Birth Trauma Survivor and Maternal Health Advocate

“Birth is the sudden opening of a window, through which you look out upon a stupendous prospect. For what has happened? A miracle. You have exchanged nothing for the possibility of everything.” William MacNeile Dixon

The epidural numbed the pain of the contractions but I could feel the pressure building between my legs. I felt like my whole midsection was about to explode. I squeezed my legs together tightly. I was afraid that my baby would come flying out if I parted them a little. I could feel fluid trickling out of my body and onto the sheets.  I wondered if it was amniotic fluid, blood or both. I wanted to look at it but I was afraid. Dr. B would be back soon.

I checked my hair and make-up one last time.

The room became a hub of activity. A nurse’s assistant rolled in a table filled with scary looking tools on the top tray. I saw gloves, scalpels, masks, forceps and the vacuum thingy that we learned about in birthing class. Oh God, I hope they don’t have to vacuum my baby out of me, I thought.  Dr. B entered the room dressed in blue scrubs. Just like in the movies, I thought to myself.

An intern came in and introduced herself.She was a little too bubbly for the occasion. It was her first birth. Lucky me! She talked too much. I wanted to shove one of the tennis balls in her mouth to keep her quiet. She looked me up and down and showered me with compliments, even pausing to admire my toe nail polish.

Next, Nurse JoAnna brought in the bassinet. It was clear on the sides and had a white blanket with pink and blue stripes. Overhead were huge lamps that would be used to keep the baby warm.

A random man came into the room. He said his job was to hold one of my legs. I didn’t know you could get a job as a delivery room leg holder. If the make-up thing fizzles out I will look into doing that as my next career. It was Bobby’s job to hold my other leg. I told him I would try not to kick him in the face, but I made no promises.

When I looked up at the clock, it read four pm. I had been in labor for twenty-seven hours. I couldn’t hold my legs together any longer. I told Dr. B that I was ready to push. I told him to not to pay attention to the computer screen reading my contractions. I would tell him when I was going to push and he better be ready.

Nurse JoAnna held my hand while Bobby was at the foot of the bed supervising. I apologized for squeezing her hand so tight. She didn’t mind, she was used to this.

Dr. B said that he could see the head and told me to take a deep breath and then push as long as I could. Inside I was screaming, but I made no sounds out loud. I bore down and I pushed as hard for as long as I could. I could feel beads of sweat starting to form across my brow. Bobby yelled out loud that he could see the head. One more long push and the head would be out. I needed a minute. I wanted every push to count. I nodded towards Dr. B. and he nodded back. I pushed again, long and hard. The head was out! Bobby screamed out loud with joy. Whew! I thought, her head is out. I can do this. I can do this.

Every now and then, I would glance at the clock, wondering what the exact time of birth would be. I like even numbers. I was already miffed that she would be born on the nineteenth and not on the eighteenth or the twentieth. My due date was my birthday, April twenty-eighth. I guess she didn’t want to share her birthday with me. She was already letting me know that she was going to be the one in control.

I was soaking wet with sweat and blood. Everyone in the room became my personal cheerleading team, rooting for me, telling me how great I was doing and encouraging me to keep pushing. I pushed as hard as I could several more times. I was so exhausted, but my body felt stronger and stronger with each push. Finally, I felt my body fully release her from within. She cried out loud with displeasure of having to leave the comfort of the only home she had known. Suddenly she was thrust into cold air with strange sights and sounds.

My body felt hollow but my life felt so full.

When Dr. B  handed her to me she looked into my eyes and stopped crying. Her face was so familiar. We were meeting for the first time face to face, yet we had known each other for many months. She knew my voice from all the times I read to her or sang her songs or overhearing me gossiping on the phone with my friends. I knew that her favorite foods were kale soup and vanilla yogurt smoothies. She liked to sleep all day and judging from how she would kick me in the ribs, she liked stay up late at night. During the course of my pregnancy I used to have dreams about her. Her face. Her eyes. Her skin. It was exactly like it had been in my dreams.

Life as I had known it, changed in an instant.

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