“I’m here for you.”
I’m here for you too.
The conversation was motivating and supportive. It also contained a strong recommendation not to watch the most recent episode of Grey’s Anatomy. She said nicely, “I would wait to watch that one if I were you.”
So naturally, I watched the most recent episode that evening. The show ended around midnight. I closed my laptop and struggled, just like every other night for the past nine months, to move an inch. I finally managed to get that laptop on the floor and into a deep sleep I went.
Two hours later, I woke up from what felt like one of the best naps ever to use the bathroom. Just number one. I thought I was finished, but it just kept flowing, and that’s when I knew.
“Hey honey, I think my water just broke.”
The clock on the wall read 2:00AM.
It was go time.
We had done our homework, and the hospital bag was 85% of the way packed. There were only a few things left on the list, and I flipped into mama mode instantly.
“Grab the toothbrushes, make sure we have deodorant, and make sure the kitties have plenty of food and water.” Check, check and check.
Oh no, I didn’t get enough sleep. I’ll be too tired to push. I can’t do this. I have to go back to sleep. I have to try to relax and sleep.
Just as I laid back down in bed, the first contraction hit me. It felt similar to a strong period cramp, and I found myself thinking, “OK this might work out well if it’s like this the entire time. “
On the instruction of our doula, we began timing the contractions and monitoring how close together they were. After an hour and a half of contractions that lasted 45 seconds to a minute, coming three to five minutes apart, we were supposed to call, and she would come join us at our home to provide guidance throughout the process.
OH MY GOODNESS. This is way worse than period cramping. We should just go to the hospital. Let’s just go. Now.
In our many pre-birth classes, we learned about the different signs of each stage of labor. While we couldn’t remember the exact timing of or between contractions in early labor, the defining characteristic of Early Labor was that moms-to-be were lucid, calm, and talkative between contractions. We were instructed that labor tends to last around 24 hours on average for most first births.
I couldn’t have been further from lucid, calm, or talkative. It seemed like just minutes went by before I felt like it was time to push a melon out of my you-know-what. A feeling which, by the way, no class can ever prepare you for. At the time, I was pissed that I wasn’t given a better heads up. However, I don’t believe anyone can actually prep you for this feeling.
We also learned that every pregnancy is different. I believe this is why birth stories are so powerful.
Our doula arrived three hours after my water broke. Thank goodness. We felt better knowing that a professional was there. We’d never gone through this process before, after all, what did we know? That was the whole point of having a doula in the first place.
Our labor plan from the get-go was to get as far as possible into the process before heading to the hospital. We only live 15-20 minutes from the hospital, and we know that typically it’s about two hours from the time the mama feels the urge to push to baby’s arrival.
As much as we believe in and support modern medicine, we also believe that women’s bodies have been successfully producing babies since long before epidurals existed. We also know that the more time spent in the hospital in labor, the higher the likelihood that an intervention can have an unintended effect that could lead to an emergency C-Section. Personally, I really wanted to avoid that for my first experience if at all possible.
Now, let’s all avoid PTSD and fast-forward through the animalistic noises that disturbed all of us, including our cats, more than we’d like to admit. We’ll also skip the positions, those of a wild, injured animal, I found myself imitating in our bed, on the bathroom floor, crawling down the stairs and onto the foyer floor.
Let’s also cruise past the most painful and bizarre car ride ever, although we can talk for a moment about just how beautiful it really was. The sun was rising over the mountains, and for a moment, I thought this is going to be a night I’ll never, ever forget. The blue shade of that sky, and the stars that shined brighter than usual.
With my head mostly shoved into our car seat while I kneeled on all fours in the back seat, I was officially feeling like I was working on keeping him in rather than pushing him out.
I was entirely focused on each second in front of me. Somehow get out of this car. Somehow sit down in the wheelchair. Quiet. Breathe. Recover. The only thing I kept hearing: “you’ve got this, you can do this, you ARE doing this!”
At 6:45AM, we stepped into the hospital where, in a very short while, our son would be joining us.
“Hello, how can we help you?” the voice from the intercom on the wall outside the door inquired.
“Hi, I’m in labor!” I replied with the type of enthusiasm one wouldn’t expect from a woman who had just moments before been enduring contractions on all fours in the back seat of an Outback.
We ask if our doctor is there, and we’re told, “Not yet, but we’ll call her.”
At our appointment the Thursday before, our doctor had said, “I’m not back until Tuesday, so if you can hold him until then, I’d love to be there to catch him.”
As soon as we got in the room, the nurse did the first examination to see how far along I was.
“Ok, it looks like you’re around eight and a half centimeters dilated.”
Oh, thank goodness. I hadn’t just insisted on going to the hospital with our doula for nothing.
This was happening. I couldn’t believe I’d made it this far so quickly. I remembered back to that episode my friend had warned me not to watch. I was in pain and was now officially terrified as well. The episode hadn’t bothered me up until this point. As I tried to find a position that wasn’t too miserable, all of a sudden I could not believe this was finally happening, for real.
I wasn’t able to answer simple questions like, “Do you have a birth plan?”
Yes, my plan is to have a healthy baby boy.
Ten minutes later, the unmistakable smile of our beautiful doctor walked through the door.
“We made it!” I exclaimed. “You said to wait until Tuesday, and we did!”
Over the next hour, I continued, desperately, to work with my doula and doctor to find a position that was comfortable. Let’s face it, there is no such position at this point in labor. Our doctor checked me a couple more times before saying, “Ok Stephanie, it’s time to push.” And at that moment, fear took over once again, and I felt like I couldn’t do it.
My mind was completely disagreeing with my body, and I was so fearful of the unknown. The unknown level of pain that was coming next. The unknown healing process afterwards. The unknown future of raising a child. Not to mention, I was already in so much pain and discomfort, I couldn’t imagine entering an even more painful scenario. I tried humor to lighten the mood, because at that point, part of me was refusing to believe this was actually happening.
I could feel everything down there.
I was so scared, I got in my own way, and if it weren’t for the incredible team of doctors, nurses, mentors, and my husband in the room, I’m sure I would’ve convinced myself that I wasn’t going to be able to make it happen. I was filled with so much fear, that even though I knew our son was only a push or two away, I genuinely didn’t think I could do it.
The only thing that got me through this birth was the people that surrounded me in room number 385. Those holding my legs, replenishing the cold wet rags for my forehead, and cheering me on along the way.
With every push, our doctor would say, “shoot him across the room!” and that is what did it for me.
At 8:53AM (ahem, in room number 385), only six hours and fifty-three minutes after my water had broken abruptly, we welcomed our son into the world. I don’t remember much after that, but I will never forget that warm, gooey, ball of love and innocence laying on my chest for the next twenty-four hours straight. And for the first time, I felt like our little boy’s heartbeat matched the cadence of my own.
Childbirth might have been the first thing in a very, very long time in my life where I wasn’t physically able to get in my own way. There was no way around it. This baby was coming whether I thought I had the strength or not. No matter what I thought, no matter how I felt, he was going to arrive. Our bodies can do so much more than our minds lead us to believe. And with preparation and the help of others, our minds can, in fact, be convinced. It’s also important to remember that whatever is supposed to happen, will happen, whether you’re ready or not.
A perfect segue into motherhood, indeed.