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At thirty-eight weeks gestation, I had my first real contraction at 11:30pm on Tuesday, November 29th, 2016. Chris was already asleep, and until I was sure that I was really in labor, I didn’t want to wake him. I had been having Braxton Hicks contractions for several days and wanted to make sure my contractions were rhythmic before getting his hopes up. At first, contractions were manageable, so I tried to get some sleep. I got really hungry and went downstairs and ate fresh pineapple and garlic pasta at the same time (at the time it sounded delicious), and then tried to go back to bed. I never actually slept, but was managing contractions well enough. By 2:00am, I was sure I was in labor and contractions were becoming much more painful. I woke Chris up because I was starting to panic about my ability to handle the pain. I crawled into his side of the bed, thinking that snuggling up to him would help calm me down. It didn’t. I got back up and started pacing while he tried to keep me calm. Although we had taken classes (at Birth is a Journey) that prepared us for so much of labor and delivery, we both suddenly panicked and forgot everything we learned. We suddenly felt like we had no idea what we were doing. At 6:00am I texted my doula, Trinity, to let her know things were progressing, and called my parents to give them the news.
Trinity was at our house by 7:00am and immediately noticed that I was exhausted from lack of sleep and pain. She said we needed a routine. I was uncomfortable in bed, so she piled up pillows on the floor and told me to sleep between contractions. When contractions came, she and Chris helped me get into Child’s Pose and reminded me to rock from side to side and breathe. She told me to drink a sip of Pedialite after each contraction to stay hydrated. Once in this rhythm, I felt much more confident and calm. Everything from class started to come back to me. I wanted things very quiet, so that I could concentrate on following the routine. During contractions, I got very hot and needed cold wash cloths on my ears. Once contractions ended, I got very cold and wanted to be covered with a blanket.
Trinity and her family had to leave to go out of town at 11:30am (I knew this ahead of time, but was still bummed to go into labor right before my doula was leaving the state!). Luckily, I had already planned for my dear friend/mentor (sister by choice, not birth) Jenn, to be with me during labor and delivery, so we called her and she arrived around 11:00am. Jenn teaches prenatal yoga, has had two babies, and has assisted in one other birth. Her experience, yoga teacher voice, and overall calming presence were exactly what I needed.
Trinity explained the routine and Jenn jumped right in. Around that time, contractions became even stronger and Trinity and Jenn suggested I get in the bathtub. The warm water made the contractions feel so much better, and I was able to have a few conversations between them, instead of collapsing into sleep. Mama called to ask if she could come over not long after I got in the tub. Surprised that it took her that long, I answered, “Yes!” Trinity left and then Mama came as I was getting out of the tub. Since we weren’t sure how long I would be in labor, and neither Chris nor I had gotten any sleep, I told Chris he should take a nap. I got on the yoga ball, with my head down on my bed. The ball helped to keep me in a good squatting position, and rolling around helped loosen up my hips. Mama and Jenn worked together to help me through the routine, rubbing my back and reminding me to breathe during contractions. When the contractions became more and more painful, I would tense up and hold my breath. Jenn would tell me to breathe out like I was blowing through a straw and to relax my muscles. Her instructions were the only thing I concentrated on. I just kept focusing on doing what she said. Breathe. Relax. Breathe. Relax. It’s incredible how much this helped me cope with the pain. I’m not sure that it made it hurt any less, but it made it more manageable.
I still wanted things very quiet, and rarely spoke. When I did speak, it was to say one of my key words to let them know what I needed. When I wanted the cold washcloth I said, “Ears!” When I got too cold I said, “Blanket!” And when I felt nauseous I said, “Bucket!” That was about the extent of it.
My water broke at 12:42, while on the yoga ball. Luckily we had a towel between me and the ball, and the ball provided a sort of blockage, so the fluid didn’t go everywhere. Mama and Jenn spread towels on the floor, wrapped me in the towel I was sitting on, and helped me to the toilet. Once I was mostly dry and wearing a pad, it was back to the ball; but this time, the ball didn’t help. My contractions were immediately more painful. I got back into Child’s Pose and started to groan. I asked if I could get back in the bathtub to help with the pain. Jenn said that because my water was broken, and my bathtub wasn’t the cleanest, that was probably not a good idea. I decided that a shower might be similar, so I asked them to wake Chris up so he could get in the shower with me. He put on a bathing suit, and he and Jenn helped me get into the shower, while Mama started frantically packing bags and getting ready for the hospital. (I think she did a little cleaning too, as she and I both do when we are nervous). Once in the shower, I immediately regretted it. I tried to let Chris hold me up or to sit on a stool, but my contractions just kept getting more intense and closer together. After two or three contractions, I wanted out and back on the ball. Once on the ball, I could hear Mama and Jenn talking about whether it was time to head to the hospital.
At some point, the decision was made. I think I might have growled that I wanted to go. Mama and Jenn gathered all of our stuff, and I put my hands on Chris’ shoulders as he guided me down the stairs. He walked very slowly, as he thought that would help with my balance, but because my contractions were happening so closely together (about three minutes apart), I screamed, “GO!” He got me to the van, where I sat in the second row, with Mama and Jenn surrounding me, holding my hands and telling me to breathe. For the ten minute drive to Wake Med, Chris drove as quickly and safely as he could. I remember him looking back at me and trying to hold my knee, and someone telling him that they had me, and he just needed to focus on driving.
I had three contractions during the ten minute drive. We pulled up to the hospital, I got in a wheel chair and they wheeled me in. Checking in and the ride up to triage felt like it took forever and my memories of this are pretty blurry.
These next few details I don’t really remember, but were relayed to me later. Apparently the triage nurse asked what baby this was for us. When Chris told her it was our first, her attitude towards us changed. She slowed down and (to Mama, Jenn, and Chris) appeared to think that I couldn’t possibly be as far along as I thought I was, and didn’t even check me. She just kept saying that the doctor was in the OR. She asked many, many intake questions, and typed them in the computer, and repeated, “Well the doctor is in the OR.” Now that I do remember, I also remember yelling, “What does that mean?!” When she hooked me up to the fetal monitor, she put it up too high (again, because she thought I wasn’t that far along and the baby wasn’t already in the canal) and was having trouble finding the heartbeat. Her exact words were, “This baby isn’t happy.” I remember that too. Those words are seared into all of our brains. She might as well have said, “Your baby is in distress.” At this point, Chris nearly fainted and I started to hyperventilate. Mama sat Chris down in a chair and Jenn took over taking care of me. Finally, she found the heartbeat, and realized that my baby was just fine, and was just very, very low. And now she decides she should just check to see IF I’m dilated. I was 9.5 cm.
Now the nurse realizes what everyone was trying to tell her and declares that they need to get me to the delivery room. They wheel me to delivery as quickly as possible and have me climb from the triage bed to the delivery bed. At this point, the pain is more than I think I can bear. Earlier in my pregnancy, Chris and I came up with a code word, for if I decided I wanted an epidural. That way, I could beg and plead for drugs, but no one would take me seriously unless I said the code word. That word was Honeybee. As I climbed into the delivery bed I shouted, “HONEYBEE HONEYBEE HONEYBEE!” Jenn calmly said, “Honey, it’s too late for that.” I think my response was, “Oh,” and in the bed I went.
I immediately got on hands and knees because I was SICK TO DEATH of being on my back. The triage nurse then said her goodbyes and whispered in my ear, “You are a rock star!” Of course, at the time I didn’t fully realize the attitude she had about this being my first baby, so I thought she was so nice to say that! Looking back on it now, I feel a bit differently, and sort of wish I had growled/moaned at her, “You’re damn right!”
The delivery nurse was a totally different story. She was wonderful. When she realized there was no way anyone was getting me on my back, she suggested we raise the back of the bed and drape my arms over it, so that we use gravity. Halleluiah. When I heard those words I knew I was in good hands. The doctor still wasn’t there, but it was time to push.
Now for this part, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I knew I needed to push, but I honestly didn’t know how. They (the many, many people in the room) kept telling me to take a deep breath and hold it while I pushed as hard as I could, and to try to hold that push for ten seconds. Jenn held my left hand and Mama held my right, and Chris stood next to me repeating, “You’re doing great. You’re doing so great.” (So sweet!) At one point, I squeezed Mama’s hand so hard I nearly broke it! As soon as that push was over, she had Chris switch with her, so I could squeeze his hand instead. As I pushed, I was having so much trouble catching my breath, that I was really struggling to take a deep breath and was only able to push for about five seconds. Jenn kept saying, “Take a deep breath like you’re going under a wave.” At first, there was too much happening for me to understand what she was saying, but then it clicked, and I got it. I started imagining big waves coming at me and I would hoist myself up like I was jumping up right before an ocean wave, and I was finally able to take a huge breath, and then I would push my whole body down, like I was under the wave, and hold my breath and push. I remember someone saying, “Talk to your baby,” or something like that, so in my head (because you can’t talk and push at the same time) I started shouting, “GET OUT GET OUT GET OUT OF ME.” And then, after a FOURTEEN second push, his head was out.
So, again, I didn’t know what I was doing, and I truly thought that once his head was out, he would just kind of slither/fall out. For some reason, I didn’t realize I would have to keep pushing. I almost asked if they could just yank him out. I’m glad I didn’t. So with one more, not so difficult push, Beckett was out. I had been in the hospital for less than two hours, and had pushed for a maximum of forty-five minutes, and at 4:19pm my baby boy was out and in the world. The doctor held him up and my mom took the most amazing first photo of him.
As I flipped over and collapsed into the bed, they laid him on my chest. I remember looking at him and thinking, “He’s real. He’s really a baby.” I felt so shocked.
Then, I realized that we hadn’t given anyone our birth plan with all of our choices. I quickly started just spitting out all of the information. I wanted cord clamping delayed. I did want the active management Pitocin shot. I didn’t want the Erythromycin eye drops. “Chris, where’s the birth plan?!” In the car. That was still parked in front of the hospital. Everything got left in the car, and we even forgot that it needed to be moved. Luckily, it was fine. The doctor and nurses asked before they did anything, and were completely respectful of our choices. The doctor even said that he always delays cord clamping. Once it was time, he let Chris cut the cord and I pushed out the placenta (another thing I somehow forgot I had to do). And that was it. My beautiful baby Beckett weighed six pounds nine ounces, and was nineteen and a half inches long.