3. giving birth
Out of all the books I bought about pregnancy and childbirth, the one I loved most was After The Baby’s Birth – A Woman’s Way to Wellness: A Complete Guide for Postpartum Women by Robin Lim. In chapter 2, the author encourages the reader to “use these pages to write about giving birth to your baby.” She reminds us that “this is the story of what may well be the most profound experience of your life – the birth of your child, and your own rebirth as a wise woman.”
I gave birth to my first child when I was 24 years old. The circumstances surrounding my daughter’s birth made this the most difficult and challenging experience I have ever had. It changed me. It affected how I would approach my new role as a mother. After the birth, I wrote in the pages provided in the book. I remember sitting in the hospital nursery visiting room, reading this book, waiting to see my baby. I was alone. What should have been the most joyful time in my life was the most devastating, the most painful. I was sent home without my baby. I spent my days at the hospital, then I went home and slept from midnight to 6am. Then I’d go back, waiting to breastfeed, waiting to see her and hold her, waiting to take her home. My healing process was delayed. I was wounded physically, emotionally, mentally.
This was what I had written:
The due date came and went. Everyday we waited. We were so anxious. Finally, on thursday August 27, I began to feel labor pains. It started at 5 am and I would get pains every couple of hours. I had an appointment at the obgyn and we went and there was nothing! At 5 pm – I remember 5:12 on our clock, I got the first contraction. They were about 5 minutes apart and were getting to be between 3 1/2 – 5 minutes so we called and they told us to go to the hospital. We were admitted about 10. It was really funny as we prepared to go. It was so hectic. He was getting the ice ready and gathering clothes for laundry. Turns out that the contractions lasted like that for hours. We even walked for two hours on the hospital floor, just dragging an IV with me. I remember looking up at the ceiling and just thinking – no one told me it would be like this. All this pain. And the waiting, waiting, waiting.
By 3 am, they told us to go home. We left the hospital. I still had contractions and they were getting worse. I vowed to wait until at least 6 am to go back. By that time, my contractions were 2 minutes apart. This time, my sister drove to the hospital because he was exhausted. She was driving erratically and doing like 80 on the parkway. I almost had a heart attack. I was so nervous, but I couldn’t even yell at her because my contractions were so painful.
We got to the hospital and the doctor that was there overnight had left. So we had a new doctor (Drayton) and nurse (Sarita) and everything was much better. We felt more calm. Sarita gave me breathing tips to remain calm. We weren’t as panicky. The afternoon progressed and they gave me medication to relax me. They broke my water. They gave me an epidural even though I didn’t want one. By 3 pm, Sarita and Dr. Drayton left and I was preparing to go into “birthing” soon. In their place was a nurse I couldn’t understand well, and the same doctor-midwife from the night before that we didn’t like.
I don’t remember much at this point, it’s all a blur really. I remember he was giving me ice chips. I remember the contractions coming in waves right after each other, and the pain – so much pain. They wheeled me out of the delivery room into another room. They were yelling at me to push while moving me on a stretcher to a different room. I still don’t know why. I remember seeing mom at the end of the hallway and how I didn’t want her to see how much pain I was in. We got to the room and all the people there were so mean. They were yelling at me to push and I was pushing and they were saying things like “don’t you want your baby to be born” and it was horrible.
Apparently this ordeal lasted a half hour. The part I remember distinctly is the moment she was born. It was like one great release – no pain – just her slipping out of me. They raised her up so I could see her and then a nurse began cleaning her. I birthed the placenta and the doctor stitched me. He held her and then I got to hold her. It was terrible and incredible and painful and beautiful all at the same time. I never knew how much love we have – for each other and for our child. It is so beautiful it just fills me up inside. It’s the most amazing feeling to know that love has created – something so beautiful and so powerful – it has created a whole life. We love her so much.
It is tragic that we haven’t been able to take her home yet. She had a fever when she was born and the doctors found a bacterial infection. Although her blood is normal, they took a spinal tap and they said it showed something. We find out today exactly what will be. She may be here for as long as 3 weeks. I have to stop for a minute.
It’s just extremely difficult for us to have her, but not able to take her home. It’s been almost 5 days so far. That’s almost a whole week since I gave birth. She’s been here 5 days without me. My mom has everyone praying that she will be okay. I want her to be okay. I want her to be home. It’s so hard to come to the hospital and see her for such a short time, every few hours. It’s such a bad environment for her first few weeks of life. I feel like this is hell. Yesterday I thought I was having a nervous breakdown when I found out she may be here for so long. As of yesterday it was only supposed to be until tomorrow. I can’t think of anything but getting my baby home. My days are divided into 3 hour blocks of time. I just want my baby to come home
During the time I was at the hospital, a large proportion of babies were held in the nursery. Years later, the hospital would close after being exposed for many things, including running unnecessary tests and holding infants in the nursery much longer than necessary for the insurance money. Although my daughter did have a fever and a slight bacterial infection at birth, her blood was normal and there was nothing wrong with her. They never should have given her a spinal tap. A doctor told me this, and appealed on my behalf to release her. My daughter was released to me after another week, a lifetime. I did not look at motherhood the same, after my daughter had been ruthlessly taken away from me right after I gave birth. The nurses were surprised with the tenacity in which I stayed at the hospital, the insistence that I continue to breastfeed on demand even though it meant just waiting at the hospital for nearly 16 hours a day. I remember those moments, rocking her in the nursery waiting room, holding her, feeding her, singing to her, reading to her. Even changing her diaper was precious to me. Just being with her. And I vowed that I would be the best mother I could possibly be to her. I would never allow anyone to take her from me again. I would protect her with my life. I would be more than I ever thought I could be.
“I am young, still young, and poor / and all my beauties sacrificed to hope.”
~ Cynthia Huntington