Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Emma's Birth Story

I thought I would love being pregnant with my first child.

I imagined myself smiling periodically throughout each day, glowing a little, carrying a beautiful secret love child within a nurturing womb. I hoped I would feel a greater connection to Jody, God and my own female power - I thought nothing less than pure transcendence was fitting for the occasion.

Instead I threw up. For seven straight months.

I threw up everything - even water came back up still cold. Popsicles, bananas, milk, carrots, apples, licorice, mashed potatoes, ice cream....nothing stayed down. I wondered how a baby could possibly be growing healthily in a body that had no nutrition for weeks.

I remember the night I thought I wouldn't live another day, maybe another hour - Jody and I slowly walked to the closest hospital in downtown Toronto where they replenished my fluids with an IV and gave me a prescription for Dyclectin. As the cool liquid gurgled down my arm I felt energy surging back within my depleted body - I smiled for the first time in days.

Dyclectin became my curse and my cure. When I could keep the little pills down, they helped me to eat a little, I only threw up a few times each day. But they didn't help with the nausea and had side effects of their own - my skin felt crawly and jumpy, my brain felt like it was in a fog and I was tired all of the time. Yet I was grateful - to be both pregnant and alive. And since Jody worked at the Parliament Buildings in TO and I was finished school, wasn't working and had no responsibilities, I spent my days sleeping, watching Martha Stewart and eating mandarin oranges by the case.

Although we were living in Toronto, my Ob/Gyn, Dr. Olupona (who I adored), was in the Sault, so I traveled home to the Island monthly for appointments. I took prenatal classes there as well and read my What to Expect book religiously. I tried to mentally prepare for labour but had no concept of a contraction despite my research. I wasn't worried though. I was looking forward to seeing this baby and trusted my body to take the lead. As the time drew closer to my due date and my prenatal appointments became more frequent, I spent my time on the Island with my family.
When I was a few days away from my due date my grandma (Adams) lay dying in the hospital. Our family was called to her room and we spent the day talking with her, though she was unresponsive by that time. She loved babies and I was sorry that she would miss seeing mine by only a few days. I was in the room when she took her last breath. It struck me how birth and death are all a part of this life - sacred - similar - a passing from one state to another. All part of our experience. It was a hard moment to see her die, I felt her resistance to let go, but I also felt relief for her to be free of illness and pain. Standing in the family line at her funeral someone asked when I was due. "Today". I felt like I was standing at the crossroads of birth and death, part of the circle of life.

Days later there was still no sign of labour. It was decided that I would be induced on April 1.
April Fool's Day. As we went off to the hospital that morning I tried to think of a good joke to play on my father (who is notorious for his April fool's pranks) but I couldn't think of anything funny.
The majority of that day was very medical - admitting, hospital gown, blood work, prostiglandin gel on cervix, fetal heart monitor, mild contractions, waiting, waiting, waiting. I think it was about 1 pm when Dr. O broke my water to encourage things along. It felt so much like I was peeing all over the bed - warm wet gush. Then the pressure began. Regular contractions. Great discomfort.
My mother and younger siblings stopped in for a visit in the birthing room around 2:30 or 3pm. I was in a rocking chair and chatting with them for a while. I'm sure I seemed perfectly normal to them and birth seemed a long way off. But I could feel things progressing and soon after their visit I began to understand what a real contraction was. At 3:30 the nurse wheeled in the IV pole to induce me with drugs, but I asked if we could hold off a while, things were happening. I felt my body begin to take control. I remember being grateful to her for believing me and not following the doctor's orders, even though I was a first timer. Everything progressed quickly. The next hour was a blur of contractions and relief, breathing and holding my breath. Feeling cold, then burning hot. Asking Jody to take off my socks. Jody standing close and holding my hand - ever calm and encouraging. Then came an urge to push that was unstoppable. I don't remember pushing very many times - 8 if I had to guess. Maybe 5. I do remember the searing, burning pain as her head pushed it's way clear. Until then I had been very quiet. The sound of my own voice surprised me. Apparently there was a moment I was told not to push - the cord was wrapped around her neck twice - but I couldn't have held back if I tried (did I try?) and she came bursting into Dr. Olupona's outstretched hands. 5:10 pm.

Suddenly I was a mother. I was handed the most perfect baby I had ever encountered - wrinkled, bloodied, slightly blue hands and feet, tiny round head. A girl. Tiny little person, but also huge considering she just came out of my body. I felt an instant surge of love and adoration. I suddenly felt that the whole purpose of my very existence lay in the birth of this beautiful, miraculous girl. I was in awe of every woman on the planet who had ever given birth. I was especially in awe of my own mother who had given birth to six children. In that moment I felt the connection that I hoped for during pregnancy - that I was working with a higher power to create life.
The adrenaline rush following birth was fantastic. I felt like i could run a marathon. I looked down at Dr. O while he stitched me up, bloody thread between us, and said "that wasn't so bad". I remember he laughed. He told me I had done a good job and my heart soared.
My life changed in a moment and something fundamental changed inside of me too. Some unfortunate things like my enjoyment of most music (sounds like a baby crying), my sense of adventure (too dangerous, too fast, too loud), my brain (still under a slight fog). But mostly I think I changed for the better - less selfish, more loving, more purposeful, more compassionate. I became stronger and more sensitive at the same time. I saw the world differently. I saw every person as someone's love child. I saw my child as deserving of my very best effort and dedicated myself to her. I knew love on a level I'd never known existed. My universe expanded that day.

 It was no April Fool's joke.


Katie said...

I felt emotional reading this. It's really beautiful.

Megan said...

What a masterpiece Jane!

Exceptional writing and I was truly moved by the story.