Green is a wonderful color ~ a symbol of growth. The growing that we all do as women, as mothers, as parents on our journey. I would like to share these words from my own first steps in the world of birth…
My experience with birth has been one of both wonderment and fear, sprinkled with a twist of sheer joy like a smile working its way across the center of my soul. Since my first birth experience in September of 1996, I have grown to appreciate and respect the birth process in a way that I never quite expected, making me proud to carry this mantel of womanhood.
In September of 1996 I was prepared, or so I thought, to give birth to my first born child. This was a very exciting time in our lives. My husband and I had been married since 1993, had seen many friends and family members experience the joys of parenthood, and were ready to embark on the journey ourselves. We had taken the prescribed childbirth education course at the hospital, read “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” knew that I wanted as natural of a process as possible, and had decided that I was going to breastfeed our baby. An ultrasound early on had informed us that we were having a healthy baby girl and we already had a name picked out… Kaela Ann Sittig. Her arrival was anticipated with excitement and joy.
By the time I approached the week of my due date, I was more than ready to have this baby ‘on time!’ A friend recommended that I drink a small amount of prune juice daily in order to induce a natural labor (I was to chicken to try some of the other methods). By Thursday morning, I was having small, but regular, contractions every 20 minutes. These contractions continued throughout my day at home and through the evening. By nightfall I was experiencing more difficult contractions at seven to ten minutes apart. Too excited to sleep, and too afraid to eat anything, I spent the night awake, marking every contraction down on paper while I played card games on the computer. By Friday morning, the contractions were wearing on me and I had not slept or eaten since Thursday morning. I was exhausted and beginning to feel defeated in my spirit. We phoned the doctor mid-morning and she sent us in to the hospital at about 11:00 am. By 12:00 pm, the attending physician at the hospital had sent us home stating that I was only 1 cm dilated.
We spent Friday afternoon at a college soccer game. My husband cheering in the stands, and me walking around the track timing contractions and swearing that as long as I lived I would never do this again. We were to be a one-child family. With contractions at four to six minutes apart and at least 60 seconds long we headed back to the hospital at about 5:00 pm. The hospital was crowded at this point, so I was put in a ‘delivery room’ instead of a birthing suite – I had missed my opportunity earlier that morning! Examination revealed that I was only 2-3 cm dilated and they were preparing to send me home once again. My one bowl of raisin bran and no sleep since Thursday morning had taken its toll… I was fragile and breaking into pieces by the moment. Relief came to me when I heard my doctor’s report, “Keep her, I coming in and we’re going to make this thing happen!”
My labor was all in my back at this point. My husband was with me and supportively rubbing the small of my back, holding my hand, and helping me to the bathroom. My parents came to witness the birth and the room was filling up. Lights were on, commotion in the hallway, the TV at times, nurses and attendings in and out. For some reason, I could not relax. When the pain began to worsen in my back, I began to loose control quickly. It seemed as if it would never end. My confinement to the bed at this point was due to the monitor and IV hookups, and I was being checked frequently as I slowly began to dilate. At some point during the evening, my doctor offered to break my water in order to speed the process up. I agreed.
After my water was broken, the pressure was so intense that I began to panic. When the nurse offered me Nubane, a drug to give me some relief, I accepted. Anything but a needle in my spine was ok with me. As the drug began to take affect, I was not only able to relax between contractions, but I began to fade out. The medication made me dizzy and disoriented when the pain was absent. I remember the room just spinning in circles. When the time to push came around 11:30 pm, I really did not know how! I was using all of the wrong muscles and I was so disoriented that I could not understand my doctor’s instructions. Shortly after midnight someone said they spotted a head – this alone reminded that I was having a baby, a new life – and it spurred me on to finish the job. Kaela was born soon after and she was a wonderful, bloody, gooey mess with chubby legs and a lower lip that stuck out in a beautiful little baby pout. I was a mom. Through all of the pain, all of the confusion, all of the disorientation I knew one thing. I was a mom. Somehow, everything else had a way of evaporating in the moment.
My husband cut the cord and the nurses began to work on Kaela, measuring, weighing, and putting meds in her eyes that gave her a very blurry first view of her new parents. Meanwhile, my doctor began to work on my rather large episiotomy. When I was given my new baby to hold and she began to cry, the nurses encouraged me to put her to my breast. I believe that the drugs from delivery were not without their effects, because our first few tries at nursing were rough at best. In addition, I had not had adequate training in proper positioning. My new baby girl and I would struggle at this for six weeks, through pain, blood, scabs, and tears, until we finally made our way to a La Leche League meeting. We never gave up and she nursed successfully then until she was 18 months old.
My first childbirth experience was nothing short of a miracle, as births are, and I will forever love to recall those first few moments of my child’s life – the rise and fall of her chest, the sound of her cry, the feel of her skin. As I recall the sequence of events now, I am able to look back and see what made certain parts of the experience frightening, exhausting, and difficult to handle. There is so much more that I wish I had known and been prepared for in order to make the experience more positive on all fronts, for both my baby and myself. I would learn from this experience… growing in the wisdom of motherhood.