Here I am, on the other side. I just read my first labor post and thought, “Poor girl, she had no idea what she was in for.” I’m going to try to recall everything and I must say mama amnesia is NOT a myth as so many of the details are hazy and it’s only been 48 hours since I birthed our beautiful Ian Everett.
So, Friday morning Racha, one of our midwives, arrived. She said I sounded great but was way too happy to be close to anything so she just let me labor. Contractions got stronger and less manageable.
The low point came about 3pm when Racha asked if I wanted to be checked. I knew this could go either way, but I hoped for the best (I was thinking I must be at least 8cm) and said yes. Getting checked does not feel good (they are all up in your business, and my cervix, apparently, likes to hide), especially when you start contracting in the middle of it. Racha’s conclusion: You are an awesome 3 centimeters. Fuck me, I thought. This brought up so much fear as I had already been laboring for over 24 hours, and my mom had around the same amount of laboring with me and had progressed only 2 centimeters. I knew that her circumstances were quite different from mine (I was “sunny side up”, Ian was in a marvelous position with his head very, very low), but a daughter will always compare herself to her mom and I thought maybe I would end up in the same predicament…with a cesarean.
After the very discouraging check, Racha suggested that Luree hypnotize Evan and myself so we could try to get some sleep. Here is a powerful testament to hypnosis since I was having body wracking contractions and Luree got me to literally sleep between each and every one. During the surges, she would stroke my arms and hands, tell me to relax, and was patient with me as I kept trying to clench my fists, cry to the heavens, and tell her I couldn’t do it. Oh dear.
Racha left the house for a few hours, told me to relax (YAH), try to rest, get in the tub or shower, and to call her when things started to pick up. Enter, the dark side.
I was in so much pain, so emotional, and wracked with self-doubt. I kept thinking about all the birthing stories I’ve heard and how mom’s say it’s like climbing Mount Everest or it’s like meeting your deepest fear and having to face it. I thought I had intellectualized this enough to somehow handle the feelings that arose, but no, there is no way to prepare for the level of intensity labor brought me. I can only thank God for my loving, amazing husband and our birth team who let me cry, scream, criticize myself and my laboring abilities, puke, sing, and make bad jokes from 3pm to 4am the next morning.
I went from the bed to the birthing ball to the toilet to the shower, and repeat. I had a very hard time breathing into a contraction and instead wanted to tighten and scream, which is antithetical to opening myself up to let this baby out. I understood what they were saying but when it feels like you have five knives being stuck up your ass*, it’s kind hard to breathe in or “relax your bottom.” Husband helped immensely, telling me each and every contraction to “breathe in.” I started to breathe in through my nose, lifting my head, and then I would blow out of my mouth, swaying my head side to side. For me, the first 30 percent of the contraction was the hardest part. Once that peak would set in (knives up my ass or in my back), I could deal. Waiting for the knives to stab was the worst part. And not knowing how many more contractions I would (or could) endure.
*Please note that the knife metaphor was my experience only. This is not typical and certainly not what every woman experiences in labor (we suspect my cervix was tilted and need to move forward, hence the “back labor” even though my baby was LOA). Just my experience, ladies, so take heart. Not to worry.
Around 6pm (I think) I was squatting in the shower and told husband I felt like pushing. He called Racha and she said don’t push, she would be right there. She checked me around 7pm, and I was 6 centimeters. I was ready to throw in the towel and go to the hospital, but no one was taking me seriously. I really didn’t want to go, either, but being in that much pain and not knowing how much longer this journey would take scared me more than I’ve ever been scared. By a million percent. Somehow, I stayed present and did as I was told.
Racha said it would not be forever, husband said it would not be forever, Luree said 6cm was great, and that after 6cm, women usually go into transition, which is the shortest, although most intense part of labor (MORE intense? Are you high?), and then I get to get in the birthing tub and push!
Transition looked like this: Husband and I constantly asking, “is this transition?” I don’t know that we ever got a clear answer. My contractions were on top of each other, and I started throwing up, which Racha said was a great sign. I’d heard this many times, and I have to tell you, I hate throwing up more than anything. I hadn’t thrown up since I was 12, and when I finally succumbed to the urge and started heaving up the tiny, tiny amount of food I’d eaten that day (2 pieces of baguette, half a banana, and some apple juice), it felt So. Freaking. Good. I was a huge fan and basically heaved into my little white Tupperware after each contraction until I pushed my little Ian out. To all you pregnant ladies, throw up! It feels amazing and really helps with the pressure of contracting. I promise!
Husband and I were on the bed, delirious, and suddenly Racha said it was time to fill the tub, call in Molly (the other midwife) and prep for the birth. This was around 10 or 11pm, I think. This was very, very exciting, although I still had no idea how this birth was actually going to happen. It just seemed so impossible to me, even though I was doing it and everyone said I was doing great. I didn’t believe them.
Once the tub was filled, Racha said I should take one lap around the house to help finish my dilation before getting in the birthing tub. I contracted in the hallway, on the stairs, in the kitchen…I said goodbye to every room (including the tiny closet where our washer and dryer is), realizing this would be the last time I would see this floor as a non-mom. Yes, somehow my humor was not lost…
I got in the tub and my contractions really slowed down. I was told to wait for them to arrive and then bear down and see what happens. I was told I could check and see where my baby’s head was, and that was so amazing. I gently put two fingers in and his little head was an inch and a half away! I thought, this will be easy! Not so much.
I had to push really, really hard to get him to move down at all. I thought the baby sort of pushed its way out and I was there to assist. No, ma’am. I had to push with more force than I knew I had. After more than an hour in the tub, Racha asked if I wanted to try something else (on the bed, on the toilet, squatting, etc.). The toilet sounded good (it’s one of the few places we really allow ourselves to completely relax our bottoms). So in I went, with my entourage, to watch me, wet and naked, bear down on the toilet and try to deliver my son. Yes folks, dignity and labor do not co-exist and trust me, you do not give a shit.
So they’re all there, with flashlights on my hoo ha. I pushed and cried and trembled and finally, he crowned. Wowie. Racha asked if I wanted to finish in the tub, which would be easier. Yes, please. So I crab-walked from the toilet back to the tub (which was in our bedroom) somehow, and plopped on all fours in the tub. I was instructed to just do small, gentle pushes, and to allow my tissues to stretch so I wouldn’t tear. I did my best, but I still tore because at that point, I was SO ready to be done, I could have cared less about tearing.
I pushed his head out and then with one final big push, his 20 1/4 inch body came flying out, legs kicking in the water where his dad caught him. He had a very, very short cord, so I was told to get on my bottom and kick my leg over my head basically to get him on my chest (no problem, only been laboring for 47 hours, let’s do some aqua yoga!). And there he was. Beautiful, gorgeous, alert and crying. We covered him in a warm towel and hat. Because his cord was so short, having him on my chest was uncomfortable because the cord was up my very, very, very sore crotch. I told the midwives I was ready to deliver the placenta and really be done. They said to wait for a contraction, and out it came. No big deal. Big relief.
Born 1/1/11 at 4:23am
20 1/4 inches long
Can I just say I was told he was around 5 1/2 pounds at my last pre-natal (which was the day before my water broke)? The entire pregnancy we thought he was just a little guy, but he came out hearty, with little rolls of fat! I’m not sure where he was hiding, but I’m grateful he came 3 weeks early.
I tore, so I got stitched up, and the midwives gave me and Ian a complete exam. They also cleaned the house, brought me food, and literally tucked our family into bed. I cannot say enough about The Sanctuary. It is nothing short of that, and I’m in love with every single person on staff.
Husband and I Skyped with my family, which husband past out in the middle of (he was so so so so tired). At one point in the tub, I heard him say that he couldn’t focus his eyes. I think in a way it’s harder for the labor partner because they have to watch, helpless, as their loves go through the most pain and fear they will most likely ever experience, and their sole job is to try to somehow support them. Not easy. He was perfect. And so is our son.
Many more pictures to follow. We have video, too, but I think we’ll wait a while to watch that bad boy. xoxo Mama Mandy