When I was pregnant with my first child I think I read every single pregnancy book on the market. I memorized the American Baby magazine they used to give out the doctor’s office with the Congratulations, You’re Pregnant! swag bag (which didn’t come with chocolate or anything fun so it was kind of lame). I was always a bit of an overachieving student so I knew I was going to rock pregnancy and being a mom because I had the books, guys. AND a magazine!
As it turns out, I had no idea what I was doing as a young 23-year-old. I signed up for the breastfeeding class and fed my baby doll like a champ! I signed up for the birthing classes and was doing amazing until we got the tour of the labor and delivery room. As soon as they showed us how the bed turns into a Transformer (basically), I almost passed out right there. I think that’s when the reality hit: I would be pushing a human being out of my body. Suddenly, seven months in, I wasn’t so sure I wanted to do this. The worst thing?
When I would ask what a contraction felt like, everyone told me, “Oh, you’ll know. Trust me.”
Shocker: I had no idea.
The Last Day of Pregnancy
The day I went into labor was coincidentally Labor Day in 2005. My husband and I walked around Canal Park for a while and I felt like a whale. Around lunchtime, we decided to head over to Grandma’s Restaurant. I tasked my husband with grabbing us a table while I went to the restroom to pee. For the first time in my entire life I was so grateful to have it totally full of women because I got myself stuck between the stall wall and the toilet paper dispenser.
I’m not even kidding.
Thankfully, two very kind women lifted my stomach so I could get in and that’s when I noticed I had what looked like my period but I said screw it. Nothing was going to cheat me out of my french fries!
After lunch (and after getting stuck in the booth so my husband had to help squeeze me out–why he didn’t ask for a table, I’ll never know) we went home and I was exhausted, but couldn’t sleep. I remember burning a frozen pizza for supper but not really having an appetite. I felt restless and by 9 p.m. I had cramps that hurt. Are these contractions, I wondered? I had no idea and literally every person told me I would know so at this point I was already angry because none of the advice I had gotten was proving to be helpful. So I did what anyone would do.
I put in a call to a friend who had already had a baby to ask her what contractions felt like. Apparently, they feel like your period but WORSE.
Why people don’t just say that?
About two hours later, I thought I was probably going to die. The shower didn’t work make me feel better, the ball didn’t work, breathing was ridiculously difficult, and I was exhausted but terrified to go to bed because I didn’t want to give birth in my new bed. I opted for laying on our terrible couch because if I ruined it, I’d have a reason to get a new one. Around 11:30 I felt like I had to pee so I stood up and promptly peed my pants.
I Stood Up And…
Never in my adult life (at that point, I do it all the time now… thanks, kids!) had I peed in my pants. Even my husband was like, “You peed on the carpet!” It was only once I got to the bathroom and the pee wasn’t stopping that I thought… wait a minute!… and yelled at Matt to bring me my “What to Expect” book to look up water breaking.
Of course, it turns out I didn’t wet myself; my water had broke! I yelled at Matt to bring me a pad or something and do you want to know what he brought me?
A light day panty liner. I’m not kidding.
I ended up hobbling to the car with fluid running down my leg and sitting on a huge stack of towels. By the time we got to the hospital it was a little after midnight. Matt parked what felt like as far away as possible and had me walk almost two blocks to the emergency room doors and up a set of stairs. He’s the world’s fastest walker so I would have loved to have seen the desk person’s face when he said, “We’re in labor!” and he was the only one standing there.
After being admitted and getting comfortable, I couldn’t get an epidural until almost 3 a.m. and while not the most comfortable thing to have done, I didn’t think it was nearly as bad as my contractions were! I got a few short hours of sleep by woke by 8:00 am–just in time to stare longingly at the breakfast carts passing by the room. My mom and Matt left to get coffee and I mentioned I had to pee again and the nurse who lifted the gown made a very surprised face and told me to not move, to not do anything. Within seconds nurses and doctors rushed into my room and Matt came strolling in with my mom close behind. Within minutes I was having my baby.
What I Learned During Labor
I learned that my husband can’t count to ten in a steady rhythm and will miss numbers completely in a stressful situation. I also learned there isn’t a class in the world that can prepare you for pushing a baby out. I remember in my seventh grade health class we had a question box that you could ask things anonymously. One student asked if having a baby was like a big poop and the teacher looked like she hated her job at that exact moment and said, “Sure, it’s just like that.”
She lied because THAT was the only thing going through my head while I labored–none of the techniques I had practiced–I only thought that labor definitely not just like pooping. Olivia was born within ten minutes though, with a full head of hair and her dad’s feet.
It’s so strange to think that in a matter of minutes you are now solely responsible for keeping another human alive and thriving. Olivia’s birth is the only one I remember from start to finish. I remember Jackson was little and needed help breathing. I remember Penelope was huge and Matt wanted to take a shower and eat a sandwich while I labored on the couch watching Judge Judy. I remember nothing from Lucy, but I died having her so I think I get a pass on that one.
Olivia was my first in so many things and nobody ever tells you what a life-changing moment it is to meet your firstborn. It goes beyond becoming a mother, it’s the product of your body doing something incredible. I look at all my kids even now and think, “I made them. Their organs, blood, veins, bones, toes, fingers, everything- all of it grew in me. I made that. I birthed all four of them.” When I was in the thick of labor and birthing, I didn’t realize it, but as they get older and I watch them grow, I’m continually surprised at what an accomplishment it is to become a mother.