This needs to start with a virtual apology to Leolani, whose birth story I haven’t written! Poor, poor middle child. I WILL get around to it one day soon.
Though I had a textbook pregnancy with Welina (just like my other two), I was desperate to get her out and get back to normal. Being heavily pregnant with an almost two year old during the HOTTEST summer on record was quite possibly the worst experience of my life. I may or may not be exaggerating, but I’m sure my Facebook friends were sick of my whining.
I thought for sure she would come early. I mean, come on. This was my third baby and my uterus must be all stretched out like an old sock right? Shouldn’t she just FALL out? It often felt like she would, but in actuality I dilated very little in the weeks leading up to her due date, July 24.
The big day came and went. I don’t remember what I did that day but I can assure you I was a total grouch. Every day after that I’d wake up energetic and hopeful, grateful that I was rested and hadn’t gone into labor overnight. Slowly my energy would wane as the day wore on, and by dinner time I would be utterly deflated that I hadn’t gone into labor and I’d go to bed hoping that it wouldn’t happen at night.
My OB called me in on Thursday, July 30 – 6 days overdue, to talk about induction. He told me that the longer I wait, the less safe it is for the baby, and since our local hospital is not fully equipped to handle a birth-related emergency, he felt it would be safest to induce on Friday. I wanted to wait until Monday, but he was off that day and I didn’t want anyone else to induce me. Tuesday felt too long, and (this might sound silly) but August 1st is the cutoff date for Kindergarten so if she was born on Saturday she’d have to wait an entire extra year to start school. So, reluctantly we chose Friday, July 31st to be induced with pitocin. I asked my doc if he would be willing to break the water first and then give me a couple hours to get into labor before starting pitocin, and he agreed.
We went home, got the kids ready and sent them to my parents’ since I was supposed to check in at 6am Friday. I spent the rest of the day trying to get into labor naturally, but nothing happened. Finally at 1:30am I woke up to a strong contraction. The minutes between contractions are some of the longest for a woman wanting to expel a baby. I waited hopefully for the next one. It came and I became a little more certain that I was indeed in labor. Then I went to the bathroom. Sigh. I don’t know how many times I’d mistaken labor for the need to go. After taking care of business, the contractions were weaker but they were still there. I spent the entire night walking around trying to get the contractions to strengthen, but by the time we left for the hospital, they had disappeared completely. It looked like pitocin was in my future, and I was heartbroken. I had had two natural births and perhaps asking for a 3rd was really pushing my luck. I had a good run right?
I was bummed all the way to the hospital, but when we got to the hospital, a little miracle happened. My contractions started back up! They were steady and well-defined and getting stronger with each one. By the time I got set up in bed and hooked up to the monitor, I was definitely in active labor. At this point it wasn’t that bad, so I joked around with the nurses (I had the BEST nurses) while they asked me intake questions and got me set up. My doctor came in and saw I was in labor. He broke the water which was clear – no signs of distress (whew!). The nurses asked if I wanted any pain killers. I hesitated because I had a bit of a traumatic experience with Leo where I freaked out at the end and I didn’t want to lose my cool again, but Keola assured me that I could do it, so it ended up being “No pain meds, thank you.”
Usually I like to get in the shower and rock back and forth but I was so exhausted from being up half the night and walking all over the place that all I wanted to do was lie on the bed and let the contractions come. Keola sat next to me and held my hand through the contractions, coaching me to breathe. I remembered a piece of advice that I hadn’t heard before: Keep your jaw relaxed. If your jaw’s relaxed, your bottom is relaxed so I concentrated on keeping my jaw loose. I also kept my hand that Keola was holding loose too, since hands are often clenched when we’re in pain. Keeping them loose helped me stay in control of my reaction to the pain. I also stayed completely quiet – something I never did before. As the contractions got stronger, I would close my eyes, reach for Keola’s hand and tell my body to go completely limp while my mind went somewhere deep in my brain. It’s hard to explain, but the pain was managed very well this way.
My contractions were far apart – more than 5 minutes but whenever I had one, it was stronger than the last. No one thought I was close to pushing, until my body started pushing involuntarily. It was 7:45am, an hour and a half since we arrived at the hospital and I was at 8cm. The nurse told me to push to see if that would get me to a 10, so I pushed, and she felt the baby move down the birth canal.
She ran for the doctor, who was actually standing by to help with a scheduled C-section that was running late, and he came in to find the baby almost crowning. They quickly got set up and I started pushing. I remember feeling like this was all happening way too fast. I couldn’t believe it was time to meet my baby. I almost wanted to be in labor a little longer. I didn’t feel ready, but ready or not, she was coming, and FAST. I pushed, and her head came out. Another push, then her shoulder. One last effort and the rest of her followed, and then she was on my chest in all her slimy glory, announcing her arrival with a strong, shrill cry. It was 8am, and we hadn’t even been there for two hours.
Of all my birth experiences, which were all special in their own way, this felt the most empowering to me. I had successfully relaxed into the pain, remaining completely calm and silent. In my surrender, I found control. Because I experienced panic with Leo, I didn’t quite trust myself this time, but I discovered that relaxing through the worst of it allowed me to control and ultimately dispel the fear, even though I had no control over my contractions. I don’t meditate, but this time I managed to find complete stillness and peace in the midst of this great effort, and since then I’ve been able to recall that place and that feeling. What a gift.
“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”
– 2 Timothy 1:7