It is a popular phenomenon for mom’s to blog their birth stories. With shows like A Baby Story, the rise in popularity of delivering more “naturally”, and social networks/blogs that encourage the proclaiming of even the most mundane life experiences – it’s not really surprising. Last night, at a cookout with friends, we were talking about this very trend and the women speaking did not have children of their own (but hope to one day) and were describing the stories as a mix of eccentric and horrifying – like a “car crash where you just can’t look away.” I am familiar with these stories, both the extreme (eating placenta, birthing at home in the bathtub, etc) and the graphic (near-death experiences, heart-stopping emergencies). I am not trying to imply that every woman who tells her story online is looking to be sensational, or to minimize the fact that hundreds of women every day have very out-of-the-ordinary, life-threatening labor experiences. I just agree with my childless friends, you should use some discretion when telling your story.
However, I’ve also read plenty of amazing stories that are poetic and written to express the incredible love and life-change that occur at the birth of a child – the miracle where both baby and mother are born. The delivery of my first child was long & tedious, but after seeing her gorgeous face I swore to myself that the only thing I would tell or share with first time moms was: 1) it is the hardest thing you will ever do, but you CAN do it, and 2) it will be the most beautiful moment of your life. Hands down.
I’ve been thinking about writing about N’s birth for a few weeks now – partly to archive it and partly to process through the joy of her birth in preparation for baby #2’s birth (which will hopefully occur in the next few days & I’m a little bit terrified to begin!) So, without further ado…
Norah’s Birth Story
I’ll start this story at the moment I “thought” I was going into labor. I woke up at about 2am on the morning after my due date (May 19th) and I was having some faint, inconsistent contractions. I was too excited to go back to sleep (!) so I decided to rock in my rocking chair & get in some last minute reading (relaxation techniques, etc). By the time Sam woke up to get ready for work (7am) I told him that I was still contracting and that I was pretty sure my water was “leaking.” We called the doctor’s office and they wanted me to come in to make sure it really was amniotic fluid (we had already been in once for this & they didn’t want me to be losing fluid for more than 24hrs).
After determining that I was indeed “leaking” but still only having brief, inconsistent contractions, my midwife decided we should head to the hospital and I would be induced if things did not progress on their own (we weren’t sure how long I had been losing fluid, and the risk of infection increases). We made it to the hospital around 10am, sent a mass text to friends & family telling them we had arrived, and began walking laps around the birthing center hoping to get things moving along – we did not think we had long to wait until we would meet our baby girl!
My midwife arrived and decided that we had better get things moving & because I was already hooked up to an I.V. for antibiotics (my increased risk of infection) they began pitocin and things got underway.
Most of our immediate family was at the hospital by late afternoon (assuming that she would be born in the evening) and I was coping with the contractions – the lactation consultant at the hospital was a friend of a friend and really took us under her wing, giving us pointers (breathing through a contraction, visualizations, etc) & encouragement. My mom was giving me head rubs and Sam was a solid, confident force encouraging me that I was doing a great job. Contractions are so hard to imagine or describe, but it is so different than any other kind of pain I’ve ever experienced – it was sort of a swelling that builds & builds & then tapers off giving you just enough time to collect your courage for the next one. It can be scary, but it’s also an active pain – you feel (or at least know in your head) that it is accomplishing a BIG task & so it’s easier to work with the sensations. By dinner (7pm) there was a nurse shift change and a new midwife on call. I had only progressed to about 2-3 cm and it was clear that our little love was in the posterior position. Due to her position and my lack of food & sleep we had only progressed to about 5cm by midnight! I was still feeling “good” in the sense that I was coping with the pain and felt so optimistic that I could get this baby out, but we decided around 1am to get an epidural, send our family members home for some sleep, and try and get a little sleep ourselves.
The epidural was heavenly 😉 but I’m pretty sure my body was producing some natural pain-killers of it’s own because I was feeling pretty loopy at this point and apparently was even teasing the anesthesiologist! Sam took a little snooze on the couch & I tried to sleep through the dull (mostly painless) pressure that I felt from my belly to my low back every 45 seconds or so that was supposed to be completing my dilation so I could start to push. Around 4 or 5am with the lights still dimmed my nurse & midwife tried to coach me through my first “pushes” – this is incredibly hard to do when you have no feeling from the waist down! I tried to focus on my determination to meet her, but after about an hour of pushing it was clear she was going to need a little help. At this point I was purely exhausted, and when my midwife told me she was going to have to call the doctor I nearly sobbed because I thought that meant I was going to have a c-section. Instead, she told me he was just going to assist with a vacuum delivery.
While we were waiting for the doctor to arrive, my epidural wore off. I realized that I was having sensations and my nurse immediately called the anesthesiologist. By the time he arrived and made some adjustments I was in the throes of fast, active labor and was not prepared to cope with the waves of pain that were washing over me. It was a very stressful end to the delivery as the doctor rushed in and explained how he was going to use the vacuum, attaching it to her head, Sam holding my hand and guiding me with his voice & breath over each painful swell & peak, giving at least 3 or 4 incredible pushes with every cell of my body vibrating with the effort…and finally my nurse’s voice above it all yelling at me: “Open your eyes! Your daughter is being born!”
They laid her wet, crying little body on my chest and the world stood still. Every fear & pain dissolved and I sobbed tears of joy. She was so beautiful, beyond anything I could’ve imagined. The relief & joy of that moment will be in my heart for as long as I live.
She was born at 6:30am and was a perfect 8lb 7oz – I watched as they washed her little body and Sam gave her her first bottle (I was too depleted to nurse). The three of us had a few snuggly moments before our family started arriving and then I literally couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer. After a recovery nap the next few days were filled with the most love and support I have ever felt and some of the most proud moments as I watched Sam take care of us. We were learning to be a family of 3 and it felt incredible. Even though the story didn’t unfold the way I had hoped or imagined, my life was deeply changed and I became a new, more courageous person through her birth.
As I dream about the birth of our second daughter (due in just 10 days!) I swing between fear of the process, the pain, the uncertainty, and then the confidence that my joy and love is actually going to multiply by bringing this little person into the world. I want to sit in that confidence these next few days (or weeks) and the knowledge that I am blessed to experience this journey for a second time!
Motherhood is such a gift.