Twelve years ago, today I was barely 27 years old, very pregnant in the sweltering monsoon season in Tucson, AZ. I had been on forced bed rest for two weeks as pre-eclampsia had made it too dangerous for me to even move without risking seizures that could lead to a coma. So I laid in bed, with the humidity from the rain almost shutting down the swamp cooler, with feet so swollen I could barely walk, with a nervous system so tapped out that I jerked when anyone touched me. I was 38 weeks pregnant, with my first and only child.
I took a cab to the birthing center I had picked out, the one where I would birth my child like a goddess and he would transition sweetly from amniotic fluid into the warm water and make his way up to my arms and to his first breath out of liquid. This had been my plan. The hope was that the bedrest could keep my blood pressure low enough that I wouldn’t be considered high risk and have to deliver at the hospital. I was by myself for this appointment. The Dr. checked my reflexes and I almost kicked her in the face. They checked my weight, I was still gaining the approximate 90 lbs my small frame adjusted to. 90 lbs in a bit over 9 months. I was told very casually, “today is the day you are going to have your baby, today we induce labor, we have to get him out, it’s the only cure for pre-eclampsia and your blood pressure is too high.” I started crying, out of complete fear. I wasn’t ready, it was still too early, I didn’t want to deliver my baby in a hospital, I didn’t have my bag to bring to the hospital with me, I wasn’t dilated, not even a millimeter, and I knew I was about to be pumped with drugs I definitely did not want in my system. They let me go home, the midwives and collect my things, and my son’s father (air quotes).
3:00 pm: August 11th, 2004 was the day I was going to have my son. I got hooked up to monitors and IV’s, alarms would beep anytime I moved, I felt like an alien lifeform. They assured me that the Pitocin would kick in quickly and my labor would begin rapidly, 1 cm dilated. One scared young woman and an equally terrified young man. This was not my plan. This was not how my son was supposed to be born, I could feel it. I could feel the potions creating contractions and chemically trying to create labor, they were one right after another, no build up, just full on labor. But there were problems, my water wasn’t breaking, my cervix wasn’t dilating further, and the contractions kept coming. There were papers being shoved in my face about emergency C-sections and windows of time before they had to cut me open. I refused, I refused to sign and said that as long as my baby’s heartbeat and vital signs were fine, my body could take it and that clearly he wasn’t ready to be artificially forced out. Wednesday turned to Thursday. Thursday turned to Friday. Friday I was in a state of some type of euphoria combined with lack of sleep, constant contractions and drifting 2 minute dreams and phone calls coming in begging me to sign the papers and asking me why I would put my body through this. The only thing I kept saying was, “he’s not ready yet, you’re trying to force him out and it isn’t his day, so I will wait.”
All the nurses and doctors and his father thought I was insane. Everyone kept trying to convince me I didn’t need to be a hero, that there was no shame in having a C-section, and there isn’t – it wasn’t about shame. I didn’t know what it was, other than the strongest feeling I had ever had in my life that I was determined to wait. I kept thinking about how women birthed babies in fields and caves and dirt floors or kitchen tables or in the back seats of cars and that I was no different. My body, his body, our bodies rebelled against the chemicals and the doctors had never seen a women sit through labor this long – willingly, neither had the nurses or midwives, but I was convinced that my son knew the day he was supposed to be born.
Friday turned to Saturday and during the night I was given an epidural, I had no choice any longer they said. It was time to break my water and they were nervous I wouldn’t even have enough energy left to push him out. Hours went by, the pitocin kept dripping, I finally was reaching a point where everything in me was screaming, “PUSH!” but he wasn’t effaced yet, I wasn’t allowed to push. I’m not sure how much time finally went by before I simply could not control my body’s force to push. After 4 days of waiting, he was ready. It took me an hour and a half to push him into the world and then I fell back on the bed and collapsed as they handed me my baby and I said in a whisper, “Avery, it’s so nice to finally meet you.”
He was born on August 14th and that number is significant because I was also born in a summer month on the 14th. He waited for our number, he wasn’t meant to be born on the 11th, or 12th, or Friday the 13th, he was born during a thunderstorm in the hottest month of the desert and he chose the 14th. I knew I had made the right choice by listening to my body, by ignoring medical advice, by refusing to sign papers so they could get me in and out like a baby factory.
I knew I heard my son telling me, just wait…
Just wait for me.
(part 2 comes on the 14th)