As Bridget (then called "The New March Baby," sex unknown) was due on March 17th, I was surprised to see my usual signs of imminent labor show up on March 3. I carried both boys right up to the brink of my due date, so the general feeling was disbelief with a tinge of optimism that I might get out of this (much more miserable) pregnancy a little earlier! I texted my midwives the next morning to give them a heads-up; that evening (March 4), midwife "S" asked if I wanted to her drop in after a class she was teaching. I said yes, she came at 7:30pm and checked me and said "Looks like it's happening, call back if things are changing." Poor S. I called her back two hours later to let her know that contractions were constant and I was sending Dave to drop the boys off at my parents'. That's when we called Ceci, lover of all things scientific, medicinal and clinical, to come over and be my temporary home birth labor coach. Ha!
Sometime around 10:15 I texted back and forth with S., saying that the contractions were 2.5 minutes apart. Ceci and Dave were filling up the birthing tub in our kitchen (we'd just set it up the day before!) and Cec was timing my contractions on her phone.
The timing overnight gets pretty fuzzy. I think Ceci left at one in the morning after amusing the midwives and me with her affection for hospitals and interrogations about their iPad accessories. Later she said she thought she'd be getting a call in the next few hours announcing the birth of the baby.
I know I tried getting in the shower, but contractions slowed down there. Ditto birthing tub. I remember saying "I feel like my discomfort isn't progressing as much as it should be given how long I've been in labor and how constant these contractions are." The midwives (S. and J.) told me to try to get some sleep now that my contractions had spaced out more (pretty much the last thing a nonmedicated person wants to be told after four or five hours of seemingly active labor is to try to sleep, but we were running out of options). That night was the WORST. I'd drift off to sleep only to wake up in the middle of a stunningly sharp, body-wracking contraction--I'd grip the side of the bed and grit my teeth, and then it was over and I had to climb back in bed and go back to sleep knowing it would happen again in ten minutes. Horrific.
Morning came and we all decided to try to speed things up. J. checked me and told me without naming numbers that my instincts were right--it seemed the baby's head was sideways and that was probably hindering the dilation process, so my contractions were strong and steady but not doing much to bring the baby down. "We need to try to get the baby to turn as it comes down," they said, and then cheerfully reported the many ways we could do that. I tried a lot of them--different lunge-type positions, moxibustion on my lower back, visualization.
There were a lot of things going on in my head at this point, but the main issue was the push-pull between Comfort and Progress. It's very counterintuitive to do things that cause a great deal of discomfort because you have the hope--not any promise--that it will speed up labor. And remember, what I was racing toward was the "reward" of MIND-NUMBING PAIN as a human emerged from my completely cogent and sensitive body.
Plus you can't forget I'd already been in labor now for twelve hours. It started to feel like a time warp, like I'd always be here, walking around my house, contracting at a plateau of "painful but not agonizing."
I have to mention that throughout labor, I was drinking this sports drink out of a reusable straw cup and that was the BEST part. (Most hospitals don't let you drink during labor, and if it's a long labor and/or push session, that can be really tough.) The only thing I ate was a PBJ sandwich in the final hours--I didn't have an appetite before then.
It got to be afternoon and J. checked me again; she said I was making definite progress, that the baby's head had turned (hallelujah!) and that she could feel my bag of waters way down low. I got back in the shower, back in the birthing tub, but was starting to feel really disheartened. They did mention at one point that breaking my water was an option--not one they'd actually availed themselves of in two years of practicing, but that it might make sense here and they were considering it if I was interested. I told them we could wait. Not because I wasn't DONE DONE DONE with labor at this point (I was SO DONE) but because it scared me to think about the unknown wallop of pain that would hit as soon as my water was broken and contractions went into hyperdrive.
Less than an hour later, after eating my sandwich in front of a terrible episode of Dr. Oz (perhaps there isn't another kind?) wherein he advised a woman to eat only a chunk of a chocolate bar instead of the whole thing--that was his groundbreaking weight loss advice! But I digress--at that point I said I thought we should get this show on the road. I lay down on my bed (which was protected by a mattress pad, sheets, shower curtain liners and more sheets) and either S. or J. broke my water, and then we were in business. That was at five.
I remember walking into the bathroom feeling those definitely-nearing-the-end contractions I'd felt so sharply with Finn's birth, and I said to Dave "This is it, right? There's no choice. I'm really scared of what this is going to feel like [ed. note: Smart girl!] but there's no way out but through." Then I turned to the mirror (all this is true) and said "I'm getting my game face on."
The next forty-five minutes are blurry at best, but I know those contractions became one on top of the other and so I got into the tub on my hands and knees. Then it was just one long mega-contraction and I was yelling "I can't do this!" and "Help, please help!" and...roaring. There was roaring. Dave was on a chair in the kitchen facing me, calm and composed as always, and J. and S. were saying "You are doing it," and "Everything is fine." I made a last-ditch attempt to ask them what it was going to feel like (that's me, never good with surprises) and then it actually felt like my body was going to turn itself inside out. I pushed/roared and stopped. Pushed again and she was crowning. One more time and her head was out.
At that point, unbeknownst to me, J. saw the cord wrapped around her neck and shoulder and so told me to slow down, stop pushing, but...I couldn't. I wanted this baby OUT. My body took over again (it was not pushing, it was metamorphosing into an exoskeleton, I swear that's how it felt) and her body was out and they were asking me to stand up in the tub and I felt the most amazing feeling I've ever felt in my life. It was the transition from The Worst Ever, Infinite Pain on a Scale of One to Ten all the way to Wait, I Just Pushed a Baby Out? Why Do I Feel So Very Normal? in one second. She was in and it was horrible; she was out and I was completely recovered. There was no in-between. Truly remarkable, and I'm so glad I got to experience it because I've never felt anything like it in my life before or since.
J. and S. usually wait for the cord to stop pulsing to cut it, but this one was so short that it stopped almost immediately. Bridget had short cord, an unusually short and therefore stretched umbilical cord, which probably explained why she took so long to come out. She was directing the labor: she had to stretch the cord slowly to be delivered safely, and she did. Almost two years later, I can safely say that this was just Bridget's personality showing up before she did.
We had been planning to name her Mary, which is still one of my all-time favorite names, but something about the picture in my head of who "Mary" was (docile, sweet, mellow) did not match this girl who had been determined to run the household while she was still, technically at least, a fetus. So we went through our list looking for the feistiest names and Bridget won out.
|On her first birthday|