I wrote this the week Claire was born, but it’s been a crazy 3 months and I just hadn’t gotten around to posting it here.
For a couple of weeks leading up to Claire’s birth, I had banked on her being very early. My mother’s were all early and we are very small people, so there wasn’t a lot of room for the baby to keep growing. It very much felt like my body was breaking down, and as an active individual, it was becoming more and more demoralizing as the weeks passed and I could do less and less.
Jan 13th I went in for my 39th week appointment, knowing my midwife, Tali, was going to stretch my membranes. As of 3:15 that afternoon, I was only 2.5cm dilated and 20% effaced, not as progressed as I had hoped for, even though she was pleased (but she was always excited about everything). We made another appointment for Thursday to do another sweep, and I figured I had another whole week of false labor to look forward to.
I went home a little deflated, but hopeful with the two sweeps in the week. Baby was due Friday, so I was starting to really weigh the pros and cons of Cytotec vs. Cervidil; something that I didn’t want to have to worry about and it was giving me all the anxiety.
A few minutes to 11pm, I awoke from actual sleep (getting a good hour in) and realized I really had to have a bowel movement. Now, the combination of being a short woman with a belly the size of a cow’s and a bed height that was just plain silly (I needed a step stool to get into bed), the way I would exit the bed was to swing my leg up to my side and slam it back down to the floor so I could use the momentum to get out of bed without waking up my husband (hoorah for memory foam!) This time however, I felt a gush of water. My husband woke up from a very deep sleep to the sounds of “Uggghh!” His “what’s going on?” was greeted with a “uuuggghhhh my water broke” which made him jump from bed and swear at an alarming speed. Ever the optimist, I told him to not panic since it was more likely that I had finally unlocked the pregnancy achievement of pissing myself. I went to the bathroom, peed, got up, but still had a trickle.
I decided to call the midwife as I was GBS+, even though I wasn’t sure if it was pee or amniotic fluid. 10 minutes after the first gush, I got the on-call midwife, Hanna, on the phone and since I was not in active labor yet, she wanted to talk about how we might wish to induce, remind me of the options so that I wouldn’t feel overwhelmed when I arrived. We decided to bring the hospital bags since induction was now a real possibility. She said we could take our time, so we collected our things leisurely, made sure the rabbits and cat had food for a day and fresh water.
In this time I had two REAL contractions. It had only been 15 minutes since my water had broken. I sat down for a second to get my boots on and had another HUGE gush of water. I no longer doubted that it was my waters, and suddenly my mood was chipper and excited, though cautious, since it could have been another 24 hours.
In the car, we realized those contractions were about 5 minutes apart, but they were very short (one was 30 seconds and one only about 10). Then I had another one that lasted a whole minute, but since they were all over the place, active labor was not on our minds.
We checked into triage in the last few moments of the 13th, late enough that my bracelet said one date, but my admission papers and the baby’s HIPPA form were dated the 14th. I was taken to the antenatal room. I was able to walk and talk through contractions. I got my saline lock in, chatted with a wonderful nurse who gave me a pep talk on breathing through (her advice made much more sense than the type of advice I had received from the class I took, but I don’t recall exactly what she said; all I know is it didn’t involve breathing to my feet or waves). I was hooked up to the monitor, and my contractions were 2 minutes apart, but they weren’t terrible. I couldn’t talk, but breathing really helped. We we waiting on Hanna, but she’s was attending another birth, and it was going to take an hour for the penicillin dose to get into my system.
I think around 12:20, the nurse was ready to hook me into the drip, but I had to confess, I still really really needed that bowel movement. So she gave me some privacy and my husband came in with me so he could hold up the wires for the fetal monitor that I was still attached to. He said I was different; no longer chipper, and very much drawn in on myself. I just wanted to shit, but the contractions were delaying things. After five minutes, I was successful and embarrassed, so I kicked him out, and I could hear that Hanna has arrived in the antenatal room. She was talking about how I would probably be sent home after the drip and my husband told her about my change in behavior. I realized from what he was saying that he thought I was in transition. I was still doubtful and all I could concentrate on was how the hell would I pull up my pants.
I called him back in so he could help me get back into the johnny, and I walked out to greet Hanna; only I couldn’t talk during the contraction AT ALL. When it ended, I suddenly HAD to be on the bed. But when I got on the bed, it was the worst thing ever. I breathed and waited. My husband looked at my face, as I relaxed and he said, “that’s your ‘I’m going to puke face.'” I informed him that it was because I *was* going to puke. Two emesis basins and a pitcher later (about 20 seconds), Hanna decided that a cervical check was necessary. I held my husband’s hand and glanced at his watch. It was 12:30am as Hanna declared that I was 8cm.
She ran out of the room and a nurse named Donna hooked me into the penicillin and I was immediately wheeled to a tub delivery room. Outside of the room, I asked my husband about the birth ball (we brought our own since I’m so short, that the hospital provided ones would be dangerously tall). I said in passing that I was worried he’d miss the birth. Hanna laughed and said, he probably wouldn’t. When he was gone, my contractions suddenly intensified and I become very insecure about his leaving. I couldn’t focus on the four names of the nurses surrounding me. Without my husband, I needed a moment to get off the stretcher, which was a horrible experience. I leaned over the cool delivery room bed, which is also very painful. Hanna was across from me, trying to make eye contact. Internally, I thanked her for trying to be so nice and positive and empowering, but I could not make eye contact, I just COULDN’T. At this point, I was two very different people. I was still there, but there is something else taking over.
I got on the bed finally, mildly aware of the bustle around me. Hanna took over the room (this was wonderful as she is a young midwife, new to the hospital and the practice, so I wasn’t sure how this would all go).
Someone said it was about 1:25 and I got a cervical check, and Hanna shouted, “she’s complete!” I asked her to fill the tub and no sooner did she leave my side then I suddenly *screamed* “I’m pushing!!” The nurses told me not to, which I ignored them because that just wasn’t possible. They asked me when I finished if I *had* to push. I called for Hanna to stop the tub since I knew it was too late. I had to take a step back though, so I could answer the nurse’s question as I push again “I have to puuuushhhh!”
I needed my husband more than I needed anything, and I was pleased to discover that he was there, offering to hold my leg since Hanna wanted me on my side instead of my back. I understood why, as being on your back is a terrible position for birth, and on my side, my pelvis would open properly, but it was too painful. I needed a new position, and I needed it fast. Fortunately, I had my husband’s touch, and this other me. I said I didn’t know how to use my body, but the other me was able to get my body to the hands and knees position just in time for another push that forced a scream for the entire ward to hear.
At this point, I was so internally focused, but language was able to break my barrier. I screamed again, but the nurses told me not to scream, but to redirect the energy down. This kind of comment would make the normal me roll my eyes, but I did it. They would instruct me to “sit into it,” and I did it. My husband would tell me I was doing amazingly well, and I believed him when my normal self would have had doubts. They weren’t lying when they said things like “that’s it, like that!” I had always thought comments like that were just empty encouragement, but these comments only came when I lowered my energy. Contractions seemed to start higher in my body than they should be, so all the redirection down would be met with a chorus of “Yes! Like that!”
I very briefly hesitated when I felt the ring of fire. One of the nurses said to me “if you push through it, the pain will end.” I latched onto that and pushed through. When I got more encouragement from my husband, I was able to actually connect to him briefly, I told him I loved him and nuzzled him for a second before being taken over again to push through the ring of fire. That was the only contact I had to another human during the labor.
They told me to feel the head, and I thought she would have the worst cone head when I touched her, but I didn’t really understand what I was feeling, and I didn’t have time to contemplate it as some yelled, “that’s a face!” My husband was suddenly gone from my side, and I felt this huge POP that I knew was her shoulder. Though the contraction that got the shoulder out ended, I continued to bear down to finish the job. I heard a single cry and the other person inside informed me that, “that’s your baby’s cry.” I no longer understood what the staff was saying, but I was able to follow their directions so as to not get tangled in the cord as my husband handed her to me through my legs.
I was in shock. I was coming back into myself a little as I stared at her, and received confirmation from the look on my husband’s totally transformed face that this was in fact reality. The whole thing had been so fast that it was very surreal. It was 1:54am on January 14th after only 29 minutes of pushing. Not only did my husband catch the baby but he also cut the cord in one go when it stopped pulsing a few minutes later.
They had started pitocin before I had finished pushing as the risk for hemorrhaging was very high with a precipitous birth and we were on watch since I still hadn’t finished the penicillin dose which needed four hours to be effective, never mind that I hadn’t received the full amount from the IV yet. They needed to fix a second degree tear, and with that risk of hemorrhaging, Hanna needed it out fast and sought my permission to reach in and manually remove it. That was the most uncomfortable part of the birth, as I was myself again. I knew I was totally myself when I asked to *see* the placenta.
I couldn’t get over the joy on my husband’s face as he stared at his daughter. He looked so much younger, and so transformed. 35 minutes after birth, Claire had latched on, and I couldn’t believe how perfect she was. She received an Apgar score of 8 then 9, she was 7lbs. 5oz and 20in long.
At the end of Claire’s birth, Hanna had to return to the birth she was originally attending when I walked into the hospital. I still can’t quite get over how fast it was, it took a long time for it to sink in that I had done this thing and that we were now parents. We didn’t have the time to do coping mechanisms, to take in the reality of the situation, and to mentally prepare for the active part of the labor. It wasn’t until about 24 hours had passed and we were having difficulties with feeding that I was more grounded about the whole thing.