This week's story is brought to you by Marvelous Kiddo reader, Brandy. I love the way this mother describes giving birth for the first time -- the way every sensation was so new and the whole experience forced her to face the unexpected, full on. I love the way she talks about labor seriously testing her limits, and how that actually made it all the more worthwhile and gave her a new appreciation for her own strength as a person. I can totally identify! Thanks for sharing, Brandy!
It's been a month since Sky was born and I wish I had written this sooner. I have heard that nature has a way of erasing a new mother's memory so that the world isn't full of only children. There's no way that I can ever explain the intensity of labor - the pain, the joy, the love - but with my monitrice's notes to guide me, I'll do my best.
I went with Greg to watch his basketball game. In the car I told G that I was getting some crampy type sensations but I had been feeling these last week too and was disappointed when they went away so this time I decided to not get too excited. When we got there, I had a weird feeling and after a bathroom trip skipped into the gym to tell G that I had lost my mucus plug. Do we need to leave? he asked. No, I assured him, this could mean we have hours or weeks even but in my heart I knew the babe was coming very soon.
So after the game (they lost - boo) we went home, ate the beef stew I had made the night before and went to bed. My main fear for labor was not the pain, but that lack of sleep would keep me from the type of delivery I was hoping for. I had heard stories of laboring women needing morphine naps because they had been unable to sleep the night before. Well not me. Although contractions were starting, I didn't say much about it to G and I went to sleep.
And then I woke up. I woke up at different points and was uncomfortable but forced myself back to sleep. At 2 a.m. the dull achy pains turned into real life contractions. I took a blanket and pillows and moved into the nursery where I sat in the recliner and slept during the ten minute lulls between contractions. It was a nice calm moment and I watched our quiet street thinking today I will become a mother.
5 a.m. The contractions were starting to hurt and the quiet comfort I was getting from being alone was waning. I needed Greg so I woke him up and let him know things were moving. Knowing I'd have a long day ahead of me, Greg wisely fed me a bowl of cereal and some fruit between contractions. I walked around the house and leaned against walls for support.
6:30 a.m. I called our monitrice, Lissa. Contractions are regular, five minutes apart and last for a minute.
7 a.m. Lissa arrived. Greg pours her coffee. I continue to walk and lean, walk and lean.
8:10 a.m. The great thing about having a monitrice is this: She does all the doula stuff but also has the clinical training of a midwife to help at home. So Lissa was able to check the dilation of my cervix. This is important so that we didn't spend time laboring at home only to go to the hospital and hear that I was only 1 cm dilated. Lisa checked me and I was 4 cm. I got into the shower. This is where I would spend the majority of my labor. I leaned on the wall of the shower and let the hot water hit my belly, my back, my face. I breathed in the stuffy air and when the hot water ran out, I dried off, put on Greg's sweats and walked around the house until the hot water came back.
8:35 a.m. walking, 9:10 a.m. forward leaning on bed, 9:40 a.m. back in the shower, 10:05 a.m. walking, leaning in the hall, 10:45 a.m. shower
11:15 a.m. Although I had originally wanted a home birth, that idea was nixed by our insurance company. I thought I'd be less than enthusiastic to go to the hospital but by this time, I was ready to go. I crawled into the back of the Subaru and Greg drove us to the hospital. Crouched on all fours, I rested my head in Sky's car seat, my only goal to not throw up. The windows were down and Greg apologized for every bump. The hospital is only a few minutes away and I only had to make it through 2 contractions. Not too bad.
11:30 a.m. We parked at the emergency room and were greeted by a less than enthusiastic young man with a wheelchair. Nope. Not getting in. Can't sit down. So I walk, slowly, to labor and delivery. The orderly was visibly upset about having to wait through my contractions (I think I had interrupted a Sudoku game) but we eventually made it and were greeted by Kristin.
Cue clouds parting, sun shining, angelic horns. Kristin is awesome. Kristin is the midwife at Maitri and I felt an immediate connection with her. She's calm, confident and very good at what she does. I'd heard several inspiring birth stories that involved Kristen at the helm. And she had this motherly thing about her. She made me feel capable and safe and understood.
And then as if things weren't going swimmingly enough, the nurse told us room four was available! Room Four! This is the room with the huge birthing tub. This meant we could have the water birth we wanted and I could use the tub for pain management. Considering how much I had relied on water thus far, a huge tub of hot water inspired new confidence. As I filled out paperwork and went into my room I said, This is the best day!
12:15 p.m. I'm in the tub. Sweet Jesus I'm in the tub. I lie on my side with a cool cloth on my forehead and Greg feeds me mango and sips of recharge. The pain is immediately manageable again. I float and chant for the next two hours.
2:15 p.m. I ask for Kristin to check my dilation. I had thought I wouldn't want anyone to check me but it turns out I wanted constant updates. I needed to know my progress. I needed validation that things were happening. And they were: I was at 7 cm. And this is when the contractions became really intense. I got back in the tub, walked around, moved to the shower and repeated. I felt it in my back. I sat Indian style in the tub, my face planted on the side while Greg and Lissa put pressure on my back. I floated though contractions imagining I was being beaten with waves and taken out to sea. I kept my body limp while my insides twisted. I imagined being in a black hole, a twister, the visualization helped and made me less afraid of the pain.
I am vomiting a lot. I am shaking uncontrollably. I am getting a little scared. My body doesn't feel like my own anymore. Our nurse, Alison , said that now was the quick part. She started warming the baby scale and got blankets ready. She said I had made it through the tough part.
Alison is a big fat liar.
5:15 p.m. Another check. 9 cm.
7:45 p.m. I don't know if I'm ready to push. I have read so much about birth and know I supposed to feel an urge. Do I feel the urge?
So much about labor and birth for the first time is facing the unexpected. Is this a contraction? Did my water break? Am I in labor? Am I ready to push? Is it working? And then your body gives you the answers. Ooooh, THIS is a contraction. Ooooh, THIS is the pushing urge. Oooh, THIS is how you push.
I hadn't felt the urge yet, but my mind convinced me that I had. I started to grunt through contractions. I started a light push at the end of each one. But my body wasn't ready yet. Another check. Still 9 cm. Kristin said she could break my water. Yes please.
8:45 p.m. Still at 9 cm. This isn't working. My body isn't working. And that head trick is where I lost it. I could labor all day, I could do anything, as long as I knew there was an end in sight and I was moving toward it. I had often said to people who wondered about how I would cope with natural birth that I could anything for a day. But the idea that I had stopped unleashed all the other doubts. I can't do this. I asked for pain relief.
Okay, I begged for an epidural. I pleaded with Kristen and Greg and Lissa. Listen to me. Kristen assured me that everyone heard me. She told me I could have an epidural but it would change my birth. Given to me this late, I wouldn't be able to feel to push. It might cause a domino effect of other interventions. If she just gave me something to take the edge off, it would make the baby loopy. All things I didn't want but I didn't care. I was tired and I couldn't do it. I got out of the tub and into the shower. They said the epidural was on its way.
Greg called Kristen and the nurse into the hall. He felt conflicted. He knew I was in pain and felt helpless. His wife looked like she was dying. But he knew I could do it. He asked if they could stall just a little while longer. Everyone (but me) agreed to say the anaesthesiologist was in surgery but he would be here in 20 minutes and stall for an hour.
20 minutes. I could do 20 minutes. But I had lost all concept of time. Suddenly it was dark outside. When had I gotten here? I labored in the shower. It was so hard to shake off the last contraction. I didn't have time to regroup before the next on came. Blow it away, Greg and Lissa said, and I would exhale and see the last contraction move away from me with my breath. Surely it had been twenty minutes.
An hour had passed. I asked Greg and Lissa if they were lying to me. They assured me they weren't. I apologized to Greg for not being able to have a natural birth. I didn't want to disappoint him. He told me how strong I was and how well I was doing, how much he loved me.
9:45 p.m. Another check. 9 cm. Kristen says before the epidural she can try to push the last bit with her hand. Yes please. Anything to keep moving. On the next contraction she does it and although it's the most painful thing yet, it's done and I'm 10 cm dilated. She tells me I can push.
10:00 The urge to push. I was not feeling it before. This is it. Retching like vomiting in reverse. I push. On the birth stool, on the bed, in the tub, I push. It feels good to push. I don't have to ride the waves out. I can swim through them. I am pushing and it is working. Kristen gets on her baby delivering gear. I push some more. She takes it off. I push some more. I start to think again that it isn't working. Where is this baby? I'm in the last part, the pushing part but I see no baby. No one looks concerned, but I am. I wonder if it's too late for a c-section. I keep that thought to myself.
Then all of the sudden I figure it out. My brain and body get on the same page. This baby is coming out but only if I make it come out. And so I pushed and pushed and pushed. Support starts getting louder. I feel re energized and Lissa and Greg's claims that its working sound believable. And before I knew it, on one big contraction, baby's head is out. And from somewhere on the tail of the last contraction, his little body comes after it. Four hours of pushing.
2:07 a.m. Skyler is in my arms. I suddenly snap out of the fog of pain and concentration and into the room with Greg and our new son. I hadn't associated pregnancy and even labor with a real baby. And here he was. 8 lbs 8 ounces, both hands ups by his head full of bright blond hair. He was alert and calm. He latched on right away. I was in love. With my new baby, and my husband, Lissa, Kristen, I even told the nurse I loved her.
With lots of loving support I had the natural birth I wanted. It was the hardest thing I have ever done. And it being hard is part of what makes it so worthwhile. I knew the physical rewards from having a natural birth but had no idea how it would change me. Now I can do anything. And I've experienced something that while yes painful, is after birth and death, the quintessential human experience. Labor showed me that when I think I've reached a limit, I still have so much more to give. When I think I can't possibly do anymore is when I am capable of so much. I have given birth. It was life-affirming and empowering and I wouldn't change a single thing.