Now this is a story! Of about how! My life got flip-turned upside down! And I’d like to take a minute, just sit right there, I’ll tell you h–hold up a minute, that’s not how this goes. I’m trying to write this birth story, is what I’m trying to do. Ok. Let’s regroup. Here is Part 1 of Gus’s birth story, COMIN’ ATCHA!
Let’s start with the point in my pregnancy where I decided to actually take the reigns and steer, since I was the one whose body was getting ready to DO THIS THING.
After much hemming and hawing and countless nervous conversations with my husband, I broke up with my OB/GYN practice at about 30 weeks. Each appointment was leaving me more and more unsettled and I kept being referred for ultrasounds for this reason or that (Baby too big! Is that a fibroid? It is a fibroid. Let’s look at that fibroid some more, oh hey, there’s another fibroid, let’s look at that one too! What else you got in there? Hey, your baby is still too big. MORE ULTRASOUNDS AT ONCE!) I had this weird feeling that the ultrasounds were bothering my baby and I hated that I was having so many of them. I hated exposing my baby to them (and I’m not even sure why, it just felt wrong), but I was also uncomfortable refusing them. And at each consultation with my OB (who I truly liked as a person), there was more and more talk of the baby “measuring big” and inductions and cesareans. And how I would need to be hooked up to all the monitors even if I wanted to try and go unmedicated. No walking the halls, young lady! To bed with you! Ok maybe you can stand NEXT to the bed, but we’ll be watching you! And you WILL want that epidural, TRUST ME. And we might need to do a cesarean because did we mention just how big that baby is? He is big! Big big big! Maybe we should go ahead and discuss scheduling a cesarean juuuuust in case.
So controlling! So overbearing!
Ideally, I wanted to trust my body to have the baby because that is what a lady body is supposed to do. I just wanted to TRY to go unmedicated and if it didn’t work out, oh well. That was my “plan.” The fact is, I could not create in my mind a Real Plan because I didn’t know what labor was going to feel like. I didn’t know what I would want or need. I didn’t know how I would handle the pain, mentally or physically. And no one else knew either. No one, not even the most seasoned birth veteran, could tell me what it would be like FOR ME. My husband and I took a great childbirth class where we learned all about labor and delivery and what to expect from the hospital, what to expect from a typically laboring body, from doctors, from midwives, from nurses. But of course, no class can teach you how YOU will react and how YOU will handle labor and what YOUR body will (or won’t) do. When you are pregnant for the first time, labor and everything thereafter is The Great Unknown. And that is why I wanted options! I knew I would feel better knowing that I had the maximum number of tools at my disposal.
I feel that I should also mentioned that during my second trimester, I cranked up Netflix and watched The Business of Being Born. This was both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that it really opened my eyes to exactly what typical OB-led interventions can sometimes do to a woman’s body and a baby and pushed me to question my OB and, eventually, leave for greener pastures. Because, looking back, I really don’t think things would have gone well had I stayed with that practice. The curse has to do with the nagging embarrassment and a bit of guilt that I felt about my epidural and all that followed. But I won’t go into that now. I’ll just say that I’m glad I watched it because I truly believe it helped me realize I needed to take the steps to get into a better, more respectful birthing situation.
I started going to a group of midwives who specialize in unmedicated births and water births, but who also do not turn their noses up at epidurals. I felt comfortable with them because I knew they would not push anything on me or tell me my baby was the size of a Siberian tiger or that I probably wouldn’t be able to handle anything at all and I should just hold up a second and let them get the baby out real fast.
At my first appointment with this midwife practice, the midwife took a lot of time to feel my belly and tell me exactly where the baby’s head was and where his butt was and what position he was in. She never said he was big. My OB never touched my belly except to find the heartbeat or quickly measure my belly with measuring tape.
Something else that put me at ease about the midwives was that I knew I would be able to hold my baby as soon as he was born, whether I delivered vaginally or via cesarean. The OB associated with the midwives allows for family-centered cesareans. I NEEDED to know I could hold my baby right away. The truth was that I hadn’t bonded with the baby yet, in utero. I had to be sure that I could hold him right away and get to know him immediately. It was a big worry of mine.
The week of my due date, I realized I needed to go on maternity leave because I could no longer not be a bitch. I also was struggling to get up at 5:45 every morning and work a 10-hour day. I needed alone time and I needed people to stop saying things to me like, “Oh, you’re here today! I was wondering if you’d had your baby over the weekend, but I guess you didn’t, because here you are!” I could no longer deal with pregnancy-related small talk. Also, I needed so many naps. So I decided I would work up until my due date and then go on maternity leave. I thought I’d probably be about a week “overdue,” since I was a first-timer and that is typical. I was right! I went into labor at 40 weeks 6 days.
Those six days of lying around at home just relaxing and being really really pregnant were good times, let me tell you. I ate lots of good food, cooked a few things to freeze for when the baby arrived, watched lots of movies, attempted to go on walks, and NAPPED. So many naps. I’m not typically a napper, but napping is all I wanted to do.
On Friday, April 20, I’d been having barely noticeable Braxton Hicks contractions all day. My belly would tighten painlessly and random times during the day. I went to the grocery store with my mom and loaded up on provisions. For some reason, we were all predicting I’d go into labor on Monday, and I really believed that, so I thought I had the full weekend ahead of me to prepare and spend a little time with my husband, just the two of us. I really really did not feel ready to have a baby. I didn’t feel ready to give birth and I didn’t feel ready to take care of a baby. You’d think almost 41 weeks would be enough time to get to the point where I was at least somewhat ready to become a mother, but you’d be mistaken.
That Friday night, I was lying in bed, trying to get comfortable. My baby was doing something in my belly that could only be described as “frolicking.” It felt like he was rolling around in the old uterus, just having the time of his life. At around 11:00 p.m., I heard a loud POP and felt a gush of you know what coming from the you know where. I grabbed the towel that I kept next to the bed for just this very reason and ran to the bathroom to check things out. I checked to make sure the fluid was clear (it was) and then went back to the bedroom to tell Brandon. It turns out the pop was so loud, it woke him up! We had planned on spending my early labor watching one of our favorite shows while I relaxed in a Bradley position on the fold-out sofa. We also planned on taking a walk. Brandon went to the living room to get our show queued up and then came back to the bedroom, where I was sitting on the bed.
I had begun to shake uncontrollably to the point where I couldn’t speak very clearly. I suppose it was caused by adrenaline. Brandon put his arms around me and we lay on the bed and he said some really nice things. I always feel so much comfort when he holds me, but this time I felt panicked and trapped. I just wanted to pace. I thought, “I can’t do this, I’m not ready for this, I don’t want to do this” over and over in my head and could not stop shaking.
Finally, we stood up and walked to the living room. I remembered a few things I needed to pack in our hospital bags, so I went about doing that. All of a sudden, I had my first contraction. It was very strong and seemed to last quite a long time. I put my hands on the kitchen counter and swayed and thought, “Okay, I did okay with that one. It hurt, but I handled it. I’ll be ready for the next one.” Except that the next one was different. When the next one hit, it didn’t stop hurting. For awhile, I could tell when the contractions started and stopped, but the pain never eased. We started timing the contractions. They were 3 minutes apart, so I dialed the midwife. Sitting through the answering service was too much for me, so I handed off the phone to my husband and made my way to the bathroom, because the only place I could imagine sitting was backwards on the toilet with my head on the back of the toilet. I stopped being able to speak clearly. I was still shaking like crazy. My husband told me that the midwife said she didn’t think I needed to come in yet. I remember feeling so scared and making these wild animal sounds. Brandon called my mother and asked her to come over, since she was going to go with us to the hospital and we wanted everything to be ready for when we decided to get in the car and head out.
I don’t remember many specifics from this point. I do remember vomiting. I remember not being able to stand up or move my legs. I remember shaking like crazy. I remember feeling like I wasn’t going to be able to do this. I remember wanting someone to just take me to the hospital. I remember thinking that everything that was happening sure sounded like the way transition was described to us in our birth class, but how could I possibly be in transition?
To be continued.