I wasn’t sure I would ever want to have children. From a young age I was taught that this “system of things” is wicked and there would be a much better time to have children than during this decay of humanity.
Once I tried to break free from those beliefs, I ran straight into another reality – I’m pretty selfish and “spoiled.” My experience with alcohol and recovery taught me that most often, I am only concerned with myself and my feelings. It was one thing for my mental quirks to wreak havoc in my life, but I couldn’t imagine forcing them onto a tiny, innocent mind with no choice.
As time marched on, so did my thinking and when I began the slight incline to 30, I started to experience the yearning. I wanted a baby. It seemed the natural order of things. Chris and I had been married for six years, we had travelled (to the Oregon Coast) and we’d had many adventures with our friends. I had even quit smoking. I thought being forced to focus on someone else was just what I needed to continue growing emotionally and spiritually.
So, Chris and I began trying. We were blessed with only having to try for four to six months. I never took for granted the fact that I was able to get pregnant. I knew women who would have given anything to be able to carry a child but would never have the opportunity.
I was clueless. When the pregnancy test finally came back positive, I thought it was wrong, so I took another test. I still had a hard time believing it was really happening. I called an OB/GYN to see if they needed to confirm it for me. They told me if the test came back positive, they had no reason to doubt it and they set up my first appointment – weeks out! I couldn’t believe the doctor didn’t want to confirm it and I couldn’t believe the doctor didn’t need to see me for weeks! So much could happen before that first appointment; there were so many things I could do wrong. Already, I was surprised everyone was leaving it up to me to take care of another life. I didn’t even trust that I was reading the test right!
Looking back, I had already begun to feel separated from everyone else. Pregnancy was an experience only I could have, and I was scared.
The first trimester was challenging. It seemed for the longest time there was no proof of why everything was changing. As soon as I found out I was pregnant, I wanted a belly bump, something to affirm what was happening. I was extremely tired – ALL THE TIME. We had friends and family living with us and I became so irritable, I kicked everyone out. I stopped drinking diet soda and anything with caffeine. I was angry that people were going about, living life and suddenly, everything was different for me. They could go to a movie and have a soda. I couldn’t seem to stay awake past 7:00 p.m. and I was reduced to drinking plain, bland, flavorless water. People were literally afraid of me. I became the worst version of me and I felt out of control.
Then came the blessed, peaceful second trimester. I began to show; there really was a baby in there! We had an ultrasound at 20 weeks and found out what we were having. I wanted a girl. I told myself I would be happy with either girl or boy, but I knew I wanted a girl. And once again, I got just what I wanted.
Chris and I signed up for child birth classes during the third trimester. I was worried about labor, but never having been through it before, I hoped my high tolerance for pain (seriously – I thought I had one of those) would persevere. I wasn’t opposed to drugs during labor. At the time, the hospital didn’t offer epidurals, only intrathecal. We watched birthing videos and practiced breathing and focusing. We took a tour of the labor and delivery rooms and reviewed tips and techniques for new parents.
When we approached the topic of “baby blues” and postpartum depression, I vividly remember catching Chris’ eye when the nurse said people with a history of depression had a greater chance of experiencing postpartum depression. The nurse explained that “baby blues” were normal, however, if they didn’t leave within a few weeks, it would be best to contact a doctor.
The only thing I knew about postpartum depression was what I had heard on the news. I had heard about moms who used it as an “excuse” to get rid of children they probably never wanted anyway. (Let me be clear, this is NOT how I view it today and I recognize that my belief at that time was based on lack of information, awareness and experience.)
I figured I could expect some “baby blues,” but I also thought if I began to slip into depression, we could catch it easily and deal with it then. I wasn’t too concerned, after all, I didn’t know how I could be depressed with a cute little baby around.
My due date was July 29th and I had told Chris from the very beginning that I thought I would be a week early. We’d had all of our baby showers, we had unlimited support from family and friends, the only thing left was to have the baby.
I became hyper-sensitive in the days prior. We’d had a beagle that was four years old and up until that point, she had always been my baby. I cried when I thought of how our relationship would inevitably change. Unlike other women I knew, I honestly and truthfully was in no rush to be done with pregnancy. I had no problem with being overdue. The closer labor and delivery got, the less equipped I felt to handle it. I liked having my baby in my belly. She was safe, warm, fed, clean and I had control of her environment. Once she left me, anything could happen.
One of my main concerns was knowing when I was in labor. In our classes, we learned if a woman’s water broke, it took all the guess work out of whether it was time to go to the hospital; if the water broke it was time. There wasn’t the need to time contractions and there wasn’t the possibility of going to the hospital prematurely.
Once again, I got what I wished for. At 5:00 a.m. on July 22, 2004, my water broke. I woke Chris and said, “Either I just peed the bed or my water broke.”
It was time.
At the hospital, I was given Pitocin to induce contractions. The nurses encouraged Chris and I to get some rest since we were more than likely going to need it. I thought they were crazy. We were about to have a baby! Our lives would never be the same, we came as two, we were leaving as three, rest seemed ridiculous.
Contractions finally started, slowly. For the first while, I thought it was easy and hoped labor wouldn’t end up being much more than what I was experiencing. It didn’t take long for the contractions to become more frequent and painful. I honestly don’t know if I could have lasted without Chris. He tried to prepare me when he could tell a contraction was about to begin. The Pitocin was in full effect and I had no down time between contractions. I was hoping for even a 30 second breather, but once one ended, another seemed to have already started. I locked eyes with Chris and he breathed with me.
We thought perhaps the Jacuzzi would help since many women enjoyed the Jacuzzi during labor. I found no relief in the Jacuzzi. In fact, I became nauseous and developed diarrhea. I suffered while sitting on the toilet during contractions and Chris suffered while breathing in the bathroom with me.
I had horrible back labor and the only relief I could find was a few seconds of sitting on the inflatable ball in the delivery room.
When I couldn’t take it anymore, I requested an intrathecal. It felt like it took forever for the anesthesiologist to arrive. He went through the warnings and possible complications which I couldn’t care less about at the time.
Chris said watching the intrathecal was an intense experience. The doctor inserted a long needle into my spine. All I knew was that after hours of pain, I was finally experiencing some relief. This was the first time when rest seemed an appropriate suggestion. I was completely exhausted.
The nurses came in and said the baby was facing the wrong direction; she was facing my stomach instead of my back. They wanted me to use the relief I had from the intrathecal to do hip sways and lunges in an attempt to get the baby to turn naturally. Thankfully, the baby turned and all the exercise during labor was worth it.
The intrathecal lasted a couple hours, but it seemed more like half an hour to me.
I had no idea what the “urge to push” might feel like. I thought maybe it was similar to my “urge to be done with the beautiful frickin’ journey of labor.” But finally, shortly after the intrathecal wore off, I experienced the strangest sensation. It was as if everything in my body was joining forces to expel something. I said, “I think I just had the urge to push.”
Approximately twelve hours after my water broke, it was time to begin pushing. I threw up once, but other than that, I was thankful to have something to do during contractions besides suffer through them.
At 6:53 p.m., Grace Violet Coen was introduced to the world, all nine pounds, one ounce of her. I had asked for her to be put on my chest right after delivery for skin on skin contact. There was a lot of celebrating. I cried tears of joy and tears of relief. The nurses took her measurements and rated her color, temperature and several other things while I was stitched up.
I had plans on nursing, so the nurses helped me begin that process as soon as possible after delivery. Family came in, people passed her around and everything seemed right. I was so thankful labor was over and I was ready to finally get some rest after they moved us out of labor and delivery to our family room.
I was sore and my legs were horribly itchy from the intrathecal, but everything else seemed fine. It was time to live our happily ever after.
I had no way of knowing or even guessing what was about to transpire. Thank God.