Birth Story

I’ve been working at this on and off for days now.  I didn’t have time to write particularly beautifully, so you’ll have to excuse it’s straight-forwardness.  It’s extremely long, be warned.  44 hours doesn’t sum up in two pages.

I had a feeling I would go into labour within the next few days, as on the morning of the 5th I awoke to painfully engorged breasts.  We had our midwife appointment, which I wrote about, and then took a walk on the beach for an hour.  I was still having the mild prodromal labour then, a contraction every seven or ten minutes, but it wasn’t significant.  I took out a book from the library, “Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth” per request of Maggie.  She wanted me to read a chapter called ‘Sphincter Law’.   At around four o’clock in the afternoon I sat in the rocking chair and started reading the birth stories.  I noticed the contractions getting a little stronger, but I wasn’t getting any hopes up.  Curtis soon joined me in the living room to read, and by six o’clock he was helping me breathe through them.  “Is it labour?” Curtis asked me with a hopeful look.  I told him I didn’t know.  Outside, the wind began to pick up and the trees brushed against the side of the house.  Our storm had arrived.  

We started timing the contractions at eight, and at ten they were five minutes apart lasting sixty seconds.  Despite needing to drop down to all fours during each contraction, I still didn’t believe it was labour until I went to the bathroom and lost the biggest glob of mucus I’d ever seen in my life – that was a mucus plug.  “Holy shit,” I yelled.  “Is it labour now?” Curtis answered back.   I called Maggie to tell her I thought something might be happening.  She said to try and get some rest and that she’d expect me to call early in the morning.

Curtis and I went to bed.  By that time I had to moan and growl through the pains, which were still coming five minutes apart.  I stuffed a pillow in my mouth in hopes that it would muffle the noise enough for Curtis to sleep.  I valued his rest over mine, because I needed him by me when labour became very intense.  I got about three hours of sleep by dozing between contractions, and by four in the morning I couldn’t lay down anymore.  I was having intense back labour, and the position was excruciating.  I walked around the house between contractions, and dropped to all fours, or squatted to ride them out.  It made them more intense, which was what I was hoping – I was beginning to anticipate a long journey to birth.  Twice more during the night I had huge amounts of bloody show, I was shocked at how much could come out of my body.   At seven I woke Curtis up because I was beginning to feel severely nauseated, and the pain was getting very bad.  He called Maggie and asked her to come over and set up.  She arrived within the hour, and found me hunched over the birthing ball with Curtis pushing down on my back.   “You’re buzzing!” commented Maggie as she walked in the door.   “Please tell me this is labour,” I begged at the end of the contraction. “Because if it’s not I don’t think I want to know what real labour is like.”  She laughed, “Yes it’s labour.”

Her assistant Jackie, whom I’d only met for the first time the day before, came with her and instantly jumped behind me with the beginning of each contraction.  She was a very tiny woman, no bigger than I was (well, pre-pregnancy anyway) but was very calming to have around.   Maggie checked me, and announced that I’d made significant progress.  I was now two centimeters dilated, and the head was at +1 station.  After 14 hours of labour, this didn’t sound like significant progress to me.  I told her so.  “Three things have to happen for labour to progress,” she explained. “Thinning, dilating and the baby moving down.  No one is more important then the other.  A woman can dilate to six within two hours and stay there for the next ten because the baby is still at -1 station.  You are making good progress.”

I called my birth assistants between contractions and told them to catch the next ferry over.  Maggie reminded me that because I’d had very little sleep the night before, that I should try and rest before labour got too intense.  She offered me a gravol not only for nausea, but to help me rest, and then left.  I napped off and on for about two hours, and awoke shortly after my assistants arrived at 1pm.  Maggie came by a few hours later to check on me.  2.5, but no other changes.  I was beginning to feel discouraged.  She offered me the use of a homeopathic to see if it would regulate my contractions.  I accepted, and she gave me a tiny pill bottle with sweet-tasting orbs inside, then she told me to go for a long walk.  

Curtis, Amber, Marian and I walked for almost an hour and a half.  Putting an orb under my tongue every half hour, and watching as my contractions slowed down to once every twenty minutes.  A few hours later I decided to stop taking the homeopath, and they almost instantly picked back up to 7 minutes apart.  Exhaustion was starting to kick in my late evening, and I still wasn’t getting anywhere.  Maggie offered me another Gravol, and hoped I’d get some rest.  By 2am the contractions were so intense I was crying in-between.  I started to feel as if I couldn’t do it anymore.  I’d gone more then 24 hours with what seemed like very little progress.  The pain was so intense, and nothing I did could ease it.  I got up out of bed and called Maggie in tears, telling her that I needed some reassurance.  She said she’d be over within a half hour.

Amber and Marian were either already awake, or awoke at the sound of me coming out of the bedroom.  I sat on the birthing ball and they helped me through the wait until Maggie arrived.  For the next few hours we went back and forth from birthing ball to birthing stool.  The latter, I’ve found, is the most effective form of torture during labour – it makes the contractions unbearably strong.  It also makes them incredibly effective, so I was willing to sit on it periodically if it meant that I might make this go faster.  Each time I switched back to the ball, I would lean back on one of my friend’s shoulders during a contraction, while one in front would rub my legs or give me reassurance.  Despite the intensity of the pain, this was one of the most wonderful times during labour.  I felt so supported, and loved and cared for.  Each time I made it through another contraction someone would offer me reassurance of how well I was doing.  Amber was breathing with me, trying to help me focus on visualizing the pain working towards a goal.  I can’t begin to describe how much this helped me make it through the night.

At one point, during a contraction, Maggie whispered what sounded like, “Keep focusing on your baby; warm wet and ugly.”  I finished the contraction, then asked her, “What did you say?”.  “I said, ‘keep focusing on your baby; warm wet and wiggly’,” she answered.  “Oh,” I said, “I thought you said ugly.”  She laughed.  We passed that joke around a few more times during my labour.   We began to fill up the birthing pool around 3am, and I got in just before dawn.  Instantly the ‘after-shocks’ between contractions ebbed.  But, it also spaced my contractions back to around 7 minutes apart.  I laboured in the tub for a good two hours.  Towards the end, I found that putting pressure on my cervix with diaphram-pushing (rather then the kind of pushing you do to actually give birth) helped control the pain during the peaks of the contractions.  Maggie assured me this was perfectly fine, and whatever helped me cope was good.

The nausea was picking up by this point, and I hadn’t been able to eat or drink much.  I also hadn’t really slept in more then 36 hours.  Curtis was awake, him and my mother joined Amber and Marian at my side.  They brushed my hair back, rubbed my shoulders and offering a constant stream of reassurance.  I am so grateful to have had them with me.

Maggie checked me again, and I was at 3.5 centimeters.  She was looking a little worried.  Her limit for labour is 48 hours, it’s not healthy to let a woman go past that without rest and proper nourishment.  She asked how comfortable I would be going up to the community hospital, reminding me that it was really a birth center; as they had no OR, sophisticated pain medication, no nursery, maternity ward or policies to inhibit progress.  After another hour of contractions that went nowhere, I agreed.

The car ride was awful.  I would never suggest anyone in labour go for a car ride.  I had a contraction in the parking lot as we drove in, and dropped down to my hands and knees.  I was only wearing Curtis’ robe, but at that point I didn’t give a care if everyone on Earth saw me naked and labouring.  We took the back entrance (I suppose I should just say ‘other entrance’.  When a hospital has only two hallways and two entrances, there really isn’t a ‘front’ and ‘back’).  I felt awkward because I was moaning as I walked down the hall. “Don’t worry,” said Maggie, sensing my embarrassment.  “Everyone on this end of the building is deaf.”  It was true – not a single person looked up.

We came into the private birthing room, which is the same room I’ve had all of my ultrasounds done in.  Maggie set up a mat on the floor so I could get on hands and knees and ride out the contractions while she filled the tub.  I got in, but the position made the contractions worse. I was so exhausted I couldn’t think.  I vaguely remember crying and begging to sleep.  “The only way you could sleep through contractions is if you had an epidural, and no one wants that,” she said to me at one point.  Even then I somehow had the frame of mind to agree; in no way did I want an epidural.

We were coming up on 40-something hours when Maggie said she’d bring me gas and air in hopes I’d snooze between contractions.  It’s offered as pain relief, but actually does absolutely nothing for the contractions.  It just helps you relax.  The mask looked rather daunting when Maggie offered it to me.  I told her I was scared.  “Don’t worry,” she said. “It’ll make you feel a little bit drunk between the contractions.”   “I’ve never been drunk,” I answered.   “Oh, well – then this will be a new experience for you!”

It’s amazing how quickly you can become completely psychologically dependant on something if you have any belief that it will work.  I spent another hour in the tub, huffing at the mask, before getting out because I couldn’t stand to be on my back anymore.  I carried the mask with me, despite the fact that it had been completely empty for the last half hour and I was just breathing air.  I would huff a few times before a contraction, and then try to snooze when it ended.  It wasn’t working too well.  I still hadn’t managed any more sleep, and was still unable to eat.  I hadn’t progressed any further, and we were rapidly approaching the 48-hour mark.  So we made the decision to try a dose of Demerol.   Maggie had special ‘mixes’ of it made up that weren’t as strong, and would not make the baby dozy if she were to be born within the two hours it took to wear off.  She gave me a small dose by injection into my butt.  It burned.  A lot.  Especially when given at the beginning of a contraction.  But at that point they were one on top of the other (despite no progress) so it was hard to avoid.

It took about ten minutes to kick in.  Suddenly I had a gnawing hunger.  I told Maggie I felt like I hadn’t eaten in days.  She reminded me that I hadn’t.   I managed to get down some toast with peanut butter, jam and a protein smoothie that my mother had made me before we left the house.  When I’d tried to drink it at home, it tasted revolting – but after having some other food in me and getting my sugar levels back up, my taste buds began to function a little better.

I felt so sleepy, and managed to doze between each contraction.  The Demerol only barely takes the edge off the pain, but is effective for helping the ‘after-shocks’ between contractions – though that might have been in part due to the low dose Maggie gave me.  If anyone reading this wants a pain-free labour, I don’t recommend it.  But for me, it did just what it needed to.  For two hours I managed to nap in between the pain, and I felt so much better.  My colour returned to normal, and I actually progressed a little bit.  Though, it still wasn’t that significant.  By the end of the demerol’s effectiveness (about an hour and a half, to two hours) I had dilated to about 5, or 5.5.  Maggie put the birthing stool on top of the bed and I sat on it for a bit.  It didn’t have much effect on my dilation, although my contractions were getting to be out of control.  We decided to try and break my water, in hopes of giving my labour the extra push it obviously needed to get to birth.  Maggie got the little amniohook, and explained what would happen and that I wouldn’t feel anything.  However, upon exam she found the bag of waters so tightly encased around the baby’s head that she couldn’t break it.  She thought she might have knicked it just a little, when a tiny trickle of fluid came out – no more then a few teaspoons. I later remembered that I’d been having periodic trickles of fluid for the last day and a half.  It was likely my water had broken in early labour, but her head was so low that it blocked any from coming out.

Even though the attempt at breaking my water wasn’t effective, the examination itself did something.  I had three of the most hellish contractions, one on top of the other.  I couldn’t control the pain, I couldn’t control myself; I started screeching through each one.  I could barely hear Maggie telling me to try and puff through them.  There was no way I could get my body to do anything.  They were less then a minute apart and lasted more then two minutes apiece.  At the end of the third one, I felt a kind of pressure working up inside my body.  It filled me from head to toe, and I worked with it.  Once the last contraction ended, I realized I had been pushing.  There’s no more intense a feeling then the urge to push.  I finally know what other women mean when they say it takes you over.

“I’m pushing!” I said to Maggie.  As the words left my mouth, my body made another heave.  I had no control over it.  I felt scared, because she’d checked me no more then five minutes earlier and said I was only at five centimeters.   “If you’re getting that strong an urge, you’re complete,” she said. I made her check me anyway.  I was complete.  I went from five to ten in three contractions.

It seemed to me as if I was pushing only five or ten minutes, but in reality it was actually one hour and forty minutes.  I remember the first few pushes felt discouraging.  I was sure I was just pushing and getting nowhere.   I felt a burn at one point, and yelled to Maggie that I thought her head was coming down.  She confirmed that she could see a little ‘marble-sized’ bit of head, and asked me to change position.  Her and her assistant turned me onto my side and had me brace my upper leg against her arm.  I was lying against Curtis, and his knees were drawn up on either side of my body. He was whispering in my ear throughout each push.  “That’s great, you’re doing great, I love you, I’m so proud of you . . .”  

Just as her head began to crown, Maggie asked Curtis if he’d like to have a mirror set up.  We’d spoken about this through the last part of my pregnancy, and I’d been adamant not to see her coming out – I thought Curtis had too.  But, when Maggie asked he instantly answered ‘yes!’  I heard him gasp, and start to cry.  “Her head is almost out,” he said.  “Keep pushing.”  My eyes were closed, I couldn’t open them if I’d wanted to.  My whole body threw itself into every heave, and very slowly I could feel her emerging.   “Stop pushing, and ease her out,” Maggie said to me after one heavy push.  It was impossible to stop; it’s like trying to stop your heart from beating.  I tried as hard as I could, but somehow I kept going.  I tried huffing and puffing through each urge, but despite my best efforts my body gave little pushes every few seconds.  Though, that seemed to be enough.  I felt an intense burning sensation and then huge relief.  I heard a cry.  Curtis yelled to me that her head was out.  She let out a wail, I gave one last push, and her body emerged.  Maggie lifted her up onto my chest, and I felt as if I’d gone into shock.  “Oh my god, oh my god!” I kept repeating.  My mother, and my two friends came into the room just as she’d emerged, and they ran up alongside us.  Later, they told me my eyes were as big as saucers.  I looked to my mother, “It’s a baby!  It’s a baby!” part of me was honestly surprised to be saying it.

She latched onto my breast within ten minutes of birth, and nursed vigorously for the next two hours.  She sucked so hard she gave my nipple a blood blister.  The afterbirth came out a few moments later, and Curtis and I both cut the cord once it had stopped pumping blood.  My friends and mother went back to the house to allow us some time alone, and we spent an hour just staring at our new child.  I was in complete shock.  I’m still in complete shock.  I can’t believe she’s actually mine. Ours.  I suppose it will take a little while longer for reality to hit.

~:) Babs



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