Little David was in no hurry to be born.
As week 40 rolled around I was huge, uncomfortable, barely sleeping, and experiencing heartburn so severe I would throw up almost every night. I cherished the experience of being pregnant, but I was ready to hold my baby in my arms.
When we reached 40 weeks plus 5 days and my doctor suggested waiting another five days before inducing, I shook my head. I had hoped to go into labor naturally, but big heads ran in my family, and I could tell the baby was already quite large. I thought that if we waited almost another whole week I would not be able to give birth vaginally, and might be forced to have a c-section. My doctor agreed and suggested we go ahead and induce that very night, since she was working a shift at Lovelace Hospital.
My mom had given me a ride to my doctor’s appointment on this rainy Friday.
Now she gave me a ride home and then ran back to her house to pack a few things. I had asked her to be there for the birth. I was already packed, so I settled in for a nap–it would probably be a long night. When I woke up, my husband James was there. He brought me a breakfast sandwich, which I quickly ate. Then we headed to the hospital where Mom met us.
It didn’t take very long for us to get situated in a room. We presented our birth plan: we wanted the birth to be as natural as possible. Minimal use of drugs. If I needed pain meds, we would use an epidural. Delayed cord cutting, skin to skin, and if I ended up needing a c-section, we wanted the baby to have skin to skin time with James.
They gave me an IV and started a small dose of Pitocin. I began having mild contractions immediately, but they weren’t much worse than heavy period cramps. Mom, James, and I passed the time with card games and pleasant conversation. The doctor and nurses came to check me often, and every hour they upped the Pitocin a little bit. After a few hours, I had only dilated to six centimeters. Time seemed to be going in slow motion, and we wondered wearily when the baby would come.
About one in the morning, the doctor suggested breaking my water.
This went against our “as naturally as possible” hope, but the doctor made the valid point that by doing this we would use less drugs in the long run. So we reluctantly agreed. Breaking the water was . . . well, let’s just say it was like nothing I ever experienced before. A gush of liquid that just didn’t seem to stop. It took about 5 minutes for my contractions to ramp up so hard that I was crying out in pain. I tried to make it through, hoping that labor was progressing quickly now. However, when the doctor checked again and told me I was only dilated to 7 centimeters, I knew it would probably be hours yet. I told James I wanted the epidural. James was disappointed, but I was firm. I knew I would not have strength to push if it continued like this much longer.
The anesthesiologist did not make it down for another 20 minutes . . . 20 very long minutes. The doctor offered an analgesic right away, and I was in so much pain I wanted to take it. But James gently and firmly reminded me that we shouldn’t, for the sake of the baby; the analgesics would enter my bloodstream and affect the baby, while the epidural would be in my spine, not my bloodstream, so it was safer. He then held onto me while I struggled through another contraction.
Looking back, I am so thankful for James’ firmness and strength, for when the pain really hit I lost sight of everything else.
The anesthesiologist finally got there. Several more contractions came as he worked, and it was hard for me not to move as he inserted the needle, but I was finally able to lay down. Almost immediately the pain eased. By the time two more contractions passed, I couldn’t feel anything. I also couldn’t feel the lower half of my body, which was strange. It was hard to believe I was still having contractions, but they were registering on the monitor so I knew I was.
I dozed off. Mom and James dozed on couches. I woke up whenever they came to check on me, sleeping fitfully off and on. The night slowly passed. I awoke in the morning to bright sunshine streaming through the window.
Fog was lifting off the city, the only evidence of yesterday’s rain, and the sky was blue and clear. What a beautiful day, I thought.
I found out that during the night my blood pressure dropped too low, so they gave me medicine to raise it. The medicine made me nauseous. I tried to eat my breakfast of liquids, (jello, chicken broth, popsicle), but everything came back up. It was a weary morning. I had already waited so long just to go into labor, and now that I was in labor it felt as though it would never end. I was tired, hungry, and longing for some positive news.
Discouraged, I asked James if he could find my Bible and read Psalm 46 to me.
As his deep voice resonated in the room, I felt comforted listening to the familiar words. “God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way, and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, and the mountains quake with their surging . . . God is within her, she will not fall, God will help her at break of day . . . the Lord Almighty is with us, the God of Jacob is our fortress . . .”
After he finished and laid the Bible aside, none of us said anything. We just sat there in the silence, occupied with our own thoughts. Then the door opened and my doctor came in. She informed us that her shift was ending and another doctor was taking over. I felt very nervous at this news. “Is this doctor good?” I asked.
“Oh she is amazing,” my doctor assured me. “We went to school together.”
That helped assuage my fears.
The new doctor came in shortly and introduced herself. She had curly dark hair, dark eyes, a cheery smile and a kind voice. I felt at ease with her immediately. At this point it was about 11 in the morning. She asked if she could check me. When she came back up she had a smile on her face.
“All I feel is noggin.”
It took a moment for this to sink in.
And then it did. He was coming. It was time to push.
At this point, the epidural had worn off a little, so I could feel the contractions and the urge to push, but still had barely any pain. As I began to push, I was once again so thankful for the epidural. The nurse and the doctor stood by my bedside, and James remained next to me during the whole, difficult process that was to follow. Mom stood nearby, too, offering words of encouragement. I pushed and pushed, but David just wasn’t appearing. They had brought in a mirror so I could see the top of his head; but he wasn’t coming.
After an hour I was exhausted and disheartened, covered in sweat and beginning to cry. James held my hand and told me I could do it, but I shook my head. I started to think I could not.
We had always known this baby was a fighter. This proved to be true over and over again, and now, during this final difficult point, his heart rate never dropped. The doctor said she had hardly seen such a thing before. His heart rate remained strong and steady throughout the whole process. But he still wasn’t coming. Thirty more minutes passed, and I was done in. I can’t do this, I told James. I can’t do this. But he remained steadfast. You can do it, Laura, I know you can. Come one, one more push . . . just one more push, he’ll be here soon. So I kept going, though I had no strength to go on; I kept pushing, though it felt like it was getting nowhere. As the epidural wore off and the pain was intensifying, I could also feel myself stretching painfully.
Two hours after I started pushing, I felt so exhausted and the pain was so intense, that I could not focus on anything else.
I lay back, unable to push for the moment. The nurse tried to get me to continue, but the doctor stopped her. “Let her rest a moment.” I breathed heavily, eyes closed, unable to think anything except the pain.
Somehow, someway, in the midst of my fog, a thought broke through with poignant clarity: the only way to make the pain stop was to keep going. I had to do this.
With a sudden burst of supernatural strength, I pulled myself up and gave one great, final push. I could feel myself tearing and I was crying out in pain, but then I saw a head, followed by a long, lean body. As I lay back on my pillows, exhausted, I heard a baby cry and I knew he was alive and healthy. Relief rushed over me along with more tears–this time tears of joy. It was 1:23 in the afternoon on Saturday, August 23.
David was placed against my stomach as we waited for the cord to stop pulsing. Then James cut it, the nurse took the baby to measure and examine him. Then at last they placed little David Roger Frederick Holland in my arms: long and lean, 8 pounds and 10 ounces.
The emotions that washed over me are indescribable; the feeling of euphoria I experienced in that moment is beyond words.
The doctor and nurse began to care for me, as I lay and held my son. They had some food sent up and encouraged me to eat. My stomach had settled, and I felt better after the meal.
I ended up having only one small tear which required a single stitch. I credit this to the doctor, who kept massaging and helping me to stretch, and to the fact that the process was so long and gradual. We found out later that at the end of those two hours the doctor and the nurse were beginning to think I would need a c-section. Thankfully, they kept their concerns hidden from me. I only saw a cheery, patient doctor who, along with James, kept encouraging me to keep going. I will always be thankful for her, and the role she played to bring our son safely into the world.