For Part One, click here.
We jumped right into pushing, with Mike and my mom each holding a leg and me pushing for ten seconds, three times per contraction. I was so excited, so positive and convinced that this might actually work and I might be able to experience pushing a baby out of my body. The epidural was working but gave me enough sensation that I could move my legs or change position without a lot of trouble.
Pushing must have been my nurse’s forte, because suddenly she was bright and optimistic. Perhaps she was anticipating the delivery and therefore conclusion of dealing with me in labor? Perhaps it was nearing the end of her shift? Perhaps she genuinely was excited? I’ll never know, but she dropped the sass and became Susie Sunshine for the next few hours.
We tried different positions and kept the pushing consistent as the hands wound round the clock. I had no concept of time as I labored, elated and anticipating meeting the baby whose gender I didn’t even know. The nurse kept saying, “I can see hair! It’s getting closer!” And I would surge with energy and push all the harder. My mom later told me that she was watching and the baby was not getting any closer, and as each hour passed she wished the nurse would stop giving me false hope. Looking back now, I’m actually glad she encouraged me because I wanted to give it all I had, and I don’t know if I could have if I’d been told I wasn’t making progress.
The doctor checked in periodically and reached his hand inside to try to manipulate the baby’s head a bit to assist. It was so intense it felt like he was reaching to the back of my throat.
The epidural started to wane, and I pushed the little button to deliver more of it. Minutes would pass and I’d only feel more sensation, more pain, and I started to mildly panic. I told the nurse the drug wasn’t working anymore; I could feel the contractions and pain with every push. She told me it was likely working but I was just getting worn down after hours of pushing. I told her the statistics about redheads and anesthesia (we have high drug tolerance so typical pain management is often inadequate). She seemed irritated by this and became impatient that I was focusing on my pain.
She told me to get on all fours and try to push that way, and just getting into that position was a laugh riot in itself. As soon as I started to push my body erupted in pain and I told her I couldn’t deliver a baby like a dog. I returned to my back and the contractions started to come faster, and when they came I reverted to breathing to cope with them, and the nurse noticed this and said, “No, you’ve got to keep pushing!” To which I replied, in desperation, “I can’t do both! I can either cope with the pain or push but I can’t do both! The drugs aren’t working!” And she said, which I still can’t believe, “Well, what do you think you’d be doing if you didn’t have these drugs? You wouldn’t have a choice. You have to push!” I felt venom run through my veins and gave Mike the universal wife glare to please clock this lady at his first opportunity.
Luckily he was still in his rational mind.
After another hour of pushing with nothing to show for it, the doctor came in to talk to me about having a cesarean. I shook my head in denial and disbelief, saying I hadn’t come this far to quit; I was determined to have a vaginal delivery. He was completely calm and drenched his words in kindness, and he explained that four hours of pushing with almost no progress was a sure sign that the baby wasn’t coming, and this was the best thing to ensure the health of both of us.
“Abby,” he said compassionately, “if you were my wife, I’d already have you prepped for surgery. No question.”
I stopped talking then. I sat quietly and then told him I just needed a minute to accept it. He left the room and I broke down crying.
I asked why? Why was this happening? How had we come so far and had this happen again? How had all of my effort lead to surgery again? Was something wrong with me? With my body? All of my family members came into the room and poured love over me, saying again and again that this wasn’t a failure, this was a saving grace, and thank God there was this operation to help us meet this baby. I cried quietly and then nodded, and the doctor came back in and we prepared to head to the operating room.
By this point the epidural had worn off almost entirely, and the pain was almost unbearable. They wheeled me down the hall and I couldn’t stop repeating “How much longer? How long until they do the full block? How many minutes exactly!?” I can’t describe the pain because I can’t remember what it felt like, but I can remember never having felt more desperate or scared in my entire life. I thought the pain would make me faint.
When they sat me up to move me to the surgical bed I held onto Mike and begged him to do something, do anything to help. He felt incredible pressure and pain at seeing me like this, and would ask “How long until you can help her? How many minutes?” And when they said six more minutes I cried again thinking there had never been such a long period of time. Writing this feels utterly pathetic, but I can’t overstate my misery.
At that point, my lowest by far, the nurse said to every doctor and nurse in attendance, “This one has a lot of questions,” with a look of total contempt. She might as well have said, “This one is a handful,” to all the people about to deliver my child. I couldn’t believe it, but I also didn’t have mental energy to give to her.
Finally the anesthesiologist inserted the block and they laid me down to begin.
Since the pain had abated, Mike and I refocused on the importance of what was about to happen: we were about to meet our third baby.
We reminded the doctor that we didn’t know the gender, and that Mike wanted to be the one to announce it to me. The doctor made his incision and described what he was doing to me, and then said, “You’re going to feel some pressure…” and then he and the other doctor gasped as they glimpsed our baby.
“What!?” we said, convinced something was wrong.
“It’s HUGE! It’s a toddler!!” they exclaimed, laughing. And then he lifted our precious baby high in the air for us to see.
“Abby!!! It’s a BOY!!!” Mike beamed at me, radiant with joy.
And there he was; extraordinary, perfect baby Hunter.
Everything slowed to a quiet hum as they laid him across my chest and I kissed the softest newborn skin and said hello to his perfect chin, chubby cheeks, and plump round body resting against my heart.
The pain and exhaustion disappeared, replaced with absolute peace and gratitude. Mike leaned in and we greeted our baby with overwhelming love, amazed that this was our son.
Our son whose size no one could get over, by the way. The doctors kept chatting about him as they stitched me up.
“Easily my biggest baby of the year,” my doctor told the room.
Every nurse called out bets, all in agreement that he was over ten pounds, it was just a question of how much.
He was born looking like a three month old, and it was pure joy to witness.
He weighed ten pounds, eleven ounces.
His size also made it immediately obvious to everyone why he wouldn’t come out the traditional way. The doctor launched right into how he was simply too large for my body to push out, and had he come that way, I would have likely needed surgery to repair the extensive damage.
I was flooded with relief, and also shame at having been so angry at how he needed to get here. Even though he didn’t come the way I’d dreamed, God still gave me so many gifts in what I didn’t get to experience with the twins: my water breaking, going into labor naturally, laboring to eight centimeters before resting, pushing with all my strength (okay I did also get to experience that with the twins). Seeing how large he was allowed me to turn my disappointment into great gratitude for us meeting each other in perfect health, just as we were meant to.
In one of the happiest experiences of our lives, we were wheeled down the hall to a crowd of waiting family, me in the bed and Mike walking next to me holding Hunter, and he yelled, “It’s a boy!” to enormous cheers. I shared his name with everyone and then we went into our room to let everyone meet him.
The next morning (since he was born at 8:02PM, it was past the twins’ bedtime) Henry and Arden came to meet their little brother for the first time.
They were like…what baby? My mom is in a bed. This is not normal. Are there any snacks?
Others were more interested.
We couldn’t get over his dark hair and skin that was much more olive than Henry or Arden’s.
Not surprisingly, he was a great eater and sleeper right from the start, which we credited to his enormous size. He was such a contented baby, and we delighted in him.
A day after he was born, it was time to remove my catheter to get my body back in order. I asked for a little more time, even six hours, because it was so painful and difficult to get in and out of bed to use the bathroom. The nurse on duty said she would delay it a few more hours, but it would be out by early the next morning. I agreed, gratefully.
The next morning a new nurse arrived and removed the catheter, and soon afterward asked that I try urinating to make sure things were working as they should.
They weren’t, and so began the most agonizing ordeal of my life.
Part Three coming soon.