The birth story

3 a.m. on 2/6/09: My due date 

A small trickle of liquid woke me up. I went to the bathroom (mucus plug? bloody show?) and encountered something much less disgusting. A pool of amniotic fluid on the black and white-checkered floor.
I put a blue towel between my legs, waddled from the bathroom to the bed, and woke up Justin.
This is it.
Let's do this.
By the time I called my sleeping midwife, my sleeping mother, finished last-minute packing (slippers? phone charger?), we arrived at Northern Dutchess Hospital's Birthing Center* at around 4 a.m.
Because I had Strep B, and my water broke, I had to stay in the hospital to have antibiotics administered.
But I was feeling good.
Nurse: How are you feeling?
Me: I'm OK. Nurse: Yeah -- you're smiling. We have a ways to go.
My mom -- grandma-to-be -- was the first guest to arrive, egg and cheese sandwiches in hand.I was having small contractions, not really knowing what to expect. Is this it? How much worse is this going to get? Will I be able to do this?

I hung around the birthing center.

Walked over to the waiting area.

Visited with family and friends.

But my cervix, being the sadistic bitch she is, refused to dilate.

Baby: May I please get through here? Cervix: Oh, sure, go right ahead. Baby: Don't mind if I do... *PUSH, PUSH, PUSH* Baby: I...can't...get...through... Cervix: PSYCHE!! Cervix: Ok, just kidding, try again. *PUSH, PUSH, PUSH* Cervix: Hahahahaha.

So, we played Wii to pass the time.

For real. They taught me natural ways to induce labor, even sending in a massage therapist to work on strategic pressure points.

Nothing.

2:00 p.m. Still stuck at 2 cm., my midwife (Julie) encouraged me to consider using Pitocin to speed up the delivery -- which she knew I wasn't fond of. But I trusted her judgement. Hell, I was new here. So I agreed.

Although they started with just a smidge of pitocin, they warned that my body might go from zero to 60 (or 2 to 10 in my case.) There was no way to tell how my body would react. So I watched it drip into my I.V., swim into my body, and braced myself -- heart pounding. Here we go.

I waited for liftoff.

And I waited.

Finally, the contractions slowly and steadily grew intense. I managed my pain in a quasi-meditative state.

Not too long after the pitocin was administered, (an hour or two maybe?) something didn't feel right. I had a dull, aching pain in my pelvic region that didn't let up between contractions. It was constant, nagging pain.

After I told one of my nurses, she checked my development and discovered that A.) the baby's head was right there, ready to come out, and B.) my water wasn't completely broken.

Assuming that this was the reason I was taking so long to dilate, she took me off of pitocin and called my mid-wife to come and break the rest of my bag.

Although my birth plan specifically stated that I preferred not to take pitocin (unless absolutely necessary) and preferred not to have my water broken (unless absolutely necessary), I was working on hour 11 or 12 in the birthing center. It was necessary. Let's get this thing on the road. So in walks Julie with some scary-looking tool. Water gets broken. Liquid leaks. And leaks. And leaks.

Enter pain. Enter the I NEED TO PUSH phase. Yet my cervix -- malicious as ever -- was holding strong at 4 cm.

Yes, 4 cm. 5 p.m. - 10:00 p.m.

This is where things get a little fuzzy. My memory took it upon itself to gently blur my recollections during this time period. Thanks, Memory.

In the beginning, I could handle it. I had my meditative methods and they were working for me. I just needed to sit there, close my eyes, and barrel through. No interruptions. No conversations.

Except that Julie didn't want me to just sit there. She told me that the baby might slip into a posterior position, leading to back labor. That's all I needed to hear, and I was up on my feet.

While my relatives, friends and the staff marveled at my coping skills (No lamaze? No drugs? Incredible!), let me point out my flaw: I had only ONE method. One. Walking, bouncing, swaying, kneeling...none of these worked. I wanted to fall back into my comfortable routine, to crawl deep inside of myself and control the pain. But I had to manage other ways. I had no choice.

I have vague memories:

  • I know I leaked a lot. I'm pretty sure it was amniotic fluid, but if it wasn't, I didn't care. On the floor, on the birthing ball, on my husband. All was fair game.
  • At this point, when the contraction reached it's peak I was hit hard by an intense wave of nausea. I remember this being worse than the pain of the contraction.
  • I was no longer breathing in through my nose and blowing softly through my lips. I had to take a large breath in from my mouth and audibly huff the air back out, making my mouth extremely dry.
  • My mom fed me ice chips. The ice chips made me nauseous. I spit them on the linoleum floor. Repeat. I must have spit out hundreds of them -- sometimes discreetly next to my feet, sometimes shooting across the room. I think I briefly registered the humor in what I was doing, but there was no time for those thoughts.
Just get through this.
  • I remember feeling some relief sitting on the birthing ball, leaning forward, arms and face resting on the bed. Justin was behind me, putting intense pressure on my back where I told him to. Thank you, Justin.

I didn't scream. Or fight. I was intent on conserving my energy.

Mind you, I'm still 4 cm.

I had planned on laboring in the birthing tub and was highly looking forward to it. The time I spent in the shower, spraying the hot water on my stomach, was heavenly. Instant pain relief. I could only imagine what it would be like fully immersed in 100 degree water.

Me: Can I please get in the birthing tub? (Meaner) nurse: No. You're only 4 cm. and the tub might slow the progression. Me: When can I get in? (Meaner) nurse: When you get to 5 cm.

A second, a minute, an hour later:

Me: Can I please get in the birthing tub? (Meaner) nurse, snapping, voice raised: This is what you're gonna do. You're gonna sit there. You're not gonna complain. I'm gonna check the baby's heart beat. And in 10 minutes you can get in.

I don't know why she had to be so mean. I said please. And while 10 minutes sounded like an ETERNITY, I shut up. I didn't complain. Because if I let myself respond to her I'd be unleashing my bubbling, seething wrath. I think she was trying "tough love" or something, but it made me want to punch her in the face.

Around 10:30 p.m. Finally, I was led to the birthing tub room which was connected to my current room. It was a large, white, sterilized tub steaming with inviting water. I climbed in. Then something amazing happened. I was relaxed. Don't get me wrong, the pain was still intense. When a contraction came on, I squirmed in the water, huffing air in and out of my mouth, pushing ever so slightly. But when the contraction was over, my body relaxed. And I fell asleep. Yes, asleep. At the height of labor. Sleeping. Of course the next contraction woke me up, but then I immediately nodded off. And I think it was this relaxation that loosed up my cervix and allowed me to go from 4 cm. to 9 cm. in about an hour.

11:45 p.m. Julie comes in and wakes me up. She checks my cervix. 9 cm. Good enough.

She starts explaining how to push, and I'm all Wait a minute, I'm still half asleep! What? I'm so excited to finally -- FINALLY -- be able to push. I get in position, Justin on one side of the tub holding my left leg. My mom on the other side, holding my right leg. And then it hits me. I have to push a baby out of my vagina. Holy. Shit.

Here's the surprising part: It didn't hurt. Maybe I was numb because the baby's head was SO low for SO long. But to be honest, it almost felt good. There I said it. I mean, it wasn't orgasmic or anything, but it wasn't painful. But pushing -- whew! -- That was harder than I had imagined.

45 minutes later: I pushed out his head, without any burning, ripping or cutting. Julie swiftly looped the cord from around the baby's neck. I mustered the energy to push out his shoulders. The rest of his body slid out. I saw a purple, greyish baby float into the water, away from my body, away from where he lived for so many months. They put him in my arms and he curled his body towards mine, his little fingers shielding his face.

And he was real.

He was here.

Finally.
Finally.

*This birthing center was absolutely phenomenal. So much support, alternatives, warmth. I have no affiliation with the Birth Center, I just love them. From the bottom of my heart. Every time I drive by I want to blow them kisses. And throw candy and flowers and puppies.

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