Yesterday was my daughter’s first birthday, and in honor of her, I’ve been doing some serious reflection on her birth, and the process I went through to bring my crazy awesome Honest Girl into the world.  So, while she sits in her crib and plays with her toys, pulls off her socks, tries to peel the vinyl decal off the wall, repeatedly makes mysterious, loud banging noises that sound suspiciously like construction, and essentially does everything but take a nap, I thought I’d do a little reminiscing.

<Sidebar> In the grand tradition of Mommy Bloggers (most notably, Amber from Parenting: Illustrated with Crappy Pictures—awesome, hilarious blog, by the way. I am in full support of her creativity and amazing sense of humor), and for the sake of maintaining a little bit of privacy for my tiny growing family, I’m going to start calling my family members nicknames that are related to the topic of my blog.  I know this may be a silly thing to do, since basically only my father and sixth grade teacher (Hi, Mrs. Crick!) reads this blog, but I still like to pretend I’m playing with the big kids.  Since the blog is “Honest to a Fault,” and I am the Brutally Honest Mom, I decided that my husband would heretofore be called Honest Dad, and our daughter would be Honest Girl (I originally wanted to go with “Honest Toddler,” but for some reason, I feel as though I’ve heard that somewhere before.  Hmmmm.  Well, I’m sure it’ll come to me).  I don’t care about my privacy (hell, you’ve all already heard about my bowel movements), so, when I do get all metanarrative and address myself in the third person, I’ll still just be Rachel. </Sidebar>

By my due date, I was dilated to exactly zero centimeters, and Honest Girl was showing absolutely no interest in making her appearance.  My OB was already planning on inducing me two days after my due date if I was showing no signs of progress. (Dr. Handsome. That’s seriously what I call him.  He’s good looking.  Like, ridiculously so.  Like, even nine months pregnant, I still shaved my legs and wore mascara for every prenatal appointment.  There was a short-lived series on Lifetime called “One Born Every Minute” that was filmed at Riverside Hospital in Columbus, and he was the doctor they put on TV.  Yeah, that good looking.)  I was happy that Dr. Handsome wasn’t going to wait a whole week or two before getting the show going.  First of all, I was crazy uncomfortable (as all hugely pregnant women are).  Second of all, I’m basically a tall little person.  I’m about 4’11” and before I got pregnant I weighed in the one hundred twenty-five to one hundred thirty-pound range (not scrawny, but not big either).  Honest Girl was measuring right around seven and half pounds, and neither Dr. Handsome nor I wanted to let her get much bigger.  Because of my size, he knew that any baby bigger than about eight pounds would need to be delivered via C-section, and at that point, there was no reason to assume that I’d have to deliver any other way than vaginally.  At least, that’s what he thought.  I never assumed that the vaginal delivery was going to happen, honestly.  My mother (also a “Fun Sized” woman) was 17 days past her due date with my big brother when the doctors attempted to induce her (My brother was fat, happy, warm, and lazy.  Why the hell would put in all that effort to leave this cozy place where food was being pumped in to him at regular intervals?  If it weren’t for medical intervention, I’m fully convinced he would have Feng Shui’d that place and called it home.).  So they hooked her up, started pouring rivers of Pitocin into her bloodstream, and eagerly watched for any sign of labor.  The nurses watched her monitors, warned her of an impending contraction, and my mother stared blankly at them as the minutes ticked by, focusing on her stationary uterus as my brother lazily swatted flies with a pudgy, overfed hand.  “Is it happening?  Did I have one?”  She was a medical anomaly.  She was registering contractions, but couldn’t feel a single one of them.  Eventually, they had to pull all ten pounds of big brother out through a Caesarian.  It just wasn’t going to happen any other way.  My pregnancy had progressed almost exactly like my mother’s had, so I thought my labor would as well.

Though I didn’t really think that I would be incapable of going into labor, I was certain that at some point, one of the obstetrical nurses would do the math, look at my tiny body with its non-existent core strength, and conclude that a vaginal delivery just wasn’t for me.  Sure, Honest Girl was only measuring about seven and a half pounds, but I’m a midget, people!  I’d go in and go through the whole induction thing, but I just knew that somebody would say, “Doctor, this woman needs a C-section!  We can’t expect her to push a full-term baby out through her cootchie!  I mean, is that even physically possible??”  Hell, rough sex makes me sore for days (high five, Honest Dad).  How the hell am I supposed to handle a human being hurtling through there?

I was scheduled to arrive at 6am on the morning of my induction. Neither Honest Dad nor I slept the night before, but we were too keyed up to feel tired the next day.  I was measuring maybe a half centimeter dilated (which, again, is essentially zero.  I could dilate myself more from a good hard sneeze right now), but once the midwife had checked my cervix, she ran out the door (She was none too gentle by the way.  Those cervical checks were some of the most painful moments I experienced that day.  No kidding, it felt like she was trying to punch through my cervix and yank my daughter out by the hair).  Soon, a nurse came in, ran an IV, and explained to me that everyone had been called away for an emergency C-section of a woman who had been in active labor since the night before.  “Someone will be with you soon,” she promised as she walked out, starting my Pitocin on the slowest, smallest drip possible, right around 8am.

It wasn’t until 10am that I saw anyone again.  It was the midwife, still dressed in her scrubs and pulling her face mask off as she entered my room.  I got another (painful) cervix check.  1 centimeter. (One of the reasons that check was so painful, by the way, was because the midwife told me she was trying to manually “open” my cervix all on her own, poking her fingers through and trying to split them.  As I was gasping and clinging to the bed rails in pain, it took all I had to not yell, “Well, stop fucking DOING that!  Jesus tap-dancin’ CHRIST!”)  This was seriously going to take forever.  I needed drugs.

But the epidural wasn’t quite ready yet.  They wanted to wait until I got to 4 centimeters.  That’s when the Medieval torture device came out: The Foley Bulb.  A Foley Bulb, for those of you who don’t know, is a device created by Satan himself (or maybe it was God.  The Old Testament God.  You know, the fire, brimstone, pillars of salt, stab-your-kid-and-get-a-prize curmudgeony deity.  He could have totally been responsible for the Foley Bulb).  It’s this deflated balloon that the midwife shoves into your cervix, then starts pumping water into.  They inflate this balloon, forcing your cervix to open, and while it inflates, it also pinches the opening of your cervix down until you’re all nice and effaced (thinned out, so there’s nothing between your birth canal and your newborn).  If it does its job, you are 100% effaced, and dilated to 4 centimeters.  Certainly, this non-drug intervention and induction is a wonderful medical advancement (at least on paper), but the real prize at the end of the Foley Bulb torture rainbow is that afterwards, you finally get your epidural.  Sweet, sweet epidural.  But that’s only if and when they can tug the Foley Bulb out without any trouble (it’s designed to inflate to 4 centimeters exactly).  The nurses were explaining this whole process to me, and said that my slow progress indicated that it would probably be about twelve hours before the Foley Bulb would fall out.  Twelve.  Hours.  They were all placing bets, thinking that Honest Girl was going to be a Leap Day Baby.  I was really wishing I had taken a Benadryl the night before and gotten some sleep.

When they inserted the Foley Bulb, I literally saw stars of pain explode behind my eyelids.  Two nurses had to hold down my legs while it was being placed, because I was instinctually trying to kick, trying to escape, trying anything to make it stop.  The midwife’s hand came out covered in blood from my poor, battered cervix, and we were both panting and sweating from the exertion.  Honest Dad was by my head, trying to comfort me, while he asked our nurse in that so-angry-you’re-calm voice that probably shook her to the core, “Was there nothing you could give her for that?  Did she have to feel that much pain?  She’s in pain.”  Tears were streaming down my face, and I tried to focus on breathing.  I think my mother was in the room at that time, frozen just out of the spotlight they had put on me, both hands covering her mouth as she watched her youngest daughter writhe in pain.

It sucked.

But then it passed.

And quickly too.  After it was in place, the Foley Bulb just felt like a small menstrual cramp.  Annoying, but manageable.  It really made me want to pee, which was hilariously hard to do with a giant gown falling off my shoulders, my husband carrying about 7 tubes, monitors, and other devices that were strapped on, pinned in, or hanging off me, and while pushing an IV drip of Pitocin and fluids.  I’m certain that I accidentally pissed on something.  And when I tried to stand up, I lost my balance and almost yanked the emergency help cord right out of the wall.  My nurse promised that once I got my epidural, I’d get a catheter, so I probably wouldn’t have to make that awkward bathroom trip too many more times.  I’d never been so happy to hear the word “catheter” in my life.  C’mon, epidural!  C’mon, cervix! Dilate, dilate, dilate! Woo, efface like a mother fucker, lady parts!

And it did.  After just an hour of the Foley Bulb, the nurse came in, gave a slight tug, and out popped what looked like two glass balls—the inflated Foley Bulb (remember Davie Bowie as the Goblin King in The Labyrinth?  Remember that he had these glass balls he was always throwing around, twisting in his hands, and doing evil magic with?  That’s exactly what it looked like, emerging from my vagina.  Like two of David Bowie’s balls, stuck together and attached with a tube.).  I was 100% effaced, and 4 centimeters dilated.  But even better than that, I didn’t have to interact with the midwife at all anymore (We were going full-on medical now!  Keep your vagina-punch to yourself, lady!), and I got to have my epidural.

I started getting a steady stream of visitors.  My cousin, who brought everyone Starbucks and bagels to stave off boredom and hunger (Honest Dad used her entrance as an excuse to take an hour to go have breakfast.  The Foley Bulb was a little too much for him to handle.  I didn’t and still don’t blame him).  My dad, smiling his “happy frown,” and wrinkling up his eyes with so much joy, I wondered how he could even see me.  My mother, offering to get me water, and rocking back and forth with her hands behind back, relaxed but on the ready.  My mother-in-law, snapping pictures at the speed of sound and smiling with her lips sealed, as though she was holding in an inappropriate laugh.  And my father-in-law, watching the monitors with so much excitement he actually suggested to the hospital staff that they make an iPhone app for the people in the waiting room, so they could watch the numbers sweep up and back down again.  “Here it comes!”  He would grin as the machines registered my contractions, then look at me in the hopes of seeing my reaction.  “Do you feel it?  Oh!  That was up to 80!  Did you feel that one?  That was a good one!”  I was handling it pretty well, until the labor started to intensify.  I asked him to stop giving me a warning before every contraction (I was in labor, I KNEW I was contracting, thanks so much), but he couldn’t keep that giddy grin off his face every time the numbers climbed again.  I had to kick him out.  He kept texting Honest Dad, asking what my “peaks” were, and my husband dutifully reported back to him (“97 on that last one!  We’re getting closer!”).

The epidural made me feel warm and drowsy.  It was exactly what I needed after the stress and pain of the Foley Bulb.  I was given a little button, and told to push it whenever the pain “started to get too much.”  I dozed for about twenty minutes, but I couldn’t really sleep, feeling, sensing, knowing that my little girl was going to be here any minute.  The sharp, eyeball-bursting pain of the Foley-Bulb was my basis of comparison with my epidural.  But, shit, after that thing, labor was a cake walk.  At some point, I hit the button, and felt a cool wetness run down my back.  “Neat,” I thought, as I enjoyed its relaxing tonic, and asked if my visitors could come back in.  Melissa, my nurse, looked concerned.  She wanted me to rest more.  I insisted that I was fine.  I couldn’t sleep.  I didn’t know how to explain to her that I’m an extrovert.  I need people around.  I feel the most relaxed when I’m interacting with people, when I’m talking, when I’m communicating.  The empty room, with the lights turned off, was stressful for me.  It was like someone was leaning over my ear, screaming, “Sleep!  Sleep!  Sleep! Why aren’t you sleeping?  Isn’t this relaxing?!”  They brought my family back in, and we talked and laughed, until the contractions were making me catch my breath, and I had to quietly breathe through them, instead of smiling and nodding to my father-in-law, “Yes, I’m definitely feeling that.”  I called Melissa back in.

“I didn’t know if I should push the button for more epidural.  It’s a lot of pressure.”

Melissa checked my cervix.  After the epidural, the cervical checks were no problem.  There was pressure, but no sharp pain.  Hell, she could’ve dragon kicked that bitch!  That’s the magic of the epidural.

“You’re at nine and a half centimeters!  You’re almost ready to push!  So, you’ve hit your button, like, six times or so by now?”

The color drained out of my face.  “I’ve hit it once.”

Melissa looked horrified, “Hit the button! You’re going to have a baby soon! You don’t want it to run out!  Hit the button!  Hit it immediately!”

“Oh, God!” I frantically started hitting the button repeatedly (luckily, it only works on the first hit and won’t give you another dose until you hit it 15 minutes later).

Melissa told me to hit it again in fifteen minutes, then one more time fifteen minutes after that. Then, it would be done.  I’d be pushing.  In the meantime, I had to figure out who was going to stay in the room with me, and who would have to sit in the waiting room.

I was allowed three visitors.  I already knew that it would be my mother, my husband, and my mother-in-law (Honest Dad is an only child, and I wanted to give her the opportunity to see her granddaughter being born.).  Mom and my husband would be in charge of leg-holding and coaching, while my mother-in-law would stand back, by the head of the bed, quietly watching the whole thing (and, of course, taking pictures).  It was all worked out.  But then my mother piped up.

“Your father really wants to give you a last kiss before you start pushing.  Can you just let him come in and give you a kiss first?”

Contraction.  So intense my eyes squeezed shut. Yeah. Whatever.  Do what you gotta do.  Just shut up and quit asking my opinion.

My mother-in-law left, and my father entered the room.  Meanwhile, Nurse Melissa had clicked on her “No Bullshit” hardhat.  “That’s it.  No more coming and going.  The people in here are staying in here.”

Dad was trapped on the inside.  My mother-in-law on the outside.  The giant stone door had fallen closed and Indiana Jones’ hat was still on the other side.  My father, my father was going to watch me give birth.  My father was going to watch me shove a kid out through my vagina.  If it weren’t for the incredible, hard labor, I would have protested.  Instead, I looked at my father, “Dad, just stand still and don’t talk.”

But Dad has a nervous tick.  A few nervous ticks.  He puts his hands in his pockets and jiggles his change.  He paces.  He breathes out heavily through his nose like a dragon puffing out sulfurous smoke.  He picks his nails.  After ten minutes of pushing, while my mother yelled at me repeatedly to “Push like you gotta poop!” I was ready to throw my father out the window.

“Quit jiggling your goddamn change!”

And after the next push. (“Just like that.  Like you gotta poop!”)

“Dad, I’m gonna staple your feet to floor!”

And the next push. (“Like you gotta poop! Pooooop!!”)

“Dad! Your change! Jesus!”

And the next.  (“Push, push! Pushpushpushpushpush!”)


<Sidebar>That’s not a creative interpretation of the dialogue.  That is literally, honestly, actually what happened</Sidebar>

The only thing keeping me sane was my husband, holding my knee up against my chest, and whispering in my ear, “You can do this.  You’re doing this.  You can do this.  She’s almost here.”  He was the quietest thing in the room (by then, Dr. Handsome had entered, along with about ten other people, and he took over with the assertive attitude of a football coach), but at every push, I held my breath, I made sure to not cry out or scream, and I listened for my husband’s words.  I needed those words more than anything else.

At 6:36pm, I felt my daughter’s head come out.  Dr. Handsome said that the “next contraction” would be the one, but I knew I didn’t want to wait for the contraction.  I knew that I just had to give one more push.  I knew the hardest part was over.  I took a breath, and pushed.

And there she was.

And she was perfect.

Somehow, about 15 people were suddenly in the room, and my mother-in-law was back in, snapping pictures (my father-in-law was also in there, but he was not happy that they had let him back in while I was still naked on the bed, getting my episiotomy stitched up.  He tried desperately to look at the baby on my chest without actually seeing my chest).  A bunch of nurses appeared, taking measurements, writing things down, assisting my OB, doing . . . well, okay.  I have no idea what any of them were doing.  I had my girl.  There she was.  I was only vaguely aware that other people were in the room.  She looked into my eyes with such calm and certainty, as though she trusted me right from the start, right from that moment.  She blew all of us away.  The nurses took her to get her final measurements, and while she was laying  on the warming table, she picked her head up and looked around.  The nurses burst out laughing, and one of them said, “Oh, baby, you’re not supposed to be able to do that yet!”  But Honest Girl was curious about her world.  And she still is.

Honest Girl, three days old. Complete trust. Complete love.

Honest Girl, three days old. Complete trust. Complete love.

The rest of the day was a confusion of smiles and tears.  I was moved to a new private room (While I was being wheeled over there on a chair, Honest Dad walked next to our girl.  She held his finger the entire way.  He was in love). Someone got me takeout.  We opened a few presents.  I tried to breastfeed for the first time.  Honest Girl got a bath, and got the birth gunk combed out of her long, dark hair.  Finally, the family all left, and all three of us got ready for a little sleep.

And then it hit me. Pitocin, and Foley Bulbs, and epidurals aside, the hard part wasn’t over.  But I also knew the happy part wasn’t either.

<Sidebar> After my daughter was born, my now-traumatized father, holding his new granddaughter, walked over to my mother and whispered, “When did they shave Rachel?  I didn’t see them do that.”  My mother had to very delicately and gently tell him, “Uhh, honey?  They don’t shave women anymore.”  “But then how–?”  She pursed her lips, waiting for him to get.

Then he got it.

Seriously. Traumatized. Grandfather. </Sidebar>