The story of Jack is a hard one to tell because he arrived so completely opposite of what I expected . If you know Jack, you know that it takes him quite a while to do anything before suddenly jumping in head first. Or in the case of his birth, before suddenly popping out head first. He lives his life exactly like he was born; slow to ease in, then BAM! an explosion of personality.
We are asked to arrive at St. David’s North for an induction at 39 weeks. The moments shared between The Dad and I before arriving are sharp with emotion. We are both fearful, giddy, and admittedly a little nauseated. At 4 PM on a Wednesday evening we headed to North Austin from South Austin. We continuously joked that had it been up to me we’d wait until the last possible minute to deliver and I’d end up having a home birth – my ultimate goal in pregnancy. The stars, however, were aligned differently for me and after a dinner of cheesesteak sandwiches and fries we begrudgingly headed into the hospital at 38 weeks.
Loss of control is probably my biggest fear. I really struggle with ‘going with the flow’ or letting others be in charge. Having Jack was my first and largest hurdle when it came to losing control. 12 weeks of birth classes did not prepare me for the next four days. The first attempt to knock on Jack’s birth door came in the form of Cytotec. I wasn’t at all dilated and he was so high in my belly that the doctor on call believed Jack was breech and called for an ultrasound. Even in my belly, Jack clung closest to me and would be ready when he decided it was time because he was head down and refusing to efface. Two rounds of cytotec and painful but bearable contractions later I was a centimeter dilated and he still wasn’t budging.
Birth is a strange life experience. Not one single experience is like anyone else’s. Also, television and movies don’t do it justice. I’ve never seen a birth on TV that included a four day induction. I’ve always only seen a woman with her water breaking, a rush to the hospital, a 1 minute but hard delivery, and a perfectly clean and adorable 3 month old placed in loving arms. This may be the scenario every once in awhile save for the 3 month old but from the stories I gathered – this is rarely the case. The first day was behind us with little to no change so on to the next method of induction, the Foley Bulb. For those of you that have had a Foley Bulb you know they can be painful but for a lucky few they are mostly incredibly uncomfortable. I was one of the lucky few. How to describe a Foley Bulb. Imagine a deflated balloon inserted into your cervix and then filled with saline. The idea is that it helps ripen the cervix thus helping to dilate a mother and get things going. This caused even more contractions and a night of clinging to the side rail of my bed every 4 to 6 minutes for 12 hours. After all that I was at a 3.
This is where my days begin to run together. Everything seemed to be done in 12 hour chunks of time and after the Foley Bulb, they decided to do one more round of Cytotec. I remember the fear and dread setting in. The first night I was there the on-call doctor had mentioned skipping all this and heading straight to Pitocin. I was terrified. Thankfully she was gone the next day and the OB that would end up delivering me at the end of her shift gave me several options. Sometime in the late evening of the 3rd day my water broke. I did the cliche thing and said, “I think I’m peeing?” When I stood up I kept “peeing” and The Dad said, “No, I think that’s your water breaking.” Finally, it felt like things were going to happen. That night I had my last meal before Jack would arrive. In between sharp contractions spread over 4 minutes I ate a dry burger and muffin. While eating that dry burger and muffin a strange thing happened. A nurse popped in cautiously, smiled, then said,”How are you doing?” The Dad looked at her, got up and immediately hugged her. In a vivacious and candid manner she said,”I didn’t know if you had the baby yet but I was dying to come see you guys and hug you guys and just tell you I’m here in the NICU for whatever you need.” I would quickly find out that her personality was exactly that – vivacious, candid, and extremely genuine. Mary was a very good friend of The Dad’s. They had dated in middle school for a brief moment and had remained friends for almost two decades as they watched their families grow. I had met her once when The Dad and I had started dating and even then she was the type of personality that just lit up a room and she was the reason that, almost a decade before, I decided I’d be cloth diapering.
I won’t lie. My first reaction was,”How dare she…” Because I was in labor and partially naked that quickly went out the window and by the time we left the hospital 4 days later she would mean so much to my little family. After chatting with us for a moment she left and that as well as my water breaking were all I remember of day 3.
“Your water broke and we were hoping that would get things going but it hasn’t. I really think we need to try Pitocin.”
It’s 9am the next day and my lovely Doctor has just uttered the words I was so afraid of.
“We can get you ready for an epidural.”
“NO!” I had watched The Business of Being Born. I knew what that meant. Oh to be a first time and naive mother.
I couldn’t respond further as she left the room and after 3 days and no sleep I broke down. The tears angrily escaped as I tried desperately to hold them into the cage that holds all my unwanted emotions. Soon, the tears became sobs of pain, fear, and The Dad knew only to slowly stroke my hand while waiting for the OK to come in for a hug. I needed to contain myself as long as possible before allowing him to come in and hold me.
Finally, I looked at him, steeled myself and said I was ready. At noon on Saturday they started the Pitocin drip at a 2. I told myself that I had already felt contractions and that they would get worse but that I could do it. By 4 pm I was clutching to the railing and tightening my body so much that in the days after,weird muscles would be sore. I clung to anything that might help siphon the pain or even it out and away from the radiating heat and pain centered around my uterus and lower back. Later, I would feel bad for the nurse because I was her first patient alone. The night before she had shadowed a nurse and we were her first baby. It was not a good thing.
5:30 PM The nurse asks if I’m sure about the epidural. I want to punch her in the face. I am naked, standing by the wall, sitting on the bed, standing again, sitting, crying and rocking against The Dad. Nothing I do helps.
6:00 I’m in so much pain that I mumble to The Dad that I’m dying. I know I’m dying. I want to quit. I beg him, in my irrational state, to make it stop. The Pitocin is at a 10. My lovely doctor comes in and contractions are 2 minutes apart. I can’t understand what she’s saying but the nurse that needs a punch in the face asks if she should go up another 2. My lovely doctor says no and says that in fact, let’s go back down to an 8.
6:15 PM I stupidly think that going down to an 8 will make things better. They don’t. I’m dying. I’m dying. I’m dying.
6:30 PM But wait. One tiny pinprick of hope. Our Bradley class teacher said that when you think you’re dying, that you’re at the end. That baby is about to be here. I’m hopeful. I turn to “Punch in the Face” and between contractions now a minute apart I ask, “How will I know to push?” Then I yell, “How do I know? How can I tell?” She’s never had children but she says what I’m sure she’s been told to say, “You feel like you have to poop.” This is untrue for me. I did not feel like I had to poop.
6:45 PM I’m standing and leaning on a table and start yelling, “I have to push! I have to push, I need to push. I’m pushing!”
6:46 PM Somehow I’m coerced back towards the bed and I’m holding my breath and growling through contractions. The monitor shows peak after peak of contractions overlapping and then a 30 second pause. I sleep in this 30 second pause. I don’t know how but I do. I literally pass out snoring and then wake up to grunt and grown in pain.
6:52 PM Several nurses rush in and I start pushing again. Things are beeping. I feel like a balloon is coming out of my vagina and this is why I don’t think it feels like you’re pooping. I also didn’t really feel pain save for the contractions. I push again. My bed turns into a Transformer. My legs are propped up.
6:55 PM The nurse yells, “She’s +4.” They get The Lovely Doctor. I’m told to stop pushing and in my head I say, “This is it.”
6:59 PM The Lovely Doctor says, “Are you ready to have a baby?” Her hands are going into gloves and she yells for olive oil.
7:03 PM “Okay, at the next contraction you’re going to push. I’m going to tell you to push and you push push push until I tell you to stop….Okay, Push!” I push.
7:04 PM I push one time. Just once and Jack Castiel Brockman is born. I look at his face and as I’m filled with the rush of adrenaline, endorphins, oxytocin…I say,”Oh my god. He has my eyes.”
So that’s Jack’s story. That’s how he arrived. Slow, steady, and then all at once.