Baby #1 turned 13 last weekend. It’s been thirteen years since something wriggled out of my body and BLAMO turned me into Mom. A few friends and I got to swapping labor/delivery stories at a soccer game on Sunday, in between standing up and shouting, “GET IT OUT OF THERE!” and, “GO GO GO!” and it felt very appropriate.
Nothing brings a group of women together like sharing a good labor story, so I will share Vincenzo’s here now, because I didn’t have a blog then and because his birth day is my answer to that question, “If you could relive one day of your life, what would it be?”* I always feel it is a weird answer because it was the most physically painful day of my life, but there you are. We can’t always predict these things.
Now here it is, that day thirteen years ago, on September 29, 2005.
I couldn’t sleep that night because I had a backache, so I was watching The Wedding Singer, starring Adam Sandler. Who would have known that from then on I would feel a special kinship with an actor I had only felt mediocre about before? But Adam Sandler was there when that first contraction threw me off the couch to the floor where I found myself rocking back and forth on my knees. That was weird, I thought to myself, perfectly fine a minute later and back on the couch. But it kept happening, so I crawled down to the bedroom and woke Kevin up.
“I think I’m in labor,” I said. “Will you stay up with me?”
“Sure,” he said, and promptly fell back to sleep. I went back to my movie but a couple hours later couldn’t bear it anymore, so I woke Kevin up for good this time, grabbed my hospital bag, picked up our cat and gave him a tearful goodbye. “You won’t be my baby when I get back,” I sobbed.
We made it to the hospital around midnight. The first part of my labor was just how I imagined it. I’d have a contraction, pause to breathe, congratulate myself on how I was managing the pain, then make conversation until the next one hit. The contractions got worse and still worse, as contractions are wont to do, and I remember a string of family and friends coming in and out of the labor room, holding my hands and helping me count to ten. There were so many people in that room with me, it was like a TV sitcom.
At 7cm, Dr. Wang broke my water and the pain got worse and I lost control of my breathing and couldn’t count to ten anymore, so I looked at Kevin and said, “I need an epidural.”
He said what I had trained him to say. “You got this, Babe. You don’t need an epidural.”
That worked exactly twice. The third time I looked at him and said, “I need an epidural!” and he said,“You got this, Babe,” so I yelled in a demon voice,“I NEED AN EPIDURAL!”
And he was all, “NURSE! GET MY WIFE AN EPIDURAL!” Those six little words saved our marriage.
I had been panicking, unable to focus on anything, unable to breathe, but when they told me to lie still for that epidural even an earthquake couldn’t have made me budge. I did not want to mess with the possibility of being paralyzed the rest of my life, so I laid there, still as a stone, while contractions racked my body and an anesthesiologist stuck a needle into my spine. The needle wouldn’t thread. So he tried again at a different spot. Same problem. So they brought in a different anesthesiologist, who stuck two more needles into my spine but couldn’t get the medicine to thread.
By then I was at 9.5cm and you’d think I’d say, “Forget it then, let’s just DO this thang!” But I didn’t. The pain was still more than I knew could exist, and now they wanted me to PUSH on top of it all. So I got a fifth shot in my spine—this time a spinal block—and then had a few blissful, pain-free moments of pushing.
I had been looking forward to pushing. I was strong and in shape, and I figured I’d give a couple pushes and Vincenzo would come out with a few handfuls of confetti and all the doctors would say what an easy delivery this had been. I was going to be a delivery superstar! But the spinal block wore off quickly, my morale was low, and each contraction felt like someone was stabbing a knife into my back and twisting it around. At some point I started screaming with each contraction, and that didn’t help the pushing at all, and despite what my sitcom delivery room friends were saying, I didn’t feel I was making any progress.
Then Vincenzo’s heartrate started dropping with each push, so I got a second saddle block and Dr. Wang got out the baby vacuum. “Three chances,” she told me. “You get three pushes and then we go to C-section.”
After all that fuss, all the pain, all the needles in my spine, all that counting to ten and all the screaming, it took Dr. Wang’s warning plus two pushes to end up with a warm, slippery, loving baby on my chest. With a whoosh, he was out. With a whoosh, I was born, too.
Our hearts found each other’s instantly and we loved each other for all we had done.
It was not the prettiest of labors. I was on magnesium sulfate and oxygen, I had been awake for 30 hours, Vincenzo was not interested in breathing was a bluish. But it was raw. It was real. It was wild. And it was worth it.
Thirteen years later and we have a lanky, salty teenager lurking about our house. Sometimes I think I don’t recognize this baby of mine, but then my heart reaches for his and feels the catch and I know for sure: he is still the brand new baby on my chest.
WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Gnocchi with browned butter sauce
Kale salad with dates and parmesan
Red velvet cake
*To Rocco and Leo: This does not mean I love Vincenzo best. I love you all best! Vincenzo’s birth marked the beginning of my favorite stage of life—the one that led me to all of my boys.