Like most things in my life, I approached the subject of childbirth with nonchalance. I could have taken childbirth classes, but I preferred to lie on the couch, dunking Oreos into a tall glass of milk. Sure, I flipped through the "Labor and Delivery" chapter of What to Expect When You're Expecting during that final month of never-ending insomnia, but I didn't actually expect for a baby to emerge from down there. I just assumed that I had watched enough episodes of "A Baby Story" to figure out what to do when the time came.
The time came on July 11, when, just shy of 41 weeks, I entered the hospital for an induction. That night, I pulled up my weblog and announced that "if all goes to plan, Blog Thru Birth 2004 will start either tonight or tomorrow." The premise of "Blog Thru Birth" was self-explanatory: I would use my weblog, The Sarcastic Journalist, to give updates on my labor as it happened.
The original plan was to write on a private blog for the birth of my first child as a way to keep family updated. My husband and I lived in Houston, but the rest of our family lived elsewhere. Since I didn't want an entourage of family at the hospital, I offered to write the details on the 'net for them to read. Somewhere in the process, I decided to also relay this information on my public weblog, which I had since early 2003.
We arrived at the hospital at 7 p.m., my laptop in tow.
7:00 p.m.: I began to cry after the nurses showed us to my delivery room. I climbed into my husband's lap (well, as much as I could) and sobbed that I didn't want to do it anymore. The hospital room seemed scary and since I wasn't feeling any pain or discomfort, I had a lot of time to think about what lay ahead.
9:30 p.m.: My introduction to the birthing process involved the painful insertion of cervix-softening Cervadil into my vagina. My nurse told me they would start Pitocin at 6 a.m. and a baby would be born sometime in the afternoon. It still didn't seem real to me that I'd actually leave the hospital with a baby in my arms! How could I? Besides weighing 28 pounds more than normal, I felt fine.
12:30 a.m.: My nurse had given me two sleeping pills around 11 p.m. to help me get some rest. I sat in bed and watched television with my husband, waiting for the drugs to kick in. All of a sudden, I felt a kick and a pop. "I think my water broke," I yelled at my husband, ordering him to the nurse's station. A nurse came in, did a quick exam and sure enough, my water had broken. I began to hope that I might be lucky enough to go into labor on my own, bypassing the need for a full induction.
2 a.m.: Once the sleeping pills kicked in, I fell asleep, prepared for an early morning wake-up call for an IV full of medicine. Instead, I woke up after an hour to the feeling of intense contractions. I had already experienced a few contractions earlier in the night -- the type that show up on monitors but didn't hurt too much. I sat up and grabbed my belly, unsure of what to do. I began to feel scared, which caused me to tense up. Feeling like I had a bad stomachache, I walked to the restroom, monitors in tow, and hunched down on the toilet. I hovered between bathroom and bed, trying to find relief. No matter what I did, nothing seemed to work. It didn't take long for me to beg my nurse for an epidural. Since I was at a small hospital, they didn't have an anesthesiologist on staff in the middle of the night. I was forced to wait for him to come in from home. Since I had only prepared myself for the pain by thinking "epidural," the wait for the drugs seemed like the longest hours of my life.
3:30 a.m.: The anesthesiologist arrived, a cart full of medicine in tow. He told me to sit on the bed, cross my legs and hunch over to round out my spine. I tried the best I could to stay still, as my nurse had instructed, but my contractions were strong and only one minute apart. My nerves were on edge, thanks to an intense fear of needles, so I concentrated on my husband instead of what went on behind me. The anesthesiologist numbed my back and administered the medicine. Relief soon followed. Shortly thereafter, thanks to the epidural, Demerol, and the sleeping pills, I felt the need to sleep creeping up on me again. I informed the Internet that I was dilated to 6 centimeters and felt "very, very, very, very, very, very, very happy."
5:26 a.m.: I settled my happy self into bed, hoping to get a little sleep before the Big Event. Sometime before I passed out, I called my mom, who was in town for the birth, to tell her what was going on. Even though I didn't want anyone in the room, she showed up at the hospital, where nurses continued to give me vaginal exams while I slept.
5:41 a.m.: My doctor arrived at the hospital, due to the fact that my daughter's heartbeat kept dropping during my contractions. She informed me that they would try to get everything under control, but I might have to have a c-section. Tired and confused from the drug cocktail, I just smiled and nodded. They gave me some medicine to slow down my contractions and turned me on my left side. The medicine made me feel cold and shaky, so they covered me with blankets. Again, this time with the help of my husband, I informed the Internet of my progress: 8 centimeters dilated and "blood is coming out."
7:31 a.m.: After yet another vaginal exam, my doctor announced me fit to push. As they set up the room, I spotted my mom huddled in the corner. Even though I had spent the past several hours updating the Internet on the status of my crotch, I felt too embarrassed to have my mom see my "privates."
Some might find it odd that I could share such personal details about my life with strangers but had trouble letting those I know in on the same information. If anything, writing about birth and pregnancy had made me more comfortable around my mother, but the thought of letting her there during such a vulnerable time didn't seem right. Sure, I allowed cyberspace a glimpse into the event, but they weren't there to experience the most intimate moments. Really, it came down to the fact that I felt more comfortable sharing the words rather than the action. Words do not leave people with a graphic image of your crotch.
I instructed her to leave the room so I could get the party started.
My husband walked over to the television, which we left on as background noise all night, and turned it off. I yelled at him to turn it back on. If I was going to ruin my crotch, well, I wanted to watch Katie Couric while I did so.
9:00 a.m.: Since the epidural had left me with no feeling in my lower half, we had to use the monitor to spot contractions. I grabbed behind my knees and bore down at each contraction (just like a bowel movement!) in 10-second intervals. Even though I was in active labor, I felt a little out of it. I actually accused my husband, who was helping hold my leg, of licking it at one point. The pushing continued for about two hours. Eventually, the head started to emerge and, at that point, the nurses started furiously squirting lubricant jelly onto my crotch. I guessed that since lube was what helped get me in the situation in the first place, it should help get me out. They asked if I'd like to reach down and touch my baby. I did and felt the tip of a head poking out. Freaked out, I pulled my hand back, only to find it covered in what could be best described as "bloody goo."
9:55 a.m.: Once the baby started "crowning," the doctor instructed my husband to look at his daughter. He did, and saw what he assumed was her entire cute little head. What he actually saw was just the tip of her head; the emergence of an entire baby head can hardly be described as "cute."
A few more pushes and at 9:55 that morning, an 8 pound, 15 ounce baby girl named Ellie was born. She had a head of dark hair, was 21 inches long, and looked nothing like I expected, but was everything I could hope for.
Not long after we posted pictures of our beautiful new daughter on the Internet, congrats came in from around the world. Even though these people were strangers in real life, their encouragement both during and after my labor made sharing the experience worth it.
They shared their own stories and experiences in the process. Friends from across the country waited, often with their own friends by their sides, to see what happened. Some comments were more encouraging, from women telling me how much my life would be different. Some were a little scarier, with a few relaying tales about how their "privates" just were never the same again. I popped a couple more pain pills and read notes from members of this virtual community I felt a part of.
Not everyone was as encouraging, however. Some people accused me of ruining my birthing experience by writing about it on the 'net. I came across topics on message boards where women said I should have focused all my attention on having the baby rather than letting others become privy to the information. They said I was taking away from the experience, which I could understand. But I didn't agree. If anything, I think that I added to the experience because I have a written account of what happened. Without my blog, July 12, 2004, would have just become a blurry memory.
When the time to have my second baby came around 18 months later, my husband asked if I planned on blogging through the experience again. I wavered for a while, unsure if I felt the need to share as much this time around. I appreciated the support I received from the community of readers and wanted to let them share in another facet of my life. When I went into labor two weeks early, I brought my computer along for possible updates, but still unsure if I would actually use it. It wasn't that I was against sharing the birth, but I knew going into it that my mind might be occupied for some or all of the day, depending on what I chose as my method of pain management. Upon arriving at the hospital, though, we soon found out that the decision was made for us: The delivery room wasn't equipped with an Internet connection, so everyone would have to wait until we returned home to hear about the arrival of Ellie's little brother.
Rachel Mosteller is a freelance writer, webmaster of The Sarcastic Journalist, and mother of two in Houston, Texas.
Originally published on AmericanBaby.com, March 2006.
All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.