This is my real birth story, complete with all the gorey details. If you don’t want to know them, don’t read it. Seriously.
Late Tuesday (Nov 20th) night, or possibly early Wednesday morning, I started having contractions. They weren’t bad, but they were different than any I had had before, and I wondered if perhaps it could be the very beginnings of labor. I was able to sleep between them pretty well, but they were strong enough to wake me when they happened. They seemed to be a good distance apart but I wasn’t paying attention because I was trying to sleep.
When I woke up Wednesday morning I went to the bathroom and found a big clump of bloody mucas on my toilet paper. I knew I had lost my mucas plug, so I started paying attention to how often the contractions were coming, and it seemed to be every 10 to 15 minutes. I already had a doctors appointment scheduled for that morning and was anxious to see if I had made any progress and if the doctor thought I might finally be in labor. When I was last at the doctors on Monday the 19th, my cervix was just barely starting to dilate, not quite a centimeter. This time I was dilated to almost three centimeters, the doctor said, and he predicted that I would have the baby the next day, which was Thanksgiving. I had been afraid the whole pregnancy that I would have the baby on Thanksgiving and miss my mom’s turkey and stuffing, but I was actually very excited when he made his prediction. I knew this Thanksgiving I would have something to be thankful for that I would remember the rest of my life.
As we left my doctors appointment I called my doula and let her know what was going on. We decided that in order to keep things moving along at a good pace, I ought to stay active, but it was awfully cold outside, so we decided to go walk the mall. I had wanted to go bowling, but my little sister who hates bowling was in town and we didn’t want to leave her behind, so we opted for the mall. We walked the mall for a couple of hours and discussed another option for keeping things going that my doula suggested, taking a small dose of castor oil. My mother had taken castor oil when she was pregnant with me and said the only thing it did for her was make her sick out both ends, so I was afraid to do it. But my mother had been instructed to take 8 oz of castor oil alone, while I was instructed to take 2 oz in some juice. I decided to give it a try, and on our way home we stopped and bought some.
When we got home I took the castor oil, which was really gross, and made myself comfortable to watch some movies with my mom and my sister. Occasionally, I would time my contractions, which seemed to be happening between six and ten minutes apart. Soon my sister got the idea that we should go out to a local resteraunt, a 50’s themed diner, for some cheese fries and malts, which sounded great to me, so we went out. While we were there the castor oil kicked in. I felt really icky, and suddenly couldn’t tell the difference between the contractions and the gas pains I was feeling. I had no idea how often the contractions were coming.
As the night went on, I spent an awful lot of time on the toilet, which wasn’t agreeing well with the terrible hemmorhoids I developed while I was pregnant. I kept finding large amounts of mucas on my toilet paper when I went to the bathroom. Eventually I could tell the difference between the contractions and the gas pains because the contractions were getting stronger and the castor oil seemed to be wearing down. My mom was staying up with me to help time my contractions, but they were totally irregular. They were ranging from ten to two minutes apart, lasting from 20 to 90 seconds. She was very worried because her labor with me had been very much the same, and after she had labored 41 hours, my heart stopped beating and she had to get an emergency cesarian. The only sleep I got the whole night was when I managed to fall asleep between contractions while I was in the bathtub. The bathtub was a godsend.
The next day our doula was calling to check in every couple of hours, but there was never anything new to report. My mom decided to go ahead and start making Thanksgiving dinner, joking that if she started making dinner, we would need to go to the hospital soon, but if we didn’t make Thanksgiving dinner, the baby would never come and we would have missed Thanksgiving for nothing. By the time dinner came I was really starting to get frustrated. My contractions were getting worse and worse, and friends were calling and texting me to see what was going on and there was nothing new to report. I felt embarrassed and foolish, like what I was feeling wasn’t legitimate because it wasn’t going anywhere.
After dinner, my doula called to check in again and after describing what was going on she explained that it was beginning to sound as if the baby was posterior. She gave me some exercises to do in the hopes of turning the baby. The first one was to walk up and down stairs sideways. We live in a condo, so the only stairs I had were outside. I bundled up and walked up and down the stairs outside for fifteen minutes, which actually turned out to be quite a workout. The next thing she had me do was lunges with one foot up on a chair. She also had me get on all fours on the floor, stick my butt up in the air and lower my upper half down on the ground, for twenty minutes. This was a very uncomfortable position to sit in, and it was especially bad when I had a contraction, and when I was resting from that position I was supposed to stay on all fours with my back strait, or to lean my front half on my birthing ball.
By 11 things were getting really bad, and I knew that I still had a long way to go. I was getting scared that I would be too tired to deliver my baby if I couldn’t get a little bit of sleep, and I was starting to think that I wouldn’t be able to handle a natural birth. Perhaps I was just too much of a wuss. I had been trying not to think about it for hours, but now I couldn’t stop the thoughts, and I decided that we needed to go to the hospital, and if I hadn’t progressed any further than I was at my doctors appointment the morning before, then I would probably ask for an epidural so that I could get some sleep. I was feeling pretty lousy about my descision, but I was really starting to doubt my ability to handle the pain I was feeling.
While we were driving to the hospital I noticed that my contractions were coming pretty regularly at about 4 minutes apart, so I started to have some hope that maybe the exercises had worked. When we got there and checked in my nurse came in and told me that she had read my birth plan and that she was excited to help me achieve the natural birth I said I wanted. I was feeling guilty then about wanting an epidural, the nurse was very nice and encouraging. I decided I would wait a little bit to see how things went before I made up my mind about the epidural. I mentioned while she was asking me questions about my medical history that I had a feeling of needing to have a bowl movement, but since I had taken the castor oil it was as if my butt hole had gone on strike. She seemed very concerned that perhaps the feeling of needing to poop was actually an urge to push, and she examined me immediately. I wasn’t ready to push, but I was almost 4 cm dilated. That was very encouraging. We called our doula, Brandy, and told her that she should probably come down soon. She asked how soon I thought I wanted her, and I said as soon as she could come, because I thought she would help me to resist getting an epidural.
The details are a little fuzzy as to what happened from that point on, but maybe an hour or two later Brandy got there. She suggested that I get into the Jacuzzi tub, which sounded great to me. The contractions felt so much better when I was in there, and I decided that I wanted to labor in there as much as I could. My mom and Brandy sat in the bathroom with me and my mom held my hand through the contractions. They got more and more intense as time went on, but I seemed to be feeling more and more euphoric between them.
At 7 am our first nurses shift was over and we got a new nurse who was a little bit older and was less receptive of my wishes for a natural birth. She wanted to monitor me a lot more and Brandy had to be much more sneaky about giving me drinks of water. Soon I was found to be 7 cm dilated, and I knew I was then in transition phase. I kept waiting for it to get really bad, but as much as my contractions intensified, I kept getting more and more euphoric. I determined that I was “high on hormones”, it was the only explanation. It wasn’t as though the contractions didn’t hurt, but I was just feeling so good at the same time. It was a strange feeling. I was also very hungry. We had noticed earlier that there was a menu in the room for food you could order in after you had the baby, and I started looking at it deciding what I would order. At one point the nurse hooked me up to the monitoring equipment and went to get the doctor, my mom started eating some trail mix and Brandy was talking about eating some graham crackers. I asked Brandy if she would give me some graham crackers, and she said “Sure!”. Brandy had always been very clear that she believed women should be able to eat whenever and whatever they want while they were in labor, but she did tell me that never before had she known a woman who wanted to eat while they were in transition phase. She gave me one square of graham cracker with some peanut butter on it and right as I was finishing chewing the doctor came in to check me. I was almost busted!
The doctor checked me and said I was 9 cm dilated. She asked me if in order to get things moving along I would like to break my water. I was feeling really good, and I knew that breaking the water could take 45 minutes off the labor time. I figured now was the time to do it, and said “What the hell? Lets do this thing!”
The minute they broke my water things got really intense, and I wasn’t feeling so great anymore. I was crying a lot, and I peed myself several times. I thought I was going to throw up that graham cracker and get Brandy in trouble, but I never did. As hard as that last hour was for me, my mom and Brandy and my sister were right there the whole time. A woman in another room was screaming, but I couldn’t hear it. I could only hear my sister talk about it. I was crying at one point that I wished I had gotten the epidural, but then I said something along the lines of, “No, I guess I don’t really”. I felt very scared on one hand and on the other I felt very safe with my mom there. It sounds silly, but I was so glad I had my mommy with me!
The feeling of needing to poop was overwhelming, so I decided I was going to try to poop right there on the hospital bed, I didn’t care who saw. I became very hot, so I ripped off my hospital gown, and my sister got me cold compresses to put on my head and chest. Then I was very cold, so I threw the compresses off of me. I wanted to get up and walk, but the nurse kept saying she wanted to monitor me for twenty more minutes. Every time I tried to move she said “Just twenty more minutes”. I started crying for the doctor. I knew it had to be soon and I wanted to be checked. The nurse must have left, and then my mom suggested maybe I would like to squat and use the squat bar. That sounded like it would feel much better than the lying on the bed, so I said yes, and Brandy told my mom that she better go ask the nurse for the squat bar because the nurse wouldn’t respond well to her. That was my first realization that the nurse and my doula were having some tension between them.
The next thing I knew the nurse was in the room with her fingers inside me massaging the last lip of my cervix away. Then before I knew it I was pushing. At one point they started disassembling my bed, and they asked me if I wanted to roll over. I don’t know what I was thinking except that maybe they would be sitting me up or that I would get the squat bar soon, but I ended up flat on my back with my legs up in the air. It wasn’t very comfortable, but nothing was at that point. They wheeled a mirror in so I could watch the birth, and as soon as the doctor said “Can you see the head there?” I focused on it and nothing else. At first I couldn’t see the head, but soon I recognized it and when I saw it and could see it slip away when I finished the push I became very motivated to get it out as soon as possible. A few more pushes and soon it wouldn’t slip out of sight when I rested. I pushed harder and harder. I didn’t know when I was having a contraction anymore, it all felt like one giant contraction, so I just pushed whenever I could muster the strength to do so. I felt a terrible burning sensation and I said “I’m tearing!” but Brandy assured me that I was just stretching. I remember thinking “Yeah right, don’t lie to me, I can feel myself tearing” but it turns out I really wasn’t. Soon the little head was all the way out, and I knew all I’d have to push out now was the shoulders and the rest should come slipping out real easy. But when I started pushing for the shoulders the doctor grabbed the baby and just yanked it out of me. It felt like this giant suction cup getting yanked out of me, and at that point I did tear. I don’t remember feeling the tear, but later Brandy said she could tell by the look on my face that I did.
None of that really mattered anymore though. I heard my mom say, “Oh its a little boy” and I was just so amazed that this little baby had actually come out of me. That I had made him. I named him Elijah Eugene, he weighed 9 lbs, 4.5 oz and was 22.75 inches long. I pushed for forty minutes.
Afterwards all the nurses were coming to see me and asking if I really had a natural birth and pushed my baby out in 40 minutes. I guess they don’t see a lot of natural births around there.
Even though things didn’t go exactly as i had hoped towards the end, I am very happy with how the birth of my son went and am so grateful for the experience. It was a miracle, and yet so mundane and normal and natural, and I totally had the spiritual experience I was seeking when I decided to have a natural birth.