On my son's due date they gave me a sonogram. What baby is this for you? the sonographer asked in a hesitant tone. My first, I answered cheerfully. Ummm... don't panic, but we're gauging him at just over nine pounds. With an extra big head. But maybe that's a mistake! Let me look back at previous sonos! Silence. Oh. No mistake. He's always had an extra big head.
I was planning a natural birth in the birthing center attached to the hospital. They did offer pain relief (this was my one requirement; I knew I wanted pain relief of some sort available!), but not an epidural. The news from the sonogram shook me, but it felt too late to reconsider the birth plan. It was my due date after all!
I waited nine days, and went into labor the night before I was scheduled to be induced at 41 and a half weeks. I had rejected an earlier induction offer, still committed to the closest thing I could get to a natural birth, even though the reality of a great big first baby loomed larger in my mind as the days passed.
I was so pleased when I finally went into labor naturally, and again when I made it to ten centimeters (even though by this time my birth plan had been tossed out the window and I'd been transferred from the natural birthing center to the hospital for both Pitocin and an epidural), both signs (in my mind) that I would be able to birth this big baby.
In fact, I've believed for over two years now that if I had just been willing to push longer, eventually I very well might have birthed my son without the cesarean. Two different doctors have disagreed with my amateur assessment, but I've stubbornly continued to believe what I believe, regardless. None of us knows for absolute certain what might have happened, after all.
What I remember most vividly almost two and a half years after the fact though, is not the labor or the delivery. More than the failed attempt at natural birth, or the bitch of a nurse who put Pitocin in my IV when item #1 on the birth plan read: I do not want Pitocin during my labor. More than the relief of the epidural, or the disappointment when pushing and pushing did not result in any progress, and my younger sisters finally had to leave town before my son was born after waiting all day to meet him.
More than any of the vivid details of the day itself, I remember the waiting. The nine days between his due date when the sonogram offered the first confirmation that the child I carried in my belly was, indeed, as big as he felt to me (my OB-GYN, at 38 weeks told me: we have no reason to believe this is a big baby, when I expressed my concern that my belly felt a little out of control, as if I could clear forests by simply swaying side to side, if only they could figure out how to safely attach a blade large enough for the job). Those nine days were endless, an eternity of waiting, a purgatory I sat through; I remember it hazily, but I remember it well.
This time the waiting started --and ended-- earlier. Around 35 weeks I had a number of experiences where I thought I might be going into labor. Add to this my doctors repeated assertions that in my particular case it made sense to wait until my due date to allow a fair shot at a successful VBAC, but less and less sense to wait beyond it, especially if she seemed like another big baby as we got closer to the due date. And my chiropractor's repeated assertions that I was overproducing relaxin and my body felt soft, pliable, and ready for labor. When my coworkers moved my two baby showers up by a number of weeks because they couldn't watch me walk down the hall without fearing that I was going to go into labor momentarily it just felt like the stars were aligning. The waiting began in earnest about a month before my due date.
I had to report to the hospital at 6 am last Monday morning, and at 5 am, I was still waiting. I had worked through the middle of the month, finishing the last pay period before my due date. I had made it to my mom's arrival, which was hugely reassuring as far as child care for my son went. All weekend l I waited for signs that labor might start on its own, seeing some spotting that I thought was my mucus plug (it may have been, for all I know. It stopped after Friday morning.), continuing to experience Braxton-Hicks contractions and watching closely to see if they were anything I could consider regular, no matter how far apart (they weren't). I finished packing last minute items in the hospital bag, put on my coat, took my husband's hand, stepped out into the snowy early morning, and finally stopped waiting.
I'd wondered, when the waiting ended and the cesarean became a definite reality rather than a back up plan for a better possibility, if I'd be disappointed. But I wasn't. What I felt was peace. The sky was grey and white, with a bit of a yellow hue. It was so quiet. We drove to the hospital through some of the worst neighborhoods in the city. Everything was white, quiet and peaceful. We passed a black teenage boy on a bike, stopped to let him cross the street in front of our car. He gave us the teenage chin jut of greeting in return. He has no idea we're going to meet our daughter! I thought with a giddy sort of joy. It seemed like a magical secret that no one knew but us, alone in the quiet white morning, in the sleeping city.
We arrived at the hospital. I met my nurse and prepared for surgery. I met the surgical team and we proceeded with all the usual tests, pokes and pricks, weights and measures, questions and forms in triplicate, wrist bracelets amassing like silly bands in a classroom full of children. The surgery proceeded as planned, and when the doctor pulled my daughter from my belly he held her up over the curtain that blocked me from watching what they did to my insides, so that I could see her right away. Then they took her to warm and weigh and measure (she was 8 pounds, 10 ounces, significantly smaller than my son, though I shudder to think what she might have weighed had I not followed the diabetic diet, which prevented blood sugar spikes that act as a growth hormone on an unborn baby!) and begin her collection of wrist and ankle bracelets that marked her entry into this hospital, in this city, on this day, into our family.
My eyes filled with tears.
The waiting was really over now. And her life was beginning.