Not so long a gap between parts II and III. I must be getting used to the sleep deprivation!
To read/review Part 1, click here.
To read/review Part 2, click here.
(Disclaimer: this is the part where things start getting a little…messy. And, you know, even though birth is an awesome process, it doesn’t always look and sound pretty!)
When we were told that we had reached 5 cm, we were pretty happy. My mother loves to tell me the horror story that was my own birth, and how I tormented her for twenty-nine hours of labor, so progressing 2 cm in two and a half hours seemed pretty promising. While I was definitely feeling pain and discomfort, I figured I could manage this pain for several more hours if needed be, though I knew I definitely wouldn’t sleep through it.
Shortly after this 8:00 PM measurement, I decided to try and go to the bathroom again, to help me walk around, and Cary, our doula, encouraged me to see how the contractions felt as I was in a sitting position. They (the contractions) were definitely getting stronger.
When I came back out, we decided to have me stand. As the contractions hit, I had my arms around Jared’s neck and he helped hold me up through the strongest parts. Cary helped hold the monitors on my belly (remember, the stupid things were having a hard time registering my contractions and the baby’s heart rate, so we had to be diligent about position and pressure so they didn’t think the baby was freaking out!).
After about two standing contractions, it hit me like a wave: first, a bout of nausea, and second, an astoundingly intense contraction. And then the next contraction was just as intense. I hesitate to say painful; it definitely hurt, but it was because of the intensity that my whole body felt with the contractions. And then the next one was the same, but with an almost tingly sensation down below. And then again. They were less than two minutes apart; and I felt like I couldn’t get a break in between them!
This is where I wavered. I looked into Jared’s face, and I think I said something along the lines of, “I don’t know if I can do this for too much longer. I think I need to lie down again because this hurts so much.” (Meaning, pain-wise, I was doubting my ability to go the distance.)
Like a great partner/coach, he looked me in the eyes and said, “Of course you can. You’re doing great!” Cary followed up with more encouraging words, and we decided to try one more standing contraction before lying down.
After another intense contraction, they helped me onto the bed. This time though, the position change didn’t help the contractions; they continued to be extremely intense. And then a completely new sensation took over. I looked at Cary, who was sitting almost at eye level next to the bed, and I am sure I sounded confused and surprised when I said, “I think I want to push!”
Remember, this was roughly a half hour or so after being told I was 5 cm out of 10 cm dilated, so I think we were both a little worried that I might be having the pushing urge too early, which could definitely be a complication in the birth plan. She asked me to try out one more contraction to see if it went away.
Cary went to go get the nurse, explaining that I felt the need to push. The nurse came in and checked me again, and even she sounded a little surprised when she said, “Well, I can tell you one thing. You’re about to have this baby!”
I believe I uttered a very intelligent sounding, “What?” to which she repeated, “You’re about to have this baby!” Then, she rushed out to call the doctor and ready the birth reinforcements.
I think all three of us, Jared, Cary, and I, had a classic “WTF” moment. I was so shocked that the next contraction almost didn’t faze me. I’m sure the look on my face said it all. We were all amazed that labor had progressed so quickly in so short a time. I was even a little disappointed that I wasn’t going to be able to finish “Shrek”.
This is the part that is a little rushed for me, because it both felt like an eternity and mere seconds at the same time. We quickly were pulled back into the moment when the nurse returned and informed us that I had to try and wait because the doctor had gone home, and was heading back now. (Later, we learned that she had called the doctor ten minutes before this to let her know I was a 5 and that it would probably be a while, so to stay at home. I imagine the call back ten minutes later was a fun one to listen to.)
This meant that I had to do the classic, hyperventilating panting, to avoid pushing. I am saying this now–putting this in print–that I will never, ever, do that again unless it is a life-or-death situation. My exact words will be, “I’m sorry, but you can’t stop me from having this baby, and somebody better stand guard to be ready to catch her/him.” Because of ALL the pain and contractions was nothing next to the misery of panting for a half hour.
It was wave after wave of feeling the need to push and trying not to. My whole body was fighting me. Gross comparison: Imagine having violent diarrhea, but being told you can’t go to the bathroom right now and need to hold it. Then times that by about 100, and that was closer to what I felt. As the birth entourage (what I liked to call all the nurses and attendants for baby and me) piled into the room, I was only vaguely aware of them getting everything ready, because I was in my own little world that only Jared managed to make bearable.
Poor, poor Jared. As each contraction and need to push hit, he was there telling me that I could do this, that I was amazing, to keep panting, even though I was groaning and hyperventilating as I said with each little breath, “I don’t think I can do this.” From what I could see of his face, he was absolutely miserable. I think it was just as hard for him to watch me going through that wretchedness and not be able to do anything about it, as it was to be the one in it.
I lost track of all time. I had no clue how long I had been going through this. Finally, after what was again an eternity, I heard somebody tell me that I could start pushing because the doctor was almost ready.
Heavenly. That’s the only word I can think of to describe the change of being able to go with the waves of contractions my body was putting me through. It felt wonderful to be able to push. While it was hard, and it was uncomfortable, it was not painful (especially after being told not to push for what I learned later was about a half hour!). Where holding back had felt like infinity of punishment and misery, time seemed to fly with pushing. And the whole way, Jared and the doula were by my side, encouraging me.
It seemed like only a few pushes later (again, another half hour had gone by without me realizing it) when they asked me if I wanted to look and see the baby’s head crowning. I was in the zone, though. I didn’t need to look to know she was almost here.
Shortly afterwards, I could tell the exact moment that she came out. I pushed harder than ever, knowing she was so close, and I could feel as her head came through, and then as the doctor pulled the rest of her little body through. At 9:47PPM, less than 6 hours after starting the pitocin, the culmination of 9 months arrived. I was tired and exhausted, but again, it wasn’t painful (though later I learned I had second degree tears). I just felt relief and happiness.
They lay her crying little body on my stomach, and I remember saying to her, “You’re finally here! I can’t believe you’re here!”
To know my body COULD do this process with little medical intervention, and to know that I was able to have full control and knowledge of this process as my daughter came into this world… Ahh. To say it was incredible, empowering, doesn’t seem to fully do this experience justice.
The joy I felt was slightly interrupted when I noticed the doctor started to cut the cord. We had put in our plan that we wanted to delay the cord clamping just for a few minutes, and that Jared wanted the option to cut the cord, but the doctor completely ignored those again. By the time I could get Jared and Cary to notice, the doctor was almost done, so Jared said just to finish it. (He wasn’t that disappointed; he was more irritated by the fact he hadn’t been offered the option!) The placenta came out with no problems, and I got stitched up.
And for quite a while, we snuggled with our new addition. We marveled at her tiny, perfect hands and feet, and I was completely enamored with her full head of hair. And when Jared turned to me and said, “What about Evelyn Quinn?” which had been our “secondary” name, I agreed, even though most of the pregnancy I was certain she would be Sophia.
In that moment, it all just felt right. And even though the hard work remaining in our hospital stay was just getting started, for that moment in time, everything in the world was as it should be.