I still had three weeks until my estimated due date but I was ready, I was so ready. However, in spite of the fact that I had been waiting and hoping for labor, it took me a really long time to believe I was actually in it when it finally started. And by a “really long time,” I mean 3 hours, because my entire labor lasted all of 4 hours and 49 minutes.
I went to sleep that Tuesday night feeling some ugly little cramps, which I wrote off to be Braxton-Hicks or even nothing at all. The tail end of pregnancy is rife with so many different twinges, pains, cramps and other physical symptoms that I learned to ignore most of them and write it off as normal third-trimester stuff. But, at five o’clock Wednesday morning, I felt my first real contraction, strong enough to wake me out of a dead sleep- but I didn’t believe it was a contraction at all. I got out of bed, and went into the restroom where I felt a strange pop and felt a little bit of water trickle out. Inside I got really excited hoping that my water had just broken; but it was such a small amount of fluid that I didn’t think it was real. I mean, women have false labor symptoms all of the time, I figured I was no different. So because I didn’t believe I was in labor, I decided to wait awhile before I would say anything to Jon, he was asleep and I didn’t want to wake him up for nothing. But there was no way I could go back to sleep myself after that.
A mere 45 minutes later, I began to believe that the “cramps” I was feeling were actually contractions and decided I needed to tell Jon. We’d been told all along that early labor can last an extremely long time (even days!) so I didn’t think I needed to call the midwife or the doula right away but Jon convinced me otherwise. The midwife sleepily told me to take my time, eat some breakfast and then go ahead and come to the hospital that morning for monitoring. She didn’t seem alarmed or excited and I still wasn’t convinced I was actually in labor so I told Jon to go ahead and go to work as usual and I’d call him later if I needed him. Then, I took my time, got in the bath and shaved my legs; just in case. But by the time I got out of the bath, which wasn’t long, my contractions were intense to the point that I could no longer talk through them. I decided that moving slowly simply wasn’t going to work for me and that Jon was definitely needed. I didn’t let him pack a bag and I didn’t pack one myself, I just knew we needed to leave NOW.
The drive to the hospital took roughly 30 minutes, and we checked in right around 7:30 in the morning. The nurses weren’t really in a hurry to get to me after I had told them that I had felt my first contraction only two and a half hours before I got there. Plus, for some reason, when they hooked me up to the monitors, my contractions were barely registering. So imagine everyone’s surprise, including my own, when they checked my cervix and I had already dilated 5 cm. The nurse said “it looks like you’re going to have a baby today” and my heart basically jumped out of my chest. Jon and I started alerting our families as well as our doula while the nurses started preparing a room in labor and delivery for me.
Right about 8:30 we made the trek to labor and delivery, while I moaned and groaned the entire way there. In that moment, I felt like Frodo trying to get to Mount Doom, it was probably a pretty pathetic sight to see. Every contraction was stronger than the last, they were coming less than 2 minutes apart; I was in pain and completely unabashed about showing it.
I made it to the L&D room and got in the bed so the nurse and midwife could do their stuff but I was even more miserable there. I was squirmy and kept telling Jon that I needed to get up, I needed to move; like he could help me somehow. Finally (I say “finally” like it had taken hours, but it really only took a few minutes), that damn nurse was finished and I could get up. I immediately got on the birthing ball and tried to find some relief. I not-so-graciously let the midwife check my cervix again and in the one hour since my first check, I had dilated 3 more centimeters to an 8 and was fully effaced.I looked at Jon with wide eyes and flatly said “transition.” Transition, we had learned, was the hardest, most intense phase of labor and only three and a half hours since my very first contraction, I was in it. As I tried to wrap my head around this and the fact that my mom as well as my mother in law were likely to miss the entire thing, the nurses told me the tub was ready. All of my sentimental “missing my mommy” thoughts instantly vanished because, in my mind, the tub meant relief. All along I’d been told that the tub was “the midwives epidural” and I wanted IN.
From the moment I found out I was pregnant, I was really concerned with what I’d wear during delivery. Being the modest, self-conscious woman that I am, I had a hard time with the idea of being fully naked in front of everyone. My friends assured me that in the heat of the moment I wouldn’t care; but I knew I’d be different. I have dignity, dammit. However, when I waddled into the bathroom and saw that beautiful birthing tub full of wonderful warm water, I threw my clothes off and hopped in without a second thought. But I digress…
Our doula, midwife, and nurse all tried to help me find a comfortable position in the tub but I was really beginning to struggle. The contractions were coming on like a freight train at that point and I was beginning to question my decision to have this natural, drug-free delivery. I mean, seriously, what sane person would ever do this to herself on purpose?
At approximately 9:00 am, the midwife checked me one last time time and I was fully dilated and ready to push. In that one moment, all of my preparations, all of my yoga, meditation, natural pain management classes, and breathing exercises went straight out the window because I straight up panicked. It felt like my contractions were coming right on top of each other and I couldn’t relax and I couldn’t focus on my breathing. I gave one maybe two feeble attempts at pushing while lying in the tub, but the midwife and I realized quickly that it wasn’t going to work. So they had me, in all of my naked glory, get out of the tub to squat and hover over the floor using Jon’s legs for support. I tried to find peace in that position too but I couldn’t. I stood up, feeling like a feral cat, and started to look at everyone dead in the eye and plead for mercy. I cried like a baby and told them that “a c-section has never looked so good.” I just kept crying and pleading “somebody please help me!” They calmly told me that my baby was almost here and I just needed to focus, breathe and push her out. I had to help myself, no one could do it for me.They were encouraging and calm in my moment of sheer terror, to which I will be forever grateful. My poor sweet husband just stood in the corner behind me not making a sound. I’m pretty sure he was traumatized- and with good reason. Even with all of our preparation (and trust me, no one was as prepared as we were) neither of us could have imagined the scene that took place on that bathroom floor.
I tried to push from the squatting position again, but it really wasn’t working for me so I went back to the bed. The nurse brought out the mirror so that I could see what was going on “down there”. I never thought I’d want to use that mirror because I didn’t think I’d want to see what was happening down there at all, but it turned out to be a great idea. Having that mirror in place, I had a moment of clarity. For some reason, a switch flipped in my head and for the first time I was able to stop focusing on my own pain and panic and started truly focusing on pushing my baby out. I got extremely quiet then and so did everyone else; you probably could have heard a pin drop in the room. The midwife let me guide my own pushing. During each contraction, I’d push about three times and then get really quiet again and wait for the next one. Pushing was such an amazing relief from all of the pain I had been feeling; plus with each push I could see my baby’s head coming further and further out. I focused all of my energy on that little head with all of her black hair and I found my rhythm. I pushed for maybe 20 minutes and then……
At 9:49am, Wednesday, January 12, 2011 Lucie Jane Bryan was born. My baby Lucie. 6 lbs, 11 oz, 17 inches long and absolutely perfect.
Submitted by Landrie Bryan of Still Thinking….