It was the muted sound of a champagne cork popping, followed by a gush of warm liquid. “My water broke!” I squealed to V*, my husband. His hand, which had been massaging my aching back, recoiled. There was that phrase, at once much anticipated and dreaded. He jumped off his side of the bed and scrambled to my side. My fully pregnant torso groaned and creaked its way to a half-seated position. I waddled over to the tiled area of the bathroom (no sense in messing up a perfectly good mattress and carpet).
I grabbed the towel he handed me and got out of my pajamas. We looked at the small puddle of pinkish fluid that was forming on the floor. “Wow”, he whispered, almost to himself, “The baby has been in this.” We mulled it over for a second before my mind raced to the “Onset of Labor” checklist drummed into us in Lamaze class. This one was easy -- if your water breaks, call the doctor! I reeled off the number as V* headed to the phone and looked at the watch around my now plump wrist (pregnancy seemed to have invaded every part of my body during the final few weeks). 3:15 am – the threshold at which pregnancy stood ready to bid farewell and parenthood awaited its welcome.
At the hospital, the nurse handed me a gown as V* put the bag down and looked around our delivery room, his interest immediately piqued by the monitors. He was familiar with the machines and he knew the protocol in the delivery room thanks to the Lamaze classes he insisted we go to.
I was reluctant to go. Nobody went to Lamaze classes in our families, I said. But he wanted to go so he would know what to expect and not panic over something that was entirely normal. So we went, every Monday (except for one) for six weeks. By mutual agreement, we decided that ignorance was bliss when it came to “difficult births”, the topic of the class we skipped.
Attending the classes was one of the best things I did during my pregnancy. The focusing techniques taught there lived up to my expectations. I tried them during the first few contractions and they worked so well that, as labor progressed, I had no compunction telling anyone that blocked my view of my “focal point” to get out of the way.
Best of all, V* felt he could contribute to the process. He could talk intelligently about contractions and the stages of labor, and he knew when to call the staff. Attending the classes gave him the knowledge to support me when I declined epidural; and the patience to stand back and watch for hours, but be there when needed.
The first few hours of labor went by at a fast clip. V* survived, along with me, on cranberry juice and ice chips; he did not succumb to the crankiness that is the hallmark of his hunger pangs. The doctor checked me and announced I had dilated 4 centimeters. I reached for V*’s hand. He was always there. An adjoining family waiting room had a television that must have been very tempting. If it was, I never knew it. I closed my eyes visualized a blooming flower and whispered “Open Sesame” – feeling silly and at the same time, completely in control. When I opened my eyes, it was an hour later. I had taken a nap – in the middle of labor.
V* ran into the doctor in the corridor as he was getting us a drink. She came in a few minutes later, “I heard you took a nap.” She wanted to put me on pitocin to speed up the contractions. I glowered at V* for ratting me out. It was not his fault of course, but I did not want to take anything artificial, least of all something designed to ratchet up the intensity and frequency of contractions. She said because my water broke, C-Section was a possibility if the contractions did not progress faster. Pitocin lived up to its reputation. I had dilated 3 centimeters within the next hour.
Soon, we were at the stage of labor euphemistically called “transition”. It’s code for “the point at which the laboring woman loses all control”. Unfortunately, this is also precisely the point at which you are told to exercise maximum control.
The greatest urge I had was to push the baby out and scream at the top of my lungs. I had no vocabulary at that point; I just wanted to spew primordial sounds. Just like in the movies with delivery scenes. The nurse, as gently as she could, forbade me from screaming or pushing. I apparently had to conserve my energy for when the pushing actually began, and I wasn’t fully dilated yet. But somebody forgot to tell the baby that. He was on a bobsled inside, ramming my pelvic bone.
The doctor bustled in. “Are you ready?” I nodded my head, my mouth dry. At 4:10 pm, I started pushing. The relief at no longer having to suppress my urge to push was enormous.
At 4:41 pm, we had our baby. The doctor placed two clips along the umbilical cord and gave V* a pair of scissors. “Want to do the honor?” she asked. With tears streaming down his face, he simply nodded. He took the scissors, looked at me and snipped the cord.
Our life as parents had begun.
A version of this essay appeared in Pregnancy Magazine (http://www.pregnancymagazine.com/)