So this is when the real pushing began. The pushing for transition was a single section of puuuuush and rest. Pushing 80’s head out had three sections to it (I don’t know how else to describe it), and was more difficult to master. During the contraction, my eyes were closed. I had moved from being on my back to laying more on my left side, with my left leg down on the bed and my right leg up in the air. I could grab my right leg, and pull it towards me during the contraction.
With each contraction, the baby’s head will move forward, then slip back a little. The first part was pushing to get her back to where she had been. The second part was to move her forward a bit. The third part (which I started to experience maybe halfway through all the birthing pushing) was pushing past the point of comfort, where I could tell that my body was stretching. This is referred to the “burning ring of fire”, but to me it just felt like, well, what it was. Imagine someone grabbing your arm with both hands and twisting their hands in opposite directions (a “snake bite”, where I come from). The skin stretches, and it feels more like a burn than anything else. That’s what this was.
It was hard to get my push to hit the third section. I could push to get back to where I had pushed before. I could even push harder to move forward a little. Pushing hard enough to burn took so much energy, I didn’t always get to it.
I-will-listen-to-you-Susan became really important at this point, because through it all, I could hear her voice saying “push harder, more more more” when I wasn’t pushing very hard, which cued me that I was supposed to be getting to the burning/third section of the contraction. I think I would have taken a lot longer to birth if it hadn’t been for her reminding me that I needed to be getting more done each contraction.
She also told me to put my chin was down to my chest, so I’d curl up more. I figured out (since no one mentioned this and I didn’t read it anywhere … or I’ve forgotten) that I needed to hold my breath when I curled up to push most effectively.
At one point during this, I said to Jason, “You need to tell me I’m doing a good job”, or something similar. I’m an attention-oriented person, so when people praise me, I perform better. (I always ran better at track meets than at practice.)
Fantastic Susan got my attention, and explained that she could coach me as 80’s head crowned, and if I could listen to what she said, it would decrease the chances of tearing. She said that she might tell me to push at a certain time, but more likely she’d tell me to stop pushing, and that this is difficult to do. The way she phrased it made it sound like I wasn’t going to be a failure or rip in half if I couldn’t do what she said, but if I could, it would be an optimal situation. I don’t know if this is how she phrases it with everyone, but it was exactly the right thing to say to me. I want to excel at birthing, not just be average. I was also VERY MOTIVATED not to tear.
I remember one specific contraction, where I pushed to the burning sensation, and I could hear Jason and A’Nova gasp. I thought “YES, this must be the part where you can see 3-4 inches of baby head, and we’re almost there.” I looked down at the mirror, and could see … nothing. I think they saw just a tiny bit of head* (which slipped back before I saw it). It FELT like I had half a baby’s head pushed out. It was disappointing, but I just told myself not to dwell on it, that it wouldn’t help.
I was chin-to-chest, curling up, making a “NNNNEERRRRG” sound while holding my breath, and it felt like my face was turning purple. When I asked Jason about it later, he confirmed that indeed, I was correct. I’m a little sad he wasn’t taking pictures of my purple face, but I needed him where he was.
It now seems like it took mere minutes — perhaps it did — but at the time it was an immense amount of effort for every contraction, and each time I was rewarded with more burn-y hurting. When I’d look in the mirror, I’d see 80’s head sliding back. Whatever two steps I was pushing forward was also sliding one step back.
Finally it got to the point where her head was staying peeked out a bit. Fantastic Susan asked if I wanted to touch my daughter’s hair. Again with the “I don’t know, so I’ll say yes”, I said yes. She guided my hand down, and I could feel 80’s HAIR. I could feel fluffy, super-soft hair and a warm, firm head. I felt my baby, for the first time, and it was an amazing feeling.
I’m very glad I said yes, because I suddenly had great motivation and energy. I don’t remember Fantastic Susan saying anything like “go, go, go, STOP, STOP, STOP”, but I do remember a point where 80’s head was mostly out, and the pain was the most intense it ever got. It was one of the few times I made an involuntary noise, which I remember finding interesting at the time, and by the time I had that thought, it was time to push again. As you can imagine, we’re almost done here.
I did think to myself “Oh god, what if once the head out, I have to push more for the shoulders?” Again, I just didn’t dwell on it, because it’s not like I wouldn’t have done it, and I was too busy concentrating (concentrating with my body more than my mind, but it took up all my mental ability as well) to ask.
Fantastic Susan asked Jason if he wanted to catch 80. Following our new YES rule, he went and washed his hands, then came back to stand at the end of the bed. She said she’d support the head, then Jason should grab her, and put 80 on my chest.
Well, 80’s head came all the way out, and then really fast, the rest of her slid out. I saw Jason catch her under the arms, and pull her up where I could see her without a mirror. The next thing, there was a red and blue baby on my chest. (They’re often a bit blue in the extremities, so not to worry there.) I had always wondered what I would feel when this very singular moment happened. It wasn’t a goosh of emotion or anything, more intrigue at this tiny new person. After a second, I looked up at Jason, and got very, very happy and excited. I wanted to hug him, but his arms were very, very gooey.
Next up, part four details the rest of the story: the (temporary) troubles 80 and I had right after birth, and things like what it’s like to breastfeed for the first time.
*I did not think “oh whew, since I’m seeing this in a mirror, my baby must not be a vampire”, but I did just think it now.