It’s happened! My little Hobbit has joined the world! And by Hobbit I mean baby, human, child (with normal, hairless feet).
She actually joined the world about a month and a half ago, and as such I’ve had zero time to write about it. One one hand, the birth was an incredible experience, and like everything else in my life, there’s a story behind it, and as such I feel a compulsion to share it. On the other hand, it’s a bit personal, and maybe shouldn’t be out there leaving its digital mark forever on the pages of the vast interwebs. And on yet another hand (no, I’m not Vishnu, just a woman with the newly discovered superpowers that come with being a mother), some people may find discussion of the topic of birth off-putting, distasteful, or even disgusting. But still… it’s a story, and stories must be told, just be forewarned – I don’t think there’s anything gruesome (I left those bits out), but if you’d rather not risk it, don’t read it.
You’ve read the posts I’ve written about the pregnancy. It wasn’t an easy one, and the way I saw it, labor couldn’t come soon enough. At my 32nd week visit to the doctor, I was told that I may have to be induced at 38 weeks due to some circumstances beyond my control. I spent the next few weeks bracing myself for the fact that at 38 weeks I may have a little baby in my arms. Then, at my 37 week appointment, the doctor told me that all was fine and no induction was necessary. Week 38 came and went and I didn’t have my baby in my arms. Psychologically I was prepared for it. Practically too. (I promise, you’ve never met a more together pregnant woman than me. I was completely done with any nesting thing I could think of by week 38.) My actual due date no longer felt like my due date, and each day past 38 weeks felt like another overdue day. Since I couldn’t fathom the baby coming still after my official due date, I was on the verge of mental instability when my actual due date came and went and the baby was still in me.
A few days after my due date, my doctor had me submit to fetal monitoring to make sure that everything was still alright. Thankfully all was fine, but the doctor highly recommended that I be induced anyway given the earlier concerns from week 32. So there I was on a Sunday afternoon, heading in to the hospital for a labor induction. Of course, since it wasn’t an emergency induction, they told me I’d have to wait my turn, possibly for another few days, and that in the meantime I’d have to stay in the hospital. By the time they decided all of this it was late in the evening, so I went to the room I’d be staying in overnight during my wait. And by “room” I mean “hallway.” Yes, you heard me… hallway. The rooms were all full, so I got a bed in the hall of a recovery ward. Between the lights being on, the lack of privacy, the people walking around and the cries of newborn babies, I didn’t sleep one wink. Sometime around 4:30 in the morning, another woman went into labor, thus opening up bed in one of the rooms. Unfortunately, by the time I was moved in and got comfortable, the hospital was already coming to life for the day, so I continued to get no sleep.
That first night I spent in the hospital probably sounds quite uneventful to you. In truth, it was quite the opposite. You see, while not getting any sleep and while waiting for my turn to be induced, I went into labor naturally. It was still a very early stage of labor, and had I not been in the hospital already, I probably would have stayed at home a while longer. But I was there, so I made the most of it over the course of the day. (Well, the second half of the day at least. The first half of the day was spent trying to figure out if this was real labor or just more Braxton-Hicks.) “Making the most of it” was pretty much restricted to walking up and down many flights of stairs (because hospitals have lots of stairs).
The contractions got progressively more intense with each passing hour and by nighttime I was sure it was time to go to the delivery room. But after roughly 21.5 hours of regular contractions, I had nothing to show for it. That’s right… 0 centimeters. Naturally I began despairing, and apparently despairing was the key. Two hours later I was 3 cm dilated and fully effaced. Go figure. At 11:45 pm I was finally moved to the delivery room.
I don’t really remember what happened next. It was another sleepless night, and frankly 2 sleepless nights in a row left me quite delirious. It was a 32 hour labor, start to finish, with no pain medication. I’m no hero. Like I said, I was delirious. I remember spending some time in the bathroom, some time standing up, some time on my knees, but frankly I was in a half-asleep state the entire time except during the actual contractions. For part of the time I listened to my relaxing music playlist, made up mostly of movie soundtracks from movies such as Braveheart and Lord of the Rings. One of the few things I do remember clearly was listening to a specific track from the Braveheart soundtrack, and then in perfect timing with the background music yelling out, “FREEDOOOOOOOM!” just like in the movie. Of course no one else in the room (husband, doula, midwife) was listening to the music and they probably found my behavior quite odd, especially as I wasn’t free of anything – the baby was still inside me. Oh well.
Anyway, from what I gathered, it would seem that once I began dilating, things moved at a decent pace. Before I knew it, they told me I was 9.5 cm dilated. Unfortunately, I felt a very strong need to begin pushing at that point, but they wouldn’t let me as one is not supposed to push before a complete 10 cm dilation has been reached. After a few minutes, however, I couldn’t help it and had to push anyway. I’m not sure how much time passed exactly – maybe half an hour – but as far as I knew I was still only 9.5 cm dilated and pushing futilely, when out of nowhere the midwife asked me if I wanted to feel the tip of my child’s head that was already partly out. Wait… what?! When did that happen?!
At that point things pretty much moved right along. (Actually, things moved quite slowly. My contractions all but stopped and baby was stuck in that partially-out position for about 15 minutes, causing her to be born with a funny looking ring around her head – Don’t worry, it’s since vanished.) Before I knew it, I had a wriggling little baby girl in my arms.
The next few days passed in a blur. Before I knew it, it was getting-released-from-the-hospital day. I woke up that morning and went to the cafeteria to get breakfast, only to freeze in my tracks (almost quite literally) at the sight of feet of snow accumulated outside the windows. Apparently Israel was in the midst of a storm, the likes of which it hadn’t seen in 25 years. And I was stuck inside, unable to play in the vast accumulations of snow (they’re probably laughing at me back in New York for calling this “vast”). Anyway, it became clear right away that no one was going to be going anywhere. In case you don’t know, Israel is very poorly equipped to deal with snow, with only a handful of snow-plows. Just the prospect of a few flurries is usually enough to shut down schools for the day. Sure enough, after questioning a nurse I found out that the only vehicles on the roads were emergency vehicles. I was not excited about spending more time in the hospital, especially after being there a couple of days early waiting for an induction that never came. It would seem the hospital wasn’t happy for me to stay there either. They were over-stuffed with patients needing recovery rooms. By late-morning they told me they were going to send me home in an ambulance, just to free up another bed. It would have been quite awesome, but unfortunately they were unable to get the ambulance until late afternoon, by which time the sun had melted most of the snow and my husband was able to brave the roads to bring us home.
And now to come full-circle with the baby-having experience… I wrote a post about pregnancy hormones (here), and let me tell you – post-pregnancy hormones are just as strange. On our way out of the hospital we stopped in the pharmacy in the hospital’s mall to pick up a birth-gift we were told they give new mothers. They asked me for my child’s mispar zehut (I.D. number) in order to receive the gift. Now you have to understand, I had to leave my home, my family and friends and move to a far away country and deal with tons of bureaucratic nonsense in order to receive my mispar zehut, a sign of Israeli citizenship. And yet there it was – my daughter’s I.D. number written on her birth certificate. All she had to do was be born and she’s already an Israeli citizen. Naturally, I burst into tears at the cashier when I realized this.
So here it is, a toast! To many more crazy adventures (and to the stories that come with them) – adventures as a new mother, adventures of a little baby discovering the world around her, and the adventures that accompany many a sleepless night!