Disclaimer: this is a birth story, and as such, may contain some details which some people might find too graphic/informative.
Baby F’s birth started with a cliche. My water broke. I was talking to a bunch of new mom’s the day before about how a first time mom has no idea what “her water breaking” actually entails. If it happens while you are swimming, do you feel it? Is it just possible to miss your water breaking? We all knew that it wasn’t like the movies where it came out it one big gush. I will admit to being paranoid that I would miss it all together.
For those of you who are not mom’s--you can’t really miss your water breaking. For me, it started out as a small thing (was I having an accident? How embarrassing!) but then turned into some very strong pulses of liquid (aack! Stop the fluid! Stop the fluid!) And it just keeps on going! (According to the pregnancy weight breakdown, it is about 2 lbs which is about a quarter of a gallon.)
My water breaking jump-started my regular contractions. I had been having contractions prior to my water breaking but as they felt the same as the contractions I had experienced a week prior which turned out to be nothing, I was ignoring them. My contractions started off right away being 3-5 minutes apart. According to every television show I had watched, this meant that I should be Heading Towards The Hospital (Dude, I mean, I had just seen the office episode of Pam having her baby. I knew what was what). Which is why when my midwife told be to get some sleep and call her at 7 am (my water broke at 1:30ish am), I thought she might be a little crazy. I made sure she realized how far away I lived from the birth center (an hour and a half), and I also made sure she realized how consistent and regular my contractions were. Her advice, however remained the same.
The midwife was actually very wise. While the sleep I got was light and sporadic, I was still able to get some much needed rest. At 7 am, she conceded that perhaps it would be best to arrive at the birth center at about 9 am. Still more delays! Mr. F. and I packed up the car and proceeded to drive the hour and a half to the birth center. Laboring in the car wasn’t fun. However, it wasn’t as horrible as I expected, either. We didn’t have to make an emergency stop at the hospital located halfway between the birth center and our house, nor did we have to call the police to have an escort. (Lesson learned here: labor can take a good bit of time.) Having the drive broken up into 3 to 5 minute pieces made the trip go by remarkably fast.
When I reached the birth center I was dilated to a 5/6. This was good news as I would not have been admitted if I was less than a 4. I labored a bit near the bed, rocking back and forth as the jacuzzi tub was being filled with water. When it was full, I spent most of my time laboring in there.
ATTENTION: Jacuzzi tubs are the best place ever to labor.
Seriously, the whole process, which was manageable in the tub, would have been a lot less pleasant if done some place else. The warm water made it a lot easier not to clench up during a contraction and to relax everything but what needed to work. That being said, I found my arms and shoulders were extremely sore afterwards due to lifting myself up during the contractions to relieve some of the pressure I felt where I was sitting. I had forgotten (until Mr. F. mentioned it after the fact) that in a normal hospital environment, I would not have had the option of laboring in the tub since my water had already broken. The doctors and nurses would have been too worried about the chance of infection etc. To which I say: Morons! Idiots! Sadists! These rules are probably determined by men who have never had to labor.
There reached a point in the tub where I thought I had moved through transition and into the pushing stage of labor. The midwives had me get out of the tub to check my progress. It turned out to be that I was only a 9 (Oh! How disheartening that sounded. I was so ready to be done already). Also, it appeared that the baby had changed position a bit so that the head was not in the best position. They suggested that I try laboring on the bed on my hands and knees.
Oh mercy. I labored in that position until I was ready to push, and in my opinion, any time laboring in that position was too long. The pressure! (Aside: I mentioned this to my sister who has had all three of her kids naturally. She said that she can not bear this position, especially in transition because of the painful pressure. That made me feel much better and less like a wuss.) I made some pretty horrible screaming sounds of pain during my time in transition. I could no longer maintain any semblance of zen and relaxation. In the back of my mind, to be remembered when I could once again experience humor, I realized that this could be a potentially laughable situation as I am sure the pregnant women waiting in the waiting room for their normal pregnancy appointments could hear me. I wouldn’t be surprised if they had a change of mind concerning their desire to labor sans medication once they heard my animalistic cries of pain. (“Do you hear that Fezzik? That is the sound of ultimate suffering”) My throat was raw and horse afterwards. (For those of those that I am potentially scaring and scarring with this telling, I will try to comfort you with the fact that I am pretty sure that baby F was not in an ideal position and thus transition was a lot longer and more painful than normal.)
Finally, it was time to push. Despite my earlier, naive thoughts about pushing in a squatting or hands and knees position to help the babe out using gravity and the like, I actually was on my back and side. After feeling all that pressure in transition, I decided to “take it easy.” Do you remember the “coke can” incident? I am now in the position to tell you that pushing during labor is very much akin to pooping out a coke can. One just needs to replace “coke can” with “2 liter bottle.”
Another fear of mine prior to giving birth was that I would poop while giving birth. Talk about SUPREME EMBARRASSMENT. I could think of nothing so demoralizing. However, when it came down to the actual act of pushing and laboring, pooping was the last thing on my mind. And yes. Bowel movements occurred--the midwife wiped my bum. I remember in the back of my mind thinking that I should be embarrassed by this fact, however I couldn’t bring myself to care. The only thing I cared about was getting this 2 liter bottle out of me and sooner versus than later.
The first hurdle in pushing is to get the baby from out under the pelvic bone. That sucks. The next hurdle is forcing baby’s head out. That sucks worse.
This was the “conversation” with the midwife.
Midwife: His head keeps sliding back down the birth canal. However soon it will get to the place where it will no longer slide back. This is good. You can do this.
What the midwife failed to communicate effectively was the feeling of having part of the head firmly stuck in one’s opening. Cue Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire.” The fire gets worse as the diameter of the head getting stuck gets larger. However, I can say the best feeling in the whole wide world is the wooshing sensation as the largest part of the babies body is finally through and the rest of him follows suite in speedy succession. The relief I felt was the greatest rush in the whole wide world. Or perhaps it comes in a close second to having the baby placed immediately on my chest and getting to meet Baby F in person for the first time. Baby F arrived in the world at 3:17 pm which made the entire labor process just shy of 14 hours. Two hours of that was pushing (talk about a killer ab workout. I should paten it.) As it turns out, Baby F likes to have his hands near his face. I guess he was a bit of a thumb sucker in the womb. In any case, he came through the birth canal with his hands near his face, which made him a tad more difficult to push through. Baby F. was placed immediately on my chest after a quick rub down, and after the cord stopped pulsing, Mr. F. cut it.
So what was natural childbirth like? Crazy difficult. If I knew exactly the difficulty involved prior to giving birth, I would have seriously doubted my ability to do it. There were several times during the process where I really understood why people choose to have an epidural, even when they initially planned on a natural childbirth. There were moments during labor where the idea of an epidural sounded like The Best Thing Ever. However, it just wasn’t an option at any point so I had to just keep on going. The upside of it? I feel like a rock star. I feel like I accomplished a huge feat of physical endurance like climbing Mount Everest or running a marathon. (Where is my medal?)
The process gave me huge confidence in my abilities. I am now in the position of saying, “well, I did this once, I can do it again.”--not that I am thinking about having another kid any time soon. One is enough for now, thank you very much