My first baby was due February 15, 2010. Two weeks later I was still pregnant and scheduled to be medically induced. I was afraid that getting hooked up to Pitocin would negate my chances of a “natural” birth. So I drank four ounces of castor oil the morning before my scheduled induction and waited. I’m not a total idiot; I cleared the plan with my nurse midwife, who said it couldn’t hurt and that castor oil worked for some women. Two hours later, my gut churned and rumbled and I raced to the bathroom. After three hours of industrial diarrhea rocking my bowels, I felt like my back had been knifed from the inside out. Unbearable. It passed, and then came again. This time my pregnant belly tightened into a rock and then released. “Hey!” I remember thinking. “It worked! I’m in labor!”
At the hospital, we were ushered into a birthing room, where a nurse checked me and determined my cervix was dilated six (out of 10) centimeters. Jeff drew me a bath. I was focused and in pain, but confident.
The hours crept by, and the pain intensified. My nurse midwife checked me. Seven centimeters, then eight. I suffered through hours of contractions. I lumbered in and out of the tub seeking a comfortable place to escape the pain.
“I can’t do this anymore,” I said at one point, as if I had an option.
“You can,” answered my husband.
Actually, I couldn’t. As the night slipped into dawn, my cervix stubbornly refused to dilate beyond eight centimeters. That didn’t stop the agony. I asked for and got an epidural. That was decidedly not part of my plan, pre-labor. The midwife decided to also hook me up to Pitocin to get me to dilate completely. Again—not part of the plan.
After four hours of sleep, I awoke with a fully dilated cervix. Three hours of pushing later and the baby hadn’t made it through my pelvis into the birth canal. His heart rate slowed alarmingly. In came the OB, the anesthesiologist, and a stretcher to rush me to the operating room for a Cesarean. When Henry emerged pale and listless from a small slit in my belly, Jeff cried out: “A boy!”
After they stitched me up and wheeled me to the recovery room, a nurse brought me my hour-old son. She held him to my chest, grabbed my breast and tickled his mouth with a nipple several times until he puckered on like a fish, his lower lip folded almost down to his chin. I had never felt such exhaustion in my entire life, the drugs and anesthesia still coursing through my body. Henry’s face was covered with scrapes where he’d rammed against my pelvis. And when I finally put my lips to the body that had grown inside of me and battled its way out, I melted into my son with a love I hadn’t known existed.
-by Rachel Walker