In the minutes and days after Harper's birth, I told anyone who would listen that she was going to be an only child. My water broke late on a Tuesday night and she was born early on a Thursday morning. The time in between those events was painful and the act of pushing her out of my body lasted a grueling 2 hours. It was the hardest thing I've ever done. Even as they wheeled me out to the car with my perfect new baby in the car seat carrier, they asked "will we see you back here in a few years?" "Hell no!!" was my answer.
In typical fashion of my life, Harper's birth was anything but ordinary. I was induced right at 40 weeks, as they had discovered that my amniotic fluid was low and my blood pressure high. I was not at all effaced or dilated and it appeared that Harper was content to stay put. I went into Harrisburg Hospital in the evening of Tuesday, December 13th. There they administered a gel to my cervix to ripen it. They assured me that this probably would not work and that I would need to come back in the morning for more gel, followed by Pitocin to induce labor. Eric and I left and went to Jo Jo's pizza for what we would soon find out would be our last meal as a family unit of two.
I went to bed and woke up at 11:45 to a gush of fluid when I turned over. My water had broke. I remember being so excited that I got to experience water breaking like I always saw in the movies since many women do not have their water break spontaneously. We left for the hospital around 3 am and settled in for an unproductive 10 hours of no progression in my labor. Finally at 1pm they started the Pitocin and by 5pm I was in agony and chanting in tongues. I knew there was a way out--the celebrated epidural. The thing is, I took a birthing class and they teach you how to power through this pain without medicine. My back labor was terrible though, surely I was 8 cm now and gave it my best effort. The nurse checks my progress. 1 cm. It had been 5 hours of Pitocin on full blast and I was only 1 cm? And here I was, ready to ask for the drugs at 1 cm dilated. I was weak!
I go through with the epidural and it only works on half of me. I have no idea why but half of my back still feels every contraction. I suffer more and then somehow I manage to drift off. I wake up to the tell tale feeling of needing to push and the nurse checks me. I'm 10 centimeters. It's close to 1 am and show time. The nurse tells me to start pushing and I say wait a minute, where is the midwife? She tells me we push until right before the baby is ready to come out, and then my midwife will come in and deliver the baby. This horrifies me but I start pushing. And pushing. And pushing. For 2 hours I do the most physically demanding thing I've ever done and I feel like I'm going to throw up with every push. Finally the nurse comments on how much hair the baby has and says she's going to get the midwife leaving Eric and I alone in the room. I'm so afraid this baby is going to come out without a medical professional in the room. The nurse returns with my midwife, an awesome woman who delivered most of our friend's babies and 4 babies earlier in her shift. She sits down on the edge of the bed and says "let's have a baby!" I continue pushing, aware of everything since my epidural is only half doing its job. I'm in the zone and then I hear "Get a doctor, I need a doctor!" I'm jolted out of my baby birthing trance and filled with fear, what was wrong with my baby? Again she says "Somebody get a doctor, I'm going to pass out." My eyes fly open and there I see, on the edge of the bed, my midwife slumped over unconscious. What the hell did I have going on down there that made her pass out?! The nurse hits a button and every nurse on the floor comes running! They wave smelling salts under her nose and she comes to. They put her in a wheel chair but she insists she's ok, that she can deliver this baby. They tell her no and take her to the emergency room. The nurses turn to me and tell me to relax and not push while I scream at them to get a doctor in the room. They assure me that a doctor will be here soon. I apologize and tell them that I'm sorry, but I can't not push. A contraction comes and so does my perfect, drama queen daughter, on to the edge of the bed, with no one to catch her.
My midwife never found out what happened that caused her to pass out, and it had never happened before or since. I don't blame her for anything. Do I wish a doctor had been readily available to take over? Of course. But in the end, Harper was fine, I was fine, and we certainly would never forget that night.
But like all new moms, I somehow forgot the pain of childbirth within a few weeks time, and declared I was having another baby, maybe a few. I loved being a mom, I loved breast feeding, and I had loved pregnancy. I couldn't wait to do it again.
Two weeks ago I went to my first OBGYN appointment since the day I went in there with a lump in my breast. I closed myself in the bathroom and cried because the waiting room made me think of being pregnant with Harper, the signs promoting breast feeding on the wall made me nostalgic for a time when I felt my body was doing what it was made to do. If cancer had never happened, I would have been trying to get pregnant right now or perhaps I would already be pregnant. I might be coming in for my 12 week appointment, eager to hear my baby's heart beat and make guesses at the gender. Instead I sat in the exam room and spoke with my doctor about oopherectomies and hysterectomies and hormone tests to check that the hormones that make me a woman, were suppressed. I was never going to have another baby again and there was a possibility that in due time, every body part that made me able to grow and then nurture a child would be removed.
Growing up, all I wanted was a daughter. I always pictured myself having one child who was a girl but I assumed that it was because that is what my family unit looked like growing up and I couldn't picture what I didn't know. It turns out that our family will be what I always imagined. I can't even begin to think about what my life would be like without Harper and every day I am glad that I didn't find my tumor any earlier if it would have meant not having her. I am more thankful for Harper than I could ever put into words and know that I am beyond blessed with this little person who has such intelligence, personality, and spunk. But I'm still angry that cancer is taking away my ability to make another wonderful child.
My Harpy turns 2 years old in less than 2 weeks and I can't believe how much joy can fit into two years. Here is my miracle and biggest blessing: