A long time ago, I read somewhere that becoming a mother is like taking your heart out of your body, giving it arms and legs, and letting it go.
On the morning of Sept. 7, I finally understood what that means.
After a surprisingly smooth nine hours of labor, I gave birth to my son, Kelsey Scott Conover Jr., whom my husband and I affectionately call “Scotty.” At the risk of sounding every bit the cliché, the experience was, unequivocally, the best thing that ever happened to me.
Yet, before all that unbridled joy, there was trepidation and…fear. Yes, that’s right, fear. (I’ve been candid with you throughout my pregnancy, and I have no intention of sugar-coating things now.) Ask most nine-months-pregnant women and they will tell you that they are so ready for their baby to make their way to the exit that the fear of delivery is virtually nonexistent. Yeah, well, I was one of those women…until my doctor relayed to me that Scotty was well over eight pounds and, at 36 weeks, possessed the head size of a 40-week baby. Add to the mix my fibroid that had grown the size of Texas (Would I be able to deliver vaginally or would I need a Caesarean?) and you have one too many wildcards.
The first word that came to my mind: Ouch.
The first word that came out of my doctor’s mouth: Induction.
My husband Scott and I were free to choose any date after week 39, so we chose September 7. (Married on 07-07-07, he and I have a thing for the number seven.) So my doctor recommended that we schedule the induction the night before because first-time mothers tend to labor longer, and if we induced on the seventh, I may not deliver until the eighth.
The plan was to kick things off at 8 p.m. on the eighth by depositing medication that would “ripen” my cervix and then start me on Pitocin (a medication that prompts contractions) at 8 a.m. the next morning.
But when I arrived at the hospital, I was already dilated to three centimeters, so my doctor decided to go for the gusto: The Pitocin would start flowing at 9:30 p.m. that night. To heck with the depository. In other words, there was no turning back. The train was officially leaving the station. I responded to this news by gripping the rails of the hospital bed, looking like a deer caught in headlights. I had envisioned one last evening in peace, which I had planned to spend listening to my iPod and reading trashy tabloids. Again, that was the plan.
Yeah, well, once the Pitocin started pumping through my IV and the wave of contractions followed I could care less about what Kirstie Alley looked like without make-up or if Will and Jada Smith’s marriage was on the rocks. By 1 a.m., I looked over at Scott, who was stretched out on the sleeper sofa watching The Godfather (for our viewing pleasure, we had brought several DVDs from home), and said, “I. Need. An. Epidural. NOW.”
By 2 a.m., I was back in business, pain-free, and fully engrossed in the movie alongside Scott. But then at, I don’t know, say, 3 a.m., a strange sensation took hold. It wasn’t pain; it wasn’t cramping. I can only describe it as the most intense pressure I had ever felt in my, ahem, southern hemisphere. I reported this my nurse, to which she replied, “That’s good. Tell me when you feel as if you have to go…number two.”
At precisely 4 a.m., the urge came and boy did I let everyone know it. That’s when my doctor flew back in -- with three more nurses in tow -- and proceeded to break down my hospital bed and flick on the overhead lamps above my bed that were bright enough to illuminate I-275 in the dead of night.
It was Go Time.
I couldn’t believe it was happening. Until this point, I had likened childbirth to climbing Mount Kilimanjaro: I knew it could be done; I just didn’t think I could do it. What I was enduring made all my previous accomplishments -- i.e. reporting the news on live television, getting published, etcetera -- look like the minor leagues. I pushed for two hours and forty-one minutes, and there were times when I didn’t feel as if any progress was being made. I remember I kept saying to myself, Courtney, you can do this…you can do this, and it was as if a confident me was coaching a somewhat defeated version of myself. My doctor offered me a mirror so I could see what was happening; I declined. I was in The Zone. The only thing I wanted was a definitive time frame as to how much longer I had to endure this, but then, I opted not to ask for fear that the answer might discourage me.
Finally, at 6:41 a.m., a screaming Scotty was placed on my chest. He was 8 pounds, 11 ounces and 21 inches long. He was beautiful and strong and had a head full of black curly hair. I remember feeling my husband’s warmth as he huddled next to my right side while my doctor prepared for him to cut the cord. I cried and felt relief at once. It was like there was this tremendous sense of intensity, and then, calmness.
As I write this, Scotty is sleeping next to me in his Fisher Price Rock ’n Sleeper (a God-send, might I add), and I still can’t believe my good fortune. And although my son is only two weeks old today, I can’t believe that I ever lived my life without him.
I am forever changed.
And I love it.