nurse into having me deliver in the tub. Pushing waaaay too early because I didn’t know any better and thought the bulging waters was the head. Unfortunately they figured it out and I had to be moved (I wasn’t making as much progress as I thought I was, either). Jules and the nurse tried to help me from the tub, but I couldn’t stand up on my own. The pressure was so far down and my legs were shaking so bad. They had to take away the gas (ripped it away, more like) to bring me back to myself, and the second they did the pain hit. And reality set in again that I wasn’t at home where it was safe. It was SO hard to get out of the tub and they wanted me to walk to the bed, which wasn’t really that far, but with the amount of pain I was in it felt like forever just to get out of the bathroom.
“I need the gas,” I sobbed. “Please give me the gas.”
“You can’t have it yet,” was Jules’ constant reply. “We have to get you in bed first.”
Hello trauma! HUGE trigger warning coming up here!
Oh god, it was so hard. And Tyler wasn’t back yet (I couldn’t fight them off on my own) and the midwife and the nurse couldn’t lift me up on their own and I wasn’t able to lift myself. My legs did not want to go up that high because my son was pressing against my hips and I’m tearfully screaming “please just give me the fucking gas!” because at this point I’m hysterical. I’m leaning over the bed, and they keep telling me to get up onto it, and I physically can’t do it. Then, even though my eyes are shut tight and I’m in so much pain, I sense Tyler’s presence. I feel his hands under my arms. I feel him lift me up onto the bed. I hear his voice telling me softly that everything is going to be okay. It still hurts and I’m still having trouble moving into a comfortable position on the bed (that fucking bed!!!!), but now I have him. He’s holding my hand and he’s telling me it’s time for us to meet our son. No it’s not; that trauma just set back any chance that the fetal ejection reflex was going to happen any time soon. I open my eyes and look at the clock across from my bed; the time is 8pm.
I’m on my side, I’m trying to push with everything I have, and nothing seems to be happening. Because it’s not actually time yet and all that stress isn’t helping things! It’s suggested that I move to a semi sitting position and though it’s hard to get up on my own, Tyler helps me and the head of the bed is moved up so that I’m basically on a large recliner. I’m able to make more progress this way, but it’s still taking a lot longer than I thought it should have (Because it’s NOT time yet). It’s been at least an hour and the fetal monitor is back on me (therefore I can no longer MOVE), along with my blue and pink colored bands from all the NSTs that I’d had in the last few weeks. I can feel my son’s head but it’s not enough to get him to crown. The nurse mentions that in my birth plan I wanted to touch my baby’s head as he crowns, and asks if I’d also like a mirror to see what’s going on. I hadn’t thought about this when I was writing out my plan. The idea hadn’t been too appealing then, either, but I nod my head because yes, I do want to see. Turns out that at that point I couldn’t see anything at all. I saw some bulging of my outer labia, but other than that, nothing. I felt defeated.
“Why isn’t he OUT yet?” I cry in frustration, slamming my head back against the bed. “I just want him OUT! Come out, Baby Hunter, everyone’s waiting to meet you!” I’m sobbing now. This is so hard, and a part of me just wishes that they give up and wheel me in for a C-section. Obviously this kid isn’t going to come out on his own, and I must be too small and weak to get him out. Well there’s some of that birth trauma coming out in my words and thoughts. I’m told to push HARD and I look up at Tyler because I really need to borrow strength from him. I don’t have the gas. I don’t have anything at all to block the pain, but I have him. And somehow, he is all I need. I look into his eyes, and they are glistening with tears. A few stray ones fall from his beautiful hazel eyes and trickle down his cheeks. He is holding my hand, letting me grip him as tight as I can, and I am pulling on his arm to anchor myself. He tells me softly “push, honey, you can do it,” and instead of screaming and cursing at him the way the women in the movies all seem to do, I am tearfully telling him how much I love him.
I push hard with each contraction, sometimes screaming “aaaaaahhhh” or “oooooohhhhhh” and keeping my mouth as wide as I can. Other times I’m taking a deep breath and making strangled sounds as I try to hold it and push harder. I don’t even notice the pain anymore. It feels so much better to push during the contraction than to not do anything at all, and I’m trying SO hard to get my son to crown (and working against gravity and fighting my adrenaline). Finally I hear Jules saying “yes, yes, just like that. Keep doing that. You’ve got it!” and I feel like I’m making progress again. The heat of the hot compresses on my perineum also help a lot with numbing the pain and I can feel myself stretching. Interesting how I don’t note that my water broke around this time. Jules asks Tyler if he wants to see the head. I’m a little freaked because OH MY GOD, my husband is going to see his “pleasure hole” being used for a completely functional purpose and he’ll never be able to UN-SEE that. But he looks anyway, and he’s amazed by it, not freaking out. He comments that our son has a lot of hair, and I’m told I can place him hand down to feel it for myself. There is a lot of hair, and I picture in my head a little baby boy that looks just like Tyler, and I’m able to focus on that instead of the pain. It really is comforting feeling their little heads.
When the contractions stop I’m told not to push, because I also specified in my plan that I wanted to avoid tearing as much as possible, as well as avoid an episiotomy. So I’m blowing and panting until the burn subsides, and then I push again. He is still not out.
“Get him out!” I’m crying. “Please, Baby Hunter, just come OUT!”
“YOU have to get him out,” Jules is reminding me. “You have to push hard and he will come out.”
“I AM pushing,” I scream at her in frustration. “I’m doing everything I can, but there’s no damn contraction to help me right now and I NEED the fucking contraction!”
It’s been over a minute and the contractions have slowed down. I’m stressed out again and the fetal ejection reflex isn’t going to help me because my body senses this isn’t a safe place to birth. I’m told I have to give small little pushes without the contractions, because otherwise I’ll deliver the head too fast and will surely tear badly. So I try, and things are happening so fast now that I can’t handle it anymore. I need to stop for a few seconds, because I can feel the stretch and I KNOW I am going to tear. I can feel it up high and I’m panting again. I don’t want to push until this burn goes away, but now it’s been three hours. And there are 3 fucking OBs outside my room wondering why I haven’t been taken to the OR yet and one OB is tapping her foot inside the doorway. It is 10:30 at night and Jules is telling me that I HAVE to push past the pain. I have to risk this tear. There’s only so much she can do to keep the wolves away and her time is almost up. The baby has crowned and my bag of waters has burst like a water balloon right as he’s coming out, and it has meconium in it. Which isn’t a big deal because he’s not in my uterus anymore, he’s on his way OUT; but again I didn’t know that it wasn’t a big deal at the time and the hospital protocols are STUPID here. The baby is stressed. Nope. He has to be born NOW. Only because the OBs are about to “pull rank” on my midwife and she’s already pushing her luck farther than most would dare.“This is the obstetrician,” she tells me, directing my attention to a woman standing beside her. “If you don’t get this baby out in the next ten minutes, she is going to give you an episiotomy because he can’t stay on your perineum any longer.”
“I can’t” I cry. “It buuuurns. I need the gas, please. I promise I’ll be able to get him out if I can just have the gas first!”
“Honey, you can’t have it anymore,” Tyler tells me through a thick voice choked with pain and guilt that I have to go through this. “It’ll hurt him; he’s in distress. You wanted to do this naturally, remember?”
I MEANT NO DRUGS OR INTERVENTIONS! I wanted to scream at him. I NEVER SAID ANYTHING ABOUT NOT USING THE GAS! But somehow I know he’s right; I can’t cut off my baby’s oxygen supply (Um, no, he would have been fine at this point) and I might end up doing that if I gassed myself right now. So I nod weakly, tell him I love him, and I push with everything I have left. I feel the pressure of my son’s head as it moves forward. I grip onto Tyler with both hands and I try to block the pain as I feel the top of my vagina tear just a little, with tiny “pops” on either side. After that, things go fast. His head is out and Jules is turning his shoulders, (probably the most traumatizing part after getting the head out) and I give one more long, hard push. I feel such relief, the pressure is gone and there’s a huge gush of fluid and they’re telling me I’ve done it. My son his immediately brought to my chest and he’s crying but he’s here, and I’m crying because I’ve done it. I got my baby out. Yeah, but not without trauma. He’s perfect and so beautiful and I have him squirming in my arms. The nurses wrap warm, heated blankets around us and I’m stroking his hair and telling him how happy I am and how much I love him. Then I look up at Tyler and I tell him that we did it; we have our baby boy, finally. “I love you so much,” I tell him. Tyler has tears in his eyes again. I will never forget the smile or the glistening of his eyes or how I felt in that moment. I loved him before, but now it is twenty times that or more, and all doubts that we can survive anything are gone. He is mine forever, and I am his, and the birth of our son will forever be etched in our memories. And guide us to do so much better next time.
When it’s all over and the cord has stopped pulsing (I wanted to delay cord clamping so that my baby could get all his blood from the placenta) Jules asks Tyler if he wants to cut it. He decides he doesn’t want to do it, but that I should have that honor. So I freed my own son and then I hold him for a few more minutes before the pediatrician takes him to assess whether the stress of being born has affected him. He has an apgar score of 9, he’s perfectly healthy and most definitely NOT an IUGR baby. No shit! All those tests and ultrasounds we had to have had been completely unnecessary; the only good thing about them being that we now have a ton of late ultrasound pictures and got to hear his heartbeat a lot. Way to find a silver lining though. The bands I wanted to keep from the NSTs were sadly soiled during the birth, so they had to be thrown out. I think my doula snapped some pictures of me with them on the night before though, so at least I’ll have the picture of them to show my son someday. I hate that picture because it symbolizes my confinement within their institution.
Anyway, after he was checked out and determined to be fine, I got to hold him again and attempt a self-latch. He took to my breast immediately and I was surprised that it didn’t hurt at all. It was just a gentle little tugging sensation and I could have happily fed my child all night. But I had to be checked now, and that meant that the baby had to go to his daddy. Tyler took off his shirt and took our son in his arms, placing him against his skin and covering him with a blanket. I watched the two of them bonding together on the glider across from my bed, and breathed through the pain of the exam. Jules informed me of what I already knew; I had some tears by my urethra and clitoris and while they were mild, she wanted the OB to check me out just to see if I needed stitches. She froze me first, just by squirting the medication over the tears so I didn’t have to have a needle. I told her that IF I needed stitches that I would like to use the gas again, and she agreed.
I did NOT need stitches. Though in my records the OB notes her disagreement with my refusal on that. It was up to me whether or not I wanted to heal on my own. Note how I think this was a lucky break instead of my right to informed consent. I was told it would sting when I went to the bathroom, but I said I’d deal with it. Anything was better than subjecting myself to more trauma. So they left me alone with my little boy and my husband, and I was told I could go home as early as 9:30 the next morning just because my son’s vitals would need to be monitored due to the stress of his birth. LIES!!!! I was given two Advil and two Tylenol for my afterpains. I was still weak and shaky but otherwise fine. I did have some fluid in my right ear, which was annoying since I could barely hear anything from that side. But I was happy, I felt very little pain, and I could sit up and stand with help. I was also able to eat two pieces of leftover cheese pizza and down two cups of milk.
Tyler’s sister, mother and father came in shortly after to visit, and I kept my blankets around me. I was only wearing the mesh panties and a huge pad as I fed my son and the nurses cleaned up the bed and changed the sheets. By 12am I was eating another slice of pizza and talking on the phone to my dad, nana, and finally my mother. Tyler continued to text everyone else on our call list, and at 1pm I decided to get ready for bed. Tyler and I swaddled our baby boy in blankets and put him in his bassinet for the night, then went to our respective beds. I would have liked to sleep on the pullout couch with him, but sadly there wasn’t a lot of room. I was told by the nurse to get up to pee, but I didn’t feel the urge at all. I humored her, trying to go right into my pad, but I shook my head and said “my bladder’s not full yet. I must have emptied it in the bath.” She said that was fine, but that I would have to try in a few hours.
Sure enough, at 5am another nurse insisted I wake up and go to the bathroom. I still didn’t feel the urge, but she told me she would do an ultrasound to see if I had a full bladder. Left out the threat of the catheter for “noncompliance”. I rolled my eyes, told her it wasn’t necessary because I could feel it now that she was pressing on my belly. I told her I needed to be in the bathtub to relax and she left me in there. I tried for what felt like forever. I massaged my belly, because sometimes that helps when I feel like I’m under pressure. I knew that if I didn’t go in the tub, she was going to catheterize me and there was NO WAY I was going to let her do that. Oh, wait, there it is. Gotta love the way they made it seem like I had no choice. My poor lady bits had been through enough as it was and I knew that it would be far worse with all the small tears. Of course in hindsight, I should have asked for a cloth to cover those tears up, because holy shit that stung like a bitch! I forced my way through it, breathing much like I had in labor to get through the pain. At last I was finished. I floated in the tub for a few minutes longer, looking down at my slightly protruding belly. It was so soft and only a small bump remained where my uterus was shrinking back down to its proper size. After I felt clean again, I pulled the cord for the call button and had the nurse help me out and get me into clean underwear, a pad, and another pad full of cool black teabags. I would later learn from my midwife that the teabags promoted healing and took away the sting of the tears, and that this was something unique to the hospital. Apparently a nurse had come up with the idea a few months before and the trial runs had been a success. I certainly felt instant relief so they MUST work pretty damn good.
I was wide awake even as she helped me into bed. I had chosen the night before to leave the gown off, because I have always preferred sleeping naked, or at the very least topless with just my panties. It was also far easier to feed my son, but my arms were so weak that I needed the nurse to bring him to me and prop him up on my nursing pillow. The fluid in my ear was finally gone and I could hear again. Tyler was still sleeping, but I grabbed my phone after the nurse put Hunter back in the bassinet, and I snapped a picture with it. I tweeted it to my best friend, and while it wasn’t the best picture (it was still semi-dark outside and I couldn’t turn on the lights and wake Ty) it was the best I could do at the time.
At 9:30 I was ready to go home. The pediatrician on staff came to check Hunter’s vitals again. He was a little cold (because he was sleeping in a plastic box all night instead of in my arms where he belonged) because Tyler and I had just finished changing his diaper and dressing him in the only onsie that was small enough for him. Apparently everything else I’d packed was too big on our son, but we had lots of blankets to keep him warm. The doctor suggested we have some more skin-to-skin time, and Tyler and I sort of had to figure out which one of us would have that privilege because we BOTH love holding our baby boy. Tyler pointed out I needed to eat breakfast, and I conceded defeat because he was right. I watched Tyler in the glider, snuggling our baby against his chest, and again I couldn’t believe how much love I felt for them both. I ate slowly and watched them rocking together. I ate as much of the scrambled eggs as I could and drank a cup of milk and a cup of orange juice, but my stomach was queasy from settling back down and I couldn’t eat anymore. The doctor came back in to check on Hunter and he was fine. Not long after another doctor came in. She greeted us both and explained she was here to test Hunter’s hearing, but that she couldn’t do so until he was thirteen hours old.
“I understand you’re in a rush to get out of here, and I wanted to catch you before you left,” she said. She asked if we wouldn’t mind staying another night, because she couldn’t do the test this early and she was off at noon. How nice that she was concerned about what was more convenient for HER schedule. I smiled politely and explained that no, we were going home. I said “We live five minutes away and my husband is here to take care of me. When we arrived yesterday at 10am there were no rooms available. Someone had to give up their room for me, and I have a room with a tub, which not all rooms have. It would be selfish of me to stay here when I feel fine, and even if I was moved to a different room, it’s still taking that room away from a mother who needs it.” And I didn’t want to stay another night in that hellhole anyway.
So she agreed to schedule an appointment for us to come back later in the week. Just like they do with homebirth babies. WHY didn’t I think about that? Tyler and I stayed until noon because they brought lunch and Tyler wanted to eat, even if I wasn’t up to having anything but water at that moment because their food was gross. Then we finished packing our bags and his dad came up with the stroller and car seat. As we passed the nurse’s station I told them “We were in Room 23; so a tub is now available for anyone who needs it.”
As soon as we got home, I had Tyler bring Hunter to my chest, skin-to-skin, and when I wasn’t feeding him, Tyler was holding him and I was eating or tending to my other needs. We adopted a system for diaper changes where we would BOTH change and wipe, and that made it easier for us both to have help and learn how best to accomplish the task and keep our boy calm (he didn’t like it the first few days). At night I would nurse him and fall asleep reclining on the couch with him still at my breast, or I would find him curled up on my chest while I was lying in our bed. Jules has assured me that this is perfectly fine, and that mothers in other countries always sleep with their babies. It’s only Western cultures that use bassinets, and in all honesty I’ve found I’m getting a lot more sleep with my son ON me, still at the breast, than if I have to wake up and put him down in his bassinet. Thankfully I had a midwife who could tell me all this shit so I didn’t lose sleep and unknowingly mess up breastfeeding in those early weeks when I knew nothing. Besides that, I usually don’t wake up right away. It’s just so easy to fall asleep while nursing him, and it’s comforting for him to snuggle against his mommy. Tyler will also fall asleep with our son on his chest, so I guess co-sleeping works for us; at least for now.
So that’s my birth story. I’ll post again soon about the first week, but right now it’s 8pm on Friday night, close to the time that I hit the second stage and was moved to the bed to deliver my son. And how aware I was of that time of day for weeks on end. I need to eat, feed the cats, and cuddle with my baby boy some more. Right now he’s sleeping beside me on the couch, enjoying the evening sunset as it pours in through our large picture windows. He is perfectly content and so peaceful to look at. I am in constant awe that this beautiful child has resulted from the love Tyler and I share together. I often joke that we had a hell of a fun night creating this perfect child, and that he would likely be traumatized if he knew that Mommy and Daddy had been quite naughty.
But until that day arrives, I am going to enjoy this tiny baby and hold him as much as I can get away with. He won’t be this size forever, and there will come a time when he won’t want me to snuggle him anymore. I will be sad when that day arrives, and I’m sure Tyler will be too. I got all the snuggles with him and will take what I can get while I still can.
It’s truly amazing how far we’ve come. There was a time when I couldn’t imagine ever being a good mother. Tyler was worried he wouldn’t be a good father. I freaked out when I first read that pregnancy test. Tyler had his moments of fear that he wouldn’t be able to support us and there were moments early in the pregnancy when we doubted that we could do this. And then the months passed and we felt his first rolls, his first kicks, his first wiggles as he got bigger. We heard his heart beating, saw him on the ultrasound, watched my belly jerk and move with the force of his little body pressing against it. I felt his feet in my ribs and his head down below. I felt his hiccups and spent many nights talking to him and telling him how much I loved him. I sang to him, Tyler placed his hand on my belly every chance he had, and we looked at baby gear together. We painted his nursery and got it ready for him. I cried when he didn’t arrive on his due date, then rejoiced when I realized he would be here on May 17th, six months to my birthday. My favorite number and his godmother’s “magic” number. I spent two days in labor, a week in prelabor, and three hours pushing him out. I worked hard, and through it all I had the support of his daddy to help me through it. Now it’s over, but at the same time it’s just beginning. We have a family of our own now, in every sense of the word. And it’s SO fitting that a love that is as pure, beautiful, all-encompassing, enduring, and powerful as ours is has brought forth this sweet baby boy who hardly fusses at all unless he’s hungry or needs to be changed or burped. He’s not even a week old yet. Give him time…He looks up at us with his beautiful eyes and though they all say that babies don’t smile until a few months old, I see his soft smile on his lips every time I hold him. ❤