By the end of the eighth month, the only thing missing was to actually deliver. I continued life as usual: work and falling asleep on our living room couch as soon as I’d gotten back while local news covering the thawra blared in the background.
This urge to be absolutely ready was because in those early weeks my due date kept changing. So I knew that the moment I started the final month of pregnancy, baby could make an appearance any day. And I did not want to be caught by surprise.
That’s why when I woke up just before dawn on the 27th of November, sensing as though my water had broken, but not completely sure, I made myself sleep another hour before I got up completely. Then I made myself a hearty breakfast, packed up whatever last minute items my bag needed, and got dressed as usual, while Ahmad got similarly ready. I figured that if it wasn’t my water breaking, I had to go to the hospital for work anyway. We took the bag down to the car and had our usual morning commute. The most common scenario about rushing frantically to the hospital while in labor? We couldn’t be more opposite as I sang along to the radio, absolutely calm and collected.
Almost an hour later, I was admitted. We were going to have the baby! My head was spinning: just the day before I’d went about my usual rounds, albeit feeling tired and heavier than usual while joking with coworkers about my readiness -but I attributed that to pregnancy’s last days, not knowing it was in fact the very last day.
But here I was, getting poked and prodded, an IV secured, and giving my medical history to a kind looking intern. I was also immediately told not to expect the baby before midnight. It was still barely 8 am! Thankfully I had my Kindle, Ahmad, and our mothers to help me brace for the long night ahead.
Looking back, I felt that having a birth plan, although suggested by my OBGYN, was a futile exercise. All I wanted was to have no complications and to go home with a healthy baby. I trusted my physician and his team to ensure that and had no special requests except to be allowed to walk around a little and to be given time to decide on the epidural.
Honestly, the epidural terrified me. For some silly reason, I still remembered the words of a former high school biology teacher, who while teaching us about the reproductive system, decided to share her wisdom on the anesthetic. She was not a fan, stating getting it risked paralysis. Also, I have never been a fan of needles and the idea of one in my back, one that would have me stay in place for hours, was not my cup of tea.
But as the contractions, and the pain, started increasing, the number of physicians and nurses entering my room asking me if I wanted one also increased- each time being reassured that it was safe and everything I’d heard was a myth. I reminded myself, I trusted modern medicine more than I trusted what little breathing exercises I had done. I did not want to put myself in any unnecessary pain and ended up happily signing that consent form.
And was I ever glad I did. Once the medication kicked in, I could have sworn some kind of magic had taken hold. I was told the numbers on the contraction monitor were going up, but I couldn’t feel a single thing. Not a single thing. In fact, my energy was focused on making fun of the bottomless can of 7up and how I’d left a bowl of jello unwashed in the kitchen sink.
I think the magic worked a little too much too quickly because by early afternoon, I was told I was further along than we’d expected and pushing was imminent! Not two hours later, a group of medical personnel were by my side instructing me what to do.
Now maybe it was the effect of the drugs, but all I could think about while in that stage was “Hey, this isn’t any harder than the exercises we used to do in NRC!” Yes, I was in labor, about to meet the daughter we had long waited for and the number one thought in my head was my former running club. But I’d like to think it served as a helpful distraction as the anticipation kept building up.
I surprised myself by not crying when Raneem was born and I held her for the first time- everything makes me cry! Instead I tried to take in all of her features underneath the harsh neon lights. I gripped Ahmad’s hand tightly, as I processed the past 14 hours.
Birth plan or not, I was fortunate everything had proceeded better than I could have ever imagined. We had long talked about different scenarios and situations of me going into labor ranging from the okay to the worst case-but I don’t think we expected we would get the best case one where we were able to remain calm throughout the whole day, enjoying and savoring every moment. Even writing it down now still feels incredulous.
If I had any birth related disappointments, it’s that I couldn’t do skin to skin with the baby for as long as I hoped. Worse yet, it took close to three hours for us to be reunited after the birth. This was never explained to me and I was too tired to argue. In the grander scheme of things, this seemed insignificant-we’d be spending a lot of time together going forward.
The tears did eventually come. I held them back while we were discharged and all the way home. But once our building was in sight, the floodgates opened-and I don’t think they’ve closed all the way back again two months into motherhood.