Tag Archive | birth

Poppy’s Birth Story

I’m sitting here breastfeeding my newly born, 10-days-old Poppy, watching Daniel.Tiger with my girls. Skittle, who celebrated her second birthday on Saturday, is recovering from twelve hours of almost constant vomiting (the flu? food poisoning? not really sure but it’s been awful watching her like this), as is my mom.  Not exactly how I imagined spending my postpartum period. And yet somehow, despite having to meet the needs of three children and my mother (Honey is back at work now), I am finding time to sit down and type out the story of Poppy’s birth.

It was beautiful, you guys. Magical. I almost feel like I have nothing more to say than that because it was really such a “textbook” labor and delivery. So “normal.” And yet, it was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. So happy. Profound. Transformative. It demands to be recorded, if for no one else other than myself and Poppy. And so I will, I will record every bit of it, every ordinary detail (please forgive how long this post is!), because I want to remember this forever…

My mom arrived on September 30th, just as planned. I had been praying that she would arrive before Poppy did and it was a relief to see her at the airport, to know she was here and Poppy was safely still inside of me and my girls would have someone I trust implicitly to watch them while I was in the hospital. Though there were some things I wanted to accomplish over the coming weekend (pedicures with my mom, one last date night with Honey, a trip to the pumpkin patch with the girls), I finally felt like, “Okay, precious boy, you can come now…”

The next day (Oct 1) was my mom’s birthday, but we went about the day pretty normally…taking Cupcake to and from preschool, house-cleaning, naptimes, and then cake in the evening to celebrate. The only things that were note-worthy were 1) I strangely, and suddenly, started doubting our decision to have a third child. I felt really afraid, my faith in my ability to handle the chaos gone. I wanted to cry at times because I was just so unexpectedly scared that I couldn’t do it, that I would fail as soon as I tried. That I would fail not one, but all three of my children. And 2) I was having a crazy amount of Braxton Hicks on that day. They were constant….a painless tightening of my belly over and over and over again, almost without any breaks in between. I mentioned it to my mom, my doula-friend Leigh, and Honey and they all said a variation of “Maybe this is it!” But my only response was no, no, no — partly because I really did have a few more insignificant things I wanted to accomplish, partly because I had my heart weirdly set on a 10/5/15 birthday for Poppy, but mostly because I think I had come to believe that my body was incapable of going into labor on its own. That I was forever doomed to induction after induction in order to bring my babies forth into this world. I just couldn’t even allow myself to hope for anything different, to think that maybe things could go another way for me. That would be dangerous because I knew there was just too great of a chance for disappointment.

It was around 10 p.m. that night, though, that I started to wonder… Over the previous hour or two, my painless “Braxton Hicks” had begun to sting, like an achy, crampy, pinchy sort of pain that came and went every few minutes. I could feel it strongest in my back, which seemed significant since I had suffered excruciating back labor with both of my girls.  As I was preparing to hit the hay, I decided to text my doula (dear friend Leigh) and our birth photographer. I assured them that I didn’t really think it was the real thing, but wanted them to be prepared “just in case.” As I crawled into bed that night, I was not in any notable pain, but I was uncomfortable. The contractions (I finally allowed myself to think of them in that way) were coming every 5-7 minutes. It was 11:30 p.m.

I slept restlessly, awaking every now and then to see if the contractions continued. They did, about every five minutes. They didn’t feel good, but the discomfort wasn’t enough that I couldn’t sleep. And so I dozed until 1 a.m., when I realized the contractions were getting stronger. I got up to pee and went back to bed, hoping to get a little more sleep. But I couldn’t rest. I was still in denial, still unwilling to admit that I was in labor and this baby was coming, but I felt a strong need to get prepared in the very unlikely chance that I was and he was. So I had a shower, I shaved my legs, and I woke my mom to ask if she could paint my toenails blue. Throughout these things, the contractions progressed until the point where my mom had to stop painting my nails with each one because I felt I really needed to focus in order to manage the pain. It was after this that she convinced me it was probably time to wake up Honey and contact Leigh and our birth photographer (Kay). It was 3:00 a.m.

Through texting, Leigh and I decided that she would come to our house until it was time to go to the hospital and Kay would meet us at the hospital when it was time. When I woke Honey, he got out of bed slowly, and I directed him to have a shower and a bite to eat and we’d leave when contractions were a bit closer together than five minutes. At which point, my mom said to me, “Sweetie, I think they’re coming a lot closer than five minutes apart.” That gave me pause, because they did seem to be coming fast. I hadn’t timed them in a while, but saying they were five minutes apart seemed safe. It allowed me to still live somewhat in denial…to qualify every statement I made with, “if I’m really in labor.” Anything less would mean this was real. This was happening. But despite my insisting that they weren’t that close together, Honey grabbed his smartphone and started timing. The contractions were two minutes apart.

From this point on, things happened fast. I texted Leigh to tell her to meet us at the hospital rather than our house. I texted Kay to say we would be leaving soon. I finished packing my hospital bag in a frantic rush (“I need my journal! Where’s my concealer? Can someone grab the laptop for me?!?! And my yoga pants!”). My mom made me a slice of buttered toast and fed it to me while I worked. Honey skipped his shower and just changed his clothes instead, then loaded the car. And I insisted on putting on some earrings and my makeup in between each contraction before I would walk out the door. And all the while, my contractions got stronger and Honey and my mom rubbed my lower back through each one.

As I put on my sandals and Honey and I prepared to leave, I said to him, “I’m scared.”

“What are you scared of?” he asked.

“I’m scared the baby won’t be okay. And that I can’t do this.” This would become a regular refrain for me throughout the rest of my labor.

“The baby’s fine,” he said. “And you can do this. You’ve done it before. You can do this.” His confidence in me was palpable. And then away we went into the night, leaving behind my sleeping daughters and wonderful mother. It was around 4 a.m.

The drive to the hospital was unpleasant. Sitting down was awful, the contractions didn’t lighten up at all, and Honey took a wrong turn on the way. Every bump in the road hurt. My friend Leigh told me that during her own labor, she made her husband stop the car for each contraction so that she could get through it. I was the exact opposite. I white-knuckled it and just wanted my husband to step on the gas and get there as f—ing fast as possible. I kept asking, “Are we there yet?”

When we arrived at the hospital, Leigh met us in the parking garage and helped me inside. We checked in at the ER and they called the Birth Center for us. My nurse came down to greet us and walked us up to the third floor. I contracted several times along the way, leaning against the wall or whoever was nearby and groaning my way through it. We trapped one nurse in the elevator because I was having a contraction when the doors opened and blocking her way to get out. There was no moving me and she didn’t even try. At the birth center, I was taken to triage, hooked up to the fetal monitor, and checked for dilation. I was 5cm and immediately whisked off to my labor and delivery room, which was coincidentally and beautifully the same room I delivered Skittle in just two years before.

Inside my room, I was again hooked up to the fetal monitor and asked too many admittance questions about vaccines I’ve had recently and cord blood banking and a million other things I felt incapable of fully answering. Honey, who had decided it was his duty to ensure that my birth plan was followed as closely as possible, gave a copy to the nurse. She was completely receptive to and supportive of it, which was a relief to us all. For each contraction, I stood by my bed and leaned on the bedside table, groaning in low tones and squeezing Honey’s hand. Leigh rubbed my lower back (sometimes with her hands and at other times with a wooden massage tool or a tennis ball) and squeezed my hips (which felt sooooo good) and told me how well I was doing. Sometimes, I would again say how scared I was and sometimes I would repeat over and over “I can do this.” At one point, I had Dan text Kay to see if she would be arriving soon and, moments later, she was in our room, snapping away with her Canon.

It was maybe 5 a.m. or so when I started asking to get into the bathtub. The relief of sitting in warm water called to me. But Poppy’s heartbeat was not responding to the contractions in the way they wanted, so I wasn’t allowed off of the fetal monitor yet. They suspected Poppy was being a little “quiet” because it was the middle of the night and, with the exception of the half a piece of toast my mom had fed me, I hadn’t eaten anything since dinner. Even though I was not at all hungry, they encouraged me to have some apple juice in an effort to raise my blood sugar and wake the baby up. I did and, soon, baby’s heartbeat began to rise with each contraction.

Finally, I was allowed to get in the tub, at first with the portable, waterproof fetal monitor and then eventually without it, and I felt better instantly. The contractions, especially in my back, became more manageable. I could breathe again. I could relax again. It was such a sigh of relief. At least for a while. And then…it wasn’t. The strength of the contractions returned. The water felt too hot and I started sweating. For each contraction, Leigh poured cold water over my belly, Honey rubbed my back, and I kept my eyes closed and moaned and groaned my way through. There were times when I felt myself losing control and my moans would turn to squeals, but Leigh’s calm voice always brought me back and grounded me. She reminded me to relax, to keep my voice low, to let the tension out of my facial muscles. She encouraged me when I was “in the zone” to stay there as much as possible. She reminded me that I could do this. I could do it again.

It felt like I spent a long time in the tub, but in reality, it couldn’t have been more than thirty minutes. Eventually, the nurse gave me the option of using the doppler to listen to Poppy’s heartbeat or getting out of the water to be hooked up to the monitor. I was fearful of leaving the comfort of the water, but I was feeling overheated and needed a break, so I chose to get out. As soon as I did, another contraction hit and I leaned against the wall and grunted and squealed and said, “I feel a lot of pressure.”

I crawled into bed after that, half-naked (with only my bikini top on), and let the nurse connect the fetal monitor and then check me for dilation. I was 9cm. Time and the activity in the room sped up then. They started setting up the tools for delivery. Baby nurses came into the room, ready to greet and check my baby boy. The doctor arrived and, with my permission, I let him break my bulging bags of water. “There’s meconium,” I heard him say and my heart dropped. I’d never heard a single good thing about there being meconium in the amniotic fluid and I felt scared. Panicky. “Is he okay?” I asked and everyone assured me he was and no one seemed overly concerned. It calmed me and, as the doctor stood up, he said, “You’re basically 10cm. If you feel the urge to push, do it.”

And with the next contraction, I did. They let me choose what position to push in and I chose to lay on my side as I had done with Skittle. I started screaming with the new kind of pain and pressure I was feeling as I pushed; I couldn’t help myself. I was embarrassed to scream, but it also felt good. Strangely, the doctor had left the room, so the nurse called for emergency back-up and then there was a flood of people who swarmed in, the doctor included. It’s surreal to me, because I had my eyes closed for the whole thing and I really had no concept of where anyone was, who was touching me, who was talking to me, if Leigh and Honey were nearby or far away. I just gave one hard, loooooong push and, as I felt the baby crowning, I took some deep breaths and naturally slowed the pushing. “Good, controlled pushes,” a nurse (I think?) said. And then someone told me to me to push harder.

“I am!” I screamed.

“You can do it harder!” someone said.

And I did and, suddenly, several hands flipped me to my back, told me to give a cough and another push, and then Poppy was here. He was here. And he was warm and soft and gooey and crying. An “I’m here and I’m okay” kind of crying. And I touched his cheek and said, “My sweet boy. My sweet, sweet boy.” And then I was crying too. Sobbing really.

And here is the most wonderful thing: I loved him instantly. There was no doubt that he was mine, and meant to be mine, and this was the beginning of our love story. Because I loved him instantly, and deeply, and fiercely. And I don’t know what will become of our bond in the months and years ahead, but right then and right now it seemed and seems laughable that I ever questioned my ability to love him enough. Because it’s obvious to me now that my husband was right all along: I give my love away in so many forms to so many people every day. How could I not love this little human that I created and carried? My love for him is big. Bigger than my heart can contain, which is probably why tears burst from my eyes multiple times a day when I look at him. He is perfection and the perfect addition to our expanding family.

And one more thing… It may be too early to know all the ways in which this birth experience has altered my perceptions of this world and myself, all the ways it has changed me and the life ahead of me, but what I do know is this: My body is not broken. I am still in awe of the fact that I went into labor on my own. That, with the exception of the meconium incident, this birth went exactly according to plan. That I did not scream for an epidural as I went through transition. I am strong. I am capable. And though I am as infertile as I was three, or six, or ten years ago, my body did not let me down this time. It knows how to birth, and feed, a baby. It is — I am — not a complete failure. And neither is my heart. I am capable of loving the most unexpected, foreign, strange little creature. And I am capable of being loved by him too. I see it in his eyes.

This birth…it transformed me into the mother of a boy. Which is exactly the same and completely different than being the mother of a girl, I’m finding. And while it did not push me to my physical limits quite like Skittle’s birth did, it did push my heart to its love limits. It showed me what love really is. What being a mother really is. It’s not based on gender, or on years of trying to conceive, or any of that stuff that has been all I’ve known up until this point. It is based on a connection that is created at birth (or for those adoptive parents out there, some other pivotal moment in a child’s life), something primal that can’t be explained, or qualified, or quantified. I don’t have to go looking for it. I don’t have to force it to happen. It’s just there. Period.

I love him. And he loves me in the only way that his little newborn heart can. And now…I get to spend the rest of my life hoping that I am worthy of that love, and proving it to myself and, best of all, to him.

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Holding my hubby’s hand while contracting just after arriving in our hospital room

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I remember saying a prayer while in labor, something of the “God give me strength” variety. This may have been that moment.

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My support team…Honey and my doula-friend Leigh.

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Counterpressure hip squeezes = amaze-balls!

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So much pain relief was found in that tub!

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Holding Leigh’s hand while Honey rubs my back…I had so much loving support on that day!

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About to push a baby out of my va-jay-jay!

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He’s here!

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Poppy is here and, after some snuggles, gets weighed…8lbs 6.4oz.

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Who can resist baby feet and teeny tiny toes?

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Skin-to-skin with Mommy…such a sweet and peaceful time.

Baby Finley by KaetheJo Binder Photography-Baby Finley by KaetheJo Bin-0057

Already totally in love…

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Loved by Daddy

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Being held by Leigh and looking straight into her eyes as she spoke to him…

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In Grammy’s arms…

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The girls each gave a gift to Poppy and then Poppy “gave” them each a gift…Skittle really loved her new doll! (And, as you can see in her arms, she also really loved the lullaby lamb that she brought for her baby brother!)

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Being swaddled before making his way into his sisters’ arms. Feel free to laugh at our swaddling job. We may be “experienced” parents, but our swaddling skills clearly suck!

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Birth Day

This will be short, but I wanted my beloved blogging family to know that Poppy has arrived! Finley*Kai (F*i*n*n) was born yesterday at 6:13am with no induction or much hoopla at all and with exactly the birth experience I had hoped for. He weighed 8lbs 6oz and is 18.75 inches long. He is entirely perfect and I am utterly in love. I weep every time I look at him. I can’t believe he’s here!

Birth story to follow. Thanks to all of you for your loving support over the last nine months!

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The Birth Story

** This one is a long one, ladies! I want to record it for posterity so that I will forever remember one of the most beautiful moments in my life and I want to give an honest account for anyone hoping for a natural birth. No holding back! **

Last Wednesday was a crisp, cool day here in the Northwest. Autumn had definitely arrived. Our lawn was already covered in fallen leaves and the skies were gray. And it was still dark outside when my husband called the hospital at 6:30 a.m. to see if and when we would be reporting for our induction. I expected them to tell us to call back at noon, or 4 p.m. or 6 p.m., or midnight. I did not expect them to say they were ready for us and we should report at 8 a.m., but that is exactly what they told us.

We scrambled around that morning, finishing the packing of our hospital bags and getting dressed and ready to go and preparing my daughter for her overnight stay at my friend Lillian‘s house. It was a frantic, hectic, chaotic start to the day — and to our newest adventure.

After dropping Cupcake off, we (Honey, my mom, and I) arrived at the hospital fifteen minutes late. We were out of breath, anxious, nervous, and excited. We had been waiting for this day to come for a very long time. And still, we waited some more. In fact, we spent the next eight hours waiting. Waiting to be checked in and taken to our room. Waiting to complete all the admission questions. Waiting through an hour of fetal monitoring. Waiting for my blood work to come back and my urine to be tested. Waiting for the doctor (not my OB, but one of his partners) to do an ultrasound. (Skittle was still head-down, thankfully.) Waiting for my first dose of Cytotec* (which I did not even get until 11a.m.). Waiting through more fetal monitoring. Waiting for contractions to start. Waiting for them to get stronger and closer together. The waiting was endless.

I brought my own pretty hospital gown to labor in and I also brought these cute socks.

I brought my own stylish hospital gown to labor in and I also brought these cute and cozy socks.

Around 4 p.m., the few contractions I was having pretty much petered out. They were at least ten minutes apart and I couldn’t feel them at all. It was decided then that I’d be given a second dose, this time twice as much, of Cytotec. This meant at least another two hours of fetal monitoring. It felt like I would be tied to my hospital bed forever. I ached to get on my feet, to stretch my legs and back, but instead I had to be happy with switching from sitting to side-lying on one side or the other. The whole process seemed endless and I was beginning to worry if an induction would even be successful this time.

And then everything started to change.

Within an hour of my double dose of Cytotec, I went from having essentially no contractions to having them every 90 seconds. They weren’t yet strong enough to cause me the sort of pain that I would experience in the hours ahead, but they certainly were enough to make me stop and catch my breath. And they gave me hope that this thing might happen after all. That my body could and would respond to another induction and bring forth the baby I felt kicking away in my womb.

But then there was a sharp, scary turn of events.

Skittle’s heart rate dropped. During one of many contractions, her heart rate dropped from the 130s to 80 or so. My nurse had me quickly recline and turn onto my side and Skittle’s heart rate returned to normal, but I could tell the nurse was shaken by it and so was I. We waited and watch in the minutes that followed and while her heart rate did not decelerate again, it also didn’t show the variability (the up and down of a heart rate that often occurs with contractions or movement) that is considered a reassuring sign. The charge nurse came in to watch the fetal monitor alongside my personal nurse, but nothing changed. I became worried. They kept assuring me that my baby was okay and probably just sleeping, and I could hear her heartbeat and knew she was alive, but I suddenly felt very vulnerable. We were in a hospital and well on our way to welcoming Skittle into this world, but she still wasn’t safe. She wouldn’t be until she was in my arms. It was a horribly frightening realization and I couldn’t hold the tears back as I lay there, waiting and hoping for some sign that my baby was going to be fine. That she could, and would, recover from this. That she could, and would, endure these too-close-for-comfort contractions.

I was connected to all sorts of wires while in labor. This IV was only one of them.

I was connected to all sorts of wires while in labor. This IV was only one of them.

What was supposed to be two hours of fetal monitoring became two-and-a-half. Three. Three-and-a-half. I was so sick of lying in bed, but they wouldn’t allow me to get out until they saw a change in the baby’s heart rate. It was decided that I would be given terbutaline, a drug sometimes given to stop premature labor, but for me it would be used to slow down my contractions, hopefully giving Skittle the time to catch her “breath” and bounce back after contractions coming too close together for too long.

Around this time, I also decided I was ready to text my friend Leigh to ask her to come to the hospital. Leigh is one of the few people who has walked alongside me through this entire journey. And while she has never known the pain of infertility or miscarriage, she has somehow always shown such sensitivity and gentleness in regards to my experience, and she has always said the right things. She birthed her second child naturally and hopes to one day study to be a doula, so a couple months ago I asked her to attend my birth (her first ever!) and help me have the natural labor and delivery that I so desired.  With the contractions becoming painful, my body shaking uncontrollably, and my heart so full of fear for Skittle, I knew then that I needed her, not only to help me through the contractions, but to give me the extra emotional support and comfort.

Leigh arrived 45 minutes later just as my contractions were finally slowing down to a more manageable spacing of 2-3 minutes apart. The doctor arrived shortly thereafter to check my dilation (3cm, I think?) and try to tickle the baby’s head to see if her heart rate would respond to touch. I was also encouraged to go to the bathroom and, just as I climbed back into bed for more monitoring, our precious Skittle finally woke up and began kicking and wiggling away, which led to the heart rate accelerations we had all been waiting for. The relief in the room was palpable. I felt such a sense of calm flow through me and my shaking stopped almost instantly. So the terbutaline had done its job and Skittle was rebounding nicely, but there was a new problem: my pulse was abnormally high. It was most likely a side effect of the terbutaline, but it was a cause for concern nevertheless and once again kept me from being free from all the wires. So I was monitored some more. Le sigh.

Contractions were about two minutes apart here, and painful, but not unbearable.

Contractions were about two minutes apart here, and painful, but not unbearable.

Finally, though, after hours stuck in bed and some begging for freedom from both me and Leigh, the doctor and nurses agreed to let me walk the floor. I would still have to be monitored the entire time and kept hydrated with my IV fluids, but I could use the portable fetal monitor instead. So I walked about as the contractions grew in their intensity and my mom, Leigh, and Honey took turns pushing my IV pole and holding my gigantic jug of apple juice. (Did I mention I was only allowed clear fluids since my arrival at the hospital? No food. Yeah…that was fun, too.)

After an hour of walking the halls of the birth center, I was ready for a change of pace. My contractions were back to being about 90 seconds apart and they were becoming more difficult to talk and walk through. We decided to try the bathtub instead, since the portable fetal monitor was also waterproof. That hot (so hot we had to add ice cubes to it!) water was such a relief. The first couple contractions I spent there I didn’t even feel and the ones that came after were much reduced in intensity. I felt like I could have spent the rest of my life, or at least my labor, sitting there immersed in that warmth.

But. (Isn’t there always a but?)

But the water made it difficult to monitor Skittle. They kept losing her heart rate and eventually the doctor ordered me out of the bath and back to my bed.

And so to the bed we went.

Apparently this is what I did with my toes during the worst of the contractions. Please note the pretty pedicure!

Apparently this is what I did with my feet during the worst of the contractions. Please note the pretty pedicure!

As the contractions continued to come very close together and seemed to become more painful with each one, we tried everything we could to manage them:

  • A variety of positions: all fours, side-lying, sitting on the edge of the bed while leaning over a table, sitting on a birthing ball while leaning over the bed (my favorite), reclined in the bed
  • Massage from a rolling pin on my back
  • Counterpressure from a rolling pin on my back
  • Hip squeezing
  • A hot water bottle against my lower back (I loved this.)
  • Alternating hot and cold rags on my back
  • Cold rags on my neck and face
  • A small roll of tape rolled on my lower back (because I forgot the tennis balls)
  • Low back massage
  • Shoulder massage
  • Listening to my labor CD
  • Low moans and deep abdominal breathing (This really helped me keep my focus.)

We had quite the “toolkit” of pain relief methods and yet nothing felt like it was enough. The back labor had me crippled with each contraction and, with the contractions so constant, there were no breaks. No recovery time. I felt like I was treading water. And sinking.

When my water broke shortly after midnight in a gush that soaked me and the bed, I got scared. Throughout my labor, I had been telling Leigh, “I’m scared. I’m scared.” And I was. It was my constant mantra, this admission of fear. Fear of the pain. Fear for my baby’s well-being. Fear for my ability to endure. Fear of the unknown. But this time, I really meant it. I was afraid. So afraid. Afraid because I knew the contractions would get harder without the cushion of amniotic fluid. And they did. Oh, God, did they! Ten minutes ago, it had been hard to imagine any more pain than what I was experiencing in that moment. But now I knew…it could get worse. It would get worse. I still had a long way to go.

I will say this: I was really at my most vulnerable, my most primal, during my labor. The low, deep moans. The wailing and whimpering I couldn’t control. The wild hair that has me cringing when I look at photos, but that I didn’t even ponder when I was in the middle of it all. The cries for help. The farting. The peeing. The vomiting. I didn’t poop during delivery, but I did just about everything else. It was not my finest hour.

My mom pressing hot and cold towels to my lower back. The back labor was a b*tch!

My mom pressing hot and cold towels to my lower back. The back labor was a b*tch!

And yet, I had never felt more present in my life.  I had my eyes closed throughout much of it, but my senses of touch and hearing were incredible. I could tell who was touching me just by the weight of their hand. I heard every conversation even as I turned inwards to get through the worst of the contractions. I was able to respond to questions, able to hear my baby’s beating heart, able to laugh when Honey told a joke. I felt more empowered than perhaps I ever had. I was doing what female mammals had been doing for thousands of years. I was experiencing, fully, truly experiencing the glory and grief of womanhood at an acute intensity. It was amazing.

It’s a funny thing to feel so strong and weak at once. Strong because I felt completely and totally alive. But weak because I really was beginning to feel like I couldn’t go on. I was tired. And I was in excruciating, unbearable pain. I won’t lie…more than once, I wished that Skittle had been breech after all and I’d been forced to have a c-section. And with those thoughts, the “e”-word also rose to the surface. Epidural. Epidural, epidural, epidural. The four syllables thudded through my head over and over and over. I wanted to give in and give up. I wanted someone to give me the permission to do so.

I started to feel some painful rectal pressure and I said so. It was about 2 a.m. The nurse checked me. I wanted her to say I was 7, 8, 9, 10 centimeters dilated. I needed to know the end was near. And I told myself if it wasn’t, I would consider accepting pain meds. I would admit my weaknesses and cry uncle.

I was then told I was 4-5cm along.

“Oh, god. I can’t do this. I can’t do this anymore!” I felt like crying. I was only halfway there? Really?! This was all starting to feel like a cruel joke.

The charge nurse, Debbie, knelt before me. She told me to open my eyes and look at her. She told me I had a decision to make. “You need to decide what you want to do,” she said. “Not during a contraction. Not immediately after. But in between. Talk to your husband. Decide what you can live with. And we will support you in whatever you choose.” Essentially, she was giving me the permission to give up that I so desired.

After another contraction, Leigh gently asked me if I wanted to talk to Honey. “No, I want to talk to you,” I said. “I don’t want to let you and Lillian down. You were both so strong and I know this isn’t the kind of birth you wanted to attend.” Leigh laughed. She said not to worry about her, that this had nothing to do with her. That each woman’s labor is unique and I had already been so strong, so amazing.

Another contraction gripped me and then I asked my husband if he would be disappointed in me if I asked for an epidural. Though I yearned for the permission to give up, a part of me was hoping he would say yes. That someone would require me to stick with it. Instead, Honey whispered loudly, “Honestly, I can’t even remember why we want a natural birth.” The nurses laughed. Mom and Leigh laughed. So did I. “Why do we want to do this again?” he asked.

“Because it’s what’s best for the baby,” I said. I believed it was best for Skittle and I believed it was best for me, but with another contraction coming on strong, it was hard to feel much conviction. And so as soon as I caught my breath, I relented. I asked for an epidural. I was disappointed in myself, but relieved too. And desperate for the anesthesiologist to come as quickly as he could. Fast would not be fast enough.

Gripping my doula-friend's hand and the bed railing during a contraction.

Gripping my doula-friend’s hand and the bed railing during a contraction.

I kept asking for the epidural. Or rather, screaming for it. Begging for it. “Where is he? Where is he?” I asked over and over. “I need heeeeelllllp!” I could feel myself losing control, spiraling. I was a mess. A number of times, it occurred to me that if there was another pregnant woman walking the halls in early labor and if she happened to pass my room, I would probably scare that baby right out of her. My pain terrified me; surely it would terrify someone else too. But even while I knew that I had lost all grip on my pain management, and even though Leigh worked very hard to guide me in getting it back under control, I couldn’t. I wouldn’t listen. I wanted no part in working with the contractions anymore. I just wanted pain relief. And I just wanted that baby out of me.

And then suddenly, I felt the most incredible, undeniable pressure. It felt like I was being turned inside out. Like I was being ripped apart. “I feel like I have to poop!” I screamed. But even as I said it, I knew I didn’t. I knew I just needed to push. I knew Skittle was ready.

And when the nurse checked me, just fifteen minutes or so after my last check when I was only 4-5cm dilated, sure enough…it was confirmed that I was fully effaced, fully dilated, and ready to push.

The problem? The on-call doctor was at home a half-hour away. And the other doctor on the floor was no where to be found.

“I have to push! I have to push!” I screamed.

“No! No, don’t push!” Everyone screamed back. My nurse ran to gather a team of nurses to help in the delivery while Debbie (the charge nurse) tried to convince me that I had to wait until the doctor arrived. And I did try, but only half-heartedly. I already knew that I couldn’t hold back much longer.

“I can feel her coming! I feel her head. I need her out! I need her out!” Phrases like that streamed out of me, over and over, while everyone kept telling me not to push. To wait. To hold on.

But there came a point of no return. Skittle was coming, ready or not, and so I let go. I screamed and I pushed. One, two, three. Three pushes, one vivid ring of fire, and less than five minutes later, and then there she was, in the hands of Debbie, whimpering.  Not crying, It was 2:23 a.m.

“Is she okay?” I asked, straining to see her, already on my way to forgetting the intensity of the pain that I had just endured.

“She’s fine,” they told me and she was placed on my chest, warm and gooey and beautiful, and then she did cry a loud, perfect wail and the greatest weight was lifted from my shoulders. Skittle was here, safe at last, and nothing mattered more than that. This was the moment I had been fighting for, crying for, praying for, waiting for, hoping for, yearning for, preparing for, for months and months and months. Perhaps my whole life.

Some of my first moments with Skittle.

Some of my first moments with Skittle.

I will never forget what it was like to hold her, to see her, to touch her. To realize she was no longer inside of me, but outside of me. Tears are falling down my cheeks as I type this. It is still surreal. Unreal. I have spent so many days trying to get here. Perhaps it will stop feeling like I dream once I have spent just as many days with her in my arms.

Those first moments after her birth are vivid and perfect to me. I opened my eyes to see Skittle and to see a room filled with nurses I had never met. My husband cut the cord and took pictures of the placenta. A doctor I didn’t know came to sew up my second-degree tear. I snuggled Skittle and then handed her over to be weighed, measured, and swaddled. The anesthesiologist showed up about fifteen minutes later and the on-call doctor a few minutes after that. Honey became weepy and hugged my mom and Leigh and wouldn’t let go. And then he hugged me and cried into my shoulder, telling me how proud of me he was, how wonderful I did. He had never cried like that at Cupcake’s birth and seeing him become so emotional at Skittle’s made me love him even more. He held Skittle and I heard him tell her “I love you,” and my heart melted. He didn’t say those words to his first daughter until she was two, or three or four, months old. To hear him say it now was shocking and wonderful. Perhaps I wasn’t the only one who had been transformed by this experience.

I still have some mixed feelings about my natural birth. Quite honestly, I cannot believe I did it. I think I was doubting myself more than I cared to admit. I am proud of my accomplishment, and having done it with an induction no less. I feel like I am part of an exclusive club. Like I overcame the unimaginable. And truly, it feels like the first step in a long process of healing after the darkest days in my life.  I love my body for what it did and I love myself for somehow surviving it.

But. (There’s that but again!)

But I also feel a bit like a fraud. I did ask for an epidural, after all. Can I really claim to have had the strength and willpower for a natural birth if I was begging for mercy? If I would have had an epidural had my labor not accelerated at the rate that it did? I do know that I would not have been able to do it without my doula-friend, Leigh, there at my side. I have talked extensively with her about my birth experience and she constantly assures me that I am strong, brave, and capable. She calls me “amazing” over and over. Surely, I did not accomplish a natural birth with as much grace as she did, but I’m glad to hear that she seems to have no doubt that I deserve to feel proud and empowered. She says few women are able to do a natural birth with an induction because the intensity of contractions are so great. She says few women would have lasted as long as I did with contractions coming so strong and close together. My dear friend Lillian, for example, had contractions four minutes apart throughout all of her labor. Mine came every minute or two. And Leigh says I only screamed for an epidural because I was in transition. Many a laboring woman has declared that she’s ready to quit as she makes the final dash to the finish line. And to go from 5cm to 10cm in fifteen minutes is one hard, fast, breathless, crazy dash.

So I am trying to see myself the way that Leigh does. The way Lillian and my mom and Honey do.  They brag about my natural delivery. They sing my praises. They assure me that what I did was an incredible feat. I want to feel incredible. I want to believe I’m incredible. I have a long way to go, but here is what I know: I am glad everything happened just as it did.  I am unbelievably thankful I never had a cesarean and enormously happy my epidural never arrived. I believe a natural birth was the right choice for me and Skittle. She was more alert than Cupcake ever was in her first day of life and has been a champion nurser since her first hour after birth. And my recovery has been ten thousand times easier and faster than when I had an epidural in my first delivery. An epidural was a necessary and precisely right choice for me then, but laboring without one was the best thing for me in this moment in this place in my life.

If you had asked me an hour or so after Skittle’s birth if I would ever do it naturally again, I would have hesitated. I wouldn’t have known what to say. The pain was still too sharp and fresh. But now? I’d say yes. Absolutely. Of course. No regrets. And if I could, I would do it over and over and over again.

Skittle's first bath. And because I didn't have an epidural, I was able to get out of bed right away to help!

Skittle’s first bath. And because I didn’t have an epidural, I was able to get out of bed right away to help give it to her!

In the end, though, it matters very little how Skittle came into this world. That Clomid, lots of time, and a thousand prayers were required. That I cried many tears waiting for her. It doesn’t matter that I had to be induced, almost needed a c-section, had high blood pressure and plenty of small scares along the way. Or that I asked for an epidural, but never had the time to get one.

All that matters is that she is here, she is safe, and she is mine.

I feel so lucky. I can’t stop holding her, touching her, kissing her, telling her how much she is loved. I snuggle with her for long hours, her body pressed against my chest, just feeling the weight of her. I stare at her face. I run my fingers through her fine, silky, dark hair. I have already taken hundreds of photos. I know from experience that these moments will be gone too soon. That Skittle will grow too quickly. So I will cherish this, the good days and the hard ones alike. I will not waste a second. I will treasure my child and I will hold her close for as long as she lets me.

She is my rainbow and, after a dark and stormy season, I finally get to lift my face to the sunshine. Alas.

The necklace was a "push gift" my Honey MADE for me. Look closely and you'll see what book inspired Skittle's name. :)

The necklace was a “push gift” my Honey MADE for me. Look closely and you’ll see what book inspired Skittle’s name. 🙂

* For those of you who don’t know, Cytotec is a vaginal pill given to ripen the cervix. It is usually administered prior to Pitocin for pregnant mamas who have not made much cervical progress prior to their induction in order to soften and efface the cervix and make the Pitocin more effective. Often, it will start contractions on its own and Pit will not even be needed. It can hyperstimulate the uterus and cause too many contractions, however, and that is why fetal monitoring is required for an hour or two after administration.