Wednesday, March 14th, 2012
I left you hanging at the end of My Birth Story: Part One having labored at home, driven to the hospital, then spent another couple of hours contracting in various positions before deciding I was done. If this birth was going to be anything like my first, I had another fifteen or so hours ahead of me. The pain of each contraction was too great, and they were coming at me faster and faster, so, um, no thank you. Done.
But. But! I’ll have you know that I’d identified this roadblock during my HypnoBirthing work, which asked: What might hold you back from navigating this birth drug-free? My answer, without question, was my first birth. To be specific: My first, 30-hour birth, which featured three tries with the vacuum, four—four!—hours of pushing, and a phone call to get the c-section doctor headed our way, before ending in a vaginal birth. I knew I’d have a hard time not fixating on those excruciating, drawn-out dramatics. I knew it would be hard to give this birth the chance to evolve on its own.
So there I was, not giving this birth the chance to evolve on its own. I told my husband and my doula, Dawn, that I couldn’t take this pain for so long again.
“It won’t be that long,” they both insisted.
I said I didn’t believe them. That they were just trying to trick me into staying with it. “I think you’re lying,” I said. I was serious. After all, how the hell did they know?
Dawn did her doula thing and made a deal with me. “Last time, you stalled out at a four [dilation-wise]. They want to check you at 10 AM—in just twenty minutes. How about you two walk a few laps, then come back and get checked, and if you’re at a five, we’ll go in the tub. I bet you’ll be a five.”
“Do you really think so?” I asked.
“I do,” Dawn said.
So I agreed. Clint and I went back to walking the carpeted hospital halls. When a contraction hit, I bent over the ballet-style bars lining the walls and stuck my tush out so Clint could squeeze my lower back in this crazy-magical way that took the edge off. It was a move Dawn showed him, and it helped just enough to keep me going.
The nurse took her sweet time coming in to check me, so it was 10:15 by the time we found out if we were heading into the tub or calling the anesthesiologist. The verdict: A five; stretchy six, and 85 percent effaced. I stuck to my end of the bargain. Into the tub I went.
Dawn was so sure of that five that she’d already drawn a hot tub and decorated the bathroom in a string of white lights. I slipped in wearing a tank top because for some reason, that layer of material made me feel a little less vulnerable while floating there, all massive, slippery and moaning in front of a small crowd.
I dialed back in to my method of dealing with the contractions, tweaking it ever so slightly to fit my new environment. I’d wait silently and gratefully in the stillness; floating, relaxing, breathing, with a cold washcloth (supplied by Clint) on my forehead. Then a contraction would surge, and through the white pain I’d picture it moving my baby down while I shifted and wriggled through the water.
Like my first birth, they came at me unpredictably—5 minutes, then 8 minutes, then 2, then 10. But they were getting stronger, sitting heavy on my lower back and wringing my midsection like a wet towel. In the quiet space between contractions, my skepticism resurfaced. I mumbled to Clint, camped out next the tub, “I really don’t think I can do this.”
His reply: “You’re doing great. You’re almost there!”
I willed my head up to meet his gaze and said, “You do not understand.”
Then came a machine-gun string of contractions. Bam! Bam! Bam! They hijacked my body, shooting down through my legs like an electric current. Sounds originating from somewhere deep inside me left my lips without my consent. In the brief moments between each, I was not so much relaxing as going limp; giving over to whimpering, watery eyes and chest heaves. Though it bore some resemblance to crying, it wasn’t. That would’ve required energy. I had none.
“We need to call the doctor,” Dawn said. “I think it’s about time for you to push.” I still thought this was the old It-Won’t-Take-Long-This-Time Routine, designed to keep me in the game.
But then I heard my doctor’s voice from the hospital room. He poked his head in the bathroom door. “It sounded like things were moving along pretty quickly, so I figured I’d come by,” he said. I knew that Dr. C only showed up for the final stretch, so reality began to sink in. Maybe it was true. Maybe I was almost there. “Let’s get you out of the tub and get you checked,” he said.
I didn’t want to move. Not because I loved being in the tub, but because moving required effort. I geared myself up, and in the space between contractions they rushed me to the bed where Dr. C confirmed: I was at a nine-plus, and just a rim away from being completely effaced. I’d opened a full four more centimeters during my time in the tub, not even 45 minutes.
It was true. We were almost there.
Four more surges and I was completely dilated and 100 percent effaced. Time to push. Finally, I believed I wasn’t destined to repeat Birth #1. I would not push for nearly four hours. I would push simply as long as it took to meet my little girl. And with any luck, that wouldn’t be long at all.
My instinct was to tense and straighten my legs. My instinct was wrong. When each contraction came, I worked to tuck my chin to my chest, curl my butt under and push, push, push, push. On about the third round of pushing, I found it: The sweet spot. The pain disappeared, a white light filled my head and engulfed my body, and I could feel her moving through me. To me.
As much as I wanted it to, my body did not remember this position. It took a couple more tries for me to find it again. And again. The last time I did, I stayed there, pushing past one contraction and straight into another as the pressure and burning built, then released. Finally. Released. After twenty minutes of pushing, our baby arrived at 11:42 AM. Just 17 minutes before the “best case scenario” time I’d wished for the day before.
They put her on my chest immediately. She was absolutely perfect.
Clint cut the cord as I held her, transfixed. “Look at her,” I said. “She’s beautiful.” Then, prying my eyes away to look at Clint: “I can’t believe it did it. I did it.” It was almost a question.
Clint took off his shirt and had his skin-to-skin bonding with her as all my fun post-birth stuff unfolded. The placenta birth and stitches (an “almost two” tear—not bad) and whatnot. We did let them weigh and measure her (7 lbs 2 oz, 21 inches!), but after that, we insisted on keeping her near, nursing and snuggling her first hours away. She’s a cuddly one.
People keep asking me if Hypnobirthing worked, and my answer is: It helped. It did not erase the pain, but it helped me work through it in a way that I was unable to do instinctively during my first.
But enough about my first, already. This is the story of my second, entirely different birth.
The birth of our little Vera Loraine.