The kind nurse held me as I sat on the edge of the bed through contractions. It took the anesthesiologist 5 tries to get the epidural into my back. Five pokes, five contractions, almost ten long minutes. The nurse kept pushing my head down into my stomach so that my spine would stretch and separate. I am such a small person that it took an act of God to spread my vertebrae enough to get the needle in. The anesthesiologist tried to administer a local anesthetic so that I would not feel the needle going in, but after screaming, “I CAN FEEL EVERYTHING” and realizing that only slowed him down, I decided that feeling a needle going into my spine was the trade off for ultimate relief.
Finally, and within minutes, the epidural took effect. I closed my eyes, tears streaming down my face, and breathed as fully and calmly as I could. It had been almost 26 hours since I could relax. I shared a few kind and quiet moments with my husband before I dozed off. The nap was short, but when the nurse woke me up to check me again I felt a new mental preparedness for what would come next.
The nurse smiled. “Ten centimeters! You’re ready to start pushing. Do you want to try to push now?” I was so shocked and excited that Abe was ready. I tried to push but couldn’t feel anything.
“Am I pushing?”
The nurse sweetly replied, “Not really.”
I focused hard on my body and the muscles I needed to use to push Abe out. I tried again and again until about the fourth time the nurse said, “Oh! That’s it! That was a push!”
The midwife at my OBGYN practice agreed to be on call for me through the weekend despite the fact that she wasn’t working. She’d arrived at the hospital shortly after I did, which I was so thankful for. The last thing I wanted was the scary doctor there repeating things like gestational diabetes, giant head, huge shoulders, or big baby.
The nurses quickly dismantled the bed and set up trays of metal instruments and plastic bins. During this time, my husband and I took a moment to reflect and even cry about how amazing and exciting this was. I was so grateful to be engaged and alert enough to be present in that moment. It is my favorite memory of Abe’s birth: my husband’s face on mine and both of us saying, “He’s coming!”
The nurse continued to instruct me to push with each contraction. Epidural or not, I could feel the pain of Abe’s head descending. Doula held one leg, I held the other, and my husband sat behind me supporting my head. I asked for a mirror in my birth plan, which turned out to be extremely helpful. I could see what was working and what wasn’t with each push. David could also see everything that was happening without leaving my head. I moved Abe so quickly that the nurse told me to stop and wait for the midwife.
When the midwife walked in, so did scary doctor. He just “happened” to be in the neighborhood on a Sunday and thought he would stop by. I later learned that convinced I would be having a c-section, he asked to be informed when I was admitted so that he could perform it. I’m not sure I spoke to him or even acknowledged him for the brief moment he was there. I just pushed as hard and as long as I could to show him I didn’t need him.
Pushing got more painful each time and I began to let out those primitive grunts you hear women making on TV. Sometimes the midwife would count 3 pushes and I would throw in an extra fourth before the contraction was over. I began to repeat from my gut, “Get him out. I have to get him out.”
Suddenly, the room went blurry. I could still hear voices, but no longer was I a part of it all. I entered a tunnel of my own, staring into the mirror and watching my baby.
“Erin! Reach down and feel his head! He has so much hair!” someone murmured in the distance. I reached down because I was told to, but I didn’t really put effort into feeling. I just kept pushing.
“You’re almost there! He’s turning the corner!”
My husband’s was the only clear voice. He shouted and laughed, “You’re doing it! Yes!”
When Abe’s head turned the corner and straightened out, I stopped watching the mirror. I went inside myself to push with everything I had. I don’t remember anyone telling me the head was out, or that his shoulder was out, or that he was born. I don’t remember Doula shouting, “Grab your baby!” I remember pushing until I looked down on my stomach and there he was. There was the person I’d been waiting to meet, pink as a rose and loud as a train.
David cut the cord and followed Abe to the scale and then to the warmer where the nurses tended to him for five long minutes. Doula was at my side smiling. I remember her saying, “Isn’t this cool, Erin?!” Finally, they handed Abe to me and I placed him on my chest. Here he was, and everything felt right. Life was never life until he fit right there beneath my chin.