My Birth Story: Part One
First things first: Everybody was right about the sex.
I was exactly one week overdue. I’d tried a whole list of things said to promote natural induction: Exercise, massage, eggplant Parmesan. People kept telling me to have sex. I kept telling them to take a look at my massive nine-months-pregnant self.
Um, yeah. Not interested.
But then I was 9.25 months pregnant. That .25 is a lot in LatePregnancyLand. The hubby and I discussed, and decided it was worth a shot. Three hours later, around 5 PM, I felt my first real a contraction, I kid you not. Here is a phrase I’ve never typed before: Yay, semen!
By “real” contraction, I mean it was in the right place. My Braxton-Hicks had been in the top-central tummy region. These contractions were what I remembered from birth one: low and achy, like period cramping. They were light and random, then they disappeared altogether, but I had a feeling. She was on her way.
Later that evening, my friend Konnie came down for a visit. As we sat on the couch sipping wine (another recommended inducer), I told her my dream plan: Get some sleep. Start to labor at home. Drop Roy off at daycare. Head to the hospital before morning’s rush hour. Have the baby by noon—ideally without any drugs whatsoever.
Konnie laughed. “You can’t control these things. She’ll come in her own time,” she said.
Konnie left, and I went to bed. Contractions woke me up around 1 AM.
They were light enough that I could get back to sleep, so I did, dozing off and on until about 3:30, when sleep was clearly no longer a viable distraction. Thankfully, streaming the pilot episode of “My So-Called Life” was. Angela’s earnest eyes and freshly dyed red hair and the troubled locker-leanings of Jordan Catalano tucked me straight back under the weight of high school’s angst and butterflies for another precious hour or so, until the contractions demanded my upright and undivided attention.
So I got up. Made myself an egg sandwich. Began timing them: Roughly 45 seconds long and seven minutes apart. I called my doctor. I called my doula. I woke Clint. You never know when things could speed up, especially since it was my second birth, and my contractions were all over the board during my first—two minutes apart, ten minutes apart, and of varying lengths, right up until push-time. Clint and I decided to go ahead and continue to labor at home awhile longer, see if we couldn’t make it to 6:30, that daycare/rush hour sweet spot. (Our doula, Dawn, offered to come help, but we felt comfortable making it to our goal time on our own.)
I filled the next hour and a half with showering and last-minute packing, with each contraction stopping me in my tracks. As soon as I felt one coming on, I’d sit down. Clear my mind. Breathe deep. Feel my uterine muscles working to move my baby down the birth canal and do my best to encourage them—and her. I talked to her a little, rubbing my belly and saying, “Good job, baby girl. C’mon. We’re ready for you.”
I think it was something about really tapping into her journey, taking place right then inside of me, but I suddenly started sobbing. The tears took me by surprise. I wandered over to Clint and hugged him, blubbering, “I’m just so happy. I can’t believe we finally get to meet her.” And then I went about contracting and packing until it was time to rouse Roy and get him to daycare. Clint and I drove to the hospital in light pre-rush traffic just as planned, pastel bands of sky insulating the horizon.
Dawn met us at the hospital, where we settled in and met our attending nurse. I changed into a tank top, zip-up sweatshirt and big, comfy skirt, then hopped into the hospital bed for the requisite fetal monitoring and dilation check. Since I’d dilated to a two more than a week earlier, I expected a high number, and so was disappointed to find out I was only at a four. A stupid four. To put this into perspective: I was at a four when I arrived at the hospital for my first birth. My son didn’t show up for another 17 hours. (I ended up taking one dose of the narcotic Nubain, which gave me a much needed half-hour break before nearly four hours of pushing. I really hoped to successfully skip all drugs this go-round.)
I was hooked up to the fetal monitoring equipment for about half an hour, which I spent quietly contracting and eating Jell-O, to help fuel the marathon birth I figured I had ahead of me. Once the nurse was satisfied that my baby was doing just fine, she set me free, and Clint, Dawn and I started doing laps down the carpeted hospital halls.
We did this for ages during Roy’s birth. We’d talk and walk like crazy, then when a contraction hit, I’d grab the ballet bar-type railing lining the wall with both hands and hang down into a squatting position until it subsided. I looked forward to this familiar tactic and so was completely surprised when this time, I hated it. It felt overly physical and active and public and unnatural. I gave it two laps around the nurses’ station, then called the walking off. We slipped back into my room to see what else might work. Now, it was around 9 AM.
Out came the birthing (aka exercise) ball. I sat on it, my hands planted on the foot of the hospital bed, circling my hips, around and around. As a contraction built up, I’d shift back, rest my head on the bed, and relax my body; breathe, breathe, breathe, letting my mind clear of all but a clean white light; envisioning my uterine muscles doing their job to move my baby down and out, down and out. Dawn turned on a loop of birth affirmations (“I am focused on a smooth, easy birth.” “I trust my body.”). She and Clint followed my lead, remaining silent. It was my version of HypnoBirthing, and it felt correct and productive, but man, I’ll be honest. It hurt like hell.
I’d been wondering how much of the “pain” my HypnoBirthing training might take out of the equation—I put the word in quotation marks because HypnoBirthing discourages use of it, preferring more accurate and less negative descriptions of what’s happening. “Tightening,” for example, or “pressure.” I get that. But even if you call it tightening, it’s intense, excruciating and off-the-charts painful tightening. One-millimeter-away-from-being-ripped-right-apart kind of tightening. My breathing and meditation tools did not prevent this sensation, but they definitely helped me work through it and with it productively. That is until I just didn’t want to anymore.
Sitting there quietly between contractions, dreading the next one, I was trying so hard to stay positive. Really, I was. I committed to a natural birth for many, many reasons. But the pain was so great, and it was still so early in the day, and if this was anything like my last labor, I could have 14 or 15 hours of this ahead of me. Contracting every five or so minutes, not to mention pushing—I didn’t even bother to do the math.
I opened my eyes and broke it to Clint and Dawn: “I don’t want you guys to be disappointed, but I can’t do this,” I told them. “I can’t take this kind of pain for so long again. I just can’t. I won’t. It’s too much.”
To be continued… (see My Birth Story: Part Two)
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