(The birth story series starts here.)
Scout had his last day of work, we celebrated by going to Target and buying … whatever we wanted. Like two drunks on a final bender.
I woke around 430 to pee. I wandered to the bathroom in the dark, realizing I was rather awake. I felt a cramp. Oh please.
I started writing the times of these cramps. I breathed a sigh of relief. It really was. It really was labor. I was too excited to go back to sleep.
I called and cancelled my appointment. Gleefully, I told them I was already in labor.
Scout woke and I told him we were skipping the appointment – that I was already contracting. I think he questioned if we needed to go to the hospital right then.
Midmorning we went for a walk. Scout would occasionally ask, “Contraction?” I’d sarcastically ask, “How’d you know?” It was obvious, because when the contractions hit, I’d have to slow my steps.
We spent the day tallying contractions. I took a bath, washed my hair, used my salt scrub. I took care of myself. We watched Scrubs. We ate. We lounged in bed together. Maybe once an hour I’d have a strong contraction, and this would be my mental commentary:
“I want drugs. I’m never doing this again. I want drugs. I’m never doing this again…..”
I paged the midwife line around five. I didn’t want to go to the hospital yet. I told them I’d been having contractions all day and just wanted to check in. She said to check back in when I was ready, or to call in the morning for an appointment. She was nice and helpful and wished me luck.
In the next four hours, things were moving along. More often than not, the contractions were the metallic, painful ones. They were strong, and it hurt to inhale during one. If I could have always been exhaling, I would have felt better.
At nine, I called again. I was ready to go. The midwife gave me instructions, and we were ready to go. We petted and loved on the cat curled at the end of our bed. She had no idea how much everything was going to change, and it strangely hurt to leave her. She was my comfort object, curled on the bed with us.
I talked to Mrs. Deacon all the way to the hospital. She kept track of my contractions, and would naturally take over the conversation every 5 minutes, when I wasn’t able to talk, and it helped to focus on her voice.
We got to the hospital around 10pm and met our nurses. They were lovely. I got my ghastly maternity hospital gown, changed into it, leaving my bra on (which was somehow important to me) and got settled into bed. The lights in the room were dim and they stayed that way through the entire labor and delivery. A small detail, but one I really liked. When a contraction came, the nurse Leah checked me. Oh my God it hurt. I whined and “ow”ed my way through it. She apologized the whole time, and when we were done I told her it wasn’t personal that I complained, and she laughed. We talked about my birth plan (“No C-section”), she told me they were impressed I was overdue, that they had mostly inductions at this point. She seemed really happy with my point of view of weighing my options when it came to drugs – she thought it was better than demanding the epi over the phone before I showed up. She and I clicked well.
Oh, and she’d asked me how dilated I thought I was, I had no idea – I was at a four and she was way impressed with that. This was around 10:30.
And then she asked the question that would change our entire experience for the better.
“Do you want me to call one of our volunteer doulas for you?”
I hemmed and hawed, until she said, “I love ’em all,” I said what the heck, give one a call for us.
The mEdwife showed up and that song and dance happened. While it was going on, I knew the doula showed up, but I was having a hell of a contraction and was too busy focusing on a bird in the painted in the border on the wall.
When she introduced herself, I should have known this was going to save us.
Her name was Angel. (I can’t make this stuff up.)
Leah was still trying to get my paperwork done – we were almost there – she said I needed to sign my release, Alex’s release, the HIPAA form and a tally sheet. I told her I’d do it when I was sitting on the birthing ball by the bed so I could write on something.
I got out of bed, went to the bathroom, came back, got on the ball and had a contraction that had me shrieking all over the place. Angel sat by me and started gently coaching me. She told me that it was excellent to vocalize, but that high pitched vocals were going to send the signal to my body to be tense, low pitched vocals would send the signal to my body to relax. On my next contraction, she said, vocalize a low vowel sound. (I felt like I was in Voice class all over again, but this all made perfect sense, I just never thought my grad degree would be helpful in labor.)
The next contraction hit, and the lower vocals did help. I got sent back into bed anyway, which sucked, because the ball was more comfortable.
By 12:30, I was already in transition – only I didn’t realize it because I thought transition started at 8, so I didn’t realize I was already there when I measured a 7. I went pretty much internal for an hour and a half. I “ah”d a lot. The contractions during transition really didn’t always let up. They were continuous, but the same intensity as the strongest ones I’d had all day. They weren’t fun, but they were something I could deal with. Angel coached, “Just get through this one… just this one.” Which Scout later asked if that really helped, and I had to say, it really did. I was monosyllablic girl – “ice” or “ow” or eventually “push-ee” when I felt like it was getting to push time. At some point, Angel was going to go get the mEdwife and I grabbed her hand tighter and wouldn’t let her leave me. I had her in front of me and Scout behind and I needed the protective feeling from both of them.
It was pain, but it was okay pain. I knew things were moving along, I knew things were okay. I could talk to Alex. We were doing well. I started to really mumble about pushing and Angel was listening but still telling me that it wasn’t time.
I was curled on my side in the bed, when I spoke my first complete sentence in over an hour. “I need to push NOW.” Angel said she would page the mEdwife, and what she needed me to do was take a deep breath and blow it out my mouth. I knew what she was doing was getting me to redirect that force to push and send it the opposite direction. I took a deep breath, and as I got ready to blow it out, my body totally took over – I heaved the hugest push ever, my body uncurled and shot out straight. Simultaneously, Angel dropped my hand and ran for the door, as Scout dove to the foot of the bed thinking he was going to catch the baby with all the power behind that push.
I don’t know what she said to them, but Scout said the room was suddenly filled with people who looked like they were prepping for battle, they were throwing on gowns and snapping gloves and mEdwife sailed to the end of the bed, putting my leg up on her shoulder so she could check progress. It was 224am.
With the next contraction, she had me push. Or more appropriately, I pushed and she sat at the ready and let me do what I needed to do. I curled into Scout’s chest and he gave me a wall of support to push against.
The next contraction, she told me she could see Alex’s full head of hair and did I want to touch it. I felt his head and waited for the next contraction.
Next contraction, I could feel the resistance. I backed way off pushing. After it was past, mEdwife supportively (for reals) told me she knew it hurt, she was sorry, they were trying to get the lidocaine, but if the next contraction came, to please go ahead and push hard – it would likely be the last one.
Next contraction. I pushed. (skeeve alert the rest of this paragraph, skip if you need to) You know how it feels when you cut yourself shaving? One of those nasty behind the ankle cuts. You see stars, and feel a little sick, even though the pain isn’t really all that bad? That’s exactly what that push was like. Scout said he could see Alex’s eyebrows. I just stayed curled up. I just wasn’t sure I wanted to see, and I didn’t have time to ponder because the next contraction came, I pushed, it was 247am, and we had a baby.
I wish this was more clear in my mind. I know he was born, I was surprised at how fast it was there at the end. They put him on my stomach, Scout cut the cord, they rubbed him dry on my stomach, bundled him in a blanket and gave him to me.
We had our little bud. He was here.
As soon as he was born – the pain was gone. The labor pain, the sciatic pain … all of it.
I looked at Leah, and said, “I need to sign my release, Alex’s release, the HIPAA form and the tally sheet.” She cracked up laughing. I said, “I was paying attention to what you said, I was just a little busy!”
After everyone cleared out of the room, it was just my little family and Angel. She told me she knew how TIME it was for me to push, that she hated trying to redirect me, but she HAD to do it because she HAD to get the person in charge. I knew this, and I understood this, even in the moment it was happening. She told us she could feel Alex working so hard to get in position to be born, under her hand that was on my stomach, gently stroking circles. She told me that I’d done something that no one could take from me. That I could draw on the strength of this experience anytime.
We know that without her, the night would have been much different. It’s incredible to me, that someone who was such an accidental part of the night, and for only four hours of our life could have such an impact. But anytime we tell Alex’s birth story, we always tell about the Angel we had by our sides.
It was a long day, and a long two weeks, but in the end, even though it wasn’t exactly as I pictured, I was still right. This was something I could do. I faced my marathon and I made it to the end. The little girl who was scared to catch a ball faced up to a challenge and came out intact.
And with one hell of a prize.