I love birthdays. Mine, other people’s… all of them.

I see it as the ultimate moment to celebrate the glorious individual. I think on birthdays, we should be praised, indulged, and reminded of just how special and amazing we are unto the end of the strength of everyone in the vicinity.

And not just because I want to be getting this treatment, either. I like few things more than lavishing this kind of attention on people I love. I have had more than one person who claimed to not much care for birthday fuss tell me the kind of fuss I created made for the best birthday they’d ever had.

Yeah.

So, I am the sort to stretch the celebration. To include the days surrounding, meals and treats in both the run-up and the aftermath. Considerations, extravagances, and indulgences all in the name of birthday awesomeness. Because it is fun. Because I like to. Because I can.

Yet, in the particular case of my daughter it is also true that I am acknowledging my own role in the process of her birth. If a birthday is the day a person is born, it is also often the case that it is the day their mother went into labor to bring about that result. If we measure by that metric, I’d have to start celebrating Hodie’s birthday sometime in the second week of June.

I did not take great care of myself when I was pregnant. I laid around like third base. I ate cheese fries with bacon and two scoops of ice cream every single day of my second trimester. I dislocated my pelvis in my sixth month and moved even less thereafter. I gained 50 lbs and was bordering on gestational diabetes by the end of my term. I was huge and swollen and in constant pain. I loved every minute of it.

Seriously.

Even though I loved being pregnant, by about mid-June I’d been having regular contractions for a week or so and was feeling pretty ready to be done with the whole experience. My trip to the hospital resulted in the attending doctor assuring me these were only Braxton-Hicks, that I needed to be drinking more water, and that I’d deliver much closer to my July 5th due date than I wanted to credit.

Chastened I went home and drank gallons of water, peed every 20 minutes, and timed my contractions. They came quite regularly, but never more often than about every 6-7 minutes. This of course failed to meet the threshold where they would tell me to go to the hospital, but certainly kept me from getting any kind of sleep for both excitement and physical discomfort. This went on for 2 more weeks.

Finally, around 3 a.m. on June 28th the nature and frequency of my contractions changed in frequency. Though not any more intense, they were now coming every 4 minutes like clockwork. After several hours of this pattern, I called the hospital. The nurse told us to come in; even though my water hadn’t broken, my labor pattern warranted checking my progress.

We got to the hospital sometime around 9:30 am but after a quick check by the nurse (3cm) they put me in a room and left me there until my OB came by for his normal rounds at noon. He pulled out the ultrasound and looked at the baby’s lungs, said they looked well developed and patted my protruding belly with tender compassion.

“You’re pretty ready for this baby to be born, huh?”

“YEEEEEES”

He said that given I’d already been in labor for so long, and that despite being technically before her due date, it was clear that the baby was both full term and looked totally healthy, he was willing to induce labor to spare me any more waiting. I started weeping with relief, until…

“So, we’re going to have you come back tomorrow at 8:00 and get started.”

I was totally inconsolable. I wailed about why couldn’t they just start NOW? It was already too late in the day to ensure that I’d deliver in a timely manner and that an early morning induction was simply protocol. He encouraged me to go home and get some rest for the next day.

I had never wanted to do murder so much as I did in that moment.

Nevertheless, home we went for another sleepless night. We called the people who were going to accompany us to the hospital and gave them the schedule. Arrive at 8:00 am, plan on staying till the wee hours of the following day, as that was how the induction usually played out. We all mused it was too bad they hadn’t let me start that day, which would have resulted in the baby being born on her father’s birthday.

June 29th dawned clear and pink. We made our way to the hospital with time to spare. They put me in the gown and checked my cervix (still 3cm). Nurse broke my water and encouraged me to visit the bathroom for the last time before they administered the Pitocin & catheter.

Up to this point my “contractions” had been what I would characterize as “uncomfortable.” Once my water broke, they were immediately different. I had to stop and take a deep breath. There was some groaning. I looked at the nurse and said,

“Well, that seemed to make a difference. Are we sure I need the Pitocin?”

She assured me that once my water was broken we absolutely had to have the drugs to ensure I’d deliver within 24 hours to reduce the risk of infection. I was skeptical it was necessary, but didn’t have the wherewithal to argue about it, since I was already having another contraction.

When they administered the IV they checked me (3.5 cm). This was about 15 minutes after they broke my water and I was in more pain than I was expecting for so early in the game. Once they started the drip, they came harder than I even realized was possible. Classically trained singer I am, I did my best not to scream, and instead chose a note to be SUNG at the top of my lungs every time a spasm hit. This came out sounding a bit like a banshee and was apparently loud enough that one of the nurses from the other side of the ward asked why the anesthesiologist hadn’t been called

“She is SCARING the other mothers!”

Between contractions, I asked the nurse much the same question. She was a snot about the whole thing and had me pegged as some kind of crybaby. When I told her I was in a lot of pain and would like her to check to see if I was ready for an epidural. She cocked an eyebrow at me and said,

“It’s only been about 45 minutes. How much progress do you think you could have made?”

I thought to myself – if I could reach, I’d find out myself you numb cunt!

She refused to check and told me I had a long day ahead of me and would need to toughen up a bit and left the room.

I had never wanted to do murder so much as I did in that moment.

A few minutes later, the much nicer back-up OB nurse came in and we repeated the same conversation. She was just as reluctant to check, but much more compassionate about the whole thing. And then I started having a contraction. She watched with widening eyes and dropping jaw my howling endurance and slipped her hand into a glove before it was even over. (7.5 cm)

That I had progressed 4cm in less than an hour was pretty stunning. They called the anesthesiologist immediately. By the time the epidural was administered half an hour later, I was at 10cm fully effaced and ready to push. They called my OB and let him know that instead of just coming to check on me at lunch, he might want to hurry if he wanted to be there to deliver the baby.

So, at 12:40 my baby girl was born. They handed her to me and I fell instantly and irrevocably in love. As he bent over to look at his daughter I said to her father,

“Happy birthday. I hope you like your present. I made it myself.”

He tells me every year it was the best birthday ever.

Collage of Birth

Collage of Birth