Why another birth story? People are always sharing birth stories. How much variation can there be? A woman goes into labor, there is some agony and travail, and then, there's a new baby. That's the story more or less, so why should I share this one?
All great life events change us. I am a different person than the one I was in high school, and the one I was in college. Meeting Alex and becoming his wife has changed me, becoming a mother and all the stuff we went through during Johnny's first year of life has changed me. Life is not stagnant, it is constant flux and motion. And the never-ending circus ride of it all has me changing, growing, maybe even transforming, over and over and over.
When our daughter entered the world she changed me again, and she changed our family forever. We will never be the same because of her. That's what I want to share with you - yet another transformation.
Waking up from a contraction at 1:30 in the morning was not enough to get me excited. I had had a couple contractions almost every night for the past week and they all went no where and amounted to nothing. Over the next half hour a couple more contractions woke me up again and piqued my interest a little, but I was trying not to get my hopes up. Several minutes later another contraction came and something weird happened that I can only describe as feeling like a water balloon being squeezed. And then I felt a trickle. Now I was wide awake! I went to the bathroom without waking Alex, and the next thing I knew there was a puddle on the floor. My waters! I woke up Alex to get a second opinion, we called the midwife, and then started timing contractions waiting for them to pick up.
During the next couple hours we timed contractions. We were on the phone a few times with the midwife and my doula. I tried to eat a bowl of cereal but was too nervous. I took a shower. We brushed our teeth. Alex packed a few last minute things in our bag. We called my parents and they came over. Johnny slept through everything (silver lining of having a child with a hearing loss). By the time my parents arrived contractions were three to four minutes apart. My mom was getting nervous and thought we should get going. So we did.
It was around 4:30 in the morning. We saw hardly any other cars as we drove to the hospital. We got all green lights. There was no comfortable way to handle contractions in the car so I was thankful for a quick drive.
The parking garage at the hospital was under construction and we couldn't figure out how to get from parking into the hospital, even though I had been on a tour just a few week before and they went over this very thing in great detail. We were wandering around, walking was becoming more and more difficult, I was beginning to think I might die, then a staff person from food services was exiting through a locked door and let us in. She even brought me a wheel chair. What a life saver! I was too distracted to bless her at the time, but I will say it now. God bless you, dear hospital employee!
We got into triage and my midwife was there all scrubbed up. I was so grateful that she didn't insist on a urine sample because the thought of sitting on the toilet was unbearable. They strapped on the monitors and checked that my waters had indeed ruptured. I felt like we had been at the hospital for hours (though it had only been a few minutes) before my midwife finally checked me.
"Do you want to know?" she asked.
I hesitated. Being stalled out at 3 cm with Johnny had been incredibly frustrating. Maybe I didn't want to know. But then my type A personality kicked in.
"6..." with her hand still down there "...no wait, 7 cm."
Alex and I looked at each other and smiled. Things were already going better than last time.
Everything from here on out is kind of a blur, and I think it's because I was transitioning. My midwife kept asking how my room was coming along, contractions were becoming pretty intense. Then our doula arrived and instantly went to work on my lower back.
LADIES: if you haven't used a doula before, I highly recommend one. Our doula was
. She knew exactly what to do to help me through contractions, leaving Alex totally free to hold my hands and just be emotional support for me. It sounds cliche, but I seriously don't think we could have done it without her. Get thyself a doula!
A quick wheel chair ride brought me to my room, where I labored leaning over the bed while I waited for the tub to be filled. My doula waved some lavender essential oils in front of my face to help me relax and told me to sway my hips, because I was locking my knees and my legs were starting to shake. I had to sit on the toilet before getting in the tub, I don't even remember why, probably to empty my bladder. It was horrible and I hated it. But my reward was that when I was done I got to get in that big old tub filled with warm water.
The water felt amazing. I was actually able to relax. The contractions even eased up a bit. I was afraid labor was slowing down and that I would have to get out of the beautiful water. But then a big contraction came, and with it came pressure and this feeling like everything in my body was shooting down. The midwife asked me if I felt kind of pushy on that one. I said yes, and she said she could hear it in my voice.
"Just listen to your body, if you feel like pushing, go ahead."
This was weird for me. I thought I needed permission to push. I thought there would be more of an official pushing start time. I thought she would check me and say "fully dilated, now you can start pushing." But everyone was listening to me, and I was listening to my body.
Do you ever picture your birth happening the way it might happen in a TV show? I'm thinking of birth scenes from Parenthood. There's a nice song playing in the background. You see pain on the mother's face but all you hear is the nice song, and before the song is over the baby is out. During this birth it was silent. I remember noticing how incredibly silent it was. Until a contraction came, then the room was filled with the sound of me pushing. It was one of those low, primal groans that I had read about but never pictured myself making.
And then everyone kind of pulled back, unlike earlier when everyone was touching me, applying counter pressure and massage, holding my hands, stroking my forehead. Without any direction or any spoken word, everyone stopped. This was work I had to do on my own. In between pushes my doula put cold wash clothes on my neck and forehead, and Alex gave me sips of water, the only assistance I had during this time. I heard the midwife ask a nurse to re-tape the plastic around her sleeve. I saw her leaning over the opposite side of the tub, just waiting. My doula told me to keep my voice low. I saw Alex sneak away to take off his t-shirt and then put his zipper hoodie back on and I knew it was because he was getting ready to do skin to skin. I just kept working.
It felt like I had been pushing for hours, (I learned later it was only 20 minutes total.) I remember just wanting someone to sit on my belly to push the baby out. I asked the midwife when it would be over. She checked me again, (the only other time) and said the baby's head was about 2 inches from being born. Knowing the end was near helped a lot and motivated my pushing. I don't remember how many pushes it took, but finally her head crowned. It was the worst feeling in the world, but then her head came out and I felt like I was in heaven. I thought I was done. "Keep pushing!" "I can't..." "Yes you can!" So I did. Another contraction came, and she was born. Lifted out of the water and onto my chest. I heard myself saying "Thank you Jesus!" because our baby was here, but mostly because I was done pushing.
But she was here! On my chest, kind of purple, becoming pink, covered in vernix, and then she started crying and it hit me that she was here, and I have a daughter.
Beatrix Margaret, born after 6 (only 6!!) hours of labor. 8 lbs 15 oz, 21 inches long. She's beautiful and healthy, and latched on to nurse right away and then snuggled like the best snuggler.