After 41 long weeks of waiting, creating, stretching, growing, and crying, I awoke Saturday morning feeling a little "different." Nothing incredibly unusual, but I became a little suspicious that something out of the ordinary might be about to happen. On a side note, I scare myself frequently with my own premonitions- I honestly knew that I was pregnant two weeks before I took a pregnancy test (and I took one before I even missed a period!).
I had been experiencing pre-labor contractions since week twenty, and so when I felt a couple contractions after an hour or so of being awake, I wasn't too hopeful that it was the real thing (well, I sure wanted it to be...but I've had to learn not to get my hopes up at a week overdue!)
Around 10 AM I sent David a text message (he was at work), saying exactly, "Don't get your hopes up, but I think we might be having a baby soon." He called immediately, and I pretended to be un-enthusiastic and a bit pessimistic about the entire thing, just in case!
When he arrived home at 11:30 AM before heading to his second job at 11:45 AM, I was able to definitively say, "I'm in labor!" The contractions were pretty far apart, but these were CONTRACTIONS. I had a mental conversation with myself at this point about how could anyone call Braxton-Hicks "contractions"? It would be like a person who has never seen surging and crashing waves at the beach- majestic, powerful, intense, and swallowing. If this person saw the small chops of water off of a boat on a crystal lake, they might naively call them waves - but they can hardly be compared!
David and I made a quick decision for him to head to work, and call a back-up employee when he got there and have them on "stand-by." If things progressed a little more in the afternoon, we figured he might need to come back home. I had been home about 10 minutes when I called David back and said, "you need to come home- right now!" While slow, the contractions intensified exponentially, and I really did not like being alone. I called our doula, Alexa, who had just begun teaching a cloth diaper class. She picked up, "Are you in labor??!" I replied (still hesitant to admit that this was really happening!) "Maybe!" And followed it with, "I'm going to say yes. I'm in labor." I explained what was going on and then went and picked David up from work.
We went about our afternoon like we normally would, cleaning up, watching oceanography videos, and scrapbooking. And I ate an onion. No, nothing with it, just an entire vidalia onion. At 2 PM I began timing contractions - 10 minutes apart, lasting a minute and 15 seconds! Mentally, this was when labor began for me. Several times I had back-to-back contractions...it was like having a 3 minute contraction. (I'm having to take deep breaths just typing this!) By 4 o'clock, contractions had tightened to 6-7 minutes apart. We called Alexa to let her know that we were ready for her to come over. When she arrived, I was so relieved! Fear is one of the biggest inhibitors to labor, and I was fighting feelings of apprehension.
Labor had progressed quickly between 12 - 4 pm, but I had no idea how long it would last (obviously) and became pretty worried. I couldn't take twenty-something hours of this! These waves were crashing hard. Having Alexa there was a beautiful experience. She was a practical help, but more importantly she was a mental and emotional help. I'd never done this before, but she had, and she's experienced birth dozens and dozens of times. She was calm, confident, and assured - setting the tone for me and allowing me to focus without fear. The most helpful and accurate phrase from the entire birth experience was "power through." Instead of trying to distract from the contractions, I put all of me, mentally and physically in the very nucleus of each powerful surge, "powering through" and embracing it. This was, however, very exhausting!
It's at this point that I must brag on my husband a little bit. He was amazing! He responded to me with the cool calm that comes with years of experience. Never once did he appear anxious or worried. He massaged me, offered suggestions, was my "go-for," and was very protective and take charge (it was quite cute, and unexpected).
So, the labor continued...
We took a walk around our neighborhood, stopping for the contractions. As we were about to pass a house party, we joked about having a contraction right in front of all the frat boys with their red dixie cups. I stopped in mid-step, turned around, and quickly walked the opposite direction. "Actually, I am about to have a contraction." And I tried not to laugh, because that only makes them worse.
When we arrived back home, I hopped in the shower. This was not as relaxing as it sounded. I got really hot, and the counter-pressure that David applied really made a difference during the contractions, so I wanted out.
Through out labor, I had recurring thoughts of "how can this get any more intense?" But, it always managed to do so! Telling my birth story in retrospect is difficult, because now I know how much more intense things were about to get - but in each moment, I did not. And that's probably a good thing!
I laid down on the floor for a little while with David and Alexa massaging me and applying counter pressure to my pelvis. Ana curled up next to me and rested her paw on me, it was a very sweet moment.
I was pretty deeply withdrawn at this point, but I remember hearing David make a comment to Alexa about getting ready to go to the hospital. I remember thinking that he must be freaking out and doesn't realize how much longer this could take. In reality, I was the one who was not aware of how quickly things were moving. (Contractions were about 3 minutes apart, but it could hardly be considered a break in between them). I thought it would be hours and hours before we should even think about going to the hospital. I did not want to get there too soon and have people watching the clock!
It was not but a few minutes after this that Alexa asked if I was ready to go. It was then I realized that maybe it was about time to go to the hospital. I also realized that I was STARVING. So I devoured some watermelon in between contractions and then very quickly (for a 41 weeks pregnant woman!) waddled to the car. The car ride was horrendous. We are blessed to live only 6 or 7 minutes away from the hospital. But with contractions nearing every 2 minutes (essentially constant), it was awful. I was deeply concentrating, and then I noticed that David's and my favorite house was being renovated. They appeared to be adding a balcony on the third level...that made me happy for about two seconds.
So we park, and as we walked into the hospital I kept repeating to myself, "I can do this...I can do this.." and I really believed it. Getting checked in was a little confusing, and I'm not sure what really happened in between then and getting into our room. All I know is that I needed to pee, and then I did, but I still thought I needed to pee. And I did NOT want a wheelchair. It was in between 8:00-8:30 PM when we arrived at the hospital.
The L & D rooms at Athens Regional are beautiful. They have giant windows and wood floors. The ambiance is perfect - you can turn the lights down, get in the big bath tub. It's wonderful.
The midwife was in the middle of another birth, so it was a good thirty minutes or so before she was able to come in and check me (to see how far along I was). But I felt like PUSHING. I'm a firm believer in doing what your body tells you to do, so I did push. I felt very unaware of what was going on outside of and around me. When the midwife, Tony, did come in and check me, I was seven centimeters dilated, and my bag of waters were bulging. I had the option of having them broken, but I did not want any unnecessary interventions.
I was still somewhat in denial of how quickly things were moving. The average first labor is 24 hours, often times longer. I felt the need to push, but for some reason I irrationally thought it would still be hours and hours before I would be complete. (Even after being checked, I seemed to think this..)
Alexa suggested getting in the bath at this point. Transition. It's an interesting word for the most intense experience known to humankind. Some people don't like to use the word "pain" when describing labor - but I don't know what else to call it. I felt like my insides were ripping themselves out. Of course, I knew that my body was made to do this and this was a natural process of life, my body was opening to allow the birth of my baby. (I pictured the "Thumbelina" scene in which the flower is opening to "give birth" to the cute miniature girl). It was not something to fear, and I don't remember ever feeling apprehensive or fearful about what was happening.
David and Alexa took turns pouring water over my belly and giving me ice chips, which I ate, as well as rubbed all over my head and chest. I was holding (or crushing to dust) David's hand as he encouraged me. Looking into his eyes was strengthening, as he was calm and firm. I kept asking, "how much longer..?" and Alexa assured me it would not be much longer! The bathroom was dark, and I felt a very deep inner peace during that time - though I was in outer turmoil. It is one of my favorite memories from the birth. David and Alexa were unbelievable. I feel like they ushered me into a new place.
I eventually got too hot in the bath, and decided to get out. I was 9 centimeters! So close and still a bit in denial. With the help of two nurses, Alexa, the midwife, and David, I changed positions frequently. I used the birthing ball, as well as got on all fours on the bed. I felt so much pressure in my pelvis, and I really pushed at this point. Startlingly, I felt a huge POP, what I imagine a popping water balloon would feel like! My water finally broke, and it felt so much better! There was meconium, so the special care nurses were called in to clean out his mouth and nose when he was born. (Meconium is a baby's first poop. It is usually expelled after the baby is born - but sometimes it happens before. In this case, the baby must be suctioned clean to prevent further complications.)
As I neared the end of transition and entered the second stage of labor, I was profusely sweating and feeling feverish and very nauseous. Though I never actually threw up, as I pushed I was heaving. This was probably the worst part of the labor for me. I was so incredibly exhausted and honestly felt like I was just going to pass out. At some point I made the comment that I "just want to die." I was told "no, no, you want to see your baby!"
The baby's heart rate kept dropping dangerously low, and the nurses and midwife had to help move me into different positions trying to keep it up. Everyone in the room seemed very focused on getting the baby OUT. I ended up on my back with my knees towards my chest pushing. I wanted that baby out, and so did everyone else. After the midwife checked me for the last time to tell me I was complete, I complained about the intense pressure I felt. I thought that she was still checking me, and I did not like that feeling! "That's not me!" She said, "that's his head!" I honestly could not believe it. (Denial).
The second stage of labor, the pushing stage, was completely surreal. It passed too quickly for me to process. I remember thinking several times, "Is this really happening?" I'm not sure exactly how long it was, I am guessing not much more than twenty minutes. When I was told they could see his head, I did not want to watch in the mirror or feel his head (at least not with my hand, I felt it PLENTY in other places!) After a few more pushes, I decided that I did want to feel him. It was the strangest feeling. It's indescribable.
It was not but a few more contractions and the most miraculous, overwhelming, and life-changing experience occured. At 11:17 PM Dmitri Aleksandr Octavius Singletary-Parker emerged. It was amazing, empowering, and completely unbelievable. I will never forget that moment. It was undeniable.
I did it.
I actually pushed a baby out of my vagina with no medication. I felt and embraced every moment. Despite being it denial of how quickly my life was changing. It was unbelievable.
David cut the cord and the nurses cleaned him up. He was squalling like anyone would if they were shot out of their warm home of nine-months. They laid him on my chest, the most beautiful boy I have ever seen. He was incredibly fiesty and trying to climb up me! David took his son and rocked him in the rocking chair, and was able to eventually sooth him.
I did have a tear that required a few stitches - and the placenta is not something I really want to think too much about. There is an element of "grossness" that is a part of birth, or more specifically, after birth. I was pretty concerned about it during my pregnancy, but when one holds the most amazing miracle on one's chest - it does not matter. The placenta could have turned into a dinosaur and I would not have cared. [Edit: David's addition: The placenta looked like a dinosaur: a dead, rotting, dinosaur.]
And thus, our lives have changed forever.
The three of us were eventually alone - to bond, to rejoice, to be amazed. Dmitri was examed, weighed, and measured. 6 lbs. 12 oz. and 19 1/4 " long. We were moved to our post-partum room around 1:30 AM and David decided that we must begin Dmitri's musical education immediately. The three of us basqued in the amazing after glow of birth and listened to the Beatles until we all three fell asleep in a twin sized bed for the remainder of the night.
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