On Sunday morning I woke up with a bit of what I would imagine PMS to be. As I had not experienced Braxton Hicks throughout the pregnancy, or anything else to prime me for race day, I felt it was what DFerg likes to say, “…on like Donkey Kong.” I told Jonathan that I thought I would go into labor today. I was getting intermittent discomforts throughout the day and I called my mom at noon to let her know that I thought today was the day. Her response, “Lord Child. You so anxious. When it comes, it comes.” Pretty much, she was letting me know that this wasn’t it.
Two dear friends (Lesley and Michael) visited and we really enjoyed the company. Around 6 pm I noticed that I was still having some cramping and they were more intense. Nothing alarming, but it gave me pause. Essentially, I was worried about bellyaching over some bellyaches. I said to Jonathan, “I am really worried what labor is going to be like if I feel this uncomfortable now.” At that point, Jonathan started timing the contractions which were about 4:30-5 minutes apart. He kindly informed me that I was in labor. I still wasn’t sure and so wrote to the math department that I might not be in the following day. There were a number of things to clean up at work (I can’t even begin to recount how incredible my colleagues are and how quickly they picked up the pieces for me!) and I felt very uneasy pulling the labor card when part of me wondered if I had another week or more to go. There was no reason to expect the baby would come at 37 weeks, especially a first child. Yes, I feared that being wrong about labor meant that I was a weenie and that labor was going to kick my ass.
Funny enough, when I told the head of the math department that my contractions were that close, she responded, “I didn’t realize you were having a home birth.” I found that funny, and figured I had another 6 hours or so before going to the hospital. We were communicating with our doula throughout the day, and I didn’t want her to come until I felt like I needed her. Around 9, Jonathan said he thought it best that she come and that I shouldn’t wait any longer. I asked the doula Kirsten if she could come over. I really wanted a natural birth and wanted to stay home as long as possible. At 10:12, Kirsten texted, “Has she been at 3 min apart for an hour or more? I’m wondering if her pain tolerance is high b/c usually at 3 mins apart you’re pretty uncomfortable.” She was at our home in 10 minutes where I was lounging in the tub. We chatted for a bit and we were both very calm. Then she said to me that even though I looked fine, I had had a contraction during our conversation and they seemed to be getting stronger. She warned that things would feel tougher once I got out of the water. She was correct. I got out of the tub, and they were more intense but not unbearable. I definitely felt as if I could manage. Jonathan went and got the car, and in the lobby, I had another contraction. I felt very emotional having people outside my circle see me in pain and so I started crying. I composed myself, got in the car, and we drove to Roosevelt Hospital on 59th st. We walked to triage and I was admitted around midnight. I was now 5 cm dilated.
The doctor checked my pressure and it was sky high. She was alarmed. Dr. Lee warned me that I was at risk for preeclampsia, a life-threatening condition for both the mother and fetus, and they would need to give me magnesium sulfate to bring the pressure down and ward off seizures. She also told me that I might need to get an epidural. I chose not to focus on the life-threatening part, easier that way, and I was a little disappointed that I might have to abandon my plan of going natural, but one thing was always certain to me, “I wasn’t going to be a cowboy and compromise the health of my son. Whatever the doctor deemed necessary for a healthy baby was the course of action we would take.” I communicated my desire to go natural but confirmed that treatment was ultimately up to her. I did feel some relief lifted at that point though in having an out without necessarily choosing it. Seems like I’d get the epidural. Then she noted to one nurse, “This is real, we need to get her to a room now.” By the time we got into the delivery room, I had a few more contractions. There wasn’t any further talk about the epidural and the focus was on my blood pressure. I channeled my friend Kara, a Duke swimmer who recently gave birth. She advised me, “You are an athlete. It’s interval training. Know that the contraction will crescendo and then fall.” I held on to her words and felt like I could really do this. It was tough, but I didn’t feel defeated. I didn’t think about the immediate pain, but wondered how much more pain there would be. Then I thought about my other friend Amy who most recently had her daughter. Amy said labor was “tougher than a marathon.” I remember thinking at one point, “Amy, did I really doubt your words? The hubris!” I almost laughed. No really… And of course I thought about my mother and about my having her genes. I could definitely do this.
And then the baby dropped. I wasn’t quite ready for this, as it all seemed to be happening so quickly. They told me I could start pushing. I gave a half-hearted push. I felt a bit annoyed at myself for not focusing and got back in the game. On the 3rd push, the encouragement was high for my almost being there. I turned back and looked at Kirsten who said, “You can get this baby out in this last push. Do you want to do this?” That was all I needed. With all my strength and the cheering from the team of doctors, nurses, Kirsten, and everyone who has supported me along the way including my terrified husband who looked on, I held my breath and pushed. The fetus Honey badger emerged as a little 6lb 4oz baby boy named Simon Dylan Cane (named for his paternal grandfather Sy). He wailed and wailed with his very healthy lungs. In 4 pushes and less than 2 hours of being at the hospital, we were blessed with our most precious gift.
It took a long while before the pediatrician finished checking Simon and laid him on my chest. I was relieved that everything worked out fine, but didn’t realize this was not the end of the day’s journey. In fact, the hard part was just beginning.
They took me to the recovery room where I would be monitored for 24 hours and remain on the magnesium sulfate. That is not a fun drug to be on. I felt terribly woozy and plain awful. Additionally, I had intense pressure in my rectum that quickly became unbearable. The doctor checked me and assumed I was hurting from my sutures. Jonathan told her, “ Nicole doesn’t usually cry about pain and she had that delivery without drugs. I think it’s more than the sutures.” She re-examined me and did a rectal exam. Fire shot through my body and I wailed. The pain was far greater than anything I had just experienced. Plus, it was unrelenting. That, coupled with the mental weight of having done what I thought was the hard part, only to be ultimately told that the finish line was not only moved, but moved 2 miles uphill, left me in great despair.
They sent me for a CAT scan and sure enough, I had a hematoma. (This was probably the result of a broken vessel from the extreme pushing. Added pluses: the broken capillaries in my face and a blood shot eye. Looking in the mirror today, I thought, “Girl, you look busted, jacked up, to’ the heck up! Maybe you should have opted for 5 pushes instead.”) Morphine was the drug of choice to help relieve my pain. I saw women come and go through the recovery room and felt like the kid left behind in school. It was really disheartening. Plus, I was so drugged up that I didn’t have the energy to fully enjoy Simon. I thought the whole thing was a miracle, but I felt as if I were wandering in no man’s land.
By 3 am Tuesday morning, I was finally wheeled out of the recovery room to the maternity ward. Simon spent the night with me. I am still taking in this whole journey and could not be more appreciative of everything that has gotten us here. It has been the wildest of rides and not only am I humbled by this entire experience, I am also well aware of how powerful it feels to have so many people love and support us. This is indeed the greatest thing Jonathan and I have ever done. Thank you.