[Warning! This is a story about natural childbirth. Feel free to skip if you're not interested!]
I have always wanted to have a natural childbirth. It just seemed so empowering and amazing. My first two pregnancies didn't go that way, but with this one, I was determined to do everything in my power to have the birth I wanted. And it seemed like everything was coming together in my favor: I found a practice of midwives very supportive of a natural VBAC, a hospital who let you do your own thing without needless interventions, and a negative strep B! (which was the biggest blessing of all). If ever there was a time to go natural, this was it!
The best part about being negative for strep B is that I could labor at home as long as I wanted, without having to rush to the hospital for antibiotics. So that was the plan. When regular contractions were happening, I would call to let my midwives know, but continue to labor at home.
I had been contracting on and off for a few days, but the night of Dec 26th, they picked up, and I had a feeling this was going to be it. Jeff was working the midnight shift at work (7:00 pm to 7:00 am) and was completing a really important assignment that night. He told me he would finish that up at around 4:00 am. I went to bed with contractions, and fell asleep, assuming they would stop if it wasn't real labor, and would wake me up eventually if it was!
At 2:00 am, the contractions woke me up. They were regular at 4 minutes apart, and picking up a little in intensity. I knew sleep at that point wasn't going to happen. I made it a goal to hang on by myself until after Jeff would be done with his work thing. 4:00 came and went, and I kept pushing back the time I would call him. On one side, I didn't want the hassle of calling and hoping that they'd be able to find him and all that drama. I think that's pretty much why I didn't call.
At 6:30, the contractions were every 3-4 minutes and were getting very strong. I knew that baby was going to come today! Jeffy and Katelyn had gotten up at 6:00, so they were up with me. Let me tell you, it's kind of hard to concentrate on relaxing with two very active kids running around! :) I played a little baseball with Jeffy, where I'd pitch him the ball and he'd hit it every couple of times, and tried really hard not to bite their heads off when contractions hit.
Jeff was supposed to be home at around 7:30, so I was just trying to hold on till then. I still needed to pack a few things for me and for the kids, but it was all I could do to try to get through each contraction. Once Jeff got home, I would have some help.
Of course, he had to stay late. He got home at about 8:30 and I was trying not to lose it. The contractions were still 3-4 minutes apart, and getting stronger and stronger. Jeff corralled the kids and got them out of my way so I could relax and get this done. At 9:00 I called the midwives to let them know I was in labor. They suggested I go ahead and come in to the hospital, since the roads were bad due to lots of snow the night before. So we got off the phone and started to get ready to leave. The bags were packed, everything loaded in the car, and at 10:00 we were ready to go. We called the babysitter to let her know we were on our way, but there was no answer. We waited a little longer and tried again, but with no luck. And again. I started to get really nervous, because I knew baby wasn't far away from coming, and what on earth were we going to do if our babysitter fell through?!! Finally, a little before 11:00, Jeff drove over to her house to see if she was there. I guess she and her phone were on different levels of the house. Whew.
We dropped the kids off, stopped back at home for something for Jeff, stopped back at the babysitters to drop off Jeffy's potty, then we were finally on our way at 11:15. At this point, the contractions were really bad and I was having a really hard time relaxing. Jeff tried to talk me through them, and after each contraction, I told him what had helped and what hadn't. About halfway through our hour-long drive to the hospital, we figured out what worked for me and Jeff did a great job helping me to stay relaxed. When a contraction was coming, I would tap on the cup holder and Jeff would start talking me down. When I started to lose control, my breathng would speed up and and I'd make a hyperventilating sound, and Jeff knew to help me regain control, especially over my breathing.
The closer we got, the lower I could feel her moving. I really hoped that when we got to the hospital, I would be far along, but at the same time, I really didn't want to hope too much, and then be disappointed by being at a 3 or something. We finally pulled into the hospital and were going to do one more contraction in the car before going in, but when it started, I knew we were running out of time, so I yelled "we have to get inside NOW!" So he helped me out of the car, and we walked in. Ouch. It's hard to walk when you're in full-blown labor like that! I was just concentrating on getting one foot up and down at a time, and trying to remember to breathe. I subconsciously noticed people looking at me, and wondered what I looked like.
We got to the maternity wing, and they offered me a wheelchair. I declined-- I was in a walking groove and didn't want to upset it. Looking back, it was kind of dumb to offer it to me there; I would have been in it for all of a 20-second trip. We made it into a room, where I painfully changed into a gown and belly band. The contractions I had while changing HURT. It took every bit of my strength not to lose control, but I knew that wasn't going to last long either. The end was coming! :)
After what seemed like an eternity, the nurse came in, and told Jeff he had to go register upstairs. Dumb. I had done the pre-registration thing, but he still had to leave me and go finish up. The contraction that hit me on his way out was the beginning of the end. I lost all control I had had. I just started writhing and calling "help, help, help" and Jeff came running back in. I yelled at him "not you!" because I just wanted him to finish and get back to me.
I was alone in that room having the worst pain of my life, and I thought I was going to have this baby by myself, that she was going to come and no one would be there to help me! Not a good feeling. The nurse came in and checked me and said I still had a little bit of cervix left, but she didn't want to cause me more pain by determining exactly where I was. Contractions were coming hard and very close together. After she checked me, a really bad one hit, and I grabbed on to this pole thing next to my bed and just started screaming. No more control here! I just said over and over and "I can't do it! I can't do it!" and my nurse was great and kept telling me that I was strong and that I can do it. After another contraction like that, she checked me again, and said that the cervix was gone and I was ready to have this baby!
She told me to try my hardest not to bear down when the contractions came. Um, yeah right. At this point, I wasn't in charge anymore. My body was doing what it wanted to do, regardless of what I wanted it to do! I had been in the hospital for about 10 minutes at this point. I hadn't answered their questions, I hadn't signed anything, and my midwife hadn't even been paged yet. But after that check, the nurse started to get things rolling. I did my best not to push when those awful contractions hit and kept coming. Instead I just screamed and held onto that pole for dear life. They couldn't find my midwife, so an on-call OB stepped in. The room was filled with people getting things ready. But Jeff wasn't back yet. I was scared he was going to miss it!
With one contraction, I felt this huge gush and started screaming/panting to hopefully alert someone that something was going on! I thought baby was coming or something, and at first, they thought my water had broken, but the doctor checked and it was still in tact, so I guess it was urine or something. The doctor said the basically the water sack was all that was keeping my baby in. Finally they were ready and I was allowed to push. And push I did.
With the pushing came a little relief because I was finally able to direct my pain at something. The pain was still intensely there and I had a hard time not screaming my bloody head off. (I'd heard lots of stories about women involuntarily screaming during childbirth, and thought that sounded a little silly, but now I understand. I screamed and screamed and it was not a conscious decision! There was nothing I could do about it! I remember the doctor kept telling me to stop screaming and direct my energy at pushing. :)) I think Jeff made it back in after the first push. I was so relieved he was there. He was set up to hold one of my legs and I kept pushing. My water broke. She was coming. Sometimes I would have a minute or so inbetween contractions. Jeff later told me that during the breaks, I was like my regular self, but during contractions, something else took over and it was like I wasn't there anymore. I kept saying things like "I don't want to do this anymore!" and "I quit!" and things like that, but for some reason, no one listened to me and I had to keep going!
At one point, I asked if she was coming, if it was working, and they told me that she was coming, but I felt that everything was so hopelessly beyond my control and the horrible pain was never going to end, that I said "you're all lying!" I wonder what other kinds of weird things people say in childbirth...
Anyways, those horrible, gut-wrenching, surely-I-am-going-to-die-from-this-pain contractions kept coming and I pushed with everything I had, and after only about 6 contractions or so, she was born! I had been in the hospital for a little more than half an hour. (Later when I looked in the mirror, I was shocked. That pushing really did me in-- I had broken blood vessels all over my face, neck, and shoulders. I looked like a completely different person.)
She was here!!! My first reaction was utter and complete relief. It was over. I did it. And I didn't have to do it anymore. When my water broke, there had been some meconium, so they wanted to check her out before they gave her to me. So I got to hear her little cry from her bassinet. Jeff called out and told me that she had a full head of light blonde hair! She was fine, no meconium had gotten into her lungs and she was letting her presence be known! Now it was her turn to scream. :)
I didn't get to hold her, though, for about 45 minutes while I got stitched up. I guess sometimes when things go that fast, you don't have a chance to stretch, so you tear. I tore pretty badly, and got some major stitches. That was almost as bad as the birth! "Okay, we're going to give you a shot, this will hurt. Okay, we're going to stitch you up right here, this will hurt...." Good grief. Oh, and by the way, my midwife didn't make it in time for the delivery, but she made it in time to stitch me up! Lucky lady.
Finally I got to hold her. She was so beautiful, and it was true-- she was a towhead! How did a baby of mine end up with such light blonde hair? :) She was perfect and very alert from the lack of drugs. We just looked at each other and got acquainted. It was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life, and I don't know whether or not I'll do it again, but it was worth it then. I felt like I had given her a gift that only I could give. She wasn't hopped up on medications that would take hours to wear off. She was just... herself. That may sound weird, but it's how I felt.
I believe that women have the right to choose what kind of birth they want, whether it's natural, medicated, or whatever. I was so grateful that I was given the opportunity to birth how I wanted to and that I had such a supportive team behind me. I'm grateful that things worked out the way they did and that I got such a beautiful baby out of it. Rebekah is very precious to me and I can't think of a better start to our relationship.