My good friend, Monica, asked me if I could join her as she wanted a female companion along with her husband to help her through labor and delivery. Me?! What a thrill, an honor and I am so glad it worked out that I could be there.
When I was pregnant with Aidan, I developed pre-eclampsia. At 37 weeks, I went into the hospital to be induced. It took 2 days to get my cervix to make any sort of movement and I was sick on magnesium throughout. The magnesium and some other drug I can't remember also made me groggy and when my contractions came, I didn't know how to cope. I was given an epidural but it didn't take. Luckily for me, it went fast. In fact, my mom sent Jeff home to get some rest when they started the pitocin and we had to get him back in. Sadly, Aidan had the cord wrapped around his neck and a team from the NICU was present due to his hypoplastic right heart diagnosis in utero. Though they let me kiss Aidan, he was whisked away to the NICU. I could never nurse him and instead pumped and fed him for over a year.
I have always been a little saddened by Aidan's birth story - as he may likely be my only child, it has made me sad that his birth didn't have a little more normalcy. I regretted that I wasn't really alert until it was time to push. I was proud that I listened to my body and was able to tell my nurse I needed to push and fortunate that I didn't have a c-section but I felt as if I didn't remember my story. I used to watch A Baby Story or whatever the name of that show is on Lifetime a lot so I could try to pick out the details.
Monica's baby, her third, was a surprise. She and her husband decided to let the gender be a surprise, too. I got a call one morning two weeks ago when I was at the gym from Monica stating her water might have broken. I freaked out a little and couldn't concentrate too much on finishing my workout. I went home, packed a bag, waited for my mom to come watch Aidan, hot-rolled my hair for the baby and picked up Monica.
What a special time the next hours became. For a long time, it was just me and Monica. She couldn't have looked more lovely. She is such a beautiful person inside and out and just lovely pregnant. She has a quiet strength and confidence that allowed her to tell the doctors that perhaps they could wait to induce her because her water broke with her two other children and she had the babies within 6 hours. She was admitted to a room and we laughed and she showed me yoga poses. In fact, she made labor look pretty darn easy... for a little while.
Monica's husband showed up and the show began. We began walking the halls to help her with the discomfort. I noticed that her contractions seemed to be happening very fast. I had read two doula books and couldn't remember a darn thing about how to help her but I became suspicious that her labor was moving rapidly. When we got back to her room after a trip around the hall, Monica decided she needed an epidural. I went to tell her nurse that Monica's contractions really picked up and if the anesthesiologist needed her signature, he should get it now as she was asking for an epidural.
Things happened pretty fast after that - anesthesiologist came in and says he has another more urgent case but he'll try to fit her in. Monica says, maybe you need to check my cervix. I stand there not knowing how to help Monica. Monica is checked and is ready to push. Anesthesiologist irritatedly says he can't help hew now. We all wait for the NICU team to arrive as there is meconium in the waters. Someone hands Monica papers to sign for treatment of the baby while she is contracting. I try to help and ask them to get the signature from the father. Monica is in such intense pain and there is no relief. I don't know what to say or do. I just tell her it is almost over and she is doing a good job. Luckily her nurse grabs a leg, Otto and I hold onto the other and the winking doctor tells her to push. Three good pushes later and the baby boy arrives. He is beautiful and her biggest. This entire turn of events seems to happen all within 2 minutes but it was probably still only in 15 minutes. She pushed him out in under 5.
I get to see the placenta be delivered. I got to watch a father hold his son for the first time. I got to see a baby nurse on his mother for the first time. I am seriously impressed with this amazing process and my amazing friend.
Selfishly, I feel as I was given a huge gift from Monica. The missing memories from my own delivery seem to be filled in. I remember things, feelings, PAIN, fear, love, strength.
Here's a cool thing that happened. Monica and I share an OB. He had told her there was a picture of me and Aidan up on the mom and baby floor. I knew nothing about it. I knew there was a chance that Aidan's picture could be up there but was told that there was a budget at the hospital and they couldn't afford it a few years ago. I went up to the mom and baby floor and sure enough, an enormous picture of Aidan and me is in the gallery of pictures. He is one years old in the picture above and just beautiful. He went through so much in that single year - 3 heart surgeries - and just look at that sweet face.
Another cool thing - Monica and I are sure to be lifelong friends. I had that hunch before but now I feel it in my heart. Monica, thank you for sharing with me such an intimate, miraculous, beautiful event. I don't know if you will understand how much it has helped me. I have been so sad over not having more children and to witness this event has really helped. I hope I helped you, too, as it was really my only intent going into this. I knew I would get something out of it but not to the magnitude that I did.