(Editor's Note: As the loyal reader of BBD knows, there was a lengthy description of the birth of Stella Rae from the BBD's perspective. Now the Brooklyn Baby Mama gives her take on that seminal night.)
I’ve been reading the Brooklyn Baby Daddy blog since its inception with as much, no strike that, more interest that anyone else. Why more? It’s a bizarre and eerie feeling to read about yourself and your experiences from someone else’s point of view. Like watching a Lifetime Original Movie about your life starring an actress who’s just a little different than you with a plot that’s not exactly akin to your memory.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I love Dave’s writing. It’s one of the things that made me fall in love with him. It’s funny and nuanced, rich with quirky details and often containing revelations that touch me deeply. I’ve been known to cry at his writing more than once.
It’s just strange to find myself caught up in a story and then realize—hey, he’s talking about me!
I guess the entry that stood out most when I read it was the description of the labor. I mean, why wouldn’t it? That was the singular most excruciating, amazing and magical night of my life, so reading someone else’s point of view about it was bizarre.
Mainly, I sort of forgot that others existed that night. I forgot anything existed, even my darling baby, except for that searing, soul-ripping pain that consumed me for almost 10 hours. Of course, I noticed my devoted and patient husband in my peripheral vision, along with my worried and doting mom, not to mention my incredible midwife and the wonderful staff of Methodist Hospital. But they were like wallpaper to me, and for maybe the first time in my life I didn’t care one bit what others thought of me. I didn’t worry about my appearance, I didn’t smile when I didn’t feel like it, and I didn’t mince my words. As a displaced Southerner, that’s a pretty big deal.
Was I rude to people? Sure! I barked orders and never once said thank you. I didn’t allow much conversation and nobody was allowed to watch TV. When my exhausted husband and mom tried to sneak in some naps during the overnight ordeal, I resented them openly for daring to sleep while I, too, was tired!
However, as a person who can have a pretty short fuse, I was INCREDIBLY proud of myself for never once swearing, for not once throwing anything, for refraining from screaming until the pushing happened and I just couldn’t help it.
So, reading about the tenseness, the boredom, the sleepiness that consumed others is odd, as in my memory nobody really mattered except me. I feel for Dave that night. He did a great job, was patient and kind, never once left my side. But, yeah, I was kind of preoccupied.
In my own blog on Facebook, I tried diligently to describe what labor pain feels like. I’d been told by experienced moms that the pain is almost impossible to explain, and what’s more you kind of forget it once it’s over.
This is only sort of true. It is really hard to explain to anyone who’s never gone through it. And men, I hate to tell you this, but nothing compares. Not the worse pain you’ve ever had. Not even kidney stones.
As far as forgetting it, that’s sort of true, too. I can’t remember exactly what the pain feels like, because I’d never had that sort of pain before. However, the memory of the intensity of that pain remains, and has caused me to be more afraid of getting pregnant again than I’ve ever been of anything in my life. As a person who was not sexually active in high school or college, I never knew how insanely scared one could be of pregnancy. Now I do.
Here’s what I can say about labor pain. With each contraction—each one I had for 10 hours straight, when the peak hit—I was certain I wouldn’t make it through. Each and every time. Countless contractions, and during each one, I thought it was the end for me. That’s pretty intense.
We took a pricey child birthing class that taught us a myriad of ways to relieve pain naturally. What we didn’t learn is that no matter how you visualize your birth, you just can’t plan for it. I had visions of myself meditating, going to a calm place, using massage and aromatherapy to create a serene, loving space in which to welcome my baby.
Well, when the contractions came, I just couldn’t do that. What could I do? Pace. That was about it. I couldn’t sit or lie down. Sitting felt like I was scrunching up my insides, making the pain more intense, and lying down put pressure on my back, from which my pain radiated.
So I was on my feet for 10 hours. I couldn’t visualize anything calming and I have no idea why. My brain was blank. All I could see was what was around me, but it was as if I was looking at it through a film. You know how your world blurs when you’re drunk? It was like that, but without the fun of being drunk.
The only other thing that helped was the shower. I was in there almost the entire time. It would have been the entire time, but my feet and hands kept becoming wrinkly and that also irritated me. And even my beloved shower didn’t take away all my pain. It just dulled most of each contraction, but the peak remained as brutal as ever.
But the part that makes me shudder, the part that makes me wonder if I can ever do this again, is the pushing. For the average first time mom, pushing can take up to an hour. For me, it took over an hour and a half. And it was hands-down the most horrifying pain of my life. Can I describe it? Not really, without being completely crass. And you can probably imagine what I’d say anyway.
For most of that time pushing, I just didn’t think I’d make it. I even began to fantasize about a C-section. Sure, I pushed when I felt the urge, and I pushed harder when told, but each time I resented those around me more and more and just wanted to float away from it all, into the stratosphere.
Then, toward the end, I heard our compassionate nurse whisper to the midwife, “the heart rate’s below 100.” Well, I knew enough to know that was bad. That added to the fact that there had been merconium in the amniotic fluid made me suddenly realize that others did, in fact, exist. And the other person who now consumed my thoughts was my darling baby!
As I’ve told Dave, that was the moment that my body, my pain ceased to exist. I pushed with everything I had, ripping my body wide open. And since that moment, honestly, little Stella’s happiness and well-being are so much more important to me than anything else in this world.
Now, when I read about Dave’s experience, there is some selfish part of me that envies him. He got to anticipate the birth of his child in comfort. Sure he was tired and bored, but he didn’t feel like his insides were boiling. He got to watch little Stella emerge, while I stared at the ceiling and felt myself explode. He got to go to the table and cut her cord while I pushed out placenta and got stitches.
But I wouldn’t trade places with him for the world. I look back on that night with such tenderness. Stella is a miracle. It’s a miracle that she was created, it’s a miracle she grew inside me, and it’s a miracle that she made it into our world safe and sound. I got to feel her, support her, nurture her every step of the way.
And the pain? It’s awful. The worst thing I’ve ever felt, and as I’ve said, I’m not looking forward to feeling it again. But I even feel nostalgic for it, because that is what brought one of the loves of my life into this world. I’m sorry Brooklyn Baby Daddy can’t know what that’s like.