Michelle did another membrane sweep and then broke my water. It was such a weird feeling. All of a sudden, I just felt warm liquid pooling around my butt on the bed. And then immediately, I was hit with my first painful contraction of the day. I got off the bed so that I could work through them and encourage the baby to move down. If you’ve ever read or listened to any natural birth stories, you’ve heard about “transition” – the period of dilation between 8 and 10 centimeters. It’s the most intense, most painful part of your labor. This is usually the point when laboring women feel out of control and think about giving up. I’ve also learned that this is the point when you start thinking crazy thoughts. I remember panicking because I thought the baby couldn’t breathe. I felt her moving down and it felt like she was stuck in my pelvis. And I just couldn’t understand how she could breathe with her head stuck there. And then, while sitting on the birth ball, I felt like I was sitting on her head, crushing her. I kept asking the nurses, “Are you sure she’s ok?” and they kept reassuring me that she was. I was even staring at the monitor so I could see with my own eyes that her heart rate was steady and perfect, but in my mind I was thinking, “We have to get her out before she suffocates!”
I believe that we broke my water around 1:30pm because I have pictures of myself leaning over the bed and sitting on the birth ball with my eyes closed, breathing through contractions around 1:40pm. I moved around a lot trying to get her to continue moving down and then when she did, I would try to move away from the pain that came with that. My doula and Sam took turns squeezing my hips together during contractions while I worked through them. I remember being so relieved that we were at a hospital 45 minutes away so I didn’t have to deal with any family visiting at that point. I had also told my parents and siblings not to come until it was almost over. I needed to concentrate and focus without the pressure of people waiting or worse, having someone tell me to just “get the epidural” if they saw me in pain.
After a little while, I felt that familiar pressure in my butt and knew she was coming. Michelle came in, along with my two absolutely wonderful, supportive nurses, and they got everything set up while I proceeded to lose my ever loving mind. I started whining to Sam that I couldn’t do this. I started thinking, “This is it. I’m going to die from this. This baby is going to rip me open and kill me.” I was hot so I asked Sam to take my slippers off, but when he let go of my hand to do it, I yelled, “No, not you! I need your hand! Someone else do it!” I was panicking because I knew that I had to push this baby out and I was about to feel every single bit of it. No one else could do it for me even though I wanted so badly to inflict this pain on Sam instead.
Michelle suggested that I get on all fours on the bed, and I tried, but felt too weak to hold myself up and push at the same time (I guess I should have kept up with those prenatal workouts). So then she suggested that I lay down on my side and they used one of the stirrups to hold my top leg up. I honestly can’t remember if anyone was giving me direction, but I know that all of a sudden, I felt myself pushing. I would close my eyes and relax in between them and then push with everything I had when the next one came. I wasn’t yelling or screaming in pain, but I was definitely growling a bit. I did not want to tear so I listened to Michelle whenever she told me to stop. With each push, I felt her getting closer and closer and then she would go back up a little bit when the contraction was over. And then, all of a sudden, I felt her head. I said, “Oh my gosh, is that the ring of fire?!” and then on the next contraction, “No, THIS is the ring of fire!” For those that have never heard of the ring of fire, it’s a burning, stinging pain that you feel when your baby is crowning. And my baby’s head circumference was in the 99th percentile. Ouch. I think this is the point when I let a few profanities slip out of my mouth.
I really honed in on Michelle’s voice because I couldn’t see and knew I needed direction. I remember her telling me to reach down and touch the baby’s head and I did, even though I didn’t want to. It felt so weird, but it motivated me. She was right there! On the next contraction, at 3:52pm, I pushed with everything I had and her head and shoulder popped out, followed by her entire body in one slippery swoop. I will never forget the sound of her body rushing into the world. It actually haunted me for weeks after.
I held her to my chest and tried to focus on her beautiful face, but I was having trouble because I was shaking uncontrollably and feeling the most intense stinging you know where. Remember when I told you she came out head and shoulder first? Well, in the words of my midwife, she “tore me up good” on her way out. I had tried so hard to stay controlled and to only push when I was supposed to, but in the end she decided to shoot out, leaving me with second degree tears. My midwife was having trouble seeing with all of the blood and the shaking so she told me she needed to give me some heavy duty meds to stitch me up. I was heartbroken because I had dreamed about holding my baby skin to skin as long as I wanted to and nursing her (two things I didn’t get to do after Harper was born) and I knew that the medicine would make me loopy. Thankfully, one of my nurses spoke up and asked if we could try lidocaine (a local anesthetic) first before going to the heavy stuff. God bless her. My midwife agreed, but only if I could lay completely still. Sam held one leg, my nurse held the other, and I tried not to squeeze my new baby to death while she stitched me up. I was so bummed that I wouldn’t get to brag about my amazing recovery like most natural birth moms, but I still believe this birth was better than my epidural birth by leaps and bounds and I would, and will soon, do it again in a heartbeat.
After that nightmare was over, I nursed her for a bit before asking the nurse to clean her up and weigh her. She weighed 7lbs 5oz and measured 19.25 inches long, the same length as her big sister. We had chosen the name Avery Jean months before and it fit her perfectly. She was here! And she didn’t have to go to the NICU. She was all ours right from the beginning. I finally got the birth I had been dreaming about for years and it was amazing and hard and painful and intense and beautiful and perfect. And I honestly can’t wait to do it again.