On my daughter’s 33rd birthday, the memories are still vivid. At 26 years young, I was the first of five siblings and most of my contemporaries to become a parent, a deliberate decision for my husband Bob and me that began with a verbal commitment soon after our first wedding anniversary.
We were lucky in our pregnancy attempt – or maybe it was the Basal thermometer – it only took a month of trying. The timing also meant that I suffered through the hottest months of summer with morning sickness that I called “random all-day sickness”. And even though I only gained a total of 26 pounds, throughout my last trimester it felt and looked like I was carrying twins, a comment I heard often from my childless friends who didn’t understand it wasn’t helpful!
As an educated person who prides herself in being prepared, I took my vitamins on schedule, exercised as prescribed, eagerly attended Lamaze classes and read books and articles on giving birth and parenting. Still, nothing truly prepares you for the actual ups and downs of pregnancy – the ecstasy when the test reads positive; the irritating “morning” sickness that comes and goes inconveniently; the physical achiness, itchy stomach and weight gain; the lovely baby shower(s); the fun shopping for baby furniture; the scariness of the impending new responsibilities. However, toward the end of my pregnancy, I just wanted the discomfort and sleepless nights to be over already and that overshadowed everything.
In the final weeks, I intensified my exercise routine as much as possible to help bring on the contractions. When an ultrasound revealed that the baby was still upright, I followed the doctor’s instructions to spend time on my hands and knees, rocking back and forth, several times a day. In the last couple months I also called the hospital regularly, to track the arrival of the first birthing bed at Maui Memorial as it would allow for a much more comfortable experience than the sterile labor rooms. (Today, birthing beds and even more homey rooms seem to be the standard.)
On the day my contractions were finally consistent, the birthing room was occupied; however, by the time we arrived at the hospital, the occupants had been moved to a labor room due to difficulties and we were ushered in after a quick clean-up. In the birthing room Bob did not have to wear gloves, shoe cover-ups or a face mask, but more importantly, we could have an additional “coach” present. I asked a friend who was a nurse and it was a great comfort to have her there.
The delivery was not smooth or quick. I went through 11+ hours of labor once I got to the hospital, getting stuck at 7 centimeters of dilation for at least 3 hours. Even today I remember having contractions one minute apart and falling asleep in between! Someone ordered a pizza delivered to the room, which I could not eat, and I ordered it back out of the room. At one point I thought we might be headed for a C-section, but then the doctor decided I should try pushing… and it worked! With two more pushes I was fully dilated and there was the mixture of relief and intense exhaustion going into the pushing phase.
Since helping my daughter with her own childbirth experience, I now realize that every new mother thinks she can’t continue at some point, and I’m sure I uttered those words several times while pushing out my 8 pound, 14 oz. baby. Then, right after giving birth, I experienced an unexpected extreme adrenaline high, almost as if I had taken some amazing drug, accompanied by a burst of energy! I wanted to call everyone I knew and felt like I could talk for hours. To this day, that euphoric moment still feels like the validation of our decision and an omen of the joys of parenting to come.
I wish every new mother that same feeling on the day they enter the wonderful world of parenthood. And Happy Birthday to my darling Jenna!
Pic: Kelly King with her young daughter and son.