“Childbirth is an experience in a woman’s life that holds the power to transform her forever. Passing through these powerful gates – in her own way – remembering all the generations of women who walk with her. She is never alone.” -Suzanne Arms
It all started Thanksgiving night, Thursday the 23rd of November. With hearts and bellies full, Marshall and I were nestled up on the couch watching Netflix when I thought I felt my water break. It was more like a leak or a trickle, so I didn’t know for sure. I called my birth doula Kim to ask her advice about whether to go to the hospital or not and she gave me my options. 1) Get some sleep and wait it out to see if contractions kick in. 2) Head for the hospital. Because I was GBS positive, it was recommended that I go straight to the hospital once my water broke due to risk of infection, so they could hook me up to IV antibiotics. But again, I wasn’t convinced it was actually my water.
I decided to go to bed to try to get (what, little did I know, would be the last of many) good night’s sleep and wait it out to see if things progressed. If nothing really changed overnight we planned to head to the hospital in the morning. I had a ton of random contractions throughout the night but when I woke up the next day, they seemed to have disappeared.
Friday morning Marshall and I both took our time showering and getting packed up to head to the hospital. We even grabbed breakfast tacos on the way, which was a clutch move. ( Hospital food…bleck) I’ll never forget that car ride, looking over at Marshall and asking him if he was ready to be a daddy, the huge grin on his face. Having that reality so within sight was extremely surreal. Worth noting: in my last minute frenetic nesting state I asked if we could stop and get a Christmas tree and strap it to the top of the car. Marshall firmly shot down that request. (Real Time update: still waiting on my Christmas tree.) As we pulled into what would be our parking spot for the next 72 hours and walked into the hospital, I remember the look of the bright blue November sky and wondered if the next time I saw it would be with mother’s eyes.
Around 1:30 we checked in and a Nurse Practitioner came in to evaluate me to see if indeed my water had broken. I hesitantly gave the other nurse a copy of my birth preferences and, in the back of my mind, had a gut feeling this process was going to be a whole lot different than how I envisioned it. When writing out my preferences I tried to remain flexible and realistic, but wanted to try for minimal medical interventions, no epidural, etc. I wanted to be a part of the experience as much as possible. I didn’t want to shy from the pain or the lessons it had in store for me. I didn’t want to be bed ridden (with epidural you can’t get out of bed.) I remember praying for peace about what was to come (and praying that I wasn’t only 1 or 2 cm dilated.)
Sure enough, my water had broken and I had only dilated 1 cm (medically speaking: premature rupture of membranes.) My heart sunk. This meant I had to stay at the hospital (because GBS positive and needed antibiotics every 4 hours) and we were probably in for the long haul. Also, I had to start meds (Cytotec) to induce contractions. The nurse gifted me with the sexiest outfit Ive ever donned as we settled into our labor and delivery room. Marshall napped to get geared up for the big night ahead, but I was too wired to sleep, so I rested in bed and texted Kim. She reminded me about the acronym “B.R.A.I.N.” for every possible crossroads/intervention in labor. What are the Benefits? What are the Risks? What is the Alternative? What does my Intuition say? What if I do Nothing?
Around 8:30 pm my contractions really started kicking in. (Water breaking early + cytotec + back labor= intense contractions). Marshall was right there with me every step of the way doing counter pressure, slow dancing, cheering me on.
Around 10:40 I was only at 2cm, growing discouraged and in excruciating back labor pain. (For any of you who’ve experienced back labor, you get me. Torturous!) Kim came to the hospital around 11:40 to settle in and relieve Marshall for a bit. She did belly sifting and lots of counter pressure. Then came the uncontrollable shaking and vomiting. Between expletives and prayers, I went on this way until about 2am, when I opted to try nitrous oxide. No relief, only more nausea. We tried other positions and Kim did guided visualization and reminded me that “the power and intensity of my contractions were not stronger than me because they were me.” At this point, after painfully laboring without much progress to the point of sheer exhaustion, I made the decision to get an epidural. Those contractions between deciding on the epidural and waiting on the anesthesiologist were the hardest of all, I swear. Finally, magic needle man arrived (Marshall described him as a conductor, so smooth and professional and dexterous) and I was feeling relief within minutes. And nothing from the waist down minutes after that. I was a new person, though struggling a little with how detached from my body I felt. It was a night and day different experience. I could carry on a conversation, eat a popsicle, rest. In fact for the next several hours, we did that as much as possible. However, my vomiting and intense shaking only grew more incessant over the hours. At one delirious point in all of this, Marshall even ran out of the room with a bag of my vomit like a prized possession to show the nurses. We all got a good kick out of that. I remember the nurses looking at my contractions on the monitor in awe. They said they looked like a “mountain range” because they were about 4-5 minutes long (!) and just a minute apart. Thank God I wasn’t feeling them.
Around 9:20am on Saturday, November 25 it was time to push and meet our baby girl. The doctor was worried about the baby’s position (she was transverse) so we tried using the squat bar, rebozo, etc. They gave me some pitocin to speed up my contractions and I pushed for four long, grueling hours. My doula said it’s because I have one of the strongest pelvic floors she’s ever seen. I remember seeing my face in the mirror, beet red and veins popping, a stranger to myself. I was in awe of my strength and my body and never knew that level of ferocity existed within me. Marshall was right there next to me cheering me on the whole time, though he was exhausting himself with sympathy pushing/stomach flexing, ha! My doctor was so amazingly patient and didn’t jump to interventions, even after pushing for so long. Finally, at 1:37pm our daughter Townes Evalee was born. Apart from marrying her daddy, it was the very best moment of my life when they set her healthy 8lb 21 inch body on my chest and she wrapped her strong, little hand around my finger. However, I have a feeling I’ll be the one wrapped around her finger from here on out. We’ve never been more in awe of God’s creation or more in love.