It was Thursday June 5th. My husband and I were sitting at a local Mexican restaurant at 4:00 in the afternoon. I remember thinking it was a strange time to be having a meal especially on a weekday, and I wasn’t very hungry. My husband and I split a big plate of nachos with toppings, he had a beer and I a strawberry lemonade. I sipped the lemonade really fast, hoping the cold and sugar would make my baby move a lot. It did, and it was reassuring. I was 8 months 3 weeks pregnant, and I was about to be induced in just a few hours.
Based on previous measurements, ultrasounds, and non-stress tests over the last month, the doctors had told us that our baby was measuring small with an even smaller abdomen. They told us she may be growth-restricted, not getting enough nutrients to grow, and she needed to come out as soon as possible. So we agreed to an induction at 39 weeks. I sat there sipping my lemonade, excited to see my baby. But I was worried for her. I didn’t know if she was doing ok or if she was suffering. This is not how I’d imagined bringing a baby into the world – all nervous and jittery and knowing that I was making the decision of forcing unnatural labor. Would my baby be able to take forced contractions? Would my body respond well to the medication? Would it be too painful for me to bear? Were we making the right decision to induce? All these questions coursed through my mind as I sat there, my nachos going cold and my husband comforting me and trying to get my mind off things.
A couple hours later we were in the labor room – both of us excited and at the same time sick with worry. Me in bed, my husband sitting next to me holding my hand, our baby’s heartbeat thumping reassuringly in the background. They’d given me Cervadil and told me to lie down as much as possible so it could be the most effective in bringing on labor. That night was actually fun. I told my husband we could pretend it was a sort of date. So we did a bunch of crossword puzzles, rented Toy Story (the most cheerful and funny movie I could think of), ate Sourpatch Kids, and explored the hospital dinner menu. I got a Tunafish sandwich and he a pizza. It was fun, but it was no normal date. Elliot was in shorts and a T-shirt and I in a hospital gown. I cried a lot, and every once in a while when another wave of fear came over me, Elliot would read aloud all our favorite passages from the Bible.
The next morning, we both awoke to the sound of our baby’s heartbeat and the flooding realization that today we might hold our girl for the first time. We were again excited but pretty scared at the same time. Throughout the night I had started having contractions, and by morning they were hurting. After a quick shower, they checked to see if I’d dilated at all. I had dilated half a centimeter, so I was now only 1 cm. I was crushed. Still though, they let us walk around for a few hours to see if my contractions would speed up. My husband and I walked up and down the 4 short hallways of our tiny small-town labor floor. We played word games and he made me laugh despite the heightening pain of my contractions. By 10:00am I hadn’t dilated any more. And that’s when my nurse started Pitocin.
Pitocin is a synthetic form of oxytocin used to induce labor (I just Googled that). My nurse was super nice. I can’t remember her name sadly, but she had red hair and a kind smile. And she was practical, which I think is a good way to be if you’re a labor and delivery nurse. She hooked me up to a couple IV’s, one of them Pitocin. This she first tried sticking in my wrist vein, but it began to throb and swell a bit so she switched it to my hand. I remember she kept apologizing for the inconvenience of this and the pain it caused. It thought it was nice of her. I knew this pain wouldn’t hold a candle to the pain that was coming, so I didn’t mind a bit.
She started me on a slow drip, raising the dose every half hour. It was weird at first to see the little baggie of fluid with the droplet of Pitocin dripping through the tube into my hand every couple of seconds. After a while, it scared me, so I stopped watching it and concentrated on not thinking about the pain of my contractions. The Pitocin really got things going. It was bad. I would go from the bed, to a walk around the room, to the rocking chair over and over. Nothing really seemed to help the pain except to get my mind off of it. Elliot was the best. He read to me, gave me massages, told me jokes, just talked to me and encouraged me, and sometimes prayed in silence to help me get through the next contraction. We watched a little TV and had snacks, and every half hour my red-haired nurse would up my dose by 2. I still don’t really know what that number means, but all I know is it went to 20, and every time she raised it the pain of contractions would worsen pretty fast.
After a couple hours of this, between contractions I asked Elliot if I should try the exercise ball and the tub. I had gotten to the point that nothing was really working any more to give me relief, and I needed something new to ease my pain. Elliot suggested I try the exercise ball, but we both agreed that it would be better to save the tub til I was a little more desperate for relief. I remember thinking the tub was like this sauna of relief and if I could just hold out a little longer, it would be my light at the end of the tunnel.
After another hour, and halfway to the full dose of Pitocin, I remember thinking “Oh, if I’m already halfway to the worst pain I’m going to feel, then I can totally do this.” What I didn’t realize at the time (thankfully) is that the pain from the first 10 units was nothing to that of the second 10. By the time the dose of Pitocin was at 14, I thought “Ok, I don’t know if I can last much longer.” Desperate for some kind of relief, I finally decided it was time for my last resort – the tub.
From Pitocin unit 16 all the way up to the full dose of 20, I was in and out of the tub. It gave me some relief, but by the time they had given me the full dose, the pain got bad. I was sitting in the rocking chair with Elliot beside me when she upped my dose to 20. The first jolt of pain with a contraction was so unspeakably awful that I doubled over in horror and groaning. And then, thankfully, wonderfully, and in perfect timing my water broke. I said “I think my water’s breaking go get the nurse!” to Elliot and he ran out. He and the nurse rushed in and she said “Ok, now your contractions are going to get worse” – dreaded words of course, because I was already in unbearable pain. I then remembered I hadn’t asked for the Epidural yet. I quickly asked for one as the nurse helped me to the bed. I asked her if she could make it happen fast, and that I couldn’t take this much longer. I just remember the jolts of pain with each contraction. I sat on the edge of the bed with Elliot and I looked down at my hands and they were shaking and shaking. I felt pain so out of control that I didn’t know if I could live. I guess women in labor are sort of delusional, that’s how bad the pain is.
The nurse checked me and I was dilated to 2. I was immediately so crushed and discouraged after all these hours and hours of so many contractions. I began thinking about C-sections- anything to take the pain away…. Contraction after horrible contraction so close together. I waited for the anesthesiologist. I just kept praying and praying she would get there fast, and that I could bear this pain until then. I held the cross on my necklace and cried out to Jesus over and over for help. At this point Elliot was reasonably traumatized. I moaned and groaned and felt a little crazy and definitely not myself. I remember thinking “This is not me! I would never moan aloud like this in front of strangers! This is so embarrassing!” but I couldn’t help it. The pain was awful. It took the anesthesiologist 30 minutes to get there and another 15 to finally get the tube in my back. I begged God to let the numbing drug work on me. I’d heard horror stories of it not working on people and not taking the pain away. But in just 5 more minutes the pain began to lessen as the liquid passed through my veins and numbed my body. It felt wonderful. I told Elliot we should name our baby Epidural. I was that relieved. Elliot right beside me was breathing sighs of relief too.
I began to drift off to blissful sleep, when they came to check me again. I’d dilated to 6 cm. in just 20 minutes! Thank You Lord, I thought. A bunch of nurses started getting things set up around me in case I dilated fast. I thought “No way! It’ll be at least a few more hours til I’m dilated! It’s been a whole day and nothing happened!” But then 30 minutes later I was a 10. Complete!
“This is it!” I thought, “I’m going to see my baby!” And then I started worrying about how I was supposed to do this. This was my first baby, I had no idea how to deliver a baby! And I was so exhausted. I was scared I wouldn’t have the energy. In fact, over the next hour and a half of pushing, I had to fight the urge just to fall asleep – the Epidural really made me feel sleepy. I prayed over and over that Jesus would give me the strength I needed for my baby. I just remember thinking that this was the hardest thing I had ever done and I’d better not give up. I kept thinking about my baby and how much she needed me to be strong right now. And the whole time through the oxygen mask I kept looking into Elliot’s eyes and asking him if I could do this. He just kept saying, “Jill you can do this.”
And then, all of a sudden in that dark room, at 7:18pm, I couldn’t believe it. There was Ember Loizeaux. All wrinkly and slippery and smushed and perfect in every way. Words can’t describe my awe and joy as I held her close, sobbing and sobbing and thanking Jesus for my baby.