A tear slid slowly down my face as the doctor’s words rang in my ears like a blaring train whistle. “We have to deliver your baby today. He is not producing enough amniotic fluid to sustain himself in your uterus.” The doctors had no idea why my baby’s amniotic fluid level was so low, so the only option was early delivery. My body trembled with fear as I realized the enormity of having a baby one month early. However, in spite of the turmoil that reigned in my mind, I softly replied, “Do I have a choice?”
I was scared. I was not prepared to give birth. My husband was at work, my entire family was in another state, and my first Lamaze class was scheduled for the next day. However, I heeded to my doctor’s orders. He said, “If you want your baby to live, we have to do this now.”
It’s an unbelievably lonely feeling walking into a hospital without anyone by your side. I felt like a science experiment as I lay on the hospital bed with an endless number of wires attached to my stomach. Doctors and nurses flowed steadily in and out of my room, checking and double checking on me; however, there were still no family or friends.
As an idealistic young woman, I had always envisioned childbirth as a joyous event. I imagined being surrounded by family and friends from start to finish. I also believed the pain would be lessened through the companionship of my loved one, and most importantly I dreamed of taking home, two days later, a healthy baby boy. However, this childbirth would not follow my dream, instead key family members were absent and my baby’s premature birth required an extended stay.
After two hours of waiting by myself, friends began to visit me. Although they were not my best friends, I readily accepted their company; however, the person I longed to see the most was my mother. For months my mother and I had planned that she, my sister, and my mother-in-law, Dorothy, would drop everything and rush from North Carolina to Tennessee when I went into labor.
Then, with one heartbreaking call, all of our plans were shattered. Two hours after being admitted, my mom called and told me that my coldhearted stepfather, taken by caprice, didn’t think she needed to leave right away. He decided that she would wait until the weekend to see me. Apparently her obedience to my stepfather was far more important than the birth of her first grandchild.
I begged her to come, but the best she could do was pay for a bus ticket for my mother-in-law. She said “at least Dorothy would be there.” I continued to push and plead with her, “Mommy, please, I need you.” But the answer was still a tearful no. My mother was my anchor, and suddenly without her, I felt like I was all alone, drifting in an ocean by myself.
Once again, I was heartbroken. I was watching my dream of the perfect childbirth slip away right in front of me, and I had no control over it. Not only did I have to give birth early, but now my mother was not going to be present. One kind nurse, Angela, saw my tears and told me, “Don’t worry; everything will work out.” While in the face of utter loneliness and sorrow, her thoughtful words brought me a brief moment of solace. She was right. This was not about my mother because I was about to bring a precious new life into the world.
Later that afternoon my husband, Willie, arrived at the hospital. His presence brought me peace. He sat beside me and held my hand. He was my rock in the midst of my storm.
Because I was having a baby one month early, my body was not ready for delivery, so I had to be induced. On the first day, I was given Pitocin, an inducing agent that thins the wall of the cervix. This was not painful, but when the doctor broke my water at four the next morning my body immediately began to ache. Although my husband strongly disagreed with my new decision, he still stood by my side.
At four in the afternoon, I went into hard labor. The hospital staff quickly sprang into action. The delivery room felt like a subway car during rush hour. Because I was about to have a premature baby, there were about four doctors and five nurses helping with the delivery. This chaos only made me more anxious.
As the doctors told me to start pushing, I began to panic. I had no idea of what to do. As I pushed, I screamed in pain. However, I was shocked to hear the nurse firmly say, “Stop screaming, it’s using up your energy.” I couldn’t believe that she had the audacity to tell me how to handle my pain. But after twenty-four minutes of strenuous pushing, a tiny, weak five pound baby boy named Louis entered the world.
After Louis was born, he was quickly rushed to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. I longed to see my son but was prohibited until my son became stabilized after his arrival. It wasn’t until after midnight, eight hours after I gave birth, that I was able to hold my son.
My eyes swelled as Louis shyly gazed into my eyes. He was as fragile as a porcelain doll. I was terrified of holding him. I feared that my soft grip would break his tiny bones. Although Louis was small, he was still strong and stubborn. The NICU nurses laughed as they recalled how Louis constantly ripped his feeding tubes off. His strength and resilience gave me the courage I needed to leave the hospital without him since the doctors would not release him until he was eating and maintaining his weight. This process took two weeks.
On July 24, 2003, I welcomed my son home. My childbirth experience was not the fairy tale I expected—I gave birth one month ahead of schedule, my mother was absent, and Louis remained in the hospital two weeks too long.
Despite the grim events surrounding Louis’s birth, I learned that childbirth is a selfless act. This experience was not about my fairy tale but about Louis’ arrival. As I watched Louis quietly sleeping in his bassinet, I softly whispered a prayer. “Thank you, Lord, for bringing Louis into my life.”
Written October 24, 2005 for writing course in college.