I’ve so been wanting to tell you about the day our Malcolm arrived for so long, but it turns out having a newborn takes a lot of time. I’m so excited to finally tell our story, if only so I can brag to you about how amazing I am.
For as long as I’ve known what an epidural was, I’ve planned on having one. I really like to be smug when it’s warranted, but I am not particularly prideful and I am all about taking away pain when possible. Give me those drugs!
Well, you know how everyone tells you to make a birth plan but to be prepared for it to all go to hell? And poor naïve pregnant you is like, “Oh, but MY birth plan will actually all work and everything will be just as I imagined”?
It turns out…. everyone else is usually right.
(Before you read on, don’t use this story as an excuse to not do your research, plan, or prepare your body as best as possible. Do all those things! It’s why I was able to confidently adapt my plan when I had to without making uninformed decisions.)
Let’s back up a little. Sweet Malcolm’s due date was July 29, three days before my birthday.
I originally wanted Malcolm to stay in a few days longer so he could share the 31st with me, Harry Potter, and J.K. Rowling. I so enjoyed pregnancy that I saw no reason I wouldn’t want to stay pregnant a few extra days (LOL NAÏVE ALICE).
And then I thought, if not the 31st, at least after the 23rd so he could be a Leo like his mama. Well and if not a Leo, at least in July, the best month. And oh crap, my doctor was going to be gone July 29 through August 7, so now I didn’t want it in that window.
I was really quite particular about the whole thing when all of a sudden, at 38 weeks and 2 days, my pregnancy took a turn for the UNCOMFORTABLE. Like, I probably had a hernia in my chest from having so little room, uncomfortable.
Because of this, I basically decided I would be ready for that baby as soon as I finished the book I was reading. And I kid you not, 15 minutes after I finished my book, at 11:30 PM on Saturday, July 22nd, my contractions started.
I started timing contractions and didn’t sleep a wink until 3:30 AM when I felt it was time to start getting ready for the hospital. We got to the hospital around 5:30 AM and they started to admit me only to take an ultrasound and decide to send me home at 7:00 AM telling me I might be in that state of labor for a week.
You for serious??? Oh hell no!
Look, I absolutely LOVED my team of nurses and I know it was the on-call doctor making them send me home, but what is it with doctors not believing women when they say they’re in labor? Or what makes them think it’s a good idea to tell them their contractions are weak when they feel like they’re dying (it turns out my initial ones were weak, but that is not the point!)?
I was apparently not progressing fast enough but jokes on that doctor, because almost as soon as we got home, they kicked into high gear, coming every two to three minutes.
When we went back around 11:00 AM, I hadn’t dilated anymore, but you can’t really send a girl home when she’s having contractions less than two minutes apart, so my hero nurse Tami started to admit me.
Here’s when the plan started to fall apart.
First of all, my doctor wasn’t going to be there for my labor since it was a Sunday and she wasn’t on call. If only this was the only problem.
Next, the on-call doctor came in to break my water, which hey, was not unpleasant, but then the contractions went INSANE. Literally, there is no way to describe contractions when you’re closer to the end. Someone told me they were like the worst cramps in the world and honestly, that’s laughable because NO, they are so much worse.
So I’m thinking, hey, I wish I had an epidural but the guy is about to give it to me and then I can take a nap—I can survive five more minutes. But then I hear the nurse talking in the hallway about having to run another test and I immediately panic.
My bloodwork came back and my platelets were low. What that means in practice was that they couldn’t give me an epidural if my platelets didn’t stop dropping. They decided to run my blood again to see if it was any better.
Running this test again took about 30 minutes and I legitimately did not think I could survive the 30 minutes of contractions without an epidural.
Silly Alice, just you wait.
After asking the nurse maybe 15 times about the test, the results finally came back. My platelets had dropped even more! What! I asked what’s the worst that could happen if I had an epidural anyways but apparently the answer was I COULD BE PARALYZED so like, I guess we’re doing it naturally!
Logan the anesthesiologist then provided me with the only moment I look back on of my whole labor and delivery process with true annoyance when he literally hit my leg and said, “people do it every day,” when I started to cry. You FUCKING KIDDING ME? Logan (obviously he was a man), you couldn’t do this if your life depended on it so you best remove that hand if you want to keep it.
ANYWAYS, now, even though my plan said no drugs besides an epidural, I was immediately begging for whatever they could give me. That said, if you’re not getting an epidural, don’t take anything. Whatever they gave me did absolutely nothing for the pain (I’m not making it up, the nurse told me it wouldn’t). All it did was make me woozy for an hour in between the contractions which were now coming every five seconds. No, but actually. Some of them never stopped.
So while I’m devolving into this incoherent, sweaty mess of writhing, my poor sweet husband kept trying to make paper towels cold with ice chips for my back until the nurse finally gave him a washcloth and showed him how to make it cool. Warren was my champion.
This sweet Warren? I had told him on no uncertain terms that he was to look at my head and my head only and not witness any of the actual birthing. It turns out that’s impossible probably any time, but especially when he has to hold a leg and keep you from panicking.
But this part of the plan? I’m so glad it didn’t work because Warren loved getting to witness it and he’s sweet and acts like I’m still sexy so whatever.
Back to birthing: I decided around 2:15 PM that I was ready to push, if only to get this labor over with.
The only thing more painful than contractions is pushing while having contractions. First of all, you have to keep your legs open constantly and home girl’s got some TIGHT hips thanks to running so this was remarkably unpleasant. In retrospect, this hip pain is the only pain I actually vividly remember- everything else has already blurred away.
It definitely was not blurry then though. Pushing is HARD. Like, really hard. It takes a long time to even really understand how to push and then once you know, you don’t care to do it anymore because you are exhausted and in pain and tired of these people not in labor telling you what to do (even though, let me say again as often as possible, my nurses are my heroes).
I pushed and pushed and pushed hard enough for them to call in the doctor who then sat on the couch and watched until the literal last six minutes.
How much do we pay nurses? Because it should be significantly more.
At one point, Tami said she could see so much curly hair on the baby’s head that she could pull Malcolm out by the hair and I said, “No, but can you actually pull him out by the hair and get this over with?”
She told me we’d have a baby by 4:00 PM, so I was a little irked to still be pushing through 4:00, and then crowning, which like, they don’t call it the ring of fire for nothing.
Finally, after almost two hours of pushing so hard, in an instant at 4:06 PM, it was over as Malcolm appeared all at once, a real life baby, OUR real life baby.
Before you have a baby, you think you can never forget something like the pain of labor or that no matter how great the baby is, you’ll still be so traumatized from the pain, but people aren’t lying when they say it’s all worth it.
The second I saw perfect Malcolm, everything else vanished.
I remember feeling very, “GIVE ME THAT BABY,” about it. He was so much bigger than I imagined and so much more perfect than I dreamed. This little being, who by the time I knew he existed, was only the size of a poppy seed, who spent his entire time in the womb wiggling, who had been so close to my heart for so many months was finally in my arms.
Malcolm was perfect, Malcolm is perfect.
Labor, and feeling it all, made me love him even more. It made me love his father even more. The depths to which your heart can expand around your child and your family continue to astound me.
Our little birth story, totally basic and not that interesting to anyone else, was amazing despite being nothing like I imagined. I was scared before and terrified during. I worried I wouldn’t be tough enough before and I worried I wouldn’t survive during.
But not only did I survive, I was awesome. Just like every other mother before me, I am a warrior.
And I will brag about it the rest of my life.
P.S. I know I have a lot of pregnant readers. Let me just say that doing it naturally was the best unplanned thing I’ve ever done. I’m going to have my future babies naturally too. If you’re thinking at all about doing it naturally, DO IT. If you’re not, take that epidural, girl- drugs exist for a reason. Whatever you do, you’ll be a wonder woman.
And if you want tips on surviving a natural childbirth, especially an unplanned one, or perspective on why you should consider one from someone who loves drugs, stay tuned—blog coming soon with all my advice.