Disclaimer: this is a detailed account of my birth experience. I have typed it all out here, for me, and in response to Danielle’s comments on this post. Every birth is an amazing story, and this one is long; longer than the actual labor I think. If this isn’t your cup of tea, feel free to sit this one out.
I was DYING for labor to start. I am just not good at being pregnant, and by the end of my second pregnancy I was sick, I was in pain, and I wasn’t sleeping. Every night that I went to bed still pregnant, I was flat out angry about it. I had lost all sense of humor.
Brian and I got into repeated almost-arguments about it. I kept crying and telling him the baby would never come. He kept assuring me with exasperation that that wasn’t really possible. This angered me. What angered me more was that he adamantly insisted that the baby would come early. He could not possibly know this, but he acted like he KNEW. I’m not sure why that made me so mad, except that EVERYTHING made me mad because I was so crabby.
When I went to bed on the night before I was due (yes, I was this crabby long before my due date even arrived), I cursed him for getting my hopes up. Here I was, still pregnant. And now I was hoping to hold off another day or so anyway, so the kids didn’t have to share a birthday.
In the wee hours of Wednesday morning, I woke up with stomach pain. I had been having so much indigestion lately that I didn’t think much of it, I tried to fall back to sleep. It woke me up again. I really thought it was gas. I had an unusual labor experience with Lola, so I never experienced the slow build of contractions. Every single feeling in my abdomen for the last few weeks had me saying, Is this how it starts? I really didn’t know what to expect. This mild pain on this early Wednesday morning didn’t feel anything like the intense, excruciating Pitocin-induced contractions of my first labor, so I really thought it was just gas.
I did NOT want to be the crazy woman who showed up to the hospital claiming to be in labor, and then got sent home with indigestion.
But then I started thinking, this discomfort keeps coming and going at fairly regular intervals…odd for gas. Brian was still awake. He was up playing video games or whatever he did while I SUFFERED ENDLESSLY with the Hell that is the end of the 3rd trimester. I tried going to the bathroom and then walking around for a while to see if this feeling went away. It didn’t. I spent about 30 minutes wondering whether I should tell Brian “it’s time!”, or just go back to bed. Finally I let Brian know that SOMETHING might be happening, and I called the hospital Birthing Inn to ask them what they thought I should do. They paged my Dr.
By the time the Dr called back, the pain was increasing and it was coming regularly, I was sure I was in labor. On Lola’s birthday, dammit! My Dr asked me how far apart the contractions were. I told her I hadn’t been watching the clock because I was scrambling to get presentable-looking and she laughed. She told me to head in at my leisure. We called my dad to come for Lola. By the time he got there, I was doubled over with every contraction. By the time we were ready to walk out the door, I was struggling with the pain.
How a woman gets through labor pains is a pretty individual thing. I had read a book or two about childbirth in the hopes of somewhat preparing myself for the med-free labor and delivery that I so sincerely wanted this time. But I didn’t have the time or money to take any classes or anything. I just did whatever felt like the right thing whenever I needed to. In the beginning that was rocking on all fours while Brian compressed my pelvis with all his strength or rubbed my low low back area.
It’s a primal feeling. The pain would overtake me, and there was nothing but the pain, and I would become just my pain. Normal human decency goes out the window with the pain. Whatever position seemed like it might help was assumed. Whatever I wanted from someone else was barked out in as few words as possible. Everything becomes as efficient as it can be because all energy is spent dealing with the contraction until it subsides. I discovered that having contractions in the car is pretty brutal; there is no comfort. I estimated how many minutes it would take to get to the hospital and how many contractions would happen in that time. MATH!? While I’m going through THIS!? UGH!
But then the pain would go away for a few minutes, and I was back to feeling excited and being able to carry on a conversation. I reminded Brian that I would PROBABLY beg for an epidural at some point, and he was to tell me no. He wasn’t really down with this idea, but I really needed him to remind me, later, when the pain would get so bad that I would be unable to cope, that I REALLY wanted to do this naturally.
I got into my hospital room and immediately asked the nurses if I could get in the big jacuzzi tub. They seemed hesitant. What the EFF is the point of the brand new Birthing Inn with the big new jacuzzi tubs if you don’t want anyone to use them!? But I didn’t want to be a difficult patient, so I waited for my Dr. My Dr verified with me that I wanted to do this with no meds at all. Are you sure? Because it might get too late in a hurry. Well, how could I be SURE sure? Yes, I really think I can do it. But what if there are complications at the last minute and things get extra painful and now it’s too late? Well, no one ever died from pain, right? RIGHT!?
I had been conditioned by many things in my life to believe that having a natural birth in a hospital was next to impossible these days. They’re all just dying to pump you full of drugs and cut you open! Even my own first birthing experience had left something of a sour taste in my mouth. But as soon as I made my intentions clear to Dr. Robinson, she nixed the IV and told them to fill up the jacuzzi. Take that, Ricki Lake! I love Dr. Robinson.
I labored in the tub for a while. It was okay. It wasn’t the magic pain reliever I thought it would be. Soon, the contractions were getting too painful, and I wanted more freedom of movement, so I got out of the tub. I tried the birthing ball for a while. I knelt over it. I bounced on it. The sitting on it while bouncing up and down actually was surprisingly helpful. Maybe that’s why Corbin likes bouncing so much! The Dr. examined me again, and here was the news I feared. You’re baby’s facing the wrong way. Try kneeling on all fours for a while to see if you can get him to turn around. Ah! So THIS is what back labor feels like! I knelt on all fours and hoped like Hell he would turn.
The pain was getting so bad. Brian rubbed my lower back, or he squeezed my hips together like a vice, or he pushed really hard on my tailbone area (I think this is called counter pressure). These things helped a little, but a little help is not much of a dent in the pains of later labor. I tried visualizing relaxing things: swimming in a tranquil sea with a graceful polar bear (yeah, that’s weird, but it’s my happy place), my body opening up to let my beautiful baby into this world, my breath blowing the pain away. None of this took any pain away. But I knew enough to know that getting tense and crazy would only make the pain worse and I had to find a way to keep my body loose through the contractions so they could do their job.
I told the nurse I couldn’t kneel anymore; I HAD to lie down. She examined me. 9 centimeters! I was almost there! They kept telling me to let them know if I felt like I wanted to push. For the duration, I couldn’t figure this concept out. Of COURSE I wanted to push, I wanted this pain to go away! EVERY molecule wanted the pain to go away. I still don’t know what feeling they were referring to.
Dr. Robinson examined me. And this was the worst moment. The nurse was mistaken. I was 7.5cm. I told the Dr. how demoralizing that was. She agreed. But she also told me that meant it was too early to be totally losing my head with every contraction. I had to find a way to stay calm. She recommended NOT closing my eyes during the contractions, that puts you alone with your pain. I couldn’t keep them open. I fell back on my trick from my first birth experience- the shower.
I got in the shower and alternated standing and sitting. I had Brian take the shower head and spray my belly, then my back, then my chest. I was barely barking out single word commands. In between the contractions, I was just so exhausted. I just had an overwhelming feeling that I wanted to take a nap. I whined to Brian like a small child, I don’t wanna be in labor anymore. I told him that I didn’t think I could do it. And then I had a contraction that was considerably worse than anything I had felt yet. I couldn’t control myself. I yelled and moaned and the nurses came in and brought me back to bed. I think, in retrospect, that was when the baby finally turned around.
Some women swear that birth was joyous and they felt no pain. Others acknowledge the pain, but qualify it as Not That Bad. I am neither of those women. My experience has been- it f***ing hurts! I was blessed by the fact that this labor was going quickly; the whole thing took about 5 hours.
I screamed that I wanted to push the baby out! There was a rush to get the bed ready and the room ready and everything ready for the big moment. I was completely lost in the pain by this time. I yelled a lot and I think I cried. Brian claims I hit him (I have no recollection of this). I gave a strong push and HOLY CRAP! I had heard that the actual pushing-the-baby-out part was a welcome relief from the pain. Not in my book! This was a pain beyond pain, but there was no going back now. There was a moment where they told me to wait while he was crowning, they were trying to prevent the tearing as best they could. I begged them to just pull him out of me; I can’t do this! They had to keep reminding me, You ARE doing it.
And then I pushed the baby out.
And there he was. I noticed his big cheeks and his orange-yellow hair first. This was the little person I’d been dying to meet. This was the boy who would make Lola a Big Sister and turn Us into a family of four. I had had reservations about having a boy. But when I held that little bundle on my chest, I was overwhelmed with love and gratitude-my son!
I have wanted excellence in the knife-throw,
I have wanted to use my exceptionally strong and accurate arms
and my straight posture and quick electric muscles
to achieve something at the centre of a crowd,
the blade piercing the bark deep,
the haft slowly and heavily vibrating like the cock.
I have wanted some epic use for my excellent body,
some heroism, some American achievement
beyond the ordinary for my extraordinary self,
magnetic and tensile, I have stood by the sandlot
and watched the boys play.
I have wanted courage, I have thought about fire
and the crossing of waterfalls, I have dragged around
my belly big with cowardice and safely,
my stool black with iron pills,
my huge breasts oozing mucus,
my legs swelling, my hands swelling,
my face swelling and darkening, my hair
falling out, my inner sex
stabbed again and again with terrible pain like a knife.
I have lain down.
I have lain down and sweated and shaken
and passed blood and feces and water and
slowly alone in the centre of a circle I have
passed the new person out
and they have lifted the new person free of the act
and wiped the new person free of that
language of blood like praise all over the body.
I have done what you wanted to do, Walt Whitman,
Allen Ginsberg, I have done this thing,
I and the other women this exceptional
act with the exceptional heroic body,
this giving birth, this glistening verb,
and I am putting my proud American boast
right here with the others.