During my first pregnancy, I didn't have a written birth
plan. I had preferences: Go as long as possible without pain meds; avoid any
unnecessary interventions; wear my own clothes instead of the standard issue
hospital gown. But I didn't have strict written plans—there were too many
variables that I had no control over, too many things we couldn't anticipate.
But the one thing I expected—the thing that all the moms on
the birthing videos and all the childbirth educators talked about—was that
we'd forget about the pain of childbirth the second we laid eyes on our child. "There's
nothing in the world like that feeling of having your baby in your arms for the
first time," we heard over and over again.
It was good that I wasn't attached to a plan, because our
son's birth was full of twists and turns we couldn't have predicted. A week
past my due date, after two nights of mild contractions that lifted with the
sunrise, we went to see my midwives. They discovered my water was
leaking—instead of the sudden gush I'd been waiting for, my fluids were trickling
so subtly I hadn't even noticed.
We checked into the hospital, where a midwife finished
breaking my water to try and induce labor. There was the gush I'd expected, but
it looked like pea soup.
"Meconium," the midwife said, letting us know that our baby
had pooped in-utero. It wasn't a certain sign of distress, but it wasn't ideal,
When labor failed to progress after other natural
interventions, Pitocin became the next logical step. I shuddered, having heard
that Pitocin contractions were terrible and sometimes correlated with
increased rates of C-sections. But between the meconium and the leaking fluids,
our son needed to be born.
I still mourn those first few moments with my son. ... I still wish I could have a do-over.
The next morning, a nurse hooked me up to an IV and began
the Pitocin drip. After several hours of increasing doses, contractions hit
hard and relentlessly.
I asked for a shot of Nubain, which allowed me to rest
during the brief moments between the fierce clench of contractions. Because of
my son's position, I was having back labor. It felt as if someone was chiseling
away at my tailbone.
I'd been up for the better part of three nights and was now moving into the
"You're the only one who can do this," my midwife said in a firm voice.
My olive skin went crimson from the effort of pushing.
Busted capillaries sprung across my cheeks.
After four hours of excruciating pushing, my son was born.
I watched a doctor whisk him over to a table beneath
blindingly bright lights. I felt separate from the scene, as if I were watching
a TV show. After a moment or two, my son cried. A few minutes later, someone
brought him to me.
The little boy I'd waited for was here.
But all I cared about was that the pain and that pushing was
Spent and apathetic, I held my newborn son. I felt a slight
tug below my waist as my midwife stitched me up. I looked into my son's
steel-blue eyes beneath his swollen lids, and I stared at the elongated cone of
I felt … nothing.
A nurse whisked him away to the nursery. "You need to get some sleep," our
midwife said. I didn't argue.
But I still mourn those first few moments with my son, when
I was so depleted that there wasn't room for anything else. I still wish I
could have a do-over.
In a way, I did get one.
A few years after my son's birth, our daughter was born. My
labor started on a Sunday around noon, and she was born just after 8 p.m. that
night. I'd had a good night of sleep the evening before, and her birth was nearly
textbook. I held her tiny body, flecked with blood and vernix, the pulsing umbilical
cord still connecting our bodies. We looked into each other's eyes.