WARNING: This blog entry is a completely uncensored story about birth. If you're grossed out about things like natural labor, placentas, poop, vaginas -- specifically those belonging to me -- please stop reading now.
YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
I'm writing this stream-of-consciousness style at midnight after a day of no naps so I'm sure it's ripe with typos and sentences that don't make sense.
It was Sunday afternoon -- exactly on my due date -- and I had been in and out of the bathroom several times. It had been a very unproductive morning, if you know what I mean. I was considering making myself some "Smooth Move" tea. I also noticed that I was feeling really wet, but when I checked it was just a lot of mucous. I called my midwife and told her about it. She said not to worry about it if there weren't any contractions.
My mother-in-law was on her way to make us dinner. The pressure I was feeling in my butt was getting more and more intense. Then the pain started in my lower back when each butt wave hit. Holy crap, were these contractions? I told Dan to find his watch and start timing them. Wow, they're three to five minutes apart. My mother-in-law arrived right after I called my midwife again and I told her that we needed to go to the hospital. The contractions really started getting intense enough for me to make faces and gasp a little when they happened. Dan grabbed our hospital bags and off we went after lots of excitement and hugs from his mom.
Dan was remarkably calm on the way there. After driving around the block after missing the emergency room entrance the first time (there was construction and it was a little hard to see) we were met at the door by the emergency room security guards with a wheelchair. We had the truck parked by the valet and made smalltalk with the security guards while we waited for the nurse to come down and escort us to the maternity unit. "Do you want to walk?" she asked. "No!" I said as I was right in the middle of a contraction. I remember thinking the journey upstairs was going remarkably slow. The nurse was asking me questions about my medical history or something while we were moving.
When we arrived at the triage room I was handed a gown and instructed to get undressed and stay standing. I was still pretty calm and smiling at this time. My cervix was checked and I was dilated to 6 cm. Things were pretty wet so they took a sample to see if it was amniotic fluid or not. I was told to remain standing and walk around. Here I am:
It didn't take long after that photo was taken for the contractions to get really intense. At some point we moved into my official room. I started to make noises completely involuntarily. I snapped at Dan about something but I don't remember what it was about. We laughed about it. About 45 minutes had passed since we last saw a nurse or midwife. I was sweating one second and freezing the next. I had to lie down and kept taking off and putting on the blanket. The noises I was making were getting longer and louder. Dan started getting concerned. He rang for a nurse. We found out that the unit's microscope had died and they were waiting for one in the lab. I asked when I could get into the birthing tub. They began filling it right away. At this time I was in quite a lot of pain, kind of felt like I needed to push a little, and was wondering how much worse the pain would get. I wondered how long this was going to go on.
We walked across the hall to the birthing tub room. All the plans I had to do breathing exercises through the contractions went straight out the window. The contractions were crazy hard now. I was hanging on to the tub while it was filling and in a fit of weakness I asked about maybe getting some Nubain for the pain. They said I was really far along and medication would probably just slow down labor. I had no idea that I was actually in transition. They said that not only was I in transition, but I was on the back end of transition. "Sweet!" I thought for sure the pain would only get worse. I guess it kind of did, but it was never anything I couldn't handle.
I got into the tub and needed to push. I was kneeling and hanging on to the side of the tub where Dan was telling me softly that I was doing awesome and reminding me to breathe. He had a cool washcloth and some water for me to sip. The washcloth was great through all the contractions except one where I almost screamed at him to get it off the back of my neck RIGHT NOW. The weirdest thing was that the next contraction came along and the washcloth on the back of my neck felt fabulous.
The pain. The pain was strange and the urge to push was even stranger. Do you want to know what being in labor feels like? It feels like you need to take the biggest dump of your life. I expected there to be pain in the front around my belly but it was all in my butt. Prior to being in labor I was worried about pooping in the tub. During labor I knew I was pooping in the tub but hell if I cared. The nurse was right there with the net to take care of my business and I hardly noticed her. My eyes were closed tight 90% of the time.
I was pushing and pushing and pushing. Then they had me get out of the tub and try pushing on the toilet (horror!). A tiny part of me was feeling humiliated by this prospect but mostly I was willing to try anything at that point. The toilet pushing actually helped to get the baby to drop further. I moved back into the tub. I had been pushing for about an hour and didn't know how much longer I could keep it up. The midwife checked me and decided that with her help she could get the baby's head past the little lip of my cervix that was keeping her in. So I pushed a few more times and evidently that got the baby into the birth canal. I thought I would be able to tell when the baby was in there, and I sort of could... kind of, but the feeling was much less noticeable that I expected.
More pushing, more pushing, more pushing, then burning, BURNING. "Do you want to feel the baby's head crowning?" "NO!" I had to push. There was nothing else but pushing. I had to get this baby out. BURNING. RING OF FIRE. I remember saying, "OW!" which was one of the only real words I was able to say in the last two hours or so.
Finally the head was out! I just wanted to get the rest out and stop the burning so I resented having to stop pushing when the midwife told me to. A couple more little pushes, a great cry of pain and relief, and they put Lily on my chest. She was grayish blue and crying and gasping a little bit. The world was spinning. Oddly, I wasn't crying like I thought I would. I was instantly calm. Dan cut the cord, they whisked Lily off to get cleaned and suctioned and whatnot, and I was moved to a bed. All I could do when they handed the little bundle of Lily back to me was gaze at her. I barely noticed when they gave me a shot of Pitocin in my leg and local anesthetic in my hoo-haw for stitches.
Lily was still not crying as powerfully as they would have liked her to so they called in a neonatalogist just in case. As soon as the nurse picked her up off of me she really started wailing, which gave me some warm fuzzies. She ended up being fine.
Fast forward past three weeks of nipple hell, leaks (me), leaks (Lily), being totally alert at the slightest middle-of-the-night cry (that didn't last long), and great joy at poop color changes. Lily will be six weeks old this Sunday and we couldn't be happier.
I was recently asked what the most surprising thing about motherhood has been. For me it's how natural everything has come. I didn't think I had a single maternal molecule in my body. Turns out I was wrong.