Tag Archives: labor

The birth story, uncensored (part 3)

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.


The birth story, uncensored (part 2)

Read part 1.

I should mention that 80 came 4 days early, and as Jason and I are procrastinators (and I really, really thought she’d be late), we hadn’t packed a bag for the hospital, or written out a final copy of our birth plan. Turns out, you can gather the necessary things really quick, and buy snacks at the cafeteria.

My second traveling contraction happened when Jason dropped me off at the door of the hospital. I made it in the door, then braced myself against a well-placed chair to ride out the contraction. I felt a little self-conscious, cramping over a chair in the foyer. I thought about all sorts of people who must come in and experience a similar thing, but because of illness — not childbirth. It reminded me that I was supposed to be here, and lucky to be having an exciting contraction that would be bringing us our daughter. The last time I had been in a hospital in pain, it was when I broke my collarbone. This was much, much better.

Jason soon joined me, having parked the car. We went up to the labor and delivery floor, and waited a few minutes for a room to be ready. Every room had been occupied, and ours was just being mopped, they said. I thought about why they’d be mopping the floor, and remembered the gore factor. I pushed the though out of my head immediately — dwelling on that wouldn’t be helpful at all.

We had requested a water birth, but there was only one working pool, and it was being used. I was too excited about being in labor to care, but previously, I had been looking forward to giving birth in water.

We went to our room, and the nurse put two monitors on my belly. One was for the baby’s heartbeat, and the other to show my contractions. There’s a whole controversy over monitoring — continual monitoring vs. occasional monitoring. I can see why practitioners would like continual monitoring, because it gives you a lot more data to work with. The downside is that you’re tethered to a machine, and can’t move very far.

At Mt. Auburn, assuming you’re not high risk for any reason, they let you do occasional monitoring. 80 and I were both doing fine, so after the requisite 20 minutes of monitoring, we were let free to roam around the room (or the hall even) for early labor.

A’Nova came while the monitors were on, and it seemed like we had just gotten there when she arrived. Jason, A and I got down to the business of laboring together. I had been laying in bed curled on my side, with Jason holding my hands.

We're at the Hospital

Note the pitcher of water I was drinking out of. I drank countless pitchers of water, which comes into play later.

I decided to get up and try some of the many laboring positions I’d learned about. I found it all novel, and wanted to try out the birthing ball (it’s an exercise ball), the bathtub, the hospital bed that folded up so you could be on your hands and knees easily (I had seen photos of Tara laboring like this, and it looked comfortable/useful/like it makes babies come out).

The midwife (who I will be referring to as “Fantastic Susan”) came in and checked my cervix. The cervix dilates, up to 10 centimeters. When you get to 10 cm, the baby’s head can come out. Early labor is the phase where your cervix is dilating.

My cervix was dilated to 7 cm. We were all surprised. Turns out I had done most of the work at home. Nice. Of course, I was pleased that I was above average.

So, 3 cm to go. I had a bag full of tricks, and a measly 3 cm to expand. Truly, I had a bag full of tricks. In the birthing class, the instructor gave us the analogy of having packed a bag full of options for use in labor. At the top of the bag, easily reached, were things like different laboring positions, music, meditation and visualization. At the bottom of the bag were more intense tools like drugs and epidurals. The idea was that you can reach in and grab anything at the top of the bag easily, taking one out and replacing another. You want to use up all the easily attained things before you reach down to the bottom and grab a more intense option like an epidural. How fast you go through your bag depends on the person.

Birthing Ball

Here, I’m kneeling on a pillow, and propping myself on the ball. A’Nova would sit behind me, and press in from the sides on my hips. I need to ask her what this does, but I think it helps open the bottom of your hips (like squeezing the top of a clothes pin opens the bottom).

I kept looking for my water to break. At one point, there was a little dribble, and I got excited. A’Nova said that it was possible that this was my water breaking, but doubtful. She said I’d know it when it happened. I figured my water breaking would be a clear sign that things were moving ahead, and I was very interested in signals that things had moved ahead. I could keep doing this as long as it felt like we were getting somewhere. That I couldn’t judge time worked in my favor, as the hours flew by.

I briefly tried sitting on the birthing ball, but I didn’t like that at all. Kelly was a fan of it, but it felt uncomfortable to me.

What I didn’t know was that each of these labor positions would get real old, real fast. My knees would start hurting using the birthing ball, so we’d switch to the bed. On hands and knees on the bed (which was folded up to look like a z), my arms would start hurting from holding up my weight.

One position that I did like a lot was sitting on the toilet. This let me rest my arms and legs, and didn’t press up on the increasingly sensitive parts. Jason sat in a chair in front of me, so I could lean onto him during the contraction. I think A’Nova stood to the side, rubbing my back or shoulders, or something soothing.

While sitting on the toilet, during a contraction, I heard a great SPLASH! As A’Nova had predicted, I knew when my water broke. It sounds especially like a movie sound effect if it hits porcelain.

I had been saving the tub option, and was looking forward to using it. We started by my sitting on a chair in the tub, with the shower head spraying warm water down my back. What I hadn’t considered was that the rest of me would get really cold, and shiver uncontrollably. So, we moved on to filling the tub with water.

Much like at home, the tub was not deep enough to fill to the point of submerging me (especially with a giant belly), and I couldn’t stay warm. Uncontrollable shivering doesn’t do much for relaxation.

Up until now, it had been mostly just Jason, A’Nova and I. The nurse (who I will refer to as “I-Will-Listen-To-You Susan”) had come in to monitor occasionally, but it seemed like it wasn’t that often. At this point, I was making low sounds (the aaaa or mmmmm) with each contraction, and I let my voice get louder the more intense the contraction got. This helped me control the feeling, and I liked that Jason and A’Nova could also tell how long and hard the contraction was.

I’d only been drinking water or ginger ale, and decided I could use a snack now, before we got into active labor when I wouldn’t want to eat. I had some almonds half-chewed in my mouth when the next contraction happened. All of a sudden, the almonds tasted like sand. It wasn’t awful, but I decided I wasn’t hungry enough to want that annoyance during contractions.

Occasionally, we’d hear someone else’s labor noises. Every once in a while, we’d hear a newborn cry. A’Nova pointed out that we’d be hearing that cry of our own soon. That was a great motivator for me. All around me, women were experiencing the same thing I was, and they successfully gave birth. That meant I would too.

At some point, I had to stop looking at Jason when I was having a contraction, because he’d start getting an emotional look on his face, and get moist-eyed. I looked at our hands. For almost every contraction, I was holding his hands. It felt good, and necessary.

Fantastic Susan came in to check on me. I was dilated to 9 cm plus. I don’t remember the technical term, but basically I was 10 cm all the way around, except one little bit. I think she let us labor a bit longer on our own, but came back fairly soon.

If memory serves, I got up on the bed for Fantastic Susan to check me again. She gave that little lip of not-quite-dialated cervix a push with her fingers (which hurt, but only for a second), and I was at 10 cm. It was time for transition. I think at this point, Fantastic Susan and I-Will-Listen-To-You Susan stayed in the room almost constantly.

Transition is the next stage of labor, where you push the baby out from the uterus, into the vagina. After that, you push the baby out into the world.

Transition seemed to happen quickly, and I think it’s because it felt a lot like the previous contractions, which I had gotten used to (although they still tired me, and were starting to make me use louder noises to cope). I think I started making noises that were a bit more screams than moans, and my throat started to hurt from it. I remembered from high school cheerleading that there’s a right way and a wrong way to shout. I realized it was becoming hard to stay in control every moment, because the contractions were so intense, and because I knew things were starting to move faster than the hours and hours of labor I had become accustom to. I tried hard to modulate my moan, to keep it under control. This was a good, small thing to focus on.

I remember looking up at Jason, seeing his face start to crumple into tears, and said in a neutral tone, “This is your fault? Why did you do this to me?”

Jason and A’Nova were not expecting me to crack jokes during active labor, and they both laughed in surprise. That was fun.

For transition, I was laying on the hospital bed on my back, which had a raised head, so I was propped up. I was instructed to grab my knees, pull them in towards my chest, and push when the contractions started. Between contractions, I relaxed my legs. At some point, it became too difficult to let my heels rest on the bed. I think it was that I needed the energy to pull my legs up to my chest in pushing, not moving my legs.

Jason and A’Nova began holding my legs between contractions. They stood on either side of the bed, and when a contraction ended, I relaxed my legs. I let my legs fall outward rather than down, and Jason and A’Nova held them from splaying outward. It was really comfortable, and let me really relax between contractions.

Fantastic Susan explained to me that the baby’s head was past my cervix, and it was time to bring her into the world. She asked if I wanted a mirror, so I could watch. I hadn’t considered this, and took a second to think about it. (This was hard, as I was not really in a thinking place just then.) I remembered that Jason and I had put on our birth plan (which never made it to the hospital) that Jason wanted to cut the umbilical cord. He went with the logic that you should say yes to experiences that you might never have again, that other people maybe haven’t had. I went with the same logic. I didn’t look at the mirror at first, because it was angled wrong. I was too busy pushing to mention it.


The birth story, uncensored (part 1)

I’m sure there’s some inherent censoring that goes on as I write this, since the whole point of endocannabinoids and all the other sweet, sweet chemicals my body produced were to help make my memories of labor a bit fuzzy (in a good way).

It all started Saturday night (the 15th). Allison had come up from NYC to visit real quick, and we had gone out to dinner ( at the local chinese place, I had cashew chicken) and retired to Wadsgreen HQ. I sat in the rocking chair, and while we talked I felt the occasional uncomfortable pang. I’d previously been attributing any uncomfortable moments to Octavia moving around and sticking her butt out. Turns out those were Braxton-Hicks contractions — she wasn’t doing baby yoga, it was my uterus contracting gently around her.

Knowing that makes the whole thing make much more sense. Around 10:30 or 11, I went to bed. As I was laying in bed, I realized that I was still having little twinges, every once in a while. While laying in bed, glasses off, covers up, I used my iPhone to google “what do contractions feel like”. Turns out, the early ones feel exactly like I had been feeling. Jason came to bed, and I told him that I thought I could be having contractions. He was skeptical (and continued to be skeptical that I was *really* in labor, until we got to the hospital).

Being the awesome geek-dad that he is, he already had an app that let him record contractions. So, I began telling him when contractions started and ended. This is the point where I can say that my sense of time went way off. This was a fabulous thing, all the way through. I had no idea how long the contractions were, or how long I rested in between. Jason became a bit worried when the contractions were just a few minutes apart. They certainly weren’t that bad, most akin to gas pain, with a wave sensation. Increase, increase, INCREASE … decrease, decrease, gone. We called the midwives anyway. They asked if I could talk during the contraction. I certainly could. They said that it was very light contractions, and to drink a bunch of water. (Drinking water can slow or stop contractions.) They advised us to try to get some sleep, indicating that it was likely that we’d having more of this labor business soon.

So, I drank water. I went out to the living room, and announced to Al that I might maybe be in labor, and I’d let her know if there was anything she needed to do about it. She had a bus ticket for Sunday afternoon around 3, and I wasn’t sure if we’d leave for the hospital before then, or what.

I also texted my AMAZING BIRTH DOULA and friend, A’Nova. I told her that I was having minor contractions, and to stay home until I was sure it wasn’t a false alarm. It was the middle of the night, the trains stop running, and I figured she’d need the sleep as well. A bonus to all this was that Allison was around to provide the role of distracting and comforting.

Then we all slept. I woke up around 4, with more labor pains. They were like the ones before. They started getting more intense, to the point where I couldn’t quite concentrate fully when they happened. My brain needed to use some power to perceive and handle the contraction pain. It certainly wasn’t something I couldn’t handle, especially in wave form. I knew the pain, I knew it was coming, I knew it would recede. Totally doable. Jason kept timing contractions, and we both dozed between them. I think there was a lot more time between them.

Around 8 am, we got up. Allison was up too, and she went and got us breakfast. One of the plans Al and I had was to paint my toenails. I don’t usually care about such things, but I got it in my head that having cute toenails would be something that would bring me comfort. Al painted my toenails between contractions. By 9, Jason and I were curled up on the couch, and I was mostly thinking about contractions. Al decided it was best for her to leave. She was right, but I couldn’t bring myself to ask her to go. My sense of hosting overrode my sense of nesting.

After Al left, Jason and I stayed on the couch, counting contractions. Well, he counted. I still had no sense of time, and was in a very zen place, where my only expectations were to feel the beginning of the next contraction, ride with it like a wave, and then relax. These contractions had been of the can’t-quite-concentrate variety. If we had a movie on, I wouldn’t have been able to follow the plot fully.

The contractions kicked themselves up a notch to what I’ve classified as level 3 (1 being gas pain-like, 2 being hard-to-concentrate). Level 3 was where to be able to handle the contraction, I needed to make a noise. I mostly made a low aaaa sound (as in father, not able), or a mmmmm sound. It worked really well, turning down the intensity of the contraction. I wasn’t talking during those contractions, which is what the midwives had described when we’d called them at midnight.

Besides being curled up on the couch, the other position I took up was on my hands and knees on the shag rug next to the couch, holding my head in Jason’s lap, while holding his hands. I’m not sure if it’s comforting because it’s cliched, or if it works on some primal level, but holding Jason’s hand became a necessity throughout labor.

It's happening!

I think Jason called A’Nova at some point, and told her to meet us at the hospital. Previously, we had talked about her coming over during early labor, specifically to play cribbage between contractions. I didn’t feel the need to be distracted — in fact, I was keenly interested in experiencing the contractions. Plus, I had Allison to paint my nails.

At 10:30, the contractions were of the level-3 variety, about 5 minutes apart (although not consistently), which is when the midwives want you to call them. We hadn’t packed a bag (we assumed 80 would be overdue, if anything), so Jason grabbed a few things, and pulled the car around front. We agreed that if I started having a contraction in the car, he’d try to pull over, so I could contract in peace. We live about 7 minutes from the hospital, and I had one contraction on Sparks Street. It’s a one-way, with little traffic, so there was ample time for Jason to calmly pull over.

Thus ends part one. I’m erring on the side of getting the thing posted, rather than writing this huge, epic blog post that I don’t post for weeks.