“No one gives a sh*t about your eyebrows, Charlotte. You’re in labor - get in the damn car!"
Let’s rewind this story back a bit to what led up to the delivery of these kind words from my big sister at 2 o’clock in the morning:
Much earlier that day, I had my 37-week checkup. I had been put on bedrest the week before because our goal was to make it to 37+ weeks and, with how dilated and effaced I already was, it didn’t look like we would be reaching it. But, bedrest did the trick and I waddled my big butt and equally round belly into my appointment victoriously.
My doctor looked up over the scratchy paper sheet and said, “You’re dilated to 4.5 and 80% effaced. Let’s take you off of bedrest and I’m sure I will be seeing you some time this week.”
By the way, my hat is off to all the mommas that have to endure lengthy bedrest orders. I was over it by day two, which was surprising since my tired body had romanticized the idea of being told to do nothing at all, all day long. I didn’t realize that this would include not picking up my toddler son or playing outside with him or chasing his naked little butt around at bath time. (Keep the order of endless naps, gimme back my baby!)
It was Monday, and I figured I had a few days to get things organized despite feeling extra crampy and swollen after the appointment. I huffed and puffed around the house that evening with my son on my hip. I didn’t get much done, but I was happy to start the process. I had my hospital/baby bag packed, diapers and a few clean onesies and swaddles. As a second-time mom, I knew that was more than enough to get through the first week or two with a newborn.
Before we went to bed that night, my husband suggested (more like begged) that we go to the hospital. My contractions were consistent (even while resting) and I was obviously uncomfortable, but I declined.
You see, with my son, I was in triage for 9 hours and was ordered to walk 489936492 flights of stairs before getting a room and I was not going to sign myself up for that hell ride again.
Also, our hospital is 29 minutes (of course my prego-ass google mapped it) from where we live and I didn’t feel like making the drive just to be sent home. Besides, I knew plenty of women that coasted around at 3 or 4 cm all the way until their due date. Why not me? Good. Night.
Fast forward to a few hours later: it is midnight and I can’t fall back to sleep. I’m too uncomfortable. My belly is hard and aching, so I figured I had to poop.
By the way, if talking about “poop” is too much for you, just go ahead and quit reading while you’re ahead. This is a blog about being pregnant and pregnant people celebrate poop, ok? Especially anemic ones on prescription iron supplements.
I went. I waited. I didn’t feel better.
I remembered that there was a exercise ball in the living room and decided to pop a squat in front of the TV until the discomfort passed.
As I was bouncing around watching an episode of Frasier for the thousandth time, I took a break to google some super-smart labor questions like “how to know if you’re really in labor”. This led me to the Chin vs Forehead theory. It goes like this: touch your forehead, then touch your chin, then touch your belly. Braxton Hicks contractions feel like your chin, the real thing feels like your forehead.
I touched all the things. I touched all the things again. YEP. My baby was chillin’ inside one giant forehead.
For whatever reason, I was still not convinced. The pain was manageable, and I just couldn’t imagine needing to rush to the hospital over this level of discomfort.
What I really wanted was a hot bath or shower. That was the only place that sounded better than this giant bouncy ball. (I’m sure every woman that has experienced labor is rolling their eyes about now - I mean, what more of a sign did I need? To look down and see my baby waving to me? Probably.) Before I got in the shower, I decided to text my sister. It would be a test: if she answered, I’d consider going to the hospital. If she didn’t, rub-a-dub-dub massive prego in the tub.
To my surprise, she called immediately. I told her what was going on and that I was about to get in the shower. Like any good big sister that was a mom of 3 little ones herself should, she told me I was being dumb and needed to go the hospital. I told her I wanted to wash my hair and put on some makeup. She hit me with the heartfelt sentence about my eyebrows you read at the beginning of this blog.
It was directly after that sentence that the first come-to-Jesus contraction hit me. I let out a low moan and managed to mumble “Meet me at the hospital…” before hanging up.
I always thought that the movies were full of it when they depicted labor and delivery but, turns out, some aren’t too far off.
My husband woke up to find a hunched over and half-naked me coming towards him looking like a child-rearing Gollum from The Lord of the Rings growling, “IT IS TIME! OUR PRECIOUS IS COMING!” (Okay, didn’t say that exactly, but, same.)
It doesn’t rain often in Arizona, but it was sure coming down that night. So, naturally, my husband handed me a sundress and flip-flops when I asked for something to wear. But, honestly, I did not give a fuhhhhhhh. I had been in active labor for 2 hours at home. I would have worn a ball gown to the hospital at this point. I threw on my casual beach resort wear and hoo-hoo-haah-haah-ed my ass to the car.
Once we got in, I grabbed the “oh shit!” handle, looked at him and said, “Do NOT stop for any red lights.”
He looked at me wide-eyed. “Are you serious?”
Another contraction hit. I white knuckled the handle and said, “OH I AM SERI*^%#$#$#@OUS!”
Remember when I mentioned it took 29 minutes to get to the hospital from our house? Well, in an attempt not to incriminate my husband or his driving record, let’s just say that google maps was wrong that night. Very wrong.
When we arrived to the hospital, I flopped into a wheelchair from the car and thanked the Good Lord above for keeping me from having a freeway baby. No one needed to turn on the evening news to see me delivering my baby in a tropical mumu on the side of road.
We were rushed to triage where I was hoisted onto a bed. I immediately looked to my nurse and asked for her name. (I always like to know. They immediately become our people in medical situations and these fallen angels deserve to be called by their names.)
Her name was Lorna and I will never forget this woman.
She looked like the kind of woman that wasn’t your mom but everyone called her mom anyway. Someone you could take a solid nap on - at any age. Someone that always has some sort of fresh pastry to offer you and a pitcher of sweet sun tea in the fridge. But I didn’t want a nap or a slice of pie or refreshing beverage from Lorna. I wanted the feel good juice. The numb stuff. The Bad Moms Club mascot.
LORNA: FOR THE LOVE OF GOD GIVE ME THE NEEDLE AND TAKE THIS PAIN AWAY.
But, she didn’t. She did ask if I wanted an epidural, but she did so with an apologetic look on her face because (we both knew) there was no time. That sweet shot of western medicine was never ordered. I didn’t even receive an IV - it was me, a hospital gown, and the bed.
Well, damn. Here we go!
I wish I could tell you that I had planned a drug-free birth all along. That I took fancy breathing classes and had a doula and a nutritionist to help prepare me, but that would be a lie bigger than my swollen ankles. With my son, I had a very lovely and peaceful delivery via epidural and I had high hopes of replaying that life tape, scene-for-scene.
In all honesty, with the pain I was feeling, I would have taken a horse tranq to the neck had they allowed it.
“Lorna, can I PLEASE go to the bathroom then?” I pleaded.
“No, honey, I’m sorry. The doctor is on the way.”
“But, Lorna, if you don’t let me go, I am going to poop on this table and you’re going to have to clean it up.”
“That’s fine with me, honey. I’ve seen worse things.”
“I’m really gonna to do it!”
“Honey, when your water is about to break it feels like you have to go but you really don’t. But it’s OK if you do.”
“I AM GOING TO POOP ON THIS TABLE, LORNA.”
“Go right ahead.”
“I’m doing it. I’m pooping right now. Go ahead, look down there. It’s everywhere.”
Note: I couldn’t actually see because of my protruding belly, but, I was whole-heartedly convinced I had just SHATTT everywhere.
Lorna lifted up the sheet.
“Nothing there, hon.”
I looked to my husband for confirmation. He shrugged his shoulders in agreement.
To this day, I’m still not convinced. I’m pretty sure they were in on a plot together and just wanted to calm my crazy, but whatever. I’ll take it. I will happily bask in my questionable 0/2 score for pooping on the table during childbirth.
I need to pause here for a moment because there is something that needs to be addressed:
There is A LOT about delivery and recovery that needs to be talked about more: the bleeding, the vulnerability, the humility, how terribly difficult and painful breastfeeding can be, the unrealistic expectations that are placed on our bodies as women recovering, etc. etc.
BUT, you wanna know what NO ONE wants to talk about? The poop.
No one wants to talk about the poop. By the way, this is the one time in pregnancy where poop is NOT celebrated, and it is when you are about to deliver your sweet baby and every woman prays to every power in the universe that their perfect angels are not accompanied by a turd.
It’s comical: Even in the greatest physical pain of our lives, we are worried about embarrassing ourselves. I’m convinced this fear somehow unites women across the planet. Eventually, pregnancy scares the shit out of ALL of us.
OK. My “shitty” rant is over. Back to my harmonious birth story.
Reality had struck: I wasn’t getting an epidural and Lorna wasn’t going to let me re-enact an episode of “I Didn’t Know I was Pregnant” and let me deliver my baby on the toilet.
I looked to my last resort for help: my husband.
I grabbed him by the hood of his sweater (so glad he remembered to dress appropriately for the weather) looked him straight in the eyes and said, “Get. Me. Out of HERE.” I’m not sure where I expected him to take me. In-N-Out burger? The mall? Mars?? I honestly didn’t know. I was desperate. He just calmly replied, “Babe, I think this is where we should be if you’re about to have a baby.”
I relented. Damn. I hate when he’s right.
By that time, the doctor (a man I didn’t recognize) entered our shower curtained off section of triage.
My doctor wasn’t there, and I always thought that would be something that really bothered me. I LOVE my doctor. She is a beautiful baby-delivering unicorn that should be cloned until the end of time. I’m also not fond of male OBGYNs. (Nothing against them, just a personal preference.) But, with the increasing waves of pain crashing over my nether regions, I would have let Bob the parking lot security guard deliver my baby.
Get in there, Bob. You got this.
“She’s an 8. Get her to a room. Now.”
This doctor was a large man. When he announced this, I remember thinking that, with those banana hands, I was now probably closer to a 10.
They rushed me to a room where I was rolled on to a bed and - just like that - I could tell it was GO TIME.
However, all SIX of the nurses in my room disagreed.
“Is my water broken?” I asked/screamed.
“No. Just hold on. The doctor is on his way.”
“How in the eff did we lose Dr. Banana Hands?! Get him IN HERE. NOW.” Another note: I did not actually say this, but it was definitely what I was thinking.
Instead, between growls, I looked to the nurse beside her and asked, “Will you break my water?”
“No, hon. Doctor is almost here.”
I looked to the next one and pleaded. “Will you?”
“Just hang in there.”
Once I realized none of them were going to agree to my request, I turned into a giant toddler (which apparently is my labor spirit animal) and said, “FINE! I’ll do it myself!!”
I took both hands, reached behind my head for the conveniently located steel bars, and let out a primal moan (one which I’m sure made every other woman considering going drug-free on that floor order up the needle in a hot second) and BOOM - I busted my own damn bag. The nurses looked at each other “She broke her water.” The next one repeated, “she broke her water.” I’m convinced this was code for “this bitch is crazy” which was totally understandable at the time.
Directly after, my sister entered the room with my husband close behind her. The nurses requested that my husband wait in the hall until the doctor arrived, but, after my sister showed up and heard that animal sound come out of me, there wasn’t a juiced-up club bouncer on Earth that could have kept her from coming to my side.
She grabbed my hand. Tears filled her eyes.
“Charlotte Marie, if you wanna push then you go ahead and PUSH!”
Tears filled mine, finally for reasons other than pain.
It was in the same hospital, likely in a room just down the hall, that I had been standing beside her, holding her hand, welcoming her baby girl into the world. It had been her first drug-free delivery, too, only a few years before. I never forgot that look in her eyes. Pain at its purest. Strength at its finest. And I prayed that she saw the same in me.
My mom did not make it to the hospital in time, still, her words came to me:
“Just when you think you can’t take it anymore, when you feel like you can’t possibly do it, you do. And then you do it again.”
She was referring to drug-free childbirth when I had asked how in the world she managed the pain of having all 4 of us without an epidural. I’m grateful I asked. Those words were the presence I needed from her.
I looked to my sister. “OK.” It’s all I could muster. It’s all we needed.
My husband held my leg and nodded. He believed in me without a doubt, just as he always has.
I dug deep for that courage I saw in my sister’s eyes that night. That courage my mother swore to me was inside, waiting. The kind of courage that only God could lend me, even if just for a moment.
With my sister’s hand in my own and my mother’s words cradled in my mind, I closed my eyes.
I tapped into the strength of the two strongest and most influential women in my life. They were going to help me bring the girl that would one day look to me for that same strength into this world.
I pushed until I felt I was outside of my own body; hovering in awe. After a few minutes that felt like hours, I returned to my body when the nurses that ended up delivering my baby, placed her in my arms.
Exhaustion. Elation. Intoxication. It was so many things. But, mostly, it was enlightenment.
I had gathered up the power to do something I never thought I could do. A battle I was convinced I was completely unprepared to win. A mountain I believed I lacked the endurance to conquer.
My mom was right. And, her words, they did not just apply to childbirth, but all of motherhood. All of its hardest parts, its trials - those words ring true.
Every time we think we are too tired to do it, we still do.
Every time we think it hurts too much to let them do something on their own, we do.
Every time we think we cannot possibly love them more, we do.
Over and over. Again and again. We do.
We left the house around 2:00 AM and our sweet girl entered this world at 2:58 AM. I learned more about myself in that hour than I have in countless hours of books and journals trying to cultivate a similar strength. I am so grateful for this unexpected - and, lets be real, insanely painful - surprise.
While I was on bed rest, I was scrolling through Instagram and came across a famous mom blogger that had just delivered her baby. I was taken back by her beauty. Her hair was freshly blown out and curled. Her makeup was fresh and her skin was tanned. The photo was magazine-worthy. I thought to myself: Maybe I can do that this time. Maybe I can glam up a bit before my delivery and get a beautiful photo like this one.
Something inside of me knew that this would look nothing like my delivery, and I am so glad that gut feeling was right. It is not to take away from that woman’s beautiful moment, it was just not supposed to be mine.
My captured moment was without makeup, with messy hair, and very little sleep. It was the other side of beauty that, we as women, try our best to hide. The raw kind of beautiful. It was that stripped-down kind of beauty that I needed to learn to appreciate in a way that would never leave me.
My photo is not what I had dreamed it to be that day, but it is certainly one of which I am incredibly proud. I wouldn’t go back and “glam” myself up if I could. Not a chance. Because, one day, I will get to share it with my daughter and say: