The day Emet was born was the day I came alive.
I recall the details so exactly, so intensely, that it’s hard for me to believe ten years has passed since I first held him in my arms and felt like I had real purpose. More than any other event, nothing has so singularly changed me than bringing my first child into the world.
I’ve kept the story of his birth close to my heart, and have never written it down. As Emet’s tenth birthday began to approach, I became remarkably nostalgic. There’s something about a decade, you know? I decided what better place to share this story than here, where I’ve been collecting the things that make me happy.
Fair warning, though. This is a long one.
Emet was due on a Monday. When that day came and went without even a single contraction, my doctor ordered me to the hospital at 7:30 PM the following day for an induction. I had tried everything I could think of to get things going on my own to no success, and at 7 PM that Tuesday, Jesse – my husband at the time, father of Emet and Jade, and one of my forever best friends – drove us to Tarzana Regional Medical Center.
I had wanted a natural birth, a home birth even, but due to some lady problems I’d had before I became pregnant, I was not an ideal candidate. Then, throughout my pregnancy I had been afflicted with hyperemesis gravidarum, which meant that I didn’t gain much weight. I was small, while the baby was expected to be big. Going past 40 weeks was not an option according to my doctor, and I trusted him.
So we drove to the hospital. And I was prepared. I had read all the books, I had ten copies of a birth plan I’d written tucked away in my hospital bag to be given to attending nurses. I was ready.
Still, I was nervous. What did a contraction feel like? Up until this point, I hadn’t had a one, not even false labor or braxton hicks. I didn’t know what to expect. My instructions were to arrive at the hospital and tell the nurses that I thought I had gone into labor, so that they would hook me up to monitors and call my doctor, who would tell them to induce me. This was my doctor’s clever way around dealing with hospital scheduling.
Shortly after arriving at the hospital, I was hooked up to a fetal monitor and the nurses went to call my doctor. Just like he said they would. And that’s when the strangest thing happened.
I had a contraction.
It was small, but I felt it.
The time had come!
I was admitted, and moved to LDR, room 254. I gave my birth plan to the nurses, and tried to relax into the contractions that were starting to come on a little more intensely. Around 11 PM that night, while I was being hastily examined by my least favorite nurse, my water broke. So I called my friend Brianna, who was the girlfriend of Jesse’s brother, and who had become sort of my angel and my coach. She’s the one who insisted that I go to prenatal yoga, which became a central part of not only my pregnancy, but also put me on a path toward becoming a yoga teacher.
Brianna and Corey arrived around 3 AM, and I continued to breathe through contractions while Jesse and Brianna played soft music, turned off all the lights, and took turns keeping wet cloths on my back and forehead. Neither of them had attended to a woman in labor before, and each were so fluid, so calm and caring, that you’d think they’d done it hundreds of times before.
It is because of them that I was able to labor for 20 hours without any pain relief.
Hour 20 is when my doctor came in, and informed that me that we were entering dangerous territory. That the baby had been without fluid for a long time, and that the hospital had been wanting to give me pitocin for hours which he had expressly forbade according to my wishes. But they weren’t willing to wait any longer.
Years later I would understand the significance of this give birth or get out mentality that is characteristic of the American Hospital System. At that time, though, I was scared and I trusted my doctor.
The epidural was awful, as terrible as I had imagined it would be. Worse.
I started to get a little emotional and the I did the only thing I could think of to keep from losing it. I started to breathe. Deeply. More deeply than I had ever breathed in my life.
For eight solid hours I closed my eyes and focused on my breath opening up my body. I repeated a matra to myself. I am strong. I am opening. I can do this.
The hours between receiving the epidural and from when I began to push took me to a place deep within my soul where I had conversations with myself, and what seemed like other women. Mothers. They were cheering for me. You are strong. You are opening. You can do this.
My favorite nurse of the entire experience, an English woman named Julie, came to check on me. Her gasp is what brought me back to my body.
“Let’s get the Doctor. It’s time to push!”
Immediately I became aware of one startling fact. I couldn’t feel my toes. You could have cut off my leg and I wouldn’t have flinched. How was I supposed to push out a baby if I couldn’t even feel my muscles?
I panicked only a little, but was reassured that the epidural would be shut off and that I would be able to regain control of my muscles in a few minutes, but that the nurses would help me along through the contractions in the meantime.
Basically, the monitor would tell them when I was contracting (because I still couldn’t feel anything) and then they would hold up my legs and I would push. Things went on like this for half an hour, when Julie finally shouted.
“Reach down and feel your baby’s head!”
That moment, the one when the head becomes visible is called crowning. As in the crown of the head. But I like to think of it this way.
For the nine months a woman is pregnant, she stands between two worlds: the world of a singular person and the world of motherhood. Labor is the ceremony ushering her forth to her new role as guardian of a human life, and that final stage is her coronation. Her crowning moment. Because henceforth and forever more, she is a mother.
At least, that’s how it felt for me.
Feeling Emet leave my body, hearing him cry, receiving him with my arms. These were my first moments as a mother, his mother, and I loved him harder and deeper than I had ever loved anything or anyone before. I was overcome with joy. Yet I couldn’t shake this profound feeling of emptiness.
It’s hard to explain. But for nine months you body changes to accommodate a growing human, and then in an instant you’re left with a hollow vacancy where there once was a baby. I missed having him so close to me, inside of me, where I could feel his every move. I wasn’t prepared to feel this way.
I’ve had a long time to reflect upon what it all meant, something I wasn’t really able to at the time. How could I? It takes being a mother to understand the complexity of a mother’s love.
Boundless. Eternal. Transformative. Fierce. I have come to know the essence of these words only through loving my child. And I’ve come to understand those first few moments of motherhood only through experience.
Ten years later, I can say this. That feeling of emptiness? It’s a metaphor. You see, children leave. That is what they do. Slowly at first, and then increasingly as they grow, they leave a little bit more until they are gone. Bravely into the world they must go, it is their job to do so.
Our job is to hold on. To stay. To love them through it all.
So they always have a place to come back to.