Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The miracle of childbirth

One year ago today, my best friend, Julie, called me just before 8am and said, “Guess where I am.” I knew immediately: at the hospital in labor with her second child. “Are you coming?” Absolutely. Julie had stayed at the hospital with me the night before Josh was born, distracting me from the fear of childbirth and the double labor peaks from the pitocin. Four months later when she was in labor with her first daughter, I couldn’t be there because I couldn’t bring my baby with me, yet I couldn’t leave him overnight. This time, I wasn’t about to miss the big event. So I dropped Josh at preschool, arranged for grandma to pick him up, rescheduled a couple of writing deadlines, and drove across the bay to witness the miracle of life.

I had no idea how everything would go when I got there. I packed extra clothes. I packed work. I packed snacks. I packed gossip magazines. With Josh, I checked into the hospital at 3pm on a Tuesday and finally gave birth at 2:46pm on Wednesday. Julie had only been in the hospital a couple of hours, but her water had broken and her labor was progressing, which was more than I could boast even 12 hours after I checked into the Labor and Delivery wing.

When I arrived, Julie greeted me with excitement. “I’m already at 8cm!” She was relaxed, happy, and blissfully medicated. Wow! I couldn’t believe she was already that far along. I suddenly started thanking my lucky stars that I hadn’t already missed the main event.

So we just hung out. We talked about celebrity gossip, reminisced about our previous pregnancies, and tried to see just how uncomfortable we could make her squeamish husband, while he tried to watch TV and tune out the giggling. I slipped out for a sandwich, and when I returned, the nurse was there, setting up the warming table.

“It’s time,” Julie grinned. “We’re just waiting for the doctor, and then I can start pushing.”

Unbelievable. I glanced at my watch. It was just past noon. This was darn near exactly the way all those pregnancy books describe labor and childbirth. I couldn’t believe things was going just the way they were supposed to.

I had no prior experience with normal childbirth. I happen to be an expert in complications. When I had Josh, I checked into the hospital a week overdue only to be pumped full of pitocin to induce labor while being simultaneously doped up on magnesium sulfate (which ironically slows labor). I spent an evening watching my blood pressure rise, despite the magnesium, which it turns out my body was not metabolizing. My sole goal of was to dilate to 3cm so the hospital would let me have an epidural, which reduced my blood pressure to normal levels while the needle was still in my spine. Then I spent the night in fuzzy peace only to endure three dazed hours the next morning pushing the eight-pound baby that everyone thought was ten pounds absolutely nowhere. When he refused to advance even one measly station and my heart rate started to drop, my OB gave me the option to either try suction or have a C section. I quickly opted for the knife and then struggled to stay awake as I gazed up at my husband in scrubs and listened for my baby to cry.

Josh didn’t cry. Not at first. It turns out all that magnesium my body decided not to use went straight to the baby, who had the highest magnesium level the neonatologist had ever seen. By the time Josh was actually born, he was too doped up to cry. In fact, he was too doped up to even breathe properly. A few minutes later, I finally heard his weak cries from across the room, and I couldn’t have been more relieved. I then got exactly 10 seconds to hold my perfectly perfect, round-faced newborn before they whisked him off to the ICN. By a few days later, Josh was completely healthy, but it seems the only black-diamond feature I missed on the childbirth thrill ride was an episiotomy. To say my labor and delivery experience was not quite textbook is like saying that the stock market is currently a smidge off from its all-time highs. As I said, I know nothing about the normal childbirth experience.

When Julie’s doctor arrived, she said it was time to push. So Julie pushed. And within 15 minutes, the baby was crowning. A few pushes later, Keira Lauren was born, exactly the way nature intended. And what an incredible miracle it was to witness firsthand.

One year ago today, my best friend (who is the closest thing I have to a sister) gave birth to a gorgeous daughter (who is the closest thing I have to a niece, aside from her four-year old sister, who I also completely adore). And I was lucky enough see her arrive, all pink and wrinkly and amazingly beautiful.

Happy first birthday, Keira!
Designed by Lena