Every time I tell the story of my first born's journey from my womb to my arms it is a little different. While in labor, you are partially in a haze. Certain things around the edges disappear, while other things are brought into sharper focus. While laboring, I found that I had a degree of control over this. I could move things in and out of my peripheral.
It's a Saturday morning, I wake up and go pee for the 157th time in the past 5 hours. Lo and behold, plop goes my mucus plug. I rush back to the bedroom and grab my Birthing the Bradley Way book and flip to the First Signs of Labor Chapter: "do not get excited if you're mucus plug drops as this is the most uncertain sign of labor beginning." Yeah, too late, I'm excited. But I push that away into the "undelt with emotions" box (I don't handle disappointment well) and decide to go about my day as normal....that is after I rush around like a crazed woman cleaning every inch of the house *just in case* I go into labor today. I know I will be distracted by a mess- the neurotic third trimester nesting stuff is FOR REAL you guys. I tell Justin of aforementioned mucuspluglossage and tell him he needs to stay close today. He has a habit of "going to the record store" and not returning for 8 hours because a train drove by that he decided would be superbly romantic to follow to the next little town.
Around lunch time I start to get these curious sensations. They feel a little like menstrual cramps, or constipation...which is a very real option, pooping is hard when you're 9 months pregnant. No, um...pun intended. I read in my book again what a contraction is supposed to feel like, and these sensations don't seem like contractions. I'm only feeling vague discomfort below my belly in my pelvic area. Like CRAMPS. How many times did people tell me "It's not like period cramps". This is a falsehood. So like every good First Time Bradley student, I go through the eat, sleep, walk routine. These ambiguously vague not-contrationy like sensations continue all afternoon. They form a regular rhythm. They increase in intensity. They are still not painful, but enough to make me take notice.
"It says my belly is supposed to get hard, I can't feel my belly getting hard!"
I make Justin sit behind me and place his hands on my stomach. I give him a play by play of the rising and falling of these vague- and starting to get a little annoying lower abdominal something-or-others. He can't feel my belly getting hard or soft either. Maybe its Braxton Hicks? Who knows. All I know is first time pregnant people have lots of: "starting & stopping, nope just kidding" labor deals and I just cannot be bothered to get all worked up if this is going to be nothing. It's still 9 days till my due date and first timers aren't early, they are late.
I continue to putter around trying to ignore the party going on in my lower abdomen. Its unseasonally warm for February. Justin and I spend alot of time outside, and have what I didn't know at the time was to be our last tender moments just the two of us. It was a lovely day. But these pesky weirdo crampy things are getting more intense. I need a distraction. I send Justin out to retrieve Nanny McPhee 2. A good British children's movie always does the trick. While he is gone I start tracking these I-am-now-in-denial-are-contractions. 10 mins apart, 7 mins apart, 6 mins apart. After 2 Redboxes and a Blockbuster, Justin returns with said kids flick. 10 minutes into it we have to turn it off. I am starting to have to concentrate. The movie feels overwhelming. I need darkness and quiet. Then I suddenly remember Laura, my doula, made me a lavender rice bag. Even if I'm not in labor, that sure would feel good on my belly right now. So Justin calls her.
Laura walks in to find me on all fours, bent over the arm of our couch. She cocks her head to the side and sagely states "I'm pretty sure you're having a baby today."
It is now 9pm.
Ok, I'm convinced.
I am in labor.
I am having a baby.
I am super pumped.
It is now officially game time in my brain. Cups of tea are made, buckets and towels are brought near. Pen and paper are retrieved for tracking progress. We are still camped out in the living room. I am able to have conversation and sit up between contractions, but I have to focus and relax my body during them. I try different positions and Laura tries different counter pressures but because the contractions are still bumping and griding UNDER my belly, I find that being on all fours and letting my giant baby carrying tum tum hang freely is what feels best. Unfortunately my arms are already getting tired from holding myself up. Time passes more quickly than I expected. It is now about 11pm. I get in and out of the bathtub, more tea is made, and the lavender rice bag from heaven is continually heated up and stretched over my aching lower belly.
Then the puking starts.
What? I am NOT in transition. Not even close. Oh, I get to puke off and on the whole time I'm laboring? Swell. I *love* puking. Strangely enough though, vomiting is somehow a relief from contraction pressure. It causes those tight muscles to spread upward as I heave. Momentary relief, followed immediately by an even more intense contraction. I'm starting to feel tired. But just as if they read my thoughts, Justin and Laura tell me what a good job I'm doing. How awesome and productive my contractions are. How strong I am. How exciting that we get to meet the baby soon. A mighty roadblock is erected on my mental path toward doubtfulness. More time passes. More baths and showers, more cups of tea, more puking. I really want to poop. The house remains dark, quiet and peaceful. Justin stays glued to my side, whispering sweetly in my ear how proud he is, holding my hand when needed, giving me space when needed. I am tired. I feel like I could actually sleep. I lay
down in bed and fall into a quasi-nap. Briefly losing consciousnesses between contractions. Laura continues to track as she listens to my faint groanings from the living room. As I lay I ponder the journey to the hospital. It is starting to feel insurmountable, moving is so painstakingly difficult. Riding in the car seems like torture. I know that I am not nearing the pushing stage, but I feel its time to go. It is 4am. It is a great effort to get dressed. Had it not been February I probably would have begged to stay naked. Yeah, I was a naked laborer. It baffles me how you could even distinguish whether or not you are dressed while laboring, it is so insignificant.
The car ride is not so very torturous thanks to an excellent husband chauffeur. However, I lose track of relaxing and become very stiff on that car ride, which is uncomfortable. I am wheeled up to L & D and we pull up to the registration desk.
"MY NAME IS MEGAN SHAFFER, I AM IN ACTIVE LABOR AND I AM PREREGISTERED!"
Desk lady is nonplussed. Apparently there is more paperwork to fill out. This is an outrage. I am ready to get settled, I am ready to get this baby out, how the HELL do you expect me to fill out damn papers?! Oh...my husband can do it while I go to triage? Oh, ok.
I have now reached the part of labor I have been most dreading: the hep lock. Really? I know, I know- I'm about to push a human out of my vagina and I'm FREAKING OUT about a needle in my hand. Fortunately my triage nurse is kindhearted, around my age and also pregnant. She does not look at me like I have a third head when I start to sob about the hep lock and hysterically beg her not to put it in. She has to. I knew it. I turn my head and my juicy veins spray like a Quentin Tarantino movie. There is SO MUCH BLOOD in your body when you're having a baby. Like triple the normal amount. Apparently you need a metric shit ton of blood to have babies. Justin almost passes out at the blood
spraying round the room. And then it's all done, and I now have the horribly distracting thing in my
hand. My vitals and baby's vitals are checked. We are doing awesome. Internal exam (bleck HORRIBLE) reveals I am 5 cent and 100% effaced. I forget my station. I never really remember what that is anyway. Sorry Dr. Bradley.
I am a little surprised to only be at 5 cent, but I know that doesn't mean anything since dialation is an unpredictable road. I'm super pumped about my effacement. We fiiiiiiiiinally get to the room. My first nurse is wonderful. She is super excited I'm laboring naturally, brings me a birthing ball, tells me to roam around freely and essentially leaves me alone to work. She offers me a Popsicle. I consider this a moment. I know that a hospital popsicle is probably toxic waste, but something cold and wet and sweet sounds nice so I accept. It was the best high fructose corn syrup red dye number 5 artificially flavored popsicle I've ever tasted. I feel refreshed, and settled. I think its time to poop. I've wanted to for hours, but pooping brings us to my second biggest labor fear: hemorrhoids. Ok people- I realize my labor fears are kinda silly but when you have that much stage fright about pooping, you have a lot saved up in there and I wanted to be cleared out at this point. Long story short, there is success. Moving on...
Horribly, there is a shift change. In walks Debbie Downer nurse. Friendly Nurse tries to hang around to meet the baby, but I still have just a few hours to go. Debbie Downer nurse is very uncomfortable with the fact that I am going natural and am not constantly hooked up to the fetal heart monitor. I am vaguely aware of her awkwardness but I choose not to receive it. Which is funny to me. I am a people pleaser and am very affected by how everyone feels around me and yet I could care less if Debbie Downer nurse existed or knew who I was or if she was pleased or not. I take a delirious moment to thank God for his grace. Being hooked and unhooked to the monitor is really taxing. I actually enjoy hearing baby's heartbeat and hearing Laura tell me how baller and huge and productive my contractions are but I am having to completely focus on not tensing up through my contractions which are now only giving me a few moments rest in between. Having to move back and forth from monitor chair to wherever else I was in the room is too much at this point. So I end up planted in a hospital armchair for the remainder of my labor. I realize this is not really a great position but I'm too effing tired and contractions are too strong to keep moving. This is one of those "next time I'll do differently moments. While sitting in this chair, my water breaks. It doesn't hurt, and its not as much water as I thought. I am now 8 cent. I feel so thankful that my bag of waters stayed so strong this whole time. I know I am nearly there, that my labor will now speed on to the finish. And boy does it. If I thought I couldn't move before, I am now paralyzed to this horrible chair because my contractions are non-stop wave upon wave. Close to no relief between. Maybe 10 seconds. I am beyond exhausted. I start to feel really weak, and the thought "I don't know if I can do this" finally enters my mind. I am scared to say this out loud because then it would seem more real. Justin and Laura are on either side of me, holding my hands whispering praise. My mom is there too, sitting quietly across the room. She got there at some point...who knows when. Hi mom! My head is falling back in between my now epic contractions. Its hard to stay awake yet I certainly could not sleep right now. But I want to so badly. Just a nap. The pain is intense but not unbearable.The hardest part is its so energy consuming. Is there something I could take that would allow me a 45 min power nap? I do NOT want an epidural, I know its not an option but maybe there's some lesser drug that would just take the edge off? Maybe Laura has some magical herb in her pocket? Hey everyone, Meg is in transition! Meg is completely unaware that she is in transition! Which is also a sign she is in transition! I can't take it anymore, I look imploringly to Justin and Laura and voice my concerns. They are prepared for this. They do not offer drugs, but offer sympathy, encouragement and resolve. This is far more valuable. They also notice that I strategically wait to voice these concerns till after Nurse Annoying has left the room. I also strategically do not look at my mom when I beg for drugs. I know it will be all over then. She will not be able to resist my pitiful and weepy demeanor and I will not be able to resist her motherly care. So I just look at Laura and Justin and shoot their pep talk into my veins and get over the hump. I am impatient. I want to be DONE. I want to meet my baby. Another horrible internal from Nurse Annoying (also referred to as Debbie Downer Nurse. Same lady) who is NOT gentle. I should have had more resolve to say no to internals- another "next time" realization. 9 cent. I decide to do some practice pushes. I am really uncertain of what is means to push. What it will feel like. (Its basically like pooping, expect you're pooping a baby out your vagina. weird, I know) So I'm essentially just grunting and flexing my upper ab muscles but I am doing nothing of the sort close to pushing. Negative Nancy Nurse freaks out and tells me to stop. I decidedly ignore her. Finally, after what seems like an eternity it is announced that we have arrived at 10 cent and I can begin the process of poppin' this kid out!
This gives me new resolve. And I'm happy to finally DO something besides sit in a chair and breathe through contractions. I will say this: as much as I desired a midwife and unfortunately that didn't work out for me this time, my obgyn was awesome. She was completely supportive of me working with my body. She never told me when to push, only helpful tips on how to push effectively, and LOTS of encouragement. She even put Nurse Annoying in her place a couple times. heheh. Laura and Justin are still on either side of me, holding my hands. I could not do this without them. I look into their faces for the first time in what seems like years and I see pride. I look at my husband positively beaming at me, tears running down his cheek. I can do this. I'm going to have this babe in my arms soon. Pushing feels productive. And painful. Some people are blessed with glorious hormonal numbness of the vag during pushing, I was sadly not possessed with this gift. I could feel that ring of fire. And frankly I didn't care. The doctor tells me how impressed she is with my babe's strong and courageous heart beat.
"We see hair! Lots of hair" *so* glad all that heartburn had a purpose.
"Just a few more pushes!"
And finally, after what seems like years, and yet minutes, I have a child on my belly, rather than in. This babe is so warm, and more sturdy than I imagined. Perfection. But we STILL don't know the gender! I have to ask- it's a girl. A daughter! I laugh because no one, not a soul, thought I was having a girl. A grand surprise indeed. All agony is forgotton, but I am tapped out. All the capillaries in my face are busted. I probably has vomit in my hair. I need someone to invent a new word for exhausted to describe the state of my body. But I feel euphoric. I feel I could dance. No, not really. I feel I could not move, but my heart was dancing. I love her. I love her. Its a love I've never experienced before. It's a love beyond description. My heart feels cramped in my cheast, like it needs to spill over and be shared. My sweet daughter, can I share my heart with you? I long to give you some of this love, for you to know it. They say she's not breathing as well as they want, and I need to be stitched up but I am at peace. That beautiful God given peaces that goes beyond understanding.I know she is fine. Justin whips his shirt off to give her skin to skin while my battle worn jay jay is repaired. She immediately starts to root on daddy. Smart girl. My Ireland Ruth. I think of my dad and how proud he would be of her. How proud he would be of me. I have a moment of sadness, but nothing can stop this moment from being absolute bliss. I feel empowered. I just did that. I don't particularly want to do it again soon, but man, I actually did it! I feel at home, at ease. I am a mother. It's like my calling has been realized. I never thought about it before, but this is what I want to do the rest of my life. Which is good, since children are a permanent fixture.
Ireland Ruth Shaffer: 8 pounds even, 19 inches long. Born at 10:20am February 20th after a full 23 1/2 hours of labor. Welcome home little one, welcome home.