Having never written the birth stories of my children I decided to finally record these stories on the blog. I wrote the birth story of our newest baby girl last week. This is the birth story of my oldest daughter--otherwise known as PSP.
Late February 2007. I was 4 days over my due date and somewhat annoyed with my midwife for telling me she was sure I would deliver early. Being a first-time preggers, I believed her. Finally that Friday evening I called our midwife to discuss being induced. I was DONE. It was decided that if nothing happened by Tuesday, we'd induce. About midnight that evening I started feeling contractions. Again. I didn't sleep well that night, but when I woke up the next morning and was still having regular contractions that's when I knew this was legit. Almost 7 years later I don't remember what we did that day, but by that evening the contractions were getting pretty strong. My husband went to bed. Despite knowing that I should sleep, I couldn't--so I stayed up and contracted the hours away. If I could go back in time and change one thing about this experience it would be that I would have done anything to get more sleep that night.
Finally around 4 in the morning I woke B up and had him call our midwife. The next couple of hours were challenging. Since our wonderful and experienced midwife knew I wanted a natural birth she kept telling us she didn't think it was time to go to the hospital yet--usually the longer you labor at home the more likely you are to make it through birth without an epidural. I knew she was trying to keep me at home as long as possible and while I understood the reason why, I resented her for it. Also, I think she really thought I was still in the early stages. B was also telling me we should stay home as long as possible, again trying to be encouraging of the natural birth I wanted. Then I remember standing on the my tip toes with my back arched over while my hands were on the end of the bed as I managed through another contraction pushing up as high as I could on my toes. Why I gravitated toward this particular pose, I don't know but it was at this point I looked at B and said, I don't know if I can do this without an epidural.
Finally around 7 am it was agreed that we should leave for the hospital. My contractions were getting unbearably strong, each one stopping me dead in my tracks. We called a cab and I hobbled down the hall to the elevator where I held on for dear life through another contraction. The cab pulled up--and while gypsy cabs were common in our neighborhood they were usually black, as I recall this one was white. Thankfully traffic wasn't bad. Even so I remember enduring many difficult contractions while speeding down the west side highway making that the most intense cab ride of my life. I still remember the driver looking back from time to time in his rear view mirror. He didn't say anything. He didn't have to. His stoic demeanor told me that he knew this was the real deal as he drove with an intensity that matched my own.
The hospital was finally in sight as we waited in traffic about a block away. Suddenly I felt nausea wash over me and I knew I was going to throw up, so I opened the door and emptied my stomach on a busy Manhattan street. I was proud of myself for having the wherewithal not to yak in the cab and I hoped the driver was likewise appreciative. While I knew that throwing up was a sign of transition (meaning your body is getting ready to push) but for some reason I assumed that I had just been carsick instead.
The next thing I remember was walking through the doors to the birthing center and being greeted by our midwife. I was so grateful she was there already. When I told her I just threw up she commented that I might be further along than she thought.... I hoped and prayed she was right.
I got undressed as someone filled up the tub. I was looking forward to laboring in water. My midwife strapped a monitor around my middle to track the baby's heartbeat and what seemed like after forever she finally checked me and announced I was dilated to a 7. Mercy.
You know I think your contractions aren't going to get much worse, she said. I just think you've been doing this alone for so long that you just need some support.
I considered that. If the contractions didn't get much worse, I could do this. Then I looked at her and asked, OK but do I still have a small window of time to get an epidural if I change my mind?
Yes. A small window.
I relented. I just needed to know there was an out if I wanted it.
I finally climbed in the tub and after one contraction climbed right back out. For me the water didn't help at all. For some reason I needed to feel the weight of my body to manage contractions. I found the birthing stool to be the most comfortable, but the baby's heart rate dropped enough that my midwife wouldn't let me stay on it. So back to the bed it was laying down on my side, which seemed ironic since being able to walk around and be in different positions was one of the reasons natural birth appealed to me in the first place.
At some point my midwife suggested that I try to start pushing just to see how it felt. I also found this to be strange since I had read and was told that one of the benefits of natural birth is that your body feels when you need to push, rather than a Dr. telling you when to push. But I can honestly say I never felt that strong desire to push or perhaps my midwife beat me to the punch.
The next hour was very, very difficult. Exhaustion consumed my body, yet so did childbirth. There was no turning back now and the reality of that was daunting. My eyes were closed the entire time and in between each contraction I would lie on my side and try to fall asleep.
Although I was getting close to the end, I didn't know it. Each contraction felt futile. I pushed and pushed and my husband, midwife and the nurse would say, Great job! That was amazing, you're doing so well.
Feeling hopeless and sort of half crying I pleaded, Are you guys just saying that? I don't feel like anythings happening!
Yes, the baby's moving! You're doing great! They reassured.
Even closer to the end I finally cried out, I can't do it, I can't do it!
I know. It's impossible. What you're doing is IMPOSSIBLE, my midwife said.
Perhaps some people would think that's a strange and completely discouraging thing to say, but I found it validating and I was grateful for her acknowledgment that what I was doing was the most difficult thing I had ever done in my life. Then at some point I remember her saying, You can do it. In fact, you're the only one who can. Just think of your Mormon heritage and those women giving birth while crossing the plains! We had never discussed my Mormon heritage before, but this seemed as good a time as any. And she was right, I could do it and in fact I was the only one who could... those words would stick with me as a sorta mantra through the next few difficult months of adjusting to motherhood.
As I felt the baby crowning my midwife asked if I'd like a mirror or if I'd like to reach down and feel the head. No and no. I was not interested in anything other than completing the task at hand. While I had endured each contraction with silence, I screamed as I pushed through the last couple of contractions and felt what is often referred to as the "ring of fire." It was painful, but the fact that I knew this was the end helped me push past the pain.
When the baby finally came out it was all at once, like a cork on a bottle of champagne. B later said that if he had blinked he would have missed the whole thing. She was immediately placed on my chest and for the first time in over an hour my eyes opened and I took in this little tiny creature who changed my world in an instant. I remember being stunned at the amount of fluid still coming out of me. And being flat on my back in a queen size bed I found myself laying in a puddle of liquid. Weird, I thought.... no one tells you about this part. From the time I walked through the hospital doors to when I had a baby on my chest was about 3 hours.
As I've mentioned before I was in shock, grateful to be done with labor and totally unsure how to feel about this red-faced, squawking baby. I talked more about these feelings in my post on postpartum depression. A friend of mine had once told me to pay attention to how the baby behaves the second they come out, as he believed that was an indication of the 'type' of baby they were and maybe even their overall personality. I had hoped and prayed for a calm, easy baby so as I watched this little one cry and fuss through her first 24 hours I knew I was in for a bumpy ride. I wanted an 'easy' baby--who doesn't?--as I thought that would help me ease into this new phase of life... but that wasn't my lot. In retrospect I don't think any baby would have been 'easy' enough. Sure she was a fussy baby, but she wasn't the worst. The truth is I was afraid to become a mom. I was truly scared to be entrusted with this responsibility and possibly fail. Sometimes I feel guilty that I felt so much worry and trepidation but it wasn't her fault, it wasn't my fault... it just was.
Regardless, it was still one of the best, most amazing moments of my life. I became a mother. I had given birth naturally. Initially I felt shock, I would even go as far to say that I may have been traumatized, but I also felt completely empowered and would replay that birth over and over again in my head for days. With another baby in my arms these days I find myself contemplating these almost 7 years of motherhood. I find myself staring at my oldest daughter in awe. Sometimes I'm still surprised we made it, but mostly I'm amazed at the beautiful, funny, sweet, intelligent (I could go on and on...) girl she's become. When I look at her I no longer feel afraid of motherhood. I feel love and I know I can do this. In fact, I'm the only one who can.