Chloe's Birth Story Wordle

Tuesday

It was a Tuesday, and at my 41 week appointment I had the first cervical check of my pregnancy. I was 80% effaced and 1 cm dilated. My doctor started discussing induction plans for the following Tuesday, at 42 weeks. I felt nervous and didn’t want an induction. We scheduled a Foley Catheter insertion appointment for Monday at 5 PM, where they insert the catheter behind the cervix and fill it with fluid, hoping the pressure will encourage dilation. We also scheduled the official induction for next Tuesday morning at 7:00 am, hoping the catheter would do its job and send me into labor overnight and Pitocin wouldn’t be required.

I wanted to trust my body, but I was not feeling anything at all that felt like labor. My doula had recommended walking, sex, evening primrose oil, but we both were aware that even with most of these (yeah, I couldn’t get into the whole sex thing) I wasn’t feeling anything more than my usual Braxton Hicks contractions. Also, the baby still didn’t seem low enough in my belly to be on the verge of going into labor. She recommended I see a local Chiropractor who is known for helping get the hips aligned to help babies descend.  I was able to get in to see him the next afternoon.

Wednesday

Wednesday morning I went to my prenatal yoga class that I had been attending twice a week. I had a good laugh with all the ladies that I was still there, and still pregnant. My instructor gave us lots of squats to encourage baby dropping and hoping my water would break in class. It didn’t. We talked about getting babies out using the same thing that gets them in. This usually implies sex, but I started thinking about other things that get babies in – feeling comfortable in my body, being relaxed, laughing a lot with my husband and feeling close with him. We talked about walking the baby out, dancing the baby out, squatting the baby out – all different things women can do to help the baby descend and bring on labor. I told them I wanted to laugh my baby out, and we all continued telling stories and laughing.

After class I went for a mani/pedi, hoping the foot massage would bring on labor. It felt great, but I didn’t feel any contractions. I got Starbucks and headed to the Chiro.

The Chiropractor said my right hip was “locked”. He worked some magic on it and told me to make an appointment for Thursday, but he didn’t expect to see me! He told me to go home and have my baby.

I was tired after this and went home, hoping something would happen.  I had dinner with John and went to bed early. I woke up at 9 AM, surprised another night had passed without a twinge of pain. No sign of labor.

Thursday

On Thursday morning I went to the Chiropractor. He was surprised to see me, saying “What are you doing here?! You’re supposed to be having a baby!” He adjusted me again, and helped with a mid-back ache I had developed overnight. He said to make an appointment for Monday (they are closed on Fridays), but he knew I would have the baby before then. A girl from my yoga class was also there getting adjusted so we talked about babies and birth, and found out we have the same doula. After my adjustment, the Chiro asked if I felt better. I smiled and said I felt the same as I always feel. We talked about walking so the baby would be encouraged to descend before my hips readjusted themselves into their usual less-than-ideal position and I vowed to go for a long walk that afternoon.

I called my doula on the way to lunch with my mama girlfriends.  She said I should consider additional methods to encourage if I really wanted to get this baby out and have the birth I had envisioned.  She recommended I go for a good long walk to help the baby drop, make an acupuncture appointment, and consider some well-known labor inducing herbs. I said yes to everything.

I went had lunch with my girlfriends then went to the mall to walk laps. It was over 100 degrees outside and I am too clumsy and my speed is too unpredictable for a treadmill, so walking inside the mall was the best and air conditioned option. I did three laps around the inside perimeter and felt good, but didn’t really have any contractions. I just had some normal Braxton Hicks.

I left the mall and drove through Sonic for a 44 oz ice water. I called the acupuncture lady and got an appointment for 6:30 PM. I called my doula to give her the update and make a plan to meet her to get the herbal supplements. I was a woman on a mission!

I headed home and my husband John was there. He had caught a cold and was feeling very sick and had come home from work early. He was on the phone taking a conference call the entire time I was home. He got off the phone just as I was leaving, and I said “I’m going to an acupuncture appointment and will be back in about 1.5 hours.” He wouldn’t kiss me because he was afraid to get me sick. He said, “Ok have fun. I have a work emergency. I’m taking Nyquil and going to bed early, and I have to get up and work at 3:00 AM. Whatever you do, don’t go into labor tonight.” Well, if that didn’t seal the deal, I’m not sure what would have.

I drove to meet my doula and pick up the herbal tincture. Then I went to my acupuncture appointment. I found it relaxing and stimulating at the same time. The treatment felt balancing. The practitioner explained I might feel increased baby movement and contractions during the 30 minute session. I did feel about 3 good strong contractions, along with kicks in the right places, indicating Chloe was turning to a better position. After my session, the practitioner applied “acupuncture to-go”, where she put mini needles under surgical tape on 4 pressure points. She explained I could press on them whenever I wanted. The two on my inner ankles were to trigger labor. The two on my thumb webbing areas were for pain relief.  She also gave me a list of things to do: have sex, walk, swim, eat curry… I don’t recall the rest. I stopped by the restroom on the way out and found I had lost part of my mucus plug!

I picked up Indian Curry takeout and headed home to see if John was awake for dinner. We ate together and he went to bed. I had a few contractions and was beginning to wonder if labor could starting, but the contractions were hard to distinguish from Braxton Hicks. I was really just wondering if they should be different because I had lost part of my plug. They were similar to the previous Saturday when I had texted my doula to say I “might” be going into labor. But since nothing happened that time, I assumed nothing would happen this time. I also kept feeling like I needed to go to the bathroom, but was a bit backed up. It was really painful when things would move around in my intestines, and I was afraid to get too far from my bathroom, anticipating an explosive release of whatever was causing the cramping (and somewhat afraid I wasn’t tolerating the curry.)

I watched the rest of So You Think You Can Dance. I kept having contractions, but it was normal for me to have these bouts of contractions for an hour or so in the evenings, 3 to 4 minutes apart, especially after a busy day like that day. They always fade to nothing and I wake up disappointed in the morning.

At 11:00, I could tell the contractions were getting stronger, but I still wasn’t really in pain. I decided to run a warm bath and relax, knowing a warm bath can stop labor. This plan was both to help me relax to sleep through the night, and to make sure I didn’t call my doula for a false alarm. It took about 20 min to get the water hot and run a good bath in the guest room garden tub. I didn’t want to wake John by using the master bathroom, and I was already planning to sleep in the guest room as to not catch his cold or be awakened by his 3:00 AM work meeting. I set the herbal tincture on the guest room night table with a glass of water and my cell phone. I climbed into the tub around 11:30 and it felt good and relaxing.

In the tub, I had three contractions that were surprisingly painful. I wasn’t sure if it was because I was on my back, or if it was just something about the tub or my position in the water. I turned off the light right before midnight. I immediately fell asleep.

And so it begins

I awoke suddenly with a painful contraction. The intensity and level of pain surprised me. The contraction lasted what felt like a good minute. I wondered how long I had been asleep and assumed it was probably between 4 and 5 AM, before the sun came up. I found my phone in the dark and checked the time. I was surprised to see it was 12:04.  What? I had just gone to sleep. I thought I should try to go back to sleep, but another came at 12:08.  They kept coming every 4 to 5 minutes. I started timing them on an app on my phone and found they were lasting 70 seconds and coming consistently about 4 minutes apart. The contractions were painful, causing me to get on all fours on the bed and focus on my breathing. I wasn’t sure if I was in labor or not. I was so fearful that as soon as I told anyone, as soon as I left the room, as soon as an hour passed, the contractions would subside and I would keep on being pregnant for another few days.

Between contractions I was still feeling calm and wondering if they would slow down or even stop. The contractions felt intense, but between them I was completely unsure. They were getting stronger, lasting longer, and coming a little closer, but I had only been timing them for one hour. I changed to the history screen of the contractions app. I realized my status had been updated based on duration and frequency of contractions. It had changed from “early labor” to “active labor.” I checked again after the next contraction and it was now showing “transition”. I knew that wasn’t correct, I couldn’t really be in transition after one hour, but the simple fact that my status was changing so quickly got me a bit freaked out.

I decided to post on my online message board, unsure if this was labor, but wanting to share the excitement (and pain) with someone. I created a new thread called “Labor?” and described what I was feeling, and how I wasn’t sure if I was in labor for real this time. It took me several contractions to finish typing the post, and when I finished, I decided it was time to get a second opinion.

I called my doula at 1:00 AM. She was very sweet on the phone and asked if she should come over. I said I didn’t know, but that I felt very alone since I didn’t want to wake John since he was sick and also had to work so early. She wanted to listen to a few contractions over the phone. I was able to breathe through them, but I couldn’t continue talking. By the second one, she knew already that the contraction was coming by the way I was talking. I didn’t even have to tell her ‘ok I’m about to have one’ because it had already started and she asked, “You’re having another contraction now, right?” and I slowly breathed out, “yes….” We were on the phone for a while talking about how I was doing and what I was feeling.  It seemed to be around 20 minutes, and she was talking softly and slowly. It was a reassuring call and I didn’t want to get off the phone. She said she was going to get a quick shower and would be here soon, and not to worry if my contractions stopped, because she would just tuck me into bed and tell me goodnight. I felt much better after talking to her, and I didn’t feel like I was crazy.

Laboring at home

Over the next hour I had a few really bad contractions. Once I got up to walk to the bathroom and couldn’t make it. I immediately dropped to the floor on all fours, and just had to breathe my way through it. I started planning my movements to be between contractions. I would wait for the contraction to end, then slowly and carefully get up from the floor to walk to the bathroom. The contractions on the toilet were the worst. They were so strong and I wanted to try to lift myself up using the wall and the side of the tub.

I gathered the final things for my hospital bag and put them by the front door in between contractions. I unlocked the front door for my doula. I decided to wake John and tell him what was happening, but I was still a little afraid that I wasn’t really going to be in “real” labor and my doula would be tucking me in like we had discussed. I tried to walk in to tell him, but had to stop on the way to the bedroom for a contraction. I got down on the floor again. I tried three times to go in and tell him but each time I got up from the floor, another contraction would begin. I eventually got enough of break and made it to the bedroom to tell him the news.

I touched his arm and said, “John, sorry to wake you. I called our doula. She’s on her way over. I’m in labor.” Poor John was on Nyquil so he wasn’t fully with it right away, but hearing the word ‘labor’ woke him up fast! He said, “Are you kidding with me?” and smiled. I said again, “Our doula is on her way over now. I’m not sure if you want to get up yet or sleep one more hour until your 3:00 wake up time? If you do get up, make sure you’re dressed because she’s going to be in the guest room with me.” I felt excited and giddy, like something was finally happening, even though I still wasn’t sure the intensity would continue.

I headed back to the guest room and John got up immediately and came to check on me.  I was having another contraction and told him to wait a minute. Then he asked a few questions, like “For real? You really can’t talk right now?” When it finished, I briefly told him that yes, I can’t talk through my contractions. The lingo felt awkward and unfamiliar, like I wasn’t supposed to be using the word contraction yet. He left to get a shower, and while he was gone our doula arrived.  It was very close to 2:00 AM.

The next two hours are a bit blurry for me. I had several contractions on all fours on the bed. My doula talked me through a few and kept encouraging me to drink more water. I kept ending up on all fours either on the bed or the floor. She recommended I go pee and try a few more contractions on the toilet. They were worse than before. I was trying to lift myself using the closet handle on the left and the edge of the tub on the right, but nothing was helping. I had a lot of bloody show at this time, which was encouraging. I may have smiled at that, as I think I was still in a pretty good mood between the contractions, but I can’t remember if it was in my mind or if I really did smile with my face. I was excited and chatty between contractions, but things were getting more intense quickly and I was in a lot of pain with each contraction. My doula tried to help me be more comfy, having me lie on my side with pillows between my knees. I could only tolerate that for a few contractions because they were so much more painful in that position. John came in and sat on an extra chair, and was supportive but not sure what he should do. He left for a while, but I think he was emailing work to tell them he had to cancel everything and his wife was in labor.

Eventually my doula said I should take a warm bath. I lay on my back in the warm water, but the relief only lasted about 6 minutes before the contractions started and they were terrible in that position. She had me lie on my side in the tub, leaning forward toward the front edge with a big towel to cushion the tub. I was starting to lose mental control during the contractions, not being able to focus on my breath and starting to pant, moan, and even hold my breath. After a while she said I should get out of the tub and go back to the bedroom.

Things sped up even more, and I dried off and put my clothes back on. I had been laboring in a sports bra, undies, and a mid-thigh length nightgown. I had a few more difficult contractions on my hands and knees on the bed, and my doula asked if I wanted to head toward the hospital. I said yes, but mentally I was still afraid that my labor would slow down due to the drive or the anxiety.  John called the OB’s office to tell them we were heading to the hospital. The on-call OB called us back. To my dismay, it was the one doctor I had not met and was not looking forward to having at my birth. She wanted to speak to me but I couldn’t hold the phone so I shook my head and asked my doula to talk to her.  Fortunately, the doctor could hear me moaning in the background and agreed to meet us at the hospital. We asked John to pack the car.

Heading to the Hospital

My doula had me drink some more water and told me to try to pee again on the way to the door. She explained that contractions sitting on the toilet are worth 10 lying down, in terms of making labor progress. I kept trying to stand and couldn’t. She asked if I wanted to crawl to the bathroom and I said yes. John came back up during the crawl and it was funny. I was still laughing on occasion when the contractions weren’t horrible, but I was getting really lucid and having a hard time concentrating. I felt like I couldn’t speak a complete sentence before another building contraction would overtake me.

I made it to the bathroom to pee and have a few very painful contractions. I pulled on some fleece pants and sandals that I had left by the front door earlier. This outfit of gold sandals, fleece pants, drippy mascara from not one but two baths and matted wet hair from tossing around on my pillow was far from the look I had anticipated for my hospital departure photos. I was so far into labor I didn’t even ask John to take any photos. I realized this was far from the way I had pictured labor. I had anticipated 12 hours of light contractions, gradually increasing in intensity, and plenty of time to take photos at home while baking Chloe’s birthday cake to take with us to the hospital. My two hours of labor so far had not gone at all as expected.

We started the journey down the stairs and to the car. I had to stop so many times to hold on to the railing and try to make it through a contraction.  Aside from the pain, I felt much like being very drunk: I couldn’t walk in a straight line, I kept having to lean on things to hold me up, I was staring at the ground to put one foot in front of the other, and I was close to throwing up. I stopped about every 10 to 20 paces to hold on to my doula and/or my husband and/or the wall and just hang there, bracing myself for the contraction. I wanted to crawl but decided not to get down on the concrete, and instead walked it very slowly.

I made it to the car and didn’t want to climb in. I decided to ride in the back of the car, on all fours. But the process of climbing into the back of my Durango triggered more contractions. Every movement felt like it was triggering another one, walking, bending over, lifting my leg to climb into the car, each one brought on another intense contraction. I didn’t feel ready for them, they just kept coming over and over again. I slowly made it into the car and John closed the door behind me. I got situated on my knees, leaning over the carseat. I had my elbows inside it, my hands on the edge, and my head against the back of the carseat. When a contraction would come on, I was reaching around frantically for the headrests of the other seats, trying to rock my body back and forth, stretch out my sides, anything to help reduce the contraction, even though nothing helped. Moving was more of a distraction to get through the constricting pain. I would breathe really deeply, moan, repeating words slowly over and over like “ohhhhhhh, ohhhhhhhh, ohhhhhhh” or sometimes I would say oww instead of oh because it really hurt and oww seemed appropriate to say!

I kept telling John to take the corners slowly because each turn would shift my body and cause my ab muscles to contract, triggering another strong contraction. I had at least 12 contractions on the way to the hospital, which is not that far from our house. Even if it’s 15 to 20 minutes away, those one to two minute long contractions were coming right on top of each other. I told John I was seriously considering drugs already. I remember laughing at something for a moment in between contractions, but the rest of the time I was just focused and in pain. He told me our doula had driven ahead and would be waiting for us there. I remember some of the red lights being flashing reds, and I was thankful we didn’t have to wait. I don’t think John would have waited for the light to change anyway.

We arrived at the hospital and my doula was waiting to open my car door. It is all blurry to me. I remember looking at the ground the entire time, just trying to stay in a standing position and continue moving forward. I think she offered me a wheelchair but I was afraid to sit down after the painful contractions I had earlier while sitting on the toilet. She helped me walk, took care of pushing the call button and opened doors for me. She got me to the elevator and up to the next floor. I remember standing inside the elevator and leaning over, holding on to the handicap bar on the wall. The door was open, but I couldn’t walk to exit the elevator. She kept pushing the “hold door” button for me, and eventually told me I had to move so we didn’t set off the alarm.

We arrived at the check in desk and she handled most of the checking in until John came up a minute later. I could barely tell them my name, let alone answer any questions. John took over answering the questions. Later he told me he kept getting them wrong. They asked my birthday, my social, my address, and he only got the address right!

I was walked down the hall to my delivery room and nurses came bustling in.  My doula helped me quickly get my shoes, pants, and underwear off and I climbed onto the bed. I think they wanted me on my back and I complained about it, but I don’t remember what position I ended up in.  The nurses asked so many questions and I would just shout out one word answers during the exhale at the end of a contraction. “163.” “203.” “41 and a half.” “Yes.”  “No.” And a pleading look at my doula to make them stop asking all this distracting crap. They hooked up the external monitors, checked my bp, and put in a heplock.

Everything happened swiftly and soon the OB was there asking the same questions. I was really annoyed with her. I felt like she had an attitude and was faking being friendly. I felt like she was put out to be called in at that time of night. I didn’t feel any camaraderie or excitement from her, and I was working really hard. I just wanted her to be nice to me, and I felt like she just wanted to be home in her own bed sleeping. I could have been wrong, but she is the only one I felt that way about. The rest of the people I encountered seemed nice, encouraging, and helpful.  My doula leaned in and whispered that the shift change would happen between 7 and 8, so maybe one of the other practitioners would be there to deliver my baby. I smiled and winked at her. Or at least I think I did.

The OB came over to check my dilation. I was already at 7 cm! It was a bit after 4 AM.

I was encouraged by this news, considering myself to be in or nearing transition. I was excited to have broken through any scar tissue from my LEEP procedure years earlier, and I knew I would probably be pushing soon because the first part of my labor had gone so fast. I was in a lot of pain, but I felt somewhat excited and motivated to continue working. Only 2 hours had passed since my doula arrived at my house, and I had made huge progress.

Transition

I labored. I tried positions on my back, my side, standing, sitting, kneeling, squatting.  I moaned a lot. I kept saying “no no no no” and the hovering OB said cheerily “Why don’t you try saying Yes instead of No? It might help!”  I wanted to strangle her. But I tried it. It sounded completely insane to be yelling yes. I gave up and went back to using ohh and oww for a while. The OB wanted to check me. She said I was ‘sounding very pushy’. I told my doula I didn’t want to be checked and I wasn’t feeling pushy at all. I wished I felt pushy (!), but I just didn’t. All I felt was pain, but no desire to push. I also felt like it had only been 15 minutes since I had been checked and didn’t want to be checked again. So she told the OB I didn’t want to be checked. I don’t know how long it really had been; it could have been an hour.

At some point my photographer’s backup showed up. I don’t know when John texted the photographer, but her studio had just been broken into and she was on the way to meet the police. She sent her backup to cover the birth until she could arrive. I never noticed her in the room.

John and my doula kept helping me drink water. I didn’t want to drink anything but they would say “Just a little sip, Katie” and I would take a tiny bit. Then she told me it was time to try pee and reminded me the contractions on the toilet would help move the baby down. So we went, and I peed, and I was bleeding more. This indicated there was more progress, but I was in more pain than I could handle and couldn’t think straight so I wasn’t encouraged.  The contractions on the toilet were miserable. I told her to turn off the lights. I told her to close the door. I wanted to hide. I was spreading my arms out holding on to the handicap bars around the toilet, and I would try to stand up when a contraction came, but the pushing up to stand was even more painful than just sitting and relaxing my bottom.

We went back to the bed and discussed breaking my water to get the baby moving down. I didn’t know what to do, but I thought why the hell not, if it speeds things up.

The OB broke my water at 6:42 AM according to my records, though I was unaware of the time. There was light meconium in the fluid, but the OB told me not to worry, that it was normal for being a week and a half late. This was the only encouraging thing she said to me.  I think I went to 9 cm almost instantly. Either that or I was at 9 already and went to 9.5.  I can’t remember. I didn’t know what time it was, how dilated I was, or have any concept of who was in the room.  I do remember John being so supportive, holding my hand, offering water, looking in my eyes. My doula was coaching him and me. She would also hold my hand, look in my eyes, and tell me “Katie, slow your breathing. Slow it down. Breathe with me.” If I let myself close my eyes, I started shaking my head back and forth and getting so caught up in the pain. I had to stay focused on something, and someone’s eyes were the best thing.

Contractions were getting out of control. I got on my hands and knees at the end of the bed. I held onto the bars of the hospital bed. I shook the bars like a caged animal. I was really screaming and moaning.  I told my doula I wanted pain relief.  I was exhausted and in so much pain. The mental anguish of not knowing when it would end and anticipating each new contraction was almost as bad as the actual pain my entire body was in. She bargained with me. She said to give her 20 more minutes and then we could talk about drugs. And in the meantime, she would put me in the shower with hot water on my lower back and belly.  She was hoping I’d be ready to push by then, and we’d have the natural birth I wanted.

The OB warned me at least 10 times that I could not have my baby in the shower or on the floor, and I would have to leave the shower and go back to the bed to have the baby. She kept telling me to tell her if I was feeling pushy. I was still not feeling any urge to push at all. I kept wondering when it would happen. I just said, “OK! I get it!” I wanted her to shut up.

The shower was awful. It was supposed to help relieve the pain, but I couldn’t get away from the pain. I was standing with my legs as far apart as I could, bending forward and holding on to the shower bars, wishing I could crawl up the side of the tile wall. With each contraction I would gush amniotic fluid and blood. I kept watching it all over the floor of the shower. I was exhausted and between contractions I would just put my head on my arm and fall asleep. I wasn’t asleep long enough to fall down. The next painful contraction would wake me up instantly. The heplock was driving me crazy, hurting my arm when I was holding on to the bar, and in the way when I tried to rest my head on my arm. The nurse kept coming in. The OB kept calling out that I couldn’t have the baby in there. I yelled back, “I AM NOT FEELING PUSHY!” I was so annoyed with them all. My doula moved the warm water back and forth between my belly and back. I know she was speaking softly and being encouraging, and I was just thankful she was an everpresent and nearly silent support structure.

I don’t know when or why we decided to get out of the shower. I was just too tired to keep standing. I made it back to the bed. I had decided to ask for pain medicine, but I was so scared that no one would give me any drugs. I had hired my doula to help me have a natural birth and help me say no to medication even while in the throes of pain. I realized I didn’t have a ‘safe word’ with her that meant I really, really wanted the drugs (for real!) and that I wasn’t just in transition and scared. I didn’t want to bargain with her or with the clock any more. I was terrified of the pain getting any worse. I began to feel like I was being tortured, and I was my own prison guard preventing myself from escaping. I was shrieking. I could hear my own panicked voice crying out with each contraction, and it scared me. I thought this must be how people feel who are crazy and put in a padded room, screaming and trying to climb the walls. Each contraction on my hands and knees made me want to climb up the back of the hospital bed. I was clawing at the sheets. I was screaming real, big, loud, crazy person screams.

My doula kept trying to keep me calm and grounded. She said I should try a few pushes to see how they felt, but it hurt so much to push and it didn’t feel right. At each contraction I was squeezing my thighs together and lifting my butt higher in the air, trying to get away from the pain. She kept saying encouraging things like “You’re going to meet your baby soon!” My responses had changed from “I don’t care” to “I don’t want to have this baby!” I was miserable and defeated.

In my mind I was thinking of all the things I had read about labor: how you have to work with the pain, you have to push into it, open to it, drop your bottom, relax your thighs, and focus on being open. I felt like I was doing it all wrong. Instead of opening like a flower, I felt like I was going to be ripped in half. I was in so much pain, was exhausted, and felt like I never got a break to mentally or physically pull myself together between contractions. I knew all these were considered “signposts” pointing to me getting close to the pushing stage, and I felt like asking for drugs was giving up. I couldn’t take the pain anymore. It was more pain than I have ever felt in my life. I couldn’t believe the sounds I was hearing in the room were coming out of my throat. They were being yanked out of me without me trying to make a noise. I wanted relief, and was so afraid to ask for it right at the moment my baby could be coming out.

The Bad News

Right at the moment of my breaking down, my doula leaned in and told me the shift change was happening. One of my favorite midwives had arrived. It was somewhere around 8 since that is when the shift change occurs. The two of them talked for a second and the midwife asked if she could check my status. I said ok and wanted to hear the good news: You’re fully dilated and ready to push, you’ll be meeting your baby soon!  But instead I heard the scariest news of the day.  The midwife spoke softly, and directly to the my doula instead of to me. She said, “… ok, well, she’s at nine-and-a-half centimeters. But… she’s still got quite a ways to go. The baby is very high.” Then she tried to manually stretch me to 10 cm during my next contraction and the pain was much worse than anything else I had felt so far.  I screamed out and started crying. I heard her tell my doula that it was going to be a while.

Hearing the words she’s still got quite a ways to go was the last I could take.  It was so discouraging. I turned to my doula and said, “I need some help. I really need some help right now.” I was not going to keep doing this for 20 more minutes, or even an hour. I couldn’t make myself do it.  I don’t know if it was the look on my face or if I had said the right thing, or if she just knew as well as I did that we had gotten some bad news from the midwife. She said ok.

Somehow I was asked to decide between instant pain relief meds and waiting 20 minutes for an epidural. I chose instant relief. This was a bad decision. Whatever this stuff was, it was evil. They put two syringes worth into my heplock. It watched it go in. Then I instantly fell asleep.

Moments later, like a horror film, I woke up in excruciating pain at the height of a contraction and started screaming. My doula was there with a knowing look on her face, holding my hand, and helping me breathe. When the contraction subsided, I fell asleep instantly. With the next one, I woke up screaming again. She nodded, and told me to look in her eyes. She told me to stop screaming but I couldn’t get control. Then I fell asleep again.

The next time I woke and screamed through a contraction, I gave my doula a look of “OH MY GOD WHAT HAVE THEY DONE TO ME!?”. She quickly explained that this type of medicine only takes off the beginning and the end of the contraction pain, but that I will still feel the peak, the worst of the pain, of every single one, and without the benefit of the natural pain killers I was feeling before. I was appalled. Who would make such a drug? Why would the hospital offer it?  What were they thinking to give me a horrible thing like that? I fell asleep, woke up screaming in another contraction, and once it passed I told her I couldn’t do this. I said I needed an epidural, and I needed it fast.

A nurse left to order the epidural. Another nurse starts a bag of IV fluids. I continued in this horrible pseudo-awake twilight zone of tremendous pain and instant sleep. The nurse returned and cheerfully exclaimed with a smile, “Ok! The epidural has been ordered and she’s next on the list. Is there anything else I can get you dear?” I don’t remember this, but have been told by John that I said firmly and through clenched teeth, “Yes, you can go find the doctor who is going to give me the epidural, and you can find out exactly how long it is going to be until I get it, and come back and tell me.” Sounds like something I would say.

And the magic happens

The magic epidural doc arrives. I am happy to see him. He works quickly. I scream through my contractions as he reminds me to hold still. I’ve been naked since my shower, and I now find myself lying naked on my back with an IV in one arm, a blood pressure cuff on, two external monitors on my belly, and an amazing little epidural button placed in my hand. My next two contractions are 90% of the previous ones, but my legs are quickly getting numb. The next contraction is 70%; the next 50%. By the time five contractions are completed, I can’t feel anything at all. My legs are numb to the touch, and I can still move them a bit. I have to put my hand on my stomach or look at the monitor to see if I’m having a contraction. I can’t even feel them! I open my eyes. I unclench my jaw and fists. I look at my husband and really see him standing there. I can see the whole room again. I look adoringly at my doula, my annoying nurse, my photographer (when did you get here?), and I smile. For the first time in hours, I smile.

The lights are turned down in the room, I’m given sheets and warm blankets, and told I should try to nap. I’m not allowed to push for at least 2 hours to allow the first (evil) medicine to wear off because it could cause breathing problems for the baby. I fall into a blissful sleep, left alone with just the nurse, and everyone leaves for a much needed break and breakfast.

The chatty nurse talks to me about random things. I think she gives me a catheter but I don’t remember. John and my doula come back from getting breakfast and we chat. They bring me ice water and sneak me a few cookies because I am starving. My photographer joins us. She laughs because I’m smiling and chatty. The midwife comes in and talks to my doula. They have known each other for a long time. Something personal is going on and the midwife starts crying. I nap a little more.

The rest of the morning is a pleasant blur, unlike the early morning blur of pain. The nurse talks too much and won’t stop touching my stomach. It’s annoying but I’m in a good mood and making light of it. She keeps wanting to feel the baby’s head position so finally one time I let her. Another OB that I love shows up to check in and possibly deliver the baby while the first midwife takes some time to get herself together. I don’t remember if the OB checked me or not. By that time I felt like everyone had put their hands in my vagina and I just couldn’t keep track anymore.

Someone offered that I could put on my nightgown for a little bit of modesty. My doula setup the squat bar and tied a sheet to it at the end of the bed, and started teaching me how to push. She explains what to do and calls them “practice pushes”, so I try one. She exclaims that I’m a good pusher and my push was very productive, as she rushes over to the sink and washes her hands. I realize I’ve probably pooped on her, but I had no idea as I can’t feel a thing. The first midwife returns then and checks me, and agrees that I’m ready to push whenever I want. During the past few hours when I have felt no pain, my uterus was still working hard and had pushed the baby down far enough that she was ready for me to push her out! I was really lucky that my uterus kept contracting about every 2 minutes even after the epidural and I didn’t need Pitocin to keep it going. It was around 11:30 or 12 at this point, and John was given the OK to notify our parents that pushing was about to begin, and baby Chloe was on her way out.

I was beginning to feel my contractions, so the birth team encouraged me to push on my epidural button as to not start feeling any pain again.  Everyone helped me get my feet up on the squat bar and I gave several good pushes in the squatting position. Unfortunately, it wasn’t moving the baby much. The midwife changed me to a side-lying position. She helped me hold one knee up in the air with my feet flexed for the next few pushes. I still wasn’t feeling like I was making any progress, so I end up on my back, holding my inner knees with both hands, legs spread as wide as possible, pushing up toward the ceiling. Eventually I grabbed my feet for better leverage! I was literally giving birth in the Happy Baby yoga pose.

It also started to smell in the room. I complained about it and my doula sprayed some room spray. I looked around but no one said anything…then I asked, “Am I farting every time I push, and I just don’t realize it?” No one would say it was me, but I still have a sneaking suspicion I caused the stink.

The mood was light-hearted and fun. John was taking photos of the photographer. I was making cheeky poses and putting on a show, acting bashful for the camera after 12 hours of nudity. I blame it on the drugs and exhaustion, but I started making dirty comments and making everyone laugh.

The Birth

Pushing continued to go well. The midwife offered the mirror so I could see the baby’s head. I looked once, but told her to take it away because I couldn’t keep my eyes open during contractions. I did see that Chloe had light colored hair! The whole birth team was standing around looking down at my spread eagle crotch: John, my doula, the midwife, several nurses, and my photographer. I realized this and started laughing. What a sight! John was helping me hold one leg since I couldn’t feel them, my doula was holding my foot, and my photographer was taking pictures of this whole scene!

I was laughing and enjoying myself. Everyone would watch the monitors and tell me when I was having a contraction, and I would push three good pushes for each one. They were all cheering and telling me how much progress I was making. I was making more raunchy comments and everyone was laughing, and John was just shaking his head saying, “That’s my wife. My poor kid’s first word is going to be ^$%#.”

The overly involved nurse said that the baby’s heartrate was slowing some during my contractions, and suggested an oxygen mask for me. I didn’t want to use it, but I didn’t really care and didn’t want to fight anymore. I never thought I’d be giving birth with all these tubes and cables attached to me, but there I was fully strapped in and hooked up to monitors, and it still felt just right. I felt more like myself than I had earlier in the labor, now that I could laugh, talk, joke, smile, and be fully present with everyone and everything going on in the room.

Eventually I told the story about Yoga class this week, and how my mantra had been “I’m going to laugh this baby out!” Everyone laughed at that idea, and I started laughing a lot. The hearty laughing relaxed my bottom and created pushing pressure at the same time, and the baby’s head started coming out. They were all shocked! Everyone said, “Oh my gosh, you really are! You’re laughing your baby out right now!” This made me laugh and push more, and her head was crowning. Everyone was  just shocked and said to keep pushing! But I laughed and said, “Wow, I need a breather, one sec…” and my doula looked at me like I was crazy. She told me to put my hand down there right now and feel that baby’s head.  Chloe’s head was already sticking out a good 2 inches!! I said, “OK, I’ll push now!!”

With just a few more pushes, Chloe was out. She was born at 12:41 PM on Friday, June 10, 2011. We pulled up my nightgown and she was put immediately on my chest, skin to skin. She was so warm and wet and covered in goo! The nurse rubbed her down with a towel and we all waited for her to cry. It took a second, but she got good and pink and cried for us. I just held her close and talked to her and kissed her on the top of her head. She was beautiful! And she had a little Marge Simpson bump on her head from being stuck in the birth canal for a while. They let her stay right there for as long as I wanted.

All is well

After holding her for a long time, and getting pictures from John and the photographer, the midwife asked me if I was ready for the cord to be cut. I said OK, and she encouraged John to cut the cord, even though he was not planning to be the one to cut it.  He did it though! The baby nurse asked if she could take Chloe to do measurements. John went with her.

The placenta was ready to come out, and I asked the midwife if I should push. It came out easily and slid into the plastic pan. I sat up to take a look at it and she showed me both sides and that it was fully intact, and slightly calcified due to its age. Then she had to stitch me up. I had a vaginal tear that had gone into the muscle, and a tear toward my bottom but fortunately it was just a surface tear into the skin.

John announces from the baby scale, “She’s 9 lbs 5 oz!” Wow! It felt like everyone in the room cheered. Chloe was back on my chest in no time. We try to nurse a little and she latches on just fine. We take some more pictures. John gets to hold Chloe. I get unhooked from all my cords. And eventually, it quiets down. The nurses leave. The midwife leaves. The photographer packs up. My doula waits to see if we need help with anything, then she takes off. It’s been over a 12 hour day for her. The chatty nurse says I need to pee twice before I can get the heplock out of my arm, and I need to wait for help since I can’t walk until my epidural wears off. She brings a super mix of four different juices on ice in a giant cup to help me pee. Then she leaves.

And then…  it’s just me, and John, and Chloe. Exhausted, happy and hungry.