Saturday, March 19, 2011
The last few weeks have been absolutely crazy. Wonderful, but a little chaotic. I'm sure that's how it's supposed to be when you bring home your first baby. But needless to say, I haven't gotten around to blogging/journaling a lot since we've been home. I've been meaning to get on here and at least write the story of his birth, though, before all of the memories begin to fade and get fuzzy. It was the most amazing thing I've ever been through, and for my own records, I'm going to post it on the blog. Here it goes.
I had been having painful braxton hicks contractions since about 36 weeks. I was also dilated to a 2 1/2 since that time, so I had been waiting anxiously for the real thing to start. On Saturday morning (39 weeks), I started having pretty painful contractions that were about 10 minutes apart. They felt different, and I had a feeling that things would be happening in the next day or two. Looking back now, I realize I was in the early stages of labor all day. I drove Gideon to work at 6:00 am, hoping I wouldn't go into labor while he was at work that day. When I got home, I started cleaning the house because I had a feeling the baby would be here soon and I wanted to come home to a clean house. I vacuumed, cleaned the bathroom, did laundry, etc. I even waxed my eyebrows and my armpits so that I would be hair-free in the hospital. I know, I'm a little too vain. (note: all the vanity has left me since coming home with the baby. I laugh at the days of shaving my legs and wearing makeup now).
By about 10:30 am, I decided I would take a nap and see if the contractions would continue or go away with some rest. I kept waking up in the nap from the dull achy feeling in my lower abdomen; again, I knew something was different. By the time I woke up and for the rest of the afternoon, they weren't too bad and I could continue getting things done around the house. I ran a gift over to my visiting teacher and casually mentioned that hopefully I wouldn't see her at church tomorrow because I'd be having my baby. I had no idea I was actually right!
That evening, my wonderful sister in law Miriam picked me up and we walked the mall a little bit, doing some light shopping. My contractions kept coming but at very random intervals and not very intense. I relaxed the rest of the evening until I had to pick up Gideon at work at 11:00 pm. We had no idea that our baby would be here before the sun came up!
At 12:40, I started having painful contractions again, to the point that I was breathing through them using the techniques I learned in my hypnobirthing class. (You see, I had planned on a completely natural childbirth since before I even became pregnant. I had no idea what I was in for!) I had a few contractions at 4 minutes apart, then a few that were 8 minutes apart. Then things got crazy. With one contraction, my pain level went from about a 3 to a 9. I was on my hands and knees on the bathroom floor, and by this point, (about an hour later, 1:40 am) they were coming about every 6 minutes again. We ran the tub and I had one or two contractions in the bathtub before I was screaming for Gideon to call the midwife. I got out of the tub between contractions, which were now coming every three minutes apart and getting more and more intense with each one, and used the bathroom. I had a contraction on the toilet and at that moment I KNEW we had to get to the hospital soon. Everything from about 1:40 am forward is such a blur and it happened so fast. The pain came so quickly and so hard. I had no sense of time, just trying to endure each contraction. We scrambled around the house grabbing the last few things, threw them in the hospital bag, and ran (I waddled) to the car.
About 5 minutes into our crazy car ride, my water broke. Since it was my first time in labor, I was sure I was going to have the baby in the car. The pain was more intense than anything I could have imagined, and then having my water break, I was so scared. I kept telling Gideon to run the red lights and to "drive faster! But not too fast!!" I have such an awesome husband. Poor guy. We made it to the hospital by about 2:20. We left the car parked in the front of the hospital. The night security guard probably thought I was crazy when I waddled into the lobby of the hospital with dripping wet pants, sweating, looking like a crazy person. I remember thinking he was a complete idiot that he even had to ask if I wanted a wheelchair. OF COURSE I WANT A WHEELCHAIR! DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT THIS FEELS LIKE?! Of course I just nodded yes and Gideon got me plopped in the chair.
When they checked me in triage on the labor and delivery floor, I was a 4. I remember feeling so discouraged, thinking I was going to be there for a long time waiting to get to a ten. Yeah right. At this point everything felt so surreal. I had been practicing and preparing for a calm, peaceful natural childbirth. Why did I keep screaming during every contraction? This was not how the videos portrayed birth, with women smiling or half asleep as their baby practically waltzed out of them. No. This was something very very different than what I had imagined. I wasn't afraid, really, more bewildered. I kept thinking how I couldn't believe no one had warned me about the pain! How much it was really going to hurt! I made it through the admit procedure and being monitored on the bed for 20 minutes (let me tell you, if you're not getting an epidural, the DO NOT try to labor laying in that bed. It will eat you alive).
The first contraction that I had in the warm bath was a completely different experience than the ones laying on the bed. I started to relax a little bit. But soon the surging pain through my abdomen and inner thighs was SO. INTENSE. Gideon was kneeling next to the tub on the floor, stroking my hair and I would grab his shoulder intermittently. I needed to be in my own place, my own island of me and the pain. I couldn't look at the man I love so much. I knew if I allowed myself to look into his eyes, I would break down completely. I would beg him to save me from all of this, to make everything go away and just bring our baby here right now. So I kept my eyes closed, trying to focus the way I had practiced and read about. It was so much harder than I thought. I kept thinking that it couldn't be physically possible for my body to feel this much pain and not be dead. I was sure my heart was just going to stop.
After about an hour in the tub, I was so exhausted and I was starting to lose my grip on the entire situation. I felt my sanity slipping away, felt myself drifting into a place that I hoped I would survive. I broke down and told my midwife that I couldn't do this natural. I just knew that if it was this painful now, there was no way I was going to make it through transition and pushing without medication. I felt defeated, heartbroken, and scared. I just knew I couldn't endure any longer. But then . . . I did. My midwife checked me, and told me I was at a 10. a 10!!! I couldn't believe it. No wonder it had been so hard, I was already in transition! Gideon and I both started crying when she announced it. In that moment I knew that I had the natural birth I had always wanted, in the bag. I thought, "I can do this! I'm almost done! The hard part's over!" Little did I know, I still had an hour and a half of horrendous pushing to do.
I got out of the tub and had a few contractions sitting on the toilet (very helpful, even though it sounds weird). Gideon sat in front of me in a chair and just held onto me, loved me, looked into my eyes. That was my favorite part of the whole labor, was looking right at him, feeling his arms around me. The pain, of course, had escalated to a crazy ammount at that point, and I was sobbing in between screams. It was so emotionally charged, intense, and beautiful. To have him by my side through the entire journey was so wonderful. It gave me so much strength just to feel his love eminating from him into me.
Next was the bed, again. The dreaded bed. I will spare you the details of the arduous 90 minutes of pushing. I will tell you, however, that it was like nothing I have ever been through or could ever imagine in my mind. There were points that I felt so alone. Points that I was in such deep despair, just me and the pain in a dark pit, and I thought I would never escape. Points where I was sure I must be dying. And finally, a point that I really thought, I CAN'T do this. I CAN'T. It's not going to work; my body is going to fail me and I'm just going to die. But let me tell you, it is the most elating and empowering thing in the world to truly doubt your body's ability; to think you can't do something, and then you do it. The moment that beautiful little person, that warm, limp body is plopped onto your bare chest and you just hold him, shaking, smiling, completely in awe, is the moment that all the pain vanishes (until they start to stitch you up. OUCH!)
My sweet little Finn was born at 5:23 am. He looked right up at me. Staring at his momma. I held him and stroked him and kissed him. He was so warm and small and beautiful and perfect. He screamed and screamed, and with every cry my heart seemed to change its rythm forever. Gideon put his hand on him, and they fell in love with each other. We hugged. Gideon kissed me over and over, and I could see it in his eyes that he would never see me the same again. There was a new kind of respect, admiration, love. Our world shifted in that one moment.
Immediately after the birth, I honestly wondered, was it worth it to do it natural? Really? I mean, that was HARD! But now, I find myself longing for that feeling, that awesome high that comes from really feeling everything involved with bringing a child into the world. We went on such a journey. Just me and my little Finn. It was painful, it was hard, it was a little traumatic. But it was so beautiful and empowering and amazing and so full of love. I have never felt so proud of my body! All the bread dough belly, the puffy eyes, are just a small manifestation of what my body has done. I brought a human being into the world! I remember the first few days after I had him, I just wanted to tell everyone, "Do you know what I just did? I had a BABY!! I birthed a child! I'm amazing!" Every woman should be so proud of her body and have respect for the beautiful woman she is. The capacity to do such an amazing thing is really a miracle.
**Special thanks to my AMAZING sister in law, Sarah, for taking pictures during the birth. These photos are some of my most prized posessions.