My pregnancy with Iris was much more different than her big brother, Dominic’s. I had morning sickness for the entire first trimester. I never vomited, which I’m grateful for, but I was nauseous all day. At 29 weeks, I started getting very crampy, almost like menstrual cramps. I called my OB and spoke to the triage nurse. She kept telling me that it was probably ligament pain and I shouldn’t worry. I hate being blown off, especially when someone else’s life is in my hands. I called again and demanded an appointment and that the nurse that I spoke to could have cared less about my concerns. I left work early to see my doctor. She checked me and I was already almost 2cm dilated and my cervix was already thinning. She seemed concerned and sent me directly to labor and delivery to be monitored. I stayed on the monitor for a couple hours and was sent home to rest. I wasn’t in labor but they said it was good that I was so in tune with my body and to keep it up.
The cramps continued, so the doctors decided to give me more frequent appointments, worried that I could possibly deliver before 36 weeks and I would have to be sent to a bigger hospital. Every week that passed was a relief and Iris was able to cook a little longer. I was scared that she could be premature and have complications, that’s the fear of every mother, even with the most low-risk pregnancy. At 37 weeks, I was at work and my back started to ache, I had to bend over a chair and couldn’t stand up straight. I could tell my body was prepping for impending labor. I decided to go home. When I got home I took a walk in hopes that, if it was early labor, I could speed it up. I had a few mild contractions but nothing more than Braxton Hicks.
That night I rested and at one point went to the bathroom, wiped and there was light pink discharge. Bloody show? I then went to bed with my hopes high. I laid in bed and had some contractions that felt stronger than my normal BH’s, so I decided to time them on the app I downloaded on my iPhone. That was very convenient. They were all about 15 minutes apart and I thought ‘Yup, this is it. Now, get some rest.’ I hoped that I would be woken up by strong contractions at some point throughout the night.
I woke early the next morning, I started to cry. My hopes of going to labor in the middle of the night had failed and I felt a little hopeless, but I knew things were happening. I would usually go back to bed after getting up so early but I got dressed and took our dog, Daisy, for a walk. We walk about a mile and headed home as I knew Dom would be waking up soon. As I got Dom ready for the day, we headed out for another walk. There are old railroad beds near my parents house, so we went there. We did the normal loop. We stopped at my parents house afterward and went out for lunch with my mom.
As we waited for our fried pickles and Hawaiian pizza, I felt a few contractions, not super strong but enough to notice. We enjoyed our lunch while talking about what my baby girl would look like and what her name might be (we had 3 picked out, but nothing definite). We went for another walk, the same loop I had done just a couple hours before. Throughout the walk I felt my belly tightening, but it didn’t stop me so I didn’t even stop to think I was in labor, I continued on walking ( I look back and think that those small waves were the beginning of labor). I then went home, put Dom down for a nap and demanded sex from my husband. Yes, I demanded. We did the deed.
Chris had plans with some friends so he went on his way and I laid in bed for a couple minutes, then got up to pee. Instantly when I started to pee, I felt a strong contraction, and then, another and another. I decided to take a bath. I started feeling the contractions in my back, still in denial that I was in actual labor. I texted my mom and asked if I could borrow her heat pack. She and my dad came over and she headed upstairs to the bathroom. It must have been a funny sight, her naked daughter standing in the tub, hands on the side of the tub hunched over, the water running but going down the drain. She immediately said ‘you’re in labor’, I replied with a painful ‘no, I’m not’. Denial.
We got to the hospital and my mom and doula were waiting there with a wheelchair. A wheelchair, now come on, my legs work don’t they? I didn’t like the wheelchair but everyone told me to take the ride, so I did. We made it to L&D. It was so quiet, I was the only one there. I liked that. I got my Pretty Pusher (awesome, fashionable, disposable labor gown I had ordered months in advance) on and got hooked up the monitor, was asked the normal intake questions and had my cervix checked. 5cm and 90%. I was shocked and happy that I was already halfway there, I didn’t expect to have progressed so fast. I then went into the labor tub, it was only a 20 ft walk but I had to stop twice until I finally submerged my little, hard belly in the warm water. It’s amazing what the warm water does to the contractions, I could really tolerate them in there. At one point I was referred to as the ‘labor goddess’ by a couple student nurses, I liked that title. Everyone was scrounging around trying to find some calming music, all of it drove me nuts until they found an untitled disc, they put it in. It was The Used (a hardcore punk band), I was feeling it. I lip-synced and even sang softly to the music.
Unfortunately, you can only labor in the tub for an hour and, that hour was up fast! I went back to my room, was put back on the monitor and checked again. 7 cm and 100%! what? I was progressing fast! It was about 10 pm and my onlookers were thinking that I may have the baby by midnight.
I met my new nurse at the switch of shifts, I repeated my birth plan. She wasn’t as attentive as my first nurse. She wasn’t bad but I felt as if I was being punished for choosing the drug-free, natural route, I hope that wasn’t the case. I had to go to the bathroom several times, so she showed us how to unhook me from the monitor, but was never shown how to get it started again. I was off the monitor for a long time and my nurse was nowhere to be found, my doula went on a search to find her. There’s not much you can do for a natural laboring mother other than just being there when you are needed or when I have questions, I felt that she wasn’t. She checked me at about 11 pm and I was 10 cm w/ a cervical lip. Piece of cake I thought. How long can that lip last? Apparently, for a long time. We asked the nurse to break my water but she said she couldn’t feel anything so she didn’t need to. Was I crazy? Did my water already break and I didn’t know? We took her word for it. Oh, and ya know those fried pickles that I had had for lunch, well they made a grand appearance soon after that.
The doctor finally came in to see my progress, the lip was still there, he mentioned starting Pitocin to speed up the process if the lip was still there in an hour. He also broke my water. Yes, my bags were still intact. There was the big gush that I knew I hadn’t experienced! An hour went by and the lip was still hanging out, so they started the Pit, after me crying and saying I didn’t want it. You can only say ‘no’ so many times while in the throws of hardcore labor when you finally just give in. ‘You won’t even feel it’ the nurse said. OH, yup, I definitely did. The contractions got stronger and longer and I was forced out of my little labor bubble. It didn’t take long until I was a complete 10 cm, but no urge to push, or so I thought.
I had some pressure in my bum with every contraction, told my nurse and she said that was good, but never checked me. At one point I had so much pressure that I felt as if the baby was going to fall out of me, I started to panic and asked my nurse to check me. She did and Iris was starting to crown on her own, the top of her little head was starting to make it’s way out. The nurse rushed around getting the doctor, another nurse, gowning up and breaking down my bed. It was baby time! Chris got his camera and I started to push. I told myself I was ready for the pushing and the ‘burning ring of fire’, but I wasn’t. No one can be prepared for that burning, holy crap! When the burning started, the doctor told me to push against it, I told him I could not. I must have blacked out at one point, because when I looked, my legs were out straight, a nurse holding each one, I thought they had pulled my legs out but on the contrary, I pushed them away. Everyone told me if I bent my legs and gave a push, that the baby’s head would be out, so that’s exactly what I did. I bared down and there was her head, another push and there was her tiny body. She shot out like a rocket, I think it was 5 minutes total of pushing.
I was oblivious to the fact that my placenta still wasn’t detaching and I was bleeding a lot. The doctor was there between my wide-spread knees waiting, tugging and finally I was able to birth the once, ever-so important life source to this beautiful creature that nursed quietly at my breast. The bleeding was still heavy and my uterus was boggy and not getting small fast enough so they kept the Pit running for a while after delivery. On the upside, I didn’t tear at all so no stitches, that made recovery even easier.
Our daughter spent a couple days without a name then we finally agreed on Iris Althea, it suited her perfect, our little flower, our messenger of love. Her birth, while not going exactly the way I had planned, was absolutely amazing. I’m so proud that I was able to stay strong and deliver her naturally. When I set my mind to something, I do it and I’m glad I set my mind to that kind of delivery. I still feel empowered to this day. I educated myself and didn’t give in to the norms of society. Natural delivery is painful and hard but, man, is it worth it!