Warning: This is a BIRTH story. It’s graphic by nature and not for shock value. The pics are pretty tame, but you’ll have to decide on the narrative yourself.
I Lost 30 Pounds in 3 Hours . . . This is How I Did It
This is probably not the most common way to begin a birth story, but in my view birth is a completely paradoxical experience. People talk about how it is one of the most sacred, life-changing experiences a woman can have.
So true . . . but no one reverently whispered amen when I pointed my bum at them and began pushing Babypotamus out on my hands and knees. They may have prayed, but it was probably along different lines. Anyway . . .
There is a lot of talk about how empowering it is. Which, again, is totally true . . . as long as you’re first willing to feel the full brunt force of all your weakness, own up to it and then move past it.
There are other paradoxes, too. Time, for instance. Technically, I was in active labor for about 3 hours. What that doesn’t include was the far more difficult early labor that lasted 31 hours. The numbers are two sides of the same coin, but they sure do look different depending on which side I tell people about!
This is My Story: Irreverent and Honest With Some Mushy Parts, Too
Friday, September 10. 10:35 pm – Text from me to my midwife Cindy on her birthday – “How long can wine hold off labor? If I wake up tonight is it even possible to delay for 24 hours?”
10:37 pm – Response from Cindy - “Will only hold it off if it’s very early or warm up labor”
10:37 pm – Me to Cindy – “Okay just checking.”
10:38 pm – Response from Cindy – You know u r cracking me up. You still have an hour and 20 min ; – ) [To have the baby before midnight]
10:49 pm – Me to Cindy - You don’t know the half of it. I am standing in my birthday suit in the kitchen because I am washing my pants (the only ones that fit right now) so they will be clean in case I go into labor. Talk about paranoid. Going to bed now before doing something completely insane.”
Looking back, I wasn’t paranoid. Somewhere deep within I felt my body warming up for labor just an hour shy of the one day I didn’t want Babypotamus to be born.That’s the long and short of how my plans for this birth flipped upside down.
Fight or Flight
At Katie’s birth I had been timid and hesitant rather than proactive, practically running from the pain until I was completely spent. Because of that (and the fact that Katie was born with her fist up around her face) labor was a lot more difficult than it had to be. This time I planned to throw myself into the process wholeheartedly so that I could make progress while I still had the energy to finish.
Unfortunately, the last thing I wanted to do on September 11 was make progress and have a baby, so when I felt my body warming up I tried to stall it with warm baths, resting, etc. I have dubbed that 17 hour stretch Groundhog Day for labor. I wouldn’t let my body go forward and it wouldn’t go back, so I had the same. exact. contraction. All day long. By the end of the day I felt like I’d had a battering ram applied to the lower front of my pelvis. Great, I thought, I haven’t even started yet and I already feel black and blue on the inside. Looking back, this is probably a huge part of the reason this labor ended up being so difficult. But I am getting ahead of myself . . .
When we got within a few hours of September 12 I was ready to work. We called our birth team “first responder” – a gorgeous mother of four that happens to be a doula. When Alexa walked in around 10:45 I looked up at her kind, comforting expression and briefly forgot I was in labor.
Alexa began helping me find different positions to labor in. She rubbed my hands and feet, focusing on pressure points that help with pain around my ankles. With her guidance and encouragement and Daniel’s strength I finally ventured out for a walk in my neighborhood (If you’re new to the natural labor scenario, walking often does a lot to help labor progress).
She may have regretted that when I kindly puked all over the sidewalk AND her feet following a strong contraction.
Alexa was the only member of my birth team that wasn’t already a friend (or friend of a friend) prior to me getting pregnant, but that didn’t stop us from chatting about GMO’s in between contractions. She was totally in tune with me and didn’t miss a beat when I randomly blurted out “I like lizards.” Yes, I was borderline hallucinating at that point. At least I wasn’t back in Smurf Central like with Katie’s birth.
By 4:00 am (23 hours since my first early labor signs) I was exhausted. I’d worked hard, puked harder, and I was ready to know if it was getting me anywhere. We called Dr. Cindy and asked her to come check me. I thought I should be a 6-7 by then (okay I was really thinking 8 . . . I had worked hard!), so when she told me I was a 3-4 I was crushed. All that work for a THREE?
Since Cindy is also a chiropractor she gave me a quick exam and identified the problem. Babypotamus’ head was engaged deeply into my pelvis, which is usually very good. Unfortunately, it had engaged at a weird angle that was thwarting my ability to progress yet spurring my body to continue to try.
If I Ever Have Another Baby . . .
I am going to get adjusted immediately when I go into labor. I wasted 24 hours on contractions that were only partially effective. If that is going to be the case then they should hurt half as much! Since I don’t know how to work that kind of deal I want full payment for my pain.
Cindy adjusted my hips and gave me two options:
A) Keep going despite being up for over 24 hours.
B) Take a Benadryl or 1/3 cup wine to help my body slow down and rest before it geared up again.
Since I obviously had a long road ahead, I opted B for Benadryl. I really wanted the wine (I LOVE red wine and I’d purchased an organic, sulfite-free bottle just in case), but I only wanted to take one shot at sedation and Cindy thought my body would be more responsive to the Benadryl. We sent our birth team home and settled into bed for a few hours rest.
It didn’t work.Baby’s head was too deeply engaged to allow the contractions to stop. I tried sleeping on the bed . . . no dice. Sitting backwards on the toilet. Nope. My attempt to rest ended up with me yelling deliriously in the background while Daniel dialed Cindy’s number.
She arrived a few minutes later and recommended we try the birthing tub. The morning was spent laboring in a deep pool of warm water, which compared to everything else up to that point was heaven, but compared to everyday life is ahem, much more like the other place.
Despite having succeeded before, by this point I lost confidence in my ability to finish birthing Babypotamus at home. I could not seem to get on the same page with myself . . . either I was resting while my body tried to labor or vice-versa. To help things keep moving (or at least give this thing a fighting chance) Dr. Cindy coaxed me out of the tub and got me to try some new positions.
Between each contraction I kept hearing the phrase “transport” in my head. I imagined the OB cutting me open and pulling a big flap of my stomach up to get my baby. I thought of my baby entering the world while I layed on an operating table, unconscious and unable to be an advocate for him. I imagined the dingy cast of flourescent lights and rough, impersonal hands enveloping our baby. I imagined goop being slapped in his eyes and needles in his body while a nurse whisks him to the nursery to give him a bottle of goodness knows what. I wish I could say my mind never went there, but it did.*
* I know this is not what every cesarean is like, but it was my imagination of the worst-case scenario. The only doctor I trust was not within range and therefore I would be stuck with a complete stranger had we needed to transport. That scared me.