Most new mothers experience some level of fear or anxiety when it comes to dealing with the unknowns of labor and delivery, and I was certainly no exception. It is a rather daunting thought of pushing a small human out of a tiny bodily orifice. I would like to tell you that I spent my entire pregnancy self meditating and finding my inner strength in order to prepare myself for an empowering, beautiful, natural and medicated-free delivery. I didn’t do any of that. I didn’t know what to expect, and I was in no place to make any commitments of not accepting pain relieving drugs when just looking at the pictures in my birthing books made me nauseated. I am all for making well informed decisions, and thus knew the benefits of an unmedicated birth as well as the risks associated with the alternative, with a big concern of mine being the epidural causing my baby to be too drowsy and loopy to find the breast after delivery. But I don’t like to hurt. I chose the epidural. And Alice’s birth story was still empowering and beautiful.
I was still in full-blown nesting mode the night before I went into labor. And I don’t mean sweeping and dusting. Who doesn’t make an impulse decision to completely redo your fireplace hearth at 39 weeks pregnant?
“Honey, I don’t want the baby to come home smelling this musty stove. We never use it and we will have more room without it. Can we take it out and put down tile, a decorative frame, and paint the backdrop?”
My husband, Rodger, is a sweet man and I could not have found someone who treats me better than he does even if I wanted to. He drove his very pregnant wife to Home Depot after dinner to pick out tile, paint colors, and plywood. I still don’t understand why I made the man at the paint counter so uncomfortable when I told him my baby could come anytime. I had been dilated to 2 cm and 90% effaced for several weeks already and looking back, I’m pretty sure walking all around Home Depot on the eve of Alice’s delivery is what threw my body into labor. We made it back home and we got to work on the fireplace. Ok, ok, Rodger worked on the fireplace and I watched him from the couch with a bowl of ice cream.
I woke up around 5:30a.m with my back hurting similar to the way it would hurt before I started a menstrual cycle. I didn’t think too much of it, so Rodger kissed me goodbye and left for work and I tried to go back to sleep. The backache never got worse, but it was too uncomfortable to try and sleep through. I got out of bed, ran a warm bath, and ate a very small breakfast of applesauce. I had been having Braxton Hicks contractions for weeks before then, so I didn’t think much of my stomach tightening and releasing that morning. That is, until they began to get closer and closer. I decided to call my midwife and she suggested calling my husband to come home and for us to head to the hospital whenever I felt like I needed to. Our hospital was an hour away so I didn’t want to risk having a birth story of my husband catching our baby while I lay on the side of the interstate, so I called Rodger next.
“Honey, I know you have only been at work for 30 minutes, but I think you better come home,” I calmly tell him. I was not extremely uncomfortable as I gathered my packed bag and toiletries and I wondered if this was truly the real thing. I am used to being in public in my bare face, but to this day I wish I had spent a few minutes to at least brush and defrizz my hair. Rodger got home in record time and was in more of a hurry than I was, and declined my suggestion of changing out of his steel-toe work boots. He loaded the car and we headed for the hospital, leaving our unfinished fireplace project to welcome home our baby girl in all of its dusty, dirty mess. This would be the first circumstance that would trigger the postpartum tears. But I’ll save that story for another time.
We made it to the hospital where I was put in triage. I was dilated to 3 cm and 100% effaced once we got there and my contractions had gotten stronger. I started out walking the halls of the labor and delivery floor to help my labor continue to progress, with a cup of ice chips in tow and Rodger holding my hand while clumping along in his steel-toe boots. As we walked, I kept telling Rodger, “I wish I had fixed my hair and put on make-up. I’m not going to look good in pictures.” Sure, once they lay your baby on your chest you won’t have a second thought about what you look like. But, really. Friends, these pictures will go in your baby’s first scrapbook. Plan accordingly.
My birth plan was to go as long as I could without intervention and to not shame myself if I chose an epidural, however, the stronger the contractions got, the more I thought, man, I really just want to lay in this bed and watch T.V and have the nurses pamper me. That would be nice. But, I continued walking and breathing through the contractions. Once we were put in a room, I requested a birthing ball and sat on it with my legs spread wide opening up my pelvis. This was super helpful and I would recommend it especially to women with back labor. Whenever I had a contraction Rodger or my mom would rub deep into my lower back to relieve the pressure it was causing. Labor seemed to progress quickly as well as the intensity of my contractions. I felt the contractions all around my torso, but the worse pain was in my back. I would breathe through my nose with each tightening of my uterus and close my eyes and tighten my lips waiting for it to pass. I could feel my whole body relax when the release would come. The more intense labor got, the more I wanted it to be over. The unknown was so difficult for me. My pain management decisions would have been so much easier if only someone could predict how long my labor would last! With this on my mind, I asked Rodger, “Where is my nurse? When is she going to do another cervical check?”
“Honey, you wrote in your birth plan that you wanted limited cervical checks.”
I knew he was right. “Screw the plan,” I muttered under my breath.
I never yelled, screamed or used obscene language, but the pain was not making me a sweet person. At one point Rodger thought it would be a good idea to see what our view looked like and opened the blinds to the window that took up one whole wall in our hospital room. Natural light flooded the room and a bright July sun hit me in the face as I’m laboring in the hospital bed, striking a nerve that made me want to lash out. I have married an idiot. What is he thinking!? I only had the energy to quietly yet firmly demand, “Close. Those. Blinds.”
I got the epidural at 6cm, my water was broken, and part of me wondered why I didn’t ask for this glorious relief sooner. I was able to rest for a couple of hours before my midwife came back and confirmed I was at 10 cm and it was time to push! I loved being numb.
After a couple of practice pushes and three real pushes I could feel my stomach flatten as I pushed this baby that had been completely dependent on my body for survival out into the world to breathe on her own. At 5:33p.m on July 25th, 2016 I heard a gentle little cry that changed my world in an instant. The midwife laid her directly on my chest, skin-to-skin, and Alice quickly calmed down. An overwhelming sense of joy rushed over my body and seemed to fill the room. Wow! She’s here! In that moment, with this beautiful baby girl lying on my chest and my husband admiring her by my side, our journey of waiting on her all made sense. I had never felt such an overpowering love for someone. This was the baby that God had chosen to bless us with all along. The days of longing for it to be our turn, the heavy disappointment of each passing month, the tears, the countless appointments; they were all a gift. They brought us to this moment of celebrating the new life of Alice. It was Alice all along. And I could not have imagined the love I would have for her in that moment.
Alice lay on my chest with the umbilical cord still attached while we waited for it stop pulsing. Once the blood flow stopped after several minutes, Rodger cut the cord. After lying skin-to-skin for a while, Alice latched rather quickly and nursed on one side for 40 minutes before I offered the other breast. We were in no hurry to bathe her or give her to the nurse for the routine weight check and other measurements. She was right where she needed to be, safe, secure and completely content on her momma’s skin where she could hear the familiar heartbeat of her home. The hospital staff left our new little family of three to bond as we admired this precious life. After a couple of hours of enjoying the intimate setting of getting to know our baby, we invited our families who were anxiously waiting to come in and meet Alice, as well as the nurse who did the routine check up. We didn’t bathe Alice until much later that night.
After nearly two years of waiting on a baby, 39 weeks of pregnancy, 10 hours of labor, six minutes of pushing, our beautiful baby was here. Labor was not nearly as traumatic as I saw on movies and I was thankful that it was relatively short. Alice’s birth was perfect and beautiful and empowering in it’s own way and there isn’t anything I would change. Although, I might would take the time to fix my hair. Maybe even wear a little mascara. Water-proof, of course.