Labor. I'd always heard it was the worst thing a woman would ever have to endure. But for me, it was absolutely and without a doubt the most sacred experience of my life.
The Monday following my due date I had an early morning appointment (that's right... after months of hearing how my baby would most likely be born premature and under NO circumstances would I be allowed to carry past my due date...three days after I was due, I was STILL pregnant). I was starting to believe that I would be the first woman in the history of the world to be pregnant forever. My doctor tried to assure me that wouldn't be the case, but I'd already lost hope. However, after checking me, she told me the good news that I had FINALLY progressed past 2 cm and was actually in the perfect condition to be induced. She then asked me the most ridiculous question I've ever been asked in my whole life... "Do you want to have this baby today?" Under different circumstances I would have jumped up and shouted "HELL YEAH!" but my doctor is very mild mannered and also very Mormon, and since I didn't want to offend the woman who would soon be holding sharp instruments near my vagina, I simply said "Yes, please".
The labor experience I had pictured in my mind went something like this: I'd wake up in the middle of the night with contractions every 3 minutes and I'd have to try to wake Adam up which is not unlike trying to rouse a hibernating bear, or my water would break in the middle of the grocery aisle and I'd try to pretend I dropped a jar of pickles or something. On second thought, I'd totally tell EVERY one that MY WATER JUST BROKE...then I'd ask the zit faced stock-boy if he'd be willing to cut the cord, just to freak him out. Anyway, driving to the hospital would be complete madness, speeding, running red lights, cutting people off. We wouldn't even bother with trying to find a parking spot, we'd jump the curb and pull right up to the front entrance and as we burst through the hospital doors Adam would yell "My wife... She's having a BABY!". Everyone would drop what they were doing and come scrambling to my side. I'd then be rushed down the hall in a wheelchair screaming in agony and pleading for something, ANYthing, to take away the pain... an epidural, morphine, some bourbon on the rocks, PRONTO! Then we'd arrive in the delivery room just in time to see the baby's head crowning. There wouldn't even be any time to process what was happening, it would be so fast and intense!
In reality, my labor experience was very much the opposite. I calmly drove to the hospital in absolutely no pain and pulled neatly into a parking spot. I sat patiently at the front desk while the receptionist casually took my information and got me checked in. When I got to my room I was promptly hooked up to IV's and then I laid there...and waited. Although I immediately started contracting, about every 4 minutes in fact, I wasn't quite convinced that this was the actual thing. I've always heard that when they hook you up to the Pitocin your contractions are hard and fast and very, very painful. In fact the woman on my childbirth DVD’s describes an induced labor as an F&F labor. "Fast and Furious and you can use all the F’s you need to get through it." However, the first painful contraction I felt was 13 hours after my labor had been induced. I’m thinking, this is labor? That was a contraction? That little thing? No, really when do they start hurting? I hear it gets worse.
By about 3:30 am I was finally feeling like I was in labor. I could feel each contraction build up, reach it's peak, then gradually disappear. It was in no way a pleasant thing, but not bad enough yet that I felt the need to wake Adam up. He just looked so darn cute drooling there on the pull out bed and I knew he had a long day of family ahead of him. And besides, my nurse was coming in to check on me very regularly at this point so it wasn't like I was alone. It was close to 7:00 am when I decided that I needed Adam there with me and I may want an epidural. I'm definitely not one of those women who go into labor with these noble plans to do it drug free. I'd technically been in labor for 18 hours at this point and my cervix had only dilated 5 cm...2 cm more than when I got there the day before. I figured I'd given it a pretty good go and had absolutely no guilt about wanting to do the rest of it more comfortably. Who knew how long this would take? My nurse contacted the anesthesiologist and informed me he "should" be there in about half an hour.
My doctor happened to have a meeting at the hospital that morning and, being the kind woman she is, she decided to stop by my room and see how things were progressing. Discovering I had only progressed 2 cm in almost 20 hours, she decided to break my water in an attempt to help speed things along. This is where my labor took a dramatic turn. She explained to me that breaking my water would cause my contractions to get stronger and come quicker and that there would no longer be that cushion between the baby's head and my cervix, but she assured me that it would take about 15 to 20 minutes for me to really feel these changes. YEAH. FREAKING. RIGHT. The very next contraction was unlike anything I had ever felt! THIS is what labor is supposed to feel like! THIS is what all those people had been talking about! It couldn't possibly get worse now because pain worse than this is DEATH! A mixture of the Pitocin being pumped into me and my water breaking had sent me into the transitional phase of labor which isn't supposed to happen until you are dilated to at least 8 cm. The contractions were coming about every minute and a half and lasting about a minute each, so I had about 30 seconds of down time followed by a full minute of torment. The anesthesiologist should have been here by now. Where is he? And where the heck is that glass of bourbon???
Up to this point about the only piece of coaching advice Adam had really been given was that at no point should his face come within a foot of mine. I have a strong sense of personal space and I imagined that would only be magnified by labor. But suddenly all I wanted was for him to be RIGHT there. In fact I NEEDED him there. Adam and my nurse Kathy (who, by the way, is the most amazing nurse and quite possibly the sweetest human being to ever walk this planet) were right beside me, guiding me through each contraction. Adam providing the support of a loving husband and a hand to squeeze as the pain got worse. And Kathy stroking my leg and saying things like "Breathe" and "You're doing it" or "You're almost through this one." They are such simple words, but you can't even imagine how much they mean when you aren't sure you're going to live through the next contraction.
I'm not even sure what time the anesthesiologist finally showed up. It was taking every single ounce of energy I had to pull through each contraction, a bomb could have been dropped right on top of the hospital and I'm not sure I would have even noticed. The epidural was something I had feared and stressed about for weeks, but it turned out to be a very quick and absolutely painless procedure. Ten minutes after he got started, I was able to function and think clearly again. Twenty minutes later I was completely pain free. Earlier I mentioned how I felt like I had "experienced" labor and was okay with getting the epidural. Looking back, I am SO glad things picked up like they did and I was able to experience that intense "just kill me now" labor. I had never been in so much pain, but I had also never experienced anything with such a purpose. Realizing that level of pain was necessary to bring our baby girl here and having my husband right next to me sharing in such an extraordianry experience, knowing that within moments we would have our little angel here with us... honestly, it was the most spiritual thing I have EVER experienced.
Once the epidural worked it's magic my nurse checked my cervix again and found that I had dilated a full 3 cm in the 45 minutes since I was last checked. Realizing I was at an 8, almost a 9, my nurse literally ran out of the room to get my doctor out of her meeting. By the time she was in her scrubs and things were set up for the delivery, I was fully dialted and ready to start pushing.
I'll never forget how I felt looking around the room. Things were happening so fast it was a bit chaotic, but I've never felt more at peace. I was ready for this. Adam was holding one leg, Kathy was holding the other. My doctor was coaching me and telling me how and when I would need to push. The baby's nurse and respiratory therapist were there ready for the moment she would be passed to them to be cleaned up and checked out. My mom and mother-in-law had just enough time to poke their heads in and let us know they were there before the nurses rushed them out of the room. Kathy could see on the monitor that a contraction was starting. I took one last look at Adam who already had tears in his eyes and then...I PUSHED.
At 9:41 am on August 11, 2009 I heard my baby cry for the first time. It was by far the most wonderful thing I have ever experienced. I cannot even begin to express the love I felt for her from the very first moment I laid eyes on her. I was crying, of course. Adam was crying too, and suddenly more handsome than I'd ever seen him. Morgan was here and she was absolutely perfect. This was, without a doubt, the most defining moment of my entire life.
We had just created a family.
~Morgan Paige Livingston~
7lbs 6oz~19in long