By: Anna Merezhko, February 24, 2017
The whole story of my daughter’s birth is a bit of a blur. It went by so fast even though at the time, it felt like forever. I woke up on May 18th, 2015 from a very sharp pain in my stomach and got up to use the bathroom, but as I did, I felt a trickle of water go down my legs. For a minute, I was confused. My bladder still felt full. I definitely did NOT just piss myself, I thought.
I knew what this could be but it felt unreal to say it out loud. I nudged my husband and told him that my water broke. In the time it took for me to glance at my legs and back up at him, he shot out of bed and was on his feet. He started speaking quickly and quietly.
“Call the gynecologist. Ask them what you should do,” he said.
I was due for an appointment that day at 12 p.m. so I called. I told them that my water broke and asked if they wanted me to come in for the appointment. They told me to call the hospital and tell them I’m on my way in.
I called the hospital and by the time I convinced them that yes, my water did break, and no I wasn’t pissing myself repeatedly, about an hour passed. All the while, my husband was nervously pacing at my side, and whispering that he knew I should have got my hospital bag ready early.
I was 37 weeks at the time, so my daughter was 3 weeks early. Had she been born two days before, at 36 weeks, she would’ve been considered premature. For some reason, I thought I would be that pregnant lady who was 42 weeks along, trying to induce labor by eating spicy food and bouncing on a ball. I thought I would have at least another three weeks to pack a hospital bag.
So here we were- no hospital bag, panicked husband, and surprisingly calm but irritated pregnant wife. Andrew, my husband, was freaking out that we wouldn’t make it to the hospital in time. He heard too many stories about women giving birth in cars, I guess. He googled what we need in a hospital bag and quickly started throwing it together. I picked out my change of clothes and the baby’s newborn outfit, but amidst the panic, picked out a 3-month old size, not newborn (this we realized after she was born because her clothes were ridiculously big.) I don’t know why we thought this would be a fast process, but we were very, very wrong.
As we got into the car, I started feeling these little evil things called contractions and was overjoyed at how painless they seemed. I remember saying to Andrew, “If this is what labor feels like, it’ll be a piece of cake. I’ve had period cramps worse than this.”
How naive I was. I must have thought I had this insanely high pain tolerance or that every woman on the planet grossly exaggerated the pain of childbirth. I quickly came to learn that neither was true.
At the hospital, I was getting really uncomfortable. They were taking so long to check me in. They wanted all my insurance information and I had to fill out a bunch of papers. I thought they were insane. When do they lay me on a gurney and rush me down the hall screaming medical jargon, as I clutch at the metal bars and writhe in pain? I thought. They are so calm. They must think I’m not in labor because I’m not screaming.
Once they checked me in, they made sure that my water did, in fact, break. It was around 8:00 a.m. and they told me I was 3 cm dilated. I waited a bit longer until they moved me to my own room. Then it was a waiting game.
I remember 10:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. going by impossibly slow, like sickly-nearly-paralyzed-snail slow. Those evil little contractions all-too-quickly became hell on Earth. I couldn’t think from the pain. I couldn’t form thoughts in my head. I was slowly waddling to the bathroom every 5 minutes because I was having diarrhea and I was bleeding. After I saw the blood, I started freaking out. What if I was bleeding too soon? Am I supposed to be bleeding now? If I’m bleeding that means a baby is coming… I don’t want to give birth to her in a toilet! Where the hell is the doctor? These were the thoughts that ran through my head in between contractions.
The only thing I could think after that was “When would it end?” By 12:00 p.m., I couldn’t handle it. My mom was calling up relatives and they were telling me to hop into the shower (that was in my room) and run hot water on my back. Apparently that would lessen the pain a little bit. I couldn’t muster the strength to tell my husband and mother that I would need help getting in the shower. I was walking around up until that time, trying to “walk the baby out” and I couldn’t tell them that I needed someone to hold me up because my knees might buckle from the pain at any moment.
I managed to make it to the bathroom and as I glared at myself in the mirror, wincing from pain, I gave up. I started crying. I wanted to scream. I whispered for Andrew to come in and told him, in between held-back sobs, that I couldn’t do it anymore. I needed the epidural.
All of the reasons I had for not wanting one disappeared. I couldn’t remember ANY of them. I told Andrew that if it wasn’t too late to get an epidural (they don’t give you one if you’re more than 8 cm dilated) then I want one.
He called a nurse in and told her. She checked me and said I was only 4 cm dilated. That felt like a death sentence at the time. That was when I was sure that I signed myself up for never ending torture. I was so sure that the baby would just plop out of my vagina at any moment. I was certain that her head was right there but I wasn’t even halfway dilated.
I had to sign a paper for the epidural. It listed risks and side effects or something. I didn’t read it. At the point, I could barely sign my name. Once I did, I felt relieved. At last, I would get a little break. The nurse called for the anesthesiologist and I have no idea how long it took her to come, but it felt like a century.
I barely felt the shot but relief came. They laid me down. To my horror, only my right side went numb. The left still felt the contractions but it was almost half the pain. Almost. It was bearable now because it didn’t feel like my entire body was ripping into two anymore.
I managed to fall asleep. I have no idea how, but I did. As nurses came and went, I remember I told one that she was awesome. In fact, I believe I said “You guys are superheroes.” I don’t think it was the drugs talking, either. Every bit of me wanted to hug all of the nurses on that floor and thank them for helping women not die of pain on a daily basis.
I stopped looking at the time then. I convinced myself that it would only make it go slower. I longed for the brief moment of painlessness in between contractions. They got smaller and smaller. Finally, the doctor came in and told me I was ready to push.
Around 6:00 p.m., I started pushing- twelve hours after my water broke. I pushed for three and a half hours. I remember towards the end I wasn’t even sure if I was doing anything. I didn’t have any strength left. The doctors kept saying one more push. Andrew kept assuring me the baby was almost out. When the doctor’s voice started sounding more urgent, I knew this was it. I pushed and out she came. Andrew was going to cut the umbilical cord but it was tied around her neck, so the doctor quickly cut it herself.
The moment they laid her on my chest was the most unexplainable thing I’ve ever experienced. It was euphoria. It was heaven. After twelve hours of the seven levels of hell, I had just gotten something so pure and innocent placed on me. I glanced at Andrew in unbelief. Did this just happen? Are we parents? I thought.
The brief look on his face made it all worth it. It was something no Hollywood movie could ever depict. It was the look of instant love. It was witnessing the look of love-at-first-sight. It was so beautiful. In that look, I saw the greatest love. He looked so proud. I wish I could’ve captured that moment. That moment was life.
Everything before that and following that was hard, but for a brief amount of time, things were perfect. She was heaven. She was art. She was everything that was beautiful in the world.