How I Became a Mother :: A Birth Story

Mother’s Day is on May 8 this year, and the upcoming holiday has us all reminiscing about the various ways we became mothers. Here is one such birth story.

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My last pregnant photo, right before we leave for the hospital.

With sweat beading across my face, I clench the sides of the trash can and retch while my midwife rubs my back. Pragmatically, she turns to my husband and says, “We have to get this baby out.” She pauses for a moment and adds sympathetically, “But go home and finish vomiting first.”

After more than three long weeks of constant ultrasounds, monitoring, and testing, it has now been deemed “the” day that my daughter needs her eviction notice. For some undetermined reason, I have low amniotic fluid and a baby who has not gained enough weight in utero. Perhaps it’s the haze of dealing with norovirus, or the disbelief that I will be induced under these circumstances, but I walk out of the office feeling numb.

We return home. I sleep on and off until the next morning. A piece of toast and a few crackers is all I manage to keep down when I call the midwife in the morning to let her know I was feeling only slightly better. “Are you ready to come to the hospital?” she asks, stressing the urgency of starting the induction. It’s a loaded question. Am I ready? Yes and no. I am exhausted and terrified, but ready to put the past month behind me and finally meet this little person who has caused so much worry and love.

We arrive at the hospital around 4 p.m. on Tuesday, only to be told there are too many women in labor and I need to wait. We are sent to the cafe with a $10 voucher. I pace the floor. My husband and I make jokes about there being “no room at the inn.” When we arrive upstairs, I am told the plan: I will be given Cervidil, and then I will be sent home to return in the morning for Pitocin. I ask for a hospital gown, and the nurse laughs at me. “You think you’re staying overnight!” she chuckles. “That isn’t going to happen!”

Never underestimate a mother’s intuition: I am shortly thereafter admitted for overnight monitoring.

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The Cervidil needs to be removed almost immediately — my daughter’s heart rate isn’t responding well to the medicine. I am moved to labor and delivery for more careful monitoring, but her heart rate won’t stabilize. The OB rushes in, dragging the anesthesiologist behind her. She tells me that if her heart rate keeps dipping, I will need a C-section. “How many more chances do I get until you bring me into the OR?” I ask. The OB offers to bring me in for surgery right then and there. I decline and turn to my midwife for guidance. She supports my decision but informs me that surgery might be my only option.

At that point, it’s been decided that I will receive Pitocin in the morning after a full night’s rest. I am given Ambien and fall asleep.

It turns out that my daughter has other plans. Two hours later, my water breaks. Recovering from nororvirus, dopey from the Ambien, I’m now in active labor. It’s a blur. My husband plays a Joshua Bell CD. I politely ask him to refrain from speaking during my contractions (he, on the other hand, remembers it quite differently.) I beg to see the midwife. The nurse ignores my pleas. “You’ll be lucky if you’re three centimeters dilated!” she scoffs.

Mother’s intuition: I am seven centimeters dilated.

And then, I begin to vomit. I cry for an epidural. Once the epidural is administered, there’s more haze, more chaos. I receive oxygen. There are fears of other complications, but I’m too tired to comprehend them. My midwife rubs my hair and encourages me to sleep.

Two hours later, she wakes me up. It’s time for me to push. After an hour, my barely-six-pound daughter is born face up. The nurse and midwife cheer. “Do you know how hard it is to give birth to a baby sunny-side up? Most first time moms need a C-section. You’re a champ!” they praise. I wait for what feels like an eternity to hear her first cry. And when she finally wails, I sob. I ask my husband to count her fingers and toes. And then her little body is placed on my chest, and she nestles into me to nurse. She has arrived. She is perfect. The trauma of the past few days fades away, and I am in love.

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