Valentines day 2011: My pregnant belly has now dwarfed everything I encounter. I can’t see my toes; I can’t fit through the doorway; I can’t get out of the car alone. I’ve been willing myself to go into labor, visualizing my cervix softening and opening to allow the exit of my baby girl. I have been 70% effaced and 1cm dilated for three weeks. SweetPeas head is so low I can feel it before I get to the second joint in my finger and my pregnant glow has morphed into a thick layer of sticky wet sweat. I am 3 days past my doctor calculated due date, and 4 days before my personally calculated due date. I am miserable.
Pregnancy wasn’t a wonderful time for me. Six days after I ovulated right around when my little SweetPea would have implanted in my uterus I started feeling sick, and continued to feel sick until I was 22 weeks along. I had a brief point of feeling all right in the middle there, and then suffered what I would refer to as incredible traumatic heart burn for the last few months.
I’d had fairly consistent mild contractions since I was 20weeks. I’d traveled to the birthing center a time or two when they got to close together, but they always slowed down and there was never any change to my cervix so nothing to worry about. I was having some contractions that morning, but working really hard to ignore them so as to not get my hopes up. I went about my day just as I always did. Woke up long enough to say goodbye to my husband as he headed off to work, slept for a few more hours, ate some breakfast, tried to find a comfortable position on the couch, failed at finding a comfortable position on the couch, ate lunch, took a walk, drank some water, continued to ignore occasional contractions, looked longingly at my already packed birth bags, tried to meditate, tried to will my body to go into labor, greeted my husband at the door as he returned home, just normal daily stuff, and then I got kind of anxious and upset about the state of things and just started jumping up and down in the home office of my parents house.
The jumping caused me to have a contraction and for the first time I had a contraction with a little bit of a bite to it, not the painless tightening I’d experienced before. So I sat down on the couch and had another, and then another. It was about 8:06pm I believe and I was having contractions 3-5 min apart that lasted for at least 30 seconds, and each one of them tugged a little harder than the last. I called up the stairs to my video game playing husband that I thought we should pack the car up and head on in to town since we lived a good 2hrs from the birthing center where we planned to deliver. At this point I was starting to get excited. My Mom had called my midwife and let her know what was going on, and she also thought we should head in and get checked out.
Riding in the car while in labor sucks, that’s all there is to it, and riding 2 miles of bumpy unkempt, pothole filled dirt road followed by 27 miles of windy two lane highway, finishing up with 40 miles of freeway and 3 hospital parking lot speed bumps isn’t the most pleasant way to start an evening, let alone labor, but we made it with contractions about 4 minutes apart and the smiling face of my favorite midwife greeting us at the nurses station.
Now the Midwife that delivered my little SweetPea is one of the most amazing women I have ever encountered in my life. She is strong, beautiful, wonderfully reassuring, and has a presence that could evoke calmness from a swarm of angry bees. She was my rock, through the whole birthing experience, and I don’t know how I would have made it through without her and my husband. She also happens to have been the woman who helped to bring me into this world. 22 years earlier she preformed her first solo catch and helped guide me out and into my mother’s arms. Having her there to deliver my baby is the reason my husband left the Navy, and the reason we moved back to my hometown and into my parent’s house. She was a crucial part of what I’d wanted for my birth and I was going to do whatever it took to have her there.
After arriving at the birthing center we were quickly taken to an exam room where Carolyn (the midwife) checked to see how far I was dilated. I’d been having contractions for a good 3 hours now and they were becoming pretty intense (as far as I knew) and still arriving every 3-5 minutes and lasting almost 50 seconds a piece. I was feeling pretty good at this point, happy with how well I was coping with the pain and really starting to feel like I was making good progress. I just knew that any minute Carolyn was going to tell me that I was already 3-4cm dilated and 90% effaced. So when she told me that I was still only 1cm dilated and 70% effaced I felt defeated. I tried to keep my chin up, but I knew that with my lack of progress we wouldn’t be admitted tonight. As instructed we checked into a near by hotel (not wanting to drive 2 hours home just to turn around and come back) and I attempted to get some sleep. Now I don’t know how, but I managed to sleep for 3 hours strait on my right side, woke up had a painful contraction rolled over and slept for another 3 hours on my left. I woke up a little after 6am and attempted to eat a yogurt I had packed in my birth bag. I took a shower, brushed my teeth and started having contractions so intense I had to stop everything I was doing and concentrate on breathing through them. Travis (my husband) called Carolyn and she told us to head back to the Birth Center when we were ready.
I stood in the rain outside the hotel waiting for Travis to bring the car around and silently cursing the men smoking cigarettes next to me the clearly pregnant lady as she clung to the wall through each contraction. We arrived at the birth center a few minutes later and again found ourselves in an exam room as Carolyn told us the exact same thing. 1cm 70% effaced. I tried to keep a smile on my face as I stifled back tears. The monitor next to me beeping out SweetPea’s heart rate as it slowed and quickened with each coming contraction. Carolyn explained to us how there was a tiny piece of scar tissue on my cervix and that it may be the causing the lack of dilation.
Now this is the point in my story where things get fuzzy, where the contractions start taking so much work to get through that I don’t really remember the order in which events occur or exactly what events even did occur. So from here on out this is birth from the slightly if not incredible warped perspective of the person giving it.
Carolyn asks me if I want to have her break my water. She knows we want to have this baby as intervention free as possible, but she wants us to know it’s an option that would speed things up. I keep having contractions and they hurt. I can’t keep lying in this bed and feeling them like this, I can’t keep feeling them like this while absolutely nothing happens. I don’t want to wait. I want to do whatever it takes to get to the end. Carolyn tells me that if I have my water broken I’m committed to having this baby today. I laugh like it could even be possible to “not” be committed to having SweetPea today with the rate these contractions are coming.
In order to have my water broken I have to be officially checked in to the BC which is going to take a little bit, so until then she is going to massage my cervix and see if that scar tissue can be nudged into loosening up and letting dilation occur. Pain… I remember pain and a strong feeling of discomfort as she reached up past SweetPea’s head to my cervix. I immediately dilated to 2cm and was taken to the birthing room.
We’d wanted to have the option of a water birth so Travis called up the woman who delivers the tubs and told her we were at the BC and in labor. There are tubs in the birthing rooms and while I waited for my birthing tub I wanted to take a bath. One of the birth center doctors had jokingly referred to warm water during labor as an aquadural and I was jonesing to get myself into some. I have never seen water come so slowly from a tap. Something was wrong with the plumbing and the tub just wouldn’t fill. My very nice nurse apologized and helped me through my next contractions. The pain was coming so often and so intensely that I didn’t know what to do I wanted to get to the other side of this and be done, but I couldn’t figure out how. I was started to loose my grasp on the situation and began to fall into the pain as it consumed me with each coming contractions. Carolyn saw that I needed help and offered to cancel her appointments for the day to stay with me, but if I could handle it she really wanted to see a new mother and baby she had coming in to see her that day. I believe I told her it was okay to go and she sent over a wonderful doula who doubles as a nurse at the clinic where I got all my prenatal services.
Caroline (the doula) showed up a few minutes or hours later and took me outside to walk around. It was an overcast gloomy day and every few moments I would stop to have a contraction, gripping onto my husband or Caroline for support I would moan through the pain. At some point Carolyn had suggested a massage to help cope with the pain, and a lovely female massage therapist materialized at my side. We headed back into the BC and into my room. I lay down on the bed as she started to rub my body with lavender oils working out the strain and tension in my muscles as I attempted to relax.
At some point before this the pain was too much I needed something, and as much as I wanted a completely natural birth I was loosing myself and all my positivity towards the situation. At this point contractions came so intense and so strong I was loosing my ability to keep a deep guttural moan and the low vibration would quickly turn to high pitch screams of agony. I needed something, anything… please. I don’t even know what they gave me, I remember Carolyn saying it was fast acting and would clear my system quickly so SweetPea wouldn’t come out all doped up, she said she was comfortable with me having it and I completely trusted my life and the life of my baby to her no questions asked. If she said it was okay, I was completely comfortable with it.
The nurse came in to place my IV she wiped the cool alcohol swab over my hand and waited for the contraction to stop before inserting the needle. I grasped to that pain, the cool manageable pinch of the metal as it pierced my skin, the dull throb of the tube as it was left in my vein. I longed to hold on to that sensation, such a simple discomfort so easy to feel with only a part of my brain. My mouth is filled with the taste of metal as saline is forced through the tube and into my skin. Another contraction comes on, slowly at first giving me enough time to stand up and grab hold of the nearest person to me before I’m overcome with sensation. I brace for the pain, for the sharp cutting edge that has come at the top of each contraction, for that feeling that sends me into panic unable to let go and hand the moment over to my ever powerful body. But it doesn’t come. The nurse has given me something for the pain, and even though all the intensity and pain are still there the very tip of the knife has been knocked off and each contraction sinks just a little tiny bit less harshly into my abdomen.
The masseuse continues with my massage and I’m able to relax just a tiny bit. An hour goes by in a minute. How can it already be time for her to leave? I try to keep a grasp on my life by attempting to inform Travis of where the money is to pay her.
The woman with the birthing tub finally shows up. It takes forever for her to get set up and even longer for the water to be warm enough to get in. All I want is to get in that water. To feel the warm relief of weightlessness as the tub consumes me. Contractions go by. I’m loosing track of what’s happening. I hop from foot to foot in between knowing the sort of pain that is coming. I try to eat. I’m so hungry. There’s an apple in my birth bag. I take a bite. A contractions starts and I spit out the sliver of fruit as the pain grips my body. I try to take another bit. Another contraction comes on. I begin to cry. “All I want is to eat my God Damn Apple; please can’t I just eat my apple?”
Carolyn comes in to break my water. I’m at 2cm. I lay down on the bed. After the bag is ruptured I am 4cm. I feel a tiny trickle of water and a gush as I stand up. So much fluid is running down my legs. The nurses towel the water up so I won’t slip on the tile floor. I loose my ability to rationally think about anything. A new haze settles over me and my memory of the situation becomes more fogged.
The tub is finally ready. I walk over and put one leg in then the other. I don’t even get my belly bellow the surface before I’m overcome with pain. The heat and the wetness amplify the contractions tenfold. Someone helps me out of the tub. I’m so frustrated. I want an epidural. Please give me an epidural. It hurts so bad I can’t take it anymore. Someone please help me. I scream at each contraction. It’s too hard. Too much feeling. I never want to feel this much at once ever again. Please numb the pain. I’m so overcome I can’t think about my daughter inside of me, I can’t comprehend that she is a person. It doesn’t make sense to me anymore. All I can see is my own pain and I want something, anything to make it stop. I haven’t been cleared for an epidural and they have to run a blood test. I feel the cool prick of the needle and once again try to cling to the manageable sensation.
I’m on my hands and knees on the floor. They want me on the bed so I don’t hurt myself. I cling to the birthing ball. I squat on the floor. I hold onto Travis and try to cry. Crying would be a release a tiny comfort in all this uncontrollablness but no tears will come. My body is to busy. I need strength. I drink water. Juice. Eat a cracker. There is no comfortable position. I just want a moment to rest but that moment just won’t come. I want my epidural. A nurse laughs I know she’s not laughing at me but I can’t handle the joyous noise she’s making while I’m so overcome.
Carolyn returns from the clinic. She wants to check me before they do anything else. 9cm. She urges me to get back in the tub. She knows how much I wanted a water birth. I get in the tub. Travis gets in the tub. I try to relax. I want to push. Pushing will help the pain. Pushing feels 100 times better than not pushing. She holds my cervix back so I won’t tear and I push for the first time. I want her to stop. The pressure of her hand on my cervix is just more pain and more pain is too much on top of too much, but she knows the pain of my cervix ripping would be worse. I don’t want to be in the tub. But I try. I can’t do this. She says I can. I don’t want to do this. She says I do. I want an epidural. It’s too late. I watch a piece of red/brown mucus float through the water. I push some more. I have to get out of the tub. Get me out of the tub. Now I’m all wet standing next to the tub being dried off. Travis is there. I push while I stand bracing the edge of the tub. I squat down to push. Push. Push. Push.
I push on my hands and knees on the bed. The nurse holds the fetal heart monitor against my belly and I beg her to stop. I hate the feeling of it against my skin. I don’t know if there’s a problem or if they just need to watch SweetPea through the contractions. I push standing next to the bed. I push squatting on the floor. I push lying down. I push squatting on the bed using the birthing bar. An hour has passed. I keep pushing. Travis and Caroline hold my legs and I grip the hospital bed, the side rails pulling on my IV strings as I squeeze the hard plastic. I can’t do this. It’s too hard. Please.
But Carolyn is there and with each push I stare strait into her eyes holding the pressure as long as I can manage. I let up before the contraction is through and immediately bare back down to avoid the pain of an unpushed contraction. I keep pushing. SweetPea finally begins to move (I would later learn she had her little fist on top of her head and until she moved it we could make no progress). I push down through each contraction, where I’m getting the strength I do not know. I begin to fall asleep between each pull. The lights are off. A mirror is placed at the end of the bed so I can see. I don’t want to look. I dream between contractions wishing for 10 free minutes to rest. I wake as each one comes on and pool all the strength I can gather to work her a few more paces down the birth canal.
I want it to be over. Carolyn keeps telling me I can do it. She knows I can do it. I ask if they could just pull her out. No. You can do it.
”Do you want to reach in and feel her head?” I don’t, but I do it anyways. It feels squishy and gross nothing like what I think it should. I don’t want to touch her head anymore. I don’t want to look. Between contractions I continue to sleep maybe I was asleep for a whole day, maybe I was asleep for 10seconds. The annoying nurse keeps holding the fetal monitor to my belly. I wish she would stop, Carolyn says she needs to do it. So I protest less.
How much longer? Will I have her soon? You’ll have your baby in less than 15minutes. 15minutes could be an entire lifetime at this rate. I keep pushing. Napping and pushing. So overcome with this new, unwelcome sensation. I bear down, trying to turn the pain into pressure. They can see her head. I push. More of her head. I push. Her long brown hair is starting to emerge; little bits of it hang into the air as I rest between contractions. I push more. I dream when I’m resting, listening to the voices in the room through a thick white fog. I push again. You’re getting close. Only a few more pushes. I push. I push again. I’m supposed to push as hard and long as I can on this next one, and I’m told if I do it will be over and my daughter will be her. I take a deep breath and wait for the contraction. I look into the mirror and see the squishy, wet, top of her head. I feel the contraction start to come on and I push. I push with everything I have. All the strength I can muster, and it burns. All the drugs have warn off long ago and I am feeling everything.
The harder I push the more it hurts but I just keep pushing. I feel the strong sting of the biggest part of her head as it comes forward and the small release of her neck followed by the most painful burning as her shoulders comes forward. I push. I push with everything I have. Her shoulders pop through. “Reach down and grab your baby”. I grasp her wet arms and torso before she’s even fully emerged into this world. I pull her legs and feet from myself as he whole body glides onto my chest. Instant relief. There is no pain. She cries. And my heart grows. She stops crying as quickly as she started. Eyes open she looks at me, and I stare back at her holding this little squishy person right in front of me as we look into each others eyes. I look to my husband and back to my daughter. A hat appears on her head and blankets are rubbed over her until she’s dry. She never leaves my arms. We study each other for a few minutes before I lay her on my chest. She fumbles for a moment then latches on perfectly. She stays awake for five hours eyes wide learning her father and me just as much as we’re learning her. We fall asleep together on the bed and rest peacefully till morning. My heart continues to grow.
SweetPeas was born at 7:04pm February 15th, 2011