Rewind a few days: I was nearly a week past my due date and, to put it mildly, rather uncomfortable. I weighed upwards of 125 pounds, a good ten pounds heavier than I had been with either of my two previous pregnancies (keep in mind my pre-pregnancy weight is around 90 pounds…I’m a tiny person) and the baby was expected to be at least 9 pounds. I had refused to be induced, but because I was “post-term” I had to see my doctor twice a week for non-stress tests. I had been having irregular contractions for at least two weeks and many times I was nearly sure it was the real thing. And yet, nothing. So on Thursday I decided to head to a local health foods store and pick up some blue and black cohosh, herbs known for inducing labor. I took small doses for the recommended time frame (basically every hour for a whole day) and noticed my contractions grow a bit stronger and more regular, but they stopped when I went to bed that night.
Sunday, July 11th: nine days past my due date I woke up at 4 in the morning with some strong contractions. Nothing like the pre-labor I had been experiencing…these were definitely the real thing. (You’d think I’d remember what they were like, since I’ve had two babies already, but memory tends to fail when it comes to childbirth.) They were about 10-12 minutes apart and painful, but bearable. I walked around the house for a bit, got on Facebook, and took a shower before waking my husband up. (I didn’t really need him at that point, I was just bored and couldn’t sleep so I felt like he shouldn’t either.) I also sent Kim, my doula, a text telling her that today was finally the day. Now, with my previous baby, I labored at home for over 12 hours before going to the hospital so I really didn’t expect this labor to move any faster. Kim came over around 10-o-clock and my contractions were still about 10 minutes apart (but getting more intense). My husband loaded the munchkins into the double stroller and we all took a walk around the block…as far as I could go without passing out (Texas summers are no piece of cake, y’all!). We came back home and my husband wrangled the kids while I labored on the couch and chatted with Kim in between contractions. They weren’t getting any closer together but the intensity was definitely increasing.I started practicing some relaxation techniques to see what worked best. I had downloaded a bunch of relaxing music onto my iPod, but surprisingly that didn’t help at all. What did help was reciting Psalm 23 to myself through each contraction. If I quoted it slowly and methodically, it turned out to be the exact length needed to make it through a contraction.
Around 1-o-clock I laid down to see if I could take a short nap since I had been up since 4. I wasn’t really able to sleep, but I did doze off a few times which helped a lot. By 3-o-clock the contractions were about 8-10 minutes apart but the intensity was taking my breath away. My husband read some Scripture to me through the contractions and I started breathing harder and faster. (Here’s where the timing kind of became a blur to me.) Sometime between 4 and 5-o-clock I started getting a few contractions back-to-back and the rest of them were anywhere from 6 to 10 minutes apart. We called some friends of ours to ask them to head over to the house (they would be watching the kids for us until I had the baby…then the grandparents would be taking over). I ate a few crackers because I had only eaten a corn dog for lunch and then called my sister (who was also headed over). In between all of that, my contractions suddenly intensified incredibly. They went from 6 minutes apart to 2-3 minutes apart in a matter of two or three contractions and I began to moan with each one. I started shaking a bit but I thought it was just because I was so hungry. I asked my husband to get the hospital bag ready and make sure the kids’ stuff was ready to go for later that night and then stood up (I had been reclining on the couch for most of the afternoon…it was the most comfortable position for me) to help him with something. A contraction hit me while I was standing and as I leaned on the table I felt a crazy amount of pressure and my body started shaking a lot more. My sister and friends showed up sometime around then and I told my husband he’d better hurry. (I was pretty sure I was starting to transition at that point.) Since the kids were staying at home, we left the minivan and drove to the hospital in my husband’s truck, which in retrospect was not a good idea…the jerkiness of a manual transmission does not help with contractions much. During the drive my contractions stayed at 2-3 minutes apart but I could feel a definite change in them. Instead of being 45-60 seconds long they were only about 20-30 seconds long but they were twice as painful. Those 2-3 minute breaks in between though were pure bliss. It’s like my whole body was breathing a sigh of relief and relaxing completely after each contraction.
We got to the hospital at 5:55 and headed to the labor and delivery admissions desk. The lady behind the counter started asking all these seemingly random questions (what the heck is pre-admissions for if they still ask you all that stuff when you get there??) and obviously I feel like I’m dying at this point. She asks when my due date is and I practically yell “last week!” at her. She gets this surprised look on her face as I’m moaning through a contraction and says something about needing my social security number. At that point I feel my body start to push (which is the weirdest feeling in the world…it’s like you have no control over what your body is doing) and say something to that effect. The woman’s eyes got HUGE and she says, “I can’t have her pushing right here!” and yells something to people in the triage room. Next thing you know they’re yanking me into triage (my husband and Kim have to stay behind to answer more stupid questions) and having me strip so they can check me. The nurse says I’m at 8 cm and my water bag is bulging and they start frantically trying to figure out what room I’m going to and if they have enough nurses and where the heck the doctor is. (My husband called the after-hours line at my doctor’s office, but apparently there was some miscommunication so the on-call doctor didn’t even get called until we got to the hospital and then it turns out she was at home so she had to drive all the way to the hospital.) As they’re wheeling me out of triage, they grab Kim and my husband and then say something about me being the third pregnancy woman in the last hour to get to the hospital complete or almost complete. It was at that point I truly realized how close I was to delivering. Once they got me to the room they were still messing with paperwork and admissions stuff for the first 10 minutes or so while I laid there trying not to freak out from the pain. My body was pushing with every other contraction but they kept telling me not to push because the doctor wasn’t there yet. Several of the nurses also kept asking me if I “meant to do it without drugs” and then would immediately follow up with “well, you’re doing it!” (No, duh, really?) The breaks between contractions still felt amazing and that was probably the only thing that kept me from going insane. During one of the lulls I told the nurse that “now would be a good time to put in that IV if you’re going to!” (She had previously been fretting about whether she was going to be able to get it in before the birth or not.) In spite of that, she took her sweet time and I think I actually told her to hurry up when I felt a contraction coming. I was shaking uncontrollably and was getting pissed that the nurses wouldn’t let Kim or my husband stand on my left side (they both had to stay on the right for some reason) to give me something to hold on to. One of my nurses was resting her hand on my right knee and I’m pretty sure I rather rudely asked her to stop touching me. (She was the nice one too, so I felt bad about that, but I’m pretty sure she laughed about it.) For some reason, I appreciated the pressure of Kim and my husband squeezing my hand and holding my shoulder but I didn’t want to be touched anywhere from the waist down. Kim kept talking calmly to me and telling me what a great job I was doing (I didn’t think so but I appreciated the encouragement) and my husband prayed out loud over me. During several of the strong, pushing contractions my water broke in two big gushes. At that point the nurses said they could see the baby’s head and commented that I would be nice and stretched out when I started really pushing. (Which I guess was the positive side to the doctor being delayed.)
Finally the doctor arrived and they told me I could really start pushing, which was a huge relief, especially because I finally had someone holding onto my left side (which controlled the shaking) and I could finally start working with my body instead of just letting it do whatever. Pushing was seriously the most painful thing I have ever done in my life. It’s a strange feeling too, because even though you feel everything, you don’t feel like you’re making progress until the baby actually comes out (it feels like you're pushing against a wall). There’s no gradual anything about it. It went really quickly, I think I only had to push four times to get Ronnie’s head out and then another two times to deliver the rest of him, but now I know what women mean when they say “it feels like pooping out a watermelon!” It was odd too because I really didn’t have to push as hard as I thought I would…with my previous births (epidural births) I felt like I was pushing with all my might and this time it was like my body was doing 80% of the pushing and I was just giving an extra “umph” to the process. I yelled more than I ever thought I would (I was actually hoarse afterwards)…I thought it was more like screaming but my husband said I only screamed once, when Ronnie’s head came out.But when it was all said and done, at 6:26 PM, only half an hour after I arrived at the hospital, I had delivered an 8 pound, 14 ounce baby boy without any drugs. (And I only had one tiny tear that didn’t even need stitches!)
The funny thing about a natural childbirth is that you replay the scene in your mind over and over and over again for days afterwards. It gave me lots of time to think of the pros and cons of the whole thing.
Pros: It’s truly an amazing, empowering feeling being able to give birth and feel the whole thing. Although I didn’t necessarily feel like Superwoman after it was all over, my husband was in awe of me and kept telling me how amazing I was. Also, you don’t have to worry about an epidural slowing labor down or not being able to push or the drugs going to your baby…it’s childbirth the way God and nature intended it. Because my body was aware and I was working with it, labor went smoothly and I had minimal tearing at delivery (which was amazing considering the size of the baby and that I had torn much worse with my previous two smaller babies).
Cons: I honestly didn’t intend to wait quite that long before getting to the hospital, but now I know that once the contractions start to speed up a little bit, it’s going to go fast! (It was kind of fun to see the nursing staff running around like chickens with their heads cut off though.) The afterbirth pains were AWFUL. I was so exhausted and in so much pain after I delivered that I could hardly look at my new son. They gave me Nubain in the IV as soon as Ronnie was born but that did nothing for the pain and it wasn’t until they gave me Demerol that I was even able to hold Ronnie. Once the drugs kicked in, I felt 100 times better, but those first 10 minutes after birth were downright miserable.
Sorry this was so long, I just wanted to be sure I remembered every detail!