Three weeks before my due date I was having contractions.They were happening every few hours and would last a few minutes at a time. Now of course many of you would say, “Oh, those are just Braxton/Hicks.” I have to tell you folks, I don’t care what they were called, they were contractions to me. Call it what you want. I just knew we were so close to having our son. I was tired. I wasn’t sleeping well and I was SO uncomfortable. What was I thinking to have my baby in the heat of the summer? It was over 110 degrees outside and my insides where twice as hot. My ankles were HUGE and when I pressed my finger on them, it took a second for my imprint to go away. OK, so it didn’t help that I had gained 100 pounds during my pregnancy. Yep, that was what I said. But, I couldn’t help it. I swear. Only during my pregnancy could I enjoy all kinds of milk products without getting sick. And, so I, well, sort of took advantage of it. And especially towards the end when it got harder to move, I spent my past time on the couch eating ice cream.
Well, it was time for my monthly check in with my doctor. I was really hoping she could give me an exact time and date of when our baby was coming but I knew that would be impossible. My doctor was able to tell me that at 3 weeks away I was at three centimeters, so I was progressing nicely. Listen, folks, when you are 9 months pregnant, as big as a beached whale and hot as hell, “progressing nicely” is not exactly what you want to hear. I wanted to hear, “Ok, it’s time.” But, just like my entire pregnancy, we’d have to wait for my body and the baby to decide.
By this point none of my maternity clothes were fitting but there was no way I was going to buy more. Carol would bring home from Walmart large men’s shirt’s for me to wear to “tied me over”. And then there were my feet. Folks, I could even bend over to put on my shoes. Thank G-d they were too swollen that all I could wear were flip flops. At least those were easy to slip on- well sort of. Often I had them on the floor right near me but my belly kept getting in the way, I couldn’t see them. I never realized how difficult the simplest of daily tasks could be when one has a large belly. On top of that I could NOT sleep. All I wanted to do was sleep! But, I was so uncomfortable. I was either way too hot or unable to get comfortable in the bed. I remember being so irritable. I hated feeling that way but I couldn’t seem to get control over it. However, my loving partner always provided me with what I needed and never complained (at least to me).
My due date was on Saturday, August 9th but on the Wednesday before my contractions were increasing. I knew they were too far apart but it being my first time I wasn’t sure. They would hit every 30 minutes and would wake me up at night. I was miserable, so Carol took me to our doctor. When the doctor saw me, she could tell I was ready for all of it to be over. She hooked me up to a monitor to see how far apart my contractions were. Of course while I was sitting there, I didn’t have even one. Our doctor met with us and told us she was going to be out of town over the weekend (when my due date was). She took my hand and told me if the baby didn’t come by the weekend, I was to come to her office on Monday to be induced. Only when she said that was I able to relax. It was as if a weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. Listen, it was the first time during my entire pregnancy I had a definite ending. Carol wasn’t going to start her vacation until the next Monday but seeing how I was she decided to go ahead and start it. She knew I needed her and as the weekend approached, I certainly did. I had been very good to not focus on the ending of my pregnancy but it finally arrived. I had no choice but to think about it and I was scared.
Carol took me home that day and tried to get me to take it easy. I couldn’t though. The anticipation was killing me and I physically was miserable. Even so, I hated being cooped up in the house. Carol was afraid for me to go anywhere just in case I went into labor. So, she would take me for a walk around the neighborhood…well, not even that far as I couldn’t walk very well and it was excruciatingly hot outside. Anyway, she had hoped the walks would help me settle and not feel so cooped up. On Friday my contractions were increasing. They were happening every 15 minutes and if they subsided it was for only a very short time. I was in pain and so uncomfortable. Carol couldn’t stand it any longer so she took me to the hospital to the triage of the birthing center. After hanging out there for an hour, we were told it still wasn’t time. UGH! Come on baby! I was at this point at 4 centimeters and just like my doctor told me, they said,”It’s getting close.” Meanwhile, I didn’t want close. I wanted NOW!
I didn’t get much sleep that Friday night as my contractions were pretty regular. I was exhausted by morning but was antsy to get out of the house that Saturday (yes, the day of my due date). That day our city was holding it’s first ever Farmer’s Market downtown. I begged Carol to take me but she refused to take me. She was really worried I was going to do into labor and she wanted me at home. She wanted me to relax and rest that day as if I would have been able to do that. I couldn’t. I wanted to go to the Farmer’s market. I think I fought Carol all day over it. Finally at around 5 in the evening she said she needed to go to the grocery store to get us dinner. At that point I put my foot down and told her I wanted to go with her and she let me. I suppose she had had enough of my begging all day long.
Well, I don’t know what it was about the grocery store but as soon as we got there my contractions really increased. And not only did they increase but they were a lot more intense. As we were walking down the isles trying to decide what to have for dinner I remember having to stop. I’d lean on the shelves and wait for the contraction to stop. And because I was embarrassed if a person saw me, I’d take a product and pretend I was reading the label while I was having the contraction. It wasn’t as if anyone could have guessed what was happening for the sheer fact Carol was holding my hand telling me to breath through it. Finally, Carol suggested we just get a sub from the deli and get home which was what we did. I had to admit, I was ready to leave and get home. We got home around 7:30. Carol told me to sit down on the couch as she laid out our dinner on the coffee table. She then turned on the TV to PBS where Elton John was performing. So we ate our dinner as we watched the show. Kaitlin, Carol’s daughter, was in her room puttering around.
While we were watching Elton John, Carol commented how she was disappointed to not know any of the songs he was singing. After he sang 3 songs that we didn’t know Carol announced she was going to change the channel if the next one wasn’t one we knew. As Carol kept talking (while Sir Elton was singing the song she didn’t know), I started to feel funny and it was as if she was the teacher talking in Charlie Brown. I couldn’t understand one word she was saying because I was so distracted by how I was feeling. I do remember hearing Carol get excited when Sir Elton started singing his familiar tunes. I even remembered her saying, “Oh good! Finally, a song we know.” I looked over at Carol trying (through eye contact) to let her know something wasn’t right with me. But, Carol was so excited he was singing the tunes she knew she was occupied singing (along with Elton). For some reason I was unable to talk- to get her attention. It was the strangest feeling. And so, I gave up and just turned to look at the TV. At that very moment I felt a hard kick and then the feeling I was peeing. I yelled (apparently, VERY loudly) as I was sitting on the couch, “My water broke, my water broke!” Carol jumped up from the couch and while standing in front of me started yelling, “Get off the couch, MaLea! It’s our good couch! Get off it!” I remember being stunned by what she said because that was what her ex-husband had told her when she was pregnant with their daughter and she didn’t like it. And now she was yelling the same thing at me.
Carol continued to yell at me to get up off the couch but what she failed to remember was it wasn’t that easy to do. I couldn’t just stand up. And so, instead of helping me she continued to yell at me while running around like a mad woman trying to find a towel. Believe me folks, I kept trying to stand up. Between my huge belly, my swollen feet and the hard core contractions it was VERY difficult. If anything all I wanted to do was to stand up so Carol would to stop yelling at me about the damn couch. If I heard one more thing about the damn couch!
When I finally stood up, Carol’s daughter came running down the stairs to add to the madness. As she was running down the stairs her daughter was yelling (loud enough for the entire block to hear), “The baby is coming? The baby is coming?” Now finally standing up I could feel a hard contraction coming. I went to reach towards Carol but Carol had disappeared. She had gone over to Kaitlin and was telling her to calm down. HELLO! How about me over here? I was the one having the baby.
Every time the baby kicked another bit of fluid would drip down my leg. I kept yelling at Carol that I needed something to wipe myself. Carol got mad and told me she was trying to find a towel. When I pointed out to her that she had a towel in her hand, she told me that one was to clean the couch. What? Are you kidding me? I grabbed the towel from Carol and shoved it in-between my legs. By this point I was starting to have another contraction and it was even harder than the first one. Carol grabbed my arm and was trying to rush me to the front door. When we were almost to the front door the contraction was so bad, I almost couldn’t stand. I started to say, “I can’t.” But before I could even finish Carol interrupted me and went into this long shpiel about how it was too late to turn back. OH G-D ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I was having a fucking contraction! Finally as the contraction subsided and I was able to tell Carol I had been having a contraction. Carol dumbfounded said, “Oh, OK. Well, can you move now?” And she proceeded to escort me again towards the car.
As Carol was holding me, I told her daughter if she wanted to come with she had better get into the car now. Meanwhile, it wasn’t as if I was rushing to get into the car. I couldn’t have even if I had wanted. Just as Carol and I made it to our front door threshold, I stopped, grabbed the door frame and said, “I can’t do this.” Carol put her hands on my shoulders and said firmly, “Yes, you can, MaLea. This was what we’ve been wanting. ” She started to move my hands off of the door frame all while saying, “You can do this so, lets go!” I was so frustrated and mad by that point. With my teeth gripped together and my hands holding tightly on the door frame I said, “Carol, I mean I can’t go because I am having another bad contraction!” Once I said that Carol went from grabbing my arms to holding them patiently while waiting for my contraction to be over.
We finally made it into the car and with in 5 minutes were at the hospital. Carol asked her daughter to help me to the birthing center while she parked the car. Once Carol’s daughter and I we were inside the hospital I slowly made my way to the elevator praying not to have another contraction. Already in the elevator was a husband and wife couple. The wife was no bigger than my pinky and was wearing designer jeans and a sparkly shirt. Her make up and hair were perfectly done. I thought they were there to visit someone because they were so happy acting. Meanwhile, there I was with a baby doll dress on, no underwear wearing flip flops too long for my feet all while bent over with a damn towel between my legs to keep the stuff from dripping down my leg. When the elevator doors opened on the floor where I was to get out the couple pushed their way in front of me and rushed to the nurse who was standing in the lobby area. Meanwhile, I wasn’t so fast. It took me a wee bit longer to waddle over to the nurse. And when I did reach the nurse she was occupied with the couple who were in the elevator with us. I was so pissed because I would have thought it was very obvious who was in labor. Meanwhile the couple who were in the elevator with us? Well, the woman claimed her water broke and she was in labor. Now, I was no expert but if someone was a nurse on the delivery floor, I would have thought they would have been able to tell I WAS THE ACTUAL ONE IN LABOR! HELLO! Like hell was the perky other woman in labor.
Well, the same nurse who helped the cute couple from the elevator came up to me and asked, “How can I help you?” I told her my water had broken and that my contractions were getting harder (as if she couldn’t tell by how freaking long it took me to walk to her from the elevator and the fact I was leaning over in pain during a contraction). The nurse directed me to another nurse who was coming out from behind a curtain. While pointing to me she told the other nurse, “This women thinks her water has broken.” Um, did she just tell the other nurse that I THOUGHT my water had broken? Oh no she didn’t. I was not in the mood to be told “she thinks her water has broken.” And so just when she said that I replied in a bit of a forceful manner, “No, I know my water has broken! There is a reason I have a towel shoved in between my legs!” However, they seemed to ignore me.
The nurse escorted me and Carol’s daughter to an area behind a curtain. It was a small area where there was just enough room for a bed. As the nurse handed me a gown to change into she said, “So, you think your water has broken?” OY VEY people! No! I know my water has broken. I wanted to pull the damn towel out from between my legs to prove it to her. But, I didn’t say anything. The nurse told me to go change, lie down on the bed and someone would be back shortly (to see if indeed my water had broken). Carol’s daughter helped me change into the gown and get on the bed. While waiting on a professional to come and tell me what I already knew, I could feel another contraction coming. I couldn’t believe the intensity of the pain. I remember wanting to walk right out of my body to somehow get away from the pain. But there was nothing I could do. I was worried because already the pain of the contractions had gotten much worse. Not wanting to scare Carol’s daughter who was sitting there with me, I grabbed onto the bed. While I was waiting for the contraction to go away I heard the nurse talking to the doctor. I heard her discussing the other woman to the doctor and saying that she knew her water had broken. And then the nurse said my name and said, “And this woman thinks her water has broken.” Well, I had had enough so I yelled, “I don’t think my water has broken. I know my water has broken. Please, stop saying that.” Just as I said that Carol came from behind the curtain. Thank G-d! I told Carol I was having a contraction and I didn’t like it. To try to get my mind off of it she told me the doctor on duty was a man. See, early on in my pregnancy Carol and I had a running joke that it would be our luck that our doctor wouldn’t be there and we’d have a good looking man doctor who would deliver our baby. And sure enough that was what happened. When the doctor came from around the curtain, he was definitely a cutie. And not only was he cute but he was also very attentive to me. He even said, “I hear your water has broken. Let’s take a peek at it to make sure it’s clear.” Finally, someone who believed me. It took just a second for him to check me. He told me I had meconium in my fluid, so he really wanted to deliver our baby with in 12 hours. Just as he told me that I had another contraction. It was the worst one yet and I asked for my epidural. The nurse (who told me I thought my water had broken) padded my leg and said, “Honey, if you get an epidural now it will slow down your labor. You are only at 6 centimeters.”Well, folks, that was NOT the time for the nurse to have said that to me. Or as we joke and say in our family, “Oh no you didn’t!”
I’ve got to tell you. The doctor was standing beside the nurse when she told me that. He was very respectful by allowing her to say her peace. But, when she was done, he looked at me and said, “Are you ready for an epidural? If so, I will place an order for it and have the anesthesiologist come to your room shortly. With in seconds I went from total panic to feeling relieved. But my relief was short lived as I wanted to get to my birthing room as quickly as possible so I could get my epidural before my next contraction.
When we made it upstairs and Carol and I were alone in the room (with also her daughter), I cried. The realization it was all happening was overwhelming. Once I settled in my bed a nurse came into the room to hook me up to an assortment of things. First she gave me an IV and then this she wrapped a velcro strip around my tummy which had a small monitor thing on it to read the baby’s heart beat and keep track of my contractions, Just as she finished with that the nurse looked at the contraction monitor and told me I was going to have a contraction. Well, not to be rude or anything but no shit! I could definitely feel it. Who needed the nurse to tell me? The nurse was great but I found her suggestion of breathing through the contraction ridiculous. Easy for her to say. She wasn’t the one in excruciating pain. When it was over she told me the contraction intensity was at a number seven. Number seven! What? You mean it gets worse? What was the highest number? When she told me ten was the worse I freaked. Where the hell was the anesthesiologist ? Now, he really needed to hurry up. The nurse tried to give me some crap that I had made it all the way to seven and that ten wasn’t that far away. Well, no offense to my really sweet nurse but I didn’t even want to know what eight felt like. When the nurse left the room I had another contraction that felt worse than the one I had moments before. I asked Carol to look at the monitor to tell me what it was. I was certain it had increased to at least a nine. When Carol told me it was still at a level seven that was it. I was done and I wanted my epidural right then. I told Carol that was it and I had had enough. I was done and the anesthesiologist needed to get there right now. So, in Carol fashion instead of continuously telling me they were coming, she stepped out into the hall to pretend she was speeding up the process. But instead she just stood out in the hall for a few minutes and then came back into the room. Carol said it took only about 20 minutes for the anesthesiologist to get there. However to me, it felt like an eternity. I was never so happy to see a doctor before in my life. AND especially one with a needle.
Carol helped me sit up and had me lean on her while the anesthesiologist was putting in the catheter. The entire procedure took no longer than ten or fifteen minutes and after that I was in pure unadulterated heaven. For the first time in months my entire body felt relaxed. It was awesome. By that time it was 10:00 in the evening. Carol’s daughter had gone to sleep on the one and only couch in the room while Carol sat in a hard rolling chair leaning over it to hold my hand. It wasn’t long before all of us were fast asleep. At one point I remember Carol saying to me that we were going to have a baby soon. But, I was so relaxed and it felt so good to sleep, I only thought, “Oh, can’t we wait? Let me just sleep for a while longer.” As we all were sleeping I realized the monitor wasn’t working anymore. I couldn’t hear the baby’s heart beat coming from the machine next to me. I woke up Carol in a panic. She could see on the screen the baby’s heartbeat but for some reason the sound on it wasn’t working. Also, the velcro band around me was supposed to tell the nurse when I was having a contraction but that too didn’t work. Now, I didn’t mind that because even though I had the epidural I was able (in a totally painless way) feel my contractions coming.
Around one in the morning the nurse came into our room with the doctor to check me. They determined it was time for me to push. Since the doctor had another mother who was also in labor he told me he was going to check on her while I was pushing. However, I fully expected that once I started pushing things would move pretty fast. But that wasn’t the case. I’d push for maybe 20 minutes and then we’d stop. The intense pushing made me nauseous. I told the nurse I felt sick hoping she could do something about it. Instead, she handed me one of those plastic tubs to throw up in if I needed. Not what I was expecting. I was thinking more on the lines of phenergan. I know it wouldn’t have been good for the baby. I know. Meanwhile, Carol and I couldn’t figure out why the doctor and nurses kept leaving our room. Finally, we were told there was an emergency with the other mother in labor. I felt terrible for her and hoped all would be OK.
It must have been around 4:30 in the morning when a new nurse came into the room. Apparently, it had been a shift change. I was really worried when I saw my new nurse. She had bleached blonde hair and wore a ton of make up. She reminded me of the beauty queen type. Because of how she looked I wasn’t sure if I had a lot of confidence in her. But let me tell you. She was awesome. As soon as she walked into the room she turned on the over head light, sat me up a little and said, “OK, it’s time to get this baby out. Lets do it!” And from that point on I pushed my heart out. Carol stayed by my side the entire time. As the head started to crown Carol looked. We had bets if our kid would be bald or have hair. See, I had made a yarmulke for him but I didn’t know if I needed velcro (which would stick to his hair) or ribbon (to tie it to his bald head). And so, while I was pushing and when Carol saw the top of our son’s hair she kept saying to me, “Velcro, MaLea. Velcro.” I didn’t have a clue what she meant. “Velcro? She wants to name our kid, Velcro? That’s not what we had agreed. What in the hell was she talking about?” But before I could ask her just minutes before our son was born the doctor told me he didn’t want the baby to cry because of the concern he might have swallowed meconium. He told me to not worry. He assured me it was a precaution to make sure the baby’s airway was clear before he took a breath. I remember seeing a team of nurses waiting to work on him and I remember seeing Carol’s face get very serious. Only later did Carol tell me that everyone was a little nervous because the umbilical chord was also wrapped around our son’s neck and the further he came out the tighter it got. In fact Carol said the doctor had to squeeze his fingers in between the chord and our baby’s neck to keep it from choaking him. The wonderful doctor apologized to Carol for not being able to cut the chord but he had to do it before our son was totally out of the birth canal so their wouldn’t be any danger of him losing any oxygen.
And so, once our son was fully born the room remained very quiet. There was no baby cry. Carol leaned over to me, gave me a kiss and whispered “Our son is here!”. While the nurses were working on our son the doctor was working on me. He had to cut me a little in order to get his finger’s around our son’s neck protecting him from the tightening chord. So as the nurses were clearing our son’s airway, the OB doctor was birthing my placenta and also sewing me up. Meanwhile all Carol and I could do was to keep our eyes on our son. Once they got his airway cleared he was allowed to cry. That was a great relief when we heard him and I think everyone in the room took a breath. The nurses cleaned him up. They were rubbing him with a small towel all over his body. When they did I suppose it stimulated his bowels and he pooped. We all laughed because our kid pooped about 4 times before they could finally get a diaper on him.
When they finally handed our son to us, I remember thinking he was SO tiny. He barely weighed 6 pounds and was 17 inches long. His face looked as if he had gone through a boxing fight. His cheeks, forehead, one eye and lips were red and swollen. He certainly was not cute in any way, shape or form. But, that didn’t matter. He had finally arrived and best of all he was ours. When I saw his hair I couldn’t believe it. He had a head full of black hair just like my mom had. While I held him, it all felt so surreal. I felt emotionless . I was in shock. I couldn’t believe that day had come and I was actually holding OUR baby. The nurses asked us what we were naming him. We proudly said, “Judah Kol.” We gave him the middle name Kol which was the Hebrew word for voice. Remember how I mentioned my mom would talk to me and help guide me? Well, we gave Judah the name voice to represent how we hope my mother’s voice will guide him too.
AND SO on August 10th, 2003 at 6 am our beautiful and precious son, Judah Kol, was born to TWO VERY proud Mommas.