Baby on Board (a birthing story)

I have given birth to my daughter, Luna, and my husband and I are over the moon about finally meeting and living the rest of our lives as parents to this little gem. This has been the most out-of-this-world experience. She is the most beautiful wonder I’ve seen and I know unequivocally that there is no greater love.

I went into labor 7 days sooner than my projected due date. It was a beautiful, Sunday afternoon – it was hot and sunny outside, my best friend was visiting, we ordered a very tasty lunch, and took fun photos around the house. About 4:30 pm I started having contractions and I told my husband and friend that my body was simply preparing itself for what was to come a week from the day. Little did I know I was in labor. My contractions gradually intensified over the next couple of hours but were very inconsistent in the time between them and duration.

I attempted to burn essential oil, put a cold towel on my face, and breathe my way through the contractions all while I continued to deny that I was in labor. By 9 p.m., I could barely walk and was crouched over the bed almost in tears. Even still, I said, “There is no way I’m in labor. Something is wrong. I think I’m dying.” No, there was nothing wrong. I was simply and actually in labor! My husband insisted I call the doctor who said it was time to check-in for delivery. At that point my contractions were about 4-5 minutes apart and the duration was about 1 minute. We grabbed the small suitcase I had pre-packed for the hospital and made our way to Emory University Hospital – Midtown in Atlanta. From the moment we arrived at the hospital, we were treated very poorly.

When we arrived around 11 p.m., we entered through the emergency entrance because the main entrance was closed for the night. We weren’t offered a wheelchair until someone on a security camera saw me struggling to walk down a hallway, to the elevator leading to the labor and delivery unit which was on the 3rd floor.

After checking into L&D and answering several questions, I cringed and moaned during every contraction while sitting in the waiting area for over an hour. It was very hard to sit still when my contractions were so frequent. I was leaning over a decorative table calling on the strength of every divine energy I could think of. I overheard one of the women at the front desk call someone and say, “No, she’s like, fully in labor. Is anyone available?”

About 30 minutes later a nurse came to walk me into a triage room so I could get changed into a gown. She proceeded to tell me that they would not give me an epidural if I didn’t discontinue my loud moaning during my contractions because I’d be considered a hostile patient. I was absolutely baffled at how this nurse lacked understanding and tact. I said, “Have you ever been in labor? Do you have any idea what this feels like?” She said, “Well, let me check to see how dilated you are.” I had already dilated 7 cm. She said, “You’re going to have this baby soon.” Tell me something I don’t know! That was the first sign that my providers for the rest of my time in the hospital would be completely void of compassion and basic understanding of an emotionally and physically healthy birthing experience – even if they were mothers themselves.

I was put back into my wheelchair and rolled to the room I’d give birth in. I was in so much pain, I couldn’t remember the breathing patterns my husband and I had practiced. In spite of initially telling myself that I did not want an IV or epidural, I let them hook me up to an IV and begged for an epidural. I cannot describe how labor contractions feel. Describing them as, “The worst kind of physical pain the human woman can experience” is an understatement. You’ll never know what that means until you go through it.

I cried thick, heavy, tears. What made my tears flow more heavily was having to wait for an epidural because they were short-staffed and only had one anesthesiologist working. One of the nurses told me that they had more women in labor than expected. For Emory University Hospital, that was and will always be unacceptable. They gave me ice chips and kept telling me to breathe as if that would suffice. While I watched my loved ones advocate for me, I was in bed in utter disbelief.

Once the anesthesiologist made it to my room, she had a very nasty demeanor as she complained about how she can’t be in two places at once and how glad she was that she didn’t agree to work a double shift. I did not care to hear her speak – I wanted her to administer my epidural. She obviously still felt I could wait because after I was sat up and set up for the injection, she told me to hold on and left the room for about another 45 minutes. I broke down into the worst cry I’ve had in years.

Once she returned, I got my epidural. It was not long after that my contractions were monitored and the doctor arrived instructing me to push. I’m almost certain that my epidural had not taken full effect because I still felt pain during my contractions. I pushed for only 30 minutes with the strength of 10 men. In that short period, I had the candid sense that laying flat on my back with my knees up to my shoulders was not the most natural or effective position for giving birth. At that point, it was too late to switch to a squatting position because my left leg had become numb. My only concern was delivering my baby so that we may both be relieved and get rid of the people I no longer wanted in the room.

While crowning, the doctor said, “Look! She has a lot of hair!” I looked, smiled, and kept pushing. I delivered Luna vaginally around 4:30 am. I’m grateful to say that there were no complications and I only had natural tearing that was stitched up a few minutes later. I was under the impression that skin-to-skin contact would be immediate but they wiped her off, weighed her, checked her vitals, and put drops in her eyes before they handed her to me.

Once Luna was in my arms, I put my feelings about the staff to the side so that I could live in the glorious moment. I was holding my daughter. I felt the most intense wave of love take over me. I was absolutely astonished by this little human that my husband and I created. I was amazed at myself because I succeeded at not only being her vessel for 9 months, but her portal into this world. I also had the strongest protective instinct I had ever felt. After holding her for a few minutes, they told me they had to take her to the nursery for some reason or another. We actually don’t even remember why she had to leave the room. It may have been because she defecated during labor, which is also why they wouldn’t let me keep my placenta. All I remember was going into a mild panic because I didn’t want to let her out of my sight. If they treated us with such disrespect, I feared that the staff would treat my precious baby girl in the same way. Isn’t that sad? To think that certain people would intentionally do you harm is one of the most unfortunate things anyone has to endure. It was an excruciating couple of minutes.

Upon her return, I nursed Luna as I looked into her eyes with adoration. She was mine and she knew that I was hers. Oh, but the overwhelming emotion I felt seeing my husband, the man I love, hold his daughter for the first time is a gentle moment that will forever be woven into the fabric of my memories.

We were finally moved to our sleeping room around noon on Monday, and I still had not slept (27 hours awake and counting). I was entirely too fascinated by Luna. I stayed awake to watch her sleep. I was also very hungry. I had not been given any real food by the hospital but the snacks in my suitcase sustained us until room service delivered my dinner.

I made it clear that there would be no more separation between us and Luna. A nurse still asked if I wanted her to take Luna to the nursery for a bath and a jaundice test. I said, “No. You can bathe and test her right in here.”

My exhaustion got the best of me that night. I had been awake for practically 36 hours, and could barely keep my eyes open. I would fall asleep but woke up every 20-30 minutes to make sure Luna was still in our room. At one point, over the next 48 hours, my sleep deprivation caused me to slept for a continuous 4 hours. If it weren’t for breastfeeding Luna every 2-3 hours, and the frequent nurse and doctor visits, I could have easily slept another 20 hours.

On Tuesday I tried to shower. I felt unsanitary and wanted to wash the past day and a half off and put on my pajamas, but there was no water coming out of the shower head. Go figure! We waited two hours for maintenance to fix the problem. Emory just got better and better!

On Wednesday we were discharged but not without a visit from a unit manager. We refused to bury our pain and expressed disappointment in our treatment. I am not a simple woman, and I will stand up for what is right. Although intense, giving birth should be a magical time, not a time to feel like an inconvenience. When it comes time for my daughter to give birth, she will not be treated in such a way. I will guarantee her that.

Of course I wondered if our brown skin had anything to do with the lack of respect we received but since giving birth, I’ve heard women of all skin tones express their different levels of disappointment with the hospital system during labor and delivery. Why? Because not even the fairest, wealthiest, privileged woman can fight the large, money-making healthcare system alone.

It almost seemed like the staff was trying to win an award for worst hospital for giving birth. Bottom line, we will not accept treatment that attempts to dehumanize us, and make us feel like a product on an assembly line. Needless to say, we’ll never return to Emory. My experience at Emory made me regret not putting in more of an effort to have an at-home water delivery. I’ve learned a valuable lesson. When we are ready for our second child, I will not make the same mistake, but for now, we will love on our little girl. At the end of the day, we are simply thankful for a healthy, beautiful baby.


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