My water broke at 1am on the morning of September 8th, 2005. It was two weeks before my due date, and we still hadn't installed the car seat yet. This was my first thought. Not, “I’m about to meet my child,” or “We’re going to witness a miracle,” nope, I was just thinking about all the stuff on my to-do list that wasn’t crossed off. It was like a friend showing up at the door unexpected. You're thrilled to see them, but still wish you’d had time to vacuum. And yet I was calmly ready. We took the natural childbirth classes, learned the breathing, read all books on everything from breastfeeding to saving money for college. Honestly, I read about fifteen child/parenting/birth books while pregnant. We were prepared to meet our baby. But first, we needed more sleep. It was one in the morning and I knew if she had my genes, she would not be greeting us at five.
Around 7am the contractions started. Just little tightening twinges and I thought, "this is nothing, I can totally do this." Around nine, we packed our bag, oh yeah that was another thing we hadn’t done, and were off to have a baby. We called Grandma W. and told her we were on the way to the hospital. She said, "I'm already there."
Our hospital was located on the UCLA campus in Westwood, which was wonderful, because after we checked in, they told us to get lost. So we went to The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf for lattes. I had a decaf and called my sister. We chatted for a bit, and said, “I can’t believe I’m in labor and sitting out on the patio of a coffee shop enjoying the day.” Again I thought, “This labor stuff is a breeze. I don’t know what those OTHER women were complaining about. Maybe I’m just tough, geez, what a bunch of crybabies.”
We window shopped, and every once in a while, I’d stop to breathe. The contractions were getting closer and it was difficult to walk, so we slowly made our way back to the hospital.
We were not the only soon-to-be parents at UCLA that day, and there wasn’t a labor and delivery room ready for us. “Just like the baby Jesus,” I thought, except UCLA isn’t exactly a barn, and I wasn’t exactly the virgin Mary. Okay, bad analogy, I just really wanted a room with a cd player, so I could listen to my ocean sounds, and sit on my yoga ball. Instead, we were stuck in the tiny check-in room and would remain there until I started pushing. It wasn’t what we’d wanted, but you can’t get hung up on the little stuff when you’re squeezing a watermelon out your hoo-hoo, ya know? So with that perspective in mind, a broom closet was fine.
When I was dilated about 4 centimeters, the midwife asked me on a scale of one-ten how I would rate the pain. I thought it was getting pretty severe so I said, “ooh, seven, eight.” She and Grandma W. laughed, ha ha ha, (obviously they’d done this before) and said, “honey if you can talk, you’re not an eight!”
I was beginning to think that perhaps I was in for more than what I’d bargained, and would like to change my mind about this whole natural childbirth thing. Sure it sounded good in that hippie, granola way. Our baby would be brought into the world without being exposed to anything, and I would be able to fully experience this miracle, and ouch, this was really starting to hurt, and those drugs they talked about were really starting to look good. In fact, any drug was starting to sound like a viable option. Just hit the vein and make it quick!
A couple hours later, we were still at four centimeters. The midwife suggested a cervical medication, that helps speed up delivery. Froggydaddy said, “we don’t need any drugs! She’ll speed it up,” then looked at me like, “you heard the lady!” I’m kidding about this. He was wonderful, and let me wrap my arms around his shoulders and scream. We decided to stick with our no-intervention plan, and would just “imagine” my cervix opening a little quicker. Strangely enough, it worked.
In forty-five minutes, I went from four centimeters to eight. And let me tell you, those forty-five minutes were the worst forty-five minutes of my life. I begged for the epidural. I cried, I yelled, I moaned, I seriously reconsidered becoming a mother at all. At one point I looked at Froggydaddy and said, “I REALLY do not want to do this anymore, okay?” And when he said, “we’re gonna do this just like we planned,” I thought, “oh yeah Buddy, just like we planned, huh? I don’t see you contorting in pain, vomiting into a little kidney-shaped dish, just praying for any drug at all, an epidural, heroin, anything to ease the pain, so you just take your little plan and shove it, owwwwww!”
The midwife said, “I’ll go see if we can get you that epidural now.” She returned a minute later to say that there were two women in front of me. I said, “I don’t care about those other women! Give it to me, now!”
The midwife left the room. Great, not only was I going to die from the pain, but now I just pissed of the woman who was going to catch my baby. Now what? But she was kindly checking to see how long it would be. When she returned, she looked at me and asked, “are you pushing?” I hadn’t thought about it, but yes, I was. Who knew? It was too late for an epidural, this baby was coming.
All the women in my life had tried to prepare me for the pain. They said “it’s manageable,” and “the contractions are like a wave, building and building, and eventually retreating back into the ocean.” But my contractions weren’t retreating. There was no wave, no break, no cute little tide pools with sea urchins, no this was never-ending. The 250 bucks we spent on learning how to breathe was pointless, because there wasn’t a moment to breathe. I couldn’t visualize anything! The contractions were overlapping and I thought, “Everyone lied. This isn’t manageable, and I’m not tough. I want to go home, and I definitely do NOT want to give birth. Let’s just go to a movie and pretend the last nine months never happened.”
Our room was still not ready and I was not about to have the kid in the freaking broom closet. But Froggy wanted out and there really is no option when it comes to pushing. It’s like a mosquito bite that has to be scratched. I LOVED PUSHING! Finally, relief. Finally a feeling of accomplishment. That pointless pain stuff was misery, but now I was in control and this kid was coming out. The end was in sight. I looked at FD and said, “Let’s do this.” I don’t think I’ve ever been more sure of anything in my life. I wanted this baby out of my body, pronto. I’d been patient. She stayed at the hotel St. Mommy for long enough. But it was check-out time.
I can’t describe the feeling of giving birth. It was amazing. I held onto Froggydaddy, wrapped my arms around his neck and wailed. It was so primal and spiritual, and I could not have done it without him. And I’m not exaggerating. There was one point when he had to put film in the camera, his fingers were fumbling, he was sweating, and I said, “forget the camera!” He rushed over to me and I had never needed anyone more in my entire life. He grounded me into the earth at the very moment our daughter was born. And by squeezing his poor shoulders with all my might, I pushed Froggy out. It took both of our strength to bring her into the world, and that’s why it was so wonderful.
There she was, my beautiful, miraculous girl. You should’ve seen her eyes. All of a sudden, this person was inside of me and now she’s looking at me, like, “hi, mom.” I will never forget that moment. Ever. And I can not imagine anything in life more amazing. She was my Grand Canyon. All night, I wanted to look into her eyes. I felt like I had this marvelous secret that no one else knew, this key to viewing life. It’s hard to explain, but when Froggy was born, it was like seeing an old friend after a very long time apart. Somewhere, somehow we had known each other all along. And I knew at the very second she looked into my eyes, like a jolt of electricity, that I could never love anything more.