What a busy week it has been! Between planning for our daughter’s birthday party while simultaneously making sure she recovered from pneumonia and Hayden putting in extra hours at work it feels like we have been going non-stop. Now that the hubbub is over and we can rest a little, in honor of Aurelia’s first birthday I wanted to share our birth story.
At the beginning of my pregnancy I was seriously nervous about giving birth. All I really knew were the untruths I learned from popular culture – it was quick, painful, and there would be screaming. Given my low pain tolerance I knew I couldn’t do it without an epidural and if they wouldn’t mind putting it in in the parking lot that would be lovely! I was dreading my daughter’s birth before I felt her first kicks.
The only thing I could do was educate myself, and in doing so I surrounded myself with an amazing team of women to guide me in my pregnancy and birth. They encouraged and empowered me to overcome my fears, look forward to the challenge of giving birth and ultimately have an incredible unmedicated birth that, as my husband so rightly called it, was a truly spiritual experience.
March 1st, 2017, early a.m.
It all began with a very long cramp in the middle of the night and a small amount of fluids leaking. It didn’t seem like much so I went back to sleep without giving it another thought.
In the morning I was feeling off – nauseous and shaky and just not right. Hayden watched me nervously. I asked my doulas if feeling “off” was a sign of impending labor. They laughed and said it sounded like the flu but I should trust my instincts. As an afterthought I mentioned the fluid that was leaking regularly by that point. They said, “That’s interesting! Let us know how that progresses.”
I went to my class and we took the kids for a walk for 30 minutes. Hayden checked on me constantly. He knew! He knew before I did. I was in denial – I told him even if I was in labor it would be hours. It could be days! As we walked I had mild contractions around every 20 minutes.
We all decided I should go home at noon to get some rest if this was truly the beginning of labor. Hayden came with to get me settled and when he went back to work I laid down and I knew immediately it was time to go.
While I waited for Hayden I tried to gather and pack my things. Nothing about this was typical except for the way I waddled around the house, bending at the knees and tilting from side to side to pick things up: pillows and bags, clothes for Hayden, my dirty laundry off the floor because I thought, someone has to come over to let Piper out and I don’t want them to see my underwear.
March 1st, 2017, 2 p.m.
We went to see our OB first. I had really wanted to labor at home but since I was already walking around 4 centimeters dilated my OB had warned me that as soon as I had contractions I would be admitted to the hospital so I was hoping to buy time by getting checked at her office first. As we were getting ready to leave I went to the bathroom and there was a little bit of blood. When I told my doulas they said, “It’s baby day!”
When we got to the doctor I was still having mild contractions, now about 7 minutes apart. She checked me and said my water had indeed broken and I was 5-6 centimeters dilated. She told us to get lunch and then go to the hospital.
Things started to progress rather quickly. We drove around looking for a place to get lunch while the contractions got strong and quick. By the time we decided to just get lunch at the hospital cafeteria, walking from the parking lot to the opposite wing of the hospital was like climbing Everest. Hayden was practically running while I was almost crawling. When we got lunch I took one bite and wondered how on earth anyone could eat during labor.
After we checked in I remember thinking how beautiful the delivery room was. It was like a hotel suite and I thought, this is just a holding room, they aren’t going to keep me here! I got into my gown and the nurses came and checked at me, looked at my birth plan and consulted with our OB. She said I could be on the monitors every 20 minutes and off for 20 minutes so I could move around.
My world shrunk to a bubble around myself at that point (my doula calls this “labor land”). Hours went by in minutes. Labor wasn’t easy but I didn’t think of anything outside of my bubble or beyond the moment I was in. It still wasn’t real to me that we were going to have a baby; I was going to see my daughter’s face when it was all over and it could be very, very soon. My doulas encouraged me to try different positions – I labored in the shower, I bounced on the ball, I squatted and lunged and got on all fours.
March 1st, 2017, 6 p.m.
The OB checked again and I was 9.5 cm dilated. I was standing, bent over the bed and they let me push and labor like that. I asked if it was time for the epidural now and my OB and doula said I could get it but I’d already gone through the hardest part so we said what the heck, let’s do this natural!
I moved around, got on the bed and bent over the back and things just kept kind of coming into my bubble. I would see Hayden’s face or hear my doula whispering in my ear but other than that I was so inward that they had to peel me out of myself when they wanted me to look at the sunset. There was a beautiful sunset that night and I looked over my shoulder for a few seconds before I went back in.
And I labored.
I remember I would have a contraction and everything would just stop. All the activity became totally still and totally quiet except for someone telling me to breathe and someone else holding my hand. Then the contraction would fade and everyone remarked how I was smiling and laughing and talking. We talked about balancing our checkbook and paying bills and we watched Bob’s Burgers. The fact that I was having our child that day, that she was making her way into the world as we spoke was so far from my mind it’s unbelievable.
March 1st, 2017, 9 p.m.
I transitioned but I never felt an urge to push so I finally turned to Hayden when I was on my hands and knees and said, “I don’t know what to do! Somebody needs to tell me what to do.” They said push if you want to so I began half-heartedly pushing while rocking back and forth, trying to keep my hips moving.
After two more hours I turned around so I was on my back in the bed. Everyone lined up around me and I pushed, and pushed, and pushed. Still more hours went by in seconds. As it got close to midnight I had my nurse on my right side, Hayden and my doula on my left and my OB sitting at the foot of the bed. I will never forget her sweet smile and words of encouragement when I would look down at her between contractions.
When a contraction came the girls would pick up my legs, Hayden would hold my hands and we would fight through it. After it passed Hayden said I looked like I had the spins, like I was drunk. I would look at him with wild eyes and say, “I can’t, it hurts, I can’t I can’t I can’t.” For an hour I pushed while she was crowning, her head and her hair visible with every contraction.
March 2nd, 2017, 12:09 a.m.
I finally tried to make it real for myself and I thought, if you push, you’re going to meet your baby. This is what you’re working for. You can do this. Hayden came into my bubble again and he said, “You’ve got to push more!” With every contraction I would hold my breath and push for not even 10 seconds and two pushes. He and the nurse teamed up and got me to push four times with each contraction. When that happened it went so fast. For Hayden it was a flash of light and she was there. For me it was the ring of fire, a scream, just this primal roar and then relief.
There was a rush of activity, wrapping her in a blanket, patting her, getting her to turn pink and making her cry. Hayden cut the cord and then she was able to be on my chest and I was holding our daughter. It was incredible. That sweet little face, here in the world with us!
Just like that.