(It has taken me six weeks to write this blog post. Why didn’t anyone tell me how hard it is to get things done when you have a newborn?! Oh, wait. You did! 🙂 Thanks for the grace and patience with me. I hope you enjoy reading our birth story. Special thanks to Cara for having the presence of mind to take notes and jot down times so I could recall the details of that night.)
It was my 30th birthday and, as the oldies song goes, “It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to.” After patiently waiting and waiting some more to have this baby, I was ten days past his estimated delivery date and starting to feel a bit desperate. When I cried on the phone with my doula Cara that afternoon, she said, “Don’t think I’m mean, but I’m glad you’re crying. It’s a good sign that you’re ready to have this baby.” I had slept poorly the night before and the hormones, emotions, and discomfort were having their way with me; I’d thought I would have had the baby by then, yet there I was, huge, bored and with empty arms on my birthday.
That night, my spirits lifted considerably when my parents and sister’s family came over to spend the evening with us. During dinner, I had to “check out” of the conversation every 20 minutes or so to breathe through a contraction. “Sorry for being so dramatic,” I said to my sister after a strong one. “You’re not at all!” she assured me. But the intensity I was feeling inside seemed dramatic to me. Even though the contractions I’d been experiencing intermittently for eight days were becoming more painful, I didn’t allow myself to believe I could finally be going into labor because I didn’t want to get my hopes up after so many false alarms. Little did I know…I actually was in early labor as I ate cupcakes and laughed at my family’s antics! They were the perfect distraction to get me through that first stage.
At 9:30 pm, we hugged the partiers goodbye except my mom. She was staying the night to help with house projects the next day. Mom and I plopped on the couch where she rubbed my feet, focusing on reflexology pressure points that are supposed to stimulate the uterus. “I think you’re having this baby tonight,” said my mom for the third time that night. Though she’s known for her keen intuition, I was still in denial and chastised her to not get my hopes up. But there was no denying what happened next, as my contractions increased in frequency–every 12 minutes, now every 7.
Around 11:15 pm, I went upstairs and updated Seth. He said we should call Cara. On the phone, Cara emphasized to us the importance of keeping me relaxed and rested, to conserve my strength. A few more contractions came while we were on the phone with her and she said she would throw her things together and be on the road ASAP; an hour-long drive from Sisters to Madras was between us.
Seth and Mom sprung into action, drawing me a hot bath infused with an aromatherapeutic bath tea from Shalom Mama. Mom dimmed the lights and lit candles. Seth brought me a cup of my favorite herbal tea. As I slid into that soothing water, relaxation and gratitude swept over me. Here I was, laboring in the comfort of home and it was finally happening! Thank you, God! Knowing it could be a long night, I encouraged Mom to go upstairs and try to get some rest. I wanted Seth right by my side as we had planned and he held my hand through each contraction, gently reminding me to breathe and making me as comfortable as possible. As the intensity built, I let myself sink into an instinctual moaning sound with each exhale through contractions. Game on!
By the time Cara arrived at 12:45, the bath water was cooling down but things were heating up. By this point, the initial calm I felt in the bath was evaporating and I had gone to that deep place where my focus was totally internalized. I didn’t feel panic, but such an intensity that I can’t even describe, almost animalistic. During each contraction, I fixed my eyes on a focal point in front of me; making eye contact with anyone was not an option. Seth later said I had a wild look in my eye that he didn’t care to see again. Using a suggestion girl friends had offered, I visualized the contractions as a set of waves and tried to “stay on top” of the wave and just let my body ride it out as I breathed. Two or three times a “sneaker” wave got the better of me and pulled me under, but Seth and Cara were there to bring me back up for air. I remember wondering if I would really be able to do this; not knowing how much harder it would get, could I really deliver this baby naturally, without pain medications? I didn’t voice it out loud, but I questioned myself and feared that I might yell out, “Give me the epidural!” upon arrival to the hospital. After witnessing a few contractions that were just two minutes apart, Cara observed that I was quite advanced in my labor process, and asked if I wanted to get out of the tub and head to the hospital. Yes, I was ready to go.
The effort to get out of the tub brought on more intense contractions and with a couple of them, I felt an urge to push. Hanging my arms around Seth’s neck and leaning on him, we “slow danced” through a few more while preparing to depart for the hospital. Cara suspected I may be in transition already. As I walked outside with Seth’s help and got into the car, I found the cool night air refreshing and the semi-reclined position very comfortable. I think next time around I will try a seated position more during labor, as that seemed to work well for me.
We left the house at 1:35 am and arrived at Mountain View Hospital at 1:50 am. We had to enter through the E.R. and I barely made it through the doors before another big contraction hit. I leaned into Seth and he “danced” me through it. Amid our dramatic entrance (accompanied by plenty of moaning from me), we were greeted by a night nurse who happened to be immensely pregnant with twins. She asked if I wanted to use the wheelchair to get to the family birthing unit. I looked at the chair and hesitated, then said, “No.” If I entered in a wheelchair, I sensed that would put me into a helpless mindset and I knew that I would need all the strength and confidence I could muster for what still lay ahead.
On the way down the hall, we had to stop and deal with a couple more contractions. I was feeling more pressure now and the desire to push. Only steps away from our birthing suite, my water broke! My attending nurse, Megan, tried to get me situated on the bed so she could put the monitor straps on my belly for fetal assessment, but she kept getting interrupted by another wave of contractions. She must have felt like she was trying to wrestle a momma bear! Once she got the thing strapped on me, a lab technician came in and indicated he was going to draw blood and start an IV. No IV, we told him! This baby was coming soon and hooking up to an IV would have been an unnecessary nuisance. This incident made us keenly aware that our Birth Plan document had been left in the car and we really didn’t have time to go get it.
Megan checked me for cervical progress between contractions and found me to be at 10 cm already. We hadn’t planned on me being completely dilated upon arrival to the hospital, but I certainly wasn’t complaining!
Now, if you’ve ever experienced a woman in labor, you know that pleasantries go out the window and the laboring mother can become very…shall we say…direct. Since we couldn’t reach my wonderful doctor by phone, she still hadn’t arrived. When the E.R. doctor, an older gentleman, walked calmly into the room and began lining out his arsenal of shiny metal objects on a table, I started barking out the key points of my birth plan to him inbetween contractions. He seemed content to let me have the natural birth I wanted. A second doctor’s arrival was announced and, not seeing the point of an additional doctor’s presence, I loudly protested, “What is he doing here?” I know, not a very nice way to welcome someone to the party.
This all happened very quickly. At approximately 2:30, I was on the bed and finally given the green light to push! In the midst of a big effort, I spontaneously shouted, “You’d better get that doctor in here!!!” A few minutes later, she arrived in a rush, apologizing that her cell phone never alerted her that she had a message. I was so glad to see her. Cara instructed me to direct my energy down to make pushing most effective. After the second push, the baby’s head crowned and I was able to reach down and touch my child’s head for the first time. Seth and Cara supported my legs and, within two more contractions, William was delivered at 2:43 am. Seth was going to catch him, but the baby came in such a rush and I had Seth’s hand pinned to my knee during the final push, so there was no chance for him to move away from my side!
The next thing I knew, a hot little squirming baby was placed directly on my tummy. I eagerly gathered him up and we were covered with a warm blanket. “Hello, you beautiful, dirty little thing,” I remember saying to him. His color was slightly purple, but within moments, he was pinking up. Soft cries told us he was already breathing well. His eyes were wide open and he seemed much more calm and alert than I expected. He was beautiful. Absolutely perfect! Seth came over to my left side and spoke his greeting to William. At the sound of Dad’s voice, which he had been hearing in the womb, William looked up at Seth with his big dark blue eyes. Amazing!
For the first hour, Seth and I were in our own little world as William nursed a little and rested on my chest. Seth cut his umbilical cord and gave the baby his first sponge bath. Then the nurse was finally allowed to weigh and measure him before returning him to our side. Soon, my mom came to meet her grandson and other family members would arrive later in the day. Though exhausted, I felt absolutely elated.
Hours later, I was still charged with adrenaline and the wonder of the experience. Giving birth to our son was definitely the most challenging, all-encompassing effort I have ever made. It was a long labor (8 consecutive days of contractions) and a short labor (only 4 hours once I realized I was in active labor). I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the incredible support and encouragement of my husband, who was the best helper I could’ve asked for. Cara, our doula, provided the information and support we needed to be empowered as a couple. My desire was to be fully present mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally to the experience. And the reward of “going natural” was, for me, just that, an excruciatingly beautiful awareness of each moment. I am so grateful that I was able to have the natural birth experience I wanted, and I wouldn’t change one thing about it, aside from maybe believing my support team more each time they told me I was doing good.
Would I do it again? Absolutely. Next time we have a child, Lord willing, I will bring him or her into the world in as natural and gentle way as possible. I look forward to being more aware of my body and the process next time, now that I know how to interpret what I’m feeling. This experience will always be something I cherish. Of course, the primary gooal and the greatest gift was bringing home a healthy, happy baby. His life is truly a miracle and source of endless joy to us.
If you’ve made it this far, thank you for taking the time to read our birth story. I’d love to hear from you, about your experiences, hopes, thoughts, or questions. Every birth is as unique as the individuals involved!