No morning sickness. No cravings. For me, being pregnant had felt a lot like not being pregnant, so I was eager to discover how my perceptions of labor would compare to the real thing.
On the night before my due date, I climbed into bed and felt a kick, then a trickle. “My water just broke,” I announced to my husband. Except for being damp, I didn’t feel any different. Still, I knew that karate chop to my water bag had started a countdown clock. Over the phone, my doctor confirmed what I had read: The baby needed to be born within 24 hours to avoid risk of infection.
So, my husband and I jumped in a taxi and headed to the hospital to get my contractions started. The nurses inserted a dose of Cervidil, which looked kind of like a tampon, to soften my cervix, and I went to bed. When my contractions still hadn’t kicked in hours later, I started Pitocin. Finally, I felt something.
At first it was fun, riding each contraction like a wave. But then back labor hit—hard. My doctor snapped into action, suggesting heating packs and positioning tricks. Choosing an ob/gyn is kind of like recruiting a quarterback without ever seeing him throw a football. When the pain spiked, it was reassuring to know that I’d drafted a pro.
The clock kept ticking and the baby kept playing demolition derby on my back. I found some relief leaning over a birthing ball, walking the halls, and soaking in the tub, but the pain kept building and I was barely dilated. I’d always hoped for a drug-free birth but decided an epidural would be the best way to conserve my strength.
And I was right. With the pain controlled, my body could relax and do its job. After an entire day, I managed to dilate to 9.5 centimeters. I was so close to being able to push when my doctor delivered the news: “We’re out of time. You need to have a C-section.”
They wheeled me into the operating room. Madonna’s “Ray of Light” was blaring over the radio. A friend had once told me that delivering a baby via Cesarean is like trying to pull a sweater from the bottom of a stuffed suitcase that’s only unzipped a few inches. So true. Still, within a few minutes, the doctor managed to tug the baby free from the carry-on bag my belly had become and announced, “He’s as big as I am!”
A he! Suddenly my big boy was in my arms and I was staring at his chin dimple—the one that matched his daddy’s, the one I’d pictured he’d have in a dream.
Learning that I would need a C-section seemed worlds away from my ideal labor, but it was still an amazing experience. I was able to nurse Jackson immediately after surgery and I recovered quickly. It honestly felt like it was meant to be. I know it was my perfect birth, because it’s what brought my karate-chopping son to me!
Lisa Maxbauer Price lives in New York City with her husband, Matt, and their son.