I have so enjoyed reading other women's birth stories lately (and watching all the birth shows on TLC and Discovery) that I have decided to share with you my first three experiences with childbirth - this will be a three-parter, obviously.
Part one is dedicated to my daughter, now almost 20 years old.
When I found out that I was pregnant the first time around, I was urged by family members to give the child up for adoption. As a teen mom, single (but 'in love' with my boyfriend) I pretended to consider this option, but in my heart I knew that I just could not do it. I already loved my baby, and could not picture that an adoptive parent could possibly love her as much as I already did! So I instead studied like mad to learn everything I could possibly find out about pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting.
*Obviously I am still learning, but that is another story!*
My boyfriend went with me to the 'prepared childbirth' classes, but he basically slept through them. I learned a little about Lamaze, Bradley, and everything in between. Epidurals, breastfeeding, diapering, caring for the umbilical 'stump'....all fascinated me.
I completed the CHSPE to finish high school early....one day before my due date. It was funny, actually - the proctor administering the test was explaining about it being a timed test, no bathroom breaks, etc. (I think the total test was like 2 1/2 or 3 hours long!) and she looked right at my big belly and said, "exceptions can be made in extreme circumstances". And yes, the other students all stared at me. In the end, I finished the test without a potty break and then waddled my way to the bathroom with a HUGE sigh of relief.
I had a checkup 2 days later, and the OB told me that I was dilated to 2 cm and about 10% effaced (just like the previous 2 checkups). In other words, NO PROGRESS. This was already a day after my due date, so I was hoping the dr. would send me to the hospital for induction (yes, I studied up on that, too!) I was so disappointed to be making another appointment to come back the following week, "unless anything happens sooner".
I went home and timed my contractions, hoping for SOME change.....one night that week, I had contractions that got down to 6 minutes apart, and after 5 or 6 of these, I told my boyfriend it was time to go to the hospital. But by the time we had my hospital bag and our shoes, car keys, etc, the contractions had stopped. I was so upset I cried half the night. I was tired of being a heffalump, and I really wanted to hold my baby in my arms!
The next Tuesday, I went back to my OB, and this time she strapped the monitors around my belly to record my contractions and keep track of baby's heart rate. I had a few 'good' contractions, about 12 minutes apart, before she examined me. This time, when she said "2cm and 10% effaced" I wanted to HIT her. Not that it was her fault or anything, but I was now 9 days past my due date! She informed me that she was going to 'stir things up a little' while doing the exam, and then told me to report to the hospital at 6 AM the next morning, if nothing happened overnight.
I tried to sleep that night, really I did! I had more contractions, but none of them seemed regular. It would be, like 12 minutes apart, then 11 minutes, then jump to 20 minutes apart. I got up around 4 AM to go to the bathroom. I felt constipated, and sat there on the toilet for a bit before I realized I was having contractions 4 minutes apart! We raced to the hospital, made the 45 minute drive in just over 30 minutes, and got me checked in and monitored for a bit. The labor nurse confirmed that my contractions were regular and strong, and then she gave me the dreaded exam.....but this time the news was better: 3cm, and 50% effaced! YAY!
I was encouraged to walk to speed things up, so by 6 AM I was cruising the hallways of the labor floor with my boyfriend trying really hard to help - he was sooooo lost after sleeping through those classes! I walked for an hour before the low back pain made me begin to re-think my 'no drugs' birth plan. I waddled my way back to my LDRP room (yes, it was all four in one room - Labor, Delivery. Recovery, AND Postpartum!) and begged the nurse to check me again. This time I was still only dilated 3cm, but was more than 80% effaced.
My water had not broken yet, so the nurse suggested a bath to ease the pain....there were jets in the bathub, and I did NOT want to get out! Of course the water got cool quickly, since it had started out warm - not hot - but I stayed in it until I was pruny. Those low back pains were no match for the water and the jets. The nurse didn't want to check me again so soon, so I waited in the bed, trying to get comfortable, until my OB showed up around 9 AM. My contractions were about 2 minutes apart and really starting to hurt, so I was shocked to hear that in those 2 hours, I had only dilated another centimeter.
The doctor broke my bag of water with a tool that reminded me of a crochet hook, and told me she would be back to check on me "in another hour or two". The first contraction after that exam hurt like hell! This is when I started moaning through the contractions, as if the noise I made could somehow drown out the pain. I remember being shocked at how bad the pain was. I had psyched myself up for this, telling myself for months that I was stronger than this pain could ever be. And suddenly, in that moment, I wasn't. I was ready to cave in and ask for an epidural by 9:15 AM. The contractions seemed to come on top of one another, with no break in between. The nurse asked me if I was sure that I wanted drugs, and I remember yelling "Yes! No! OOOOOOWWWW!".
I did not know it at the time, but I was going through transition already. I literally went from 4 cm to 10 cm in less than 15 minutes, as soon as the water was broken. This was confirmed by a nurse who had just come on shift, and recognized the symptoms of transition. She asked me if I felt like pushing, and I gave her the same "Yes! No! OOOOOOWWWW!" answer that I had given the other nurse when asked about pain killers. This is when she examined me, felt the baby's head crowning, and called for the doctor.
Out of nowhere, staff came rushing in to prep for the delivery. It was a good thing they had this routine down to such a science, because I was, indeed ready to push by the time they separated my bed to make it a delivery table, and set up the warming table for baby, etc. The doctor walked in, clearly surprised that I was already ready to push - hadn't she JUST broken my water herself? Of course, by the time she got there, it had been half an hour since the whole crochet-hook thing.
I remember the intense pressure as the baby's head caused that 'ring of fire' sensation I had read and heard so much about. There was a nurse shouting at me to push, and my boyfriend tried (and failed miserably, at least at first) to hold my leg back. The nurse had my other leg, and I thought for sure she was trying to make me into one of those giant pretzels, with the way she lifted my leg all the way up to my chest. The doctor positioned herself in front of me and told me to push through the next contraction - which hit me just as she was saying this. I pushed, as hard as I could, and in that one push I decided I no longer wanted to get this baby OUT of me. It suddenly seemed better to somehow convince her to go back IN. The nurse who held my leg was so awesome - she saw me ready to give up after, maybe 10 seconds of pushing, and she pointed to a large mirror that had been placed near the foot of my bed-turned-delivery-table.
"Look sweetie, I can see the baby's head! Look at all that hair!"
That nurse was a genius! Or, at least she had been to a few births before, because she knew exactly what was needed of her, and when. The sight of my daughter's head 'peeking' at me was enough to strengthen my resolve, and I pushed as hard as I could, watching in amazement as the little strip of matted hair grew wider and bigger, until suddenly the whole head popped out. I mean, it didn't make a 'pop' sound, but it FELT like a pop! Maybe it did make a pop sound, but no one could hear if over my shreik of pain? I definitely screamed.
So, after pushing through just one contraction, my baby's head was all the way out. The doctor's voice took an urgent tone as she said, "ok, now, DON'T push for a second here..." She deftly grabbed my daughter's head in both hands, worked her fingers down around the neck, and located baby's shoulders, on the verge of ripping me. Yes, I am aware that would have seriously HURT. She turned the baby just a little, angled one tiny shoulder to come out first, and said, "OK, big push now". I pushed and screamed, which got me a dirty look from the nurse, but I didn't care because I saw my daughter slip and PLOP out into the doctor's hands.
Literally on the second contraction that I was 'allowed' to push through.
9:40 AM.....about 5 1/2 hours after I first realized I was in labor. No drugs. Just a beautiful, PERFECT baby.