My baby girl was born 20 years ago today. I remember the morning clearly. I was to be induced, as she was settled in for the duration and was 2 weeks late. I had spent the previous two weeks hopping down steps, walking the mall, and generally trying to be as active as you can possibly be at 9+ months pregnant in the heat of the summer! Needless to say, being my first baby having determined ahead of time that I wanted the entire process to be “natural”, I was a bit sad that I would not get to experience the excitement of going into labor spontaneously.
So Jesse and I arose at 4:30 AM on September 25, 1989, to make our way to St. Paul’s Hospital in Dallas. We would leave as 2 and come back as 3. I was completely scared to death! We said goodbye to Schnitzel, our Schnauzer and psycho cat and left. The long, pre-dawn ride, with a slight chill in the air and the waking up at 4:30 made me bleary eyed and thoughts were racing through my mind. At this point we had not had the doctor find out if she was a boy or a girl, but about two weeks prior to this day, I had a very firm feeling settle over me one afternoon that the baby would be a girl. I had told people this but I don’t think anyone believed me :D.
I thought to myself and out loud….I am scared, excited, worried, I’m a chicken!….Ooh! I am hungry! But I wasn’t allowed to eat…but Jesse could eat, so we went through the McDonald’s drive through, he got something to eat and I got tater tots and orange juice….I think I ate about three and had a few sips of orange juice…..I wondered how this would affect the induction….oy.
So we get to the hospital, get checked in, settled into the room and then comes time for the IV. People who know me know would laugh about me wanting to go through “natural” childbirth, meaning no drugs, no Demerol, no epidural (I was not a fan of needles, much less of having one jammed into my spinal column -yeeeeeee….) But, as it was, in order to induce, there would requisite IV to introduce the drugs to my bloodstream. As the nurse looked for a vein the back of my hand, I turned away. I felt myself break out into a sweat. Now let me stop here to emphasize….I AM ABOUT TO GIVE BIRTH – through induction, which I am told is the most painful method besides emergency c-section, yet I want to do this naturally, what am I NUTS??…okay so I feel like I am sweating, the nurse says, “okay, that’s done” , as she tapes the IV needle and tube to my hand and arm; I look around….my hand is covered in blood…which I and misinterpreted as sweat …this is getting scarier.
The nurse pushes a few buttons on the digital dispenser of the Syntocinon. The first few drops make their way into my IV. It takes about 5 minutes for me to feel anything, but then it comes, a tightness and pressure around the belly, not necessarily what I had thought a contraction would feel like. But it felt manageable, I could still have a conversation through the contractions…at least for the first few minutes. The next time the nurse came in to double the dose of the Syntocinon (15 minutes later), I told her I was fine at this level for a while. She smiled and doubled the dose. The door opens and a nurse pokes her head in, “Mrs. Collins? I have a phone call for you at the reception desk”. I wondered if the Syntocinon was making me imagine things…a phone call? really? I’m kinda giving birth here…”Who is it?” I hear myself asking?” (What?) “It is your neighbor, she says your dog has been barking non-stop since you left for the hospital.” “Well……”, I try to contain myself, “can you tell her that I am the middle of childbirth here and I will get to the dog when I can?” Seriously!? What were either one of those two women thinking?? The woman for calling and the nurse for actually bringing me that message?
Oy! The extra drugs have kicked in! As a contraction starts, I feel a distinct burning feeling that leads me to believe that if I could just stand up, it would go away…..silly girl….
I had a beautiful hospital gown on, with a monitor around my big pregnant belly, an IV, but I looked at the rocking chair next to my hospital bed, made of hard wood…no cushion and thought, “Hey, I could sit there…that might feel better!” I lasted one contraction…back in bed! Hmmm….this was getting out of hand…
It was at this time that Jesse decided I needed some comforting, so he sat on the bed next to me…and held my hand. He started counting through the contractions, and would tell me when they were about to start and finish – he had his eyes GLUED to the monitor. I believe he was scared to death as well, but he was trying hard to to show it. After one particularly strong contraction, I looked at Jesse and tried my best to convey to him that my water was about to break and he needed to get off the side of the bed…the conveyance took this form: “GET UP! GET UP! GET UP! GET UP! GET UP! GET UP! GET UP! GET UP! GET UP! GET UP! GET UP!” he looked at me like I was suddenly speaking a foreign language…I was speaking so fast he couldn’t make out what I was trying to say. However, when a fountain appeared through the sheets, he got the message and jumped up immediately. Phew! Another hurdle taken.
Shortly after this episode, the doctor appeared. I was glad to see it was MY doctor and not his young, good-looking son who was soon to take over the practice. This had been a possibility and I was really relying on the older, experienced grandpa like doctor to take care of this. He checked me out, told me I was doing great and took Jesse out into the hall. “She’s a chicken, isn’t she?” he asked Jesse. “Yes!” Jesse later told me he emphatically replied. “Well, then, you will have to be strong for her,” he made Jesse promise. “I will be back later to check on her progress,” the doctor said walking down the hall. Jesse got an almost instant reprieve for a while when my mother showed up a few minutes later.
“Mommy!” All would be better now…of course, she had never seen a baby being born. When my sister and I were born, the practice was to knock the mother completely our and use forceps to aid in extracting the baby. My mother was scared too, but she was there and I was GLAD! Now I had my mom on my left and Jesse on my right and every time I had a contraction, I would squeeze a hand on each side…pretty hard…Jesse ended up taking off his wedding ring because I was creating a dent in the surrounding fingers when I was squeezing his hands. This worked for a while until the contractions got longer…I realized when I was having a contraction, no one was speaking. They were either watching me or the monitor and neither knew what to say….I know …I asked.
“We don’t know what to say,” they both replied. I told them to just talk, it helped me mark the time so that each contraction didn’t seem to be eternal. “Talk about nice, things,” I said, “bunnies, flowers….bunnies in fields of flowers…..I don’t care!!” The contractions were starting to get more intense, and you guessed it…the nurse had been coming in every 15 minutes and doubling the dose of Syntocinon..I tried to ignore this. Jesse started counting out each contraction….1, 2, 3, 4……it helped.
I opened my eyes after a particularly intense contraction and couldn’t see my mother….where did she go? I found her standing in the corner of the room, watching me with tears running down her face. I asked her why she was over there…and she came back to the side of the bed. She leaned over and told me, “The nurse keeps telling me to go over there. She says you don’t need to see me crying over you.” I assured my mother, that I needed her by my side and asked her to ignore the silly nurse…
It was around this time I decided to re-think this whole “natural childbirth” thing. I was beginning to see the benefits of drugs…so I asked the nurse to revise my plan. She replied that she would have to get authorization from my doctor and I asked her why she was still standing there – Go! Find him! NOW! The doctor came about an hour later and said, “No, can’t give you Demerol, you’re 7 centimeters dilated, it would just prolong the delivery.” I agreed whole heartedly. “Okay, I said….then what about the other thing? In my pain I could not remember the word “epidural” so we played charades for a few minutes. I believe at this point I was just being humored. “We will have to contact the anesthesiologist on staff, you didn’t put this as an option on your birth plan. It may take a while, ” advised the doctor. I told him at this point I thought it was worth trying for so go ahead and see if we could find him. 45 minutes later I was told he was in the next building and that it would be a while. I never got the epidural. Hard labor set in shortly after that.
If I thought the first few contractions hurt, honey, I was in for it now! I think it is the closest I have ever gotten to a runner’s high, though….all that adrenaline….all the screaming….pure energy.
About 30 minutes into hard labor, I heard worried sounds….I couldn’t really concentrate on quiet conversations, all communication to me had to be at top decibels because I was making so much noise…(naturally). I could hear, “You’re doing great!’ and “Do exactly what I say!” and “Push!” and the occasional “No! Don’t push yet!”
There was a bit of commotion, some more worried sounds and whoosh!!! (neat sound effect, huh?) out came Christina….what a relief! My baby was here, although the doctor seemed to be roping her like a steer…what’s up with that? I don’t care! The nurses wrap her up after scoring her APGAR (look it up, Christina) and handed me my beautiful baby girl! I was so happy I was crying and laughing and she was crying with a little square mouth which was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in my life! “wahhhhh, wahhhh, wahhh!!!” I can still hear it 20 years later.
As they were wheeling my bed out of the room, the doctor patted me on the arm. “You did perfect! We almost had an emergency c-section, but you did everything I said and there you have it.” It turns out the umbilical cord had been wrapped around her neck and then around her waist. All the “roping like a steer” had been the doctor untangling my precious baby from the cord. And all the commotion and worried sounds had been because every time I had a contraction, the cord tightened around her neck, but my experienced doctor had been able to avoid an emergency c-section…and I was EXTREMELY thankful for that!
I can tell you at that particular moment in time, I had no idea what I was in for. Sure I had read all the baby books and intellectually I knew what to do, but nothing in my life before had prepared me for the incredible highs and heartbreaking lows of being a mom.
Christina, you and I have had some great adventures these last 20 years – can’t wait to see what the next 20 bring!
Happy Birthday, baby girl!