I know it is her birthday, but since she doesn't have the slightest idea of what it's all about, and since the memory of bringing her into the world is still all too clear, I'm going to take the opportunity to pat myself on the back and toot my own horn on behalf of her birth. The following [then slightly edited] was composed on October 8, 2010, two weeks after Zoey was born. So, without further ado, the story of how our Zo Zo came to be....
My belly button turkey timer never did go off, but two weeks ago, my oven shut off and Bun was done baking. Unfortunately, I had to keep my oven on warm because she wasn't sure she wanted to enter the world quite yet. Having being done with the super-fun roller coaster that is pregnancy, I alternated between being ready to shoot this baby out and freaking the fuck out about having to shoot this baby out. It seemed that neither the baby nor I were quite ready.
My final doctor's appointment was on Bun's due date but I left in tears after learning I was no where near delivering my baby. As much as I loved my doctor, he guesstimated that things would begin to happen in 3-4 days, but I'm certain he said this just so I wouldn't stab him in the forehead with the speculum.
So I continued life as a 10-month pregnant woman. I celebrated my 28th birthday in over-bloated beach-ball style on the couch wishing my birthday guests would just go away so I could sit and stare into space and feel miserable in private. I went to work - although only half-days - even though I had run out of appropriate clothing around month 8. Surprisingly I was more productive but I attribute this to the "nesting" instinct you get right before delivery, and the new girl lighting my anger-flame every morning with, "How you feeling? Anything happening?" No matter how many times I told her, "When I'm not here, then you'll know how I'm feeling," she insisted I would be deep in labor and still come to work. I'm not that dedicated, lady.
And then at midnight exactly one week after Bun was scheduled to arrive, something happened....
That something is known the world-over as contractions. They are known the female-world-over as the most painful, horrific things to ever really happen inside someone's insides. To make matters even more enjoyable, intense heartburn decided this was an awesome time to resurface, so not only were my insides being squeezed to death, I was also being engulfed in flames from the inside out.
I read somewhere that you're not supposed to eat while you're in labor. I - along with other soon-to-be mommies on babycenter.com - thought this was foolish. I no longer think this is foolish. Your body is preoccupied with delivering a human so no matter how fantastic those pancakes were, my body didn't want to have anything to do with them. Also, you run the very high risk of pooping on the table.
The intense vice-grip on my uterus began at midnight on the nose, lasting about 40 seconds and happening every 20 minutes. So I slept every 20 minutes from midnight until 7am, and by then they had started coming every 15 minutes. As a general rule, you aren't supposed to check into the hospital until the contractions are every 5 minutes, so for the rest of the day we timed my contractions on my phone's Contraction Timer app. Yes, it took the rest of the day....and well into the night.....and well into the next morning....and well into the next afternoon.
Gradually my contractions inched their way up the speedometer, still lasting only 30-40 seconds but coming every 15 minutes, then every 12 minutes, then every 10 minutes. You're supposed to breathe, but how you remember to do that when it feels like your entire mid-section is being slowly torn away is beyond me. This is where having a birthing coach - or the father - is extremely helpful. Jacob reminded me to breathe, how to breathe, and did it with me. If not for him, the entire excruciating experience would have been even more excruciating-er. He also helped to distract me so I didn't allow myself to tense up or become stressed. We played games, watched television, and made countless trips to the bathroom.
Around my second midnight - 12 hours in - the contractions were still coming every 10 minutes. They were more painful and it was getting harder and harder to distract myself from the pain, which now felt like I was being stabbed repeatedly in the lower back without the instrument ever being removed.
Then in the blink of an eye they were coming every 6 minutes, and then every 2 minutes, starting at 1am. By 1:30 we were on our way to the hospital.
We used to live 40 miles from the hospital. We now live about 3 miles from the hospital and I thank God, for that 10 minute ride was the most excruciating experience I hope to ever know. I would gladly endure bamboo under the fingernails in place of having contractions every 2 minutes in a moving SUV on roads the city refuses to maintain during winter. Poor Jacob wasn't really sure what to do - does he obey the traffic laws because he doesn't want to get us hung up by talking to a police officer; or does he screw all posted signs and lighting to get me to the hospital so Zoey wouldn't be born in the car? Since I was too preoccupied and scared shitless, he was forced to make the decision on his own; to this day, I still have no idea what he chose.
Jacob tried to pull the quintessential dude-move of, "Get out on the curb and I'll find a place to park." I said, "Um, NO!" so he helped me waddle to the door, dressed in one of his t-shirts, his Hustler zip-up hoodie, sweatpants, fake Birkenstock sandals, my hair in a rat's nest, in my long, pink bathrobe, carrying a stuffed Spongebob Squarepants. The security guard offered up a wheelchair after I walked in and posed, "Who's the fucking genius who put the birth center on the second floor?!"
I was only dilated 3cm and by general hospital standards, they won't admit you until you're 4-5cm. But since my contractions were pretty close together and they could see I was changing fast, they thought it best to admit me. I had still been vacillating between extreme fear and anxiousness for it to be over, but when the nurse came back into the room and said, "Good news! You get to stay!" that's when ultimate panic took over and my body started to shake. The nurse brushed it off and said it was the adrenaline pumping through my body since it knew what it was about to have to do; it was my body's way of psyching itself up (and it had, after all, been up for over 24 hours by now).
I made it quite clear even before I was officially admitted that I would be needing an epidural. She said she'd get right on it but it might not be right away. Aside from the 36-total-hour labor, luck was on my side. Just a few minutes after being shown my very own hospital room, the epidural-man came waltzing through my door, cart-o-drugs in tow.
I'm not going to lie, getting the epidural was pretty awful; even more so if you're one of those who's afraid of needles. The only upside is that there is no chance you'll see what is going on. In short, it feels like getting a shot. And then it feels like someone working pebbles up your spine inside of your skin. BUT the contractions are way worse. Plus it takes about 15 minutes for this miracle drug to kick in. Once it did, I was instructed to take a nap.
Throughout the night, I slept through the nurses coming in every 2 hours to check my vitals, and the blood pressure machine that was constantly strapped to my arm; a stipulation for epidural users. At some point in the night Nurse Polly (because she looked like Polly Pocket) came in to tell me they were giving me the drug to induce labor since the sainted epidural slowed my contractions to 10 minutes apart. Shit, as long as I could keep feeling nothing, this could take the rest of my life and that would be just fiiiiinnnnneeee.
But noooooooo. They turned my epidural down so I would know when and how hard to push. Trouble was, the time to push wasn't in my near future. They also wanted to make sure I could feel something down there, probably because they're all women and wanted to watch me suffer; a sort-of initiation into this fight club.
By 8am Friday morning (labor officially starting Thursday morning at midnight), Bun still hadn't dropped into my pelvis so Doctor Looks-Like-My-Cousin came in with a crochet hook and broke my water; a step they hoped would make the baby come down. And she did....a little. The contractions continued throughout the rest of the day while the nurses took turns flipping me from side to side like a hot dog in continued effort to bring the Bun closer to the oven door. Around noon, I got the dreaded news....I was 10cm dilated and it was time to push.
Nurse 90's-Bangs came over every 30 seconds to turn down my epidural and ask me what I could feel. I exaggerated as much as I could without coming across like a total liar, but - I swear - as nice as that woman was, if she so much as breathed on that dial, she would be in need of her very own room. Their fear was that I wouldn't know when or how hard to push, thus exhausting myself and putting stress on the baby, but I made a deal with Jacob: "If I'm not pushing hard enough, tell me to push harder." They wanted to see how good of a pusher I was and, it turns out, I was very good. Call it Exhaustive Motivation. And I was given the green light to have a baby.
The doctor doesn't actually come into the room until you've birthed the shoulders, but she didn't have anything else to do so she was in periodically. We had checked into the hospital at 2am Friday morning and I was the only one in labor. Throughout the day, the birthing center filled up with almost-there-mommies and by the time I was ready to start pushing, I was the only one still in active labor.
Doctor Looks-Like-My-Cousin came into the room before I was to start pushing and - with a big smile - said, "You're going to have a baby!" I looked at the space of wall between her and Jacob and burst into tears. No, not tears of joy. Tears of extreme, shit-your-pants-then-change-them-so-you-c
Jacob was the calmest he'd ever been (or that I'd seen him. He told me later, he was anxious beyond the telling of it). Part of that might have been his 30 hours of no-sleep (I let him sleep through a couple of the early contractions), but he never showed signs of crapping his drawers. And throughout my many freakouts that came when I had the capacity to entertain my fear, Jacob never wavered. He would always calmly stroke my hair and tell me I could do this and everything would be fine. And then he'd shove the oxygen mask back over my face so I couldn't talk anymore.
Pushing Zoey out took about 2 hours. I had allowed a resident to observe my birth, and since no one really had anything else to do, my vagina entertained a roomful of oglers for those 2 hours. They got a clear shot of her head with my first push but Zoey wasn't havin' it. For most of my time spent pushing, she'd move out, then move back in. At one point the doctor feared the umbilical cord was around her neck since her heartbeat was very erratic. After about an hour, the doctor said she wanted to use the vacuum sucker if Zoey's heart rate didn't increase, but thankfully that didn't end up happening.
Finally she popped out, and I use the term "pop" loosely. I could "feel" something emerging from me, although I couldn't really tell where. And while I was working on getting her out, I couldn't determine that any progress was actually being made. All of sudden she was out and I felt relief like I'd never felt before. It was emotional relief, exhaustion, but it was also physical; like my body just heaved a giant sigh.
And just when I was thanking my lucky stars that baby, Jacob, and I had made it across the finish line alive, the doctor said the worst phrase a woman who just gave birth can hear: "Ok, I need you to give me one more big push."
But I did, and, more out of anger than anything else, shot that placenta out like a water balloon from a cannon.
As soon as Zoey entered the world, Jacob - who had been expertly holding the dead-weight of my leg - was shoved to the side while billions of people bustled around me, sewed me up (baby girl gave me a smidgen of a tear), and helped me keep the slimy baby from slipping off my chest. So I gave him a very important job....When the doctors and nurses asked what her name would be, I looked to Jacob so he could spread the news: she shall be called Zoey, which if that grocery store clerk was correct, means life.
Nurse Likes-to-Turn-Down-My-Epidural sauntered out to the waiting room to usher all of the grandparents back to my room. "She's gorgeous!" She gushed. "Even her cry is cute!"
From there, Zoey Ann was introduced to her extended family.