Henry will be one in less than a month, and I’ve only now written his birth story. I feel like nothing I can say will do it justice, but here’s my attempt:
I loved being pregnant with you. I was really only sick for about 2 or 3 weeks––and honestly, I think it had more to do with an ill-advised pharmacist who told me to take my prenatal vitamins on an empty stomach than it had to do with you. I ran 4-5 miles with you in my belly almost every morning until about week 23––after that, we walked. To this day, you will fall asleep not soon after your father or I strap you on for a walk. I like to think the steady rocking back and forth brings you back to your days in the womb. We ate a lot of peanut butter, you and I. Peanut butter, citrus, apples, and frozen yogurt ruled my life for 42 weeks. I would’ve eaten rotting chicken fat if it was covered in peanut butter.
I had every hope for a natural, normal birth (do not get me wrong here: I was always for the epidural!), so I was willing to wait past your due date to avoid medical intervention. With this choice, however, came appointments and tests every three days to make sure you were okay. Week 41, you were fine. Week 42, you stopped responding to the stress tests. Even the Dublin Dr. Pepper and 5 mini Hershey bars could not rouse you the way Dr. Weihs needed to see. It was time to get you out. Late Wednesday afternoon on April 17, Dr. Weihs ordered us to the hospital. More than a little stunned, your father and I drove home; ate leftover, supposedly labor-inducing Reale’s pizza one more time; retrieved our giant bag; handed Riley off to Chase & Cara; and drove back to Seton. It had been cloudy and raining all day, but for the 15 minutes it took us to get to the hospital, the rain stopped and the sun shone bright.
Once we were settled into Labor & Delivery, we decided to watch some Sopranos––we had been working through the series for almost a year. (Someday I will tell you my stories about living 2 floors up from Tony Soprano for 5 years.) Your father was asleep in 5 minutes. I will go ahead and tell you now that you did not inherit this trait. The nurse came in around 10pm and administered my first dose of Cytotec to prepare me for labor induction the next morning. I was very awake, so I got some Ambien, too. Didn’t do a thing. Around 2am she gave me more Cytotec, and I went into labor on my own. I spent the entire night watching my contractions and your heartbeat on the monitor.
Dr. Weihs came to check on us a little before 6am, and I had not progressed in labor. We needed the pitocin, and she needed to break my water. When we saw the meconium, we knew we were going to need neonatal in the delivery room. The pitocin made the contractions extremely difficult. Instead of coming at steady intervals, they came back-to-back 3 times in a row and then left for about a minute or two––transition labor when dilated to only a 1 or 2. Before too long, I was pretty much naked and throwing up into a pink plastic cup held by your father. This went on for six hours because I wanted to make some progress before the epidural slowed things down. Every time the doctors increased the dosage of the pitocin, your heart rate plummeted. Around noon, I caved for the epidural, but it offered short-lived relief: your heart stopped. Oxygen was administered and your father was nearly pushed out of the room. This was getting really scary. When it was time for the next temp check at 2pm, I had a fever and an infection. After nearly 12 hours of labor, I had progressed to only 2 cm. I begged Dr. Weihs to cut me open and get you out.
It’s funny how you can go for so long with an image of how you want your child’s birth to be. They tell you in class to prepare for the moment that things go the other way––I educated myself on C-sections, asked friends who’d been there to give me their tips––but deep inside, that whole time, I thought I would just die if I could not give birth to you naturally. On April 18, I surprised myself. I let all of that go in an instant. I just wanted to see you alive and both of us healthy. I can truly say that I have no regrets about what transpired in that L&D room in Seton on that day.
At this point they separated your father and me so they could prep me for surgery. I stayed calm, knowing that in less than an hour, I would touch your cheek to mine. There were so many people in that room, and everyone was so nice. I could already hear them making the incision when your father came in, dressed in surgical garb (which he loved). I felt a lot of tugging and at 2:59pm, you emerged from my belly and the white light of the OR. I tried so hard to breathe you in, but I was crying tears of joy. So I spoke to you, and you opened your eyes ever so slightly as though to say you knew who I was.
After that, you and your father went off to the nursery while they sewed me up. About an hour later we met again, and I offered you your first drink. To say you took to it is an understatement: you camped out for at least 30 minutes. And that is where we are today: a mother and a son, nourishing each other for life.