WARNING: I’m just going to come out and apologize right away for the language in this blog post. If you are easily offended then maybe just skip ahead to the part where Henry is born and all is good in the world again. I don’t use the eff bomb lightly and I honestly have been struggling on whether or not I should include it in this post, but the truth is there is simply not another word that can convey some of these emotions.
In the last chapter of Henry’s birth story I was happily splashing around in a birthing tub in my dining room, while simultaneously bragging about how easy this whole birth thing was. “THIS is labor?” I kept thinking to myself. “I’ve got this licked.”
Little did I know that as I hit the transition stage how different things would become…
February 18, 2011 – 7 a.m.
I’m in the tub in our dining room and it’s beginning to become light out. I can see that it has snowed a ton throughout the night. My contractions, which were more of nuisance up until this point, are becoming more intense. My breathing changes from deep breaths to a pattern like this who…who…who…whooooooooo. I lose my desire to talk in between contractions and every contraction requires my absolute complete attention.
I’ve hit transition. The midwife checks my cervix again and says I’m 7-8 cm. 7-8? I think. Oh Jesus. At least two more centimeters to go and this is getting really hard.
“How long will this last?” I ask the midwives.
“As long as it needs to,” they reply.
is all I can think.
I do not use the eff word casually on this blog. I don’t like using it my real life and I think it is overused in society. But this ladies and gentlemen is the only way to describe how annoyed I was with the midwives’ answer. I don’t think I have ever hated someone as much as I hated that woman in that moment. I did not vocalize my annoyance because lo and behold there’s no time before I’m hit with the next brick wall of a contraction.
Travis senses how annoyed I am and says, “Jenny is a very goal oriented person. Can you give her an idea of her progress?”
My sweet, sweet husband knows me so well.
The midwives respond with, “Soon.”
FUCK YOU. FUCK YOU. FUCK YOU.
WHY DON”T YOU GET DOWN HERE AND DELIVER THIS BABY?
I think this goes on for another two hours or so. Every contraction is more intense than the one before and they are on top of each other. I have no time to rest in between. I don’t have any sense of time. My back and hips begin to ache. I’ve had no back labor, but as my pelvis begins to spread, I feel an intense achiness. I mostly labor on my hands and knees. Later, I would notice that my knees are bruised.
At one point, in between contractions, I say out loud, “We should have done the epidural.”
The midwife says, “I said the same thing during labor,” and then she giggles. Oh ha ha! Isn’t this funny? Isn’t this just the best time ever? Wasn’t this home birth thing such a good idea?
I’ve been struggling to describe how the contractions felt at this point and I can only come up with this imagery:
Let’s say God went to the Jersey Shore where he met up with The Situation and Pauly D. and they all went down to the local disco or club or whatever you cool cats call it these days. And let’s say God was really feeling the techno/trance/house music so God gets to fist pumping AND THE ENTIRE WORLD SHAKES.
That’s what these contractions felt like. Except the world is my uterus.
The midwife checks my cervix again.
“About a 9 1/2.” she says.
“Can I start pushing?” I say.
“Do you feel like you need to push?” she replies.
“I don’t know.” I say.
“Do you feel like you need to poop?”
“Well, that’s the sensation you are going to have.”
There are two models of pushing when it comes to giving birth – coached and spontaneous. Coached pushing is what most hospitals use and involves holding your breath and counting to ten with the nurses and doctors urging you on. Spontaneous pushing is the model that my midwives use and is basically just letting the mother labor until she feels the urge to push.
To this day, I am not sure if I actually had the urge to push or if, in an effort to end the pain, I started pushing on my own.
I’ve been pushing for 40 minutes or so and with each contraction I let out what Travis would later describing as a skin crawling scream. I vaguely remember this, but at the time I felt like I was doing what my body told me to do. And my body happened to say, “You should scream.” The midwife let me do this for a few contractions and then tried to help direct that energy into focusing on pushing the baby out.
A strong contraction comes and I push. My water breaks. It feels like sweet relief and a lot of pressure is released. The midwife tells me that there is meconium in the amniotic fluid. Meconium is a baby’s first poop. The midwife says this is common in babies who are born at 41 weeks. Later I would find out that the presence of meconium put a time table on the home birth. I was too focused on pushing and getting my baby out to realize that the midwives were checking my baby’s heart rate a lot more frequently than they had been.
I keep trying to push for another hour. I can’t tell if I’m pushing. I have no sensation to bear down and because I’m in the water I don’t have gravity on my side. The baby is low enough that the midwife tells us that he doesn’t have much hair.
The midwife suggests that maybe we get out of the tub and move to our bedroom. The apprentice midwives have set up our bed with the home birth supplies we were instructed to buy. With a towel wrapped around my waist, I make my way back to bedroom. Amniotic fluid seems to gush out of my body with every contraction. Laying down on the bed I try to keep pushing, but soon the midwife sits on the bed with me and says that it’s time to transfer to the hospital. It seems that at this point they can’t monitor the baby’s heart rate the way they would like. That, combined with the presence of the meconium, is enough to make my cautious midwife recommend that we head to the hospital where better monitoring is available.
The midwives help me get dressed and Travis busily runs around putting together things for the hospital. We didn’t think to put together a “just in case” bag and later we would both admit how stressed out this made us. I end up wearing my bathing suit top, a maternity nightgown, my favorite yoga pants and Travis’s shoes. Travis and the midwife help me to our huge truck. I distinctively remember at this time having a major contraction while I was steps away from the truck. I remember being hunched over, leaning on the side of our garage and having amniotic fluid soak my pants. This would happen with every single contraction until we got to the hospital.
The truck ride is the longest car ride of my life. Even though we only live 15 minutes from the hospital I feel like we are driving to the other side of the state. Travis is driving and the midwife is in the back seat with me. She says, “Don’t worry. If you have the baby in the car, we’ll just turn around and go home.”
HAVE THE BABY IN THE CAR? I think. So this is how that happens.
Despite my fear of having a car baby and being featured on the 5 p.m. news, I keep pushing. It feels too good and I’m able to brace my body in the truck so that my back and hips are supported.
We arrive at the hospital and I somehow get out of the truck. The contractions are so strong and I hobble in through the entrance and the midwife gets me in a wheelchair. Up to the L & D floor we go. My midwife has already called ahead and a nurse is waiting for us. They have a delivery room prepped for me and the nurse whisks me into the room.
“Hospital protocol is that you have to wear a gown for delivery,” the nurse says.
“No problem,” I say. Off come all of my clothes. Any sense of modesty is gone at this point. Once I’m in the gown, the nurse and midwife help me into the bed. They strap me up with a monitor right away.
I immediately like the nurse. She is kind, honest and funny. The kind of person I like. At this point in labor I truly believe she is going to get this baby out and at that moment it was like she was the L&D angel.
Erin, the angel nurse, says, “Are you interested in an epidural?”
She hasn’t examined me yet and even I know that an epidural is not an option at this point so I exclaim, “Yes!!!”
Then I sheepishly say, “Sorry Trav.” Like he would have cared if I had had an epidural at that point.
Even though I know the epidural is not going to happen I take great solace in the idea of it. So I ask for it 6 more times. Yep, I do!
Of course, at this point, the nurse has checked me and she realizes just how close this baby is to being born. I hear her say to the midwife, “We can put a vacumm on him and get him out.”
Well, that’s a swell idea, I think to myself. Let’s get that vacumm thing out. Hell, is there an OR open? Let’s just do a C-Section! Really, I’m up for anything! GET THIS BABY OUT!
The doctor comes in and hooks up the fetal scalp monitor. Up to this point I’m still anxious that a C-Section may be on the table. No one will let me have any water and I know that it’s because they are being cautious just in case. They are monitoring the baby closely because of the meconium and a respiratory team is waiting in the wings just in case. I, of course, am not aware of this. I would only notice them later.
The doctor and nurses get me pushing. This time it’s the coached pushing model and it works much better for me. With every contraction, my legs are held up by Travis and my midwife, and with each contraction we do three sets of ten where I hold my breath and push. It takes me a few contractions to get it. I’m so damn tired at this point. In between contractions, the nurse and doctor have to remind me to breath. Even though I’m in the traditional hospital birthing position (which many claim is the worst way to labor), I feel the least amount of pain. My back and hips are supported and I find it much easier to bear down during the contractions.
I keep pushing and pushing. The nurses and doctor are in my face yelling encouragement with each contraction. Travis is at my side and I look into his eyes in between every contraction. He’s my rock. If he says it’s ok, then it’s ok.
Although the home setting was quiet and peaceful, I need these cheerleaders. I need the yelling and encouragement. I need hope that this is going to end.
It’s about this time that I’m wondering what happened to that whole vacuum idea. In between contractions, I say, “Are we going to use the vacuum?”
I watch the doctor’s head pop up like a gopher.
“Do you want to?” she asks.
“Yes.” I say.
I know nothing about the vacuum. I’ve done no research, but at this point I will do ANYTHING to get this baby out. The doctor stops to explain to me how the vacuum works. In my mind I’m envisioning them just sucking the baby right out. Instead the doctor tells me that I will still need to push and that she will not be pulling the baby out, but rather keeping him from receding in between contractions.
Yeah, yeah doc. Let’s just do this.
She has the vacuum set up in a matter of no time.
A contraction comes on and it’s time to bear down and push. I’ve got this whole pushing thing now. I still don’t feel much sensation, but I understand what the doctor and nurses want me to do. I ask Travis if he can see the head.
He looks down right as the baby is crowning. I don’t think he will ever be the same.
The midwife says, “Do you want to see?”
I vigorously shake my head no. I have no interest in anything other than GETTING THE BABY OUT.
One more contraction and my baby boy’s head is out. A lot of books and websites talk about the ring of fire, but I never felt a thing in my nether regions during this time. I felt a huge amount of relief when his head came out.
Then the doctor told me that I couldn’t push during the next contraction because she was cleaning Henry’s mouth and nose. Because of the meconium, a respiratory team is standing by. Luckily, no meconium has been ingested and Henry is breathing just fine. With the next contraction I push the rest of him out. I can’t describe the absolute bliss this was. In that instant the contractions stopped and the pain was gone.
I don’t entirely remember pushing the rest of him out. What I do remember is looking up at Travis and seeing tears in his eyes and then looking beyond him and seeing our little baby being cleaned by the nurses. It was a very weird feeling. I think I forgot during labor that there would be a baby in the end.
While the nurses cleaned Henry, the doctor said it was time to deliver the placenta. My body was still producing contractions, but they were nothing like the ones I had been experiencing. She said I didn’t even need to worry about pushing. She massaged my abdomen and out came the placenta. Kind of like delivering a jellyfish.
I looked up after this and Travis was holding Henry. There is truly nothing like seeing your husband hold your sweet baby for the first time.
He brought Henry over to the bedside and we both cooed and stared at this amazing miracle that we are so blessed with.
After Birth (Sorry I couldn’t help myself)
I had a second degree tear and the doctor applied a local anesthesia and stitched me up. I asked over and over again during this time how bad the tearing was (not bad) and how many stitches I needed (one).
The apprentice midwives came to the hospital and come in after Henry is born. They get us snacks and help teach me how to get Henry latched. They take pictures and each take a turn holding Henry. Then they depart leaving Travis and I with Erin, the angel nurse.
I am so blissed out and I won’t stop talking. I may have been exhausted moments earlier, but now I am completely energized. Natural birth? No big deal.
I engage every nurse that enters the room and ply them with anecdotes and questions. Erin doesn’t bat an eyelash and is so kind. She answers all of my questions and we have a long discussion about home birth and midwives while she is helping me get cleaned up. Travis goes with Henry to the nursery to observe his first bath.
Erin helps me get to the bathroom and then we walk to my recovery suite. I cannot believe that 2 hours ago I had a baby and am now walking. I feel like this shouldn’t be possible and that I should be treated like a delicate flower, but I feel so good that no kid gloves are required. She tells me that I should try and get some rest. Soon, they will bring Henry to me and the real fun begins.
But sleep? I can’t sleep. I must text, call, and Facebook update everyone I know. I must call my parents and my grandmother and recount every detail of the birth that I can remember (which at this point is surprisingly little). I know there was pain, I know there were moments where I thought I couldn’t possibly do this, but I am so astounded by the whole experience. I’ve been up for almost 20 hours, am starving and all I can think of is this amazing little person who is now in my life.
Within an hour or so, the nurse brings my beautiful baby boy to me. I spend the entire night getting to know this being, who has literally been a part of my body for the last 9 1/2 months. Travis stays the night with us and we are stunned. We are a family and our lives will never, ever be the same.
And that is such a very, very good thing.