My husband says he probably remembers Naomi’s birth better than I do. And after I huff and puff and remind him that I went through it all and I was the one to push our 9-pounder out after 23 hours of labor and 1.5 hours of pushing, I realize he’s probably right. Because well, he had to deal with me the whole time. I got to zone out mentally while my body freaked out, and he had to hold me, rub me, sway me, feed me. Maybe he should be writing this! But nah, here I am.
I just had a mental image of me slopping through a muddy slough looking for pieces to a puzzle…pieces to my story. Because that’s what it feels like. My delivery day was messy, my emotional response to it was messy, my six weeks postpartum were messy, and my thoughts and convictions about motherhood are messy. But acknowledging that and ploughing forward with my Savior has taught me more about His grace and loving kindness than my birth plan ever could have.
So even though Naomi will never hear me proudly recount my scream-free, drug-free, super woman home delivery in a bath tub, she WILL hear that God is amazing, and God is strong, and God helped mommy get her out. As I’ve alluded, the details of getting her out are a bit fuzzy. But for the sake of you in my social network who find birth stories exhilarating, I will try my best. Grab your latte.
Naomi was two weeks late. Mmm, so fun. I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t walk, couldn’t bend over, and couldn’t wear real pants. My feet were swollen, my hips were loose, my body was huge. I scanned Pinterest every day for natural labor-inducing remedies, and searched in vain for scientific evidence that any of them actually worked, but tried them anyway. My favorite was Labor Ginger Snaps, of which I baked butt-loads and then hiked them around the neighborhood, hoping exercise and gift-giving would also get the girl moving. And I did squats twice a day, every day. But did she care? No.
I was induced on October 10th. I didn’t want to be…I had my heart set on feeling the first twinges of labor at home, maybe in the middle of the night, when I could sit peacefully in the bathtub with candles to wait it out. I wanted to labor as long as possible at home, because that’s what you’re supposed to want, and then I wanted Bub to get me to the hospital JUST in time to push our munchkin out. I wanted to be so strong and mighty and womanly. Because that’s what childbirth is for…validation.
Who was I kidding. My mom’s first baby was 3 weeks late and came after 38 hours of labor. So even though I had to let my first desire die, I knew I COULD NOT be pregnant any longer. Instead of allowing my body to be all natural and beautiful and perfect and slow, I let the medical personnel administer pharmaceuticals at 1am on Saturday morning.
It is the strangest feeling to eat pizza with the family at 6pm Friday night, and know that at 11pm I have to go in to the hospital to have a baby. Bub and I were in the room at midnight and after being monitored and hooked up (my blood pressure was high, so my arm was in a cuff also), they gave me the first round of cytotec.
“Try to sleep!” the nurse said, as she left the room. Not the easiest order to follow when that same nurse comes back every 30 minutes, and your arm is engulfed in a device that honks and squeezes your life out every 20 minutes.
After 3 hours, I was finally considered a “healthy 2 cm.” Whoop de doo. Contractions had started, though, so there was no need for a second round of cytotec.
After a couple more hours of nothing, the nurses got the go-ahead from my midwife to get me dilating by inserting a balloon device into my cervix. Excuse me, what now? Well alright. I almost felt like putting my foot down and saying HOLD up, but honestly…I didn’t care anymore. And since my husband and I had chosen to trust the Lord through the hands of THESE medical providers, I decided from that point on that whatever they thought best, I’d let them do it. So they did the thing. And I puked!
It wasn’t painful, just super uncomfortable, and my body didn’t know what the heck was happening. So with the balloon went my appetite, and I barely ate for the next 18 hours. But miracle of miracles, I was finally dilated to FOUR CENTIMETERS.
I THINK they moved me into Labor and Delivery at about 8am, and my mom showed up shortly after. Then we waited.
Contractions finally became something that needed concentration, and for the next few hours I felt pretty in control of things. I swayed with Bub (who is amazing. I should probably say this often), I bounced on the ball (they let me be unhooked once things got going, but still checked my blood pressure way too often), and I had my mommy massage my back. I was told to save the hot bathtub for the very end when I needed it most. So in my head, I was building the tub up as my life saver.
Soon the labor moved to my back, and I understood why “back labor” is usually answered with “ugh” when someone describes their birth experience. Baby was facing forward, and so to turn her around I tried leaning forward and switching up my swaying methods. This never really worked. Labor remained in my back and the contractions started coupling, one right after another with random long breaks in between. I no longer felt in control and couldn’t catch my breath. Sometime around 2pm (meh, who knows) I decided I needed to try the tub. It felt like my last ray of natural birth sunshine.
But the tub FAILED. The heat, the water, the close walls, my big belly and sore hips, all of it made the experience just plain awful. I got out and dried off, and continued to sway and bark massage instructions, but knew I couldn’t handle it.
I think the strangest and most disconcerting thing that happened was I began to shake and shiver uncontrollably. I wasn’t cold at all, but realized I hadn’t eaten since I threw up that morning and I’ve never felt more exhausted in my life.
Feeling more and more stressed as I continued to labor and shake and my body made no progress, I requested an epidural at about 4pm. Or 3 or 6. Once I made that decision, the anesthesiologist couldn’t couldn’t get there fast enough. And once he did, I wanted him to shut up and “ram that thing into my spine already!” Bub held me, I tried to keep breathing and stay as still as possible, and it was done. Soon I felt my body relax and the numbness was HEAVEN as it took over my legs and lower back. The nurse got me settled back in bed and told me to sleep. I gladly complied, and so did Bub and Mom.
I slept pretty well for 1-2 hours until they gave me Pitocin and my epidural started wearing off. But at least things were moving…
Dad and my sister Jessica brought mom and Bub dinner and made themselves comfortable in the waiting room. It made me a bit anxious knowing I had visitors, and I thought maybe this baby would NEVER come. But around 9pm I started to feel things again and knew something different happening.
I’ve always thought of epidurals as giving you a pain-free delivery. I’ve read many a blog where women say, “I had my epidural around 8 cm, and then was able to enjoy the rest of my delivery!” You ENJOYED it?! “You just feel pressure, that’s all.” Well, baby pressure hurts, man.
I wasn’t sure I know what I was talking about, but as soon as I felt the urge to push, I told Mom. After the long day of not much progress, she looked a bit skeptical too, but I insisted something was up, so my midwife came back in and checked out my contractions on the monitor. “Yep, you can start pushing now!”
Thankfully by then I couldn’t NOT push if I tried!
The next 90 minutes were the most exhausting, and dare I say amazing (in the strange birth-giving mother way), of my life. Definitely was not fun at the time…but praise God for adrenaline.
Bub and my mom each held a leg and for every contraction I grabbed my thighs and pushed with all my might. In the midst of my pain and near-despair, the greatest encouragement was hearing my midwife say, “Good JOB, Amy, you are so strong!” And the nurse exclaim, “You don’t need ANYBODY tellin’ you how to push!” Yessss.
There were a couple times during that 90 minutes that I would have been just fine if they told me I needed a c-section. I remember thinking, “Can’t they just pull her out, I can’t keep going like this…” But I was encouraged just enough when I saw my husband’s strong face and heard my mom’s steady voice say, “I see her head!”
And then good golly, the head was THERE. MY WORD.
And then it was OUT, and WHOOP, I was given a warm, slimy, baby body as I collapsed in a flood of tears. I have never felt such overwhelming relief.
She was 9 lb, 1 oz, 21 inches long, born sunny-side-up at 12:06am Sunday morning. With hair! Fuzzy, curly, blonde hair. In the excitement of feeling her come out, hearing my mom yell, “Amy, your baby!” and knowing I didn’t have to push anymore, it was almost like I woke up from a 24-hour dream.
The hour of skin to skin with my baby was beautiful. I really couldn’t believe I was a mom yet, but I sure loved the bundle nestled peacefully on my chest. Her eyes were wide open and skin was softer than anything.
My mother-in-law and sister-in-law arrived not too long before she was born. So as soon as we were decent, all our visitors came in with camera phones poised. And my mommy fed me a delicious sandwich.
So. How did I like my birth experience? I loved St Joe’s, and every single Labor and Delivery nurse that took care of me. I loved my amazing midwife, who was 8 months pregnant herself when she delivered my baby and stitched me up. I loved having my strong mom there to support Bub and I. And Bub was absolutely the best, quietly supporting me through every step, even when I was a brat. Pushing and feeling her come out were both so empowering, making me feel incredibly wonderfully made by a God who cares for me. And my epidural was just what I needed to give me rest before the end.
But none of it was perfect. I didn’t like feeling my body forced into labor, and I didn’t like being hooked up and monitored almost constantly. I didn’t like my epidural after my nap, because I wished I had control of my body and didn’t like feeling sluggish for the next 24 hours.
But that being said, I am thankful. God has walked me through many disappointments, beginning at labor and continuing into life with a 3-month-old, but I trust Him. And I have beautiful, healthy baby girl who sleeps 9 hours at night. I can ALMOST see us ready for another one.