Birthing Story Part III: The Delivery April 15, 2009: 11am-1pm
My OB is gone, and the room feels somewhat empty, even though our doula, Mike, our nurse, Mary and a student nurse, Linda, are all present. Mary wastes no time in telling me to start pushing as my doctor ordered.
Since the epidural is clearly not working, she tells me to pull my legs back and hold them toward me. I want to push them away from me, but she says that will not help. I tell her I need to pull or push on something. I keep pushing through each contraction, but I do not feel as comfortable as I think I could.
I then remember a story a friend has told me about a woman pushing through labor. While the woman held one end of a bed sheet, someone else held the other end by her legs. The woman pulled on the sheet resisting the other person, and this helped her understand how she should be pushing.
I tell Mary this story and ask if there is a way I can try something like that.
“Hm…” she says. “I can get out the bar.” She goes to a closet and pulls out a metal bar then attaches it over the bed. She takes a sheet and loops it through the top of the bar and hands me the other end.
“You can pull on this and sort of climb up the sheet. That might help.”
So I grab onto the sheet and during the next contraction, I pull myself up by grasping the sheet and holding on as tightly as I can. Mike holds back one leg and Laura holds back the other.
I find that pulling on the sheet does make pushing easier. I am not sure if I am pushing better, but I feel I am using more of my muscles which want to be used, and somehow it helps me to focus. So for the next hour and a half, we proceed like this. Mike tells me later that I push against his holding my leg so hard that he has to prop his elbow against the metal bar and his hand to my leg, creating a sort of brace with his arm bone. Laura manages to hold me back without this assistance and we do not know how she made it through the next 90 minutes of my pushing against her!
The nursing student counts three series of 10 for me to push through during each contraction. Because my contractions are long, I have additional time after my third round of pushing, so, after a while, I ask if I can push again. The nurse tells me I can if I have the strength for it. I find that pushing through the contractions relieves more of the pressure and pain than simply breathing through each, so while I am expending a great deal of energy, I choose to push a fourth time during most contractions.
After 45 minutes or so, my OB and the resident return for the remainder of the pushing. There are now at least seven people always present at one time (and by the end, eight), and they form an amazing cheering team for me. The mood is still happy, light, jovial. It is surreal from my perspective, especially since I push with my eyes closed, focusing only on that moment. But I appreciate the happiness felt in the room.
I am exhausted, but I also discover a rhythm. I listen for the doctors’ reactions to my pushes and gauge what kind seems to be most effective. When I figure this out, I continue to push at my maximum strength. I realize the best kind of pushing is one which I use my whole body for, making me feel as though I am going to throw up—so I focus on using this kind of pushing as we get closer to the delivery.
After another half hour or so, Dr. T tells me that we are getting closer.
“How much closer?”
“Pretty close. We’re getting there. Not another hour. You’re making great progress.”
“But how close. Like, give me a time, an estimate.”
“Maybe half an hour.”
I fall back, disappointed. “I don’t know if I can do this for another half hour!” I tell him, but everyone encourages me, and when the next contraction builds, I am ready.
As things are progressing, the resident doctor asks if I would like a mirror to see the baby’s head, which is now showing. I grunt, “No thank you.” A bit later, he also asks if I would like to feel the baby’s head, and I respond with the same, “No, thank you.” My cheering squad laughs and remarks at how polite I am during labor. While I refuse his offers at the moment, I am appreciative of the fact that he was considerate enough to ask if I would like those opportunities. But at the time, I am entirely focused only on pushing and do not want any distractions, even if they have to do with the excitement of my impending baby!
It is now approximately 12:30pm. And unbeknownst to me, Mike begins recording the audio of my labor on his iphone and continues to record for an additional hour after the baby is born. So from here on out, I am able to use quotes with confidence, as I have transcribed most of the conversations.
I push three times and ask if it is too late to push a fourth time (as they have told me only to push a fourth time if the contraction has not yet started to descend).
“Save your strength,” Dr. T tells me. “I don’t know how you have as much strength left as it is!”
“Yes, save it for the next one,” Mary tells me. “You’re almost there.”
“You’re really close. Within the next 10 minutes or so,” says Dr. T., knowing I prefer to have a goal in mind.
“You’re a warrior,” says Mike.
“She’s on autopilot,” Mary laughs.
“Remember how when we started this, you were like, ‘I don’t know, I don’t think I can push’? You’re like a machine!” Mike says.
“Look at you,” another nurse who has now arrived says. “You’re doing great!”
“Well, I don’t like it,” I tell my team and everyone laughs.
“If you liked it,” Dr. T says, “you’d shoot your baby across the wall!”
There is more laughing and joking until my next contraction comes. The tone of the room is still incredibly happy.
I push through it for four series, and Dr. T smiles, “You better not ever make her mad! Because she’s got some inner strength waiting to come out!”
At this point, the doctors and nurses discuss bringing me down further and dropping the bed in preparation for…delivery!
After my next contraction, there are more words of encouragement, and my doctor jokes of how we should be playing “Metalica or something while she’s pushing.” Mike suggests Rage Against the Machine, there is excited laughter, and then I am pushing again.
“How are you gonna get the baby out though?” I ask at one point.
“Trust me,” Mary says, “The baby will come out!”
“You have a good baby too,” Dr. T says. “He hasn’t flinched once!”
At this point, things start to move very quickly. The resident doctor reminds me of a few last tips for my pushing—keep my chin down, make sure to breathe out entirely then breathe back in before each round of pushing. He and my OB discuss procedures together, they are moving the bed. I hear a nurse say, “I couldn’t even get a blood pressure reading! She has too many contractions!” The baby nurse moves Mike to another position, so he no longer is seeing the baby’s head. I ask the doctors, “So, I have to get the head out myself?” They laugh and tell me yes, but they will take over once the head is out. They also say they are going to tell me to stop pushing at that point, “because we want it to come out relatively slowly.” The nurse asks me if this is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I am not sure if it is or not, but it feels as though it is at the time and I tell her, “Yeah…” After a few more rounds of pushing, Dr. T. says, “Okay, the next one, you’re gonna get it. You’re doing so well.”
The resident follows that up with, “The next set of contractions, I think you’re gonna have a baby!”
My contraction begins and is building. “Okay,” Dr. T says. “Get ready to be a mom!”
“And Dad,” Mary chimes in for Mike.
I hear these words. That I am going to be a mom. Mike laughs, and excitement is dripping from the walls. But my mind is still not ready to comprehend this. I know these words should make me feel something more, but all I feel is each contraction, and all I know is that I need to push hard and efficiently so that I can put an end to all this pain. And for that, I need to focus on nothing but the task at hand.
I push twice and the doctors tell me to stop. They speak to each other, I hear a little squirt or suction, then a tiny, tiny cry—“Eh.” That stops me in my mental tracks (but of course, I can barely stop my physical tracks and I quickly ask when I can push again.). There is a baby down there!
After the doctors give me the go-ahead to push once more, I do, and instantly hear a more distinct baby cry.
“56,” a nurse declares. (The time is 12:56pm) The crowd is elated!
My doctor instantly puts the baby on my belly. A nurse brings him up closer to my face and I am suddenly holding my baby boy in my arms! I am holding my baby! I am holding my baby! He is alive and squirming, he is red and slimy, and I am in pure joy and disbelief. “Oh, what a beautiful baby!” The baby nurse exclaims. “Hey, beautiful,” she says to him.
“You did it!” says Mary.
“Great job!…Great job,” the doctors tell me.
“You wanna cut the cord?” Dr. T. asks Mike.
The doctors hand Mike a pair of scissors. “Put it right between your fingers.”
As Mike cuts the cord, which I barely notice, I ask Mary, “What do I do now?” She laughs. “You be a mommy now!”
As I read these words transcribed from the audio of that day, I cannot help but think of how simple and perfect they are. All my preparation, all of my planning, all of the eating the right thing, taking the right vitamins, avoiding certain activities, buying baby items, decorating a nursery, having back pain, acid reflux, feeling my baby kick me in the ribs, feeling my water break, breathing through each painful contraction, pushing out of me a 7 pound 13 oz baby—all of this is over. I don’t “do” any of it anymore. Now, my task is to do what I have been preparing for all this time. To be a mommy.
I look at my baby, and between exclamations of “Oh, my God!” I smile at him and simply say, “hey, there…”
My doctor comments on how our baby, although a week early, was “not small” and “plenty ready…You had a term baby.” Mike is laughing and crying, and now the baby, at the nurse’s jiggling and coaxing, is also crying. “That’s it. Now we’re getting it. We finally got a good cry so we can keep him here with us.”
Mike points out, “He’s so squirmy!”
“You’ve always been squirmy,” I tell the baby.
“He’s looking at you,” Laura says.
I look into my baby’s eyes and tell him what I’ve been saying to him for months in the womb. “I love you…”
“He’s pretty calm,” Mike observes.
“I know! You did such a good job!” I tell the baby.
“He’s like, it’s cool being here with Mom.”
As the doctors finish their part of the process, Mike and I continue staring at our baby. Mike tells the baby how we were just singing to him the previous night and apologizes for his cold hands on our baby’s warm body. The baby lifts his whole head up already to look around, his eyes very wide and alert. He stretches his body and looks at his dad. I start breastfeeding (although he won’t really get into this until about half an hour later), and after the nurse takes his temperature, she says he is warm enough to stay on my chest for a while before they examine him.
Before this moment, I had not known if I would want the baby immediately placed on me, or if I would like him “cleaned up” a bit first. But I am grateful to the doctors who, knowing I had requested to keep the baby on me as much as possible in my birthing preferences, simply gave me the baby with no questions asked. The moment I first feel my baby, not even ten seconds after he is born, on my bare chest, is one of the best moments in my life.
When the doctors are finished, my OB congratulates me with a kiss. “You did fantastic! Okay? You couldn’t have done better.”
“Your prediction was right of like how fast it would be,” I say. “I mean, the pushing of course took a while...”
“The pushing took—average, well, below average really,” He encourages me. “Normally it would have been like 3 hours, if it, he, came at all. But you pushed fantastically. I’ll see you some time tomorrow. Baby looks great. Nice sized baby. And everything went perfect! Okay?” I thank him and he leaves. It is not until listening to the audio recording of his last speech that I wonder what exactly he meant when he says it normally would have been 3 hours of pushing, “if it, he, came at all.” It worries me to think that he might have been implying if pushing had taken much longer, I would have ended up having a c-section. [And at my postpartum visit, my OB does tell me that, in fact, I would have had a c-section if I had not pushed with as much strength and determination as I did, and most women would have ended up with one. "That baby was not going to come out that way if it hadn't been for you not giving up." I cannot believe this and when I ask why, he simply says, "It was a very tight squeeze." This disturbs me that there was a chance I could have had a c-section simply because of this reason, and that my OB probably was thinking I would end up with one...]
But these thoughts do not cross my mind at the time. It has been a long day, and there is much more to come. We immediately are given menus to order lunch, Mike’s parents come into the delivery room to congratulate us and meet their grandson. We are moved to the Maternity floor, have more visitors that night, and I barely sleep for the next few nights (and weeks) as I am amazed at the new little life in my life.
I am grateful that all of our prayers have been answered regarding our baby. My pregnancy was perfect, as my doctor reiterates at my 6 week postpartum visit. I had no complications, I felt great, and I enjoyed every moment of it. In fact, I was one of the unusual people who was not ready to give up being pregnant when my time came, as I loved the experience so much. My labor and delivery were relatively short, and in hindsight, I am glad it all happened exactly as it did. Our baby is born healthy (9 out of 10 on the apgar test), strong (not only is he picking his head up his first day of birth, but he is supporting his own weight in standing this day, as well), and happy (he is smiling within 24 hours). It truly all happened in perfect timing and I thank God for that.
While I write this at my two-month delivery anniversary, recalling my emotions at the time of our baby’s birth, I almost feel as though I am a different person looking back at an experience with the advantage of knowing the future. While D. is now a feisty, interactive, cooing little guy, and I am a diaper changing, baby-singing, nail clipping professional, I still see myself that first day of D’s life, and I feel the wonder and excitement of it all. Having no idea where this baby would take me. Having no idea what my life would be like, how I would feel in one day, one week, one month. It is a feeling that still brings tears to my eyes as I revel in the newness of his life.
Of course, being only two months into life as a parent, is still, being only two months into life as a parent! The birth is here, but there are more milestones to come than I can possibly imagine. And there are so many things I do not know about our son and about being a parent. I am excited that while the pregnancy journey this blog has been following has come to a close, the most challenging and rewarding journey of navigating through our son’s life has barely begun.
I thank all of you who have read this blog, who have prayed for us, who have left messages of support, who have been there for us all along the way. It has been very meaningful to have the opportunity to immortalize and share nine of the best months of my life. You have made this a more special experience for me and for that, I am truly grateful.