August 15, 2014 by bestdayevar
So, it’s taken me a super long time to finish writing the end of this story. Partly because time is hard to find. But mostly because it seems impossible to really do it justice. On the one hand, my memory is hazy on a lot of the details, and on the other hand, I feel like this experience is something I find my mind wandering back to and exploring over and over. So it’s kind of like I’m still forming my memories and feelings on the whole experience. But I guess that is pretty normal, considering that giving birth is one of the most major events of life. I don’t think I’ll ever really be *done* writing my birth story. But for now I will try and finish the general idea…
Okay, if you will recall from Part II, I’ve just had scar tissue on my cervix broken up after having been in labor for about 22 hours already (wheeee!), and I’ve been instructed to get into the tub at the birth center to help me relax and dilate.
I spent at least a couple hours in the tub moaning through contractions and trying to relax (HA! hahahaha). I tried a few different positions in the tub to find the most comfortable — arms draped over the side, lying flat. It was incredibly frustrating because the tub was so giant, it took a lot of effort to keep myself from completely floating away across it or sinking like a very pregnant boulder and drowning. It was too wide across, so I had to hold myself up with energy I didn’t have and didn’t want to spend. But the warm water itself did feel nice. With each contraction I would moan out loud, “Ohhhhhhhh” and then say in my head “-pen,” a half-silent chant willing my cervix to open.
At some point I had to pee and after debating whether I should just pee in the tub, I decided I should get out and try and pee in the toilet. This was around 8am, and I’d been in labor more than 24 hours. It felt like it took an eternity to be able to pee, and it was super awkward because there was a big measuring-cup-like thing sitting inside the toilet, I guess so they could check my pee for… something? Amniotic fluid? I dunno. They put props underneath my feet thinking that might help me be able to pee more easily, but my feet just kept slipping off of them. Note to future laborers: when laboring in the tub, just pee in the freaking tub.
After that, the midwife checked me again and told me I was at 3-4 cm. I was devastated. I couldn’t understand how it was possible to be in labor for MORE THAN A DAY and to not be dilated further. I was beginning to think I would be stuck in labor for the rest of my life. I began to doubt myself thoroughly and completely.
After that, I was desperate to make more progress and wanted to do anything I could to dilate more. Mike said he was impressed that any time the midwife or doula suggested something that might move things along, even though it would be more painful, I always went for it. Around this time, I started to feel the contractions in my back and pressure in my butt. The baby had turned to a less-than-ideal position and was causing back labor, so they had me lay on my right side on the bed to try and get her to turn. It was by far the most painful position I’d been in, but I stuck with it as long as I could, about an hour.
I had been there so long that the midwives changed shifts.
Around 10am, I decided to try and pee again. This time, while sitting for endless minutes waiting for the pee to come, I felt a little gush that I knew wasn’t pee. After I came back from the bathroom, the midwife checked my bag of water to see if it had, in fact, broken. She said it still looked intact, but it might have torn a little bit higher up. I was still only at 4cm.
I got back in the tub. By this point I was beginning to despair. I couldn’t believe I had been in labor for so long and it had gotten so intense and I was still so far from being able to deliver. I thought about my friend who had pushed for four hours and I COULD NOT IMAGINE enduring several more hours of labor and THEN having to push for hours after that. I was already so tired. I was also pretty grumpy. The water was too hot, but I didn’t really have the wherewithal to tell someone to make the water cooler, so instead I somehow mumble-gibberish-sign languaged to my husband and the doula that I needed cold wash cloths on my forehead. As soon as the cloth on my forehead got too warm, I would jab angrily at it with my thumb as if to say, “NEW FUCKING WASHCLOTH GODDAMMIT,” and one of them would put a new, cool washcloth on. They were so sweet despite being barely functioning themselves.
My doula tried to encourage me by reminding me of something I had said during the weeks I was preparing for labor. I had remembered that relying on the rhythm of my breath had carried me through two marathons, and I thought labor would be similar. She said, “Remember, it’s just like running a marathon.” But in my head, now, I thought, “It’s nothing like a fucking marathon.” In a marathon, you know exactly how many miles you have left to go. You can pace yourself. And at a certain point, you can see the finish line up ahead in the distance. In labor, I had no idea where the finish line was.
I began to believe that it was simply not possible for my body to dilate as much as it needed to. I thought it was inevitable that I would have to go to the hospital and get a c-section. I was certain that it was only a matter of time, and by this point I figured if it was going to have to happen, it might as well happen now instead of later. So when the new midwife checked in on me, I asked, “At what point will I go to the hospital and get a c-section?”
She and my doula seemed genuinely shocked. The midwife was like, “Whoa, what? Where is this coming from? You have been handling this so well, you are doing amazing!” But I didn’t feel like I was handling it well. I had been thinking, “This is the worst idea I’ve ever had. I am never doing this again. I might be in labor forever. I can’t keep going like this forever.” And I was disappointed in myself for wanting to quit and wishing they would just cut the baby out of me.
A little while later, my body started to push on its own, so the new midwife decided to check me. 5-6 centimeters around 11:30am. Even though my body wanted to push, was pushing without me, I had to try and stop it from pushing since I was nowhere near dilated enough. If I pushed, it would cause my cervix to swell and make things even more difficult. I think that was the hardest thing about my entire labor — trying to stop my body from pushing. I had to blow out really shallow, short little breaths “who-who-who-who” to keep my body from bearing down. It’s like trying to stop yourself from throwing up, only a billion times worse.
The midwife said it might help move things along if they broke my water, but it would make it even more intense. I remember crying and saying I didn’t know if I could handle it, but I wanted to move things along more than anything so I agreed. She brought out a huge, long knitting-needle looking thing with a hook on the end of it. It took FOREVER with that thing jammed up in my hoo-ha for her to break my water — she said I had a really tough bag of waters.
If I thought I was dying before, it was 10 times worse after my water broke. My body started to push on its own so much that I couldn’t control it anymore and was so relieved when the midwife and doula told me it was okay to push a little bit. Not, like, push-the-baby-out pushing, just giving in a little bit when my body started to spasm.
At this point, I started asking about going to the hospital and getting an epidural. They said, no, we weren’t going to do that. I had two thoughts: 1) They don’t understand how much pain I’m in, or they do, and they don’t care. They are horrible people and I hate them. 2) Imagining getting dressed, leaving the birth center, getting in a car, driving to a hospital, checking in, I was actually relieved that they wouldn’t let me go to the hospital. It seemed impossible/worse to go through all of that to get to the epidural.
They offered to let me try the laughing gas and explained that it wouldn’t take the pain away but it might help my body relax. I HATED it — the mask made me feel claustrophobic and it didn’t feel like it was doing anything. It just made me angry.
I think I tried the shower sitting on a yoga ball for a while, but it wasn’t helping. I decided since I was so ungodly tired, if no position felt like more of a relief than another, I might as well lay down in the bed where I could at least take a micro-sleep in between contractions. But after a short time on the bed, it felt like I wasn’t even getting a break in between contractions. It was just pain on top of pain. I felt like I had come to the end of what I was physically capable of doing and I said, “I can’t do this anymore.” The midwife perked up at hearing that and said, “Why don’t we check you?” It was about 2:30pm and I’d been in labor for almost a day and a half.
She jammed her hand up my ladybiz yet again, and after what seemed like an eternity, and I was certain she was going to say “6cm” she said, “Well, you’re at… about… 10 — do you want to push this baby out?”
Mike said I went from being like a person you see in movies wandering through the desert on the brink of death, barely able to speak or open their eyes and then suddenly my eyes were open wider than he’d ever seen and I had all the energy I could possibly need and was fully myself again. He said everyone in the room started to cry. I was so relieved, I was like, “YES WHAT POSITION DO YOU WANT ME IN WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO DO.” And the midwife was like, “OKAY, lay on your back and pull your legs back toward you. Don’t push with this next contraction, wait for me to get my assistant and get all my supplies ready.”
I said, “PLEASE HURRY” with a look that I hoped was the most serious look anyone has ever had in the history of looks.
When she came back all prepared, she said, “Okay, now when the first contraction comes, you can go ahead and push.” So I gave it everything I had, and the midwife was like, “Wh-whOA, okay, I have never seen a first-time mom push like that. I can already see her head.” Mike likes to re-enact this part for people, grabbing his legs, crossing his eyes, and making a tortured she-lion noise. This image is also seared into his memory for life, and he frequently likes to recall how the top of the baby’s head looked like a crumbled piece of paper with hair on it during that first push.
The midwife was worried I was going to blow out my whole bottom half, so she said to wait for the contraction to build and then hold my breath and push with the contraction. She said to push down low, like I was pushing out the hugest poop ever. She and her assistant applied hot washcloths and olive oil to my vulva and perineum and lots of counter-pressure to try and keep me from tearing. Somewhere in there they put an oxygen mask on me, which I hated and ripped off my face. I think I pushed maybe 5 or 6 pushes? It was really only a few minutes, less than 15 for sure. It felt incredibly intense to push, but it was also the greatest feeling of my life. At that point the pain didn’t matter, because I was getting this baby THE FUCK OUT.
The two parts of pushing that really stand out are when the baby’s head was at its widest point — I guess this was crowning. After that I knew she was going to come out if I really pushed hard enough, so the next contraction I had I just kept pushing and pushing until I felt her head squeeze all the way through, and the rest of her body came sliding right out.
She came out HOLLERING and POOPING. She screamed for what seemed like forever, but it made her nice and pink right away. Healthy, healthy girl.
When they laid her on my chest, I think I said something like, “Oh my gosh, she’s mine? I get to keep her?” And the midwife was like, “Yes! You definitely can’t leave her here!”
I remember laying there thinking it was really weird to have the umbilical cord hanging out of me. I thought after all that I wouldn’t even feel it, but it felt like when a tampon works its way partway out. Ick, did not like. They kept her attached until the cord stopped pulsing, and then Mike cut the cord.
They gave me a shot of pitocin to help me deliver the placenta, and Mike took the baby — I demanded he take his shirt off for skin-to-skin contact. Our doula took a picture of me delivering the placenta (why the placenta but not the baby, I don’t know, but oh well), and holy crap is that crazy looking. I think I had to push once or twice to get the placenta out, but it was nothing compared to pushing the baby out. “Luckily the placenta doesn’t have any bones,” as the midwife said. I only had two labial tears, but they were small enough that the midwife thought they’d heal just fine without stitches, and stitching them up would be more painful than it was worth. She was right, they were no big deal. My perineum was totally fine. Woot!
Later on when I got up to pee and glanced at myself in the bathroom mirror, I discovered that I had burst blood vessels in both my eyes and given myself some kind of crazy rash all over my face and neck and arms from pushing like a maniac. That might have been burst blood vessels, too? The midwife had never seen such a thing. I had red spots all over, it was really weird. But I couldn’t have cared less! I wasn’t hurting anymore! And I had a baby! And she was amazing! And I absolutely would do the whole thing all over again the exact same way, no regrets. Really.
Actually, I do have one regret. I wish I’d had more confidence in myself to get through the whole harrowing affair. I wish instead of thinking about how many hours I might still have in front of me and that there was no way I could possibly do it, that I had focused on the moment I was in and that I was, in fact, DOING IT. Because the thing about birth is, it doesn’t matter whether you think you can do it or not. You have no choice but to do it. You have no choice but to be capable. You DO have a choice over what thoughts you will allow to take up space in your mind. If there is a next time, and the thought of “can’t can’t can’t can’t” enters my mind again, which I’m sure it would, I will remind myself to set that thought aside because “DID and CAN and AM” are the truth of it. It was really hard. And I did it. And now, in quiet moments, this doing of what I thought was impossible is the secret I tell myself. “You did this. You thought it was impossible, but you DID IT. You can do anything now,” I say. What a beautiful gift my daughter gave me.
“But wait!” you say. “What about the cake you insisted on baking while in labor? The important cake!” Yeah, the cake that was so important to me was forgotten in the car for three days. Threw it out without ever taking a bite. But it’s okay — the baby is way more delicious!