I woke up in the middle of the night with this sensation that I had to pee. RIGHT NOW. Pee in the bed right now. It was 2:30am May 3rd. I rushed to the bathroom and sat on the toilet just as the waterfall made its exit. Oh man. My water broke. I smiled, a bit giddy at the excitement that it was finally time. I remembered that this first part could take a while so I decided to take a shower. While showering, two more gushes burst forth. I shook my head at the irony since I had been rolling my eyes all Winter term at my professor who was worried I’d start labor in a Hollywood-like water breaking dramatic fashion. Labor rarely starts like that but lo and behold he was right. “I’ll have to tell him he was right,” I thought.
I stepped out of the shower, my excitement and trepidation mounting. Contractions hadn’t started but since my water broke, I thought maybe I should go to the hospital. I tried to dress myself but the water kept gushing. “Tom!” I called, “My water broke!” My husband groggily answered, “Are you sure?” “Oh yeah!” I called the hospital while Tom bolted out of bed and started frantically getting ready. The advice nurse told me to come in. I tried to dress myself again to no avail. Jeez, how much amniotic fluid is there? So I put a bath towel between my legs and wrapped my bottom half in a sheet. I waddled to the car, Tom supporting me so I wouldn’t lose the towel.
As we somewhat raced to the hospital, we drove up Grand Avenue. People were leaving the bars as it was closing time. I looked at them thinking I lived in another world. Once upon a time that was me. Up at 3 after a night of drinking and dancing, heading to the Montage for some post-party food. Now I’m having a baby.
We parked at the main entrance and walked to the door. Locked. Oh yeah. After hours. Tom grabbed a wheelchair and wheeled me around the back of the building, searching for how to get to the ER. It was like something out of confederacy of dunces, my husband wheeling me through the parking lots and past the construction to find the elusive ER entrance. Me wrapped in a sheet and towel. I thought, man, my boss would love this story. She always called me Lucille Ball.
Once admitted, early labor went smoothly. I walked around the halls with Tom and my mom, pausing for contractions every five minutes. I got this, I thought. This isn’t painful at all. I imagined my beautiful spiritual water birth, a la something out of “Spiritual Midwifery,” my husband stroking my hair and kissing me while I pushed the baby out.
Then real labor hit. It was 7am and I had just barely made it out of the jacuzzi tub. The contractions were more intense, sending shudders through my whole body. I tried to relax between them, but I couldn’t get my muscles to release. This isn’t good, I thought. I need to relax to dilate. Sure enough, by 11 am I was still stuck at 4 cm. I gave up the idea of my beautiful water birth and asked for the epidural. I couldn’t take the pain anymore. I was exhausted. I was also on a 24 hour countdown before a C-section. 24 hours after your water breaks, infection risk skyrockets. No way were they cutting me open. I have enough scar tissue in my pelvis.
The epidural was an experience in itself. I am petrified of needles, so you can imagine how desperate I was to accept a ginormous needle in my spine. Oh hell. It hurt so bad. The initial injection of anesthetic shot through me like a knife. I cried. This was worse than labor. But half an hour later I was comfortably numb and fell asleep. Labor progressed, then stalled again. Time for pitocin. The next few hours were the annoying game of increase pitocin, increase epidural, increase pitocin, increase epidural.
At one point in the evening the battery pack for the epidural pump went dead. The anesthesiologist was busy giving someone else an epidural, so I got to wait half an hour as it wore off and I bore the brunt of full on pitocin contractions. I screamed, I grabbed my husband, he stroked my hair. “Kill me!” I shouted. “Fuck!” “Oh GOD!” “Mommy!” All the while Tom gazed lovingly and calmly into my eyes, doing the only thing he could do, hold me. Finally I got the pump back on. I went numb again and fell asleep.
I woke up later to shivering. My upper body was shaking uncontrollably, my teeth chattering with the force of a jack hammer. I asked the nurse, “Whhhhaaattttt the helllllll is goinggggg onnnnnn?” She said my body was processing the contractions but I couldn’t feel them because of the epidural. She gave me an anti anxiety pill but it did nothing. Then I remembered something from “Spiritual Midwifery.” Singing is an energy release. Tom and I turned on Pandora and sang to the Enya station. The shivers stopped. I kept singing.
After about half an hour I felt this incredible surge of energy. It felt like the world was opening up and I could feel my connection to every living being that ever was or will be. Connected to all the mothers. It was such a peaceful, beautiful feeling. I felt all my anger, anxiety, depression melt away. I gazed into Tom’s eyes and knew he was my soul mate. Forever. A veil seemed to lift and I felt like the room was crowded. I looked up to see my grandfather. My aunts, my maternal grandfather, Tom’s grandmothers, all our relatives who had passed away. They were there to welcome our boy. Amazed doesn’t describe it. Blame it on the drugs, or believe me, whatever. They had come to help him into the world. Tears of joy streamed down my face.
The nurse came in and checked me. “It’s time.” She said, “You are fully dilated.” We waited a bit for the doctor to arrive and for the anesthesia to wear off enough. The contractions intensified as feeling returned to my body. But the pushing felt so good. I pushed with every contraction, as hard as I could. Each push eliminated the contraction pain. It was wonderful. I pushed with every muscle in my body, exerting more energy than I ever had. I could feel my son’s head move down like a bowling ball between my legs. Tom sat wide-eyed watching him emerge, “I can see his head! He has hair!” The head emerged, then the shoulders, and like a slippery fish, the rest. It was 3:19 on Friday morning. 24 hours.
The doctor put this gray wiggling slimy baby on my stomach and I stared at him in wonderment. He had just come out of me! The baby wasn’t breathing, though, and a swarm of medical personnel had to squirrel him away to the resuscitation room. Tom and the spirits followed. I cried while the doctor cleaned me up. How could I go through so much to conceive, bear, and birth this beautiful baby only to lose him? I wanted to die.
Thankfully half an hour on the CPAP was more than enough for them to return my baby to me, pink, lively, and wailing. The nurse placed him on my chest and I watched as he clawed at me like an animal, frantically searching for my breast. He wiggled himself up to the nipple, latched on, and began nursing. Perfect. Amazing. Unbelievable. Gift from God.
Welcome Matthew Ali. The world’s greatest baby.
One thought on “Matthew Ali: A Birth Story”
What a profound tribute.