Max is almost 5 months old and some of the details from his first few days are already starting to get hazy. I wanted to document his birth story before the memories get even more distant.
On January 17th, 3 days before my due date, I woke up feeling normal. While Aaron cooked breakfast, I made a mental to do list that included grocery shopping, painting Max’s Pac-Man mural and sending Aaron to Ikea to buy a craft table for me. He was notably reluctant to leave but I insisted it was fine. I hadn’t experienced any cramps or contractions that would suggest labor was near and just two days earlier our doctor told us she thought it would be at least another week before Max arrived.
The rest of the day progressed without much excitement. I started to feel tired in the early evening and went to bed around 8:30 while Aaron stayed up past midnight building the new craft tables. At around 2am I woke up to an unusual tightness in my stomach that felt like a really bad cramp. The discomfort was tolerable so I got in the shower to let the hot water relieve my lower back. Twenty minutes later the contractions had become really painful and I woke up Aaron and told him “I think we need to goto the hospital.”
We tried to time the contractions (using an iPhone app, of course), remembering what we learned in our prenatal class—don’t go to the hospital until your contractions are 1 minute long and 5 minutes apart—but I couldn’t clearly identify when the contractions started and ended. The pain was intense but vague and not at all what I was expecting. Aaron called the hospital with a shaky voice to explain what was happening and they told us to come in. Our hospital bags were packed so we were out the door in minutes. It took only 23 minutes to drive to the hospital but I was in a lot of pain so it felt much longer and it was pouring rain outside, which felt ominous. Aaron did his best to try and distract me from the pain.
After arriving at the hospital it wasn’t long before we were in an exam room with the triage doctor. She was young, blonde and was wearing a new FitBit on her wrist, which both Aaron and I agreed was cool and a good sign. She performed an exam and said I was about 4cm dilated and ready to be admitted into Labor and Delivery. This was a huge relief. The contractions were only getting more intense and I was terrified of being sent home because it was too early.
We were brought to our delivery room, which looked more like a spa than a hospital room, but getting an epidural was the only thing on my mind. At first we were told the anesthesiologist was with another patient and it would be about an hour until he could get to me. But he walked in after only 10 minutes and I have never been more happy to see a human in my life. Although I was certain I wanted the epidural, I was still anxious about a gigantic needle being inserted into my spinal cord. Thankfully, the epidural itself wasn’t nearly as painful as I had anticipated and shortly afterward I was flooded with a tremendous sense of relief and affection for the doctor and the field of anesthesiology. Aaron even commented that he could see the pain dissipate from my face.
The next 10 hours were a breeze compared to the first; I took a few naps, browsed Pinterest and used Aaron’s iPad and the bluetooth speaker he brought to watch Chris Rock’s Kill the Messenger and a lot of Frasier. The worst part was being told not to eat but Aaron succumbed to my pleas and snuck in a few snacks for me. My nurse, who was fantastic, came in every hour to check my vitals and make sure I was doing okay. Later in the morning, the doctor checked-in and informed us that everything was progressing normally and I should be ready to push in a few hours.
At around 4pm the doctor came back and within seconds about 10 doctors and nurses had entered the room. I didn’t think much of it at first, even as one of the nurses put an oxygen mask on my face. Everyone in the room had their eyes glued to the monitors. I had no idea what was happening but it was over as quickly as it started. A nurse told us the baby’s heart rate had dropped and they were on standby for an emergency C-section, but it had returned back to normal and everything was completely okay. It happened so fast that we didn’t have time to panic but it made us realize how quickly things can turn and, afterward, how lucky we were that everything went so smoothly.
After everything calmed down they told me I was ready to push. The only people in the room were the doctor, my nurse and Aaron. The experience was surprisingly calm and not at all like it’s portrayed in movies. Aaron put on a playlist of carefully selected songs and at one point we noticed the doctor was quietly singing along. Everyone was so encouraging and I found strength in their cheerleading. Aaron held my hand and fed me ice chips and after about an hour Max was born. Aaron cut the umbilical cord and the doctor handed me Max. Our beautiful 8 lbs 5 ounce son.