It was Sunday, June 19. I collapsed into bed after a weekend trip to North Carolina to trade in my car for a family sedan. My feet and ankles looked like someone was inflating them for a child’s birthday party. I fell into a fitful sleep, a sweaty, pregnant mess.
Just after dawn, I heard my husband rustling around in his office across the hallway. He had always been an early riser. I heaved my belly around to my opposite side, trying to get comfortable.
And then – gush. I bolted upright. My feet hit the floor, and the gushing continued. My husband was in the hall as I rushed past him, into the bathroom, calling out: “I think my water just broke.” I slammed the door.
The look on his face was priceless.
I sat on the toilet, a little stunned. After all, my induction had been scheduled for Thursday. It was Monday. I was supposed to have three more days of baby-free life to savor. Instead, I was frantically trying to remember the acronym they taught me in our birthing class for if and when your water breaks: COAT. Note color, odor, amount, and time.
Clear. None. LOTS. 6:15 a.m.
We grabbed my hospital bag and set off for our two-hour drive to the hospital. I thought it would be the longest two hours of my life. But my brain was spinning – ohmygod I’m going to be a Mom and oh I should have eaten something I would kill for some Chick-Fil-a and was that twinge a contraction and this kid better move out for college three days early because I’ve been robbed – so it felt like the blink of an eye.
We made it to the hospital in record time, and while I was still leaking, I felt no pain. After we signed in, a doctor checked me to make sure that I was, indeed, in labor and not simply a Grade A Champion Peeing Pregnant Woman. Of course, he confirmed what I already knew.
I asked which doctor from my practice was on duty today.
“Oh, Doctor Cautious.”
Once settled in our room, me in bed in my sexy hospital garb, my husband whipped out his iPad and turned on the ancient TV. The nurses put in an IV and hooked up the monitors. All was well with the world. Surely my contractions would start any moment.
Yeah, not so much.
Soon, Doctor Cautious was standing at my bedside talking about how they needed to get my labor moving with pitocin. The baby needed to be out within 24 hours of my water breaking in order to keep the risk of infection down, he explained. So I had wanted to avoid an induction – and technically did – only to wind up having to get pitocin anyway. Argh.
Fortunately, this is where the story takes a turn for the better. Pitocin turned out to work wonders for me. My contractions started off slow and manageable, and by the time I got to 5 centimeters early that evening and cried uncle, the anesthesiologist was ready and waiting with an epidural.
(Pure bliss, that epidural. I was suddenly in a hot tub. Where was my umbrella drink? So awesome.)
After that, it was like someone hit fast-forward on the next couple of hours. By the time night fell, the attending was announcing that I was completely dilated and ready to push.
For some reason, I had expected the process to take much, much longer. I began to shake uncontrollably. Not ready not ready not ready. My husband clutched my hand, trying to calm me, but I couldn’t stop. Not ready not ready not ready. I closed my eyes, trying to breathe. This was going to happen, no C-section necessary. It was what I’d hoped for – it all seemed too easy, and I just wasn’t in the “zone.”
But, Doctor Cautious was ready. And so was Baby Y, apparently. So, I pushed and pushed, collapsing in on myself, breathless, every time the nurse stopped counting. I could feel the pressure, but no pain. Even so, it was one of the most tiring things I’ve ever done. Doctor Cautious, who I’d once so reviled, was warm and caring throughout.
My husband held one of my legs and watched Baby Y emerge with each push, encouraging me the entire time. I had told him I didn’t expect him to watch if he didn’t want to, but he was clutch. I’m still so proud of him.
After about 40 minutes – so I’m told, because to me it only felt like about 5 minutes — Doctor Cautious held up a writhing little being. He was here. They wiped him off and I cradled him, skin to skin, marveling at the calm little guy in my arms.
Our first week would be rocky – breastfeeding, as everyone says, did not come naturally. But that’s another story. That night, all I knew was optimism, relief, and the strange, sudden weight of these words on my tongue:
“I’m a mom.”