If I learned one thing from all of the childbirth preparation, it was that labor is a long and slow process. In the early stage of labor, we were taught to relax and engage in distractions before going to the hospital to help cope with the discomfort. Our doula suggested we go on a walk, watch movies, and even pack our hospital bags after labor begins. Especially since I preferred a natural, un-medicated birth, I planned to labor from home as long as possible to avoid being tempted by all of the interventions offered. One lady in our childbirth education class said that with her first child, she didn’t have her baby until 20 hours after her water broke, when they had to induce her. Our doula said we could probably wait to go to the hospital until the contractions were 5 minutes apart for a few hours. I made a list of things I wanted to do while I was in early labor… make a pie, take a bath, watch a movie, etc. Also, we were taught to find a focal point… something calming and encouraging to meditate on while the pain increased (like a wedding photo). This all seems very funny considering what I actually experienced.
It was Sunday afternoon, and I felt quite normal. Normal as in, the same aches, and cramps I had been experiencing for several days, even weeks. I was slightly discouraged about being overdue with no surefire signs of progress. Grant and I had heard that pineapples and massaging specific pressure points in the feet and ankles could “encourage” labor to begin. I honestly didn’t really expect these things work, but I figured there was no harm in trying. I ate pineapples until my mouth stung. My mom called to ask her daily question about how I was feeling- and instead of saying “the same” I said I felt “a little weird.” Probably just indigestion from the fruit overload. Oh, well…. the next step was to look up videos on You Tube about acupressure to begin labor. At about 7:20 pm, Grant started rubbing my feet and about 40 seconds later, my water broke.
Immediately I was seized by the strongest contractions I had ever had. I dropped to the floor of my bedroom and gripped the carpet. I couldn’t breathe and I couldn’t stand to be touched. Grant started timing the contractions- but they just ran right into one another from the start. He was getting frustrated because he couldn’t tell when one ended and when the next one began- and either could I. We called the hospital and the midwife said, “Well… since this is your first child, and you’ve only been in labor for a few minutes, I recommend you stay home a little longer.” She obviously didn’t understand the magnitude of my situation. I demanded the lights be turned off… then on again, as I writhed on the floor on my hands and knees. Each contraction was stronger, I started sweating and shaking and doing laps around my room- to get away from the pain. I would roll over the bed, on to the floor and crawl across the room- then back up on the bed- rocking, puffing, and rolling, off the bed, around the floor. Grant called the doula who said she’d come over, “and help us get into the rhythm of things” but I knew that none of the touchy- feely stuff we had practiced was going to help me now, so I said no. Grant was hustling around trying to pack our bag for the hospital and load the car. He asked if I wanted him to fill the bath- like we’d planned and I thought I’d give it a try. I had to wait through several intense contractions before there was a window of time long enough for me to catch my breath enough to stand and walk to the bathroom.
Once I was in the tub, I thought I felt a tad better, until the first contraction struck me. I started thrashing and splashing, and I jumped out of the tub with pain. I was climbing all over on top of the toilet and the sink- like a wild animal… just trying to find a way to get comfortable and breath. I was breathing very hard and all I could do for the seconds between contractions was close my eyes and try to catch my breath before the next electrifying pain consumed me. That’s when I first decided that I would be okay with an epidural. At that point, I would have taken anything to escape the tremendous pain. I knew I needed to get to the hospital, so I schemed how I was going to catch my breath, get out of the tub, get dressed, put shoes on and get in the car when I only had 15 or 20 seconds between contractions. It took quite a bit of time (though I can’t say how long) before I was able to find the strength and the window of time to get to the car- but somehow I was able to do it. The whole time in the tub, I just kept remembering videos showing people in labor gently rocking back and forth, getting their lower backs massaged by their partners. Breathing deeply and slowly.
The car ride to the hospital seemed to take hours. I was contracting almost the whole time. At one point I tipped my seat back and contorted my body so that my head was in the car seat behind Grant (I was sitting in the front). Grant said he was most concerned when I slammed my fist on the window and the back of his seat while practically shouting “HEEE HEEE HEEEEEEEH HEEEEEEEE WHEEEZE HEEE No- no… ow..ow. owww- GO heee heehee FASTER!” I was most concerned when I felt the overwhelming compulsion to push a baby out. This is what happens in the last stage of labor… usually several hours after the labor started. I don’t know how I made it through the halls of the hospital, up the elevator, and to the birthing center. I was doubled over and struggling a lot and the lady at the front desk was trying to have a conversation with me and have me sign some document. She must have thought I was being overly dramatic- because she kept asking more questions- which I couldn’t understand, much less answer appropriately.
Finally, someone showed us to a room where I was supposed to wait for someone to come and determine if I really needed to be in the hospital. They needed to monitor me for 20 minutes first- then the midwife would come check me. Before the 20 minutes of monitoring could start… they left me alone in that room for at least 30 minutes. Grant had to go move the car- so I was all alone experiencing the most unbearable pain imaginable in that little room. I was eye level with a pain assessment scale that was taped to the side of the medical cart I almost knocked over when I grabbed it during a contraction. The top of the chart said “Worst Possible Pain- Unbearable.” These are the only words that made any sense to me. They kept repeating in my head.. “Worst Pain… Unbearable… Worst Possible…Unbearable!” It seems I found myself a focal point. I kept waiting for someone to ask me where I fell on the scale, and I was planning to point to the sign… “Unbearable” but now one ever asked. The other focal point I became entranced with was “EPIDURAL- please, someone, give me one!” But no one was around to help me out.
Our doula showed up and I told her I felt the urge to push. She went to get someone to tell them that I needed to be seen immediately. Finally the midwife determined that I was dilated to an 8 (out of 10) and she wheeled me to delivery room. She said it was too late for pain medications, and that my baby was coming quick. It didn’t seem it could possibly quick enough for how I was feeling. Once I got onto the bed, the midwife said I was fully dilated to a 10 and that’s when I started pushing (around 10:30pm). People kept asking me questions and I didn’t really know how to answer any of them, so I just said “No” to every question. Time stopped existing and there was only enormous pain.
As the pushing phase progressed, the rest between contractions grew. The endorphins finally began to kick in as my need for them increased. This was a welcome change- as I had not been able to breathe adequately for four hours. So I would practically fall asleep between surges of pain and pushing. The whole time, everyone in the room was so encouraging… coaching me to listen to my body, stay focused, and push when I felt the urge. “Beautiful!” “You’re doing great!” “There you go, welcome it… you are so close!” It was nice to have such great support.
There was one nurse however, who didn’t seem to be aware of how soon the baby was coming. She wanted to chat with me about what pediatrician I’d chosen. Grant explained that we hadn’t chosen a doctor yet, and tried to give off the “it’s not a good time” vibe. She didn’t catch the vibe, and she kept asking me questions, and giving me options. She just wanted me to choose someone. I tried to ignore her, as I was kind of busy… having a baby. Eventually, she said she’d put down Dr. Pepper (I’m not joking) and we could change it later if we wanted to.
Seconds after we had the pediatrician settled upon, I pushed so hard a couple times that I was on the verge of passing out. I guess I wasn’t breathing. I clung to consciousness as hard as I could because I knew that everything depended on me not fainting. The final push was long and hard- and the volume and energy in the room skyrocketed. Everyone started cheering and coaxing me to keep pushing just a little bit longer.
Just as the world started getting fuzzy, and before I quite understood what was happening, they plopped a warm, slimy, beautiful baby girl on my chest at about 11:20 (50 minutes after getting a hospital room). Immediately I was flooded with euphoria. Relief from the past 4 hours of pain fell upon me instantly. I felt better than I ever had and as I stared in amazement at the little baby I was holding. This blissful moment was worth the cost. Grant’s eyes filled with tears and I was mostly just in shock at what I’d just been through, and what I was holding. I don’t remember saying much- except “Happy Birthday Baby!” to my little girl. They asked what her name was and Grant’s response sounded to me like music; Adelaide Leone.
My grandma’s name is Leone. To me, my grandma Leone epitomizes strength, generosity, sensibility and faithfulness. She also has a great sense of humor and tries to make the best out of any circumstance. It was our pleasure and honor to give Adelaide her name.
|Great Grandma Leone holding her name’s sake.
After that, was a whirlwind of medical fuss. Something about losing blood, dropping blood pressure, stitches, paging doctors, IV team (this was all for me, not Adelaide). Whatever. I just wanted them to leave me be with my baby. Who knows how long they picked on me- injected me with drugs, kneaded my tender tummy, and tested me. I started getting the chills and they informed me that one of the medications they gave me may make it feel like I’m going into labor again. WHAT? No… anything but that! The first night was hard because I continued having contractions all night from the medications. They weren’t as bad as labor, but they caused me to grip the mattress and clench all my muscles every 10 minutes or so. I didn’t sleep, but I kept poking Adelaide to make sure she was okay (and not imaginary).
If there’s anything I learned in the first six days of being a parent, it’s that recovery is a long slow process. With a fast labor, the tissues and muscles don’t have a chance to warm up or stretch- so they just break. It hurts to walk, sit, laugh and do just about everything else. Most of the muscles in my body are sore, and feeding is painful too. Shifting hormones and sleepless nights add to my charm and grace. The other thing I’ve learned in the 6 days of being a parent, is that nothing is better! I couldn’t be more proud or happy. My birth experience was exactly what I wanted it to be, and more. The intense pain pressed up against the intense joy was the most striking and beautiful contrast I’ve experienced. Adelaide Leone, you are the purest, loveliest treasure- welcome to the world! We are blessed beyond measure.