I was eighteen years old. There was so much wrong with me, and I knew that I had no business to be in this position. I was having a baby. I was single, a high school dropout, slightly crazy, unemployed, and an all around mess. I had even dropped out of childbirth classes.
It was April 12, 1999.
My mother drove me to the hospital for my scheduled induction. I was nervous and so ready to get this over with. To be honest, I was expecting this to be the day that some magical transformation would happen, and I would finally know how to be a mother. It was impossible for me to continue to be the same person I was, I was about to be a mom. The instincts would kick in, Right?
It was insanely early and the sun had not even started to brighten the sky. We rode up the elevator to the Labor and Delivery Unit at Covenant Hospital. I was already registered and they were expecting me. Check in, and start the chores of the morning.
ID bracelet? Check. IV start? Check. Enema? Excuse me? What was that? You are going to do what to my what? Sigh. Check.
What had I gotten myself into? Okay, now for the fun part. Starting the Pitocin. Let me tell you a little about this drug. It’s whole purpose is to cause your uterus to have the most intense contractions imaginable. If you are not feeling too bad, then they have to turn it up. Are you kidding me? Turn that shit down! This hurts. Oh, here is the doctor to break my water, and attach a little probe to the little guy’s head. Did you know they basically use a contraption that looks like a crochet hook to rupture that amniotic sac? It sounds so high-tech, and it is actually the equivalent a breaking a water balloon.
Side note: I think most people imagine their physician being right there with them throughout labor. Nope. He just drops by for the crucial moments. The most important health care personnel are your nurses. I had a great one. Her name was Marla, and I will never forget her. I have a lot of friends who are L&D nurses, and I even briefly considered it. Until I saw a real baby coming out of a real vagina- ummm. No. I’ll stick to MICU, thank you very much. The Horror of Childbirth is too much for me.
Contractions are an interesting feeling. It is like someone is reaching up into your soul, and wringing you out to dry. They start out a little uncomfortable, and then crescendo to a plateau of intense pain before they slowly subside. It is difficult to explain exactly where the pain is. Is it in your back? Your gut? Oh, there is some pain medicine. Demerol does not get rid of the pain, but it makes you not care about it at all. I felt like I was swimming. It could have been the pool of amniotic fluid I was drowning in. Turning every which way, bed up, bed down, flopping from one side to the other, there must be a position which will relieve this discomfort.
Oh, my family has come. Mamaw and Papaw, Grandaddy and Granny, and my friend Josette join my mom and stepdad at the bedside. I may be a little grumpy. This is decidedly less fun than I imagined it would be. Besides, it is nothing like the movies. For one thing, in the movies there is always an adoring husband who is just so damned grateful that this woman is bringing his child into the world. Oops. I forgot that part. Next time, make sure there is an adoring husband, That will make this experience a walk in park. I just know it. Note to self: find adoring husband.
Ahhh. Time for an epidural. Some people say they are horrible, and they complain about the pain of getting the catheter shoved into the space around their spine. I don’t know why they are complaining. Seriously? This was sweet heaven and relief. Ummm. Why can’t I move? OMG. I am paralyzed. Ugh. What on earth is going on? Okay. Maybe I should take a nap. Yes, a nap sounds wonderful.
Remember those childbirth classes I dropped out of? Well, I must have missed the one where they teach women how to make their cervix dilate on command. Mine was doing nothing. Nope. Nothing. My nurse began mumbling about a possible C-section. What? Cut me open? No… I don’t want to do that. Can we please stop talking about that? Here, I will think happy labor advancing thoughts.
This was obviously going to be a long day. We sent everyone for lunch. Just because I am not allowed to eat does not mean my family should suffer right? So, it is just my mother and I and my nurse has left explicit instructions to notify her if I feel any pressure. She was going to come and check me in about an hour. Remember, I was paralyzed. I could not feel anything at all. Except about two minutes after she went to lunch, I felt different. I could not be certain it was pressure, and I was about to ignore it. I was curious about what the new feeling was though. So, I tell my mom I am feeling something.
We called the nurse, and she came in and “checked” me. Checking a cervix must be an interesting skill. You feel around blindly in a vagina, and you have to determine what you are feeling, how big in diameter it is, and whether or not that is a baby. Are you kidding me? Why would anyone sane want this job? You are shoving your entire arm into a wet slimy pit, hoping to determine the current state of affairs in an actively breaking vagina. Yuck.
When she checked me, her eyes got wide and she pronounced me “Ready.” What? No, I am not ready for anything except a nap. We just sent everyone away. I am not ready. That mom instinct has still not set in. I still feel like a kid. I am not ready for this. I am tired. Maybe I can just go home, and we can do this tomorrow. What in the hell do you mean I am ready? Who says?
My mother started making phone calls to get everyone back to the hospital, and Marla was a flurry of activity. She was wheeling in equipment and pulling the stirrups out of the bed. Once she got me draped and my most personal business in the proper position, another nurse came in to see if she needs help. There was a discussion about shaving. I’m sorry. Do what? You need to shave my what? Why? There is entirely too much activity around my hoohaw at this point.
They had me start pushing. Once again, I was reminded I should not have dropped out of the childbirth classes. I am paralyzed. What do you mean push? Push what? Good grief. I have no idea what they are talking about. These people are insane.
Finally, I must have done something right. Marla says she can see the head. Of course everyone in the room wanted to look. Sure, why not? What’s a little vagina peering between family and friends?
The doctor came blustering into the room. Dr Burkholder is a larger than life man with a booming voice and an air of confidence. He had already done so much for me throughout my nightmare pregnancy, and I trusted him completely. My only complaint? His hands are huge. Other than that, he is great. He donned his blue gown and sterile gloves, and started running the show.
At one point there was something concerning, I never knew what tipped them off to Ty’s distress, but they no longer had time for my uneducated pushing skills. There was this magical suction cup device that would help guide this baby out in a hurry. Once the head was out he wanted me to look down and see him. I refused. He called me a brat and told me to mind. I closed my eyes and turned my head. I never did like to do what I was told. Looking back, this seems a stupid place to exert my independence.
Swoosh, out came Ty Garrett. His umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck several times, and he was an unnatural shade of blueberry. The doctor held him up proudly, my mother cut the cord, and they hurried him over to a crib. Seven pounds, four ounces. A NICU nurse was ushered in, and they proceeded to give him oxygen. The mood in the room was tense for a few minutes. Thankfully, he was fine after a short while.
Now, the doctor was still preoccupied with my lady bits, and I think he may have been slightly gleeful when he held up my placenta. Ewww. What the hell is that? Get it away from me.
Several minutes go by, and he was still down there. Finally I ask him what on earth he is doing. Oh. I “tore?” Ummm. Can you fix that? Am I broken? Can you put a couple extra stitches in there to make it like it used to be? Oh. It will never be like it used to be. Got it. My vagina is permanently disfigured. Wait. Why do I still feel like a kid? Where is that mom feeling? Maybe I will get it when I hold him again.
Everyone passes him around. The moment he was delivered, Mamaw gleefully exclaimed “Oh, he has your nose!” Poor kid. Hope it works out better for you than me. (Turns out, the nose is quite handsome on him.) My mother was practically beside herself. She loved him so much. She apparently had the grandmother superpowers that day. She knew what to do immediately. I am so grateful for all her help. I may have been inept as a mother, but he always had Nana to make sure I did not screw up too bad.
They perfunctorily cleaned up the baby and handed him to me. I am looking at this little guy, and I know he is the best thing to ever happen to me. I am baffled by him though. I have no idea what he needs. We were supposed to do all the post birth stuff in the delivery room, however the L&D floor was apparently hopping that day. They needed the room. We would have to bond later. Sometimes I wonder how things would have been different if we could have had more time before we were separated.
Ty was whisked away to the nursery, and I was wheeled to my postpartum room. I was certain the next time I saw him, I would feel like a mom. I just knew it. I wanted it so bad.
Let me just say, there was no magic moment. I tried valiantly to breastfeed, and I gave it a good two or three minutes before I opted for a bottle. Ummm. Breastfeeding felt weird. The most natural thing in the world felt painfully unnatural to me. Yeah, I regret that, but I cannot turn back time. I knew that my life was never going to be the same, and I had to get my act together. This kid needed me. It took a while, and the road had some bumps and turns, but I believe it turned out pretty good. I had a reason to succeed. More importantly, my life had a new purpose. But, where is that magic mom feeling? That instinct all the Supermom’s claim to have. Where were my superpowers? What is wrong with me?
So, this is the day my life changed, forever. There was no magic moment where I magically knew how to be a mother, and I did not become a real live grown up that day.
I became a mother to a son. I love my son more than anything I can imagine. I am so blessed, and I am so lucky that he has had the patience to allow me to grow up. He was the greatest gift I can imagine, and there have been times I wondered if he got the short end of the stick with a mother like me. He has taught me so much about love and worry. He has taught me to laugh and to always try to be better. I want to be better for him.
I am not a typical mother, and some people may not understand our family dynamics, but they work for us. So, on this Mother’s Day, I want to wish all the Mom’s in my life a happy and special day. May you always be as blessed as you were The day your life changed, forever.