A few weeks ago, I walked down to the beach at the end of our neighborhood with my baby girl strapped to me in the baby carrier. As I crossed the road near the pool, an elderly lady with a cane was walking in my direction. After I said hello, she asked if I was carrying a baby. I confirmed I was carrying my baby girl, and the lady eagerly asked if she could see. I unsnapped the shade from over her Noelle’s head to reveal her angelic sleeping face. The lady inhaled sharply with adoration and touched her hand to mine. “What a miracle,” she exclaimed, and then asked how old. She was five weeks to the day. I barely could believe that much time had already passed when the words escaped my lips. Still holding on to my hand, she said, “Enjoy every minute. They grow up so fast.” She told me that her children were all grown. She and her husband moved into this neighborhood 25 years ago after their kids left home. Her husband is 93 years old and still lives with her in their beachfront condo. Home hospice comes every day to turn him in bed. Her liquid blue eyes glistened as she said she wouldn’t have him anywhere else but home. “Time is something else,” she said as we parted ways.
Nearly seven weeks have passed since I picked up my mom from the airport while I was still timing my contractions. They were five to six minutes apart and lasting about a minute each, but I could still talk through them when I drove to pick her up. Fortunately, the airport was just 15 minutes away. We walked to the same beach at the end of my neighborhood. It was a gorgeous sunny day, and a bunch of teenagers had taken over the beach, so Mom and I walked over to the rocks and admired the passing boats and family of geese. The proud parents had ten fuzzy goslings in tow. By the time we got back home, I could no longer speak through my contractions. My baby was on her way. We called Mike and told him we were heading to the hospital.
Mike met us at the entrance with a big grin on his face. A nervous valet brought me a wheelchair when I gingerly exited the car with my swollen belly and pain-cringed face. I was admitted to the hospital at 5:30pm. Before I was wheeled upstairs into the labor room, I experienced a kicker of a contraction in the lobby, so I stood with my eyes closed in order to breathe through it. Once that round of pain ceased, I opened my eyes to reveal a circle of people around me. Mike and my mom were behind me, and a group of about five or six strangers including a Catholic priest waiting to check in watched the whole event. As I settled into my wheelchair to get taken upstairs, the priest said wide-eyed, “God bless you,” as I passed him. I thanked him and exclaimed that I didn’t know I had an audience!
A few hours of labor passed while I used laughing gas to handle the pain. The mask had to be held by me alone, and I had to exhale into the mask as well, which allowed me to count through each inhalation and exhalation. However, around 11pm, the contractions got so intense and after being checked two different times stuck at 6cm, I got discouraged. Seeing my face fall, my OB said he thought the laughing gas had run its course. “If you want an epidural, the time is now,” he advised. By then, the ripples of pain were searing through me and were almost more than I could bear. Despite me being adamantly opposed to having an epidural throughout my entire pregnancy, I consented. I was so desperate for the pain to stop. As soon as I said yes to the epidural, my laughing gas was wheeled away. I started to panic and lost my breathing rhythm. The anesthesiology resident had to go through the list of risks before they could begin the process of inserting the epidural. “I understand. Just do it and make the pain stop!” I impatiently told her. My amazing nurse held my shoulders and put her forehead against mine as the needle was inserted. I had to remain still even while waves of pain ripped through me. Finally the epidural was placed and everyone in the room watched me, waiting for me to finally be calm as the next round of contractions loomed. No relief came. The epidural didn’t work. “What? Why didn’t the list of risks include that the stupid thing may not work?” I angrily thought as I gripped Mike’s hands. He reminded me to breathe and told me I was squeezing his hands too aggressively, so I gripped the bed rails instead. Shortly afterwards, the pain moved from my lower abdomen to my hamstrings and my glutes. I was ready to push and it was midnight. No wonder the epidural didn’t work. Baby Girl was coming too quickly for it to take effect. My mom and Mike were on my left side, my nurse and the med student were on my left, and the OB was in front of me. Once I knew a contraction was starting, everyone took their places, pulling my knees and feet towards me. The med student counted to ten while I held my breath and pushed each time. It was an incredible team. At 12:43am on June 2, my baby arrived on her due date, calmly holding the umbilical cord by her face that had loosely wrapped around her neck. Her tiny clammy body was placed on my bare chest and she nuzzled my neck with her dark blue eyes wide open. I couldn’t believe she had a head full of hair and that it was the color of a shiny new penny. “She’s so beautiful,” I said in awe through tears. I didn’t even feel the OB doc sewing me back together. Perhaps the epidural wasn’t completely useless.
Since that night, my body has slowly been putting itself back together. For the first week, I had night sweats. I couldn’t figure out why I’d wake up in the middle of the night totally soaked! For several weeks, I thought I’d torn something in my hip. I could barely put any weight on my left leg to walk, and even had MRIs to check. I limped and walked like I was a hundred years old. My sit bones were bruised and unless I sat in the recliner, it hurt to be seated. At night, breastfeeding in bed was so painful because I had to sit up. Coughing and sneezing were out of the question. Instead of feeling like I had to pass wind, I felt like I had to pass a brick. Why didn’t anyone tell me that the pain doesn’t end at delivery? I now realize it’s because not everyone experiences these fun perks. Pain and the sequillae of childbirth are absolutely unique to each woman. Now that I’m nearly seven weeks out, I’m almost feeling normal again. At times during these past several weeks, I didn’t think I’d ever walk or sit again without pain.
All along, time keeps going. As much as we want it to slow down sometimes or speed up, it is constant. The memory of how my baby came into this world will always remain, although each and every detail will become cloudy. I know the memory of the pain I felt will altogether disappear. Why else would people have more than one child? Every morning I get so excited to look at my baby girl and see that she’s somehow changed. She’s getting bigger, her legs and cheeks are getting chubbier, she really sees me, and purposely smiles at me. Such are the rewards of time and even pain.