A Midwife Supported Hospital Birth; First Baby!

10/11/2008

On October 10th 2008 my labor began in the afternoon. I told no one and quietly went about my day with my little secret. I was going to have my baby. The pain was tolerable and about every eight minutes, so I drove myself to my appointment with my midwife. I was indeed in early labor, dilated 2 centimeters and 60 percent effaced. I was so ready at this point. My pregnancy had been healthy, I was up 35 pounds, and I had researched everything there was to possibly research about giving birth naturally.

Switching to the present tense for dramatic effect:

Nick comes home at 10 pm, and the contractions are noticeably stronger and about 5 minutes apart at this point. We go to the grocery store to move around and they suddenly hit hard. I am convinced I want hot chocolate, which I never end up drinking, and we stop in the aisles every 5 minutes to allow me to breathe through a strong one. I lean into the grocery cart and put my head down. It begins to really hurt... I feel small waves of fear at the realization of how intense this pain is going to grow. The waves come stronger and quicker and by 2 am I am in the throes of active labor. I get in the tub, the shower, the toilet, the floor, and am moving around, panting, coping, and feeling weaker with each one. By 5 am I am in deep pain, my back feels like it is begin crushed by something metal and hot. The bones actually hurt. I had not imagined labor this way. Hands and knees is the only position I can handle, the only thing that makes it feel even remotely eased during each intense wave. I am counting the minutes until I feel it is a good time to call Carmen, my doula. I figure 6 am is humane. Nick is exhausted. I remember thinking that I will have a baby by late morning, early afternoon. It has to be close - it was such a long night!

Carmen arrives within half an hour of Nick calling her. I hear her come in the middle of a particularly intense contraction. Head down on bed, I feel the truck drive over my lower back and half groan half hum throughout. She gets on the bed, touches me, kisses my head, and instantly I am revived. A breath of fresh air in the room! I hope the end is near. She brings relief in the form of ice packs to my back and jiggling my belly with the rebozo to get him into a better position. The next 8 hours are a blur... a song on repeat with the same pain growing in intensity over and over as the sun rises and the wind picks up and a storm blows into town.

I have one vivid memory of sitting outside on the front stoop, right on the birthing ball. Carmen commands Nick to take a nap, and she leads me outside. The wind is blowing hard, its a blustery, beautiful day, and it's damp and perfectly fall and stormy outside. With each contraction, I breathe in the energy of the wind. Carmen reminds me to draw strength from it. It is October 11th. I will meet my baby today. I am momentarily revived.

Back in my bedroom, in and out of tub and shower, on the floor, it's back to a blur. More hours elapse and I repeatedly ask to go to the hospital. I keep thinking I must be close. Things are increasing in intensity at a rapid clip. When I think the pain cannot get any worse, it does. I begin chanting during contractions a few positive mantras, but it's a sham - I begin to feel desperate and helpless and scared. I NEED to get to the hospital! Nick and Carmen keep distracting me, holding me off, taking me to the bathroom, helping me dress, but eventually, they cave and we head off - maybe around 2:30 pm. The car ride is hell, I hold the front seat and face backwards, looking at Carmen in the back and fighting off motion sickness. Nick drives a little nervously, hitting stops hard and corners harder. I do recall yelling at him. Just a few times.

We arrive at the hospital and contract all the way in the doors. I continually refuse the wheelchair, and I feel like people think I am insane. We are cleared through the initial waiting room and don't have to go through triage either! No fetal heartbeat monitor. We head right up to Labor and Delivery and Pamela, our CNM, greets us in the entrance way. I am so happy to see her, although I am aware that my face probably does not reflect this. She wraps her arm around me and helps me walk down the hall. Her energy is warm and quiet and invigorating. I have my first contraction in front of her and lean into the hallway wall. She helps me through and tells me in her soft, kind voice over and over what a great job I am doing. I feel better about being there...

The room is ready for me. They have been waiting. Carmen immediately turns the lights out when we arrive, and Nick sets up the music. My chosen ambiance is created for me, and I ease out of clothes and begin to labor hard all over the room, the bed, the bathroom, the toilet, the tub. I am 7 centimeters upon arrival. Only seven!? I thought I would be nine. Wishful thinking. The nurse asks me annoying questions, most memorably "Have you ever smoked, drank, or used illegal drugs?" To which I shout back at her "all of the above!" Everyone laughs and Marianne says "Well, there's a midwife patient for you!"

Despite my pain level, I am aware that people around me are enjoying themselves. I like this. A new nurse takes over for the annoying one, and she is young and sweet. I hear her say that the room is so nice to be in, so welcoming and fun that she doesn't want to leave. The music is really going. A few hours later, I am at 9cm, and begin to really unravel. I'm done. I look outside - it's dark. I say outloud "It's dark again?! I started this in the dark!" I become aware that I am having a very long labor and I begin to sob between contractions. I feel so sorry for myself. At this point I lose control of my mind - I grasp at negative thoughts, I truly panick.

We get back in the shower, and the hardest hours of my life begin - physically, but more psychologically than anything. Nick is with me, the lights are out, Carmen is holding a hot stream of water on my back. I drink some chocolate milk, which gives me brief moments of pleasure, and I try to hold onto that feeling. It's futile, and by the next contraction, all pleasure is gone. The bath is steamy and dark and I hit many many crushing contractions in a row - they are peaking several times within each, and I honestly believe I can no longer tolerate it. The pain becomes so psychologically disturbing to me. I keep shouting "WHY?! I need to understand why this is so hard?!" and Pamela tells me "It's the only thing that can match the beauty of seeing your baby for the first time."

I begin to beg for mercy from God, over and over and over. Crying between contractions, gasping for breath and flailing. I begin to ask Nick and Carmen for the epidural. I tell them both that I have to have it. "Please! I will still tell everyone I went natural! Please!" Nick keeps shaking his head no, calmly telling me, as I had instructed him to, "you don't want it, you are so close honey." I am definitely panicking now. Having a hard time saying calm and breathing throughout. After every contraction I am winded and terrified, gasping for breath and begging, whimpering, crying, shaking my head, losing my mind. Finally, my partner in life, my amazing husband snaps me out of it, commanding me gently but firmly to look him in the eyes each time I contract and to hum along with him through the pain. To hold on. "This is life" he tells me. "It's hard. But you are strong enough to do this." I stay with him. The fog lifts, the steam of the shower clears, and transition it seems, is over.

I get out of the shower and back into bed - on my hands and knees, and Pamela tells me I am almost there, just a small lip of my cervix to go. As soon as I feel the urge to push, I can. I have my first small wave to bear down and begin to grunt without trying. I am on my hands and knees, facing the head of the bed, and want to push hard. I yell "what happens if I pooooop?!", as I know Pamelas face is right there. Laughter ensues.

The urge to push rips through me with such intensity, it absolutely takes my breath away. I am shocked! I turn to everyone between contractions and declare breathlessly "this is so intense!" They nod with knowing smiles. They know. They have all felt it before. It scares me. I hadn't anticipated this feeling! The women on TV all have to make themselves push, but my body was doing it for me. I couldn't NOT bear down. Pamela convinces me to turn around and squat, and after some resistance and fear, I do. They have arranged the bed so that I can sit up and squat down, Nick sitting behind me, and I continue to push. Despite being terrifying, it feels so much better than just tolerating the pain. The room is still dark, but a spotlight is shining down on me. The women in the room encircle me, the lightbeam glowing up at them, casting a beautiful and sacred glow onto the faces of each one. Carmen, my trusted doula; Pamela, my smooth faced, young and patient midwife; the Labor and Delivery nurse, her face glowing and pleased with her own presence in the room; and Marianne, the veteran midwife, standing calmly next to me, offering reassuring words that I cling to. They are focused on me, helping me, holding me, smiling at me. I feel honored. I understand in this moment that I am part of something sacred and special, privy to this ancient practice I had read so much about, and now was experiencing in the most viceral, intense way imaginable.

He begins to move down - I feel his head rotating back and forth inside of me, in my canal, and I am struck dumb with the intense realization that he is human, and he is moving in there! Pamela tells me he is centimeters away, showing me on her fingers just how far I have to go. I am driven to bear down harder, and draw strength from somewhere deep inside of me. A place I have never been before, but somehow know well. The urge to push never seems to stop, the waves come and go, but I begin to continually bear down and his head stays crowned. I am doing it! She tells me I can reach down to feel him, and the top of his head is wet and wrinkled - like a prune. Pamela says "he has dark hair, just like the both of you." I focus in again and am told that I will meet my son with just one more push. With a final grunt I feel his head emerge, then shoulders push through into the world. Pamela says to me "take your baby!" I look down and see him emerging from me and reach for his sweet little body and bring him up to me. The image of him, slippery and screaming, arms out, mouth open, dark hair slicked down is impressed in my heart forever. His warm little body lands - plop - on my stomach, and everything immediately changes. Nick bursts into tears behind me, weeping loudly. Miles is covered by the nurse, and she begins rubbing him and suctioning his mouth. Pamela is focused on me down there still, and I feel warm blood gushing from my body. I learn later that I was bleeding heavily.

Nick is told the cord has stopped pulsing and he can cut it, and I watch Miles and I go from one being to two. I look between his legs at some point to make sure he is indeed a boy and we both marvel at how skinny he is. He has stopped crying and I want him to latch on, but he only licks and mouths my breast lazily. He is tired from the long labor as well. The flurry of activity around the room is slowing. People leave us, and Nick and I are alone with Miles for a few precious minutes. I don't remember what transpires. I just feel amazed. I am no longer pregnant and this mewling little creature on my stomach is the same boy who has been kicking and rolling and poking at me for nine long months. I am so pleased with my experience. With the incredible women who were in there with me. With the opportunity to give birth naturally in this hospital. With myself. Life is changed forever, now there is no looking back!

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