I’m sure that, as the weeks and months pass, I will forget more and more of the details of Amelia’s birth so today, one week after she entered this world, seemed a good time to write down all the details.
I should note, especially for anyone who is currently pregnant, that every labor is different. Every pregnancy is different. My story is not your story, and my pains are not your pains. I progressed incredibly fast and I think that contributed a lot to…actually, scratch that. Labor hurts. But, it’s worth it. And it’s a different pain, because you know where it is coming from and what it results in. And I’d still go through it again, which says a lot.
Last Tuesday began very normally: I felt large and ungainly, nothing out of the ordinary when 39 weeks and 3 days pregnant. We had a doctor’s appointment scheduled for eleven, so we hustled and went in for our weekly check. All was normal – I had progressed to 3 centimeters dilated and 80% effaced. The doctor stimulated my cervix and said that she expected to see me that weekend (when she was on call), and that was our hope as well. Just in case we made it another week, though, we went over what happened if I didn’t progress further. Afterwards, husband and I went to Shake Shack and Trader Joe’s. I had some bleeding from the doctors, but nothing unexpected. When we got home, I took my normal afternoon nap and then sent my husband off to work.
It’s important to mention something at this point in the story. Every doctor, nurse, and person (because, yes, men tried to tell me this) always said the same thing when I asked how I would know when my contractions started: You’ll just know. I found this incredibly unhelpful, because I didn’t know when I started Braxton Hicks and I was concerned I wouldn’t know this either. Now, I know that it’s hard to explain but…I was hoping for something a bit more specific than “you’ll know.”
Tuesday evening, I made dinner. I watched some tv. I called my parents (at 8:30). I wasn’t feeling fantastic, but I often didn’t feel fantastic by the end of the day so this was nothing new. Soon after we hung up, I had to go to the bathroom and began feeling uncomfortable. It felt like I was having strong cramping or bad gas. Fast forward to 10pm when my husband came home – now, I was having regular waves of cramping every 10-15 minutes. Obviously, these were contractions (though I hadn’t expected it to feel like the worst period ever imagined). We had discussed with my doctor that I would labor at home as long as I could, and then we would head to the hospital when my contractions were 5 minutes apart. I was constantly going from laying on the bed to sitting on the toilet and so had no idea if my water broke (though I thought it may have around 11). I spent ten minutes in the shower while my husband rubbed my back – this helped some of the pain and discomfort, though soon I returned to my back and forth pattern of bed and toilet.
My contractions were getting closer, and at some point I decided that we should go to the hospital. We called the doctor on call and she agreed that we should head in. I had no desire to sit in the passenger seat, so husband folded down the front seats and I crawled in the back. It was midnight.
We began driving and as we hit the highway, I began feeling the worst pains I had ever felt in my entire life. The waves were fast and intense; I tried to do all the breathing and visualizing that we had practiced, but in all honesty, all I felt was a cramping, twisting agony that would break into waves of relief. We were playing my hypnotherapy audio and that helped me relax during the down times, but the contractions themselves were unbearable until I begin getting vocal. My poor husband – as he is driving, there I am: this animalistic groan during the contractions and then quieter vocalizations during the in-betweens. I remember reading somewhere that having your jaw open, breathing through and not being afraid of vocalizing through the contractions helped. They were right.
Suddenly we were at the hospital (12:30) and the hatchback is open. The man that met us said the valet was closed. My husband asked that they get me a wheelchair (no chance in any universe I was walking) and then I let out a guttural moan. Then I remember a wheelchair and the man pushing it saying that yes, there is valet. Just leave the key and they would take care of it. As I am being wheeled, I feel like it is just minutes (minute?) between contractions and breaks. I’m pushed through triage, give someone my drivers license, and wait for maybe 30 seconds at the desk before being pushed past double doors and into a room. There I go from the wheelchair to a bed and am told several times to not push.
I want to say, “I don’t know how much choice I have in this right now.” Instead, I just moan. They tell me they need to check me, and then I hear zero. Apparently, whatever they saw made my husband worry for a minute as their expressions changed when they were saying whatever they said. He didn’t need to worry – what they were saying was that I was having the baby now. There would be no time for lavender oils, our birthing music, getting the labor ball, etc. I would not have time to talk with the doctor about whether or not I would use the birthing bar or squat and let gravity help us out. We were having the baby right now.
Also at some point, a nurse asked me if I was having a natural birth. Part of my brain screamed that, no, I wanted a c-section. (I didn’t. That wasn’t the plan. But the part of my brain that screamed that recognized that something was coming that was even more painful than what I was currently experiencing. However, the rest of my brain ignored that part.)
I did begin asking for an epidural at this point. Asking is the wrong word – I begged for an epidural. My husband asked if I was sure, and the nurse said maybe once we got up to the room. Neither actually was concerned about finding me one – there was no time and, at this point, there was nothing that it would do. But, I think it is hilarious (now I think it is hilarious) that I wanted one after all my natural-birth-our-bodies-can-do-this talk.
Off we went to the birthing room (the nurse telling me to get my hands in and not be on the rails, and me begging to hold on to the rails because goodness, I had to hold on to something).
At some point (things start getting hazy here), I remember a few things. First: I did not have a shirt on anymore. I remember the nurses telling me to take it off and me saying, “Just cut it off, I don’t care.” This was because my hands were gripping the rails and I did not want to move them for anything. (They did not cut off my shirt – somehow someone, probably husband, got me to move my hands.) The second thing I remember is that I had an IV put in. This is only something I remember because it was one of my biggest fears (following the actual birthing) as I have never been a patient in a hospital before. I don’t like needles and had an unreasonable fear of having an IV put in. What I have since learned? When you are in the throes of labor, you don’t care who pokes/prods/lifts/moves/stitches/or checks anything. It doesn’t matter. I think I might even be over my fear of needles now.
When we were in the birthing room, I was asked to take off my sports bra. Again, I insisted that they cut if off, that I didn’t care about it (I really didn’t) and that I just didn’t want to move my arms. (Apparently, gripping things really was a source of comfort for me.) Again, they did not cut it off and I remember my husband helping the nurses as they got it off. The doctor came in the room. At some point, I was pushing with the moans and the in-between times were only a few breaths long.
The doctor changed into gown during one of the in-between times and began talking me through what she was seeing and what was happening. I was listening, but wasn’t, too. I think I asked for an epidural again at some point. I don’t think anyone really responded. Then I was really pushing. The kind of pushing that happens when the baby’s head is right there. Between the first push and this push were only a handful. The nurse by my head kept trying to get me to keep pushing (part of my brain took note of her and decided we didn’t like her); the doctor, however, saw that I would push when I could and when my body had decided I would, but that I needed to stop and breath in-between. I remember her rubbing my calf and telling me to breath (both of which some part of my brain found comforting and helpful).
The nurse slipped an oxygen mask over my head; I hold my breath (a lot, subconsciously, in situations I shouldn’t, like in jiujitsu or kickboxing or, apparently, labor) and this was not the moment for that.
Her head kept appearing, but then going back in. (I was offered a mirror and asked if I wanted to touch her head; no to both – for me, I needed to keep my eyes closed, grip something, and keep going.) Two people on each side held my legs (I held them too, for one or two pushes), I vocalized (yelled? moaned? I don’t know what would describe the sounds, but know that I was able to push harder because of them) and pushed her out. I heard her cry and within seconds, she was on my chest. It was 1:51 in the morning.
You forget the severity of the pain almost immediately. Amelia lay on me, all bright eyes and dark hair, skin to skin and changing my universe with each blink and breath. I don’t think I cried then. It wasn’t that kind of joy; instead, it felt like I suddenly was in sync with the life I was supposed to be leading. My world was instantly the way it was supposed to be, and it wasn’t until that moment that I saw it had been incomplete. We lay there for an hour, just breathing each other in, everything else in the world fading away. (Really – I had some tearing and needed to get a few stitches and I completely did not care. My focus was on the 6 pounds and 20 inches of wonder that was my now my world.)
Welcome to this world, baby Amelia.