Let's start by making it clear...
There's a reason it's called "labor" and not "leisure."
Or, at least that was my experience.
I woke up at 4 a.m. on April 1st (you got it - April Fools Day...naturally!) with a cramping in my abdomen, the likes of which I haven't experienced since the night of bad salsa in Puerto Vallarta last June. The cramping coupled with what felt like my old friend Braxton Hicks led me to deduce that this day was going to be different from the rest. I laid in bed for the next hour trying to determine if there was a pattern to the cramping. There was. So I decided around 5 a.m. that I needed to wake Jason up so he could develop enough of an alertness to chauffeur us to Mercy hospital. I laid in bed and timed the contractions. Jason did dishes. By around 6:30 a.m. we were on our way to Mercy Hospital.
Once we arrived, I tried to hoof it in and got about 100 feet in the hospital door before I had to sit because walking wasn't happening. Jason went to fetch me a wheelchair. In the meantime about 3 random strangers, mostly appearing to be staff, stopped by to make sure I was not alone or dying. I'm not sure if there was a look on my face or if I just exuded agony, but they told me, "Your husband is coming with a wheelchair. Take the blue elevator to level 2. It will be alright."
We cruised to the women's evaluation unit where the ladies behind the counter tried to ask me questions upon check-in. They got the look too, and Jason took over although I did manage to correct him when he called our pediatrician Dr. Wu. Next thing I know I'm in a bed being told I'm definitely in labor and 3 cm dilated. That's it? This felt like 20. Better than nothing, I suppose.
The bulk of the day kind of runs together for me. Our families showed up, and we waited and waited and waited for me to progress. At some point I decided I'd had enough of the bad salsa feeling, and I got me one of those epidural cocktails. It was blissful. Mike the epidural man became my hero, and I'm quite sure I told him that. From that point on I'm pretty sure I lost control of my bodily functions and ability to filter what I was saying, so I continued to tell anyone within earshot how fantastic epidurals are and how everyone needed to get one.
The nurses kept checking me and I hadn't made progress for hours, so pitocin was administered. And we waited and waited and waited. Finally, somewhere in the evening time (again, the day is blurry so I had no concept of time) I was fully dilated and it was time to push. Our family headed to the waiting room thinking they would get to meet Hannah within just a couple of hours tops. My mom powdered her nose for pictures.
I pushed. And pushed. AND PUSHED.
Hannah wasn't budging. And my epidural wore off and I was exhausted. My hero Mike came back to refill my epidural chalice. I was numb. And exhausted.
I pushed. And pushed. AND PUSHED.
At this point, we were about 20 hours into this ordeal. It was nearing midnight and the April Fools joke was on me. My fever spiked, Hannah's heartbeat started to get funky, and my doctor showed up to evaluate the situation. I remember telling her that I was pretty sure the baby was never coming out. She agreed, and it was determined that because of the risks (fever for me, heartbeat for Hannah), the way Hannah was facing, the fact that it didn't seem like Hannah could clear my pelvis (what a weird statement), etc. etc. etc., the doctor recommended a Cesarean delivery.
I can't say I was thrilled. I had envisioned Hannah coming out via the standard exit about half a day earlier. But at this point I just needed her out of me, so we agreed to the C-section. I needed my mommy, so Jason grabbed my mom from the waiting room so I could have her tell me it was going to be OK and I knew she would pray over me.
Getting a C-section is weird. Your body is numb from the neck down and you can feel people pushing and prodding all over your stomach but it doesn't hurt. It's a creepy feeling. There was a gang of about 18 medical professionals in the room. Jason was to my right; epidural Mike was to my left. It felt like it took awhile, but it was probably only 30 minutes max. Next thing I knew, I was told Hannah was finally out!
She made no noise. A specialist from the NICU was there to vacuum out her lungs. Not hearing a peep out of Hannah was the most excruciating part of the whole experience. All I wanted to do was hear her cry so I knew she was OK. Jason took a photo of her and brought it over to me, and she was beautiful. Her sweet eyes were open and she looked about as confused as you could imagine. And finally, she cried. It was the sweetest sound.
Hannah was wheeled off to be cleaned and I was taken to a recovery room. Jason and my family went to see Hannah, understandably. The recovery room was lonely and eerie. Two random nurses sat in a room nearby gossiping about God knows what, and I hollered after one of them for a drink. I was given ice chips and sat waiting. Then my family came to visit me and I was so out of it that I can't recall anything other than how grateful I was that they were there.
Eventually, I was wheeled to the room that Jason and I would call home for the next long 4 nights. The family headed home to finally get some rest, except my mom stuck around because she wanted to see her baby hold her baby. They brought Hannah in the room and the world stopped. She was the best thing I had ever seen. I would spend a month in labor to have the world stop like that again.
The week in the hospital was nuts. Doctors and nurses everywhere. It was both glorious and overwhelming. I developed pneumonia at some point, so that was an additional treat. I was learning how to be a mother and work the whole nursing thing and it was just so much at once.
A few unique things I will never forget from the hospital stay:
The zoo element: We were like lions in a pen, with visitors in and out on occasion to view us. It was wonderful how many visitors came to see us. It was incredible to watch our parents become grandparents and my brothers/sister become an uncle/aunt. My dad isn't much for emotional expression, but I watched him fall in love with his grandbaby. I loved that every day around his lunch break he would just appear in our room to see Hannah. All I wanted was to show Hannah to anyone with eyeballs. Coworkers, friends, family all squished in our room to celebrate Hannah with us. At one point, though, I was too sleep-deprived and had just come off a night of bad nursing so I needed to cut off visitors for sanity's sake. Everyone was understanding, and it was just what I needed at the time.
The incision that had the Mercy medical community talking: Apparently my doctor did an amazing job on my C-section incision, because I began to feel like a spectacle with all of the doctors and nurses coming in to look at it. I'm pretty sure half of them had no real reason to be in there medically - they had probably just heard about it and wanted to see for themselves. And although I couldn't see it myself, I started to feel a little cocky about it. A new doctor would walk into the room, and I'd lift my gown and say, "Oh, yes, you must be here to see the incision. Huh. I guess now is a good time."
The rebranding that broke my peace: We were on the top floor. At 7 a.m. on Thursday, I kept hearing banging and pounding above our room. I asked a nurse and she said it was probably thunder. Yes, thunder...what with the clear, sunny skies and all. Makes sense. The noise continued all day. The next morning, the noise was back. I asked every nurse what it was hoping someone would acknowledge it and fix it. Nobody knew what the heck it was and they were far too busy to care. Jason ran out to the car and identified the cause:
The explicitly unattractive things that Jason will never be able to un-witness: I really want my husband to find me attractive, which is why I'm hoping he will erase some of what he saw during our hospital stay from his memory. When you go through labor, things happen to your body that you can't control. Noises come out of places. You need help using the toilet, dressing, bending over, reaching stuff, cleaning body parts...the list is endless. Jason was my biggest help for all of this, and I admire his bravery. We had a great laugh over the nasty net underwear the hospital gives you to wear, saying that instead of coming from Victoria's Secret it probably came from the sister store, Vicki's Don't Tell Nobody.
All in all, it was an exhausting, amazing, and beautiful experience that I wouldn't trade for the world. I feel so grateful to have had my family and friends to share it with, and I got the best parting gift imaginable: