On Sunday, May 5th, I started having light contractions. I had my weekly obgyn visit scheduled for Tuesday, the 7th, but with all the signs, I figured I had better go in on Monday “just to be safe.” As it turned out, I was almost 5 centimeters dilated. My blood pressure was a bit high, so my doctor asked me to go to the hospital to have some tests run to rule out pre-eclampsia. I went over to the hospital and we started the tests. As I went to complete the urine sample, my body “leaked.” I thought it was my water breaking. Several tests later and it turned out that my water had not broken after all. The tests came back fine and they sent me home.
Monday night was a typical night. Matthew came home from work, we had dinner, I packed his lunch for work the next day, and we went to sleep. As usual, I got up several times during the night to use the bathroom. I remember getting up at 11:30 pm and feeling okay. Then I got up at 12:30 pm and I thought I felt a hard contraction. I breathed through it and realized that it was real and strong. I woke Matthew at 12:41 am. We started timing my contractions. They were painful and intense. Matthew counted me through them the way that we had learned in our birthing/lamaze class. He stroked my hands, massaged my back, and kept me calm. We counted the contractions for 55 minutes. They were a minute apart and lasted between two and three minutes.
There was no doubt about it. I was in labor and needed to get to the hospital. We called my doctor, brushed our teeth, got dressed, grabbed the hospital bag, and headed out the door. We got to the hospital just after 2 am. The car ride there was a bit blurry. My contractions were so strong and so painful. Each one felt like a tremendous amount of pressure, like a 50 pound dumbbell bearing down on my pelvis and at the same time like I had to, ahem, go to the bathroom, very very badly. In fact, that night I said and believed numerous times that I was going to “go in my pants.” I kept being reassured that I wouldn’t or that if I did, it would be okay.
Matthew was wonderful on the car ride to the hospital, if a little nervous himself. He continued to count me through my contractions, though I had to tell him to stop looking at his stop watch and keep his eyes on the road! Most of the time I was so grateful for his soothing advice. However, at one point, during a particularly painful contraction he said something and I told him to just shut up. I don’t even remember what he said or why I told him to shut up. I think he was trying to comfort me but there was no such thing as comfort during some of those contractions!
We got to the hospital shortly after 2 am. I was a tornado. Things weren’t moving quickly enough for me. I went to the bathroom while Matthew got me checked in. I’d been pre-registered so it was a relatively easy process. When I got back from the bathroom, the young man at the front desk seemed a little bit confused about things and I had little patience. He asked me to spell out my last name and I practically screamed each letter at him. Then I asked for a wheelchair in a rude way. After checking in, Matthew attempted to wheel me to where we needed to go but he couldn’t figure out the brakes. A hard contraction started and the next thing I know Matthew tried to move the chair and nearly flipped me out of it. I started to yell — “Why won’t somebody help us!?” The next thing I know an ER nurse was pushing me along saying, “I am not delivering a baby in the ER tonight.”
Before long, we arrived to labor & delivery. My nurse’s name was Carmen. I didn’t like her at first. She was very straightforward. She wanted me to lay on my back but I couldn’t, it was too painful. She said that I had to so that she could hook me up to the various monitors, IV, etc. She asked if I wanted an epidural. I said no, no epidural, no pitocin, no interventions of any sort unless absolutely necessary. She examined me. I was 7 centimeters dilated.
After that things are hazy. In hindsight, it feels like I was going in and out of consciousness, but really I was just going in and out of various degrees of intense pain. For awhile we were just riding out the contractions until I was fully dilated. Matthew did a wonderful job counting me through them and calming me through the pain. Unfortunately the pain still got the better of me and during intense contractions I lost focus and started to cry and yell. Again, Carmen asked if I wanted something for the pain. Again, I said no. Then she gave me some tough love, she said something like — “Well then you have to stop yelling.” I don’t remember exactly what she said, but she was right. If I was going to have a natural birth — the way that I wanted — I had to be strong. And so I gathered up all of the strength within me and did my best to “hold it in” through those contractions.
There is no way to describe what that pain was like. An overwhelming amount of pressure, intense pain like everything is being ripped out of you and bearing down out of you and like you’re not going to make it. You’re going to faint or die because the body cannot withstand the pain. But then the contraction peaks and slowly starts to subside. But by this point I was in transition so the contractions really came one on top of the other in great waves of pain. There was little relief. It wasn’t long (I had lost all concept of time anyway) and I was fully dilated. I don’t know for sure but it was probably around 4 am when she told me that I was ready to start pushing.
And when she said that, I was overcome with fear. I wanted to give up. I had endured so much pain, I was so tired, and now I had to push a baby out of me. How could I? I just listened to her voice and listened to Matthew beside me giving me strength and encouragement. I had to hold my legs back with my hands behind my knees. This was a feat in itself, flexible at 39 weeks pregnant? Not me. Still, when the contractions came, I did what she said. I grabbed behind my legs as best I could, I put my chin down to my chest, and I pushed with everything that I had. (As a result of pushing so hard, I burst the blood vessels in my face. It looked like I had freckles for a few days!)
We made some progress with the first couple of pushes. He was starting to come down. But then he stopped. I asked if I could squat. Our research told us that the hospital would want me to labor on my back but that the best way to get the baby to come down is squatting. And so, I asked if I could. Carmen went ahead and got the squatting bar hooked up to the bed. I somehow pulled myself (with help!) up into a squatting position. I squatted and pushed through the next couple of contractions. Sure enough, that baby started coming down. After awhile she told me to get back on my back. I did. I pushed through a few more contractions and it wasn’t long then until she finally called in the doctor. I was wondering when he would make an appearance…
The pushing grew more intense, the pain grew more intense (how that was possible, I still don’t know). I was getting tired. I turned to Matthew and said I didn’t know if I could do it, maybe we should just cut him out. He talked sense into me. My body just kept going, I just kept doing what I was told. I started pushing back on the nurse and Matthew with my legs when I pushed. Carmen said, “Don’t fight us, put that fight into pushing the baby out.” I wasn’t trying to push back on them but there was so much to remember and I was so tired and in so much pain. Chin down, legs back, don’t push with legs, push baby out. I couldn’t see straight, I couldn’t think straight. I didn’t know if I could do it.
Then came the top of his head, everyone got excited. Matthew could see it. Someone said he had a lot of hair. (Hello six months of relentless heartburn!) Then he started coming out. The pain was unimaginable, unspeakable. I kept pushing through the contractions. I said something, I don’t remember what exactly, but the doctor replied, “You’re allowed to say that, you’re pushing a baby out. This is labor & delivery. Whatever gets said in labor & delivery stays in labor & delivery.” Someone asked if I wanted them to place a mirror beneath me so that I could see him coming out. I said no. I knew that I needed to focus because I was always a moment away from giving up.
Another contraction and the largest part of the baby’s head squeezed out, I tore open. I don’t remember much about this except searing pain. I left my body. I was on the outside looking in. It was absolutely surreal. The pain was too great to bear. Matthew said I screamed. I think I kept pushing. The next thing I remember and the baby was out. He was screaming immediately. He was born at 5:43 am, just a few hours after we’d arrived to the hospital. I was so happy to hear him screaming. I knew that he was okay. There was some talk about the camera. I had told Matthew at the outset to keep the camera away, I needed him present, not taking photographs. But once the baby came, the nurses were insistent about photographs and I am glad they were. Matthew snapped a good photograph of the doctor holding up the baby and the nurses took a couple of him cutting the cord.
I was out of it. I looked at Matthew, I was so confused. I asked him and the doctor if I was going to be okay. In my heart, I knew that my baby was fine but I didn’t know about myself. They told me that everything was fine. Someone asked me if I wanted to hold my baby. Of course I did. They placed him on my chest. It was just the most amazing moment of my life. He was completely perfect. I was delirious. They took him away for a few moments to perform his APGAR test, weigh him, and so on. The doctor said that I would need stitches. He shot me with some numbing needles and stitched me up. They said I shouldn’t be able to feel anything. Compared to what I’d just gone through, it wasn’t much, but I could feel it.
They gave my baby back to me. Matthew took pictures with his phone. He started texting people that were waiting to hear from us. I gave him instructions on who to text. I think that I started nursing the baby right away. Though my memory is fuzzy here. I know that I was nursing within that first hour of bonding time. It was wonderful. My mother was the first one to come in. She was asking us about the baby’s name. We still hadn’t decided definitely, though we were pretty certain. I reminded Matthew that it was his decision and that I thought he most definitely looked like a little Roman. Matthew made the decision and that was that.
There we were, my little family. I had done what I had always wondered if I could do. I had done what so many people told me I could not do. I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy without any pain medicine, without any intervention. I pushed him out into this world and then held him in my arms. It was (is) the most wonderful, magical thing that I could ever imagine.
Our birth story was not what I expected it to be. I pictured hours of laboring at home. Aroma therapy. Massage. A hot shower. Walking around. Trying various positions for comfort. I pictured calmness at the hospital. My music. Lots of controlled breathing exercises. Using the birthing ball. The real thing was nothing like any of that. It was fast and furious. I shot up in the middle of the night and within five hours my baby boy was in my arms. And even though it was nothing like I’d expected, it was perfect. In the end, we got our sweet Roman James — and that’s the only thing that matters.