It all started on Tuesday, April 13 2010 when I told Keola that I wanted to get a new set of ipod speakers to take to the hospital with us. I love music and I know that it is an excellent pain coping mechanism for me. Plus my old ipod speakers had died a long time ago (they weren’t that great to begin with…). So off to Walmart we go, coming home with brand-spanking new sounds.
Did you watch it? Ok. Good. So I decided since I had this awesome new way to enjoy my music that I would follow suit and maybe I would be as lucky as this girl. So I went about my day dancing around the living room. I was quite proud of how well I could still move being 40 weeks and 6 days pregnant.
Wednesday came and went, and by evening my morale had dropped. I had lived another day being pregnant. I was sure that Nōweo wasn’t coming and that my dancing did not work. At 9:30, I was pouring myself a bowl of Peanut Butter Crunch and complaining to Keola about how much I hate it when people tell you to just go about your day as normal. There is NOTHING normal about waiting to go into labor. NOTHING. You spend your days wondering if every little ache and pain is labor, you try to keep busy to take your mind off of the fact that you’re STILL PREGNANT, you’re in a constant effort to keep the house clean so that you have a nice place to come home to should you go into labor. LABOR LABOR LABOR. Everything is about labor. I was sick of it and wasn’t ashamed of voicing my opinion to my patient husband who looked helplessly at me wishing he could somehow put me out of my misery but knowing there was nothing he could do. So he listened. That was all I needed.
No sooner had I plopped down on the couch, dejected and moody with my crunchy bowl of comfort food, that I felt a “POP” and a trickle of liquid. My eyes grew wide, my mouth shut, and I waited for a few seconds. More fluid. Uncontrollable. Keola stared at me, waiting for me to say something. Finally the words: “I think my water just broke.” Walked to the bathroom, sat on the toilet, more fluid, but no gush. I knew it was my waters, and I was immediately grateful that it wasn’t a gush and that I was at home and not at the mall or some other embarassingly public place. . I called the hospital, explained what happened, and that I was group B strep + (which meant that if my water broke I had to go in right away for antibiotics as the strep bacteria can be harmful to the baby). The nurse didn’t seem to believe me because I said it was a trickle. She thought I peed my pants. I told her this wasn’t urine and I was sure that my water had broken. So she gave me the ok to come in.
We quickly loaded our things in the car and were on our way. From the minute we left I felt like this whole event was blessed. The weather was PERFECT. It had been storming off and on for several weeks up and down the Hāmākua coast, and I was worried that we would be caught in a storm, but there was no rain to speak of until we hit Waimea, and even then, it was a light drizzle. A good sign. My contractions had started in Hilo, but were very mild. They grew in strength as we neared our destination, but were still very bearable. I remember thinking to myself, “So this is what a contraction feels like.” Yeah…all those Braxton hicks I had been timing…I was so way off.
So I made it to Waimea with a smile on my face, got checked in, got changed and hooked up to the monitor. Nōweo was fine and my contractions were not yet regular. The nurse didn’t even bother to check my cervix because she figured I’d be there for at least 12 hours and she didn’t want to introduce bacteria to the uterus unecessarily. It is now around 11:30 pm on Wednesday.
She gets me hooked up to the IV and tells me she needs to give me two bags of antibiotics. The first is bigger than the second, and it should take an hour to get through it, but I am free to move around as I please. So we turn up the music and I spend each contraction dancing with Keola, then sitting on the bed between contractions to conserve energy. Can I just say now that he was AMAZING through this whole process? I love him.
Not long after I was hooked up to the IV, my contractions started coming longer, stronger, and closer together. I finish the first back of antibiotics. I feel the urge to push. The nurse checks me, and I’m 6 centimeters dialted. Turns out I really just needed to use the bathroom. After taking care of that, the nurse said she’ll hold off on the second bag to see if my labor progresses. Contractions are strong and I’m not sure I can make it. I tell my brain to shut up and let my body take over. I’m still feeling an urge to push – it feels like a lot of pressure on my lower back and rectum. The nurse explains that it’s the baby’s head, and it’s not quite facing the way we want it to. She suggests I get in the shower, put my leg up on a stool and rock back and forth. She says to call when I had a contraction that really made want to bear down. So we do that. Keola shoots warm water on my back. HEAVEN. The great thing about contractions is they have a start and an end and time in between. So while I’m resting between them I’m still in quite a good mood, talking and joking, and whatnot. I think it’s about 2:00.
Then IT HITS. I have a unbelievable urge to push. I nearly fall over. I brace myself on the stool, on my knees and tell Keola to GET THE NURSE! I didn’t make it through that one very gracefully, mostly because I was so surprised. I wasn’t expecting that. It basically jumped from a 5 to a 10 in intensity over one contraction. I was prepared for the others though. And there would be others.
The nurse comes in and quickly helps me to the bed. She checks me. 8, almost 9 centimeters. She needs to monitor the baby some more. I desperately want to push, but she tells me it’s not time yet. The hardest thing about labor is NEEDING to push and having to hold back. That’s what hurts. I labor on my knees on the bed, rocking back and forth. My belly gets so tight with each contraction that the elastic bands holding the monitors fall off. This is serious now. Between contractions, I take a sip of water, prop myself up with my hands to keep from falling backwards, lean my head on my shoulder and go to sleep for a minute at a time while still on my knees. I wake up when I feel the next contraction coming over my body and rock through it. I yell. Not because it hurts, but because the energy needs to go somewhere, and since I can’t push with my body, I push with my voice. It helps.
I’m now dilated to a 9. The nurse lets me try some practice pushes. I get on my back and hold my legs up. Pushing is WONDERFUL. I felt absolutely no pain while I was pushing. Like I said, I just needed to release the energy. The contractions were painful because I was fighting my body’s natural urge. I know this isn’t a pretty analogy, but it’s like needing to vomit, and trying to hold it in. It feels SOOO MUCH BETTER to just let yourself throw up.
By about 3:15, and the nurse says those sweet words: “You’re a 10 and ready to push.” I was happy, but hit with the gravity of the situation. I’m going to be a mother in a matter of minutes. My baby is coming. NOW.
Well, not exactly. I’m all ready to start pushing when she tells me that she’s going to call the midwife now. My eyes grow wide as I ask where she is. “She’s staying in town. She’ll be here in 10-15 minutes. You’ll have to hold off pushing until she gets here.” You all know by now how much I LOVE not pushing when everything in my body was telling me to PUSH. I was desperate. I told the nurse I can’t wait that long. I looked at the clock (which was right in front of me. Mocking me.) My husband (bless him) quickly stepped in and said “Nevermind the clock. Don’t look at it. Just concentrate on the contraction.” Those were magic words. Time flew by and the midwife arrived in what seemed like seconds. Keola saved me in that moment.
FINALLY. IT’S TIME TO PUSH. I was soooo happy! It’s about 3:30. I spend some time pushing on my back, holding my legs up. Things are progressing nicely, but I decide I want to be on all fours. I feel much more productive that way. I have a distinct memory of everyone stepping back and letting me do what I need to do. They were so patient and calm and constantly encouraging. I fed off their energy and my confidence grew in my ability to birth. I pushed and pushed. I felt the “ring of fire” – the burning sensation you feel when the baby’s head begins to emerge. I remember in my natural birth class, our teacher told us that many women shy away from the pain, prolonging the delivery process. Her advice to us was to push through it. So I did. It hurt, but I was progressing. I could feel her head moving down, then sliding back up, moving down, then back up. They told me they could see her hair. I reached down and felt her head. It felt like hairy mush. I know that sounds gross, but it’s true. That was all the motivation I needed. I bore down, unwilling to let this back and forth thing with her head continue any longer. 2 more pushes, and I felt a huge release of pressure. “Her head’s out! Her head’s out! One more push and you’re done!” Ecstatic, I gave it one last push and the 3 seconds it took to get her body out felt like an eternity. I could see in my mind her body leaving mine in slow motion, inch by glorious inch. I felt EVERYTHING; her shoulders, arms, legs all sliding out. I remember thinking “Wow she’s long!” Keola caught her, then passed her through my legs. Next thing I know, I’m on my back, she’s on my chest, and I’m just exclaiming “Oh my goodness! Oh my goodness!” I was in disbelief. Nōweo was finally here, in my arms, releasing a beautiful throaty cry. The nurse toweled her off on my chest and we laid there for at least an hour. I couldn’t stop staring at her. 40 minutes later she had calmed down and was nursing contentedly. I had done it.
The minute-by-minute details of my labor are fuzzy, but the feelings are not. I felt total support from everyone around me, but I wasn’t stifled. I remember the nurses and the midwife just standing back and letting me work on my own, respecting the process that my body was going through. I remember the midwife leaning on a counter, arms crossed, watching me with full confidence. Between contractions I would hear her encouraging words, and I knew that I was doing ok. She didn’t step in until the baby began crowning. I felt like she was there to help guide the baby out, not to tell me what to do. It was quite empowering that a woman who had had so much experience with birth had complete faith in me, someone who had never witnessed a live birth or given birth, to simply do what I needed to do.
In short I learned some things about myself that day. I learned that I know more than I thought I did, that I am capable of more than I thought I was, that labor hurts but it is sooo worth it to FEEL everything, That things that don’t seem so great at first (being GBS+) can turn out to be a blessing in disguise (going to the hospital early and having a painless drive to Waimea.) I learned that if you spend enough time visualizing and preparing for what you want, you CAN have it. I got EXACTLY what I was hoping for. I didn’t miss anything and I’m so glad I had this experience.