I'm so sorry this is such a long time coming. It just seemed like every time I would try to write down the story, it was one huge mess. But birth is kinda a mess - so I suppose it fits. Giving birth to Eli was the hardest thing I have ever done. While I planned and prepared for an all-natural childbirth, I also came into labor and delivery with an open-mind, knowing birth never goes according to plan. Looking back, Eli's birth story definitely didn't follow my "plan" - but I have absolutely no regrets with the decisions we made and the way we met Eli. I wish I could tell you my birth experience was wonderful and beautiful, but I'll be honest - it was horrible, ugly and brutal - but it was completely worth it - which in the end, I think actually does make it beautiful. It was an experience I'll never forget.
This is the story.
At 2:45 a.m. I woke up to throbbing back pain and contractions every 15 minutes or so. I had been having contractions on and off all week, but they were nothing to write home about. These were much stronger, but I honestly didn't think these would last either. Since I was already awake, I thought I'd go ahead and use the restroom - I mean, I still needed to meet my quota of visiting our tiny bathroom at least four times a night and this little trip would get me there quicker.
Verging on the TMI, while using the bathroom I found I had the "bloody show" - if you don't know what this is Google it at your own risk - so I knew something was different. I didn't want to cry wolf, so I went back to bed, but by 3:15 a.m. I couldn't take it anymore. I had to tell Mike, so I promptly woke him up to tell him what was happening.
"Are you sure? Are you sure? What did the book say? Did you Google it? Is it really happening?"
"Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. I donno!"
After the initial conversation, we both tried to go back to sleep. I think Mike got about an hour. I got about a minute. At 6:30 a.m., we decided Mike should still go in to work since the contractions were not coming any faster. I continued to try to sleep/rest, but let's be honest - I was Googling, "How long after the bloody show do you have your baby?" and other key words that would provide results that would accurately predict when I would meet my baby - because we all know you can always trust Yahoo Answers.
At around 7:30 a.m. I called my doctor's office. I knew ahead of time that my Midwife was out of town (BUMMER), but I wanted to confirm my hunch that I was having this baby sooner rather than later with someone besides Google. The nurse on the phone confirmed I'd probably be having the babe in 24 hours.
I then immediately called Mike to alert him that he would become a father in just a few short hours. Our conversation went much like the one we had at 3:15 a.m. and we still decided that he should continue to work until I progressed further (He had a monster deadline to meet and I am an awesomely understanding wife while in-labor).
Contractions were still about 10 - 15 minutes apart and while painful, they still were not too big of a deal to me - I knew they'd get a lot worse before I met my boy, so I made a point to tell myself that they were easy-peasy.
I tried to lie down and rest a few different times throughout the day, but when I did, I found the contractions hurt a lot worse than when I was standing or moving around, so I got busy. I got my oil changed - which took an HOUR AND A HALF - I wanted so badly to tell them to hurry it up, or I would literally have this baby on their greasy garage floor but I was nice and patiently read "Ina May's Guide to Childbirth" while waiting. (Can I just say WATCH OUT?! That book has some GRAPHIC photos. I had to strategically sit with my back facing the wall and have at least two empty seats on either side of me in their waiting room so I wouldn't burn anyone's eyeballs.)
Next, I moseyed on over to Home Goods and spent about $200 on home decor.
Mike didn't see the bill until after baby came and when he asked me if I really spent $200 while in labor with our son, I validated my actions by telling him it was obviously my motherly-nesting instinct kicking in, telling me I must have new baskets and storage containers for my baby. (Yes, I spent $200 on only baskets and storage containers - but it was A LOT of baskets and storage containers that we desperately needed.) Suffice it to say, Mike has since made me pair down my purchases to only two baskets and four storage containers, and I now have quite a few returns to make.
Once I got home, I swept the garage, watered the plants, deep cleaned both bathrooms (I mean DEEP, DEEEEEEEP cleaned - like washed the shower curtains, scrubbed the tubs, vacuumed the curtains) wiped down the woodwork in the upstairs, did laundry, cleaned our appliances ... basically I was in nesting-beast mode.
Around 5 p.m. Mike came home from work - he had texted or called me nearly every hour, on the hour, and by the end of the day I was starting to feel bad that I didn't have any news to report except that the contractions were now down to eight to 10 minutes apart and that I was really excited about my new baskets and storage containers. I made gyros for dinner and we enjoyed a "last supper" on the porch. When we saw our neighbors come home, we went out to talk with them for a bit. Our neighbor was due with her second baby just about the same time I was and she told us to take a walk to speed up those contractions. So we took a short walk around 7 p.m. and I definitely started to feel the contractions more.
From 7 - 10 p.m. the contractions progressed to three to four minutes apart, so we showered, packed the hospital bag, watched some Parks and Rec and basically just kept talking about when we should go to the hospital - HARDEST DECISION EVER. I had originally planned to labor at home as long as possible, and at that point, I was just getting to where I couldn't talk or move during a contraction. I still wanted to stay at home a bit longer, but Mike was terrified of us leaving too late and him having to deliver the baby all on his own, but at 10 p.m. I agreed to go - sooner than I really wanted to, but I knew Mike was probably right that it was "go-time."
When we arrived at the hospital we found that I was four centimeters dilated (whew - no getting sent back home!) and we checked into our room.
I labored alone with Mike for a bit, the contractions were super intense, but doable. I whipped out my deep breathing and "low-groaning" techniques and Mike put on his "birth-coach hat," offering suggestions and positions and just generally tried to keep me comfortable. (In reference to the "low-groaning techniques" - apparently it's a skill to moo like a cow through a contraction, one that we learned in our birthing class, from my Midwife, my old OB and in all the books. I am not kidding when I tell you that before labor, Mike would periodically demand an impromptu "labor moo" at which I would have to practice my moo. Try getting out a proper moo when you're completely embarrassed because he asked for it at a restaurant.)
I labored on the birthing ball, in the shower, on the bed, in a whirlpool tub and probably other ways, but honestly, it's all a blur. I remember throwing up while in the tub - I asked Mike if he had a bucket around, and as he started casually looking around, I yelled, "Bucket, NOW!" Good thing, cause he nabbed a trash can just in time and I promptly filled it up.
At midnight, the nurse came in to check me again, and I had progressed to 7.5 cm - AWESOME. I was thrilled, Mike was thrilled, the nurse was thrilled. High fives and champagne all around - er, maybe not, but we were all feeling really good about my mad-dilating skills to progress so fast in just two hours. The nurse called in the on-call OB and told him I'd be delivering this baby in just an hour or two, so he'd better wake up and get to the hospital.
From that point on, the nurse basically stayed with Mike and I the entire time since I was finally in "transition." I continued to try various laboring techniques similar to the ones I was doing earlier. Mike was on duty full-time to give me counter pressure on my spine - sweet, sweet relief from the contractions. If you're pregnant, make sure your hubs knows how to do this. I LOVED it. The nurse was around to help Mike, offer ideas and give me encouragement. She kept telling me that I was the "perfect picture of a non-medicated childbirth," and that I "have such great mental stamina and pain tolerance."
KISS. OF. DEATH.
About every hour they would check me, and I continued to be stalled out at 7.5. The OB had arrived a while ago and when he realized I wasn't changing, he told us that he was going to go find a "place to sleep until something started happening."
Yeah, you go do that Mr. OB. Just go take a nap while I just lie here in this torture chamber of a delivery room and pay you millions of dollars for just making an appearance in here.
At 3 a.m. he came back in and suggested that he break my water. I refused at first, I really didn't want any interventions, but he kept suggesting it and I finally gave in because I just wanted to see something happen. He proceeded to break my water and I proceeded to continue to be stuck at seven and a half for another three hours.
Great suggestion on his part.
After my water was broken I didn't feel anything. I expected to feel a big gush of fluid on my legs, but I felt nothing. By that point, I was literally sleeping between contractions I was so tired. Yes, they may have been one to two minute long naps, but I could fall into a deep sleep in about a second and I had no concept of how long I'd been sleeping for - could have been two minutes or two hours - all I knew that I would be jolted awake by another contraction before I was allowed to sleep again.
At 5:30 a.m. the OB and nurses began to tell me that I would need Pitocin to deliver the baby. They told me that my uterus was too tired to push the baby out because I had been laboring for so long. I refused a few times, still wanting to do it as naturally as possible, so they used an Intrauterine Pressure Catheter to "scientifically" measure (aka: prove to me) that the contractions were not strong enough to push the baby out.
Fine. They were right. The contractions were 50 percent of the strength they needed to be and the OB told me that I could get Pitocin now or I could get Pitocin in four hours; either way, I'd be stuck at 7.5 until I received some. They also told me that if I wanted an epidural, I would need to decide before they gave me Pitocin, because they couldn't give it to me after.
At 6 a.m. I gave in and agreed to receiving Pitocin, but was honestly terrified of how much more pain it would inflict on me since I knew it causes contractions to be stronger and more intense and I was pretty much at the tippity-top of my pain tolerance level. Actually, let me clarify: I was OVER my pain tolerance level. It was off the charts at that point.
So I figured I'm already getting medicated - let's go big or go home baby: GIVE ME THE JUICE!
Before labor, our Midwife suggested to Mike and I that we have a code word that only he and I knew, that I could say if/when I truly, truly wanted an epidural and it would be the sign to Mike that I was SERIOUS. I didn't even have to say the code word to Mike. I whispered to him that I wanted the epidural and Pitocin between a contraction (but before my nap) and he ordered them up for me. After the next contraction I remembered, so I said the code word and he just smiled and said, "I know honey."
If there is a high point in this story (besides the fact that I birthed my first son at the end of it), this is it. I felt so much relief in knowing that relief was coming. If it were possible, I even felt energized, knowing that there would soon be an end to all this pain. In that moment, I just kept thinking of my friends and family who had received epidurals and told me they were "God's grace to woman's curse." I could. not. wait. to get it.
Let's just say that bliss was short lived. The epidural didn't take.
Well, it took in my left leg and in my right calf. So I suppose if I was giving birth out of my big toe it WOULD HAVE BEEN AWESOME. But no. Stomach/Back/Right Thigh? Oh yeah, I felt everything.
I kept telling them that I was still hurting, so the nurse anesthetist would come over to me periodically with an ice pack and I'd have to tell her 1) if I felt it and 2) what temperature it was, as she placed it on different parts of my body. Left leg: I don't feel anything. Right calf: Warm. Right thigh: Cool. Stomach: FREEZING. Back: FREEZING.
She'd look at me with a quizzical expression and say, "Well, it's working because you can't feel it on your left leg, let's just tip your body to the right." Then the nurse would come by, shove a pillow under my left side and I'd lay there on my right side, unable to really move and just praying it would start to take. We went back and forth like this about six times: me saying it wasn't working, and the nurse anesthetist saying that it was - we just needed to tip me in the right direction so gravity could "do it's work."
They gave me a little remote control and told me when it turned green that I could hit the button for more juice. You'd better believe all I did was watch that remote for the little green light and I hit it faster than a game of whack-a-mole when it turned on.
By then, I was incredibly discouraged. I remember crying and telling Mike I was done and to just "let me go." (I'll assume you know what I meant by that. I'll also assume you know that I don't mean it now and am eternally grateful Mike didn't take me seriously in that moment.) The relief I was so excited for never came and I couldn't see an end in sight. In fact, it was worse than before because of my bum left leg and all the tubes and machines hooked up to me, I couldn't move on my own or labor in any position I wanted to. Mike tried to rally me, telling me that I was doing awesome and we'd meet our son soon.
In that moment, I didn't care about meeting my son.
All I cared about was being done with the pain. It sounds dramatic and wimpy as I type all of this out now, but it's true. I just wanted to black out and not remember anything. To be done, over, finished. I didn't care how, I just wanted relief. I was sick of the nurses, sick of the hospital room, sick of not knowing what time it was, sick of contractions, sick of being so tired, sick of people telling me I was doing awesome when clearly I wasn't, and I was definitely sick of the nurse anesthetist coming in and telling me the epidural was working ...
But somehow the clock kept ticking and a few hours and loads of Pitocin later, I finally felt the urge to push. For those of you who haven't given birth, the only way I can describe needing to push is the sensation of needing to throw up. It's completely involuntary and you cannot stop it. Now multiply that urge by a million. No a trillion. No a gazillion. Oh and make it hurt - HORRENDOUSLY.
I remember yelling, "I'm pushing, I'm pooping, I'm - I don't know!"
The nurse rushed over and told me that I was not allowed to push. That I needed to wait to get to 10 cm (I was at 9.5 cm at that point) and for the OB to come in.
She was nuts. There was no way I was stopping this train. She kept telling me to breathe through it and I tried, I really did. But NO. Then Mike would get all up in my face, tell me to look him in the eyes and BREATHE. It was like a circus in there. They brought in another nurse and the two nurses were running around like mad-women gathering supplies (since it wasn't like they didn't have the last, oh, 12 hours or so to get ready for me to push) and yelling directions to me, Mike was up in my grill trying to get me to stop pushing and repeating whatever the nurses were saying, and my body was being taken over by aliens or something because I HAD NO CONTROL.
Finally the OB leisurely walked in (A different one from before, since they changed shifts in the morning). I yelled that I'm going to push again because I want the OB to hurry her tiny heiny up, and everyone looks at me and yells, "NO!" in unison. The OB sloooowly puts on her coat, then her gloves, sits down on a stool with wheels, and starts slowly peddling her legs towards me. She settles in at my feet, rechecks her supplies and gives the nurses a curt nod.
Oh, NOW I can push? It's a good thing my left leg was out of commission and I couldn't move, otherwise there's no telling what I would have done to that OB.
At 10 a.m. I finally got the green light to push to my heart's content. While it's a completely different kind of pain than the contractions, and it's still brutal (they don't call it the "ring of fire" for nothing), I was just happy to give in and help my body out with what it wanted to do.
As I'm pushing and everyone is looking right at me, errr - a certain part of me - two nurses, the OB and Mike are all yelling at me, giving me direction, encouragement and who knows what else. As I'm looking at my crew, suddenly I see all their heads turn to their right and the OB says, "Is he okay?"
I look in the direction she's talking and there's my husband, sitting on the couch, white as a sheet, nibbling on a Lorna Doone cookie.
"He'll be fine, he'll be fine." The nurses were saying.
YOU BET HE'LL BE FINE. FOCUS LADIES!
Next thing I knew, Mike's up right next to me again, shouting whatever the nurses are shouting like nothing happened.
Good. So glad you were able to pull it together husband.
Before I was allowed to push, I remember asking the nurse, "How long does pushing take?" She responded with, "It depends on how good of a pusher you are."
I made up my mind then and there that I was going to be the best dang pusher they had ever seen.
And 19 minutes later, Eli was born.
Stay tuned for Part II tomorrow. Update: Click here to read Part II.
Image by Photography By Nealy.
Stay tuned for Part II tomorrow. Update: Click here to read Part II.
Image by Photography By Nealy.