All my fantasies of pregnancy and childbirth had included the penultimate moment of my water breaking.
I had visualized the moment in my mind a hundred times. Where would it happen? At work? At church? In the middle of Panera? (which would have seemed more than appropriate given this pregnancy.)
But, I had resigned myself to induction. I had spoken with friends who had never had their water break naturally. And, despite all the horror stories about Pitocin, I trusted my OB to know what was best for me.
After all, the man and his staff have spent nine years supporting us in our infertility and nine precarious months caring for me and my high-risk baby. He could have told me to walk backwards on my hands over London Bridge, and I would have done it, no questions asked.
Saturday night found us at Mom and Gary’s enjoying a delicious meal and several rousing rounds of Sequence. We went over our plans for Sunday – go grocery shopping and get the fridge stocked, pack all the “last-minute” items in the going-to-hospital bag, and get a solid night’s sleep before our Monday appointment.
We left Mom and Gary’s and headed home. I fell asleep almost immediately, but Brett couldn’t sleep and went downstairs to watch a movie.
At 4:30 a.m., I had my usual going-to-the-bathroom pregnancy urge and rolled out of bed. About six steps away from the bed, I felt a sudden rush and looked down to see a strange water spot spreading ruthlessly over the carpet.
The realization hit me in the gut as I stood frozen over the spot, afraid if I moved the mini-Niagara would stop. Eventually, I hunch-walked to the bathroom where I accomplished my original goal. Then, I went back to the water spot and confirmed that the whole thing wasn’t just a dream.
Feeling exhilarated and breathless, I fled to the top of the stairs where I shouted joyously, “Brett! My water broke!”
Proving he is not a man prone to panic, my husband calmly paused his movie and called up, “It did? Okay, be right up.”
In a minute, he was beside me staring at the water spot. When I expressed doubt in my own perception and bladder, he proved he is the man I love by getting down on his hands and knees and sniffing the spot like a dog just to be sure.
“Odorless,” he proclaimed, CSI-like, remembering the C.O.A.T. clause from our prenatal class (you can tell amniotic fluid by it’s Color, Odor, Amount, and Timing).
With our assessment agreed upon, I called Mom.
“Mom! My water just broke,” I crowed into the phone, as though I had something to do with it.
“What time is it?” Mom said, groggily re-surfacing.
“It’s a quarter to five.”
“I thought it was 2:00 a.m.” said Mom, still focusing on the time, the other news just background noise for the moment.
A second later, she seemed to energize with the news. After a short discussion, we decided Mom and Gary would head to the hospital just in case the baby came quickly.
(And the heavens fell helpless with laughter.)
Brett drove silently to the hospital while I chattered on like a magpie. I was strangely triumphant about my water-breaking, as though some great and mysterious power had been granted to me.
The streets were deserted at 5:00 a.m., and we were at the emergency room entrance to Swedes before we knew it. We gathered our accoutrements, like Civil War soldiers preparing for battle, and barged into the entrance like Elvis at the Apollo.
Our excitement took a chill pill as we had to wait at least twenty minutes for a nurse from the maternity ward to wheel me up to maternity admitting.
Before I knew it, I was hustled into a hospital gown and told that my water had “indeed” broken, and so I was actually “in labor.”
At that point, I had only experienced some twitches in my abdomen and was feeling pretty good, buoyed by the realization that nine years of waiting was almost to an end.
The nurse brought me back to reality when she pointed out that if I wanted an epidural, I should decide now, since they would have to do a blood test and many things would have to be confirmed before I could actually RECEIVE the epidural.
I felt fine, and I almost decided to wait, until I had a flashback of my cousin Candice in flown-blown labor before her epidural. I remembered the writhing, the pain in her face, and her impassioned plea that “No one should do this. EVER!”
So, I decided to fly my pain-wuss flag bravely, and told them to “hook me up!”
Somewhere in all the excitement, Mom and Gary arrived, already in proud grandparent mode.
A wonderful woman arrived a few moments later, introduced herself as my anesthesiologist, and proceeded to do an amazing job of keeping me distracted while giving me the best baby gift ever – no pain.
She also had one of the best quotes I’ve ever heard. “I’m a lot of peoples’ best friend for about ten minutes.”
The day slowly began to slip by. I was in labor, but I felt great. Mom, Brett, and Gary passed through the room, sat with me, and relieved the others as they ate, drank, and slept. I updated my status on Facebook (the supportive comments buoyed me even further toward the stratosphere), read my book, and chatted long-distance on the phone with my sister-cousin, Charity.
Suddenly, in the afternoon, I began to have some back pain. I wasn’t alarmed at first, since the anesthesiologist had warned me the epidural doesn’t always block all back pain.
However, the pain began to intensify, and before I knew it I was reliving my Candice flash-back from earlier - writhing in pain as horrible demon beasts feasted on my internal organs. I was panting, squeezing Brett’s hand, and cursing the human body’s high threshold for pain before passing out.
The nurses came in and were mystified. Brett was confused at how fast I had gone from serene to shrieking, and Mom looked terrified. Finally, in a burst of anger, I said, “I don’t think I’m getting the epidural anymore!”
Mom was brave enough to investigate, and sure enough, she discovered my epidural had become unhooked.
Apologetic for the mistake, the nurses plugged the tube back in. I had twenty more minutes of “real” contractions before the meds kicked in.
As I lay breathless on the bed, relief flooding to every corner of my being, I wondered aloud at the audacity and freakish fortitude of women who deliver naturally. Hats off to each and every one of you.
I repeat. Never. Again.
The rest of the day slipped by. The nurses went on and off shift; my OB checked in and gave me kindness and kudos (which I felt were well-deserved, considering my twenty minutes of hellish torment). Brett slept on the rollaway bed; Mom and Gary dozed. I counted the ceiling tiles (106).
At 7:45 p.m., my OB sat on the edge of my bed. He looked me straight in the eyes with the directness, professionalism, and insightful nature I have come to love him for. “Do you think you can do this?”
I was a little startled. I knew he wanted a vaginal birth, if at all possible, but he was giving me the chance to ask for a C-section (perhaps the nurses had disclosed my earlier wussitude during the epidural-less twenty minutes).
Instead of answering confidently one way or the other, my sniveling inner-child sough affirmation. “Do you think I can do it?” I asked, just a tad fearful of his answer.
He clapped my leg and said, “I absolutely think you can do it.”
“Okay, then,” I said, emboldened by his confidence in me. “I can do it.”
(At which point, the heavens collapsed into the giggles. Again.)
He gave orders to begin pushing at 8:00 p.m. Brett took up his position on the other side of the nurse in the Red Zone, while Mom and Candice happily took up residence by my head.
I barely remember the next two hours. What I do remember is pushing. I felt exhaustion, but not pain (God bless my anesthesiologist and the evolution of medical wonders that led to the epidural). I remember my husband – the man I get so frustrated with at times – counting patiently to ten each and every time, and giving me every encouraging comment he could think of.
I know, I know. It’s an absolute cliché. But when he told me I was doing a great job, it was exactly what I needed to hear. Every time he told me to breathe, it was a reminder I needed. He was there every second of the way, and I will forever love him for the precious gift of being my partner when I needed a partner the most.
After pushing to each agonizing set of three ten-counts, Mom would feed me ice chips. Candice kept the hand-held, battery-operated fan blowing on me the whole time (I think her hand may have fallen asleep, but she never faltered.).
I could tell we were getting near the end when I felt like an oddly-shaped barbell was sitting on my tailbone. Mom, Brett, and Candice were happily shouting that they “could see the head.” After what seemed like five pushes and still no other comment, I finally said I didn’t care if they could see the head. I wanted to see some EARS!
The nurse offered to go get me a “birth mirror,” to which I ardently protested. No thank you. I mean. Gross. I had enough going on, you know?
Finally, the very last couple of pushes (Brett said, “Her lips are blue!” Candice said, “Her face is purple!” – see, these are the things I remember. I’m so vain.), and the baby, our baby – Sam – was welcomed to the world.
A very slimy alien being was placed on my chest for a split second and then whisked away for cleaning.
I vaguely remember Brett standing in the whirl of activity and just saying, “Wow.” There you have it, all the pain and suffering of childbirth through the ages and only word we can come up with is “Wow.”
I had incurred a surgical tear during the birth, so my legs were kept hoisted in the air, my OB repairing the damage, as the nurses cared for my already-quiet baby. They offered the clean baby to Brett who happily cradled his tiny son in his arms.
He held on so tightly and was so enthralled that Mom told me later, “I didn’t think he’d let anybody else hold him!”
Eventually, Mom got the chance to hold her grandson. Flesh of her flesh, blood of her blood, and tangible heritage of the first man she ever loved, my father, Robert Lawrence Trotter. His spirit and that of Brett’s mom, Jean, were the unspoken loved ones in remembrance on the night of Sam’s birth.
We were reminded how much we missed them, and saluted them the best we know how, by promising to tell Sam how much he would have been loved by his departed Grandmother and Grandfather. It is no replacement for flesh-and-blood arms, but they were amazing and godly people, and his heritage will be enriched as we honor their memories.
Candice happily hugged her new not-nephew. I will forever be grateful for my biggest fan – and fan-holding – cousin. I don’t know what I would have done without her.
Eventually, they let me put my legs down. Hallelujah.
Mom, Gary, and Candice headed home for a reprieve from the day’s excitement (Mom told me later she couldn’t sleep a wink!).
Brett and I feasted on bag lunches (I hadn’t eaten since 6:00 p.m. the previous day) while Sam was getting his first check-up.
We did have a scary moment when I passed out while trying to make it to the bathroom. But it was just a combination of blood loss and low-blood sugar, and after I recovered, we were wheeled down to the post-partum ward to wait for our son.
It didn’t take long, and about 3:00 a.m., Sam was wheeled into our room. I got to hold my son for the first time, really hold him, much nicer now that he actually looked human.
I looked down into those eyes and saw the promise delivered.
I witnessed answered prayer. Observed generations of Trotters, Rehfeldts, Newells, and Soderstroms. Spotted potential. Glimpsed the present, future, and past.
But most of all.
Perhaps the simplest of all.
Manifested in human form, I saw my heart. Forever and always, the whole of my heart.
Thank you, God, for the safe delivery of Sam.