As newlyweds, my husband and I moved to Camp Pendleton, California (a Marine Corps base), and we planned on having children within the year. I became pregnant easily, and had no complications, other than my 50-pound weight gain. I walked two miles and practiced pregnancy yoga on a daily basis. My pregnancy was almost textbook perfect–the labor was fast, and the delivery was slow. Originally, I had a plan that once I started feeling contractions I wanted to go to the hospital and get pain relief immediately. Since this was my first pregnancy, I envisioned I would be in labor for at least 23 hours and in much pain, and I did not want to suffer. I hate pain.
When I was 39 weeks pregnant, on September 9, 2001, my husband and I slept in (for the last time!) waking about 11:30 AM. We spent the afternoon lounging about the house and around 2 PM I started feeling mild cramps, but they were inconsistent. Along with the cramps, I started having this crazed feeling that I needed to make my husband a large pot of chicken soup because I felt that I might be giving birth soon.
We drove to the Commissary (a military supermarket) and I bought groceries for the soup. I remember my contractions were getting stronger and more consistent, and some were painful enough where I had to stop my shopping for a minute. Even though we were both calm, and I wasn’t in that much pain, it had to be a sight to see–a very pregnant woman in labor at the supermarket.
We went home and I made the chicken soup. My contractions were closer, however not enough to go to the hospital. My family (from New Jersey), was on the phone, pleading with me to go to the hospital. By 6:30 PM, I was on my living room floor, eating chicken soup and drinking soda, watching COPS. By 8 PM, I started to feel a little uncomfortable and my husband was begging me to take a shower and shave my legs (as he read in my pregnancy magazine) before we started out for the hospital. But my contractions were not close enough for me to be admitted to the hospital. Near 10 PM, we packed our car and drove 20 minutes to the hospital. My contractions were still not that painful and not too close together but I called the hospital and told the nurse my contractions were closer together and longer in length than what they truly were. On the ride to the hospital, I started having large and painful contractions and it felt like the longest car ride of my life. Thankfully we took Lamaze classes three weeks before and I utilized the breathing techniques throughout my labor at home and in the car ride.
Upon arrival at the hospital, I was begging for medication. I was checked and we were all shocked that I was already eight centimeters dilated and 90 percent effaced. This is the same person who wanted to be drugged and comfortable in a hospital bed by four centimeters! Needless to say, I was anxious and scared. It was too late for an epidural and I wanted an intrathecal, which is a numbing pain reliever shot into your spine that lasts for at least two to three hours. While I was waiting for the intrathecal, the nurse gave me round of Demerol, which relaxed me until the intrathecal was ready. I also had a birth plan that called for relaxation music, dimmed lights, specific medication, and specific procedures to be used. So far, all was going as planned.
The intrathecal was administered after midnight and the pain was almost instantly gone. I started pushing after 1 AM. I pushed long and hard for an hour and a half, but she did not want to come out. Finally, we discovered Victoria was “sunny-side up” and all babies must come out head facing down, or else delivery is long and painful. The doctor tried some maneuvers, but it was to no avail. After two hours of pushing the intrathecal was wearing off and I begged for more but the doctor told me I was almost there. I was feeling tremendous pain and I told them I would stop pushing if they did not get me the pain relief. My daughter’s vitals were doing very well, as she was being monitored internally. Up to that point I was a model birthing mother, not complaining and pushing for two hours without letting up. The doctor saw my determination and pain, and quickly administered another intrathecal, telling me this was my last shot of pain relief.
I took charge of the birth. As soon as I felt the numbness in my legs and lay back in bed I yelled, "Okay everybody, I am ready to start pushing, let's go!” I was scared that the medication would wear off and I wanted her out. Within half an hour Victoria was born, "sunny-side up" with her eyes wide open. She was not even out yet and she was looking around the room. She cried quietly and quickly. I had a small tear that required one small stitch.
Victoria was born September 9, 2001 at 3:40 AM at a healthy seven pounds, two ounces, and she was 19 inches long. I nursed her almost immediately. It was so amazing to see the child I carried for nine months and to meet her for the first time. She was, and still is, the most precious child I had ever laid eyes on.
The funny thing that I felt almost immediately after I gave birth was that I was so hungry, and I kept asking when breakfast would be served. When breakfast arrived, I had just finished breastfeeding Victoria and gave her to my husband. The hospital food (which is normally bland) tasted like it came from a four-star restaurant. I also could not sleep for almost two days. Although Victoria slept through the night the second night, I was still high on this adrenaline rush. I read the paper and some books, I called friends and family.
On the second day of my hospital stay, I sadly watched the World Trade Center being hit on TV. I also saw my Marine base of 60,000 Marines going on Red Alert. All access to my base and the hospital were off limits and Marines with rifles patrolled the hospital. My mother was set to fly from New Jersey on September 12, but all planes were grounded. I also feared my husband, who was a Marine, would leave me to defend our country. He never was shipped out, but the fear was there.
I learned many lessons the day Victoria was born. In my family, women give birth quickly, even the first child. I am now pregnant with my second child and am back in New Jersey, near my family. I already made my OB/GYN aware of the quick labor and I plan on being admitted quicker. Even though I lost over 40 pounds of the 50 pounds I gained, I also learned not to eat as much as I did.