Natalie is almost a year old so I figure it’s high time I published her birth story. I’ve had most of it written since a week after her birth but never got around to editing and posting it. So…here we go! But first, a disclaimer: This is a birth story and I’m going to be talking about, you know, birth stuff. There are no graphic pictures and I’ve done my best to walk on the right side of the “TMI” line, but if you prefer to think of babies appearing magically in a cabbage patch, you might want to check out Cute Overload instead.
FRUSTRATED, said the subject line of the email to my doula.
I was five days past my due date (or “guess date” if you’re into Hypnobirthing, which I was) and starting to feel like I was never going to really go into labor. I was just going to have Braxton-Hicks forever and would continue waddling through the outrageous July heat for the rest of my life.
Is there anything I can do to help move things along? Is this normal? I pleaded with my doula, Julie, via email. She reassured me that this is just what having a first baby looks like, so just be patient and ride it out.
So much for that.
Will stayed home from work that day, and we went for a few walks, ate a mildly spicy dinner, and timed the contractions as they came. At 7 p.m. the same day I had sent Julie my FRUSTRATED email, I sent another. I think this might be it? Question mark?
As the evening wore on I had to flap my hands at Will to get him to stop talking to me when I was having a contraction, and then just started ignoring him all together. I was laser-focused on my breathing. Not the hee-hee-hoo-hoo Lamaze-type breathing that you see in the movies; that’s just ridiculous and not very helpful.
Hypnobirthing breathing is very similar to yoga’s ujjayi breath – long, slow, controlled breaths, practiced throughout pregnancy so that by the time labor finally arrived, I could get through a minute-long contraction with only two breaths and was totally ready to enter a pearl diving competition.
It’s helpful because it gives you an anchor point in each contraction. Since the typical surge (another hypnobirthing term, supposedly more gentle than “contraction”) is about a minute long, knowing that you only have to make it through a few breaths is much easier, mentally, than gritting your teeth and tensing up until the pain passes.
And now back to our story.
I called Julie around 9 p.m. so she could hear me have a contraction on the phone and get a better sense of what was going on. Her expert advice, after I fell silent on the phone to ride out a surge, was to go to bed early and get as much rest as possible – I was definitely in labor and sleep would very soon be in very short supply.
I was excited, but with contractions happening almost every five minutes, I really needed to focus on that and not so much on what the near future would bring. I also couldn’t sleep for the same reason.
We went to bed shortly after my phone call with Julie, but neither of us could sleep. Being in labor doesn’t preclude the normal pregnancy “gotta pee gotta pee gotta pee” feeling that happens several times an hour, so between my very loud breathing, thrashing around to try and find a comfortable lying-down position (pro-tip: it doesn’t really exist in labor), and constant trips to the bathroom, it wasn’t the most restful evening.
When I waddled to the bathroom for the umpteenth time around midnight, a bolt of fear shot through me when I saw an alarming amount of blood. (Do not, I repeat, DO NOT google image search “bloody show.” It’s a real labor thing and just…don’t.) I shrieked for Will to call the Birth Center, call Julie, get our bag, we need to leave NOW NOW NOW. SOMETHING IS TERRIBLY WRONG DID WE REMEMBER TO FEED THE CATS AHHHHH.
Will, my god, give that man a medal. If he was freaked out by anything I was
screeching saying, he didn’t show it. He calmly dialed the Birth Center, spoke with them briefly, and told his wild-eyed wife that a midwife would call us back very soon.
When you go into labor as a patient at the birth center, you spin the midwife roulette wheel and end up with whoever is on call. There’s a 1 in 12 chance that your midwife will be on call when you go into labor. Better than Powerball, for sure, but still not great odds. Heidi, our midwife, was absolutely amazing during my whole pregnancy and I would’ve bribed her with any amount of money to have her present during my labor, if it were possible to do so.
About ten minutes later, the phone rang and Will handed it to me.
IT WAS HEIDI.
(I’ve never typed anything more deserving of caps lock than that.)
Hearing her voice shattered what little cool I had left, and I started sobbing.
Thankfully Heidi is fluent in first-time-mom-in-labor and was able to translate my hysterics. She calmed me down, assured me that everything was completely normal, and, after asking a few questions about how my contractions were coming along, gave us the green light to go to the Birth Center. Julie would meet us there.
Just a few minutes later, we were on our way. I affectionately remember this trip as “the worst car ride of my life.” We had practiced our route to the Birth Center a few times (We live about half an hour away with no traffic. If I went into labor at 5pm on a Thursday? God help us, Natalie would’ve been born in the car.) and had decided on the interstate as the most direct route. Awesome, except that night, the on-ramp was closed.
ARE YOU KIDDING ME RIGHT NOW.
There was some profuse swearing from me, a mask of utter calm from Will, and quiet, quiet, quiet in the streets around us.
I swore at lights that turned red when there were no other cars around us. I swore at every pothole in the road. I swore at the construction workers who had blocked our access to the interstate.
And then I stopped swearing, because my contractions were too strong and the profanity really wasn’t helping at all. I reclined the seat and did my breathing as best as I could, but a few contractions got the best of me and I gave myself over to curling up and fighting the pain.
Not smart. That made it hurt so much worse. Staying loose and relaxed was incredibly difficult, but was the only way through.
An eternity later, we arrived at the Birth Center. Julie was already there and I leaned on her to get through a contraction while Will was unloading our stuff (note to self for next time: why on earth did you think you needed so many things??).
Heidi stood in the doorway of the Birth Center, the warm, glowing light from inside framing her like my angel from heaven. She hugged me and chatted with Will and Julie as we made our way inside, then turned to me and cheerfully said, “You’re on the clock now! My shift ends at 8am!”