Start at the beginning with My Birth Story, Part 1: Water, Water Everywhere.
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Shortly after I got back into bed I started feeling contractions. They were mild, but definitely more than Braxton Hicks. I was able to sleep through them pretty well until about 5am, when I woke and decided to time a few. They felt solid at this point and were coming regularly, but weren’t anything that I felt worth waking Chris up for yet. I got out of bed, grabbed a coconut water and a protein bar and went into the nursery. I bounced on the yoga ball for a bit, but spent most of the time bent over the heating unit, looking out the window at the city. As the contractions came, I began making low moaning noises to get through them.
At about 7, I went in and woke Chris up and let him know that I was in labor. We timed a few contractions together before I went ahead and called Stacey. She was happy to hear that things had started, told me to have a good breakfast while I still felt like eating, and to let her and Ali know when things got more intense and when I called our doula to come. I told her that I was managing things pretty well and actually wasn’t sure that I was going to need or want the doula there but that we’d see. As I was getting off the phone with her, I could feel another large gush of fluid, after which the contractions began to feel stronger.
Chris made us tofu scramble and brown rice English muffins for breakfast. I texted our doula as I was eating to let her know that things had finally started and that I’d keep her posted as they progressed.
Shortly after breakfast, I was standing near the kitchen and a particularly strong contraction came on that brought me to my knees. When I got up, I was shaking and felt suddenly cold. Knowing that these can be symptoms of transition, I asked Chris to call the midwives while I got into the shower. I needed to warm up and I also wanted to get one last shower in while I could.
Once in the shower, the most comfortable position for me was on my hands and knees, so I labored there for a while. Chris called our midwives and got Ali who suggested that we call our doula. She also wanted to know if I could feel the baby moving, and I had been able to up until that point, but being in the shower now was making it difficult. After getting off the phone with Ali, Chris called our doula, Jax, who said she’d be over in about half an hour.
After trying for a while to feel our little guy move while in the shower, I got anxious and got out to see if I could feel him better without the distraction of the running water; the contractions were already distraction enough. I still felt most comfortable on my hands and knees, but I knew that wasn’t the best position to feel his movement. I tried lying on the bathroom floor on my back for a bit and also on my side, hoping to feel him better, but being in either of those positions right then was extremely painful. I remember feeling so glad in that moment that I wasn’t in a hospital where back and side would have pretty much been my only options.
I got back on my hands and knees. I thought I’d felt the baby move, but I wasn’t sure and was feeling frustrated. The frustration turned to tears at just about the same moment that our doorbell rang. Jax had arrived. She came into the bathroom, knelt down next to me and reassured me that I was doing great. I wasn’t worried and felt deep down that everything was okay, but having someone else support that helped the frustration that I was feeling to dissipate. I had thought I may not need her, but I was glad that Jax was there.
I decided to get back into the shower and labor there for a bit longer; the hot running water was soothing.
When I finally got out of the shower I’m pretty sure it was to pee. All throughout my labor I remember everyone asking, “When was the last time she peed? Make sure she pees.” I also remember being really surprised at how much time had gone by between each pee. I think at one point it had been three hours or something and I was like, “No, way, it’s only been 30 minutes at most.” My whole sense of time that day was completely askew.
After I got out of the shower we moved to the bedroom where I labored in bed on my side while Jax massaged my lower back. As far as I remember, at any given time either Jax or Chris was massaging my lower back. I never had any back labor or specific back pain, but the touch was comforting and distracting. As I labored in the bed, the contractions became more and more intense. I continued with the low, long moaning I had been doing since I got up that morning.
A point came—I don’t know how many hours later—when Jax could tell that we were getting close. She told Chris to call the midwives and let them know that I was no longer “myself” between contractions and that they should get ready to head over. The contractions were very intense and close together at this point and, since I wasn’t getting much of a break in between, I was starting to have a difficult time keeping on top of them. Jax had Chris ask the midwives if it would be okay if I got into the bath to help make things more manageable; they said yes.
We moved back to the bathroom and I got into the tub. The warm water was relaxing and definitely slowed and eased the contractions a bit, though they were still coming on strong. As each one approached I felt as though I were getting onto a moving treadmill. If I relaxed into the contraction and started making my low sounds from the start, it was like stepping onto the treadmill when it was moving at a walking pace, after which I just had keep up with it as it carried me to a full run. If I tensed up or resisted the contraction even a little bit, it was as though the treadmill was moving too fast for me to ever get my footing and I’d wind up tripping over myself and unable to catch up—i.e. in a lot of pain.
Coincidentally, without knowing any of this, Jax’s words of encouragement to me when I’d have a contraction that I was struggling with were, “Stay ahead of it. Get ahead of it.” It was perfect.
Another thing that helped me as the contractions became more and more intense was to constantly remind myself that it was only pain. It was just a physical sensation. I’d made it through dozens already, this was just one more and I’d make it through this one as well. That’s the thing about labor—it’s painful and intense, but not because anything’s wrong (excluding, of course, those very rare exceptions). It hurts, but it can be gotten through.
I was sitting in the tub with my legs crossed. At some point, I began to find that it helped me to plant my hands slightly behind me and push myself up and forward, stretching out my whole front during each contraction. After the fact, the yogi in me realized that I had instinctively been doing heart openers during this most challenging point in my labor. Opening my heart to welcome my son; this still feels really beautiful to me.
I was still in the tub when Stacey and Ali arrived. Stacey began using the doppler between my contractions to monitor my and the baby’s heart rates. Everything was good, but after a while Stacey decided that our heart rates were both a little too elevated for her liking and that being in the hot bathwater might be the culprit. After I got out, I was asked to pee again. I was told that a lot of women find sitting on the toilet comfortable at this stage of labor—I did not.
I got into bed and the contractions were notably more intense now that I was out of the water; our heart rates had both come down, though. If I’m recalling correctly, I think that I had two massive contractions in the bed. I’m pretty sure it was the second one that I swore through, and that was also the one during which I felt large gushes of fluid and my body began pushing on its own.
I didn’t say anything at the time, but while I had been in the tub I actually felt like I wanted to push and, after each contraction, I would gently bear down a little because it felt good. Everyone kept asking me if I felt like I had to poop or if I felt pressure (signs that you’re ready to push), but I never did so I kept saying no. It was just a thought for me, a totally non-physical feeling.
So I felt my body pushing in bed and I said something along the lines of “I think I’m pushing. My body’s pushing.”
Stacey said, “Okay, I’m going to check you real quick.” And after she did, “Yep, you’re nine and half centimeters. I’m just going to move this last little bit of cervix out of the way and we’re going to have a baby.”
I began pushing with each contraction from there on out. It felt good to push—not pleasurable, but good to finally be actively working towards something. I remember wishing that I didn’t have to wait for each contraction to come on in order to push more—I just wanted to keep going!
As his head was moving down, one of the midwives (I think it was probably Ali at that point) said that they either felt or saw a lot of hair. I imagined a head full of thick, dark hair like Chris’.
While I was pushing, Chris was standing alongside our bed to my left, holding my hand, Jax was holding my left leg and Stacey was on the bed next to me to my right. Ali was catching.
Once the baby’s head began to emerge, Ali asked if we wanted to feel. It was weird—I expected it to feel at least somewhat like a head. It didn’t though. It was just a mushy, fleshy, hairy protrusion. Apparently the skin of the head sort of smooshes out before the actual bones. Definitely not what either of us expected.
Finally, after 16 hours of labor and an hour of pushing, our little guy’s head popped out with one push and his body came sliding out with the next. The hour of pushing could have been two. It could have been fifteen minutes. I had no sense of time that day. But it was 5:57pm. Our son was born.
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Continue reading My Birth Story, Part 3: This is Roman