A little over a week ago, our lives changed forever. In an effort to preserve my own memories of the experience, as well as to entertain you, I thought I would write down some of the (PG-rated) details of how our son's birth came about. In retrospect, it's a very "Michael and Megan" kind of story - complete with some irony and a fair bit of humor!
On Monday, December 22nd, Michael and I made our way to the hospital for a doctor's appointment that we had hoped we wouldn't have to go to. I was four days over my estimated due date, and was starting to get extremely anxious about when this baby would come, because my parents were scheduled to arrive in Bangkok that night. I had this terrible fear that our baby wouldn't come for a few more days, and since my parents were only staying for a week, that would greatly take away from the time they otherwise would have gotten to spend with their first grandchild. My other fear was that we'd see the doctor and that he would tell us that the baby wasn't anywhere near ready to come yet.
Still, there was a part of me that wanted to take our overnight suitcase to the appointment with us, just in case. I told myself that was silly, and that we wouldn't need it, and that it would only serve to disappoint me when we took a taxi home with the suitcase later in the day. Interestingly enough, Michael had had the same thought, too...but neither one of us voiced it to the other, thus, the suitcase was left at home.
So, we arrived at the hospital, and everything was normal. We checked in at the counter, and I was given the usual little cup to pee in. It is here that I would like to lodge my first complaint: whoever designed those little cups had obviously never been pregnant. Do they have ANY idea how hard it is to pee in a cup when one is nine months pregnant?? Ridiculous. (End complaint)
We went in to see the doctor, listened to the baby's heart rate, and then I was checked for dilation. It was at this part where my second anxiety came into play - was I making any progress? Turns out all the contractions I'd had the previous week hadn't been in vain after all! I was dilated to 3 cm - hooray! The doctor thought I would probably go into labor that night or the next day. I'd had a couple of contractions during this time, so the doctor said he'd like to monitor baby's heart rate for a while to see how it was responding to the contractions.
So, we followed a nurse upstairs and I got hooked up to the monitor. It is here that I would like to lodge my second complaint: who decided that it was a good idea to make a pregnant women lie on her back for stuff like this? Do they have any idea how difficult it is to BREATHE in that position, with a full-term baby weighing down on all of one's insides? Ugh. Uncomfortable. (End complaint)
Anyway, after half an hour of that torture, we went back downstairs to see the doctor again. This time around, he didn't wait for the nurse to bring us to his office. He came out, found us, and said to me (in a rather surprised tone), "Did you realize that you're having contractions every two minutes??" My response: "Well, I didn't know they were two minutes apart...but yeah, I knew I was having a lot of them." Ha! You should have seen the look on his face! He said something to us about probably not leaving the hospital that day, but both Michael and I thought he was kidding.
It turns out he wasn't. We went back into his office, and he asked me again about my contractions. I told him that since they didn't hurt, I didn't think it had been worth mentioning. I'd had the same kind of contractions all day for a couple of days previously that week, but then the contractions had stopped, hence I didn't think anything about them that day. I'm pretty sure the doctor thought I was nuts. He explained what monitoring the baby's heart rate had showed him. Baby was responding a little slowly to the contractions, and the doctor was somewhat concerned about this. Since I was already dilated to 3 cm, and basically in labor already, he suggested that we just go ahead and admit me to the hospital, break my water, and have the baby that night.
So, that's what we did. A nurse brought us upstairs to labor and delivery, and I changed into one of those fabulous hospital gowns - yay. And we waited. The doctor came in at about 3:30, broke my water, and told the nurses that I should be allowed to walk around. It was my goal to make it through labor without pain medication, and I'm so thankful that our doctor was supportive of that! So, thus the adventure began. Within 15 minutes, I started to notice a change in the contractions I was having - they became steadily stronger and more painful. After a few hours of labor (during which Michael and I discussed the irony of the whole situation and figured out how we could get some friends to bring our suitcase to the hospital for us), a nurse came in and checked me for dilation again - made it to 5 cm! I was hooked up to the fetal heart monitor again for a while, but was allowed to lie on my side (yay!). However, as contractions became more intense, even lying on my side became unbearable, so I asked to get up again. The doctor came in at one point after this and asked if I wanted an epidural - but that was the only time he asked, thankfully.
I had absolutely no sense of time from here on out - the only thing I could think of was getting through each contraction (when I was between contractions), and wishing I could die/thinking I was an idiot for not taking the pain meds when I had the chance (during contractions). Michael was my hero during those last couple of hours - he helped me remember to breathe (it's harder than you think!), and encouraged me when I said I couldn't do it anymore.
Finally, I felt like I needed to push. After a couple of contractions like this, I told Michael, and he went out to find someone. The doctor and at least six nurses came in - our room was a busy place from there on out! I was 9 cm dilated and the doctor gave me the green light to push with each contraction from there on out. They put an oxygen mask on me, and I vaguely remember seeing a nurse help the doctor into some scrubs. As I worked my way through more contractions, I wondered how everyone could remain so calm as my world was shattered with pain and confusion and a desperate desire for everything to be over.
Once again: in retrospect, I realize that the moments that changed my world forever were simply another day at work for the doctor and nurses. Perspective is an interesting thing.
Michael, again, was my hero through the final stages of labor and delivery - I didn't always hear what he was saying to me, but seeing his face over mine and his eyes meeting mine was the encouragement I needed to keep going.
When the baby was close to crowning, a nurse came to 'help' me push with each contraction. What did this look like? She put her hand on my belly and pushed down on it as I pushed. HOLY. COW. I don't know who taught the nurses to do that, but that hurt like nothing I'd ever before experienced! I got angry at her (but I don't know if my anger showed) and slapped her hand away. She moved it for that contraction, but at the next one she was back and pushing on my belly again! So, what did I do? I smacked her hand again. Haha. I will have you know that, despite the amount of pain I was in, I derived some satisfaction from smacking the nurse. :) Michael tells me that he thought I was just shoving her hand away, so maybe it didn't seem as mean as I intended it to be. Either way, I got my point across and she stopped after that.
In the end: at 9:28 PM (Bangkok time), our son Gerrit was born - a mere six hours after the doctor had broken my water! I saw the doctor hold Gerrit up, and all I could say was, "Michael, it's a boy." About 10 minutes later, as the doctor was stitching me up, the nurse placed Gerrit on my chest, had Michael lean over beside me, and snapped our first family photo:
This is possibly the most awkward photo I've ever had taken in my lifetime, but it's also become one of my all-time favorite photos of us. :)
Shortly after the photo was taken, the nurses took Gerrit, unwrapped him, and placed him back on my chest. As I talked to him a little bit, he crawled up another inch or two and nuzzled his head right against my neck. That, I think, is my favorite memory. Gerrit knew exactly who I was and wanted to be just a little closer. What a sweet boy!
All in all - I couldn't be more thankful for how smoothly the labor and birth went. The best part, of course, is the blessing of Gerrit. In the last week, we have discovered so many things about him; I look forward to spending a lifetime learning about him as we journey through this adventure of parenthood!