Start at Part One!
It wasn’t too terribly difficult to return to work after my poopscapade. I was more comfortable than I had been in weeks. I continued on modified bedrest and light-work restrictions (work gently at work and do NOTHING at home) until around 35 weeks, when we agreed that any contractions would be safe to send me into labor.
Nothing more than irritated uterus contractions for weeks and weeks. Clearly, all the concern about my possible pre-term labor was unwarranted. At my 38 week visit, my OB/GYN suggested that we go ahead and schedule and induction. She said that she liked to induce all of her first-time moms at 39 weeks to prevent the baby from getting too big, and also to ensure that she was the doctor on call the day of labor. I heartily agreed. At this point, I was ready to be done working, and ready to be done being pregnant. I knew nothing of trusting my body or trusting my baby – I trusted my doctor wholly and implicitly.
The way that the dates worked out had me going into the hospital at 39 weeks and 6 days: a Monday morning. We had agreed with the doctor, because of my contraction pattern, to just break my water and see how things went. I remember the feeling of my water being broken being the strangest I had ever encountered. Hot, clear water gushing out with no discomfort at all. Constantly. Like uncontrollable peeing. All of my water gushed out, and my contractions continued to be regular and strong. However, the nurse in my room was unconvinced of this being enough, and began to explain to me that without pitocin, I would likely be in labor too long and be risked into a c-section.
I grudgingly consented to pitocin, and it was started immediately. My contractions went from tolerable, and me being able to walk and move and sway through them to… not. They were excruciating. I couldn’t walk or move or breathe. I asked for the epidural shortly after. Things progressed so quickly once the epidural was placed that I hardly had time to integrate it. I went from 3cm, to 7cm, to 10 and pushing over the span of about four hours. It was very surreal.
I remember the feeling of pushing being so much more than I had ever expected. Work – incredibly hard, exhausting work – with very little or nothing to show for it. I pushed and pushed and pushed, exactly the way they had told me to. I felt nothing. Chin to chest, hands behind legs, breath held… nothing. I just pushed.
I watched as I crowned, excitedly but unfeelingly, and then watched as I pushed his head out. I watched as he turned, and I got a glimpse of his sweet face. I was so in love – instantly. If love at first sight is a thing, it is because of birth – I was immediately so overwhelmed with love for him that I couldn’t push again. On the next contraction, I was shouted at to push, and he was born into the world – a baby without a name, as Brock hadn’t picked it yet. Brock’s Christmas present that year was a picture frame with a 3D picture of our son in it, and the words, “Name Me, Daddy!” written across the top. It was his choice. The baby was put up onto my belly and I was crying and Brock was crying, and we had witnessed the miracle of birth.
Things happened so quickly afterwards. It’s such a blur. The baby was taken from me and given all of the routine newborn interventions; bathed, dressed, and wrapped. I didn’t question or decline anything. I didn’t know. I remember the feeling of him being away from me feeling so unnatural and wrong. Every moment he was away from me, my body cried out against it. Where is my baby?? Why isn’t he in my arms?
He was given to Brock to hold, who then gave him to me. “His name is Ronan Kenneth,” he told me. Our eyes filled with tears. Our little Ronan. When I finally held him, finally nursed him, I knew that I would never not know this child. Until that moment I couldn’t know him, but I could never un-know him. We were linked forever.
Ronan was circumcised the next morning (our only circumcised boy), and we stayed for a few hours and then were discharged home. With a human child. A baby. We were going home with a baby, and no one was coming with us, and we had to keep it alive and feed it and clothe it and know what to do with it and WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK IS THAT? How are we allowed to do this?
We were rolling in a wheelchair down to the car that Brock had pulled up, Ronan strapped into his car seat and carried by a nurse. Brock and the nurse left me at the top of the five steps down to the car, and went to put the car seat into its base. I stood up and attempted to go down the stairs on my own and collapsed – my legs wouldn’t support me. I sat up, and sat on the steps as though I was there on purpose, and no one noticed. To this day, I don’t think anyone is aware that I fell. I was so embarrassed, I didn’t mention it.
My postpartum is still a heavy blur. The baby blues hit me hard – harder than I knew was possible. My mom decided not to come for the birth of the baby or to help out, and I was devastated. I felt so alone. Added to that was my inability to walk – Brock had to do EVERYTHING for me and the baby. Get diapers, bring me clothes and food, carry me to the bathroom. It was overwhelming and exhausting for both of us, and I just wanted my mom. I cried and cried and cried. Up until the baby arrived, there was constant communication and contact – everyone asking how I was feeling and if I’d ‘had the baby yet’. After was… radio silence. We seem to have this unspoken belief that new moms and babies need to be left alone to bond right after the baby and I think this is so false. And damaging.
And of course, like all things, the postpartum period passed, and so did many of the dark feelings. I spent the next several weeks reveling in the newness of my child and crying out against the exhaustion that came from a baby that never slept. Before Ronan was born, Brock and I agreed that the baby would never, ever sleep in our bed. We weren’t going to be those people. Once you had a child in your bed, you never got them out again… we weren’t going to do that.
One night, after a particularly bad few hours, of nursing Ronan to sleep, and placing him in the crib next to the bed, only to have him wake up, nursing him BACK to sleep and attempting to put him down again… I finally curled up with him next to me, in the bed, and began to doze off. Brock mumbled, “Put him in the crib – he’s not supposed to sleep with us.” My eyes SHOT open in anger. He was sleeping. It was the first deep sleep he had been in yet that night, and it was next to me. I was NOT moving him. “Look,” I said, “…when you are willing to get up with him and feed him every time he wakes, YOU can decide where he sleeps. Right now? He’s sleeping. He doesn’t move.”
And he slept in our bed from that moment on.
To be continued…