I woke up at 4:00 am on the morning of Monday, September 17th to go to the bathroom. While I was awake, I realized that what had woken me was a particularly strong contraction. I tried not to give it much thought, as ever since coming off bed rest, I had contractions throughout each day, never amounting to anything. I told myself not to get excited, but I couldn't go back to sleep. So, I read my book for a while and the contractions went to 10 minutes apart. Finally, I couldn't concentrate on my book and went to check e-mail.
I continued to time the contractions and they were very steady at 10 minutes apart. I was very proud of myself for allowing Paul to sleep till about 8:00 a.m., just like the Bradley class said to do. When I did wake him, he was very complacent about the whole thing - he knew it was better to be calm than to get excited, especially since I had been having lots of contractions and my due date was still two weeks away. He knew I was so ready to have the baby and he didn't want to get my hopes up!
I decided to have a bagel and get to work on the cake. I had read in "Birthing From Within" about a woman who decided that her labor would last only as long as it took to bake and frost a chocolate "birthday" cake. I thought that was a great idea to help me get through early labor - keep me distracted and walking through contractions. So, I started the cake: German Chocolate from scratch (have I mentioned I've never baked a cake from scratch?) I had to send Paul to the store for buttermilk and then again because I was out of butter.
My contractions continued and I would simply stop what I was doing and lean over the counter during a contraction, then go back to making the cake. I kept catching myself reading the directions over and over and over for each step - this cake was complicated (separate four egg yolks, but DON'T toss the whites...etc. etc.). I got the cake done and cooling and the icing was cooling when I felt that the contractions were getting stronger. It was just about 1:00 p.m. Paul helped me time a few and they were between four and eight minutes apart. We called the midwife and she said we should come in and she would look at me and probably send me back home.
We walked to the birth center - it's only a block away from home! I was nervous, thinking that she would check me only to find no dilation. I had been on bed rest for seven weeks and stayed 95% effaced with no dilation. So, I was thrilled when she said I was dilated to eight centimeters. That meant that this was the day! Then, while she was still examining me, much to my surprise (and discomfort) she broke my water! In retrospect, I'm a bit peeved about it as she did not warn me and I would have preferred to let that happen on it's own. At the time, I was so surprised (and, well frankly, it was a done deal, so what was I going to say? Put it back?) that I just let it go. She said to come back when I could no longer walk through the contractions. We started to walk home, but the next contraction was so intense, I told Paul to get the car.
Side note to all this: My mom had been staying with us while I was on bed rest and then stayed after I got up to wait for baby. Naturally, that weekend I had sent her to my sister's all the way across town and she was stuck up there with no way to get back to me! I called a friend who, thankfully, agreed to pick up my mother and drive her back to us.
Paul drove me the whole block home and then I had to CLIMB THE STAIRS! Whew, I thought I was never going to make it! The whole time I was thinking I should have just stayed at the birth center and I wondered how in the heck I would get back DOWN the stairs when the time came.
I got up the stairs and made a beeline for the bed. I had forgotten about icing the cake! At this point, my poor Paul gets his little feelers hurt, and I don't blame him. We had been through birth classes (and indeed, still had two more to go!) and we had read all sorts of childbirth books and practiced relaxation techniques. When it was time to use all that we had learned and practiced, all I wanted was for him not to talk to me and not to touch me! There was a part of my brain (a *very* small part) not engaged in labor that realized he was being left out and I felt bad about it - but I didn't have the capacity to communicate this to him. All I knew at the time was that these contractions HURT and any sort of distraction made them hurt worse.
It didn't help that our bedroom is on the southwest side of the apartment and the late afternoon sun was *really* bright. All I wanted to do was close my eyes and concentrate on my breathing. I stayed on all fours with pillows under me - it was *excruciating* to move out of that position. I got up twice to go to the bathroom, and once I think I scared Paul because I threw up. I think he felt better when I reminded him that it was normal.
At about 3:30, my mom finally arrived. I have some dim memory of Paul saying we couldn't leave for the birth center until Mom got there. I have no idea why since it's only a block away. But of course, I was in "laborland" and couldn't communicate beyond "UUUNNNNNH!"
Now it was time to go down the stairs, eek! The only part of my brain that was functioning told me to make sure everyone was out of my way as I moved toward the top of the stairs. I wanted to make it that far before I had another contraction. Paul, however, wanted to stay close by to help me. I finally made it to the stairs and immediately dropped to the floor with a painful contraction which caused me to scream out in pain. Standing in front of me was my horrified (childless by choice) friend who later told me that the look on my face was enough to make her *never* want to experience childbirth.
As soon as the contraction was over, I made my way down the stairs, again going down on all fours at the bottom with another contraction. I should say at this point that the "screaming" contractions only happened when I got distracted. I got through other contractions that were just as painful without a peep because I was so focused on the contraction, its progress and how I was breathing.
We got to the birth center and they were trying to get a bed ready quickly for me. I had another screaming contraction and then finally the bed was ready and I got settled, on all fours again with pillows under me. This was when I started to lose track of everything. I know that there were times that Paul did help with really difficult contractions by breathing with me and very quietly humming deep in his chest on the exhale. I found that when I heard him do that, I tried to resonate with him and that distracted me from the pain. Paul says he didn't initiate the resonance, that he followed my lead. All I know is that whatever he did, it helped!
I do recall early on they gave me a birth ball, but it was NOT what I wanted and I went back to all fours with the pillows. Basically, I had what I recall to be a number of contractions and they seemed to last forever. I recall Mozart in the background and candles somewhere. I had my bag packed full of aromatherapy stuff and candles, my rice sock, a little wooden massager and lots of CD's that we had picked out, but we had left it all at home. My Mom tried to find them, and came back with a handful of whatever was laying about, mostly software CD's! I wanted NONE of it!
I remember being perturbed at the chitchat between my midwife and the birth assistant. At one point I said "SHHHH!" and Paul asked them to quiet down. I also remember being distracted by the phone ringing and wondering why they hadn't shut it off since the office is closed on Mondays!
I hit transition and actually said the classic line, "I don't want to do this anymore". They had begun to run a bath for me. When the bath was drawn, my midwife wanted to do an internal to check my dilation. I didn't want that because I knew it meant I had to move, which was painful and I figured the exam would be painful too. Imagine my surprise when she said "No bath for you, you're 9 centimeters! Push when you feel like it!"
Then came the worst part of labor for me. I kind of "returned" from laborland and became very conscious as I went to work pushing. I sat up and Paul got behind me. I learned after we got home that I chose one of the most uncomfortable positions for him, but he was wonderful. He never asked me to move and never complained at all! I pushed for 1-½ hours. The baby crowned pretty quickly, but I just didn't have enough energy to push him out. I tried so hard! First, it took several contractions just to figure out *how* to push. Then, once I figured it out, I couldn't get more than two pushes per contraction - I just didn't have the energy. I know if I could have gotten that third push in, I probably would have been able to do it. I got so frustrated: My midwife, the birth assistant, Paul and my Mom were all encouraging me to push harder. I was so frustrated because I was doing my absolute best.
I know it was simply a lack of stamina after being in bed for seven weeks that kept me from being able to do it. At one point, I began panting after a contraction and Paul was trying to help me slow down by using one of our visualizations; "Breathe the rainbow," he said. "Screw the rainbow!" I replied. Somewhere in the back of my mind I realized how funny it sounded, and I had a picture in my head of a horrified Kermit the Frog!
At one point during all of this, in a huge effort to push, I wound up flailing and scratched Paul really badly on one of his arms - we have a picture that shows his "battle scars"!
Everyone seemed to be yelling at me to work harder and I finally screamed "I QUIT! I CAN'T DO THIS ANY MORE! IT'S NOT THE PAIN - I CAN'T PUSH ANY HARDER!" I knew the birth assistant had been using the fetal monitor after each contraction and I could tell they were getting worried that he had been crowned so long. I knew I didn't have it in me to push any more and I knew it meant that I'd have an episiotomy. The midwife said she was going to cut me and as soon as she did I pushed and his head came out - one more push the rest of him came! I will never, never for as long as I live forget what it felt like to hold that brand new baby on my tummy.
The moment I had been waiting for all these months had come. Paul was still behind me when he checked to see the baby's sex. He actually knew from a sonogram, but I had wanted to be surprised. Then I heard the magic words,"It's a boy!" and I burst into tears! I had so hoped for a boy and now I had my son!
Very quickly after that, Paul cut the cord - he was very nervous! He was still sitting behind me, reaching around my chest to do it, and he was afraid of cutting more than the cord! I was surprised that they had him do it so soon. I realized afterwards that the cord was already white and maybe the baby had been in the birth canal so long that the cord was pretty much done pumping by the time he was actually born.
We hadn't picked out a name yet, but we had a short list and figured we would know what his name was when we met him. So as I looked at him, I kind of thought he looked like a Benjamin, but Paul wanted to wait and let him get cleaned up and in some more light. While I was being stitched, Paul held the baby and looked at him. One of the names on our list was of a dear friend who had passed away earlier in the year. He was a wonderful person, with the most upbeat personality despite much adversity in his life. Anyway, he was balding and shaved his little remaining hair and wore a bandanna over his head. He
always referred to himself as "just a queen in a do-rag". Well, here was our little boy, all red and squinty-faced and then to top it off, he had the little hat on. Paul looked at me, held up the baby and said "He's just a baby in a do-rag!" and right there, our baby became Stuart.
After they got me cleaned up and stitched up and got the baby cleaned up, Mom went for take-out. I had chicken fried steak with gravy, french fries, green beans and okra. While mom was gone, I got Stuart back and he began to breastfeed - he went at it just beautifully.
After that, it was time to pack up and go home! I was at home at 9:00 p.m., three hours after delivering my son. I felt great! I got settled into bed, and then we had champagne (Paul only let me have a few sips) and German Chocolate Birthday Cake!