In fall 1998, my husband and I decided to start our family (actually it was more like I announced that I was ready, and my husband Brian had no ready answer for why we couldn’t and so we did!) We had been married since 1992 and had accomplished many of the pre-family goals we had set for ourselves, so we both felt anxious and excited, but ready.
The first month I went off my birth control pills, I became pregnant. We were thrilled and nervous. I had no morning sickness at all, just felt a little puffy. We told my parents around the beginning of December, but waited to see Brian’s mom for Christmas to surprise her with news of her first grandchild. She was overjoyed, having waited six years for this news.
On the night of January 7, I had heavy bleeding, not just spotting. I was so scared -— it was so much blood, it seemed. I called my doctor, who said to come in immediately if I soaked a pad in an hour; otherwise, just come in the next morning to see what the problem was. I knew in my heart I was losing my baby.
The next morning, as soon as the office opened, I was there. The nurse practitioner did a vaginal ultrasound and confirmed a blighted ovum. She called it an empty sac. I was angry and upset and resigned all at the same time. She inserted a pill next to my cervix to help me expel the remaining matter, and explained that I would probably have heavy cramping for eight hours or so, but then it would be over. I should come in the next day to have another ultrasound to confirm, but this pregnancy was over.
My husband actually cried more than I did. I was angry that my plan to become pregnant was not going as I intended. I cried too, but more I wanted to hurry up and get the miscarriage over with so I could try again. The nurse practitioner told me that my body would treat this event like a heavy period and that I should wait until after my next period to try to conceive again.
What a long month that was, but during that time, as condolence cards poured in, I learned that miscarriages are very common but no one talks about them, and that I will tell no one but my husband about my next pregnancy until after week 12. I guess I stayed mad until 19 February, the date we conceived again.
The second pregnancy, I was definitely more nauseated. I never threw up, but I had food aversions for the first 12 weeks and craved steak for the next 12. We told everyone by phone on Mother’s Day that we were pregnant again, and this one was a keeper. Baby’s due date was 19 November 1999.
I had a relatively uneventful pregnancy physically. I had only a couple of fits in Babies-R-Us as my husband and I tried to decide what was really necessary to rear a child and what was superfluous. My sister was the most calming force during this time, as her daughter was almost a year that summer. She helped a great deal with decisions. Brian and I painted the baby’s room, painted furniture that he had had as a child so that it matched the baby’s room, and generally just watched my belly grow.
At the July 3 ultrasound, we learned we were having a boy, just as we were hoping for. We had invited our moms to come to the ultrasound, and they cried through the whole thing.
By the middle of October, I was feeling very large. Mostly because I was. Brian is 6’4” and I am 5’7” so we figured this would be a big baby. I had intended to work until the end of the first week of November, but at my October 22 appointment, I had a slight elevation in my blood pressure. The doctor advised me to stop working and take it easy at home. But I didn’t rest! I had to finish painting the baby furniture!! I was pooped by the next Friday, my next appointment day, but when they took my blood pressure, it was back to normal. Guess it was work giving me hypertension!
That night, October 29-30, I got up every other hour to pee, as usual, but at 5am when I crawled back to bed, my water broke. No mistaking it. And the more I laughed out of excitement and fear, the more poured out. I had Brian get me a towel, and I stood in the shower stall until most of the fluid had drained. I definitely read too much about labor and delivery during my pregnancy, so rather than waiting to walk around and have contractions start (I had no contractions at this point), all I could think was "prolapsed cord." I could be choking my baby as I stood there! So I began to fret. I called the doctor, who said to go up to the hospital to confirm the water broke, and prepare to stay if it did. My baby was coming three weeks early!
Brian scrambled to pack my bag for me as I took a shower. We called Brian’s mom and told her to book a flight, that her grandson would be here shortly. We also called my doula, Mary, and told her we were headed to the hospital.
A nurse in labor and delivery confirmed my water had broken, that the baby’s heartbeat was strong, and that I wouldn’t be leaving the hospital until I had him. At 8am, they moved me to my own room, and we settled in for the duration. I was bored and anxious to start the “real work,” as I wanted to see my baby and I didn’t want him to have to have his birthday on Halloween. I walked the halls with my husband, doing lap after lap until noon. By then, I was grumpy and hungry and bored. I was not progressing, still at about 3cm. My mother-in-law had arrived and began to orchestrate my hospital stay, telling me what I should be doing, what the doctors and nurses should be doing, and generally stressing me to the max. My doula, my labor nurse, and my husband were informed that under no circumstances was she to be allowed in my room as she was making me nuts.
I had wanted an intimate, drug-free birth with my husband and doula laboring with me. That was not to be. At 3pm on October 30, I was still at 3cm, so the doctor said it was time to start pitocin. Evil in an IV. The contractions started, alright. I was probably reasonably aware for the first 2 to 3 hours of the pitocin drip, but from 6pm to nearly 11pm, I was positively hallucinogenic. I remember my husband being very upset to see me in so much pain, and I remember finally asking for an epidural (completely against my birthplan, but this was just an unfathomable pain).
After two tries, the epidural took and I fell asleep immediately. I was exhausted and starving, and grateful for the pain relief. Oh, and I was still only at 4cm. By then, I had seen the rotation of three docs and three nurses, and didn’t even flinch when someone stuck a hand inside me to check my progress.
The new doc said that the epidural may help me relax enough to dilate fully, but at 3am I was only at 5cm, and he began to talk c-section. The baby was still okay, strong heartbeat and all, but I wasn’t progressing. A c-section was not in my intimate, drug-free birthplan either, but by then I would have gladly been splayed open like a chicken if it meant I could see my baby and get something to eat.
My epidural was upped, and I felt nothing from the top of my chest down. I had heard some women say they felt it was difficult to breathe with a full epidural, but I didn’t have that experience. I was wheeled into the operating room, and at 3:59am on Halloween our baby Harrison was born. He had the cord around his neck twice, and it was near the placenta, so he just was not going to come out, no matter how much we tried. I was so happy to hear his little cry. I told Daddy to go with him as they did the measurements and tests. He was 8-12 and 19 inches long. Not bad for an early arrival.
I was in recovery within a half hour. I got to hold my little guy about 6am. We all stayed in the hospital for 4 days, 2 for me to recover from my c-section, and 2 more for Harrison as he needed to be in the bili lights for jaundice, and I wanted to exclusively breastfeed. My OBGYN was great, and made sure I wouldn’t have to drive back and forth to meet my baby’s needs. I loved all the hospital staff—I had not one complaint with anyone the whole time I was there.