Now that my son is nearly two months old, I’ve caught up with enough in life to be able to find a moment to tell you about the birth experience. Or tell my future self.
First, I succeeded! I got the natural birth I wanted and needed so badly! It was a glorious, albeit extremely painful experience and I’m forever thankful to God, my husband, my mother-in-law, my doula, and doctor for getting me there.
In preparation I watched nearly 20 hours of birth preparation video. I read so many books. I did acupuncture. And reflexology. And took a long ass six mile walk in the hot Louisiana heat a week after my due date. I took vaginal suppositories of evening primrose oil, had awkward late term pregnancy sex for the prostaglandins. I ate spicy food, pineapples, and castor oil (twice). But still, it took me 42 weeks and 2 days to cook my son. They come when they want to.
After firing my midwife on my due-date, I transferred care to an OB. We had trust issues. I was terrified he would be c-section happy, and I think he thought I was a high maintenance granola queen. I never would have imagined I would go so late. At the two week late mark I had to sign paperwork legally freeing him of liability because I had refused to be induced within the prescribed time frame. I was due Tuesday, I agreed to be indued for the following Thursday. Rickard had to start his job in Lake Charles soon and every extra day in New Orleans was costing us money, and I was getting more stressed out by the hour—worrying that my son might have health complications if he stays in there too long.
The Wednesday before the induction I had my last acupuncture session. I relaxed. I accepted the induction and stopped trying to do everything I could to get him out and instead just rest in preparation for the birth. I went to bed early that night. I was scheduled to be induced at 4:30 am. So I woke up early, braided my hair the way I wanted it, brushed my teeth, put on deodorant and got myself ready. Literally ten minutes before we were supposed to leave for the hospital, I get a major contraction. My labor was starting and the baby was coming.
My doula was all ready to go, she just gave her cab driver a different address and arrived at our rental apartment instead. I threw up. But there was a bucket ready for me so that was fine. Our daughter was asleep in the adjacent bedroom, at one point she woke up and said “Mommy sad. Mommy! Hurt.” At which point Rickard went to console her and said, “No, mommy working.” She seemed satisfied with that. I kept a low growl and took advantage of our bathtub and LED candles. I used and abused both Rickard and our doula’s hands as stress balls during every contraction. Without their bodies to extoll and extend my pain to I’m not sure what I would have done.
The sun rose and by 7:30 we were at the hospital. All three of their tub rooms were out of commission. I was very sad. But the baby was coming with or without hydrotherapy. They put me in a dark room that I can’t remember anything about except there were windows. The animal started to come out and I began to get tired. The exhaustion made everything harder. But I was able to move and adjust myself against the pain. The nurses hardly ever came in—probably because my agonized howls made them uncomfortable. Nobody likes watching someone in pain. But the pain was very useful.
I had to keep my mind positive. With every cutting contraction I had to tell myself this is good, this is your baby moving down. My mobility was a complete blessing. At one point the baby got stuck. My doula assessed that I still had a cervical lip, hindering his ability to drop. I lifted my leg in time for the next contraction and pushed down. He popped down. Success.
The noises I made were very interesting. I was embarrassed by them. Usually I am told I am soft-spoken with a gentle vocal tone. That morning I went hoarse from heaving squeals where the volume and force behind the air I was exhuming was being trapped behind too tiny a mouth.
I took off my hospital gown because it annoyed me. I pushed Rickard and my doula out of my way whenever they too annoyed me or touched me wrong. I was an animal, naked and vulgar on the hospital bed. Every 45 seconds the atmosphere transformed from quiet anticipation to roaring effort and cheer. It was warm and strange when my water broke. Like a balloon full of swamp popped within me. When the baby was ready to come out I was on my back. We had some of the same troubles as we did with our daughter. Every time I pushed he would come out a little, but inevitably drop back due to gravity. I should have been on all fours, but alas that didn’t happen. They told me I had to push harder. The doctor even said we were running out of time and if he didn’t come out sooner rather than later we’d have to go to surgery and cut him out. I decided to push harder.
But I was already pushing so hard. This is where my decision to avoid an epidural really helped. I could feel him now. My “hardest” was not hard enough, and so I had to go from a 10 to a 15. I mustered everything I could and decided that I could care less about pride, appearances, integrity or safety. I no longer cared if my entire vagina ripped apart in the process I was going to push my baby out. I screamed like I never screamed before. I went to a wild place.
Two maybe three times.
Then he arrived. Slimy and just as wild and animalistic as his mother.
It was glorious. And so very very hard.
I did end up tearing. But the recovery from the tear was much better than the c-section had beed. I had anticipated an oxtyocin rush after the birth much like a dose of ecstasy (the pill, molly). But it wasn’t like that. I was very tired and not really euphoric. However, I still held on to my doula’s hand and it was very special to me. There was a sense of wonder and magic in being there with her that can only be compared to taking drugs with acquaintances. It brings you together somehow. Maybe that was the oxytocin.
When my son was born I cared. I held him and loved him immediately. I breathed him in and felt joy, not trauma. I’ve loved him well ever since and avoided the post partum depression I was afraid I would come down with should we have had another cesarean.
I don’t want to paint pregnancy and labor as a “good” experience because people misinterpret positive with easy, like candy or tropical vacations. My pregnancy and labor were good like an ultramarathon is good. It was good like Christ’s dying on the cross was good (an image I visited many times during labor). The pain transformed me. But dealing with it naturally gave me confidence and let me feel on top of it, whereas the cesarean left me feeling passive and insecure in my body’s ability, in my abilities.
I love my little boy and am thankful to him for the gift he’s given me.