Tuesday, August 14th, 2012 I woke up at 6:00am to the sound of my alarm. Waking up that morning wasn't difficult, but getting out of bed was. I knew that it would be the last time I'd lay there when my world was just Justin and me. After 42 long weeks of anxiety, anticipation, excitement, and fear, today was the day that labor would be induced and I would enter into the mystical realm of motherhood.
We had packed the car the night before, so there wasn't a lot to do that morning. Justin and I didn't talk much as we were preparing to leave. I don't remember feeling nervous, but instead disbelief. Toward the end of my pregnancy I always thought about how weird it was that my body could go into labor at any time and I would have no way of knowing when it would hit. It turns out that even weirder than that is knowing exactly when the process will begin. We left the house and headed to Carrboro for breakfast. Neither of us felt like eating but I was given strict instructions by my midwife to eat a big breakfast to gear up for a long haul. We choked down what we could and headed to the hospital. How strange it was to park the car, gather up my things, and walk from the parking structure to the hospital to have a baby. I never imagined that I would arrive at the hospital that way. The Labor & Delivery floor was calm and quiet. I filled out paperwork and didn't talk much. The nurses were excited to give us the best room on the floor! It really was spectacular. We had a panoramic view and the room was really large and felt very comfortable. I tried to imagine what the hours to come would be like but couldn't.
After a once over by the nurse and a quick hello from my midwife, a pitocin drip was started. The plan was to double the drip every 30 minutes until my body took over. I was warned that this process could take up to two days but fortunately my was kicked into labor on the lowest dose. As we waited for things to pick up I tried to nap, watched a lot of Parks & Rec, but mostly talked to Justin. Both of us were feeling really good. The time that Justin and I spent together in those last hours before things got really intense are such a sweet memory to me.
By noon or so, I was starting to get really uncomfortable. The midwife checked me and I was at 3cm; I had made no progress. Justin continuously reminded me not to get hung up on the numbers but that proved to be really difficult as the day went on and not much changed. I cycled through positions: birthing ball, bathtub, edge of the bed, walking the halls. Justin was incredible during this time -- running for cold wash clothes and ice, bouncing the birth ball for me, letting me squeeze him harder than any human should be squeezed, counting me through each contraction.
The midwife had checked me a few more times by the time seven o'clock rolled around and the nursing staff switched. Progress was being made, but it was really slow. I think I was only dilated to 5 or 6cm at that point. I was really discouraged. I cried between contractions; I kept looking into Justin's face and telling him I couldn't do it anymore. I brought up an epidural a number of times and between him and the midwife, they did a great job of distracting me... up until a certain point. For how physically and emotionally drained I was, I had a pretty intense internal dialogue going about what was worse: trudging through each contraction as things continued to get more and more intense or give in, give up, break down and have the epidural. I think the worst part at this point was that my contractions were coming so quickly that I knew only had less than a minute to rest between them -- the next one looming over my head as I doubled over and searched for relief. Around nine o'clock the midwife came into the room again. "I can't do it anymore," I said. "What are you telling me, Megan?" I tried to study Justin's face: was he disappointing? Did he think I was giving up? "Give me an epidural."
Finnegan's welcome into this world. Before you read on, press play.
And just like that, the entire room shifted. Suddenly bright lights shone on me and people in surgical gear filled the room. It became loud, chaotic, frightening. Justin was pushed away from my side. The anesthesiologist introduced herself. She was cold and rigid; it was the first time this process had really felt "medical." At this point I was complete spent but it was also at this point that the anesthesiologist wanted me to answer a list of questions and sign paperwork. Out of this erupted a sort of power struggle between the anesthesiologists and my nurses. I was forced onto the bed and on my back -- a position I had avoided because it was by far the most painful way to experience contractions. About ten minutes later, my legs were dangling over the edge of the bed and I held still (as still as you can be during transition) as they prepared to put the catheter in my back. My famous last words? "Wait... am I going to be paralyzed forever?" I remember thinking how strange it was that I might have a sense of humor in that moment. The anesthesiologist was mortified but the nurses laughed. I curled my spine as they put the needle in and looked at Justin's face. He looked terrified.
After the anesthesia kicked in, I was a different person. As soon as I felt some relief, I never looked back. Despite the epidural not working that great, I was able to get some much needed rest. I continued to feel contractions on one side but not the other. They had me lay on the side that I continued to feel pain to shift the medicine, then I felt relief on that side and not the other. This kind of continued on but I was able to get some sleep. So was Justin -- he really needed it too.
Around eleven o'clock, the nurses started to prep the room for delivery. I was a little confused because I didn't feel like it was coming any time soon. One of them checked me could see my bag of water bulging (yes, it had not yet broken!) meaning that the baby's head was close. What?? I couldn't believe that the time had almost come. It was almost like I forgot what this whole day had been for. After they finished setting things up, they suggested that I try pushing. It seemed so casual. I was regaining a lot more feeling at that point and was surprised that I had not yet felt the need to push. After a few contractions I got the rhythm of pushing down and basically felt like the most powerful woman in the world. I kind of loved pushing. With each one, I could feel progress. How strange it was to feel the little baby wiggle his way down. After each contraction, I could feel his body pulsate. Justin told me later that it was also strange to see the hugeness of my belly shift lower and lower, although I guess I was a little distracted to notice in the moment.
A few minutes later my water broke. I pushed and pushed away, trying different positions for leverage. I continued to feel progress, but it was impossible to gauge how close to actually being out the baby was. That's why I was surprised when one of the nurses got up and ran for the midwife. Truly, she almost missed the delivery. With a few more pushes, the head started to come out. I am glad (but wasn't in the moment) that the midwife talked me through doing this slowly. She encouraged me to look down and see the head and touch my baby for the first time. I could not believe my eyes. I don't think it was until then that I fully realized that I had been growing a human. A few short pushes later, and suddenly a baby was being placed on my chest. I did it!!!
After only 45 minutes or an hour of pushing (and 15 other hours of hard work!), Finnegan Francis entered the world. I wish I could relive that moment a hundred times over. My little boy looked perfectly beautiful; magical and healthy and whole. And HUGE. He let out a few short yelps, but never even a full cry. The medical staff were busily working away, but for me, the entire world consisted of Justin, my sweet babe, and me. There was no one and nothing else. Justin and I cried together as we looked over the body of this precious gift that we had grown.