Some women glow during pregnancy; I glowered and complained. In the first trimester, I vomited. In the second trimester, I vomited. In the third trimester, I had horrible heartburn, aching knees and feet and a teeny-tiny bladder. My doctor wanted to induce labor on my due date, but miserable as I was, I wanted my baby girl to come on her own time. The doctor agreed to let my pregnancy take it's own course, and I continued to say completely rational things like, "Induction wouldn't have worked anyway. They're going to have to take this baby by C-Section because she's never coming out." To his credit, my husband managed to keep a straight face most of the time, as did my mother and my best friend.
To Zoë's credit, she came right on time. I woke up at 1:30 a.m. on April 17th -- her due date -- and thought I had wet the bed. Feeling irritated, I waddled into the bathroom and discovered that my pants were dry but I was bleeding. Not just a little mucus-plug blood, but more like what I would expect toward the very end of a period. I thought, "I made it all the way to my due date, and now I'm losing this baby! Something is so, so wrong." But I tried to stay calm, thinking they could surely save her at the hospital if I could just get my husband to wake up and call the doctor. Even then I was still convinced I'd have that dreaded C-Section. After a couple minutes of my shouting his name, my husband came to and we got in touch with the doctor. She assured me that a little bit of blood was a normal beginning to labor and said it was time to head for the hospital.
Once I'd been examined and told again that the blood I saw was normal and that the amniotic fluid itself was clear, I began to relax. Because we were so tired and our adrenaline had been so high, time passed in a funny way. An hour passed in just a few minutes, and I never felt agitated about how long it took to get a birthing room or for labor to really get swinging. However, my doctor wanted me on Pitocin to speed things along. I knew I could refuse her suggestion, but I wanted to cooperate and I wanted to see that healthy little girl for the first time. So I was immediately on an IV, but they gave me a portable one so I could walk around the room. Every once in a while (again I have no sense of how long these intervals were) a nurse would come in and up the amount of Pitocin I was getting.
At some point, the pain of those augmented contractions became much more intense. I was handling it okay, but when the nurse asked how much pain I was in on a scale of 1 to 10, I said 7. Pre-labor, I'd been determined to get through on my own pain tolerance and grit, but I was tired and agreed to taking something laced with Phenergan. The nurse claimed the only side-effect to Phenergan was feeling sleepy. My husband and I were both exhausted already, so we figured a little more sleepiness couldn't make that much difference.
I ended up clinging to my husband, whimpering and shaking during contractions and then falling asleep as soon as they were over. A minute later, the next one would jolt me awake. I broke down and asked for an epidural, and that sucker worked like a charm.
For all the pain and suffering my husband remembers, in my mind that lasted about twenty minutes tops. The part of labor that stands out in my mind was laying down to sleep in a totally comfortable and blissful state thanks to the epidural. Once in a while, the new nurse would come in and wake me while she checked heart rates etc. Then I would drift back to sleep. Around 4:30 p.m. they turned my epidural off and by 5:00 p.m. I was pushing, but not really feeling any pain. Just little twinges. I could see Zoë's head in the mirror they brought into the room for me, and then the doctor was there, asking me to stop pushing, telling me that my laughter (we had a funny nurse) was pushing the baby out without any effort from me. Then they laid my baby girl on my belly and she said, "ahhh."
That was it. I was an addict. I would go through labor and delivery every day of my life to feel that intense, complete joy. I couldn't stop smiling, I loved everyone in the room, I loved my husband, I loved the doctor, I loved the nurses, but most of all I loved that baby. My baby. My baby who made forty weeks of misery worth every second I had suffered.
It wasn't the labor I had expected or wanted, but in the end, it was the best day of my life. I don't expect to have one that equals it until I get pregnant and deliver again.
Zoë Virginia was born on April 17th, 2007 at 5:27 p.m. At 8 pounds 5 ounces and 20.5 inches, she truly was the best little package Elizabeth ever delivered. She was Elizabeth's first birth.