Sometimes the most unlikely circumstance turns out to be exactly right. That was the case for Ryan and I when we found ourselves unexpectedly pregnant a year after moving to Hungary to teach English. After deliberating where to have our baby, we decided to stay in Hungary. I had full medical coverage and we had a community of Hungarian friends willing to support us and the blessing of our parents. The pregnancy was smooth and at every ultrasound my doctor described our growing daughter as ‘perfect’ and ‘beautiful’. Just what every expectant mother wants to hear.
At church eleven days before the due date, our pastor prayed for us. We joked with friends after the service that labor could start any time. I didn’t anticipate giving birth any time soon but it was fun to think that it was coming.
That night at about 11 o’clock as we got ready for bed I noticed a bit of wetness between my legs but didn’t think much of it. I went to bed but couldn’t sleep; I was trying not to think that my water had broken. It was impossible to get the notion out of my mind. Then at 1 am I went to the bathroom and after getting back in bed I felt more wetness. After much consideration, I woke Ryan up. I told him I thought my water was broken (which meant it was time to go to the hospital) and he suggested we wait and see what was really happening. He went back to sleep and I called my parents. They both thought my water had broken and my mom called a friend who is an OB nurse to get her professional opinion. The nurse said that my water probably had broken and we should go to the hospital. I was so excited, nervous and anxious I was shaking. I got up to pack and as I did, I gushed amniotic fluid. There was no question now.
Contractions hadn’t really started when we arrived at the hospital so we were taken to a room to rest. At seven in the morning my doctor arrived and I was examined and hooked up to monitors. I started to have mild contractions but I had to lay on a bed in the delivery room that was almost flat and it was miserable. Contractions still weren’t strong and hospital protocol dictated that because contractions still weren’t regular after seven hours, I had to be induced. I was hooked up to an IV and the contractions intensified immediately. Ryan and I walked the hall, up and down, up and down, up and down. I stopped every once in a while to squat down to get through a contraction but I was able to talk with Ryan and was excited about having my baby girl soon! After about an hour Audrey’s heart rate was monitored again. Fortunately this time the nurse was in the room and she propped me up with a pillow. I was at 4cm and the contractions started to get more painful, but definitely tolerable. This is when I learned the Hungarian word for pain: fáj. The nurse checked the heart rate and contraction read-out, looked concerned, and then got my doctor. She showed him what she had seen, they had a short discussion where we could tell she was trying to convince him to do something that he wasn’t sure about. She gave him a stern look and he consented. He told us Audrey’s heart rate dropped with each contraction I needed to have a C-section now. Those words cut me to the marrow. I cried immediately but didn’t have time for much else because a man had already come to take me into surgery. I took off everything I was wearing and was wheeled off completely naked, tears streaming down my face. The man taking me asked how old I was and when I told him 25 I don’t think he believed me.
When I arrived in the operating room I stared at the ceiling because I wanted to know as little as possible about what was going on. I didn’t want any of this to be happening and the less I knew, the better. The anesthesiologist came in and introduced himself to me in English and asked me basic questions, like my name, and then explained what he was going to do. Even though I was used to hearing Hungarian it was comforting to have someone besides my doctor speak to me in English. He told me they were waiting for the surgeon to arrive and he would talk to me until then. He asked if this was our first, where I was from, why I was in Hungary. It helped me calm down, just thinking about something else. The surgeon arrived and the anesthesiologist put the mask to my face and told me to breath. I filled my lungs to capacity and I was finally unconscious.
Audrey was born at 10:57 am, January 17th, 2011. She weighed 6 pounds, 12 ounces and was 20 inches long. The umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck twice but she was perfectly healthy.
The next thing I remember is being moved from the gurney onto my bed. I thought Ryan was in the room and I told him how much pain I was in. I kept repeating, “It hurts, it hurts”. It was absolutely miserable. For the next couple of hours I was in and out of consciousness and every time I woke up I moaned and cried. I still experienced contractions and though I had learned this was normal, I didn’t understand it at the time. Once when I woke up during a contraction Ryan was sitting next to me and I told him to put his hand on my belly. He said he didn’t know if he should but I told him I needed his touch and I took his hand and put it on my ab. At 2 pm I was starting to wake up and Ryan told me I needed to fully wake up. I wanted to keep sleeping because I was still in so much pain but he kept telling me it was time to wake up. To convince me to try, he told me how beautiful Audrey was and she looked like me. I hardly had the will to wake up but Ryan kept gently coaxing me. When I was awake enough (being barely awake) a nurse brought Audrey into the room. She was in a bassinet, dressed in a traditional white lace outfit with her arm in the air. When Audrey was in my arms tears ran down my cheek, but this time they were tears of joy. The absolute purest joy. I was holding my daughter. My Own Audrey.
I have never cried as much as I did over the next weeks. I was happy to have a beautiful, healthy daughter but I mourned not delivering her vaginally. I wanted to experience the pain of childbirth, to be strong, to give so much of myself to bring my child into the world. To reach the pinnacle of womanhood. But I was unconscious when Audrey was born and the pain came later and I didn’t want to wake up to hold her. I didn’t hear her first cry or hold her to my breast moments after she was born. The first time I saw her she were cleaned and dressed and I was groggy from drugs. But she was and is healthy. And that’s the most important thing in the world.