Meet Maxwell Logan Waterstraat born July 23, 2010 at 5:43 pm. He weighed in at 7 pounds, 9 ounces (so much for ultrasound estimates) and was 20 inches long. He is perfect in every way possible. The way he got here – not so perfect. But it’s true what they say – the minute you see your child, you forget it, all of it, and would do it again in a heartbeat.
The day before I was going to give birth I knew it – I felt totally off, crampy, achy, irritable. Your body knows. The next day, sure enough, I started leaking amniotic fluid at 6 am. Only 8 percent of women have their water break. Water breaking is not such a good thing unless you are already in labor. When it breaks, you have 24 hours to give birth because of risk of infection because the membrane protecting the baby gets ruptured. Great, if you’re having consistent contractions, not so great if you’re not. If you’re not, they need to speed it up so you can get that baby out. The only way to do that is through Pitocin. I was very upset about this. I know what Pitocin does and what it can do. I know it likely leads to c-section if things progress too quick or the fetus gets stressed out. I did not want a c-section. I did not want to be induced. I wanted to give birth, not have surgery.
But everything needed to move more quickly now. There was no time to wait. I was moved to a laboring room, I was given an IV and Pitocin. I labored with Pitocin contractions for about 5 hours. I felt things and made noises that I did not think were possible. I could focus on nothing but the pain. No amount of breathing, relaxing or pounding my fist made it any better. Except shouting obscenities. When I finally shouted MOTHERF*CKER I think Chris laughed, did you just drop a mofo bomb? A few hours later, a few more cuss words later, I got the epidural. When the nurse told me I could expect another 6 hours of laboring as they increased the Pitocin so I could dilate enough to give birth - I ordered in the anesthesiologist. Let me say this – Pitocin contractions are nothing like exercise pain. I felt like I needed to shit an elephant out of my ass and that elephant was also marching on my spine. It was more intense than anything I have ever felt. Once the epidural was in, I felt nothing and could finally relax.
When I entered the hospital, I was still only dilated to 3 centimeters. A few hours later I was at 4 centimeters. After the epidural, I got up to 8 centimeters. The doctor told me I should be fully dilated in another 45 minutes so they wheeled the delivery table in – that’s when Chris and I looked at each other and said this is really happening!
But then something happened. First, I stopped dilating even after another 45 minutes. Then, I had a contraction that lasted 5 minutes which stressed Max out so much that his heart rate dipped below 60. You get 6 minutes below 60 before your life is threatened when you’re a baby.
I was given oxygen and by the time my mind caught up with what was going on, I was being rushed at high speed on a gurney into the OR for an emergency c-section. All I remember is watching the lights whiz by above me and stopping in a sterile, bright room looking wide-eyed and feeling more scared than I’ve ever been in my life. Chris wasn’t there. I couldn’t talk. I was surrounded by white lights and doctors in blue scrubs.
In the OR, the doctor then monitored Max for a few minutes and his heart rate returned to normal so I returned to the room to continue laboring. I was told that I could deliver normally. Chris was still standing there, looking a little shell-shocked. He never got into the OR. He stood in the room telling the doctor she doesn’t want a c-section. The doctor told him it wasn’t a choice now, the baby needed to come out alive.
5 minutes later I was back in the OR because Max’s heart rate dipped again. I was scared and had so much adrenaline that my entire upper body was shaking uncontrollably (because the lower half was blocked by the epidural). My view of birth was a blue sheet in front of my face. I kept wondering where Chris was and then turned to the door to see him standing there in scrubs and a mask. He looked confused, concerned. I tried to tell him with my eyes that I was so scared. He came over to me and rubbed my head. I wanted to cry. This was not how it was supposed to happen. This is not how I wanted my son to enter the world.
I could hear the doctors. It all happened very quickly, I was cut open within a few minutes and moments later, Chris, looking over the blue sheet that hung in front of my face, shouted oh god, he’s out!
The next thing I heard was crying – from Max and from me.
Chris went to cut the cord and sounded so happy. I remember him coming back over to my head and saying I love you so much, Elizabeth. I can’t imagine how it must have felt for him to see them cutting open my stomach and pulling out a baby. He told me I was brave. I felt like a failure…
The worst part was not being cut open or feeling tugging, pressure and pulling as they did it. It was having no control, no choice and not being able to “give” birth. The next day I remember saying to Chris that I felt like I DNFed childbirth. I didn’t even get the chance to push. You have to get to 10 centimeters before you can start pushing. I’m not saying that I regret still having my vagina in tact (I win!) but I regret not knowing birth the way it was intended. Then again, I’m not sure any of us know what is intended for us.
Because I was shaking so bad, I couldn’t hold Max for two hours. The longest two hours of my life. All I wanted to do was hold him and feed him. Something very instinctual kicked in. It took them 30 minutes to get my arms to settle down so they could get a blood pressure on me. When they finally did, I was able to hold Max. In that moment, it’s true what they say – you forget everything.
I have never felt so much love for something. I looked at him wondering how it was possible that together Chris and I created something so perfect. He was the most beautiful baby I have ever seen. He looked just like a mini version of Chris with beautiful Asian eyes, round cheeks and a full head of dark hair. I couldn’t wait to spend the rest of my life with them both.
After recovery, I was taken to the mother baby unit and already had visitors! Everyone said how beautiful Max was. I was sure I looked like hell. I felt like hell. I just had major abdominal surgery. I was given an IV, I had a catheter in from the epidural, I was on all sorts of pain medication. Before this I had never even been in a hospital for more than an asthma attack!
That night, I was woken up every hour for something; pain meds, anti-itch, vitals, breastfeeding. The IV bag would beep when it was out, the clock was ticking, and I had the most awful itchiness (drug side effect). I fed Max every time he woke up – but like most babies on their first night, he slept a lot. I slept maybe one hour.
At 4 am I remember two women came in to change me. I realized how major the surgery was when I needed help walking to the bathroom and once I got there, they had to do everything for me. I hated the feeling of being helpless. I was fearful of how I would set out to care for myself, a dog, a business, a house and a baby once I left the hospital. I wanted to cry.
The next day, things settled down a bit. I was coming off the pain meds and allowed to “eat” fluids. I had eaten nothing but ice chips for 36 hours! (once you are in labor, no food in case you need to get anesthetized). We settled into being parents; assuming my role as milk machine, Chris assuming his role as supporter. Taking every quiet moment we could to talk, to rest, to breathe. We roomed in with Max because I wanted to get to know him. I know a lot of moms have the baby taken to the nursery and then have the baby brought in for feeding only. To me, something about that didn’t feel right. I waited so long to meet him – I couldn’t wait to start being his mommy! Not only that, but it forced Chris and I to learn to work together for how to care for Max. This has been critical so far. And, also agreeing that I don’t expect Chris to be superstar dad just like he doesn’t expect me to be perfect mom. We are going to make many mistakes – together. And that is ok.
I could write more about how much I hated being in the hospital for its restriction of movement, the uncomfortable beds, being poked and touched for days. Or how every night I woke up in the dark replaying in my head what felt like the horror movie of the operating room. Or how I passed on the extra day so I could be released on Monday – finally! Or how I walked around a hospital room in nothing but a sports bra and mesh panties with a pad so big it felt like a diaper (this was not sexy). I could tell you how I have the thighs of a 300 pound woman right now after being given about 10 IV bags. Or how the first time I went to the bathroom on my own and saw a stomach that still looked 6 months pregnant I almost cried. Or the 20 staples along my bikini line that made me look like a spiral notebook. Or my horror when I realized my vagina had returned within sight but looked like someone pounded it puffy with a meat hammer. Or how after not crapping for 5 days I finally got the urge at 5:43 am while nursing (and yes, I brought that baby into the crapper and continued nursing). Or that when I cough I feel like my insides are going to fall out. Or how when my milk finally came in on Monday I walked out of the bathroom, flashed Chris and he said “you got the boobs you always wanted.” Or how I am prone to exploding into tears at any moment because of dropping hormones. I’m a mess – in every sense you can imagine, physically, emotionally, mentally. But if I wasn’t, I’d probably wonder if I was human at all.
The past 5 days have been a whirlwind of dark moments, joy and pain. But all of it has brought to me the most amazing person I have ever met (next to my husband) – my son! And that is why women do this over and over again. Anything worthwhile in life comes with a cost – a huge cost of pain, emotion and brings you to the edge of something so raw that it changes the way you see life. Yes, life has changed. Like everyone said all along, it has changed.
And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
So here we go – one journey ends and another one begins. Motherhood. And like life before it, I am certain it will be filled with many highs and lows but a hell of a lot of laughs. Ready or not, here we go...
(I didn't have to pay money for those!)