I felt more like a 16-year-old girl, green and innocent and afraid, than the 36-year-old woman who sat in the hospital bed. I saw shadows of the boy that my 40-year-old husband had once been. His brilliant blue eyes shone with fear and excitement.
We were about to experience the most important moment of our lives.
We’d dreamed about it for years and we were as ready as we’d ever be. We’d attended all the classes and read all the books. We had the nursery decked out, the car seat installed, the daycare lined up. We had pretty much everything figured out (well, as much as two totally clueless middle aged soon-to-be parents possibly can).
Except, of course, a name for our baby.
We had pondered this question since the moment we got pregnant, trying on different names for size. We decided on a middle name early, but our baby’s first name, the name he would have to live with for the rest of his life, seemed too daunting a decision. So we stalled. We both had favorites that the other didn’t really care for, and then we had a list of two or three names that we both were kind-of ok with. And that’s where we stood when we arrived at the hospital to meet our son.
I knew shockingly little about pregnancy, labor and childbirth going into this. I’d spent the last two decades attending college and building a career, not bearing children. I’d only been to the doctor a handful of times in the past twenty years, and I’d set foot in a hospital even less. This was like the Wild Wild West for me, a whole new frontier. After the whole experience, when we were home and settled in, I became obsessed with it all. OB/GYNs were absolutely fascinating to me. The work that they do just seemed so intense and so incredibly important — bringing life into the world and caring for their patients during the most vulnerable moments of their lives. I mean, every single one of the doctors and nurses who were involved with my delivery are my soul sisters now (they all just happened to be women). I realize they do this every day, but they will always have super-hero status in my eyes. We are BFFs for life whether they know it or not!
Even with my limited knowledge of childbirth, I knew that my body would do what it was supposed to do when the time came.
I knew that my son would be born whether I understood what was happening or not. Unlike some of my friends who had carefully planned every detail of their birthing experiences down to the music they would listen to as they danced through contractions or bounced on birthing balls during their natural labor, my birth plan was pretty simple: healthy baby, healthy mom, dad cuts the chord, vaginal birth if at all possible, epidural DEFINITELY. Luckily, all of my criteria were met.
I got the call on Tuesday, two days after my due date: “Pack your bags and head to the hospital,” the nurse on the other end of the phone said. “It’s time to have a baby!”
I was having no signs of labor, so I had to be induced due to increased protein in my urine and the risk for preeclampsia. So I called Dan at work and told him to head home asap. Then I took a shower and got dressed (what on earth is one supposed to wear for an occasion like this anyway?). I grabbed my favorite maternity jeans, a sweater and the only shoes that fit my swollen cankles.
We arrived at the hospital on Tuesday afternoon around 4pm. We checked in and got situated, and they gave me Misoprostol to ripen my cervix. Nothing was happening by 10pm except that my stomach was growling so loudly it was being mistaken for a baby’s screams. The kind doctor on call agreed I should eat something, so Dan got me some chicken fingers and French fries from the cafeteria, which will go down in history as the best meal I’ve ever eaten. We started another round of meds, and Dan and I tried to get some sleep.
When my body was ready, I was given Pitocin to induce labor, and around 5am my water broke. Contractions picked up pretty quickly after that, and at 6:30am or so I was READY for my epidural. I called the nurse who said they’d be right there, but then there was an emergency elsewhere and all the anesthesiologists were occupied. Then there was a shift change. Then it was 8:30am and I was dying.
When they finally started the epidural, my contractions were so intense I had to double over and brace myself and squeeze Dan’s hand for dear life each time. But the look on my face during these contractions must have been more than Dan could bear, because before they were finished, he stood up from his perch beside me and left the room. Literally — he walked out right during the critical moment when I needed him! I was furious. 10 minutes later, the charge nurse stepped into the room with an oddly serious look on her face and said:
“I’m so sorry to bother you Haley, but your husband has passed out and has been admitted to the ER.”
Let me just say: this is A LOT to try to comprehend while you’re freaking GIVING BIRTH and it took me a minute to process what she had said. When I finally did, the first thing I thought to shout was “Are you kidding me!?” And the second thing was to ask if he was ok. Which he was; he had passed out in the hallway just outside the room, and he came-to on the floor with about 20 hospital employees hovering around him. They thought he may have hit his head when he went down, so due to hospital policy he was forced to admit himself to the ER, where he was carried on a stretcher with a neck brace (just for good measure) and would receive his very own orange and white bracelet to match Mom and Baby’s.
As it turns out, Dan has a rare condition called Vasovagal Syncope, which causes him to faint at the sight of blood or extreme emotional distress. But I’ll just say that he is a very lucky man that he made it back to the room before the birth of our son. I know it was beyond his control, but I may have never forgiven him if he’d missed it!
After all of the epidural excitement, while Dan was still in the ER and before any of our family members had arrived at the hospital, I lay there by myself, too tired to feel lonely or afraid, when a petite lady with kind eyes and a no-nonsense bob walked into the room. She explained that her job was to visit patients such as myself who were alone and may need someone to provide a kind and encouraging word. She sat by my bed, held my hand, and told me all about her children and grandchildren as if we were old friends and this was just a perfectly normal situation. She left when the doctor came back in to check my dilation, but I will always be grateful for her kind words and sweet spirit.
Dan and I had made a plan in the days leading up to the birth: it would only be the two of us in the room during delivery. The rest of the family would be allowed to enter after we’d had about an hour of skin to skin time and done our first breastfeeding session. But after the drama of Dan passing out, I was terrified that it would happen again and I’d end up being all alone, so we asked my Mom to be in the delivery room with us. My sister had also come to the hospital and looked at me with sad puppy dog eyes until I told her she could stay too. Eventually Dan’s aunt joined us, and the three of them sat like the peanut gallery on the pull-out couch shouting “Push! Push!” and cheering us on every step of the way. I didn’t mind though, in fact it was pretty special that they were there to share the experience with us.
It was time to push at 2:15pm on Wednesday, nearly 24 hours since we’d arrived at the hospital. I pushed for three hours. (Yes, you read that correctly: 3 HOURS!) At 5:19pm on March 1, 2017, my precious baby boy was born. He weighed 6 pounds 15 ounces and was 21 inches long. He had light hair, blue eyes, and the most luscious lips I’ve ever seen.