Becoming a parent is one of the most, if not the most life-altering event a person will go through. I always say that crossing the threshold from Maiden to Mother was a life splitting event for me with a before and after. There was life before April 16, 2012 and life after; and that’s it.
So, how do I start? And where do I begin? I guess I will begin at 37 weeks pregnant when my contractions were so consistent and regular that I thought for sure Liam would be born any day. I was told on March 26th, two weeks before Liam’s due date, that I was 2cm dilated and he was in position. But, Alex and I were quickly reminded that while our son could be born any minute, it could also take weeks. *sigh*
The last month of pregnancy with Liam was tough. I swear it lasted 1,000 days, and it truly pushed my body to its limit. My 110lb frame was carrying an extra 52lbs and endured unimaginable swelling. The edema became so severe that I couldn’t wear shoes and was reduced to slippers and sandals (thank goodness for the spring heat wave we experienced in 2012). On top of that, right around week 37, I developed pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy (PUPPP), an itchy, bumpy rash affecting women in the third trimester and lasting until after delivery. Fun stuff, right? The rash started on my thighs and spread to my belly and arms. Alex recalls that it got so bad that I would scratch at my skin in my sleep-there was no relief. Contractions and an unrelenting rash made life unbearable. Needless to say, I. Was. Miserable.
My due date came and went, and still no baby. With little cervical change and tons of discomfort, we were scheduled for an induction the following week on Monday, April 16th. We were both really saddened by this news, as we only had one wish for a birth plan-labor naturally for as long as possible. And before birth even began, we felt like our plan was out the window-or so we thought.
Liam must have gotten the message that he was going to be evicted because Sunday, April 15th around 6:00pm, things began to change. There was no big show. My water did not break in a crowded restaurant, and I didn’t have THE contraction followed by “honey, it’s time to go to the hospital”. My body, rather, was giving me slow signs and begging me to pay attention. Instead of the consistent, mild contractions for the last three weeks, I began experiencing pains that made me stop and really have to “work” through them. I spent a good three hours walking around the house and bouncing on my birthing ball. Alex massaged the small of my back, and helped time the contractions which were enclosing in on about 5-6 minutes apart. But, because the pain wasn’t so severe, I still wasn’t convinced that I was really in labor and decided to wait yet another hour before heading to the hospital. When we were ready, we called my parents and told them to head to the hospital, as my mom was joining us in the delivery room.
We arrived around 11pm and were sent to triage to be assessed. The nurse performed a cervical check and exclaimed, “Well honey, you’re having this baby soon…you’re at 5cm”. I was shocked and couldn’t believe that my body had labored naturally until 5cm (a small victory for me). Feeling empowered and ecstatic that I didn’t have to be induced, I thought for sure I was going to deliver naturally-no drugs, no medical intervention. But, boy did that change.
After being moved to a labor and delivery room around 12am, I was sitting on my birthing ball when another contraction came. Cool, bring it on, because I am WOMAN hear me roar. Except this time, my entire body was paralyzed by pain, the air was squeezed out from my lungs, and per the contraction monitor, the pain kept climbing and climbing. I was engaged in conversation with Alex and our nurse prior to the contraction, but when that pain hit, it’s like the sound blew and I didn’t absorb any of what they were saying. My nurse quickly took note of my physical state and offered me “the juice”. After two more of those very intense contractions, I requested the epidural.
From there, my body was relaxed and labor progressed quickly. Our labor nurse and on call resident came in frequently to check for progress which was consistent, about 1 cm per hour. But, we were surprised to learn that at some point, my water DID break because the membrane was no longer in tact. My best guess is that it broke during the last shower I took about an hour before leaving for the hospital.
By 5:30am, our nurse went to check me, and when she lifted the sheet, she blurted, “whoa, there he is”. It was time, and all I could do was look at Alex in disbelief. I didn’t have words, so he replied, “you’re ready and you can do this”. I began pushing and heard lots of words of encouragement from my mom, Alex, and resident doctor. But, after about 5 minutes, Liam’s heart began to decelerate. Things get fuzzy from here-so please bear with me.
If you’ve ever taken a birthing class through the hospital in which you are to deliver, or even a tour, the medical staff touches briefly on “emergency situations” in the delivery room. And in these, “rare” instances, I was advised that dozens of people would flood the room and the medical team may not inform me of what was going on as to not upset me further. Although scary, we were advised not to worry as these situations were rare.
Well, this is exactly what happened to us. A slew of people flooded our room, and I was suddenly being injected with heavier drugs. Still awake, but groggy, no one answered me as to what was happening. It was only through eavesdropping on the medical staff’s flurry of words that I learned Liam’s umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck and he was losing oxygen fast. Alex was busy answering questions and signing documents, as he is my medical power of attorney.
A few moments later, forceps were put in place and I was told to push again. On this last push, I felt Liam leave my body. There was so much pressure and my womb where he once lived caved in and fell empty. I thank God every day that I heard him cry immediately, as I know some women in these situations are not as fortunate, and have to wait painstaking minutes to hear that reassuring sound. Liam’s cry was loud, thunderous, and strong. And once they placed him on my chest, I felt relieved. I just kept whispering to him, “You’re here, you’re here”.
I lost a lot of blood, and was fluttering in and out of sleep while my doctor worked to fix the damage caused by the traumatic birth. It wouldn’t be until several days later that I would learn the severity of my injuries-third degree tears and multiple internal and external suture packs.
My Liam was here though, and that’s all that mattered. I was a Mother. His mother. He came into this world at 5:46am as a 7lb 10oz 21inch force. Alex and I always joke that when Liam was born, he was “on”. He was so alert from the moment we met; those big brown eyes staring at you, into you.
I still can’t believe that my baby is five years old. I truly don’t know how the time passed so quickly or how we made it through those early days. The last few weeks of pregnancy, labor, delivery, recovery, and even into the first few weeks of motherhood was the hardest thing my body has ever gone through. But, this new life that Liam made possible is the most beautiful thing, and something that I could’t have dreamt up, even if I tried.
Amanda Cifuentes Walchli