Amelia was born en cual. This means she was born still encased in the birth sack. The doctors and trainees expressed awe for the rarity of the moment and then delicately cut into it and ripped it away from her face. She was placed on my chest and crawled her way to my nipple. My breasts had been preparing for this moment for months and she instinctively suckled the colostrum from them without hesitation. I was staring straight ahead stunned by the speed of what had just happened, at a loss for understanding of how I now held my perfect little girl. I was floating above the room looking down. But only for a second because my placenta was coming and reality shot back with the contraction. It had been 16 minutes since I had arrived in the labor and delivery room.
Two hours earlier Michael and I were browsing the racks of Burlington Coat Factory while the register worked on a return we had brought in, no tags.
Contractions had come and gone throughout the day and every so often I would pause at the end of the aisle, clutch the closest shelf and brace. While incredibly uncomfortable, the contractions were not harrowing or alarming. And then they were. We abandoned our returns and drove to the hospital. We checked in and were given a room. The nurse checked to see how far dilated I was, 5 centimeters. Labor was moving along she said but my water had not broken. They were not going to send me home as I had feared but instead asked me to take a walk around the hospital to see if my water would break on its own. “Come back in an hour or if your water breaks, whichever comes first” the nurse said. In my hospital gown Michael and I walked, slowly, around the hospital. Past the hallway, down the elevator, through the lobby, outside by the garden. Since we had arrived, the contractions were getting stronger and stronger. I was unable to talk through them, only breathe, and their intensity grew. Michael’s sweatshirt became like a bite towel. I would grab his arm and squeeze so tightly, whimpering for the pain to subside. After 5 or 6 of these I told Michael I could not keep walking. He grabbed a wheelchair but sitting was a horrible idea. He wheeled me back to the elevator, passed the hallway and back into our room (or bed surrounded by a curtain). It had been about 30 minutes.
The nurse came in and asked me to lay down. I had stayed in the wheelchair unsure if I could stand and tried to confirm with her it was necessary to move. She insisted she needed to check my cervix. 9 centimeters dilated and completely effaced. Amelia was coming. I was rushed to labor and delivery and asked for an epidural. I had my son 17 months earlier and had received an epidural. My birth plan was more ‘play it by ear’ but I had assumed a desire for medication. The nurse told me there wouldn’t be time and another doctor who met us in the delivery room confirmed that an epidural would only kick in after she had arrived leaving me numb long after birth. I looked at Michael who assumed his position on my left side where he would hold my leg up when the pushing started. “I’m scared” I told him and with all the calm and confidence he could muster he replied “I know. You’re doing so great. She’s almost here!”
The nurse warned; “It will burn. You will feel an immense pressure and heat we call the Ring of Fire. Push through that and then it will be over.” And that’s exactly how it felt. We waited for my doctor to arrive which may have only taken 15 minutes but felt like hours. During that time my body asked me incessantly to push while the doctor standing at my feet reminded me not to push “…just yet.” Instead of pushing I pooped, three, maybe six times. And when the doctor came in to the room Amelia came too. With two or three pushes, a death grip on Michael’s hand and the Ring of Fire (a.k.a the head) she arrived, birth sack and all. She was 6 lbs, 2 oz and 19 inches and it had been only 2 hours since the more intense contractions had started.