5 years ago

The Circus Act of My Natural Birth

{In this photo, I was in labor. Early, happy, excited labor -but labor nonetheless, and I wanted a last shot of luxuriously blow-dried hair, because I know by now, that won’t be happening for the next few weeks… months maybe.  It’s good.  I’m at peace with neglecting my vanity.}

So we’ll just dive right into it then…

Friday evening, the 14th I began feeling mild contractions— heavy menstrual cramps for the ladies who’ve never experienced them— or waves of the sudden onset of impending diarrhea for the men who’ve never experienced menstrual cramps.  Also, I experience a sudden congestion in my sinus cavities before each contraction.  Strange, I know… but relevant, now that I think about their location in relation to my body’s central blood vessels and nerves.

The morning came and they persisted. I knew that my labor had officially begun. How exciting!  I’d been preparing for this for 9 months and was anxious to put my knowledge and research into practice!  The playoffs had arrived, and this was the championship game.  My husband and I called/texted my parents who took our boys for the day so that I could labor peacefully at home.

It made such a huge difference to labor in the quiet, comfortable of our home.  Instead of my previous two births: basically panicking and hustling out the door for my epidural, instead, I eased my way into each contraction.  For the better part of the day, I was able to shuffle about, crocheting my blanket project, napping and lightly snacking as each contraction came and went.  I mostly experienced one or two every half hour.

The contractions slowly increased in intensity throughout the day.

 After a long afternoon nap, my husband and I took a tour of the grounds on our property.  That’s saying something for me, as I never take “tours” or hikes or walks outside… I’m not the outdoorsy type.  Walking is supposed to help gently encourage the baby further into the birth canal (gravity, duhhh).  I really enjoyed just slowly walking with and being by my husband, talking, joking and laughing. 


{On the far side of our little pond, which I never visit.  Bugs.  That’s why.  I don’t enjoy bugs or their bites.}

We decided to install the infant carseat and took a small drive to get a “dying man’s wish” of some greasy McDonald’s French fries. 
I know that’s a terrible choice, but whatever.


{my husband snuck a lot of ridiculous photos of me…}

So after a relaxing, restful day, the intensity of my contractions picked up at 4pm. I remained in our living room with our orange medicine ball, hanging over it, sitting on it, kneeling over it while crocheting the blanket I’ve been working on through each contraction.

I decided to upload a contraction timer App for my phone which helped a ton. My children have a little Pottery Barn Kids chair that I moved to and started leaning over for support.  As the contractions picked up in intensity and frequency, I didn’t want to move from the chair.  My husband made a joke that I normally would have laughed about, but as another contraction began, I told him, “No, no, no, that isn’t funny, this is serious right now…” and I began to breathe through the throbbing wave.

{My husband later told me that this photo made him think of the scene in Disney’s Tangled where Maximus hides and poorly disguises himself behind a rock… like so:}

I realized we needed to head to the hospital when I found myself in a meditative rest -almost sleeping- in between each contraction.  Yet the contractions were 3-4 minutes apart.  I knew I would absolutely refuse to get into a car for a 30 minute ride to the hospital if I’d waited any longer.

 I had probably 10 contractions which I had to work through in the car, in the parking lot and into the emergency entrance.

Of course, we enter and I’ve got a large audience in the waiting room, silently watching me work through the one contraction I had at the desk. Seriously, why were there 20 people in the waiting room at 9:30 on a Saturday night!?

I refused a wheelchair and Craig and I walked our way to the labor and delivery floor. It was difficult and I began to become emotional, knowing “this is really happening”. Craig let me hang onto him and supported me through each surge of pain that coursed through my body.

We finally made it to triage where I was examined and told I was dilated at 6cm and fully effaced. 
My doula, Maren came, as well as my OB (to my great surprise!) and we all walked to my birth room.

There I chose a chair to kneel in front of, on top of a cushion, and work through many contractions. 
Sitting on the toilet actually felt nice too, but I could tell I was making my nurse and OB nervous that I would deliver into the toilet, so I moved toward the bed…

I felt extremely relieved to not be forced to have a hep-lock placed into my hand.

Quickly, I realized the nurse attendant was extremely respectful of our crunchy wishes (no medication, no IV, ability to freely move, intermittent fetal monitoring, no vaccinations, eye goo, etc) and she asked me before she did anything to me or in preparation of the baby’s arrival.

Such a stark contrast from my last experiences. It was so nice to be fully mentally present and feel fully integrated into my labor and delivery of our child. Not just a vessel.

I began to be so uncomfortable that I sought different positions. The labor bed had the capability to transform into a sort of step ladder shape so that I could squat on it foreword or backward, with different handles for me to use for support or to hang onto. The nurse and Maren attached a huge metal bar, encased with soft sponge, as I decided to turn forward and rest semi upright on my back in between contractions.  (Not typical of a natural birthing mom, but it brought my tailbone some relief!)

I began to feel some relief in pushing and crying out during the intense waves of insanity that tore through my lower back and hips.

Here’s where the one man—er, woman— circus act began.

I lost it.

Completely lost it.

I was pushing, but our baby wasn’t moving.  

With each push, the pain intensified instead of bringing the reported relief that each laboring mother is supposed to experience.

As I had just finished a particularly shocking contraction, we heard a knock on the door and in walked a man with a table full of tools and medicines, “I hear someone called for an epidural?” he sang merrily.  (&!^%!@?#%*!!!!!!!!?)  

“NOOO!!!” shouted everyone synonymously. 
“no thank you, ” I heard myself squeak.  And everyone laughed at my little, polite refusal.  

Out backed the epidural man with his table of drugs.  If I had a chance to back down and get an epi, I’d lost it now, I thought to myself with a sense of finality and triumph over the temptation to escape the fear of the unknown…

The contractions were double-peaking and so closely on top of each other by now that I refused to let my OB (who’d remained in the room with us the entire time) check my cervix for progress.

When he finally did check me, he informed me that he needed to aid in pulling the cervical lip back; that it was keeping our baby from being pushed to the point of crowning.  Which explains the abnormal pain.  I was pushing our baby into a wall, basically.  


{This diagram illustrates why I was experiencing such pain.  I wasn’t fully dilated, yet still pushing.  Ouchie.}

So instead of my OB doing the typical perineum stretching that happens in the final pushing stage, he was aiding in cervical stretching. And it hurt. It was like rubbing salt onto exposed nerve endings in an amputated arm.

At this moment, I closed my eyes and did not open them to anyone for the last half of my labor.  It was me against myself, I knew, by myself.

I sang the opera: 

http://youtu.be/ojeLyPo_Wz4?t=20s

Held a long, low note of a male Tenor with each contraction and crazily thought I might be auditioning for the part of a pirate in the musical Pirates of Penzance. (which I did do in 7th grade).

I bellowed like a blind, old cow. 
I barked like a constipated, fat dog (Craig’s favorite sound to recount).
I wailed like a banshee,
Screamed like a girl riding down a roller coaster. 
 

Screamed like a horror film heroine.


{Psycho, anyone?}

I Bellowed in such a way that I actually heard my OB utter the word “water buffalo” during my resting period.  


{Now I know what a water buffalo is, and what it sounds like}

When hollering proved insufficient, I punched my own thigh in disbelief of the reality of the pain. I slapped it like “DAYYYYYUMMMM!” as if I could not believe such sensations were gaining victory over me. 
I thrashed my head- shaking it saying “NO NO NO NO NOOOO!!!!!” absolutely forbidding the pain to triumph. 
And then, after each contraction, I raised one hand or the other into the air, eyes closed, like a passionate gospel singer, and slowly grasped at absolutely nothing.


{Or Mariah Carey.}

The few times I did open my eyes, I refused to focus them on any one.

I was gone. Lost. Completely lost. 
Craig tells me it frightened him to see me so lost, knowing he could do nothing to help me find my way out.

At this point, soaked in sweat, I actually sobbed, saying “I don’t want to do this anymore!!! What else can I do! Please!!” I looked my husband full in the face for the first time and I knew there was nothing. He firmly urged me on. My nurse urged me and my doula reminded me that I was born to do this. Finally my water broke— 

And I felt a new pain.  A welcome pain.  Our little boy was descending.  Finally descending.  I gave two great pushes, and out came our little boy’s head.  

“Open your eyes and look down!” I was told.  But I refused to open them until my husband placed our boy onto my chest.  

Craig caught our little Collin John Paul.  I opened my eyes as Collin was handed to me, and I was completely taken aback by the shock ofjet black hair covering his head, his beautifully colored, baby pink skin (our other boys came out grayish/purple because of the epidural I believe), and the amount of vernix still coating his little body (indicating that he perhaps wasn’t overdue like we’d all believed).  

And it was: love at first sight.  I feel bad for my first boy…I didn’t know and I was too afraid of the unknown to appreciate seeing him for the first time.

I was filled to the brim with a complete sense of peace.  Of love.  

And then I barked, “NEVER AGAIN!” to the whole room.

And 15 minutes later, I caught myself saying, “well, next time…” 

I realized my voice had a sudden similarity to that of a heavy, life-long smoker, and I laughed at my labor charade. 

This birth humbled me to my core.  It fulfilled my identity as a woman.  

My life is full of incompletes, of goals never accomplished, of things started backward, or not carried out from A-Z. 

But this one.  This I can humbly claim.  I can know in my heart, “I really did it.” 

It wasn’t easy.  It wasn’t enjoyable.  It wasn’t.  

But it was amazing. It was better than winning a sporting event.  Better than winning a gold medal.  Better than getting a raise, a promotion, a new possession, being famous, walking the runway, jumping from an airplane…better than any achievement, award, reward or drug I could ever possibly attain.  And I got to experience it.  I did.  Just me. 

And I am humbled by that privilege.

But I must admit that I’ve never in my life felt or understood the genuine meaning of the word GLAD.  I was SO GLAD it was over and completed.

Will I do it again?  

…how about asking me that question again a year from now… ;)

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