This year’s Labor Day just so happens to fall on September 7th, my daughter Genevieve’s first birthday. It seems like only yesterday that I was in the hospital experiencing the most terrifying and heartwarming day of my life.
I didn’t have a birth plan. I thought about making one, but then decided it wasn’t worth it because you can’t predict what’s going to happen during labor and delivery. My husband and I took a prenatal education class to learn a little about what was going to happen to my body. Like most mommy’s-to-be, I also read “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” every week to find out what was happening inside my belly. I skimmed the chapters about childbirth because I didn’t want to build up anxiety. I completely skipped past the material on C-sections.
Of course, I ended up with a C-section and also needed pitocin during labor. My two delivery fears became my reality.
Throughout my pregnancy, I worried about how my body was going to handle childbirth. I have chronic fatigue so I didn’t see myself faring well over hours on end of pain and no sleep. When I first went for my pregnancy checkup, the doctor joked that I might have a big baby with broad shoulders because my husband is basically a giant, towering over me at 6 ft. 3 inches. I laughed it off, but always kept that in the back of my mind. Part of me thought maybe I would do better with a C-section.
It was terrifying to think about. I quizzed friends who recently had babies and everyone said “get an epidural and you’ll be fine.”
Ha. Ha. Ha. (I just want to interject here that the epidural does not do anything for back/butt pain during labor. The nurses informed me of this while I was pretty much on the verge of tears).
My water broke three days past my due date on a Saturday night. I showed some signs that this was happening during the day, but I didn’t want to get too excited. I was determined to finish editing my book for the printer and was paranoid about becoming a mother. I knew my whole world was going to change and I was trying to stall it, as excited as I was!
When my water broke it was like the ice bucket challenge in my bathroom. But we don’t need those details. I had to go to the hospital right away to get hooked up on antibiotics since I tested positive for Group B strep. That also meant that I would have to deliver the baby within 24 hours to avoid risk of infection.
I took a shower and did my hair, thinking it would actually stay pretty for post-birth pictures. What an unnecessary waste of energy!
I wasn’t having contractions so I had to get pitocin. I knew the drug would make my contractions stronger and more painful. Oh. My. Gosh. My advice to any mom who gets told she will be induced with pitocin is to go right for a scheduled C-section because you’ll most likely end up with one anyway and it’s better to avoid the worst pain of your life.
I didn’t know that you could get an epidural as soon as you entered the hospital. Instead, I went six hours in brutal pain trying to be some sort of warrior and hold out until I really couldn’t take it anymore, like the recent nursing school graduate suggested. Thank heavens the nurses changed shifts and I got a nice, experienced older nurse who said something like “you poor thing, why didn’t they tell you that you could get your epidural?”
Things got better for a little while after the painkiller started to circulate. But then, the scariest moment of my life happened.
My daughter’s heartbeat went off the monitor.
All of a sudden, a million doctors and nurses rushed into my room. I looked down and I was bleeding. Then, someone put an oxygen mask on my face. I was hysterical. My teeth were chattering. My husband remained calm but was freaking out inside. I felt out of control, out of my body. I just had to lay there and pray and trust that everything would be OK.
The doctors told me that the pitocin made my contractions too strong and too fast. They knocked the baby’s breath out. It was too much for her to handle.
Eventually, everything was OK. Except, after 20 hours of labor, I was stuck at six centimeters dilation. My doctor, who was also nine months pregnant, tried the best she could to help me deliver naturally. I was at my breaking point and there was no way I would be able to deliver naturally within the next four hours. We both agreed on a C-section. To be honest, I begged for one.
It was really weird being wheeled down the hospital hallway. I see it all the time on General Hospital, but that didn’t comfort me.
The surgery room was the brightest room I’ve ever seen. Christina Aguilera’s “Genie in a Bottle” was blaring across the speakers. I was quickly strapped down, as my teeth chattered uncontrollably. Before I even knew that the doctor began cutting, the baby was out! Less than ten minutes, I swear.
I was under a lot of pain medication and couldn’t really speak or comprehend everything. But I saw my baby held up, thought “she’s so big!” –she was 8 pounds 5 ounces and 21 inches long– and watched my teary-eyed husband run with the camera to go cut her cord.
Then, I thought I was dying. Or that I was going to pass out. Maybe that’s why the doctor gave me oxygen and told me to try to sleep while they stitched me up. Being up for two days straight probably didn’t help me.
When I entered recovery, I finally got to hold my baby. It’s so surreal, holding this little person that you’ve been waiting to meet. She’s a stranger, but she’s your baby. You just want to stare at her and soak in every perfect detail.
September 7, 2014 was the scariest and best day of my life. The year flew by.
I can’t believe I have an amazing one-year-old little girl with a spitfire personality. She is my husband’s mini me looks-wise, but a mommy’s girl at heart. We’re basically attached at the hip. We fall asleep together, as she wraps her arms around my neck and holds onto my hair. She wakes up in the morning, slaps my face and calls out “mama.”
She has no idea how much I love her. How she’s my dream come true. And how she was worth every minute of that draining pregnancy and traumatic labor.
My Labor Day is the day my whole new life began.