I will never forget the day I became a mother.
Caution, this is quite the ride, so buckle up. It’s about birth and my particular story is intense.
I became a mother 13 years and 8 months ago. I was 25 years old and had gotten married less than a year prior. I strongly do not recommend getting pregnant a month into marriage, if you can help it.
On the day of my daughter’s birth, I had just seen my OB for a checkup. Her name was Dr. Sam and she was African American in her early 30s. I mention her gender, age, and race because I found her to be a badass amidst all the old white male OBs. She was really friendly and really cool.
At my checkup she found me to be nearly 3 centimeters dilated.
My gestation was estimated to be at 38 weeks, 5 days and I had been dilating slowly from 35 weeks. Essentially, I was in a prolonged start/start labor and it was very uncomfortable. From the time I was 36 weeks my OB kept talking to me about wanting to induce but I argued that the studies show birth at 39 – 41 weeks produces the favorable outcomes for the baby and I heard inducing was more painful. So I wanted to wait a little bit.
My husband and I went straight from the OB visit to the East Coast Burrito Factory in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where we were living at the time. They made the most delicious burritos I’ve ever tasted, even since. It was a mom-n-pop restaurant and sadly it went out of business shortly after so that was the last time I ate the tastiest burrito I’ve ever had.
The burrito caused indigestion, as burritos will often do, and I was starting to feel more painful twinges in my cervix. By this point I had become an expert at what dilation felt like. Then we ended up at the hospital because there were other signs and symptoms that I won’t reveal as some might think it too gross.
I was having irregular contractions, they were coming between 4-10 minutes. I spoke with my OB on the phone and she said, Let’s have this baby! and ordered me to receive Pitocin to get my labor really going. I had told her prior that I didn’t want this as I knew it’d make the labor stronger and faster but I didn’t know about such a thing as consent and I was allowed to say no if I didn’t want something to be done to my body. I would later remember this when I was a doula and discuss with the birthing mothers and her support partners their options.
My contractions very quickly afterward started coming every 2-3 minutes and I was very upset because the nurses, seeing how much pain I was in, kept trying to push pain medication on me that I didn’t want. My doctor arrived and reduce the Pitocin dosage because after several hours I wasn’t making any progress dilation-wise. I’d learn later as a doula that when a woman doesn’t feel safe and is upset her labor can stall (this happens with other mammals as well).
Once she arrived and reduced my Pitocin I started progressing, but by that point, I was so tired that I kept falling asleep between contractions, which was worse than being awake the whole time because I kept waking up with the most excruciating pain (this was even after the pain medication that I finally agreed to have).
My labor stalled again and they had to up the Pitocin again and by that point, everyone, my husband, nurses, and my OB was pushing for me to get an epidural. I was extremely frightened of a long needle being stuck into my spinal fluid so I resisted until I couldn’t resist anymore.
After about 10 hours of labor, we got to the pushing phase. I didn’t have any music so my OB put on Enya, which helped a little because I was an Enya fan. I was an Enya fan. Now it’s hard to listen to because of the birth.
I pushed for two hours with no progress. I would learn later as a doula that the baby’s face is supposed to be facing away from the pubic bone, whereas my daughter’s was facing towards the pubic bone.
What this does is present the part of the head that is the widest, making it more difficult to birth. It also causes more intense labor pains. Some women are able to give birth this way, however, my pelvic outlet was already on the small side so in this circumstance I was not able to push her out (though during my next birth I was able to push my son out because he was in the normal position).
My OB said that we could try forceps but she wasn’t experienced in them and didn’t think it’d work so after 12 hours of labor (2 of those pushing) she said we needed to do a C-section. Now, this terrified me. This was only my second time in a hospital (the first being when I myself was born) and I had never had any type of surgery before.
I was convinced I was going to die. About 90% convinced. It didn’t matter to me that they said it was routine, I was sure I was going to die on that operating table. I eventually made peace with it: Okay, God you can kill me but please keep my baby alive. Looking back, this makes me laugh. This was the first mother-like thing I’d ever said to myself.
So while I’m still in the midst of labor with my daughter stuck in my pelvic outlet (it really does feel like a bowling ball between your legs) the anesthesiologist came in to check my epidural. Once he was convinced that I was numb enough they wheeled me into the operating room.
At this point the stress on my body and mind made me shake. No matter what I did I couldn’t get warm enough or calm my nervous system down. My husband became so fascinated by watching the surgery (no – he didn’t faint – he actually watched it!) that he stopped paying attention to comforting me.
It was such a weird feeling. It wasn’t painful but I felt the pressure of someone’s hand moving my internal organs around. When they announced my daughter’s birth it was the most surreal feeling.
Everyone was holding and looking at my baby instead of me. I heard her cry. Oh my god I’m a mother. And everyone else was holding her. I kept asking where my baby was and they were weighing her and measuring her and said I’d see her soon. I have no idea how much time passed, but it felt like an eternity.
My husband brought her to me and she was swaddled up with a cute little hat on. Her face was pink and she was the most gorgeous, but also the most alien (let’s be real), thing I’d ever seen.
My arms were shaking too much to hold her. I also think my arms may have been tied down at one pint, but I can’t remember that bit. There was a blanket around my shoulders and on my arms. I just had to wait stuck on the table while they delivered my placenta and sewed me back up. The nurses took my baby and introduced her to my inlaws and then off she went to the nursery without me.
After that, they put me in a recovery room. I was there for 6 hours, primarily because they didn’t have a maternity room for me yet, and the nurse’s station was right outside my curtain so there was constant beeping. I kept drifting in and out of sleep and I yelled (well, yelled for me, which is really more a stern talking-to) to take her beeping machine away from me (which she did as it was mobile).
I kept asking where my daughter was. This happened on and off for the 6 hours. They said she was fine and in the nursery and that I needed to rest. They also didn’t let my husband come in to see me for a couple hours! I thought they might be hiding something from me like I was dying or something happened to my baby. I was really paranoid, I have to say.
After 6 hours I finally got into my room and they brought me my daughter. I was so exhausted from not sleeping for 24 hours and I overheard the nurses criticizing me for letting my baby stay in the nursery and not in the room with me. My husband yelled at them for being assholes, which was great, except after that they refused to come in and give me my pain medication (they were supposed to give it to me every 4-6 hours but they came by every 10-12).
I was so exhausted and felt like a failure for not being able to give birth naturally that I couldn’t stop crying. When my OB came to check on me she was concerned and immediately gave me Zoloft (an antidepressant) and Ambien (a sleeping pill).
Another thing I heard the nurses criticize me for, my having trouble with and not wanting to breastfeed. I couldn’t stop crying and I would have these drugs that could pass to the baby, for fuck’s sake. My husband told my OB about the nurses and she had a talk with the lead nurse, that I had a really rough experience and to let me rest.
I will never forget that day. It took me years to psychologically heal from that experience. I ended up channeling it into becoming a doula, where I was able to advocate for the birthing families and help during childbirth. It was the most fulfilling and amazing job I ever had.
I want to say if you are a person with a mental illness and want to have children you are going to need extra support. Surround yourself with people who know and love you and can help with practical things. And don’t hesitate to take medication or change your parenting style to whatever works for you. Other mothers can be judgmental about your choices, but don’t let them get to you.
My daughter is now 13. Her birth was intense and difficult. I may not be remembering every single detail with accuracy however I will never forget how much I love my sweet girl.
After she was born I wrote a song for her, which I sang to her every single night until she was 10. Now that she’s older she doesn’t need it every night, but I’ll still sing it to her when she’s feeling extra stressed and it helps calm her. I love her so much.
Tell me about a day you’ll never forget.