it’s difficult to know where to start. my son was born 10 days ago, but it feels like 10 years, and 10 minutes all at once. for the first few days the birth was all that i could think about, every vague and blurry moment spent in that room, laboring and waiting, fighting and agonizing and praying it would end. i went over every detail in my mind, piecing together every question and decision that lead to his birth. and the moments that followed. i would wake up in tears from reliving them in my dreams.
if you looked at my birth plan now and compared it to my birth experience, not much was upheld. i had wanted a natural, vaginal birth with no interventions or pain medications. i had wanted a water birth. i had wanted to move around during labor. i had not wanted an iv unless absolutely necessary. i had wanted to experience pushing & the baby crowning naturally, to avoid tearing. i had wanted to hold my baby skin to skin & nurse him immediately after birth. i had wanted to keep the placenta. i had not wanted my baby to be given vaccinations or even a pacifier. the only thing left in tact from this plan was a vaginal delivery.
i began having contractions thursday night. they were about every 10 minutes. friday morning at about 4am i had my “bloody show” and at 5 my water broke. after the initial gush of water, i began leaking amniotic fluid. little gushes of fluid would come out with each contraction. my mother convinced me to call the hospital and they told me to go in. josh & i went to the hospital around noon, feeling contractions coming every 5 minutes or so. my labor seemed to stall and by 8pm, the pressure to induce labor was on, heavy. after yet another lecture from a nurse telling me that i was not really in labor, i dained to ask the question, “then why don’t i go home?” what followed were a series of threatening lectures by nurses, midwives & finally an idiotic doctor who told me that if i went home i risked killing my child & myself. the risk of infection because of my water being broken failed to create the same panic in me. i knew that i needed to go home & sleep.
95% of women give birth within 24 hours of their water breaking. the next morning my contractions had stopped. my boyfriend was so worried that he went & bought castor oil. i took 2 tablespoons, and proceeded to experience the most epic diarrhea in the world. this was followed by strong contractions. i waited until they were so strong that i couldn’t get through one without shouting or moaning loudly, and then we were back to the hospital, at about 2pm.
this time i and my nurse/midwife were much more confident. the contractions were increasingly stronger. i was dilated to 6 and then 7 centemeters. they began filling the birthing tub with water. my contractions started to become more unbearable, and the gushing of fluid was uncomfortable. finally at 7pm another check showed i was no further dialated. i begged for something for the pain, and was given fentinol, a narcotic that made me euphoric for about half an hour. a shift change occurred and a new nurse came in. finally around 11:30 my boyfriend looked at me and said he couldn’t watch me go through this anymore. the pain was unbelievable and we were getting nowhere. i could barely keep my eyes open from exhaustion. the nurse and midwife said that they wanted to give me an epidural so that i could sleep, and then start me on pitocin to increase contractions & dilate my cervix.
pitocin was a dirty word to me, something i feared and planned to avoid entirely. but there i was, up against it. the exhausted, broken look on josh’s face convinced me. i had to give up. the epidural did let me sleep. i would wake and watch the strong contractions on the monitor, not feeling much. the nurse came in around 3am and said the baby’s heart rate was dipping, and put an oxygen mask on my face. i watched the baby’s heart move low in short dives. i started to wonder how birth would happen, would they check & see i was dilated and tell me to push? suddenly about 4am i began convulsing. my whole body was shaking uncontrollably and i felt tremendous pressure in my pelvis. i woke josh to get the nurse. i knew this was it. they checked and said that i was 9 1/2 cm and to start pushing.
pushing went against everything that i knew. instead of deep yogic breaths i was told to gasp and hold my breath while josh counted to 10 and i pushed. instead of arching my back i was told to hunch my shoulders. despite the epidural i felt the most unbearable pressure. as i was pushing i began throwing up. after nearly 2 hours of this i finally felt the relief of his head emerging. another push and his shoulders came, and then josh pulled him out. josh said, “you did it.” josh cut the chord and they put him on my chest. his beautiful eyes looked up at me and then rolled back. i struggled to pull my gown down so that he was on my skin, and pulled my breast out. just then a women came in and began rubbing the baby. she looked at me, pulled my gown back up over my chest, picked up the baby and was gone. a swarm of people burst in the room. i kept hearing the words, “crash cart” and “1-2-3” over & over. josh kept saying, “just look at me, it’s ok, just look at me.” it was the longest, most terrifying two minutes of my life. the midwife told me to push out the placenta. i let it out in long sobs. finally i heard vacuum suction and my baby’s tiny cry. then he was whisked away to the icu. i felt myself burning from a fever. a nurse rushed around hooking me up to anti-biotics. i faded in and out of sleep. finally i was wheeled off to see my son. he was hooked up to endless machines, in an incubator. but he was perfect.
what followed was 5 days that were a long blur. the baby in the icu, me in some room, waiting to be able to go feed him, crying for him. waking up without him, without josh, was the most deeply lonely feeling i have ever known. lonely in a new way. every inch of my body felt him missing. but being with him put everything back together. finally, after 5 days we were allowed to take him home. after 5 days of being with him, at home, something new is in the place of that terrible time in the hospital, of my pregnancy even. i’ve never been in love like this. we are a family. that much is certain.
there is not much that i could tell you from my experience of giving birth, not much wisdom or advice i could give. what i know is that the birth process is a mystery. no two women and no two labors are the same. each child comes in his or her own way. i can understand why women so long for a second chance, for a home birth the second time around, for a way to slow it down and experience it differently. perhaps with more grace. perhaps with more control. my birth experience was the polar opposite of what i had planned, hoped for & imagined. but it has made me, in some way. without it i don’t know if i would be as grateful, as voraciously enamored with my son, as certain of my bond with him and with his father. what i know is that i don’t control the how of my life, but i have been delivered from very dark places and left with the absolute certainty that i’ve gained everything from my struggles. i am lucky.