I’m on a slippery slope in writing this. On one hand I desire to be as eloquent and honest as I can about the experience I had but in so doing I feel I’m doing our son a disservice- like his coming to the world was the worst thing that could have happened. Physically speaking, it was. Would I do it again to have him? In a heart beat. Do I elect to do it this way again? Absolutely not. Know my intentions are to reflect fondly on the sweet memories of connecting with my husband in a way I never thought possible and staying up all night snuggling my little man while in the hospital and not to take away from the experience I had by diminishing it to some traumatic event.
I’ve been saving mental notes for weeks in how to best write this story. Random facts to remember like “Listening to “Like A G6″ mid-contraction will surely shift your focus and wonder why that song is even on your iPod,” “Lavender oil is your friend. Eucalyptus oil is not,” and “Friends don’t let friends have a natural birth” are among the top. (If you’re pro going natural I salute you. Mad props. I will never again submit myself or my husband to the trauma. The end.)
For two weeks I had contractions 10-5 minutes apart lasting two to six hours at a time, never becoming painful, just noticeable and creating a build up of anticipation only to be let down day after day. Each week I’d efface and dilate but no contractions would stick around long enough to bring us our little man. On the 20th I went in for my 39 week appointment to find I was 90% effaced, 3 cm dilated, and +1 station. I wasn’t measuring “big” either. I was making progress slowly and was thankful to breeze through this early part of labor with little more than a packed bag and a few hundred “start/stop” clicks on my contraction timer app. My poor “on call” girlfriends would get texts from me letting them know to keep their phones on “just in case” only to end up sleeping through the night and causing unnecessary phone vigilance.
We hired a doula when I was 38 weeks to help encourage Chris and I as we embarked on the natural childbirth plan we decided on. Armed with the Bradley method, some cards with Scripture I wrote over the past few months, and an elated sense of self for so working through the pre labor contractions we were going to have this baby without the help of IV narcotics or an epidural. Olivia, our doula, was out of town the weekend of my due date and arrangements for my back up were made. Thankfully we never needed her.
Around 1AM on the 23rd I began having contractions that had a definitive peak, were taking some focus, but still wouldn’t be described as painful. Chris woke up at 3AM and I filled him in on the situation but given our weeks of false alarms we both decided to go back to sleep. He cracked some wise joke that later was used as a gauge to see my emotional sign post (see the Bradley Method). I didn’t appreciate his humor at the time but in hindsight am so thankful he took his coaching job as seriously as he did.
At 8AM I text Olivia and our back up doula to let them know they were becoming more noticeable but I was still able to talk and was in great spirits. Olivia drove back from our church retreat a few hours early and stopped by our house around noon. My mom, K, Chris and I went on a walk that was interrupted after mere minutes with contractions. They were about 7 minutes apart lasting a minute and continued that way until 2:30. My appetite was still unaffected but my fear of throwing up during labor was a hindrance to my deciding to really eat anything substantial. Olivia encouraged me to eat a meal as long as I was up for it so we sent Chris out for a sandwich, my first with cold deli meat in months, and we walked more. After lunch we discussed running errands to let gravity be our friend and keep things progressing and sent Olivia home until we felt things were more serious. During this time I played soccer in the backyard with K and struggled to accept that I was actually in labor.
I had been doing my best to labor alone through the night and morning, only filling Chris in when he’d ask if I was still having contractions. I had a few serious ones, one of which K witnessed and promptly brought me the blanket and frog she sleeps with nightly. I cried then and there out of love for my first born and fear about what was happening.
Chris and I labored together in our spare bedroom while my mom and K worked on an Easter bunny cake as a distraction. They came hard and fast. 3:06, 3:11, 3:16 each lasting 75-100 seconds. After around an hour of contractions lasting a minute each and five minutes apart Chris called Olivia. It was 3:19. Each time I changed positions I’d contract and all the fluids I was pushing through the day didn’t help as I was in the bathroom every few minutes. I mentally prepared myself to have a contraction when I sat and when I stood and from then on Chris was at my side as I wondered what in the world I had gotten myself into. We took one contraction at a time, with Olivia timing them until they were lasting over a minute and 4 minutes apart. We left for the hospital which is about 35 minutes from our house at 4:25.
Arriving at the hospital was an adventure.Chris missed the exit for the hospital and I may or may not have cursed at him. Once we walked in I had a contraction, hobbled to the bathroom, had a contraction, waiting for the elevator had a contraction, and while checking in at L&D in front of a room of others had another contraction. There’s nothing quite like being in a fancy amount of pain in a room full of strangers watching you waddle about. I finished a contraction and realized the nurse taking us back had a wheelchair to help us back. I adamantly refused as I wanted to do everything I could early on to keep things progressing. I was checked around 5:30 (5cm) and able to have a hep lock IV in order to continue to moving around the room. My contractions at this point were 3 min apart still lasting over a minute each. The amount of reassurance, back rubbing, and support from Chris and Olivia are a debt I’ll never be able to repay and one I’m beyond blessed to have.
At 7 I was checked again and was at a 7. Contractions were 90 seconds apart lasting over a minute and not letting up. I began feeling more nauseated between contractions and asked for Zofran so I didn’t throw up. After being reassured by the nurse, Chris, and the doula that taking the meds wouldn’t hinder the natural birth I so desperately wanted I agreed to have some flushed through my IV. I labored more around the room and in the shower and was informed by the on call OB at 8 that we had the option to break my water and have the baby by 9. The offer sounded nice but being told that the intensity would pick up was not something I was prepared to handle as I was already singing random songs during the peaks of my contractions. At 9:30 I had had enough. I asked for a C section and an epidural. I was denied both since I was at a 9 and the sweet staff knew how important it was to me to finish what I had started. I asked for my water to be broken so we could be done. And then it got real. Fast.
I cursed. I screamed, like pure terror painful screams. I begged for “someone to help me” and within minutes began pushing and dry heaving at the same time. If anyone walked by my room I’m sure they would have barged in to see what in the world the staff was doing to a poor laboring mama. The trauma of the last 15 minutes of my birth is still difficult to process through as my ability to comprehend time, who was around me, and what happened is fuzzy. There was no overwhelming “urge to push” and there was no pain in doing so, the pain I felt was constant, sharp, indescribable, and something I sincerely believe I’ve repressed. I pushed through three contractions on my side, was turned by the nurses onto my back for the last one and, thanks be to God, with one more contraction Christopher Thomas was born, a hefty 9 lb 15.4 oz and 21″ long. Hours of contractions without much more than a minute or two break culminated into something so beautiful.
The days in the hospital were fine and, just as I experienced with K, the anxiety hit on day three and peaked on day five. For two days I not only believed I had a blood clot but multiple heart attacks. Chris talked me off the cliff on several occasions. That man found me sobbing uncontrollably in our bedroom closet knowing for sure I was dying and no one would take me seriously. He prayed for me, encouraged me, and loved me in my weakness. The chest pains were frequent enough that I finally threw in the towel, put shoes on and told Chris I was driving myself to urgent care. He again met me on the floor of our bedroom, loved me, encouraged me, and rationalized my irrationality. For five days I was on a maximum dose of ibuprofen and hydrocodone. The post-labor pains were debilitating and I had been in pain for long enough that my desire to work through any mild ailment at this point is non existent.
Now we’re two weeks out from Christopher coming into our home. My anxiety has subsided, my love for my husband has deepened, and at the risk of sounding cliche, I have become a mother. My commitment to exclusively breastfeeding has made for long nights-waking every hour or so-and every three on a rare night. K is adjusting to the significant change through clinging to Chris extra tight but loving her little brother ever so much. Our life has become chaos in it’s most perfect form. My quiet time with the Lord has become essentially nonexistent and the conviction there is strong. The late nights make for lots of pursuing the interwebs of Yelp reviews of local restaurants because I’m starving all the time.
This story I would have never imagined 10 months ago. Our son is perfect in every way, is already 11 lbs and 23″ long and l-o-v-e-s his mama. Be still my heart. K and I still have sweet time together when her brother naps and my appreciation for my Princess is astronomical. As we settle into our new normal I’ve already begun preparing myself for baby #3- just waiting for Chris to give me the green light because clearly I have lost my mind.