Ladies, this took me a long time to write between breastfeeding Jack, sneaking in naps and simply recovering from such a long Sunday. This is very long and detailed and more for me than for anyone else, but I really wanted to share my experience with you. Over all, I will say that natural labor was amazing -- I never once wanted medication or thought I needed to escape the "pain." It was hard and it was exhausting, but WOW what an amazing thing the womanly body is. Babies come out! They are meant to be born! That's just so awesome.
Thanks for reading:Jack Everett was born 11-15-09, 6 days past his estimated due date. We had planned for a natural birth using Bradley methods. This was initially due to the fact that i have a metal Harrington rod in my spine from back surgery when I was 14 years old. The rod took away the option of an epidural, which frightened me at first; however, as i started to research natural birth and educate myself on my choices, i became very excited to birth normally. I became obsessed with the idea of bringing a drug-free baby into the world and feeling the high of natural childbirth -- not to mention feel the accomplishment of such a beautiful and intense right of passage. With 12 weeks of Bradley courses under our belts, along with endless books, videos, and advice from our dear doula friend Emy, we felt prepared. We had our birth ball, our tennis balls for back labor, rice socks, aromatherapy, focus points to look at while pushing, stories of positive birth to read allowed if I started to get discouraged -- we had a bag of tricks that weighed 40 pounds. Turns out being overly prepared is great -- but getting back to basics is what got us through Jack's birth. On Saturday, November 14, I was feeling very uncomfortable. I even texted a friend this message: "Worst day yet. I don't want to do this much longer. Im gonna nap now but could use an encouraging phone call later. Xoxo" I blamed my discomfort on my increasing sciatica pain and the spicy curry I had for dinner the night before. My girlfriend Ursula came by to keep me company and chat over tea (we're so civilized), and I had to keep apologizing for zoning out -- i was just not with it. Once Ursula left, the "gas pains" I had blamed on the delicious curry were getting really annoying. I noticed at one point I wanted to lean against the counter and let my big belly hang down until the cramping passed. This was a hilarious moment. There I was, laughing in my kitchen to myself for being so stupid -- i was having early contractions. I texted Jeff (DH), who had been selling snakes at a reptile trade show since 8 am, with this message: "No need to come home, but i think i'm having early contractions! Exciting!" He got excited and wanted to come home but i told him to stay out, get some dinner and take his time, reminding him that this part was the easy and boring part and I could do it on my own. At around 8pm, Jeff came home asking if I really thought this was it. I said I could labor like this for more than a day, so who knows. So we sat down and went over our pain managment plans, our birth plan, the contents of the hospital bag, and I told him some key phrases that I had decided would really work for me when I needed coaching. "Sag your belly, breathe way down low, you can always relax more than you think you can." We went to bed, fully prepared for this to be the night, but still not 100% convinced since it had been so easy to manage so far. At 12:45 I woke myself up -- I was moaning in a low, low open voice and my stomach was cramping and wrapping around my body to my back. Jeff was instantly awake and trying to soothe me, excited to try his "tricks" for contraction management. He rubbed my back, told me to breathe, told me to relax, asked if i wanted to get on all fours so he could squeeze my hips. He was very "active." We went through several contractions like this. He heated up the rice sock and put it on my back and stomach and got me my comb so I could squeeze it during my contractions. Activity was the name of the game -- hard work. Yet after about an hour of real contractions that were only getting more intense, i was only getting annoyed with our "tricks," and we realized what we needed was rest. If this was it, we needed to chill out and try to sleep on our "breaks." So we curled up together naked in bed and Jeff wrapped his arms around me. When a contraction came, i'd take a deep breath and moan. He picked up on my moaning and said,"That's good. Make that sound nice and low ... now breathe deep down into your belly and give me anouther good moan ... even lower. You're almost there. Wow, you really handled that one well, Monkey." And it was then that we found our groove. All i needed him to say (and i NEEDED him to say it) was take deep breaths into my belly and to moan low. That.was.all. I didn't use visualization like I had thought -- I wanted to imagine my big bag of muscles stretching and fitting over baby's head. However, knowing what my body was doing so that I didn't have to be scared of it was priceless. I trusted every contraction to do its job. Then came a moment so surprising that we still talk about it with wonder and complete love. As i was coming down from a contraction, he kissed me, and we kissed and kissed until we found ourselves NEEDING to make love. We did, and it was so intense and pure and intimate that thinking about it now makes me choke up. We made love while i was contracting, and it was beautiful. There was no pain at all. Afterwords we laughed together at our odd and beautiful timing, labored through another contraction with love all around us, and then i got up to go to the bathroom. That's when I got really excited. I lost my mucous plug right then, along with some blood. I smiled and knew that we were having a baby in a very short time. We labored in bed until 6:30am. That is when my contractions stopped giving me any kind of break and continued to peak one after the other. I was having a harder time coping, but Jeff was right there with me, talking me through each and every moment. I wanted to labor at home as long as possible before calling our midwife and heading to the hospital in order to increase our chances of a natural birth. I wasn't sure it was time to go because we had been laboring so well it had only been about 6 hours of good, active, hard work. But timing was impossible -- my contractions were either 3 minutes, 1 minute or no minutes apart and all lasting just over a minute in length. To me, that was a sign to at least call and check in with our Midwife, no matter how well we were doing. Jeff recalls almost breaking down when he called our midwife -- this was a very real moment and we were really going to have a baby. When Connie said it sounded like we needed to head in, I started second guessing myself. I wanted to be as far along as possible -- I wanted to stay home until I just couldn't anymore, and I wasn't sure I was at that point yet. We were doing too well. It was right then, however, that I realized I really needed to trust myself and listen to my body. My body was telling me it was time to go. I should take a moment to talk about the blessing of the minutes between contractions. Nature is so, so kind. Between contractions, you would never have known I was in labor. I was smiling, happy, comfortable and excited. I did not "look forward" to another contraction, but concentrated on just relaxing and going with the flow and the rhythm. This was not work, and it was not hard to do -- nature allowed for this time, and I gratefully accepted it. The trip to the hospital was not as hard as I imagined it would be, but it was hard. Jeff coached me through a contraction at the door, at the car door, two times on the way to the hospital, before exiting the car, at the ER door, in the ER waiting room ... it was like my contractions were relentless (except they weren't relentless -- my breaks made it possible to get through it). I was wheelchaired Hollywood-style through the hospital corridors with Jeff running behind carrying the huge and heavy hospital bag. I made a joke that we wouldn't need anything in that bag. He made a joke that this was the fastest orderly in the world. We laughed, and then were wheeled over to get checked in. I thought it was odd that they gave ME the paperwork to fill out instead of Jeff, but it occured to me later that I didn't look like a woman in labor. In between contractions I was smiling, laughing, and being very polite. The staff treated me like I was not very far along ... that is until I had a contraction (Jeff dropped everything to coach me through it) and then I had another. I heard one nurse get very serious. "Oh wow, those aren't far apart. Let's get her in there and checked out," she said. Once inside, I heard the sweetest words. A beautiful young nurse came in to check my cervix for dialation, but before she got started she said to me what every natural birth mama wants to hear ... "I read your birth plan." She then said we would wait to take blood and that she would not check me any more than I asked her to after the initial exam. She apologized for having to check at all, even though at this point I was excited to know how far along I was -- praying I was not a measly 4 centimeters and that I had wussed out by heading to the hospital too soon. Then came even sweeter words. I still can't believe it, actually. She said, with her fingers inside of me, "Oh ... i feel a bag of water, the baby's head, and no cervix." "What!?" Jeff and I both looked at her. "You're complete," she explained. Holy sh!t. Jeff and looked at each other with complete elation and actually high-fived each other right there in OB Triage. We had done it. All that hard work suddenly felt like nothing. Another contraction came and I went right through it. I told the nurse I'd really like to go to the bathroom before we went to Labor & Delivery and she laughed at me. "Oh no, you're not having that baby in Triage." I was confused, but later realized that my need to go was actually the urge to push. I sailed through another contraction, now lots further apart than previous ones, as we were wheeled into L&D. Jeff said, "You're doing so great!" And I said, "Yeah, I believe you!" The nurses laughed. "She can't be complete," one said. "She's laughing and smiling." "She's also going natural," said another. "You're kidding me..." Jeff recalls us being wheeled in to our room and seeing a nurse setting up the room. He said it looked like she was preparing an IV and other routine items. The nurse who had initially checked me corrected the situation by saying, "She's going all natural and isn't going to need that." The other nurse complied immediately and left the room. I met my Certified Nurse Midwife, Tanya, for the first time in L&D. She was the only midwife on the team I had not met during my routine exams. Funny how things work out, because it turned out that Tanya's laid back and unemotional bedside manner was exactly what I needed. She asked if I felt the need to bear down and I said no. So she just sat quietly and watched while I had a contraction and Jeff leaned into me over the bed to coach me through it. She did this for two hours before i thought to ask if i should be "doing something." She smiled and said, "You're doing it, just have a baby." Tanya was so pleasantly invisible. I was so impressed with her. At this point i was no longer happy between contractions. They were several minutes part and very, very intense. My midwife said the time for relaxing through contractions was over and we needed to get to work. That helped me. I had not felt an urge to push, but i needed to get my baby down. This was hard work. I was starting to doubt myself, and i said so. i felt like i should be doing more. She told me my body would not let me keep that baby inside. As much as i wouldve liked to wait for urges to push, i didnt feel like i was going to feel them, and looking back i know my body helped, but i never really felt that "like a sneeze" desire to get the baby out. For two more hours I tried and tried to push -- on my side and on my back -- but it was taking too long (according to me). It helped me during this time to moan, "Baaaaaby, baaaaaaby," in a low and deliberate voice, like I was actually connected to Jack (and of course I was). When the baby's heartrate started to decelerate Tanya spoke up. "Smalls, Jack needs to you get more serious. Do you want to try some directed pushing?" YES! That is exactly what I needed! Direction! I was so thankful to feel like I would actually be getting somewhere. Jeff had coached me through contractions and i needed her to coach me through pushing. Pushing was the hardest part of my labor, and I was not prepared for that. I skimmed past the pushing parts in all the books because i believed that my body would know what to do when it was time. Boy was I wrong. It was so, so hard for me. With direction, Jeff took his place at my side and held my foot up while i looped my arm under my knee. Dana, a wonderful nurse, took the other side. I don't really recall many details after this point, except that I was very loud, very scared and very tired. I slept between pushes (oh, i love you, nature) and did my best to follow Tanya's direction when it was time to push. I remember her saying, "Smalls, you need to get past this point -- push past it, more more more, ok." I figured out what she meant when I realized I was stopping when I felt the urge to poop. I was supposed to feel that, and then push more. I was learning! I was helping my baby out! Tanya did ask if she could break my water because it "was going to explode" if not. I said ok, and a warm gush flowed over my legs. It felt almost good. Unfortunately, I was told there was meconium in the fluid and she told Jeff that meant the baby would have to be checked out right away and not on my chest. I was so distraught by this, and I used it as an excuse to pout for a minute before remembering what I was doing. It was time to have a baby. I got back to work. Soon I was told to put my hand down and feel his head. Jeff was crying, "Oh my god baby, he's right there! I can see his hair, oh my god!" He was so encouraging and his excitement fueled me every time. I did say a lot of things. Like, "I want to quit ... help me ... I can't do this." But it was never because I wanted medication or to escape the pain. I was just tired and I wanted a break. I thought I was scaring people with my screaming and growling (like a wild animal -- so wild!) and I got self conscious. That all went away when they pulled the mirror over and I saw my baby's head. His hair was so black and so thick. Tanya said she could almost see his forehead and that he needed me to push. I could hear by her tone that something was wrong. "Smalls, i need you to get serious, Jack needs you to push. I don't want to do an episiotomy." SHlT! OK! I didn't want that either. I pushed with ALL of my might -- and for the first time can say I felt the urge to bear down -- and things got REALLY intense. I remember shouting, "ARE YOU F*CKING KIDDING ME? WOMEN DO THIS???!!" Yet within an half hour, I did it. I watched in the mirror as his head slipped out and I saw his face, all greenish and huge. Then, after one good push, his body just slipped out. This part is fuzzy to me, but i heard her say, "...wrapped around twice." And I noticed that Jeff didn't catch the baby as intended. But that was so distant to me because in an instant a slimy baby was placed on my naked chest (I had ripped my gown off a few hours prior). The nurses said, "look at his face," and then he was off my chest and over to the warming table to be examined due to the meconium. Someone else cut the cord because the placenta still had not been delivered and baby needed to be checked quickly. I didn't care at all ... I had had him, it was over. I pushed out the placenta and Tanya said, "You're officially not pregnant." WOW! Jeff remembers so many more details of Jack's entry into the world, and I'll get his account dictated soon -- he has a vivid image of Jack's curled up body springing open as his arms and legs extended ... he says that was his favorite moment. An award for heroism goes to Jeff for advocating for me at this time. He says one nurse told him she was just going to "wrap him up" so that Jeff could give the baby to "mom," and Jeff said, "Actually, can we give him to her skin to skin?" And that was how my baby was finally in my arms, handed to me by Jeff, covered later by a warm blanket. He breastfed immediately, and we got to hold him for an hour before moving to our recovery room. He was (and is) the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. The instant love is amazing. The instant hunger is, too. I ate a cheeseburger and fries 30 minutes after delivering and was completely alert, happy and healthy. So was baby. Jack Everett was born 11-15-09, 8 pounds 8 ounces, 20.5 inches long. I didn't tear and did not need an episiotomy. Ok! I have to feed Jack -- my milk came in yesterday and he's all about that. Thank you for reading Jack's story. I had the birth i wanted, and there was not a single moment when I thought I needed medication to get me through. Even at the hardest parts. I am so proud of myself and so proud of Jeff for being so devoted to getting me through every moment. We are so blessed to have each other, and now our beautiful son. Who, by the way, has given us 8 hours a sleep every night since he's been born. *happy sigh*